My mother ruled with an iron fist from the day my father died, until the day she died. I believe she delighted in this role and justified her actions by my continuing adherence to the law (spirit and letter), thus avoiding an arrest or detention from school. Recap: I behaved and she thought her strictness was the reason.
Mom died four days ago (although, to me, she died three years ago when I finally moved out to be on my own) and I was the executor of her estate. I braced for the week-long ordeal of cleaning the house I grew up in, making it ready for sale. What meant nothing to me, I discarded. What had meaning, I placed in the kitchen for further reflection. Soon the kitchen became cluttered. Soon, I would have to make decisions.
Soon came today.
I managed to call a charity and have them move away the extra beds, dressers, and the kitchen appliances on Wednesday. Having spent the better part of a vacation day cleaning, I returned on Thursday to finish the job.
When I entered, the refrigerator I had discarded greeted me with a few of Mom’s post-it notes about my behavior since her funeral.
I looked left and looked right. Somebody must be playing a joke. I pulled the sticky notes off the fridge, called the charity again, and awaited them to pick up the fridge. All the while, I swept the house and began minor repairs. By 6pm, I locked up and went home.
By 6am, on Friday, I found the frig returned as well as all of Mom’s furniture back in her room. The post it notes (in Mom’s handwriting) detailed the repairs needed and berated me for discarding her property. Now I am furious. I have until Monday to have the place ready to show for sale. I do not have time for these pranks.
So, I decided to hide in the house and catch the prankster to end this charade. I had the furniture removed (the moving men looked at me strangely) and moved my car inside the garage. I settled in the corner of my old room and kept awake for the inevitable.
The inevitable was Saturday. I awoke in my old room. It looked exactly as I remembered it from age 10. When I arose from the corner, I understood why.
I looked exactly as I did at age 10.
Then I heard the voice. Mom’s voice. That loud, shrill voice calling me to breakfast.
This couldn’t be.
I smelled her coffee. I heard the toast pop up from the toaster.
And I saw a single sticky note on that refrigerator.
It was in Mom’s hand writing.
It said I was a very bad boy for giving her property away twice. I needed to be punished again.
The last time I was 10, it took me 12 years to leave her.
Her grin told me, this time, I would not get off that easy.
With degrees in Physics and Chemistry, Andy Betz has tutored and taught in excess of 30 years. His novel (The Lady in Red Quilt), his short stories (“If Revenge is What You Seek,” “To Tell or Not to Tell,” “The Copy,” “Kelly”, “My Color,” and “Mrs. Zeeman”), and his poems (“Soon,” “When I Was 10,” and “I Watched the Ocean”) are works still defining his style. He lives in 1974, has been married for 26 years, and collects occupations (the current tally is 95).