Mama? The little girl sat at the table clutched the red crayon, a distant pink tinge seeping onto the surface of her fingers. Her chair wobbled with every slight movement she made, setting off a booming echo that bounced off the walls of the little room.
What do you want, Schwein? The mother lay sprawled along the drooping sofa, legs spread wide and propped on the end of the arm. In her left hand was a packet of family sized crisps, ready salted and rustling. Her right hand was used to dip into the crisp packet, select some of the crushed food, and try to direct it into her drooling mouth. A lot of the time it hit her lip or nose and bounced off, leaping dramatically off of her vast belly and littering the dirty floor. Some slipped through the sofa cracks to be buried amongst dust clumps and drops of dried beer. There was no loose change in this sofa, if there were, it would be spent immediately.
When will you teach me the alphabet like you promised? The girl's eyes shone bright, sparkling with hope and wonder of the mystery symbols that danced together in strings. It was the key to the treasure chest of reading, the crow bar to the safe of writing.
The mother sighed lazily, and reached for some crisps. She had promised the girl to teach her the alphabet one day, supposedly soon, so she could read the pile of torn books shoved in the corner of her room. Assuming too soon that the promise would be forgotten, the mother swore she would. Of course her assuming lead her down the path of lies, and she was greeted nearly every week by the request and the lies of her promises. But the mother had lied too many times, and the hurt that followed merely ricocheted off her.
What matter was the after effects of broken promises and lies? They were only words, never written down, never signed. Bunches of letters that evaporated in the air as soon as they were spoken, never to return. If it were documented, that would be a different matter entirely.
Soon you greedy Schwein, snapped the mother, waving a crisp-coated hand in the air. Her eyes were glued to the TV screen in front of her, a mix of mingling pixels and blurred colours. It was on the loudest volume, although she could hear perfectly fine. The noise would drown out the sorrows of snapped memories that came biting back each time silence came. She tried to shake it off, but the claws of the broken dug in, and noise pulled them away. It was her shield from the haunting past that never left when silence hung.
But Mama, you always say that!
Nein, you little Schwein! You are being selfish, and what do the rules say?
Do not be selfish. Selfish people are bad. Selfish people will burn in hell. Oh Mama, I don't want to burn in hell! I'm sorry, I'm sorry. The mother grinned devilishly.
So be quiet and stop talking! Mama wants to hear the TV, and she cannot be bothered to speak anymore. The TV is her TV, and you shouldn't be disrupting her. The mother's voice was a mix of agitation and shards of potato.
A sort of silence settled in the room, disturbed by the screeches of the TV, but no words uttered. The little girl went back to drawing, selecting her two favourite colours. The entire table was littered with an assortment of blunt pencils, dry felt-tips and waxy crayons. Paper sheets, creased and crumpled, coated the floor, disguising the dirt and dust.
What? I told you not to disrupt me!
But, I made something for you. To say sorry for breaking the rules. The little girl hopped of the chair, which cluttered wildly back and forth, and clutched a piece of paper tight. It was messy and lacking in a variety of colour, but what more could anyone expect from a five year old?
Is it more beer and crisps? Mama, needs some more of them. She dropped her fingers lower inside the packet, scooping around for remains, and chucked it on the floor. Twisting round slowly, she saw the girl and the paper. Her beady eyes narrowed, and she snatched the paper from the little girls hand.
What are those? she asked, jabbing a stubby finger at two blobs with lines coming out the sides.
Us, Mama. Me and you, holding hands. You could make out the figures, shaking circles with wobbling smiles that beamed too bright.
And what are these repulsive things? Her hand gestured at the yellow shapes decorating the page.
Hearts, Mama. Yellow hearts. Because yellow is my favourite colour and you're my favourite person. The mother observed the art. Her eyes struggled to look at the vibrancy of the yellow and the deepness of the red, merging together into swirling patterns that juddered around the paper.
You Schwein! You bloody Schwein! I hate yellow, I hate it! Look at this disgusting mess. Did you think it was good? The little girl nodded her head slowly, hands together, eyes staring at the floor. Her heart which had swollen with pride for her colouring had plummeted, falling into the cavern of her gut.
Well it's awful! Horrendous! The worst thing I've ever seen!
I was going to write 'I love you' but I don't know how, Mama. The little girl added, trying to grasp onto the hopes that had floated away like cut balloons.
Want to know why you can't? Because you're stupid! You are a stupid, pathetic, ugly Schwein. Now go get me some more beer and crisps before I lay my hand on you! Frightened, the little girl nodded again and scurried off. The mother screwed up the artwork in her chubby hands and threw it. The lump landed in a puddle of who knows what, absorbing the mystery liquid and lying limply.
The mother twisted back to stare at the TV screen, the pulsing sensation of power running through her veins, her heart twisting. It felt good.