[Prompt: The story behind how that one random shoe is lying in the road ]
“I swear, if I have to pull this car over, you kids are going to regret it!” my mother growled from the driver’s seat. I stopped smacking my little brother in the back of the head to glean more information.
“What are you gonna do when you pull over?” I asked without a shred of respect.
My mother sighed heavily and glared at me through the rear view mirror, “Tom, don’t push me any further. I mean it.”
I rolled my eyes and went back to annoying my baby brother. My mom deserved this abuse after embarrassing me in front of all my friends. Being 15 with a driver’s license, my mom had no excuse for pulling into the school parking lot and barking at me to get in the backseat to take care of my brother’s spit up. My defiant glare had prompted her to add a comment about relaying my behavior to my shrink, catching me completely off guard and rousing laughter from my friends and any other person within earshot.
Eric began to repeat the word ‘no’ after each smack. I smirked and tested the speed of my taps, genuinely interested in his ability to keep up verbally.
“No,” pause. “No. No,” pause. “No, no, nono, nnnn—“
“TOM!” My mother shrieked as the van swerved to the side of the rural road. I stopped touching Eric, surprised that my mother was actually following through on her threat.
My upper body strained against the tightened seatbelt as the car came to an abrupt halt. I could see my mother’s furrowed brow in the rear view mirror. I leaned to the side and glimpsed the steering wheel in her death grip. I swallowed and cast my eyes to the floor. Maybe she would take my silence as a peace offering.
“Out,” her cold voice sent a chill down my spine.
“OUT,” she repeated sternly.
Her tone wasn’t messing around. Even my baby brother knew trouble was brewing. He stared at me from his rear facing carseat, eager for comfort. I narrowed my eyes at him and unbuckled my seatbelt. Tears began to well up in his eyes and he let out a small whimper. “Oh shut it,” I waved my hand dismissively as I reached with the other to open the door.
I closed the door behind me attempting to muffle the sound of Eric’s crying. Surveying the road, I was happy to see there weren’t any witnesses present. I didn’t need more rumors circling about me in our small town.
My relief was shattered like a window by a badly aimed baseball when I heard my mother’s door open. I turned to face her, puffing up my chest in a sad attempt at intimidation. She stepped out gracefully, to an untrained eye it might appear she was merely stepping out for a fresh breath of air. But to someone who was constantly receiving her disapproval, her set shoulders and rigid neck movements silently conveyed her dismay.
“Ugh, mom, come on. I was just playing around.” I stammered, attempting to make amends before someone came upon us.
My mom closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, “I don’t understand why you have to keep pulling this crap,” she let out a heavy sigh and looked at me. “I thought talking to Dr. Henley was helpful? Do you remember what he said last week about tormenting your brother?”
I shuffled my feet, uncomfortable at the memory, “Yeah.”
She threw her hands above her head, clearly exasperated, “Then why are you still doing it?!”
My eyes rolled at her display. My mom was such a drama queen. Whenever there was a small problem, she had an annoying habit of drawing extra attention to it by over reacting with grand gestures and upraised tones. Part of me knew it was due to the fact she was a single mom, and she was burnt out. But the unruly teenager in me knew it was because she wanted to embarrass me at every opportunity to keep me in my place. It was her way to control me. I was growing tired of it.
“God, mom, really?” I kicked at the ground with one foot and focused on a rock that rolled away, once again less than pleased with her actions.
My mother reached over and grabbed my arm, forcing my attention to her face. Her eyes were crazed, spittle flew from her mouth as she spoke, “Thomas Allen Green, don’t you dare take the Lord’s name in vain!”
“This again?” I scoffed, waving my hand at nothing in particular, “It’s not like it matters what I say about God. No one gives a shit about me, not even Mr. Almighty.”
“Tom, that’s not true and you know it!” My mom shook my arm, the anger washing from her face to reveal concern underneath. “The Lord cares for all his flock, regardless of their view of him, regardless of their respect or lack of it,” she raised an eyebrow at me. “Thank the Lord he is forgiving of disrespectful teenagers who don’t know any better.”
I jerked my arm from her grip, fuming. My mom hadn’t always been so religious. After my father left us, she found comfort in the new community and really took it to heart. Part of me felt bad for her, believing in something so absurd. Although I went with her occasionally on Sundays, I only did it to make her happy, I didn’t buy into what they were selling. But it really irritated me when she used the threat of God to enforce my behavior. She had already tarnished my reputation in front of Helen Bailey, who’d witnessed the revelation about my shrink, now she was lecturing me about an imaginary man. I wanted to upset her in return.
I took a step forward and looked up towards the sky, yelling, “Okay, God, go ahead and smite me! Teach me a lesson!” I glanced over my shoulder to witness my mom’s terrified look. It felt like a horrible reward, like stealing candy from my brother. A smirk graced my face and I turned back to my mom, victory was mine.
There was an sudden crack, the sound resembled a thunderclap, yet it was a clear day. My body felt warm like I was being engulfed in flames. My mom’s eyes were wide saucers, she was reaching for me as my body lifted into the air. I kicked my legs wildly, my right shoe flying from my foot and landing in the middle of the road, “MOM! I’M SORRY! GOD N—“