Maternal Instinct by Mercedes Lawry

Jerry’s bent on tossing him out. It’s not something mothers are good at. He’s not even here half the time. And he hasn’t been stealing from us, at least I don’t think so. It’s the drugs – the usual culprit. Any one of us could succumb. Kit was always outside of things, always a bit different than other kids. I felt like he didn’t need me – or anyone, really. He would have been susceptible. Maybe I’m making excuses – he’s only an addict like every other addict.

 I’d find the money for rehab if only he’d agree. He just laughs. I don’t see what putting him out on the street would do – except kill him. That might be what he wants – to die one way or another. I’m not helping him though. You’d think Jerry would be more compassionate. He had his own trouble with drugs when he was young. Now he’s all “straighten yourself out, dig down and find the strength.” It’s as bad as religion though God knows I wouldn’t want two addicts to contend with. Ha, God indeed! 

 Last year I found out Jerry had another kid. He was 17 when it happened and he disappeared like the wind. Now he wants redemption. He’s tried contacting the boy, Kyle, well, a man now really. He wants nothing to do with Jerry. I don’t mind either way but I think its infuriated Jerry and he’s taking it out on Kit. It’s exhausting all this family malarkey – makes me want to go live at the edge of the world in a little cottage on the beach. I’m fair relieved my mum and dad are gone. I know it sounds harsh but I wouldn’t have it in me now to take care of them. All that grief and sadness out of the way.

 Katie, my neighbor, is forever telling me I look like shit and should get to the doctor and have myself checked. Thanks, Katie, I said, your support is appreciated. I know she means well but she’s a bit of a hypochondriac and me, I’m the opposite. Oh, I have aches and pains but who doesn’t at this age? If something’s gonna get me, well it’s not a beach cottage but it could take me away from all this turmoil. I know that’s the martyr complex we were landed with by the nuns, but so it is. I’m well past psychoanalyzing why I’m this way or that.

 I’m supposed to meet Jerry down the pub, but I don’t like to leave if I think Kit might show up. I’ve got a pile of clean laundry for him, fool that I am. His birthday was last week, if he remembered. I started to look at some baby pictures and then I told myself why not stab a fork into your arm instead and I stopped and had a small whiskey.

 I’ll give him till 7:30 before I head out.  He’ll see the laundry on the bed and there’s plenty to eat though he doesn’t have much appetite these days – the drugs. We don’t talk about him out in the town. Everyone knows someone with the struggle. I see they’re suing the pharmaceutical companies now as if that will help all the poor souls gone. Change never comes without people dying, does it?

Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, and Blotterature. She was a semi-finalist in The Best Small Fictions 2016. She’s published three poetry chapbooks and was nominated for Pushcart six times. She lives in Seattle.

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