Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes(8)

By: Denise Grover Swank

A quick glance at Momma confirmed the intended effect; she was horrified by the sight of the cans. I knew I should feel contrite about the smugness that filled me, but I told myself I could feel guilt later. Right now, I was gonna revel in the glory of it.

The heat of the oven blasted my face when I tossed them in, but the fire inside me burned even hotter. I dumped all of the dirty bowls and utensils into the sink.

“I’ve set a timer; you can take the pies out when it goes off.” I left the kitchen to get my purse and library books.

Momma found her tongue when I returned. I was surprised it took her so long. “I ain’t got no idea what’s gotten into you, Rose Anne Gardner. Don’t you take that uppity tone with me. Your daddy must be rollin’ over in his grave.”

“Don't you dare bring Daddy into this!” I yelled, not caring anymore. Shouting at Momma was like uncorking an oil well. Once it started spewing, it would take a whole lot of effort to make it stop. “Poor Daddy had to live with your evil tongue for years, decades even. I can’t believe Daddy stayed with you! He was the sweetest, gentlest man and you just wore the life right out of him, Momma. I bet Daddy’s doin’ a tap dance right now, rejoicin’ with the angels that I finally stood up to you!”

Momma rose from her chair, grabbing the table to lift herself up. “I’m not gettin’ them pies outta the oven! I can’t bend over. You know that.”

“I don’t give a cotton pickin’ damn if you get them out or not! Get Mildred to do it or let ’em burn for all I care! I’ve done my part. I made your insufferable pies! Now I’m leavin’!”

“Don’t you curse in my house, you evil, demon-possessed child!”

“I am not a child, Momma! You treat me like one and up to now I’ve let you, but I’m an adult and I’m not toleratin’ this anymore!”

I threw the door open and walked out into the humid heat. Angry thunderheads brewed on the horizon, practically causing the air to boil. Everything in the cosmos raged in unison with me, validating the rightness of my tirade. The new neighbor stood in his front yard, talking to Mildred. Eyes wide in surprise, both turned to watch me walk to my car. Momma followed behind me. The windows of the house were still wide open and our shouting match had entertained anyone within a quarter mile. Good, let them hear it. I wanted witnesses to this historic occasion.

“You get yourself back in this house right now, Rose Anne Gardner! You come back and finish them pies!”

I dug through the contents of my purse, searching for my keys. Panic rose like the rising floodwaters of Blackberry Creek after a heavy rainfall, my sanity bobbing precariously on the surface. I could not have just told my momma off, stormed out of the house and forgot my keys inside the house. Yet, I did. Obviously, my dramatic exits needed better planning.

Screw it. I gasped at my own crassness.

“Get your own damn pies out of the oven!” I shouted over my shoulder, adding to the neighborhood entertainment. The library was only a half-mile away. It would give me time to stomp off my anger.

“Rose, you get yourself back here right now! Don't you walk away from me!”

Her words clung to the air behind me as I continued down the crumpled concrete path, neighbors staring as if I were a three-headed cow. I lifted my chin and marched. Go ahead! Get a good look! I wanted to shout, but then I decided I’d made enough of a spectacle of myself for one day. I needed to pace myself; it was barely past noon.

By the time I pushed through the library doors, my anger had cooled. The smell of books dampened the rest. The library was my refuge, the one place I could go and escape from Momma’s wrath. Every Saturday afternoon I spent several hours there, going on the Internet since we didn’t have a computer at home or reading. Today I just wanted to read.

When five o’clock rolled around, the library’s closing time, I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to go home yet. Instead, I walked several blocks to a cafe. Momma would expect me to come home and fix her something for dinner, but she wasn’t an invalid. She could make her own meal.

After ordering my food, I finally dwelled on our fight. I knew I should feel remorse. At the very least, I should feel guilty. Yet I didn’t. What I said had been a long time coming. If I had a cell phone I would call Violet with the news, but I didn’t own one. Momma said cell phones were just a way for the government to record all your calls and at the very least a waste of money. As part of my stand of newfound independence, I decided tomorrow I would go to the cell phone store and get one. Momma be damned.