January 10, 2018
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I turned left down Bright Street. I pulled into PetMart to pick up my next client. Pulling up to the curb, there was a middle age lady with red hair pulled tightly and neatly back into a precise bun. She emitted joyful exhaustion.  She was holding the hand of a little boy who in return was cradling a plastic-bagged goldfish against his chest.
My fingers tapped the steering wheel and I smiled at the clients, but my brain was somewhere else.
My mother's room smelled like hair spray and smoke. I approached the bed cautiously. "Mother… could I get a… goldfish?"
The lanky figure on the bed moved into a sitting position, the silk pajamas wrinkled from too much tossing and turning.
"No, Patrick, you may not. I don't need another mouth to feed." The sentence was punctuated with a series of heaving coughs. After recovering, my mother sighed and took a swig from the ever-present whiskey bottle next to her bed. She brought a cigarette to her lips, blood-red nails a stark contrast to her pale skin.
“Be a dear and get me a lighter, would you?” Her voice was sickly-sweet, but thorns hid just beneath the surface. I scrambled to the kitchen, opened the cabinet, and clambered onto the counter to grab a lighter. Seeing the near-empty cabinets reminded me of the hunger I had shoved deep down. I got free breakfast and lunch at school, but it was Sunday, and I had hours to wait before bedtime.
Returning to the bedroom, I handed Mother the lighter and turned back around, expecting no thanks whatsoever. Almost at the door, I heard her voice again. “Actually, darling, perhaps we could go to the PetMart tomorrow after school. It is your seventh birthday, after all.”
I knew better then to show my excitement in her presence. The rest of the day was spent coming up with the perfect name. Bubbles, Royce, Jaws…
The next morning I cracked my mother’s door open, fully dressed for school. The shape in the bed was completely still, none of the usual raspy wheezing.
I didn’t cry until I heard the sirens.

The son smiles at me, and proudly displays his new companion.
“Wow buddy! How’d you get that little guy?” I ask, feeling a familiar pang in my stomach.
The mother pipes in. “It’s his seventh birthday.”

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FrozEntropy said...
today at 3:41 pm
heck my heart hurts nice narration layering (I'm not sure what that's officially called)
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