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Summer-Fall '23

Just You Wait
Wolfgang Wright

So now he’s left, all because I caught him fucking that slut, Sheryl or Cherise, or whatever her name was. Picked a Saturday morning, too, my day for sleeping in. Now, how was I supposed to sleep with him going in and out banging that damn screen door every time he did so? I tell ya, it was a good thing Butch wasn’t here with one of his hangovers, or he’d have wrung his neck. Me? Thff. Not knowing what he was up to, I would’ve just as well went back to sleep. But like I said, that damn screen door was keeping me awake. So instead, what I did was, I got up and I gave him a piece of my mind.
 

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” I said to him. 


Caught him just as he was coming out of his room. Had a box full of junk in his hands. Didn’t say a word neither, just looked at me and kept on going, right on past me, like I didn’t even exist. Well, I couldn’t just leave it at that, could I? So I followed him out to the door and watched him as he loaded the box onto the back seat of his car. I could see there was a couple of boxes there already, but I still didn’t know what to make of it. Thought maybe he was finally getting around to cleaning his room out, like I’d been telling him to do for months now. Getting rid of all that shit he doesn’t use no more, like that game thingy he used to play, or that blankie he always slept with when he was little. Anyways, that’s when he turned around and gave me one of his holier-than-thou-looks, like I’m somehow beneath him, not worth speaking to. Came to realize it was on account of how I was standing there, with my robe half open for everyone in the world to see, like anyone else was up and about at such an ungodly hour. Christ, it must have been five in the morning! Sun wasn’t even up yet, the only light around was the neighbor’s porch.

 

But I pulled it tight anyway, just to please him, just so maybe I could get an answer to my question. 
But did I get one? Thff. He comes up to me — he wanted to go by, back into the trailer, but I’m big enough now, and I was standing right in the middle of the doorway, that he couldn’t without laying a hand on me, which I knew he wouldn’t do. But I could see he was getting angry, and finally, he said to me, snidely, he said, “What?”


“What do you mean what? I asked you a question.”


“What?” he said again, like he hadn’t heard me before, like he’d forgot. 


So, I said it again.


“What in the hell are you doing?”
 

And that’s when he told me. “Moving,” he told me, all tough- like, but I could hear it in his voice, all these feelings, like he didn’t know whether to get angrier at me or to start crying. ‘Course I was betting on the second, ‘cause of how weak he’s always been, so damn sensitive about every little thing, and for a second there I thought about apologizing to him, just so I could get him to calm down a little, so he’d explain to me what he was talking about. Moving? What did that mean? But I couldn’t think of anything to apologize for. I mean, it wasn’t like I was the one making all the racket.

 
So instead, what I said was — I folded my arms across my chest — and I said, “You can’t move. What gives you the right?” 


And then he said, like he’d already prepared it, like he knew I was going to say that, he said, “The law. I’m eighteen now. I can do whatever I want.” 


Kids these days. If there’s one thing they know about it’s their rights. And that’s about all they know, too.
 

So anyways, I shrugged and let him in, because I didn’t think he’d actually go through with it — moving, I mean. I figured it was just a game of chicken, you know, to see which of us would blink first, and I wasn’t about to let him beat me. I went into the kitchen and made myself a pot of coffee, and while I was waiting for him to wear himself out, I had myself one of Butch’s bear claws. They were getting stale anyways, and I wasn’t expecting him back till midweek. Butch is a trucker. Goes all over the Midwest hauling you name it. Mostly delivers perishables to convenience stores — chips and candy bars, stuff like that. Bear claws, too. Speaking of which, when I called him and told him that James had left, he said to me, he said, “Maybe it’s about time you and me moved in together then.” So in a way, things may work out for the better. We’ll see.


Where was I now? Oh right, I was in the kitchen having a cup of coffee — it was my second cup — and all of sudden I felt just awful, you know, like when my ex Harry used to slap me. I remember thinking I should just go back to bed, like what was I doing up, and that’s when it happened again, that damn screen door banged shut again, and James came prancing by without so much as a glance at me.


“Hey!” I yelled at him, and I must have frightened him with my tone because this time he stopped.


“What?” he said. 
 

What. Must have been his favorite word, he used it so much. Really, I had nothing to say, I was just angry about the door. But seeing as I had him there, I came up with something quick.


“It’s your own fault, you know. You should’ve been more careful. You knew when I was coming home.”


But he didn’t say nothing to that. He just stared at me for a bit, then shook his head and went back to his room. But when he came back with another box, I grabbed my cigarettes and my slippers and went out after him.


“Is she going with you?” I said to him.


So, then he sets his box down on the hood of his car and gives me this look like I’ve put him out to no end, just because I asked him a simple question.


“Who?” he said.


“That” — and I was careful now because I wanted an answer — “that girl you been seeing.”


“No,” he said, and then he picked up his box and hauled it to the trunk. “Sharon’s not coming.”
 

Sharon — that’s it! Spindly little girl. Long black hair reached all the way down her back. Cute, I suppose, though she could’ve used a few pounds. That’s how they like them these days though, they like the anemic types, at least James does. Anyways, I could see he was working hard to ignore me — hands on his hips, staring down into the trunk like he had a dead body in there he needed getting rid of. So I lit myself a cigarette, casual-like, and then I laid in on him with all I had. 


“I knew you were fucking her for the longest time. What? Did you think when you started washing your own sheets, I’d think you just up and got responsible? I was young once, too, you know. I know all the tricks. But you had to go and stick yourself under my nose where I had no choice but to bust you for it.”


He hadn’t moved a muscle the whole time I was talking to him, I rattled him so good. Soon as I stopped, though, he started moving them boxes around like there was no tomorrow, like the whole time he was just building up his strength. And he must’ve been thinking up something to say, too, ‘cause as soon as he got the boxes the way he wanted them, he said, “It was Sharon’s fault. I told her we didn’t have enough time, but she wanted to anyway.”


“Oh sure,” I said. “Blame her.” But that’s the way he is, always passing the buck. Just like his father in that respect. I still remember when I got pregnant, how Harry tried to put all the blame on me, like he was off with his buddies shooting pool or something when it happened. Stuck around just long enough to make sure I had the baby, too, then off he went to who knows where. I guess James is just like his father in that respect as well, leaving when it’s most convenient for him. And I was just about to tell him that, too, it was on the tip of my tongue, but he scuttled back into the trailer before I had the chance. Banged the door again, too. Even out there in the open it drove my nerves wild. Maybe now that Butch is moving in he’ll finally get around to fixing it like I asked him to, weeks ago.


Anyways, I was standing there in the cold with my cigarette, when I happened to notice just how much shit he’d accumulated over the years. The whole car was full of it. Some of it, I could see was stuff I’d bought him — clothing, shoes, that sort of thing. But a lot of it, I didn’t have the foggiest clue where he’d gotten it from. So I asked him, the next time he came out I said, “Where’d you get all this junk?”


“It’s not junk,” he said, and I could tell I was getting under his skin again. 


So, I said to him, “You better not be stealing nothing.”
 

“Why would I want any of your crap?” he said back, but there was something about his tone that made me think he wasn’t being honest with me. Call it motherly instinct, but I could tell. So, soon as he went back inside I went inside as well, and I began looking around for what might be missing. And that’s when it hit me — the gun.


See, right after Harry left, I bought myself a gun so I’d be able to defend myself. Luckily, I never had to use it, but I still got it — I keep it in the back of my underwear drawer, where I figured James would never think of going near it. But still, he knew I had it, and if he was gonna take it for some reason, now would be the time. But when I looked it was still there, which is where things got sticky, because I didn’t exactly put it back right away. At the time, I didn’t have anything in mind to do with it, I was just fed up with how my morning was going, how I didn’t get my full night’s sleep, and how my son was leaving me, even though I still didn’t believe he was going through with it. I just felt better — stronger — with the gun in my hands, so I took it with me when I went back outside.


Well, I must have lost track of how many times that screen door had slammed shut, because he wasn’t there. So, I waited for him, but for the longest time he never came back. It pissed me off, especially on account of how cold it was. And then I started looking at all his shit again, and as I was looking at it, it suddenly dawned on me that he might actually go through with it, that he might actually leave me, and that’s when I started to panic. I just couldn’t imagine it, him not being there anymore, not to mention all the trouble I’d gone through for him, starting right from when he was born, how they had to cut me open just to get him out. And that quack of a doctor, how he butchered me up on account of the way the fetus was situated. Took me months before I could stand to look at myself in the mirror again. And what a sight that was! My figure was gone completely, and I had all these scars on my belly. I cried myself to sleep more than once after that, and I swear that might’ve had more to do with Harry leaving me than his not wanting to raise a child. And then I thought, what if I’d never had him? James, I mean. What if, say, Harry had been more careful and pulled out like he’d promised he would, or he’d have let me get rid of it, like I’d wanted to? Then this whole day never would’ve happened. Hell, my whole life would have been different. Not that I’m complaining. All in all, I haven’t had it as tough as others. I’ve got Butch now, after all, and he’s good to me, when he’s around. But still, things could’ve been different for me. In some ways, things could’ve been different.


Anyways, it was after that, after thinking about how my life might have gone, that I backed up, aimed the gun, and shot out the first tire. Boy, what a noise that made! I think I woke up every dog in the whole trailer park, the way they all started barking at once. But then I thought one wasn’t gonna do it, you know, because he might have a spare in there somewhere under all those boxes. So, I went to the back of the car and shot out one of the rear tires as well. And then I thought, well hell, why stop now? So I took out the other rear, and finally, that’s when he came out yelling at me, not even speaking words really, just making a bunch of noises, like someone had cut out his tongue. So, that’s when I said to him — and I wish I hadn’t said this, but it’s what I said — I said, “I’ve got three more bullets left, and one of them’s going into that tire. It’s up to you what happens to the other two.”


Well, let me tell you, he got the message. Got out of my way like he knew just how much business I meant. So, that’s when I went straight for that final tire and shot a hole through it just like the other three, and then I blew on the barrel of the gun like I’d seen in the movies, and then I strutted back inside — I swear, that’s exactly how it happened. Then I drank some more coffee and had the final bear claw, and I just sat there, waiting for James to come back in and apologize to me, tell me how sorry he was for thinking he could leave me like that. 


Only he never did. He never came back in. He just left his car there, all his shit, everything, and took off on foot. At least, that’s what the neighbors say, who were up now because of the gunshots, and all those dogs barking. They saw him walking to the exit of the park, and then out onto the main road. What happened to him after that I don’t know, because he ain’t come back since, and no one’s heard from him neither. Honestly though, I hope he stays out there a while, just a while, so he can get a sense of what the world’s really like, how hard it is, because he sure as hell never learned that from me, what with how I pampered him, letting him do just about anything he wanted so long as he didn’t get in the way, or put himself in any danger, like he did with that girl. And once he learns that, how tough life is, hell, he’ll come crawling back, begging me to take him in again. 


And I suppose I will, too, because that’s what mothers do. They forgive their children even when they don’t deserve it. Yes, I suppose I’ll let him move back into his old room, too, even though Butch is already talking about putting a foosball table in there, and I’ll let him move all his shit back in there as well, which is still sitting out in his car. And maybe, if I’m feeling in a particularly generous mood, I’ll let him invite that Sheryl over — sorry, Cherise. Or was it Sheryl? Anyways, I’ll let him invite her over for dinner, and we can all have a good laugh about it. I give it a month, maybe two, and then he’ll be back. Yes, I’m sure of it, he’ll be back. Just you wait.

Wolfgang Wright is the author of the comic novel Me and Gepe. His short work has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Short BeastsThe Collidescope, and Waccamaw. He doesn’t tolerate gluten so well, quite enjoys watching British panel shows, and devotes a little time each day to contemplating the Tao. He lives in North Dakota.

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