by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
Little Johnny stacked his potato chips on the TV tray. His eyes were glued to the salted yellow starch disks while Wally and the Beaver “gee whizzed” and “golly’d” all around their picket fence neighborhood. So concentrated on balancing his Lay’s, Johnny didn’t hear his daddy come home.
Daddy walked past little Johnny, into the kitchen where Johnny’s sister was. Little Suzy was drying the dishes.
“Where is your mother, Suzy?” Johnny heard his father ask.
Johnny heard the sliding glass door leading to their backyard open and shut. Though the sound was muffled, he could hear the familiar conversation.
“Madge, you’re out here smoking reefer again while the kids are inside taking care of everything. Johnny can help with the house stuff. Instead you have him stacking potato chips on his tray like a retard in front of the God Damn Television. Suzy’s working her ass off in the kitchen. What the fuck are you doing? Practicing for a Coca-Cola commercial that no one will ever see?”
Johnny heard the clatter of a ceramic pot breaking. It was the sound of his mother’s favorite response. He knew that later, Suzy would be the one to pick up the broken pieces. Once, she had cut herself and her mother had screamed at her to be more careful because she was getting blood on the white shag carpet.
“Raymond, go fuck yourself. You’re not a man. You can’t talk to me that way. As a matter of fact no man can talk to me that way.” Johnny’s mother lisped.
“Madge, I’m talking to you as the father of my children. I go to work so we can have a lot of these things. You’re welcome to get a job. Or do some of the housework. But you can’t have the kids be doing the work. They need to be kids.” Johnny’s father pleaded.
“Gee Whiz Wally, do you think mom will let us keep the dog?” Johnny looked up to see how Wallie would respond to the Beav.
“Golly Beaver, I just don’t know. We’ll–“
“–Fuck the mailman or even the milkman. I was this close to sending the kids down to the liquor store for some groceries so I would have 20 minutes of fooling around.” Johnny’s mom pulled his attention away from the show and into a realm of adulthood that made Johnny quiet and still.
“Is that what you want Madge?” Johnny’s father was barely audible, but Johnny recognized the pattern and now knew the words by heart. This time, however, there was genuine fear coming from his father.
“Madge, what are you doing? Hey, be careful, you’ll cut yourself. Ouch! hey. Stop! Fuck! Ow–”
“Gee whiz mom, can we keep him, huh, please, can we keep him?” Johnny turned his attention back to the TV.
The sliding glass door opened and Johnny’s mother through heavy breaths called his sister. “Suzy, bring me those rags and shut your eyes. Johnny, leave your tray on the sofa and go down to the corner store for some bubblegum, there’s a nickel on your father’s dresser.”
Johnny blew a big, fat bubble as he walked back up his driveway. POP! Wiping the gum from his face, he saw a rag soaked red hanging from the trashcan outside. Suzy must have cut herself again. Gee whiz.