As a writer, I write to make myself feel better. Yes, my fingers have been flying across the keyboard this past week! II love when writing, short stories come out of nowhere and I follow them to their ends. I thought you’d like a little something different today!
Protest by Nicole Sharp
Stella needed to do something.
She had been glued to her television for three days. She ordered pizza the first day, heated it up the second and was grateful that the pizza guy was willing to stop at the grocery store and bring a gallon of milk and two boxes of Go-Gurts along with her order. For a decent tip, of course.
The kids were fighting again and it seemed it was as good a time as any to take a break from the madness the glowing blue box was producing.
She shuffled through the house, waded through the toys that covered the floor from the living room, through the kitchen, down the hallway, toward the boys rooms. An obnoxious version of breadcrumbs.
She wished her husband felt like helping her clean when he got home after working his 14 hour work days.
She picked up a few towels and kid clothes that had joined the mess on the floor and she tossed what she’d amassed into the washer.
“Mom! It’s my toothpaste, tell him! He can have the hair stuff.” The scream came from the bathroom.
She sighed as she shuffled into the bathroom.
Her precious children were in their underwear, faces smeared with pizza sauce and other signs of a mother who had given up. On the large mirror above the sink was a recreation of a Jackson Pollock. A work that would surely be named, “Every Day Bathroom Items.”
“I think I like the contrast my mascara brush makes in the background with it all.” She said.
“What do you call this hair stuff?” Sam, her middle child of six years old held up a bottle.
“Mousse.” She supplied.
“And this stuff?” Sam asked.
Was it worth it anymore? Would it ever be worth it to clean the house again? To try and raise her boys into men who didn’t belittle women and degrade their fellow man?
“What made the red streaks?” It didn’t look like lipstick.
“We found a bag of Halloween make up. That’s the fake blood stuff.” Her oldest, Mike, the eight year old explained.
She nodded her head.
“I want the toothpaste, Mikey won’t give it to me.” Sam yelled.
She stood for a moment, taking in the horror scene before her. She thought about yelling. She thought about crying, but instead she went to the linen closet and pulled out a new tube of toothpaste and a new can of her husband’s shaving cream.
She set them on the counter in the bathroom. “Have fun.”
The boys blinked at their mother, then at each other.
“Aren’t you mad?” Mike asked.
She was enraged. She was scared. She was rocked to her very core. But she wasn’t mad at her boys. Let them have fun. Who knew how much of that would be had in the next four years.
She made her way to the baby’s room and peaked in on Johnny. The baby, who wasn’t so baby. Two years old he was as solid as a linebacker, cute as could be and cuddle up in a ball asleep. That was one miracle, at least.
She quietly closed the door and then went back to the living room. Her phone was beeping anxiously and she picked it up and began to read through the latest information. There was a protest. And this one was close to the house. About three miles away.
She stood in the middle of the living room and looked around her.
Her husband wouldn’t be home for another six hours. But the need to do something, be a part of something was so fierce, she straightened her spine. She could do this.
She could do this.
“Boys!” she screamed. “Get dressed!”
She put on her bra and found a hat that made her unwashed hair look better.
“I can’t find my shirt.” Sam yelled.
“Mom, where are my shoes?” Mike added.
“Where are we going?” Sam asked.
She grabbed clothes for the boys, shoes and socks and found them fighting over a pair of clean underwear in the bathroom that was crying for her to clean just one tiny little spot.
“We’re going for a walk.” She said and handed them their clothes. “Get dressed.”
This wasn’t bad parenting, was it? I mean, she saw a protest march yesterday. There were kids in strollers. It was fine. Right?
Wasn’t she teaching her kids to stand up for what they believed was right? And it was the middle of the day. And she’d just wait and find another mother with a stroller and walk near her. Yeah, this was fine.
“The walk’ll tire them out and make bed time easier.” She reasoned then muttered, “Snacks.”
She grabbed a handful of cheese sticks and Go-Gurts. Several Capri Suns. A box of graham crackers and a box of fruit snacks. That would last her crew for at least three hours. She threw in a few granola bars for herself and a bottle of water.
“We’re ready!” Mike yelled, “are we going to the park?”
Shit, how were they going to get where they needed to go?
“No, we’re going for a walk in a parade.” It was kind of the truth.
“We’re gonna be in a parade?” Sam screamed the announcement. “Don’t we need costumes and a float?”
“No, but we need a sign.” She bit her lip and zipped up the cooler bag, “Michael get the baby up and change his diaper. Sam help him with the baby’s shoes.”
She rummaged through the craft closet that doubled as the place where broken actions figures went to die. She found a big sharpie marker, then she found a folded up poster board that had been an attempt at a garage sale sign for a garage sale she never got around to having.
“You’ll do nicely.”
“Ma ma ma ma ma ma.” The toddling voice found her.
“Ready to go be part of something?” She asked.
“Go go go go.” Johnny said.
“Go go go.” She agreed.
The idea crossed her mind to walk the three miles to where the protest would cross her path and she could join. But she eyed her angles fighting in the front yard and decided she could probably find a parking place that was close and go from there.
Purse, cooler, keys and phone in hand, she locked the door and opened the doors on the minivan. “Okay, hop in boys.”
Sam ran and tried to climb in first. Mike grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him out of the way, causing him to fall down. With a victory laugh his brother jumped into the back of the van.
“Michael, get you. Apologize to your brother and help him in.”
“Mom.” Mike whinned.
“I broke my arm. He broke my arm mom.” Sam screamed from the ground where he was rolling over and over. Off the driveway and toward the grass.
“If your arm was broken, Samuel, you wouldn’t be able to roll on it.” She said through her teeth as she gently pushed the baby’s arms out of the way.
Johnny continued to try and help her put him in the car seat. “No baby, let mom put you in your car seat.”
“Get in here!” Mike was pulling Sam across the lawn.
“Mom, he’s hurting me!” Sam screamed.
“Boys, just get in the car.”
“No, I do!” The baby screeched in her ear and flailed his limbs trying to buckle himself into his car seat.
“I’m trying to help you.” She seethed.
Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.
The victorious click of the seat belt into place echoed like an omen. This was a good thing. She needed to do this. She needed to show her boys what men they could grow up to be. Good, decent men who could make a real change in the world they lived in and see their neighbors as humans.
If only they would get in the damn car!
“I’m hungry!” Mike yelled as she climbed behind the wheel.
“I’m hungrier!” Sam joined in.
The baby joined in with his babbling words for hungry.
Stella let her head fall on the steering wheel and took a deep breath.
“Are you crying again mom?” Sam asked.
“Everybody’s crying. All over the TV everybody’s crying.” Mike informed his brother.
“Boys, it’s okay to cry. But I’m mad. Sometimes tears aren’t because someone is sad, sometimes it’s because they are mad.” She honked the horn and a shocked group of children stopped fidgeting and talking for several seconds. “Let’s go stand for something. The blue soft cooler has snacks.”
She turned the key and felt her resilience building. This wasn’t half bad. I mean, right? She could do this. She did most errands with three kids. (Not by choice, but she did it at any rate.)
She looked at the map and figured she’d head to a neighborhood about a half mile from where the protest would be passing. She looked at the clock. Holy shit! This was going to work.
This was what she needed right now. No more tears. She needed to do something. Do something actionable. She needed to be around people other than her precious boys.
“You butthead!” Mike screamed right then.
“I’m not a butthead, you’re a butthead. Mom, Mike called me a butthead.”
Her precious, precious angels.
“We don’t call each other names.” You little shits.
She found parking about a quarter of a mile from where she needed to go and was so excited that she did a little dance when she got out of the car.
Stroller opened up, loaded down with snacks, jackets, diapers and three packs of wet wipes, and one poster board. Slogan coming soon.
She needed to start thinking about what she wanted to write on that. What did she stand for right now? Peace? Love? Equality?
She loaded the baby and convinced Sam to get in the stroller as well.
“Okay!” She announced.
“Where’s the parade?” Mike asked.
“A few blocks that way.” She pointed.
She was doing it. She was actually doing this. She was one of those progressive women who could do it all. I mean, look at her. Okay, well she hadn’t bathed in three days and the stains on her yoga pants were rather blatant in the sun and she was pretty sure it was dried yogurt that had tattooed itself in a tiny hand print on the right breast of her shirt, and she wished she’d seen that before they left. And she smelled. But that was the least of her worries.
Just look what she’d done! The impossible. She had dressed three children within fifteen minutes and left the house.
“My legs are tired.” Mike whined.
“I want out.” Sam said.
“Why don’t you change places?” She could fix any problem.
“I’m not a baby.” Mike hissed.
“I want out. I’m not a baby either.” Sam yelled.
“We have a lot of walking to do today.” She said.
“I’m tired.” Mike repeated.
“If we were at Disneyland you’d run all day and never once complain about your feet. We haven’t even gone one block.” She argued.
“Are we going to Disneyland?” Sam asked.
“No. I was trying to make a point.” She said.
Sam wasn’t waiting for his mom to stop, he stood up and awkwardly climbed out of the stroller.
“I can stand on the back of the stroller while you push it.’ Mike said and began forcing his way in between his mom’s arms and put a foot on the back of the stroller.
“Michael, no. Stop it.”
His weight jarred the whole stroller so it stood up on two back wheels.
“Off.” She hissed.
“I want to try that.” Sam whined.
We haven’t even gone two blocks she thought.
“Boys. This parade is called a protest. I really want to be a part of it. I want you to be a part of it so I can show you that when things get difficult, there is always a way to peacefully express your views.”
“But I’m hungry and my feet hurt.” Mike said.
“Didn’t you have a snack in the car?”
“That was in the car.” Mike drew out the word car.
“I’m hungry too.” Sam said and again the baby joined in screaming for food.
“Look, do you see that main street up there? Where the stop light is?”
“Where?” Sam asked.
“No.” Mike said.
Of course he didn’t see it because he was looking down at his shoe and scrapping the toe of it on the sidewalk.
“Mike, stop. You’re going to ruin your shoes. Look, that light. It’s green right now. When we get there, I’ll give everyone a snack and we can stop and take a break.”
There were muttered agreements and she bribed Sam back into the stroller and Mike limped next to her, scuffing the toe of his shoe in the process.
Like a beacon, she kept her eye on the prize of the light. She watched all the cycles, six in all, and finally she arrived.
She had done it.
She grinned and when the buildings were no long obstructing the view of the main street, she glanced to her right, and then her left.
Were they early?
Were they late?
“Where’s the parade?” Mike asked.
“Is that an ice cream shop? Can we get ice cream?” Sam pointed.
She pulled out her phone and looked up the information once more.
“If Sam gets ice cream, I get ice cream. I get two scoops cuz I’m older.”
“Why does Mike get two scoops? I want two scoops!”
“Cuz I’m older and better.” Mike said.
“I’m better!” Sam insisted. “Mom, Mike said he was better than me.”
“I eam, I eam.” The baby yelled at the top of his lungs.
She put the phone in the cup holder of the stroller. Pulled out the folded poster board and marker.
“Are you coloring? Can I color?” Sam asked.
She knelt on the ground and wrote. Tracing the letters until they would be visible.
“Mom, where’s the parade? This doesn’t look like a parade. This looks like traffic.” Mike whined.
“Mom got the address wrong.” Stella said. “The parade is about six miles that way.” She pointed in the direction the protesters were headed. Each step taking them farther and farther away from her.
She stood up.
“Mom what are you doing?” Mike whined.
“Standing for something.” She said.
She held her sign above her head that read: Call your mom and tell her you love her. Right now!