Sunday, June 25, 2006


She walked carefully down the driveway to the truck, in her light jacket and shoes. The snow crunched underfoot and squeaked with the sound of styrofoam, the way it does at 30 below. She clutched the keys in her hand and felt for her wallet in her pocket. It was there as always, ready for escape.

She heard the house door being locked behind her and bowed her head and walked around to unplug the block heater, which kept the starter battery from freezing. She unlocked the truck door and pulled it open in the cold. It was not frozen shut as she had thought it would be. She got in and turned the key in the ignition and it started.

She let the truck ease down the driveway and she pulled into the road. No traffic at 3 am, only ink black sky and white circles of light from the streetlamps. The road was glare ice but she drove slowly past the sparse houses and stopped at the sign, before turning south onto the highway heading into town.

Tears ran freely down her cheeks and her nose ran, dripping past her mouth and chin, tickling her neck. She took a hand off the steering wheel and wiped her face. Now her hand was wet and slick on the wheel and her vision was blurred and her shoulders heaved.

The road curved as it followed the river on the right, and a steep cliff rose on the left. The rough dynamited wall of rock was crossed by chicken wire to keep the boulders from crashing down on the road. She prayed God to keep the truck from sliding off the road and into the river, and then she prayed that the truck would slide off the road and into the river.

But it didn't. She drove into the town and parked at the strip mall at the opposite end from the row of neon signs, and cleaned her face, and got her breathing to slow down. She had been on the road for 20 minutes. If she stayed a little longer then she could drive back arriving home an hour after she had left.

When she got back home, she opened the door quietly and came in. All was silent so she lay down on the couch and pulled the afghan over her, and punched the cushion into shape and lay stiff listening for a sound. She slept from exhaustion and woke only when she heard the boy walking down the hallway, calling for her.

She got up and changed his diapers and cleaned him up, and sat him at the kitchen table and gave him cheese and cheerios to eat with his hands. Then she fed him some cereal with milk, making sure he didn't choke. She reached for a kleenex and wiped his nose which always ran.

That is what it was about, right. That she, the negligent mother, had exposed him to germs by taking him to playgroup in the winter. If she had kept him at home, or asked or checked to see if any of the other children had a cold, then Brian would not have caught another cold. But, no, unthinking, not taking appropriate care, she had taken him anyway and there was hell to pay.

So when Brian coughed in the middle of the night, it was directly a consequence of her failure, her lack of foresight, and proper care of the child. That is why her husband had yelled, to teach her what her responsibility was, to keep this misbegotten child from further illness. It was the disgusting mess really, of a nose always running, and a 4 year old in diapers.

Well, you could not mistake the fact that this child was not normal. He had the impish face and features of Down's syndrome, with the open mouth and large tongue, narrow eyes twinkling with fun. He would put his hands over his eyes and play peekaboo between his fingers. Happy child, as long as he was in his routine, playing with his blocks and piling them over and over. But just change a step and watch out.

This morning her husband got up and drank his coffee and ate breakfast and took his lunch that she had made. He went over and spoke to the kid, touching the hair matted with pablum. He had only ever shouted at Brian once, and the look of bald uncomprehending terror, the shrieks of distress, lasting half an hour, set up a no go zone, for some reason. Leanne wondered how the boy had done it and she couldn't. Her husband headed off to work without looking at her.

So she would be safe for another week, until it started again.

It was Tuesday morning so she phoned Lisa and said that she would not be at the Moms and Tots group that day because Brian had a cold. Lisa promised to drop in in the afternoon, which was better because that gave her time to wash her face and put on a little makeup, and check her complexion in the mirror to see if the crying had left any marks.

To be Continued

All posts are copyrighted by the author. This is a work of fiction, a product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.