What's a Mother To Do? by Don Bagley © 2010

Date 2010/6/14 21:41:28 | Topic: May thru June 2010

Kevin pushed the steaming bowl of oatmeal away from himself at the dinette. His tongue stuck out, and he made a phhbbt sound. You know I told him he could sweeten it up; the sugar shaker’s always on the table. I wanted to slap him, but I didn’t. Doesn’t that count for anything? You try being the single mother of a four year old and you’re a week behind on furnished studio rent. See how you judge then.
I had paid almost two dollars for that oatmeal at the Food Outlet, and now I was out the money. Kevin’s punishment was two hours with no TV. Like I said, I don’t hit him no more. He has to suffer a consequence for when he does wrong, just like anyone else. And that was just the start of what he put me through.

And while Kevin was sleeping, his daddy stopped by. Keith had blood all over his right hand, and his knuckles were broken open. I asked him did he have any money for me and he said yes, just help him get cleaned up and hide the weapon for him, was all. He had a Bowie knife I put behind the sink pipes. Once he cleaned up, he gave me a small stack of twenties. I thanked him, and he asked me to make him a dinner, so I made a tuna helper with noodles.

Kevin woke up and he was happy to see his daddy, but you know what the little shit did?
He refused to eat the tuna helper. He made a face, and Keith, God bless him, took a spoonful and shoved it into the boy’s mouth.

“Your mother cooks for you, and you will eat what she cooks,” said Keith.

Kevin cried, and Keith pinched his ear. “You will not cry,” said Keith, “you will act like a big boy, not a baby.”

Kevin did his silent thing then where he won’t look at no one or talk to no one. It was irritating the way he tried to make himself disappear. I would like you to tell me how I was supposed to deal with that. We hardly ever saw Keith, and when he comes by with money for bills the boy has to act like that?

I didn’t see Keith for a long time after that, and the money ran short again. Every time I looked at Kevin, I saw a smaller version of his father. He started to wear on my nerves, and sometimes I had to lock him in the closet for a few hours so I wouldn’t hurt him. His muffled cries through the closet door galled me, and I had to go out. I would see my girlfriend Teresa and we would drink some coolers and talk about our men. She lives just five doors down from me, so I would leave Kevin in the closet till I got back. He was usually asleep when I got to him.

Now I don’t know about his losing weight. Was I supposed to put him on a scale every day? He wouldn’t eat anything I put before him, so what do you expect? I got canned salmon at the Food Outlet and faux crab cakes and shrimp ramen noodles and ground turkey and okra and pepperpot soup with tripe and canned cabbage and spinach and split pea soup, and he wouldn’t have none of it. No matter what the punishment, he wouldn’t eat what I made him.

Now you come here and tell me I’m a bad mother, because there’s nothing in the fridge but a twelve pack of beer. There’s nothing in the cupboard but a carton of smokes. What am I supposed to do, keep food until it rots? Nobody’s going to eat it.

I made him a bologna sandwich that day for lunch, and he tore it apart. He wanted to eat the meat slice first and then chew at the bread center without having the crust. I told him if he couldn’t respect his sandwich any better than that then he didn’t deserve it, and I threw the rest of it out. He cried until I put him down on the sofa and wrapped him in his blanket.
And I can’t believe you fell for Kevin’s stunt. He’s not in a coma; he’s doing his little thing where he ignores everybody. That’s the way he is. Sneak up on him, and you’ll find him with his eyes open, thinking of a way to get over on everyone. He’s tricky like that.

Go ahead, take him away from me. He’s not going to eat for you, either. Not the way he is now.










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