David doesn't cry, and there is sand in his hair. Today after school I'm going to get off at his bus stop. His mom is taking us to Sears. She says she can buy Wrangler in husky size there and that's what David wears. My mom is at work. I'd rather go home but I can't until she calls and tells me I can. I hope David's mom doesn't ask me how the sand got in his hair. I don't want to have to tell her. David's mom thinks I talk about nonsense and she doesn't like me. I don't think she likes David either.
We come in. She's there, sitting at the kitchen table, smoking. She says she's too tired to go to Sears like she promised. We're glad because now we can go outside and play. I'm waiting in the yard for David. He got yanked back in the house by his ear lobe. I can hear him squeaking. He squeaks. He doesn't cry. He says it makes his mom go nuts. It sounds like it works.
"Dammit David, how did you get sand in your hair again? I told you I'm not buying any more of that ringworm medicine. I suppose you're eating cat shit too."
I'm mad. I hate her. I wish his mom would just leave him alone. I can hear him tugging and grunting to get away.
"Get in the house," his mom, says to me. "David has to get in the tub. He's got sand in his hair again. How does he do that? Does he roll around in the sand or just dump it on top of his head? I'm sick of it David. I send you off to school clean and with clothes that fit you every day and you always come home looking like six kids have spent the afternoon beating you up in the playground. Get your clothes off and get in the tub. Tell me how you got that sand in your hair. Tell me David."
I peek through the crack in the door. The water's running, and sand is pouring down into David's eyes but his mom doesn't care. He squeaks, telling her to stop pulling his hair under the faucet."Shut up David or I'll give you what for," she says.
I open the door and yell like mad, "David, tell your mom how the sand got there." David's eyes are swollen and red. He tells me to shut up or he'll give me what for. I tell his mom I did it, I put sand in David's hair. I say I did it last time and the time before too.
She lets go of David, goes to the phone and calls Roxy, the woman next door. I am ordered to go to Roxy's house until my mom gets home.
I'm at Roxy's. I can't wait until my mom is done at work. I think David's mom should be reported to the cops. I'm gonna have my mom call them as soon as she gets home. Roxy doesn't like me or David. She likes David's mom. I look out the kitchen window into David's house. I can see his mom rubbing his head real hard with a big orange towel. It looks like it hurts. David's head already hurts from the kids at recess but he doesn't want his mom to know. She'd say it's because he's too fat and can't run away.
I want to put sand in David's mom's hair. I want to rub her face in the sand. I want to call her bad names and hope she goes to hell. I say under my breath so Roxy won't hear my secret to David, "I got your mom's cigarettes so pretty soon she'll leave you alone." I knew David's brother always took cigs out of his mom's purse and got caught after. He was home and in his room. Pretty soon his mom would have a nicotine fit and go after David's brother. Then David could sneak out and come over to my house. My mom will be home by then and we can make WANTED FOR MURDER signs with David's mom's picture on it and maybe the cops will take her away. If not, David's in trouble again tomorrow after school.
Instead, I bribe the kids at the playground with David's mom's smokes. They promise to leave David alone for a total of eight days. That's how many smokes I had. David promises me he'll learn to run faster. We have eight days to practice. I hope David learns to run as fast as me and then we can run away from home together. "We have eight days, David."
About the author:
Suzanne Nielsen, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, waits for the change of seasons from winter to above freezing with suspicion. She teaches writing at Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and The Loft Literary Center. She has been published in various literary journals nationally and internationally; most recently her work has appeared in The Comstock Review, Brick and Mortar Review, Mid-America Poetry Review, Flash Fantastic, The Pedestal, Asphodel and 580 Split. Upcoming work will appear in Banyan Review, R-KV-R-Y, Gin Bender Poetry Review and Thunder Sandwich. She writes a quarterly column, Cool Dead People, for www.doubledarepress.com. Cool Dead People also appears quarterly in print through Whistling Shade Literary Journal.