Hi everyone! First of all, happy Mother’s day to all the Moms out there! Way to go.
This blog has been rather idle recently—well, I suppose it’s me that’s been idle. Tomato tomato—so I’m happy to finally update it for my legions of readers.
A while back I submitted a short story to the Toronto Star Short Story Contest—it did not win. Therefore, I’m going to post it at the bottom of this post, so anyone who is interested can give it a read.
One little announcement before the story: the main reason this blog hasn’t seen much action—or wait, is that me again?—is because there hasn’t really been much to write about. I have an idea for this blog, and I’m going to see if I can get it to go. I won’t tell you what it is now, but if I ever become world-famous, you can look back on this post and identify it as the moment when everything began turning up Mil—er, Cam.
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But did it? Brow wrinkling, Sam realized it did not. But did it really matter? Sam had already realized there was nothing worth carrying on for; what did it matter if this last note lacked perfection?
Sighing, Sam pulled the note back. The insatiable desire for perfection had been a constant issue in school—one of the main ones, in fact, that had led to the scenario playing out now.
This is my last assignment, my last piece of homework, Sam thought. I may as well do it right.
Sam stared at the paper, biting the tip of the pencil’s eraser, forming the correct words. Electing to stick with the KISS method, Sam added just one line, directly above the Love, Sam—‘Mom, this is not your fault.’
Sam frowned. That line wouldn’t do anything to reassure Mom. Since Dad had left years before, Mom had been easily worried. Over protective. Concerned over the slightest thing.
Dad leaving had been the turning point of Sam’s life. Prior to that, Mom had been relaxed, easy-going, fun. She hadn’t sweated the small stuff. Sam had been a normal kid. Played soccer with friends, been in the school band, had sleepovers on weekends. All that had changed, of course. Dad left, and Mom had never been the same since. Former soccer teammates, band members and sleepover buddies had joined the seemingly-endless rank of bullies, approaching Sam to take their shot at the kid without a dad. The kid whose mom was crazy, who bundled Sam up if the slightest chill was in the air, and who applied copious amounts of sunscreen and insisted Sam wear a hat if there was even a chance the sun would make an appearance on a given day.
Sam had managed to bear it for a while; thoughts that Dad must come back soon, then Mom would be okay and the bullies would disappear were constant friends during long days and longer, sleepless nights.
But Dad hadn’t come back. Sam’s mom refused to talk about it. Any questions on the subject were deftly turned away, or met with reassurances that “we’re fine, Sammy—we’ll be okay.” Eventually, Sam had stopped asking.
Sam was drawn back from these memories by the awareness that dawn was fast approaching. The bedroom was now dimly visible outside the range of the flashlight Sam had been using to see the note. Although the room was still only shades of grey and black, Sam knew time was growing short. The note had to be finished before Mom got up for her shift at the hospital. That meant about an hour.
Fiddling with the pencil in one hand, and the gun from Dad’s desk drawer in the other, Sam considered just ending it. It was unlikely that anything written in a note would be enough to console Mom. When Dad had left, she had been a complete wreck for a long time. Recently, though, she had gotten better—enough so that she had been able to return to her job as a nurse. This would destroy her.
Who cares? Sam thought angrily. It shouldn’t be my responsibility. Mom’s an adult. She can take care of herself.
There was no point in carrying on. Nothing worth trying for. Yet Sam continued to stare at the note. Sighing, Sam came to a conclusion.
Fine. A few lines to prove to Mom that I don’t blame her. Then I can finally sleep.
Mulling over what to put, Sam’s eyes trailed around the walls of the bedroom and settled on the trophy shelf. It held one award. That would do.
Adding an asterisk after ‘fault’, Sam wrote in ‘turn over’ and flipped the page.
You’re a great mom and I don’t blame you in the slightest, Sam began. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Remember the time I won that trophy? That was because of you.
Never the most athletic of kids, soccer had been the only sport Sam had ever participated in. Although the worst player on the team, Sam had still enjoyed playing, as the activity kept thoughts of Dad at bay. This had been shortly after he had left, and soccer had been one of the few escapes from that reality.
Mom hadn’t had that luxury. She had succumbed to stress rapidly. The hospital had recommended she take some time off to recuperate. She had spent her days sitting on the couch, alternating between silently crying and laughing at some crappy television show. Although Mom was still getting some pay, Sam picked up a job at the local McDonald’s to help out.
Sam picked up every available shift, so when it came down to a choice between working for time and a half and attending the last soccer game of the season, there was never any hesitation. By this point, soccer wasn’t nearly as enjoyable, as most of Sam’s teammates had joined the bullying movement. One of the few people on the team who had remained friendly caught wind that Sam would be missing the game to work and told Sam’s mom.
This apparently was enough to break her out of her trance, as she left the house for the first time in months, showed up at the McDonald’s, convinced Sam’s manager that he could do with one less worker, and driven them both to the field just in time to prevent the team from forfeiting due to too few players. The team won, and Sam was awarded the MVP trophy for being the team saviour. There hadn’t been much teasing that day, but it had returned shortly after.
There, that should do it, Sam thought again, dropping the pencil and fiddling with the gun. When Dad had left, he hadn’t taken anything with him. Sam’s mom, too distraught to do otherwise, had left her husband’s office the way it was. Sam didn’t remember learning the gun was kept in the drawer of the desk, but hadn’t hesitated in taking it.
And now the time had come to use it. Sam stared into the infinite depth of the barrel for a second, and then gazed around the room for the last time. Eyes alighting on the guitar in the corner, Sam hesitated, and then bent to the note again.
And the guitar. I didn’t feel accepted in the band, and I said I wanted a guitar. You saved up for months to get me it. Thank you.
Looking around the room some more, Sam felt more and more unsure of what to do. Were these little acts enough to make up for the pain, the suffering that came each day? Eyes still moving, Sam continued writing.
My quilt. I felt chilled every night after Dad left. You spent a good month knitting that for me. Thank you.
Remember when we spent the weekend painting and wallpapering my room? We laughed a lot that day. I know we had to do it a bunch of times to get it right, but I enjoyed every second of it.
My bear. Remember when I left it on the bus and you called probably a million people in order to track it down? I’ll never forget that. Thank you.
The note was now barely legible, with notes scratched in everywhere, in no discernible order. Sam noticed that there were also wet spots on the paper, and only then felt the tears.
Nothing worth carrying on for? Gazing around the room again, Sam realized that was wrong. Someone who loved and cared this much was worth carrying on for.
Sam carefully folded the note and, along with the gun, slipped it under the bed. That done, Sam walked out of the room and down the hall; a light was on in Mom’s room.
Knocking lightly, Sam waited for the ‘come in’ and entered, walking straight to the bed where Mom was reading, and crawled under the blanket. Mom didn’t ask questions, only began to stroke Sam’s hair.
“We’re fine Sammy. We’re okay.”