Residual Anger

“You cannot mean to raise a child here.”  Patty’s mother took a sip of her wine and grimaced before swallowing hard.

“Why not?”  That wine was expensive—for Patty.

“It’s just not a…” her mother looked around the apartment.  “…safe environment.  Or particularly clean.  Are you certain there are no bedbugs?” 

“It’s fine.  For now.  Until I can get…”

“Get me a knife, Rose.  This roast is a brick.”

“I got it.”  Patty shoved out her chair and stomped to the kitchen.  It was a mistake, she knew now, to invite her parents to New York for the week.  She’d worked so hard to make everything perfect.  The wine and the roast she’d scrimped for.  The cake she’d made from scratch.  The tree she could ill-afford.  She handed her father the knife and sat.

“You should have thought about this before you got pregnant.”

“I think I’ve done a good job, Mom.”  In the five years since she’d dropped out of high school to have Ellen, Patty’d managed to get her GED, move to the city and get work at the college she was attending. 

“And that babysitter…” Rose began.

“Oh, yeah.”  Her father said.  “She’sa prize.”

“You just can’t do this, Patty.”

“I can.”

“Hiring people off the streets to tend to your illegitimate child.  Living in squalor.  Likely living from paycheck to paycheck.  You need to come home.”

“I’m fine.”

“We’ll adopt the child.”

“Her name is Ellen, Mom.”  Patty stood.  “And there’s no way you’ll raise my daughter.  You ruined one child.”

Rose put a hand to her chest.  Her eyes widened.  “We’re leaving.”  

And within fifteen minutes, they were, indeed, gone.  

* * *

After she got Ellen bathed and put to bed, Patty surveyed her apartment through the eyes of her parents.  The second-hand furniture looked dingy.  The paint was chipped.  The carpet was stained.  But it was hers.  All she wanted now was to be done with Christmas.  To remove every trace of her parents’ presence.

She removed the Christmas cards from the doorway.  She could smell her mother’s sweet perfume.  She unplugged the Christmas lights.  She could hear her father’s cautionary tales about fire hazards.  She took the candles from the window and unscrewed the bulbs.  She packed away the nativity scene, carefully wrapping each piece in newspaper before tucking it away for next year. 


Patty looked up.  Ellen stood in the doorway.

“Yeah, baby?”  Patty stabbed out her cigarette.  She’d promised Ellen she’d give them up.

“What are you doing?”

Patty wiped the tears from her cheek.  “Just straightening up a bit.”

“It’s too soon.”

How to tell the child that she could no longer stand the sight of all these decorations; that they served to remind her of her failures, not her successes? She smiled.  “I thought we’d take care of it early, baby.  So we can go skating in the park tomorrow.  Try out those new skates of yours.”  The skates that her parents said were too dangerous.

 “OK, Mommy!”  A bright smile spread across her face.

Patty tucked her daughter back into bed and gave her one last sip of water. 

She returned to packing away the Christmas decorations.  But what to do with her residual anger; grown cold and stale, but still there, heavy and thick upon the air?

She will package them up, store them away.  She will put them right next to the nativity scene, carefully wrapped up in newspaper.

Next year, she will unpack them; polish them up and set them upon the mantle.

Because everyone knows that leftover anger is easily reheated.

The was written in response to a prompt from Story Dam:
Choose one direction or topic along the “leftovers” concept. It can be some additional weight gain from the holidays, a wanton shopping spree that will be showing on the next credit card bill… it can even be the pain-in-the-neck start of a New Year’s resolution. Once you have your topic, write a descriptive piece (fiction or non) in which your character is working through it. We’re shooting for realism this week, but be creative

14 thoughts on “Residual Anger

  1. WOW…. Another one that should be published…I can’t even pick out the parts I liked best because I liked the whole thing!!… and such a creative use of leftovers!

  2. On the page the story ended with “Get me a knife, Rose. This roast is a brick.” It would have worked if it stopped there, too. You set the atmosphere so wonderfully in that first bit. Made me want to slap the parents or have her stick the knife in somebody’s back. 😉 But when I clicked to read on I loved the rest of the story, too. I like how your character stands up to her mother when she says “You ruined one child”.

  3. A very poignant peek into a dysfunctional relationship. I like that the main character stood up to her parents without making the confrontation a cliche. Nicely done.

  4. I could feel the tension in the dialogue. A perfect picture of parents too full of themselves to see the strength of their child.

    Hopefully she’ll choose to leave the leftovers behind next year.

  5. Beautiful response. I love that your writing is always tender and real. I thought you used “leftovers” in a really creative and wonderful way, too.

  6. What a painfully beautiful way to portray the ‘leftover’ concept. I love the sharp contrast between the two mother/daughter relationships.

  7. I know this pain. Fortunately, I distanced myself from my parents until they got it. This is a very realistic piece and a very creative take on the prompt.

  8. I liked this. You truly capture the tension a lot of us feel around the holidays (or just in general with parents that have no trust in our abilities.) The only suggestion I will make on this is for the last part. This was (first person) dialogue for the entire piece until the last four sentences. Then it switches to a third person narrative. The message was strong, but the transition didn’t feel very natural.

    Aside from that, I think this was great. You definitely captured the realism we were shooting for. Great job. Thanks for participating this week!

  9. I’m not seeing the first to third transition so much as the tense switch – I wasn’t happy with that but didn’t see a way around it. Thanks for reading.

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