Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Mothers (05/02/05)
TITLE: The End of a Separation
By Kyle Chezum
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The car was gone.
Afternoon sunlight slanted along the side of the house, silhouetting trashcans as he strode across the lawn. A gust of old summer leaves chased him to the stoop and piled there, dead at the door.
Shane knocked. It echoed up the quiet street.
A minute or so slid by before the door crept open. A dim figure stared out at him from the shadows behind the screen. Shane stared back, and they stood for a long while in silence, until the screen came away and he was looking again into the eyes of his mother.
All he could think to say was, “I’m back.” Not so cordial as he would have liked.
The woman nodded but said nothing. A bitter wind came in across the yard, scattering leaves.
Shane tried again. “May I come in?” There, that was a bit better.
She shrugged. “If you want.”
Shane stepped inside, letting the door swing shut behind him just as it had done seven years earlier. The front room was empty. No furniture. Through the kitchen doorway he could see bare countertops beneath a plain window that let in little light. Sounds and smells, familiar and long dead, came up out of the crypts of that house to match the ghosts in his memory. It was all just as it had been before.
She disappeared into the kitchen, moving toward a table at the far end of the room, a table littered with bottles of pills and other medicines. Shane picked one up. Sleeping pills. “What’s all this?”
She shrugged. “Doctor has me on a lot of medication. I don’t pay for it; Medicare does the prescriptions.”
Silence again. Shane looked around, noticing how vacant the place felt. Money had been scarce, he could tell. “Where’s Dad?”
“Gone. Left not long after you.”
“Did he take the car?”
“It ain’t there now, is it?”
So it really was gone. The 1957 Mustang that had always, always sat right outside the garage, was gone. Shane shook his head, remembering how his father had promised to one day let him have it. Good car. “Mom, I know it’s been a long time. But I’ve found something I want to share with you.”
She was staring at the pills. Shane continued. “I went to a church, Mom. I know we never did before, but I tried it, and I met Someone who can help us both.”
“I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me God made your life better, that God eased all the problems.” She looked up at him, her face haggard and worn. “Well, my life ain’t worth it.”
Shane met her gaze. “No, Mom. He has helped me, and He will do the same for you.”
“I’ll be attending to God on my own good time.”
“Will you at least think about it? For my sake?”
She seemed uncertain, but nodded. “Yes. Yes, I’ll think about it. Tomorrow’s Sunday. You come back then, and maybe I’ll go to church with you.”
Shane stood, smiling. “Good. I’ll see you then.”
He turned and strode back outside, heading toward the empty driveway. As he passed the garage, his gaze fell upon a sheet of paper that fluttered in the weeds near the trashcans. He stooped and picked it up. It was a receipt from the local pharmacy. A list of drug names covered the stained page.
So she had paid for all that medication. But where had she gotten the money?
It dawned on him then. Why the furniture was gone. Why the car was gone. Why everything that had ever been anything to him was suddenly missing.
His father didn’t have the Mustang. She had sold it to buy the drugs. And the drugs—
Shane turned and dashed back to the house. He knew what the pills were for, but by the time he got there she had already swallowed them all and was dead on the kitchen floor, cold and empty as the house around her.
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