“TW: Flatline” is officially out! If you would like to sample an excerpt before you buy (and who doesn’t like samples??), I present to you a crucial character in the story: Ricky’s mother.
Artwork by the lovely and talented IG: spiritsupplements
My mother had always been insufferable.
Even before she was a brain-dead washed out zombified version of a human, she was a vacant waste of space.
As a child, her parents simply labeled her a day dreamer. Noticing she didn’t eat bugs or pick her nose like most children, they incorrectly thought she was a shy quiet kid. They felt lucky. She was the perfectly little angel, with large brown eyes, chocolate ringlet curls, and a light sprinkle of freckles across her cheeks. There was nothing wrong with being a perfect little angel. While piles of dolls and tacky kid’s makeup palettes lay untouched in the corners of her room, she would crawl into her bed and nap after school, surrounded by all of her unnamed stuffed animals.
Thirteen was a big year for my mother. Along with the fun of puberty and moving to a nicer neighborhood, my grandparents bought her a trampoline. Nothing too fancy, but it did have those tall mesh screens around the perimeter just in case her clumsiness got the best of her. My mother’s childhood dream was to be a cheerleader (spoiler, she never made the team) and my grandparents were excited for her to finally take an interest in something other than staring off into thin air like a pet that could see ghosts.
However, instead of bouncing around the trampoline like a rabid animal, she used all of the energy in her body to hoist herself up on the trampoline then collapse onto the black jumping mat, her body rolling to the center of the trampoline.
She spent hours there, sunken in the mesh fabric.
She probably would have developed skin cancer by now if she had grown up anywhere other than Caribou, Maine.
My mother’s teenage boyfriend was named Andrew. She occasionally told stories about him whenever she had too much wine and her friends were complaining about their husbands.
She met Andrew at fifteen, when he decided to finally introduce himself. He lived in the house directly behind her, his bedroom window overlooking her backyard. My mother, despite what everyone assumed, was not shy. Andrew was.
Every day when he got home from school, he would peek out of his window and gaze at her uninhabited body, brown curls encircling her still face like a halo. Occasionally, whenever Andrew looked up from his homework to check, she would have rolled over or shifted an arm so he at least knew she was alive, even if that was all he knew about her.
Until one day she didn’t move.
It was late fall and snow had already blanketed her backyard with white. The first time Andrew had seen my mother do anything besides climbing on and off the trampoline was when she cleared her trampoline of snow. It was almost erotic. But now she hadn’t moved at all, bundled up in her knee length down jacket and bright pink mittens. If he squinted, it looked like her eyes were closed.
Andrew waited until half an hour went by, probably not the wisest decision for a first responder. His forehead was pressed against the window and his thin lips fogged the glass as he whispered for my mother to make a movement, any movement, something to assure him she wasn’t dead.
She didn’t move.
“Ah, shoot,” he violently cursed, clenching both his fists. He grabbed his beanie with the fleece ear flaps and tumbled down the stairs, a knight on the trek to save his princess. But first, “MOM!” He shouted, “Where did you put my snow boots?”
Another ten minutes, he was knocking on the front door of her house. Another-another ten minutes, after no one answered the door, he scampered into her backyard. “Hey! Hey!” He shouted, scrambling up and onto the trampoline. “Hey!” He continued, the only word left in his flustered vocabulary. He crawled to the center, reaching out to shake her shoulder.
She snapped her head toward him, jerking away from his hand. “Who are you?”
“I—” His eyes darted between her two questioning eyes as he retracted his hand. “I’m Andrew.”
“Why are you in my backyard?” She propped herself up on her elbows, looking him over. “Andrew.”
“Well I.” He crossed his legs under him. The millions of times he had prepared this very conversation immediately evaporated from his mind. “I thought you were dead.”
He shrugged. “Because you weren’t moving.”
She laid back down. “Huh.” My mother nodded to herself, resting her hands behind her head. “I could see that, yeah.” When Andrew didn’t respond, she glanced at him. “You can join me if you want, Andrew.”
And join her he did. Andrew dated my mother for almost two years before he too grew tired of her. He grew tired of the way she only thought about herself, withdrawing into the comfort of her trampoline rather than his arms. He grew tired of how she would sit in silence for hours, eyes glazed over while he tried to ask her what was wrong.
He grew tired of the way she laid there like a corpse the one and a half times they had sex. Andrew didn’t know exactly what to expect, sex was probably going to be weird and awkward and uncoordinated, maybe even embarrassing, but it wasn’t supposed to be like that.
Love wasn’t supposed to make him feel so worthless.
Week after week, month after month. He was tired of how she would just shut down, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, like a laptop forcing itself to sleep, unsaved documents be damned. He did everything for her, waited on her hand and foot, gave her every ounce of his emotional and physical support whenever she didn’t ask for it.
My mother gave him nothing in return. Andrew was a shy kid, but he had enough dignity to know when he was being a doormat.
Blah blah blah, they broke up and eventually my mother moved down to Boston because her parents had connections to the Dean of Admissions at BU, but not even that did much help because she couldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed the entire first semester. She dropped out in time for finals.
More boring stuff, my mother got a job at a bowling alley downtown. It somehow worked out because if she didn’t show up, her boss was usually so stoned he couldn’t tell my mother apart from the broom leaned up against the bathroom wall.
My mother would laugh about the story now, a polite laugh, as she swirled her near empty wine glass in front of her face. Her friends would join in on the laugh, asking how big Andrew’s dick was. She would shush them and they huddled closer holding up estimates on the young man’s genitals. They were laughing in the present, but my mother’s eyes were still looking up from the trampoline.