The “Bad Husband” Chronicles

Just another day for you and me in Paradise

Short story: “Alabama Slammer” by Mozziestarlet

Preface: I wrote this short story for my Creative Writing class in college, years ago.  Out of a classroom of students, my professor chose this story to read to the class. After he finished, he said to me: “This story has to be autobiographical. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that it is.”  I responded, “Well, it’s not autobiographical.” He looked puzzled and asked me, “Well, what if I said that this story is too true and too good not to be based on actual events?” I paused for a moment and said, “Well, being a writer, I would say that I’ve done my job then.” He said nothing more after that, just gave me a nod and a smile that I have never forgotten. 

*All poetry and writing written by Mozziestarlet is protected under copyright law.

            If I can just make it through the next two years, then I’m finally out of here.  Mama made the mistake of promising me my freedom when I turned eighteen, so you’d better believe that I’m going to hold her to it.  It’s not that I don’t love her or my brother, Tommy, but I just don’t belong here with them.  Sometimes I think that I was born into the wrong family, if you can even call us that.  Of course, Mama doesn’t understand, and nobody in this crummy, sinkhole of a town does either.  I’ve always heard that you grow up to be a product of your environment, but I’m living proof that doesn’t have to be true.  At least in my case, I won’t allow it.

            We’ve lived here in Southern Alabama all of my life.  I can’t really name a single place that I’ve grown up because Mama has seen to it that we spread ourselves around this trashy state as much as we possibly can.  Yeah, I guess it has taken its toll on me and Tommy growing up and being moved around all the time, but you kind of learn to get used to the craziness.  Besides, we would have to move.  Mama would say, “I just need a clean start.  I ain’t been given a fair chance here.  It’ll be different somewhere else.  It’ll be better.  You’ll see.”   And of course, we’d pack the few belongings we had and pile into the station wagon to move on to our brighter future.  What Mama never realized, and still doesn’t, is that nothing is really left behind when you move.  I mean, the problems and all just follow you everywhere you go until you die.  That’s part of the reason why I’m getting the hell out of here.  I’ve been a victim long enough.  I just wish I could take Tommy with me.

            The funny thing about it is that Mama would try to make things better for us. But after a few days, she would fall back into her old destructive habits.  She would go on and on with hours of apologies for her absences and behavior, and I would buy it.   I mean, she is my mama and I love her.  She was just having a hard time trying to make ends meet and raise us kids.  She didn’t mean to neglect us.  She would get better in time.  Well, time continues to pass and Mama still isn’t better.  In fact, she’s worse.  I don’t know if she’s the same as she has always been and I’m just now old enough to see it for myself, or that she really has gotten worse.  Either way, it doesn’t make much difference to me.  I still resent her.

            I know she has had her share of suffering, but so has every other living soul on this earth.  You see, Mama got pregnant with me when she was 15 and married my father.  He stayed with her until Tommy was born and then he split.  So, there was my 19 year-old mama trying to support two babies all by herself.  I don’t deny that it was tough on her.  I know it was hell and it probably ruined her life.  That’s why I refuse to follow in her footsteps.  Stupidity and ignorance have a way of passing through family generations, so I really have to be on my toes to avoid falling into predetermined paths.  But anyway, my father split and she never heard from him again.  Nothing.  He just disappeared into thin air, and that’s a difficult thing to do in the South.  Lord knows, I’ve tried to comfortably blend into the background of every podunk town we’ve graced with our residence, but I still can’t get out of here.  Like I said before, my time is coming.

            I guess things would’ve been better if Mama wasn’t so needy and dependent on other people to make her happy.  I can remember when I was younger and she would come home drunk with a new boyfriend, and would stumble in and try to kiss me goodnight.  I can remember the smell of the alcohol on her breath and the stench of her clothes from hanging out in one of those redneck bars just long enough to get numb and find a companion for the night.  I can remember squeezing my eyelids shut as tightly as I could so that I wouldn’t have to be reminded of her filthy transgressions.  As a child, I found more comfort in the darkness than in the light.  At night, I was able to hide from every horror my mother committed.  In the morning, however, I would be quickly reminded.

            “Sugar, help Mama get your little brother ready for school.  I ain’t feelin’ too good this morning,” she said.

“I heard you throwing up in the middle of the night, Mama,” I said.  “Are you sick?”

“Yeah, Sugar.  Mama’s sick.  Mama’s got the flu.  So, hurry up and help Tommy make the bus.  Don’t argue with me.  Just do what Mama says.”

I obeyed her because I loved her and because I thought that if I did everything I could to be the best daughter in the world, then she wouldn’t drink anymore.  “Sure, Mama.  I’ll help Tommy,” I said. 

Before my words were finished, I saw her visitor lurking in the shadows of her bedroom.  I heard him cough a dry, raspy cough and then he managed to stumble into the kitchen where Mama and I were standing.  His presence startled Mama because she tried to do her best to conceal her behavior from Tommy and me.  It seemed that she had enough concern for us to try and shield us from her actions.  I had only wished then, as I do now, that she would have enough respect for herself to turn her life around.

            “Uh, Mac, you’d better go,” she insisted. “I gotta get the kids off to school and all.  I’ll see you later, okay?”

            “Myra, I ain’t a total misfit around younguns.  I’ll take them kids to school.  What’s your name, sweetheart?” he mumbled as he leaned in close to my face.

            I stood still and stared in repulsion.  His pants were wrinkled and held up his swollen belly, and his undershirt was stained and torn under the arms.  His breath was foul, a combination of stale tobacco and the countless number of beers he and Mama had consumed the night before.  I couldn’t speak to him.  He was the most disgusting excuse for a human being that I had ever seen.  I was ashamed to have him in our home.  I was ashamed of Mama.

            “Can’t you speak, Tina?  Mac is talking to you, sweetheart,” Mama said.

            I opened my mouth, hoping to tell her exactly what I thought of her and her visitor, about how much I wanted her just to be my mama instead of who she was when she went out drinking.  I felt the air fill my lungs, and sighed before walking from them.  I heard Mama explaining to Mac how I was shy and not to think anything of it.  She told him that I was just a teenager, and that I was going through some stage or something.  I wished that she would realize how she was hurting me and Tommy, but she never did.  And now, I’ve just learned to ignore her.  I mean, I do what I have to do to keep everything peaceful with her, which is just enough to get by.  I don’t ever see her anyways because she is a waitress all day and goes out at night.  All the years alone have taught me not to long for someone who will never be there.  

            Instead of getting into trouble to try and get Mama’s attention, I read everything I can get my hands on.  I had a teacher once who told me, “Tina, the best way to make it big in life is to know more than the next person out there.  You’ve got to educate yourself.  You can’t depend on anyone else to do it for you.” 

            I never forgot that, and that is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past six or seven years.  I figure that education is my ticket out of this crappy kind of life.  And, if I was looking for a way to get at Mama, then that would surely be the way to do it.  Mama can’t stand to think of me or Tommy knowing more about something than she does.  I guess she thinks that if we don’t know anything, then we will always be dependent on her for the answers to all of our questions.  Even if that were true, Mama has never been around enough to ask her those questions anyway.

            When I was eleven, I asked Mama if I could join this club for book lovers with my girlfriend, Heather.  I should’ve just done it and not asked for her permission first because Mama was never at my school to know what I was involved in.  But, I was loyal to her and I asked her with the hope that she would approve.

            “Whatcha wanna join a club like that for?” she questioned.  “That’s what all them rich folks from that country club put their kids in.  I don’t want you mixin’ with any of them snotty rich kids, Tina.  You’ve got no business trying to be like them in one of their rich clubs.  Forget it, Tina.  I ain’t gonna allow it,” she said.

            “But why, Mama?  I’m not trying to be like them,” I said. “All they do in the club is talk about books and stuff.  That’s all.  It’s only once a week, Mama.  Please let me join,” I pleaded.

            “Don’t dispute my word, Tina.  I said no and that’s all I’m gonna say about it!  I don’t wanna hear another word from you about this again.  You stay on our side of town with our kind of people.  Don’t be mixin’ with that Heather girl, either,” Mama said.

            “Don’t you mean your side of town and your kind of people, Mama?  It’s not my side of town.  I’m just forced to live here with you because I have nowhere else to go.  But, these people aren’t my kind of people.  They are everything that I will never allow myself to become.  I am nothing like them.  I won’t ever be like them or like you!” I screamed as I slammed the door to my bedroom.

I was surprised that Mama didn’t barge in and whip me and make me take back everything I said to her.  I was expecting to hear the usual speech on how I was the most selfish, ungrateful, good-for-nothing child in the world, but only silence followed.  This was the first time she left me alone like this, and I cried myself to sleep.

            The next morning Mama left early and there was a note scribbled on half of a piece of notebook paper on the kitchen counter.  It read: “Tina, don’t forget to put out the trash today and take Tommy to softball practice this afternoon.  See you at eight.  Love, Mama.  P.S.  Have fun at your book club meeting.” 

            I smiled and was surprised.  Part of me felt guilty for saying the things that I said to her, but I was still glad that I said them.  It was time that I let Mama know how I felt about my life, this town, and her.  Besides, I knew that if I told the truth, maybe then she would be on the road to understanding me better.  Anyhow, I knew that even if I had hurt her feelings that it could never match the lifetime of hurt that she had given me.

            As for now, I pretty much try and live my own life without stepping on her toes.  I still read all the time, and I spend a lot of time at Heather’s house.  Mama was right when she said that Heather was a rich girl from the country club, but that was her only correct assumption.  Heather’s family does have a lot of money, but it really doesn’t bother me that much.  I’m mean, sure, it would’ve been nice to grow up with all those toys and stuff, but that’s not what I’m jealous of.  It’s her family.  Her mother and father are still together and both really love each other.  It’s almost like watching a movie or something when I’m around them.  They don’t ever fight or drink, and they sit and talk with each other after dinner about how their day was.  I don’t know if this is how all rich families are, but if it is, I can’t understand why Mama would be so against them.  Maybe she’s just jealous because she knows that she could never give Tommy and me this kind of life.  Maybe she figured that if she said negative things about Heather and her family, she wouldn’t have to face how she has failed us.  I guess that is just the way that Mama deals with things.  Despite what she has always said about Heather’s family, I tell myself that Heather’s family is how family is supposed to be.  Whatever the case, I know that having a family like Heather’s is all that I ever dreamed of.

            At this point in my life, I’m not too worried about where I’ll end up in a few years because I have set goals for myself.  My grades are really good, and I am nearly positive that I will get a scholarship to college.  I’ve already planned to apply for student loans and grants to help make ends meet.  If I can just make it there, I won’t stop until I’ve done everything I’ve planned on doing.  I’ve heard from the rich kids at school who talk about their older brothers and sisters who are in college, and they tell me how tough it is on them.  There is no doubt in my mind that it is going to be tough.  However, I have one advantage over most other kids entering college in that I have been on my own all of my life.  I’ve had to depend on Mama for food and shelter, but the rest was up to me.  With the financial aid that I will be receiving, my life will pretty much be the same, except for the fact that my life will finally belong to me.  I can hardly imagine that.

            Despite my excitement about my future, I can’t help but worry about what will become of my brother, Tommy.  I’ve done everything in my power to try and teach him right from wrong, and I’ve tried to show him that he can make a better life for himself despite what Mama has taught him to believe.  But, Tommy has other problems.  In the first grade, his teacher told Mama that he was hyperactive and had some sort of learning disability.  So naturally, Tommy is almost totally dependent on Mama for learning and knowledge.  Because Mama is the way she is and preys on weakness the way that she does, she controls him.  She tells him what to think, what to say, how to act, and how to feel.  Tommy is her puppet.  The worst part about it is knowing that there is little or nothing that I can do to change that.  Even if Mama could be proven an unfit mother and Tommy was taken away from her, the damage has already been done to him.  As difficult as it is for me to say it, Tommy has become yet another victim of the cycle of ignorance.

            As for Mama, I really don’t know how she will be affected once I am gone.  Knowing her, she will probably be more upset that she has lost her gopher rather than her daughter.  You see, Mama has never been a very emotional person, and she’s always had difficulty expressing her feelings to me.  I’m sure that I haven’t exactly made it easy for her to do that in the past few years, but all I ever wanted was for her to be a normal mama and talk to me like normal mamas are supposed to do.  I even asked her about it a couple of months ago and she still wouldn’t talk to me.  I figured I would try to make one last attempt to be friends, even if she wasn’t interested.

I approached her about it one evening when she got home from the restaurant.  “Mama,” I said softly, “I was thinking that maybe you and I could do something together on Saturday.  I mean, you’re off Saturday, aren’t you?  I thought it would be kinda nice to spend some time together,” I said.

            “What for, Tina?” Mama asked.  “So you can remind me of what a tramp I am and how I’m the worst mama in the world to you and Tommy?  Well, we don’t have to go anywhere for you to tell me that.  We can stay right here at the trailer and you can do that,” she said.

            “Mama, that’s not what I meant,” I replied.  “I just thought that maybe we could try to get along better.  I know that other mamas and daughters get along, so why can’t we at least try?”

            “You mean that rich brat, Heather, and her high class mama?  Don’t you, Tina?  Well, I ain’t never gonna be like them kind of people and neither are you.  You see, we ain’t like them, Tina.  We don’t live by their rules.  You understand me?” she questioned.

            “All I understand, Mama, is that you are sick and hateful and unkind!  All I ever wanted was for you to be my Mama, but you could never handle that!  I don’t know what’s wrong with you, Mama, or why you can’t love me for who I am instead of who you think I should or shouldn’t be,” I said.  “The fact of the matter is that you don’t really know anything about me, Mama.  I’m gonna be gone in a couple of years and I hope that you will always remember this.  I hope you never forget how you’ve cheated me of everything,” I said as I walked away from her.

            Mama wouldn’t let me leave it at that and she leaned up against my bedroom door and yelled that she would be glad when I was finally gone.  She screamed, “You’ve been nothin’ but trouble, Tina, since the day you were born!  You’ll wish that you were back here with me and Tommy after you’ve been out in the real world for awhile!  You’ll wish that you had your good-for-nothing, white trash mama back!  Won’t you, Tina?”

            I didn’t answer her.  I just listened to the front door of the trailer as she slammed it into the frame and sped off into the distance.  I decided that this was the last time that I would try to talk to Mama about anything anymore.  I knew that it would never work for us to be friends, so I figured it would be better if I just didn’t talk to her at all.  So, I don’t. 

            I guess you could say that for now, I’m just sitting around killing time until I am finally free of Mama.  My biggest fear is that I will never be able to forgive or forget the things that she has done to me over the years, and that the resentment will always live inside of me.  I suppose that I will just learn how to deal with that like I’ve always learned to deal with everything else that life has presented me.  I don’t know what I hope to accomplish by thinking and talking about all of this now.  Maybe I just want to be able to put it all behind me and start over.  Or maybe, I’m just a sixteen year-old girl who needs to be heard.

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2 Responses to “Short story: “Alabama Slammer” by Mozziestarlet”

  1. Charlotte Slater said

    Wow, Mozzie, really riveting stuff. I like your writing style, informal yet punchy. I write too, but unlike you, I guess I never had the courage to show it to anyone. Good for you for sharing =).

  2. mozziestar said

    Hi, new friend. Thank you for reading and commenting. In all fairness, the “sharing” bit only started a few months ago. I’ve been a writer since childhood, but finally decided to take a leap of faith and share it with the world, realizing that rejection is always a risky possibility.

    But, as Morrissey says, “Sing your life! Walk right up to the microphone and name all the things you love, all the things you loathe. Oh, sing your life!”

    My song has just begun.

    Keep shining,

    Mozziestar 🙂

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