Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers, Mel Jones. Mel is a poet and essayist who shares her no-nonsense world view and humorous stories about life and parenthood at Mel’s Madness. She is the founder of The Midlothian Writers’ Workshop, teaches college-level composition and is a fellow member of the Red Sox Nation. It doesn’t get much better than that. Enjoy! I’ll be back tomorrow.
She turned the stereo on, country music, loud. Hank Williams, Sr., damn it! The sound could travel where she was now forbidden to go. It wouldn’t trespass. It would invade and overtake Dr. Dre, drown him in the banned territory beyond the door. Ha! She wondered exactly what Dr. Dre was a doctor of, and decided it was best to not dwell on it.
The door opened and she regained her senses. They were only children after all. The older one emerged looking ridiculous. His pants were too big, in fact, they were falling down, his cap was on backwards, and so were his sunglasses (although why he needed sunglasses at 5pm was beyond her ability to understand). His hair needed to be cut, and his tee shirt needed a mature audiences rating. She made a mental note to clean out his closet and buy him a mirror, so he could tell his front from his back. He must have inherited some genetic defect from his father. That explained it.
“Wassup?” He pointed a finger in her direction, in what she suspected was a gesture of greeting. “Whas that you be listenin’ to all up in here? Tryin’ like you are to drown out Tu-Pac, he’s da shizenit! Wassup wit dat? Oh! I be chillin’ with my peeps tonight, awight? We be chillin’ at Brandon’s crib.”
Clearly, she had failed somewhere; maybe her mother was right about all those chemicals in the 70’s. Father’s genetics’ notwithstanding, here in the 90’s, something was decidedly amiss. She was concerned that Brandon was still sleeping in a crib—he was sixteen for God sake. But even more so, she was concerned that they were going to put baby chickens in it. She wondered if Brandon’s mother knew. She made a mental note to call that boy’s mother, and buy her own son a dictionary for Christmas; it was a gift that she had obviously overlooked for far too long.
She knew – her son had been hit in the head that time! That had to be it, a delayed reaction from being hit in the head. A logical explanation. It didn’t explain things about Brandon, but that wasn’t really her issue, was it? She felt better.
It really hadn’t been that long ago, about two years. That had been such a bad day. Who knew beautiful spring days could turn that way? The older boys were playing somewhere out of sight. That was ok she had reasoned; they were older. There were three of them what trouble could they get into? They were working on the faithful old buddy system, with a spare even. But then everything changed. She should have been watching them more closely.
The boy she didn’t know came running, yelling, something incomprehensible. It sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Then she saw them coming towards the house; her son was leaned against his tall thin friend, Brandon. Her son looked pale and drawn. She should have paid closer attention, but they were older, damnit.
“It was an accident! Really, we were just sword fighting ma’am.”
She should have noted the politeness. It should have been a clue that things were truly amiss. But she was quite swept away by the idea of boys sword fighting in her yard – where she couldn’t see them. Sword fighting! She was very sure there were no swords in her yard. Where could they have gotten swords without her knowing about them? How old did boys have to be before they could play without supervision?
“It was an accident! I didn’t know the pole was solid steel, ma’am.”
“Pole?” Did swords look like poles she wondered? They must. “Steel?” There was no blood. That should be a good sign. However, as her son sank to the ground unconscious, she wasn’t very comforted. There was a knot on the back of his head. A big knot.
The EMTs had tried to reassure her. “He’s going to be just fine ma’am, don’t you worry. Vitals are good – Shit! Seizure! Lights and sirens – now – he’ll be fine ma’am, just fine.” She remembered thinking she hadn’t been called ma’am that many times in one day since the baseball had come through the window and Waterford vase to land on the turntable which had been playing an album you couldn’t buy anymore. There had been lots of ma’am-ing that day. But this was different; very different.
At the hospital, she had been put in a private little waiting room. When had they built this little room? She’d been to the emergency room before, and never gotten a private waiting room. What a novel idea. She liked it. She had her own phone, and chaplain to comfort her. She wasn’t calmed by his presence. He was quoting the bible, well at least he was attempting to anyway. Maybe he wasn’t a chaplain, but a chaplain-in-training. It was a teaching hospital, so that was possible she supposed. He called her ma’am. What had the Drs finally decided? But were they really doctors, or those shadow-figures always behind the real doctors, the residents or fellows? She didn’t know for sure.
A brain trauma. That was it. They said her son would be a vegetable for the rest of his life, if he lived.
He instead, made a seemingly complete recovery and was ordered to never play with steel-sword-poles in the yard without supervision again. He must have gotten his resiliency from her genes, and sensibility from his father’s – he obviously had none.
Now, two years later, she wondered if vegetable-ness was progressive . . .
The barrier to the forbidden room slammed, she looked up. Her younger son beamed from under his own backwards cap. She noted that his clothes did fit, but the taboo territory still needed a mirror. She wondered if soon he would resemble his brother.
She wondered if they thought she was trespassing when she had soothed nightmares or changed sheets, or hunted for missing toys. – Or what about when she had pushed her way through science experiments (of unknown origin, but she certainly knew where they were headed; to a circular destination: outside!) in search of dirty socks so they would have something clean even though they hadn’t put anything in the laundry? Somehow, she doubted it. She glared at the sign, it didn’t care, they didn’t care.
“Hey mom, me and Tyler, we’re gonna go play swords, k?” Maybe aliens had taken over her sons’ room and were holding her children captive on the other side of the no trespassing sign; that would explain their language and behavior.
“No! No sword fighting allowed! It’s dangerous; you could turn out like your brother – a vegetable in the making. Sword fighting is a forbidden activity! Someone could get hurt.” She knew she should have cleaned up that last batch of science experiments; there was no way to get to them now. Her sons would likely never have clean socks again. She should watch them more closely she decided. Hank Williams was editorializing; something about paying the cost.
“I love you mom, it’ll be ok. Vegetables are good for me remember? We’re going to play swords.” He kissed her cheek as she picked up the phone to call Brandon’s mother.