Marja Hagborg

Standing Tall 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 wouldn't fall.

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 sighed.

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 felt love.

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 coffee.

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.