Montana of 300 – Slaughterhouse
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There was a mean old lady that lived in the apartment downstairs. The farthest she would ever go from her home was her porch where she would sit and smoke long cigarettes that looked like her fingers. She acted nice, said hi to me and my sister whenever we walked by, but it was easy to tell how she really was.
Almost every week Walt, our landlord, would knock on our door and say “Marianne called and said she heard screaming. I don’t care, just wanted to let you guys know.” I liked Walt.
He never made a problem when my parents were late on the rent. He wasn’t like Marianne, he understood my family; like my dad always said, Walt was a good guy.
And not many people were. If others knew how we did things, they’d force us to change. Both of my parents said that was bad, but I didn’t need them to tell me that; I liked the way things were.
My parents never hid anything from me or my sister. They treated us like equals, we were allowed to watch or say anything we wanted as long as it wasn’t an attack on them. But only at home, too, because being in public meant a different set of rules. “You have to be presentable,” they said, “how we do things here isn’t for anyone but ourselves.”
They made a really good team whenever they would work together. They fought often, but usually only by yelling. The firehouse next door to us had a siren that went off every day a million times louder than my parents ever got.
That’s why it didn’t make sense to me when Marianne complained. No matter what went on in our apartment, it was never anything when compared to that. Sometimes things got out of control and needed to be handled, but my sister and I could and would take care of it. We always did.
The only reason we were prepared was because of the way my parents had always treated us. As equals, never children. The only shelter we got from them was the one over our heads. We were always thankful for that.
It isn’t like it ever got too bad. Our water, heat, and electricity never got shut off and there was always food in the fridge, even if it was just a jar of pickles or something. We knew we didn’t have a right to complain because they didn’t do it themselves. The only part I really hated was whenever my mom would leave.
She was always in and out of jail, a few months home followed by a few years in the County. My sister said it used to be different, but it never was for me, so when she was around I liked to spend as much time with her as I could.
I knew the feelings weren’t one-sided either. She loved everyone in the house, even though the only time she left by choice was after fighting with my dad.
It was another one of those nights after the yelling had stopped. She stood in the hallway on her phone. I was crying, latched on to her leg, and begging her to stay.
She covered the bottom of the phone and glared down at me. “Quit being such a little faggot.” Then shook her leg free of me.
I continued to cry while crawling away. She was right, I was being ridiculous and I knew that. “Stop that fucking whining she isn’t even going far you cunt.” My dad yelled from his permanent spot on the living room couch.
This was all true. Every time she left she came back, so my outburst didn’t really make sense. My mind didn’t care though, it had already made itself up; I simply did not want her to go.
It wasn’t like she had ignored me all day. We didn’t have cable, so we would either watch movies or listen to the radio to pass the time. Just a few hours earlier we were dancing to Led Zeppelin then 50 Cent.
We loved all the music – sang the words – one of the songs had been a rapper talking about how his daughter piled cardboard in front of the door to stop him from leaving. I remembered and figured she would too. Maybe it would change her mind.
I bolted upstairs and came down with as many boxes as I could fit in my arms. She was back on the phone now, too busy to notice me, so I dropped them in front of the door and set to building a wall. Construction was done by the time she hung up. She paused for a moment.
Then she left. Right out of the door, ignoring and knocking over my creation in the process. The tears returned among the rubble.
Large feet pounded towards me and I jumped to mine. “What the fuck are you doing? Clean this shit up right now or I swear to fucking God-“ I knew exactly at what point his hand would raise and was sure to be in action well before that; in a matter of ten seconds the boxes were packed and stashed upstairs, never to be seen again.
When I came back down he was on the couch. I had nothing to do but wait.
A few hours later I watched the door click open from my guard position in the hallway. She kicked off her shoes and gave me a smile before going to talk to my dad, quiet and quick.
She walked past me into the bathroom, shut the door behind her. “Shoelace.” The demand made it through the wood loud and clear.
I de-laced the nearest shoe.
I opened the bathroom door – my Mom sat on the closed toilet seat rolling up her right sleeve to shoulder. “You have it?” I nodded. “Well come on, bring it to me then.”
As I closed the distance between us I gained vision of a needle on the sink. Its orange cap was the worst possible example of my favorite color. She dug in her pockets for a small paper square and a lighter before relieving me of the shoelace. There was a spoon on the toilet’s tank, sitting where one always did.
“Shut the door behind you.” I did.
The firehouse started its siren. It wasn’t that bad.
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