“No, Mom, I’m good.”
“You sure? Good stuff.”
“Yes, Mom, I’m sure.”
Most 12-year-olds being offered a toke off their mother’s joint during breakfast would naturally assume there was no way she was being serious. But that’s also assuming one’s mother was not only rocking the wake-and-bake, but doing it at the dining room table as well. Thomas knew his mother was serious; she was generous to a fault and that included sharing the kind with her only child.
Jenny, Thomas’ mother, wasn’t a bad person. She doted on her son, ensuring he had everything he needed to live a happy, healthy life. Whether it was paying for his private schooling, buying him the newest iPhone when it came out (and not making him pay for the phone and the service plan like his friend Tyler’s parents did), or burning down the house of the high-school kid who punched him at the mall just because he didn’t “like you soulless fucking gingers,” her heart was in the right place.
He looked at her, simultaneously eating eggs with one hand while checking his Twitter account on his phone with the other. Thomas knew, objectively, his mom was attractive. After his father died in an unfortunate meth lab explosion, Jenny had had a couple different boyfriends and they had made their way to the small but cozy home the two shared. Two of them he got on well with because they, like he himself, loved comic books, especially Batman. Thomas hadn’t liked the most recent man to come a-courtin’ the Widow Jenkins. He had shoved Thomas once when he came over drunk, announcing he didn’t care much for little orphaned bastards.
The glass eye he was fitted with after Jenny took an ice pick to him looked pretty natural, Thomas had to admit.
The boy was aware his mother wasn’t a typical mother in that she didn’t feel the need to hide anything. At all. Thomas knew other women Jenny’s age did similar things, or worse, but were much more adept at hiding their indiscretions. And it’s not as though she was a harsh woman; nothing could be further from the truth. She smiled easily, never swore, and that time she beat the preacher’s son mercilessly with an aluminum baseball bat after the young Baptist had spray painted “Cock EATING Whorr!!!” on the side of their house, she immediately called 911 and waited with him until the EMTs arrived. She even bought a massive floral display for his funeral a week later.
It just never bothered Thomas the way other people felt it should bother him. The only time he felt embarrassed regarding his family was after his father’s accident. It wasn’t that his dad, a man who encouraged the boy’s love of online gaming and cried during Little House on the Prairie reruns, was cooking meth. It was the fact he was cooking meth with someone he knew was borderline retarded and was being watched by the police. Doing something illegal wasn’t necessarily bad, but doing something stupid was.
The people in the community tut-tutted whenever they saw Thomas and Jenny in public, their assumption being that this poor boy, a straight-A student who was active in sports and the student newspaper, was living a Dickensian existence at home away from prying eyes. Stories of abuse by the endless string of Jenny’s lovers (in truth, she had Biblically “known” one man since her husband’s death and that was an ill-advised one-nighter occurring about 450 miles away from home) and a life lived humiliated by his family’s shameful behavior couldn’t be further from the truth. He missed his father terribly and he loved his mother without condition.
In fact, he felt worse for the people too uncomfortable to live their lives honestly and without excuses. So his mother liked to drop acid at church. Who did it hurt? If anything, Jenny running down the aisle topless provided Pastor Daniel a much-needed distraction from thinking of his dead son. Jenny had a penchant for beating abortion protesters with a pipe she kept in her Audi. Again, is there really a victim? Some tormented girl has one less asshole screaming at her and said asshole is taught a very valuable lesson. At worse, it was a push.
“Honey, I’m going to be late picking you up after school,” Jenny said, interrupting Thomas’ train of thought. “Your aunt wants me to take her shopping this afternoon and she said it’s only going to be an hour or so, but you know she’s lying.”
It was true. Aunt Lydia was a delightful person but suffered from several different forms of mental illness, including a case of OCD that made grocery shopping more painful and uncomfortable than surprise sodomy. Example: she would shake a two-liter bottle of soda, wait a minute, then count the remaining carbonation bubbles. The bottle with the least amount of bubbles was the satisfactory one. Thankfully, Lydia only liked one very specific soda so they didn’t have to do this with every single container. The problem lie when the one store at which she liked to shop was out of her brand. Then things became difficult.
“That’s OK, Mom,” Thomas said, finishing up the last of his sausage. “I wanted to stay a little late anyway. I’m working with Mr. Inkwell on some Photoshop stuff for the newspaper.”
“My little future Pulitzer winner!” Jenny exclaimed. “What did I ever do to deserve a perfect boy like you?”
“You held the stork hostage and threatened his wife with a straight razor unless you got the best baby in the bunch,” Thomas said. “At least, that’s what Dad always told me.”
“Oh, your father,” she said. Jenny didn’t talk about Tony much–it was obvious she still missed him terribly. Thomas quickly changed the subject.
“By the way, I’m probably going to stay home this weekend.”
Jenny stopped what she was doing and looked at her son. “I thought you were going paint balling. You’ve been looking forward to this for a month! What happened?”
“Oh, nothing. Just changed my mind.”
But Thomas knew his hesitation had betrayed him. Jenny was a pretty smart cookie.
“It’s that girl, isn’t it? She’s going to be there, isn’t she?” she asked with a dangerous tone in her voice.
Jenny was referring to Zoe, a girl Thomas had had a crush on for more than a year. Two weeks ago, when Thomas made his intentions known to her via text message, she took a screen shot of it and posted it to her Facebook page, tagging Thomas and nearly their entire class in the post. Normally other-worldly composed regardless of the circumstances, even Thomas had taken this quite badly.
“Yes,” Thomas said quietly.
His mom effortlessly scooped up the breakfast dishes, depositing them into the sink with a smile, the smell of kush and her perfume tickling Thomas’ nose. She snubbed out the rest of her joint in the ash tray on the table and turned to look at her only child.
“Would you like me to grab my cattle prod and some zip ties before I talk to Zoe?”
“Yes, Mom,” Thomas said. “And thanks. I love you, Mom.”
“And I love you, too. Now get your backpack so I can get you to school.”