A Windmill for Mother

Fiction
K.M. Kimmel


My blossom-printed pillow does little to muffle my mother’s screams.

“You son of a bitch!”

Her shrill voice echoes in my ears. My father yells something inaudible before I hear our pickup sputter out of the driveway. From the kitchen, the unmistakable sound of hurled dishes reverberates through the razor-like walls of our house.

Tippy whines from the floor, her hind legs concealed by my comforter. I scratch her head gently. “It’s okay, girl,” I whisper.

The crashing ceases and Tippy looks up at me. We share a hopeful glance, our eyes misted with fear and distress.

Thud, thud, thud.

My mother’s footsteps alternate among rooms. She ensures the doors slam on both enter and exit. Thankfully, she passes and ignores my room. I can hear her muttering under her breath.

Tippy hops into bed with me and I bury my face into her warm, chocolate body. Outside, snow crests on my window.

*

It was all over a calendar.

My father, mother, and I had gone to our local hardware store to purchase an artificial Christmas tree. In years past, we’d used real trees, until my mother’s allergies forbade it. We chose a six-foot spruce that resembled one we’d cut from our own backyard two Christmases ago.

I stayed with my father while he paid for the tree. My mother had hung back in the store, scanning for last-minute items, discounted lights and decorations. At the end of the checkout counter, I noticed a stack of calendars. A small note was scribbled next to them—Free! Take one. Happy Holidays! I thumbed through the calendar, taking special note of the pictures that marked our birthday months. May’s photo, of a windmill, particularly caught my eyes, as I knew that my mother’s heritage was Dutch. How fitting for her birthday.

I returned the calendar to its stack and noticed the cashier girl watching me and smiling. She was young—no older than nineteen—with sunny streaks in her mousy, brown hair. Her lips formed a perfect, red bow.

My mother, who had now joined us at the register with some clearance indoor/outdoor lights, loaded our cart and began to steer it toward the exit. I led the way, excited about our newfound Christmas treasures.

“Just a second,” the cashier girl said. My mother and father both turned.

“Would you like a free calendar?” Her bow mouth turned upward in a grin.

“Uh, sure,” my father said, taking the calendar from the girl. Her pert breasts peeked out from her smock. She winked at my father, then glanced to me and smiled, as we filed out of the store.

“Give me that.” My mother snatched away the calendar and tossed it on the ground. She stomped on it a few times before chucking it across the parking lot.

“What’s wrong?” my father asked.

“You were flirting with that tramp in there.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

Dad salvaged the calendar from under the bumper of a blue minivan. “Oh, come on, Barbara. She was giving us a calendar.”

“Bullshit. You were watching her from the moment we arrived.”

Dad loaded the tree in the bed of our pickup. I climbed in the cab, bracing myself for the impending apocalypse.

“You’re not listening. You never listen!” Her indictment of my father continued. “You were flirting with that slutty bitch!”

I was sandwiched between them, tears squirting out of the corners of my eyes.

“Oh, stop it, Molly. You’re such a baby. Rather than crying, you should be furious at your father for humiliating me.”

“Lay off, Barbara.”

“It’s true. Every time we fight, she bawls like a newborn.”

I hiccuped and gasped for air and listened to my mother scream about the slutty cashier girl, while our Christmas tree bobbed happily behind us.

*

By Christmas Day, my mother’s anger subsides. I think my father still harbors some resentment over her scene in the parking lot, but he hides it well.

I open my presents: dolls, an Easy-Bake oven, an art kit, some DVDs. My parents exchange watches, and I proudly present my father with a picture I colored. It is of the two of us, fishing.

My mother eyes the picture, but says nothing. I can see disappointment in her face.

“Mom?”

“You’re punishing me, Molly, because I’m harder on you than your father is.”

I tremble. “No, Mom, that’s not it.”

She sinks further into the couch. “Then what is ‘it’, Molly?” She smoothes the creases on her skirt.

I retrieve the calendar from a paper bag that I’d hidden behind the tree. I show her May’s picture. “See? It’s a windmill. I was going to give it to you…” I promise myself I will not cry. I won’t be a baby this time.

My father moves from his recliner and perches on the arm of the couch. He protectively, instinctively, wraps his arm around my mother.

“Come here,” she says to me.

I sit beside her as we leaf through the calendar together. We pause at the shoe stamp that soils the windmill photo. My father and I catch her as she sobs into my shoulder, smudging mascara onto my winter-white sweater.

pencil

K.M. Kimmel resides in Kentucky. Her work has appeared in various online journals. She is currently at work on a screenplay. E-mail: happiekarma7[at]yahoo.com.