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It wasn’t that the room was al that awful with its the bare, chipped walls, the shag carpet, the four dim light bulbs set in the ceiling. None of that bothered him. And it wasn’t that there wasn’t enough room; the room was huge. It was simply that he couldn’t let his mother think he liked it.
He stood glaring in through the doorway at his mother who was standing in the middle of the empty room.
“I hate it.” He said.
“Huh?” His mother frowned, confused.
“I said I hate it. It’s ugly.”
“Oh, honey, why?” His mother whined, pursing her thick, red lips at him. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Is it the walls? We can paint them a different color if you want.” She looked hopefully at her son. His face was impassive. “It’s the carpet, isn’t it? You’re right, it’s not very pretty. We could easily rip that up and…”
She jumped, startled, turning to him with an almost fearful expression. “What, dear?”
“Just…” He sighed. “Just leave me alone.”
“Leave you alone?” She blinked.
“But I thought - I thought you didn’t like it.”
“I don’t. Now could you please just go away?”
“I-I guess so.” She shuffled slowly to the door. Just as she reached the hallway, she turned back. “Hey, you know, we could buy some neat stuff for your room at the thrift shop tomorrow. I noticed one on the way in. How about it? Do you want to go…”
He slammed the door in her face.
Finally, she was gone. The boy let himself slide to the ground. He sighed, digging his fingers into the orange and brown shag carpet. Why was she so annoying? She was always bugging him, trying to make him like things that he didn’t want to like. Why couldn’t she be like normal moms?
He smirked. Yeah, right. If there was anything his mom wasn’t and never would be, it was normal. What kind of normal mom would move from a quiet little subdivision in Georgia to a remote cottage in the upper peninsula of Michigan? What kind of normal mom would enroll her son in the tiniest school she could find because she believed that education was better in small schools? What kind of normal mom thought run-down cottages were quant and cozy?
The boy studied the room through his shaggy bangs. It actually wasn’t that bad. He didn’t mind the walls or the lighting. And he sort of liked the carpet.
But the trees…
He got up and walked across the room to the single window and leaned his face against the cool glass. Massive pines swayed just a few feet from the house, their furry green needles stroking the window gently. Shadows shifted restlessly across the carpet of orange pine needles on the ground twelve feet below. The boy sighed. Stupid trees. They were so pathetic. They were always moaning, creaking, and sighing. Like self-pitying babies, he thought. If there was anything he hated, it was a whiner.
A huge gust of wind pushed through the forest. The trees hissed and rocked, pushing up against the house. The boy threw open the window, thrust his head out and shouted.
But his voice was sucked away by the wind. He slammed the window furiously, trapping a stray pine branch in the frame. With a growl, the boy snatched at the branch, ripping at the needles until the branch was nothing more than a naked twig.
The boy stared at it for a moment, wondering why he had done what he did. It looked so forlorn without its needles. He began to feel bad, then embarrassed, then just plain angry again.
Why should he care for it? It didn’t care about him.
With a quick flick of his wrist, he snapped the twig in half.
“Hey, honey. How’s it going?” His mother chirped as he stepped into the kitchen a few minutes later.
He ignored her and sat down at the table.
“Here let me move those boxes for you, Ben. Are you hungry yet?” She heaved a couple of huge boxes off of the table and carried them from the room. “Does lasagna sound okay?”
“I guess.” Ben mumbled.
“What?” She hollered from the next room.
“I said, yeah, that sounds great!” He hollered back.
His mother reentered the kitchen and clapped her hands together. “Okay-dokey, then. Let’s get going.”
She proceeded to bustle around the kitchen, alternating between rummaging through the boxes piled up on the counters and making a tossed salad. She was chopping tomatoes one minute, the next, extricating dishes from their newspaper wrappings and plunking them down on the table in front of her son.
“Here, set the table, will ya?” She asked.
Ben slowly got to his feet. He studied the array of dishes set out before him. There were two huge china plates, Happy Birthday napkins, a wine glass, an empty yogurt cup, and a handful of plastic silverware from fast food restaurants, still in their wrappers.
“What happened to our normal dishes?”
“Couldn’t find them. They might be in the living room.”
Ben picked up the yogurt cup and sniffed it dubiously.
“What’s this for?”
“Oh. That’s a cup. I couldn’t find the glasses either.”
Ben made a face. He set the yogurt cup at his mother’s place.
Just then the oven started to beep.
“Oh, that would be the lasagna. Do you wanna get that out for me, Benny?
“No.” Snapped Ben, dropping a napkin on each plate disdainfully.
His mother sighed quietly. “That’s all right. I’ll get it.” She grabbed a couple of newspaper wads as makeshift oven mitts and slipped the lasagna out of the oven.
“Ooh, this is hot. Ben, get me a hot pad, please.”
“Why don’t you?” He grumbled, glancing half-heartedly around the room. His eyes landed on a plastic cutting board. “How about that?” He asked, pointing.
“No, that’ll melt. Get something else. Hurry, this is getting hot!”
Ben scanned the room again. “Newspaper?”
“No, too thin. Use some cardboard. Quick!”
Ben started to rip a flap of cardboard from a box.
“Hurry!” She shifted the tray in her hands. “Ouch. You’re so slow!”
“I am not!”
“Maybe not usually, but you sure are slow now. Come on, Ben, I’m losing my...”
“Well, I’m sorry. I really am.” Ben exploded. “Since I don’t seem to do anything right, you can just do it yourself!” With that, he shoved the entire box off of the table.
It fell to the floor just at his mother’s feet, scattering random kitchen utensils across the floor. His mother jumped out of the way, and as she did, lost her grip on the tray. The lasagna plummeted, hit the linoleum, and splattered blood red drops all across the kitchen.
There was a long, painful silence. They both stared at the mess.
“Oh, dear…” Ben’s mother whispered. Slowly, silently, she knelt down on the floor and began to wipe up the mess.
Ben turned and ran to his room. The last sound he heard before burying his head under the covers was his mother’s crying mingled with the sighing of the trees.
“Stupid whiners.” he muttered, and smashed a pillow over his ears.