Scowling irritably, Peter flung himself into the kitchen chair, causing his soft drink to sputter and slop onto the table. Murmuring an expletive, he swept the droplets onto the floor with the side of his hand.
“Peter, please,” implored Sharon as she wiped the table and floor with a damp cloth.
Peter reinforced his scowl, then leaned over, giving Mark a punch on the shoulder.
Mark winced soundlessly.
“Don’t be such a sissy. Toughen up, or you’ll never make it, twerp.”
Smirking and sniggering, Peter continued to rain pinches, small slaps, and punches along Mark’s arm and shoulder. Mark squirmed to escape the insistent hands.
“You’re no fun. Can’t take it, can you?”
Mark answered by sliding his chair away and focussing on his book.
“Whatcha doing? Math? Waste of time. You’ll never use any of that garbage when you grow up. Idiot teachers.” Peter took a long swig of his drink, wiped his mouth on his cuff, then released an exuberant belch. “Got more soda?”
Sharon obliged by getting another bottle from the fridge and setting it in front of Peter, already opened.
“This all we have? This stuff tastes like...” Peter trailed off as Sharon nodded in Mark’s direction. “Oh, yeah, don’t corrupt the kid. Well, he’s gonna hear it sooner or later.”
“Peter, leave him alone. He wants to get his homework done so he can go to Matt’s. What are your plans for the day?”
“Just relaxing. Going to play my game, maybe watch some TV.” Peter stretched and leaned his head back into laced fingers.
Sharon hesitated. “Do you think you could mow the lawn? Or paint the back fence?”
“Nah. I’m too tired. I want to rest up for later. I’m going out. Meeting David and Ben.”
Sharon put away the last of the dishes and hung up the towel. “The lawn really needs mowing. It’s been two weeks already.”
Peter snuffed back another expletive as he exploded from his chair. “Can’t a person have a break? If you want it done so badly, maybe you should do it. It looks fine to me. Nag, nag, about every little thing.”
Jamming the chair under the table, Peter stomped to the living room and grabbed the remote control. He slammed down into the recliner, ramming it into the fully extended position in one crashing motion. Expletives continued to erupt from him, punctuated by clicks of the remote control.
Sharon smiled wanly and gave Mark a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Finish your homework. Maybe we’ll tackle the lawn ourselves.”
Sharon stepped outside into the sunshine. Why must it always be like this? Fighting and friction. Arguing and anger. Would it ever end? She sat on the step, willing herself to enjoy the rays’ warmth, the sound of birds singing, the faraway drone of lawnmower. Peace.
It was short-lived.
The door whipped open, nearly hitting Sharon.
Sharon wearily got up.
“What would you like? A cheese sandwich?”
“Who wants cheese sandwiches? How come there’s never anything decent to eat around here? Why can’t we ever have those little pizza snacks?”
Sharon rummaged in the cupboard, piling cookies and potato chips into bowls and setting them beside Peter, who’d found a monster truck competition to watch.
“Hey, Mark, come look at this,” he yelled excitedly. “This is cool. I’ll have one of those some day.” Peter growled out a roar, mimicking the revving vehicles on the screen. “Yeah, go, go!” he hollered as a truck squashed over a line-up of cars.
In his exuberance, Peter knocked over the cookies, shattering the bowl and sending crumbs and broken bits across the floor.
It was Sharon’s turn to become angry.
“What is wrong with you? Why...?” She broke off as frustration weakened her. “And why don’t you take a shower?”
Peter stood, looming over Sharon, fury emanating from him like a fiery halo.
“I don’t need this constant harping. I hate this house.” Not bothering to bite back any words, he hurled obscenities as he crashed through the door.
Mark looped his arms around his mother, squeezing her tight. “He’ll be back, Mom. Don’t worry.”
“When I get big, I won’t be like him, I promise.”
Sharon smiled, a little ruefully and sad, perhaps, at the thought that Mark had already grown far beyond the adolescent behaviour of his father.
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