Some Kinds of Help (500Words, Week 3, Day 3, 1/3/18)
“This. This is why we don’t have nice things.” Mama was upset in that scary calm way. I liked it better when she’d yell and wave her arms around. Then I knew that her mad would go away as fast as it came on. Her scary calm mad lingered.
“I’m sorry, mama,” I said in my small voice. “I wanted to help.”
She didn’t say a word as she emptied the bag.
She had said earlier that we had too many dishes and that she was going to give some away, and then she got tired and went upstairs to take a nap. I had to work hard to get a bag and climb all the way onto the counter to be able to reach the plates. I even had to climb up twice, since the first time I hadn’t opened the door and, once I was up there, opening it made it so I couldn’t reach the shelves. And I had to get Maxie to help me which meant I was going to have to share the praise when it came which was quite a sacrifice. Praise felt so good and I wanted as much of it as I could get, every day, especially from Mama. I was so busy thinking about how happy Mama would be with our help that I guess I forgot to remember that dishes are fragile. Or maybe it was just that I forgot to tell Maxie.
Mama turned to me with four unbroken plates in her hands. “Four, Maureen. Four plates are all we have left, and we have nothing to give away to anyone else.” She didn’t raise her voice or anything. She just said it, all matter of fact like, and then looked at me.
“I’m sorry mama.” I didn’t know what else to do besides apologize. I didn’t think this was something I could fix.
Mama put the four plates into the cabinet. They looked lonely on the shelf now. She stood and looked at them for a while, one hand on the cabinet door. Maxie had wandered off and didn’t see how sad Mama looked. I saw, and I knew I was the one who had made her sad. She finally closed the cabinet and turned towards me with her hands on her hips.
“Maureen, I know you were trying to be helpful. I do. I also know that we no longer have enough plates for us to have dinner together, and that we no longer have the abundance we need to help others.” She was using her teacher voice now. Slow and calm and patient – just enough to make tears fill up my eyes. I blinked and a big fat tear slid down my cheek and I saw it splat silently on the floor by my feet. Mama used her skirt to wipe both of my cheeks even though only one eye was leaking and then tilted my head up to look at her before she said more words.
“We will find our way to greater abundance, Maureen, and I will find more plates. I need you to go up into your room and think about your choices and about what you taught your sister today. You may write or draw your thoughts and we will talk about them later.” Then, she slapped me.
* All 500Words are fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *