Prompt: This is what happened to you…

This is what happened to you; your phone rang at 6:02 am and woke you up. Then it rang again, two minutes later. You rolled out of bed and checked the caller ID: Mom. Then Dad. In 34 years since their divorce, this had never happened. You called Mom first. “Hi, Son. Something terrible has happened. Mack called to say that little Craig didn’t wake up this morning. We’re on our way up to Trenton now to see him.”
It was The Call everyone fears.
You called Dad. “Well, it looks like he was sleeping with the boy. Mack got up to feed him at midnight, then the he fell asleep on Mack’s chest. Sometime in the night, the boy rolled off him. When Mack woke up, he was pinned between Mack’s arm and the corner of the futon mattress.”
You called Mom back, “Is anyone with Mack?” “No.” “I’m calling him and staying on the phone with him. I don’t want him doing something awful to himself.”
You called Mack. “Hey, man.” “Hey, bud.” “Well, I’ve done something awful, man. It’s pretty bad. I killed my boy, Bill.” “No, you didn’t, Mack.”

Mom said, “I’ve struggled with him all these years. First, it was the principal calling once a week to say Mack had shut everyone out of the bathroom during recess, or picked a fight with the class bully. I’d step into the living room and there he’d be, sitting on Hop’s chest, choking him, Sam beet red going toward purple.
Your father would come home from his sales meetings and do nothing to help me. Half the time, he’d dismiss what I was saying. In retrospect, I realize he wanted to undercut me and any authority I had. Just to win favor in the situation. Favor from whom? Mack? Sam? He ruined them to me.
When Mack got up to be 13 or so, I’d finally had enough and divorced your father. Mack started drinking and smoking dope that first summer. He was sent off to the Marines instead of jail when they caught him with dope. Then rehab, after rehab. I begged the last place to keep him there until he sobered up. The man in charge told me Mack was the toughest case he’d ever seen. He stayed pretty clean for the last 5 years or so. Then she moved down here unannounced, he moved her in, and she got pregnant almost immediately. I’d held out hope for them and the little girl. Then the boy came along and she left like she did with the first one. Trenton is 50 miles away. I never did trust her. She knew he was drinking again. Why would she drop off the two kids with him if she knew the state he was in? And now here we are.
Driving up to Arkansas to bury my grandson in the family cemetery. A little boy only three months old. The prettiest child I’d ever seen. Just beautiful. But all I can think is that we have to keep Mack out of prison. Whatever we do, we have to keep him out of prison.
I’ve been through a lot with this boy. By 47 I hoped he’d have it together by now, but what more can I do than what I’ve done? He’ll lose everything he’s worked so hard for: the land, the house, maybe even his truck. How will he get back and forth to work, then? What will happen to the little girl? It breaks my heart to think of her up there in Arkansas repeating the same pattern we’ve been stuck in for so long. What can we do?

“Get your ass down here,” Dad said on the phone, “You may be the only one who can help us.”
I sat in meditation the whole plane ride down to Dallas. “
Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
“Just remain upright,” my inner voice said.
I saw a buoy far out in the ocean during a storm.
“Just remain upright.”
I have to stay upright, not get pulled under by the riptide.
Be there for him. Stay with him. Don’t leave his side.

So for five days I sat outside the therapist’s office, hauled bag after bag of beer bottles to the dump, talked and listened and cried, then hid the guns from sight.

2 Responses to “Prompt: This is what happened to you…”
  1. I really like the –is it the tense or pov?–the "This is what happened to you….You got this phonecall, you called Mom first…" There's such an immediacy and a power to it. The voices are very strong too. That single line from Mack, ending with "I killed my boy, Bill," haunts me. More, more!

  2. Wow. Yeah. The whole family, everyone's place–the year's of side stepping– are told in a short space. The mother talking about the lovely 3 year old buried, but in the same sentence stating they must keep Mack from prison is just chilling. I'd love to see more unfolding of this rocket of a story!

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