Can’t Abandon Love
This is the first chapter of a novel I wrote for the 2010 NaNoWriMo. It’s about a boy who loses his mother then, later, commits himself to never abandon his wife the way his father abandon him, no matter what.
I couldn’t wait to get home from football practice. It was Thursday, and Thursday was pasta night. Well, back then, every night was pasta night because that was my favorite and Mom loved making it for me.
“See you later, Dom,” Joey said when we got to his driveway. His dad’s car was home which meant he was working the day shift. I knew this wasn’t the last I’d see of Joey. His old man love to throw the ball around, and if I hung around the front porch, I’d get invited to join in. Joey’s old man was good too, good at sports. He could throw a baseball so high that you lost sight of it for a split second, that’s why it was no surprise that Joey was the best player on the eighth grade football team.
I kept walking on the sidewalk past the Johnsons’; they lived between Joey and me. My stomach growled when I thought of Mom’s pasta. On the weekends she liked to make homemade noodles but, during the week, she boiled the dry stuff. It wasn’t even the pasta I craved, but the sugu she put on it. Joey’s mom called it sauce but my mom was Italian so she called it sugu. I could make a whole dinner out of my mom’s sugu and a couple slices of bread.
“Mom,” I called from the landing at the back door. She didn’t answer. My mom was one of those women who cleaned the house, then turned around and cleaned it again. She always had cleaning to do. I heard the radio in the kitchen playing low; it was a Bob Seger song. Night Moves. Mom liked cleaning, and singing, to Bob Seger. I liked him too but not this song, Night Moves was a grown-up song. Hollywood Nights was my favorite Bob Seger song. With no sign of Mom, I headed down the stairs to the basement with my duffel bag.
After getting into three fights in sixth grade, Principal Daniels called me to his office and told me, either I was playing football, or I was going to have a tough time getting through junior high. He coached the seventh and eighth grade football teams and was always on the lookout for tough kids. “If you tackle running backs like you tackled Mo Schmidt this morning in the hall you might even be a starter. You’re certainly big enough. Your mom must feed you good,” he said. I just stared at my shoes and wondered if he was going to expel me again. Last time he expelled me my old man was working afternoons, which meant he woke up atnoonbut didn’t start work until four. Mom put school clothes on me and sent me out for a walk untilthree thirtywhen I was supposed to get home. The old man was not as kind as Mom when it came to kids.
After I got home from the first practice on Principal Daniels’ football team, Mom led me to the basement and showed me how to use the washer and dryer. “If you want to play, you have to help me out. Now, don’t forget to put them in the dryer or you’re going to have wet practice clothes in the morning,” she told me. She had to speak up so I could hear her over the rumble of the washer on the concrete basement floor.
I took all the pads out of my practice pants and threw them in as the washer began filling. The shirt that I wore under my shoulder pads was soaked from the sprints Coach Daniels finished practice with. I hated the sprints. “Run them hard, and we will only do 20,” he told the team at the end of practice when we would huddle around him. I always ran them hard, but I had to just to keep up with the other offensive lineman. Everyday when we would get to twenty, Coach would yell again, “I see a couple of you guys loafing!” Loafing was his term for coasting, taking it easy. Loafing always cost us ten more.
After I had the washer going I climbed the stairs to the landing, kicked off my school shoes, and walked up the three steps to the kitchen. That’s when I saw the sugu all over the floor. The pot was on the floor and sugu was spread out in a huge pool with splatter all the way across and under the table by the window. It was her usual batch of two quarts that she had me fetch from the basement cellar last night.
“Mom!” I yelled. No answer came from the house. Night Moves was just finishing up on the radio when I called again. “Mom, what happened to the kitchen?” I stepped into the kitchen and tried to tip-toe my way through the sauce to the dining room. I went very slowly. Trying to find clear spots to step was almost impossible because of the way the sauce was spread and splattered. When I got to the dining room door, I yelled again, “Mom, where you at? You have a big mess down here.” I noticed sugu spread all the way through the dining room but it was almost like she tried to mop it up or something. I followed the streaks of sauce on the wood floor and when I turned the corner into the parlor, I saw her.
“Mom!” I ran over to her. She was on her stomach with her usual cleaning clothes on. Polyester pants, and one of my old man’s white t-shirts. My heart raced in my chest as I slid on my knees next to her body.
“Mom? What happened?” She mumbled something I couldnt understand through her thick, curly hair that had covered her face when she fell. I grabbed a handful of hair moved it away from her face. When I let go of the hair, my hand was covered in blood. “Did you fall Mom? You’re bleeding.” The only eye I could see was the right one and it was barely open. Her shiny eyeball was barely visible through the drooped eyelid. “Mom, I’m gonna go get someone to help.”
As I ran back through the kitchen and tip-toed around the sugu on the floor, I decided to go to Landry’s and see if my dad was there. I darted down the stairs and out the screen door. My feet felt like they weren’t even touching the ground as I ran down the driveway and turned right on the sidewalk. Landry’s Bar was only ten houses down on the corner ofFifth Street, the main street that ran through town.
“Dominic, is everything alright?” I heard Mr. Taylor, Jeff’s dad, yell to me from his front yard as I ran down the sidewalk in my socks. I knew I was being disrespectful by not answering but it was an emergency, Mom was hurt.
The ten-house run down Lincoln Streetusually took about twenty-five seconds for me and twenty seconds for Joey, but that day, I swear I did it in eighteen flat. I saw the old man’s green car parked in front and felt a small sense of relief that he wasn’t working that afternoon. Well, he might have been working, but at that moment, he was at Landry’s. I grabbed the door and ran in but stopped immediately because I couldn’t see. My eyes were used to the bright sunshine outside and Landry’s was the darkest bar I’d ever been in. I immediately smelled the familiar aroma of cigarettes and stale beer that I hated when my old man brought me here.
“Dominic, what in the hell you doing?” My dad’s voice boomed from somewhere near the bar.
“Dad! Mom fell down and hit her head or something. She’s hurt!” I ran toward the white shirt sitting at the bar, assuming it was him because that was the direction the voice came from.
“I better go Bill” Dad said. Bill Landry owned the bar and always worked during the day. Dad slid from his stool and walked toward me.
“Yeah, she spilled sugu all over the kitchen and I think she slipped and fell” I blurted.
“Lets go see.”
As I ran back toward our house, I saw Joey standing in his front yard watching me, he was holding his football. When I stopped and turned around to see how far my dad was behind, he yelled, “What happened, Dom?”
“My mom slipped and fell. She’s hurt,” I shouted over my shoulder without taking my eyes off my dad who was walking fast down the sidewalk. When he got to our front yard he cut across the grass toward the driveway and the side door. “She’s in the living room, Dad,” I said, and then turned and ran in the house and up to the kitchen. The sugu on the floor was now smeared in a totally different pattern then when I left and there was no way of avoiding it. I walked quickly through the middle of the kitchen trying to avoid the big puddles of red. When I turned the corner where she was laying, I realized why the sugu was smeared in the kitchen.
Joey’s dad had mom turned over on her back and was pushing on her chest. After a few pushes on her chest, he took a deep breath and put his mouth over hers. The back of his jacket was covered with sugu; he must have fallen in the kitchen.
“What in the hell happened here?” I heard my dad’s voice from behind me. I turned and looked at him approaching the living room, and then looked back at Mr. Taylor who was breathing into Mom’s mouth again.
Mr. Taylor looked up and noticed me watching him. “Call the police Dominic!” I turned and ran past my dad standing in the dining room on my way to the kitchen. I heard my dad say something to Mr. Taylor, but I was busy fumbling with the phone trying to dial zero.
A female voice came over the phone line. “Operator. How can I help you?”
“My mom fell and hit her head. Mr. Taylor told me to call the police.”
“Okay, son. What’s your address?”
“330Lincoln. Right by Landry’s Bar.” When my mom and dad gave directions to our house they always mentioned Landry’s since it was on the main road through town.
“Is Mr. Taylor there now?”
“Yes, he’s in the living room with my dad.”
“Ask him if it’s an emergency.”
“He’s pushing on her chest and breathing in her mouth.”
“Stay on the line, son,” she said and then I heard a click that sounded like she hung up. A few seconds later she came back on. “An ambulance and police are on their way.” I hung up before she said anything else.
I ran back to the living room, “The police and ambulance are on the way, Dad,” Both of them were on their knees on each side of Mom, but Mr. Taylor was no longer pushing her chest, instead, they were sitting back with their butts on their heels looking at her face.
The house was completely silent except for the whisper from the radio in the kitchen; it was Billy Joel. Mom liked Billy Joel’s music, too. After a long moment Mr. Taylor put his hand over mom’s eyes and turned to me. “Come and say a prayer over your mother, Dominic.”
I slowly stepped toward her body on the floor. Her white t-shirt was covered with a mixture of tomato sauce and blood, and there was a small pool of blood above her head. My father looked at me with an expression in his eyes I’d never seen before. When his friend Charlie died, my dad cried in this same living room while my mom and I stayed in the back yard. He came out after an hour that day and his eyes were red and puffy, but they didn’t look the same as they did now.
Today they had a look I was familiar with, the look of a man thinking, thinking of something other than Mom.
I knelt between her legs and made the sign of the cross. My heart ached in my chest and the lump in my throat nearly choked me. I began the Our Father while I looked at her lifeless body and wondered what she was thinking about inside. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” Did she feel trapped inside a body that would no longer move? Was she already in heaven? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Mr. Taylor was saying it along with me but my dad just knelt there silent. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…” The whole time I prayed, I kept waiting for Mom to move. I had an overwhelming feeling she was going to get up and go straight to the basement for a bucket of hot water and start cleaning the sugu from the kitchen floor. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I crossed myself and looked at my dad. His head just hung with his chin on his chest.
Mr. Taylor reached out to me with a tomato stained hand and put it on my shoulder.“Go find Joey. I want you two to go to my house and watch some TV.” I rose from my knees and walked back through the sugu. The house was silent except for the washing machine spinning in the basement. As I passed through the kitchen I stared at Mom’s radio.
For some reason, music had stopped coming from it.