The Wrong Mother

The wrong mother is too boney with a lost look on her face. Her baby is plump -- a child with ash hair that whines. The wrong mother feeds and dresses him hovering over his tiny limbs throughout the day. At night, she pours the whiskey. She drinks and drinks to water the holes inside. Later, she will pick up the phone and dial. She will whine to anyone that will listen.

The wrong mother is NEEDY. If you are with her for any length of time, you began to feel beaten worn. The wrong mother must take the medication to get by. On the days she skips it, the phone will ring. It will ring -- ring until you answer and the blame game begins. She blames others. If you do not embrace her, she'll attack you with high pitched words. She pounds words at you like bullies with hard fists.

The wrong mother's baby is helpless. He's a sluggish child who hears his mother's cries and whines himself. He sees darkness in her eyes and stops. Something inside him always freezes up. The wrong mother still hovers around him, but she's not there really. She's going through the motions lifeless with heavy bones. She needs: love, therapy, friends, a drug. And in this, she remembers her Prozac but doesn't take it. The wrong mother pours the whiskey instead.

The wrong mother cannot think straight. She drifts about and clings to her pasty boy thinking of herself as a child. Her parents always left her behind with sitters, a nanny, or friends. They were busy people who collected, sold antiques and traveled abroad. They continually passed the poor frail girl around as if she were stale bread at supper.

When the wrong mother's husband gets home, he sinks quietly behind his newspaper. He doesn't listen to her frustrations instead he falls into a deep slumber from the long work day. He may have cared for the wrong mother once, but presently resents living with a head case. He does not believe in divorce so he sleeps and works. He will sleep and work his way around her.

The weight of her parent's neglect haunts her. It's their fault the neighbor boy touched her. The wrong mother was only thirteen and had just bought the fruity lip gloss. It had a picture of a palm tree on the package and tasted like coconuts. One afternoon the neighbor boy had his way with her, as they say. He had been coming around the house, and she let him in when her parents were away. She thought they were going to listen to records and have spiked soda in her mother's antique wine glasses.

Her baby's crying. The wrong mother is under the table with her head tucked beneath her arms as if a tornado's coming, but the storm is roaring inside. She hears noises thinking it's the sound of sirens coming. The baby screams in his crib, but she can't move. The voices have told her to stay. She whimpers whines like a poodle. And stays the way good dogs do for hours.

Later the sirens do come.

The wrong mother's crouched on the floor. The baby has a soiled diaper, but the husband phones for assistance first. He watches in horror as she scratches and sniffs at the air. The husband pacifies the baby with the Animal Cracker nursery song he has heard somewhere for he will not get to his newspaper tonight. Soon it will be over.

He stands under grey clouds and watches as men force her into the ambulance. He smoothes back his son's light curls and whispers, "I'm sorry. There, it's all better now. You had the wrong mother." In the distance, he hears thunder rumbling. It's a new storm, but the boy doesn't flinch. He notices the baby's eyes are somewhat hollow. Within an instant, this flash, the husband thinks he can see something dark and familiar lurking there.

About the author:

Angela Carlton has previously published other stories in The Dead Mule, Mid-South Review, Coastlines and Inverse News. She now resides in sunny Florida with her husband and daughter as well as a short haired terrier critter who has been known to roll in a patch of grass.