in the Limelight
I was standing on a couch while my mother was holding me, because I
was wobbly and my short legs were not strong enough for a soft
surface, even though I had been walking for a couple of years
already. My mother always told everyone how early I started walking
and talking. She thought I was a smart kid, and was hoping I would
become tough as nails when I grew up.
The grown-ups in the room where smiling and laughing. I knew how
easily I could make them laugh even harder, and I also wanted to
show off my amazingly huge vocabulary. I was just waiting for
someone to ask me a question, so they all could laugh and say how
amazing and funny I was.
So, I was standing on the couch waiting for to get attention, while
my mother sat next to me, and held her arm loosely around me so I
Finally a man with a cane and riding boots asked me how my father
was doing. He had this cunning crooked smile on his blue old man
lips like he already knew I would say something outrageous.
"Yes, how is your father?" someone else asked.
I was glad someone had finally talked to me. Now everybody was
looking at me, waiting and smiling.
"My father left my mom and me like a tomcat."
They all were laughing except my mother who looked worried. What
would my next sentence be now when I had gotten a chance to perform?
Would I keep parroting my mother's words, or would I sing?
"So you're saying that tomcats leave?" the man in the riding boots
asked winking at me.
"Yes, because tomcats don't care about their kittens," I said and
My mother squeezed my hand and asked if I didn't want to sing. No, I
didn't want to sing, I wanted to make everybody laugh at my
amazingly funny stories about my father and tomcats. I was happy. I
They all gave me coins to pay for good entertainment so I could buy
candy in the grocery store. I never bought any candy, because all
the money went for milk and butter.
A week later mother got a letter from my father telling he was going
to kill her, because she was a bitch and a lying whore, who taught
the kid to talk shit about him. My mother tore the letter into small
pieces and tossed the pieces into the fire. Her face was flushed,
and her forget-me-not blue eyes were almost black.
Later she went to the shed and came back with an ax and put it in
the corner inside the door. "If the bastard comes here, I'll split
his freaking head like a pumpkin," my mother said and started making
My father never came.
Copyright © 2013 Marja Hagborg
M.H. lives with a husband, twin cats
and tons of dust and cat hair in downtown Chicago where
she writes extremely short and dark fiction.