Homework Assignment June 2018

Just posting a short story I wrote for a class. Feedback welcome.





For Pat McNeil; my brother, Jeff Reifsnyder; and my other brother, Paul Douglas

It was Wednesday night. My mother had volunteered to make the supper for the homeless shelter. That meant I had volunteered, too, whether or not I wanted to be.
I showed up at five, McGee, our Australian Heeler, tagging along behind me.

The kettle on the stove was boiling furiously when I walked into the basement kitchen of Our Lady of Perpetual Tears – Poor Mother, I thought, always sorrowful.

Steam billowed from the pot, reaching for the window, trying to escape. I should have paid closer attention.

“Where have you been?” demanded my mother, hacking away at the onions on the cutting board. A slender film of liquid cascaded over the edge of the sink, pooling on the floor beside her flip flop.

Onion tears.

I knew that tone. I didn’t have anything to feel guilty about, but even the dog slunk away, eyeing me cautiously, a timid nod of “good luck”. It didn’t matter that I had done nothing wrong. There was something on my mother’s mind that was going to soon be on mine.

I cleared my throat, to let her know I had heard the question. I was a little worried about that knife.


I knew I’d better make it short.

“Pat’s …,” I started.

“You should have been here.”

She tossed the onions into the scalding water.

“You saw your older brother drop kick the Kid.”

It wasn’t a question. I had been there. Jeff drop-kicked Paul, who fell and busted his left wrist. It hung like the letter “U”. Clean and nasty.

My mother grabbed a paper towel to wipe up the floor. Unfortunately, it didn’t tear when she jerked it. It unscrolled.

Across the sink.

Onto the floor.

I was jealous of the dog.

“God-damn it to hell and back,” she clenched her jaw. “These damn paper towels.”
The more she scratched at them, the further they rolled.
I could relate.

I started inching toward the dining room, toward the exit.


“Where do you think you’re going?” she bellowed, strangling a bunch of carrots, the dirt still attached to them began to drop. Escape.

I didn’t say anything.

And I didn’t go out the door.

My mother was crying. And it wasn’t from the onions.

“It was a nice service,” I said quietly, as the dog slithered closer, her tail quietly tapping my jeans. “They buried him under the maple.”

My mother didn’t say anything, just began flaying the carrots.