Tears for Mom

By CULLIE DECKER | Published: August 21, 2012

Tears for Mom

Cullie Decker

Tears for Mom plot: Theodorus Peso, a Spanish baseball player, opens up to his mother – a retired circus performer – who is in a coma.

Cullie Decker logo: http://is.gd/cullie_d_logo

Edited by Livingston County Writers and Critics Support Group

I was in so much pain. I had messed up my left shoulder while playing baseball earlier today and my eyes seemed extra sensitive to the sunlight. I was so exhausted and sweaty and I felt so young and healthy. I played a great game, and I think I’m running even faster. My soul felt victorious inside my panting body. I was walking to my old, dented Prius when my cell started ringing. It was my older brother Estaban.

I said, “Hello?”

“Hey, Theodorus. What’s up, bro?”

“Nothing. I have been playing baseball, as usual.” I didn’t want to tell my brother that my shoulder was hurting. I had to be tough. No wimps in my family.

“I got bad news. Mom has been mugged. Four guys beat her, grabbed her purse, and kicked her down some stairs. She has a lot of bruises and she’s in a coma in the hospital. It’s just crazy, man. You have to get over here right now!”

“I’ll be there in fourteen minutes. I think my steering wheel is locked or something. It won’t move. I’ll be there sometime today, I hope.”

“Where are you?”

“2811 East-”

“Dairy Queen? I’ll send someone over for help.”

Gracias, bro.”

I couldn’t get my dumpster on wheels moving. I sat outside of Dairy Queen with a banana split in my stomach and the feeling of my heart beating in my neck. My body was so exhausted and my emotions were scattered, frantic, and desperate for relief. I was angry, confused, devastated, and already becoming bitter. How could people do that to my mother? For God’s sake, of all people, why her? Some people are more worthless than seaweed. My parents had joined a circus right after Estaban was born. Mom gave birth to me five years later. She had to take a break from the circus for a year while she was pregnant with me.

We were always performing for people. Dad could juggle anything, except for scoops of ice cream. Mom could do every card trick out there. She also could ride a unicycle and convince any audience that she had cut off her thumbs. She would throw fake thumbs and Dad would catch them with his teeth. The crowds went insane every time. Estaban and I did our own, totally unique, act. We’d get our baseball bats and become “The Spanish Baseball Player Tap Dancers.” The crowds were extra quiet for our act since it was so original.

My brother and I would tap dance with our baseball bats to about three to five songs and people just ate that shit up. They loved getting excited and we loved getting endless attention. It’s a great feeling to see four-hundred eyeballs get bigger and bigger. Seeing the pumped-up crowds was better than money because we kept it, and our beloved fans kept it, always. The passion, the wonder, the joy; it was all there every time, waiting for us to enjoy it. It was a great feeling every time, and the feelings of success and admiration stayed with us between performances.

As a Spanish family, we struggled to evade the soul-crushing stereotypes. People would just look at us, and I swear they couldn’t help but start their damn judging. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. It’s as if people are born with a desperate need to judge people who look or act different just so they can relieve the feelings of their own inadequacy. I can recall Dad telling a story of a pastor on the streets. He told my dad that he was going to Hell because he was Spanish. The pastor said that only non-Jewish white people can enter paradise. Dad always finished that story saying that he wanted to make that preacher man a preacher woman!

I almost know that race was probably a factor in the mugging of my fifty-two-year-old mother. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, who would beat up and knock an old person unconscious besides Eric Cartman? I have childhood friends who’d emigrated to North Korea, and according to them, there’s plenty of racism and hatred there as well. It’s not limited to your own neighborhood. Bigots breathe in innocent peoples’ fresh air on almost every continent. Mom always said it’s important to forgive those who hate you to help make sure you don’t become an angry, vengeful person. I knew boys in high school who always said bullets stop the bullshit. I always liked Mom’s theory the best…until now.

I was still in my girl repellent–I mean my worthless 1998 car–totally angry and heartbroken when one of Estaban’s old high school friends walked up to me. She was dressed like a majorette or something. I jumped out of my car.

“Are you Estaban’s brother?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

“Carl, right?”

“No, my name is Theodorus.”

“Oh, that’s right! You’re the jock with a funny name! Well, my name is Vicky.”

“Oh, is that right?”

“Yeah. Vicky Rachel Olive Ollie Miranda. They call me ‘Vroom’ for short!”

“I wish you had a Thumbs Down button on your empty head!”

“I am not a YouTube video.”

“Most people will never talk like that. So, are you a performer in a marching band or are you auditioning for some movie or something?”

“I like to dress like this. The more you dress like a cheerleader, the more guys notice!”

“That’s interesting,” I cleared my throat as loud as I could and continued, “Your head is just big enough to block the sunshine!”

“Get in my sexy car and I’ll take you where you need to go.”

“Don’t pretend to flirt with me. I barely even know you. Estaban is your friend. Four guys pulverized my mother and I cannot think about anything else. I’m not in a good mood. I just want to get out of here,” I got in her car and finished my little rant: “I don’t know you, and I sure as hell can’t figure you out. Don’t take this wrong, but you’re a sleazy moron. Your everyday apparel is a cheerleader uniform! You are aware that you act and dress almost one-third of your age, right?”

Vicky gave me a forced smile and slicked her hair behind her ears as she drove me to the hospital to see my mother. It truly felt like a slow ride, but I never mentioned it. The windows were up and the air conditioner was on medium. I shook my head a bit because I could hear my watch ticking. I decided that all of my five senses were overworked and I was experiencing life so acutely.

As I glanced down at my fingernails, which I rarely do, I noticed how grimy they were. I didn’t care. I cared about one thing, and it was that one thing that really was not going my way. Fury just pulsed through my veins like hot, dusty air blasting out of a hand dryer. The only way for my fury to be unleashed would be violence or maybe something constructive. Violence seemed like much more fun, and the thought alone had me sweating with anticipation.

Vicky went to the hospital’s cafeteria to drink two bottles of pop while I went to visit Mom. I was walking down this long hallway to Mom’s room. My hands were sweating and I think my face was suddenly flush. It felt like the skin on my face mysteriously vanished. I told myself to calm down and take deep breaths. I was in the mood to snatch a needle from the nearest RN and jam it into damn-near anybody. They have this rubbery thing that clips over your finger to take your pulse. I would just love to shove one of those down some random person’s throat and point and laugh as he gags on that open ‘clippy’ thing. I was never taught in school not to want to be a sadistic asshole.

Even though I continued to be troubled by my mother getting attacked and my headache-inducing encounter with “Vroom,” or whatever the hell her name is, I tried to find hope. Have you ever had malicious feelings and optimistic feelings at the same time? I was having bad vibes, and good ones, at the same time. I felt anger, hope, and suspense as I opened the door to Mom’s room.

There she was, still in a coma…with the TV on. My eyes were surely bigger than doorknobs as I stood there and watched her. I was very tempted to touch her hand, but I would die if a nurse or a doctor caught me. Guys don’t just stand around holding their mommy’s hands. The TV was on mute, and it was so quiet in there, that I swear to God, one sniffle would sound like the initial blast of a seventeen-year-old vacuum, if that makes any sense, which it doesn’t.

My eyes were moist as I whispered in Spanish, “Mom, I love you. It’s me, Theodorus. You believed that one day I would truly stand out, and that’s why you gave me that name. You had so much faith in me before I was even born. I am so sorry about this. You always told me to forgive anybody who hurts me, and thankfully, few people have ever even given me an unhappy look. You raised me to be a good person, Mom. I love you so very much, and I just wish I could take this incident away. I wish I could erase your victimization, your trauma, your undeserved pain. I’m not the only one who needs you right now. Estaban and Dad need you and all the kids you entertain in the circus. Those kids need you. Even if it’s for just one night, you light up their world. You have eased peoples’ worries and heartaches by making them laugh and forget everything for a moment.”

I didn’t just have a crack in my voice. I had an earthquake in my voice. I sounded like a wailing infant. I had basically forgotten why I was even really here. Did I have Vicky drive me here just to see my mother suffer? Did I do it so I could come over here and cry my eyes out without having to think about anyone pointing and laughing? What’s the sense in analyzing all of this anyway? You can dissect a snake and what have you got? A suitcase? Not quite! None of my thoughts were making any sense to me, I had to stop for a minute because I was crying so much, but I slowly resumed. I took a deep breath and said, “Mom, I wish you could promise me that you aren’t dying. Please say something to me. Tell me you love me or you hate me or I’m a total disappointment. Please tell me something so that I know you’re going to live. I am sorry if I’m a disappointment or a worthless son. I’m sorry I did not tell you more that I love you and I appreciate you. I’m sorry that I’ve never been anything more than an unmarried Spanish baseball player who tap dances with his brother in a circus and eats too many banana splits. I’m sorry for all those times I acted angry and mean in school when I was really feeling scared and lonely and so unaccepted. I’d let anyone beat me bloody if you’d just please wake up.”

What was the sense in all of this crying and begging and shit? Mom was out cold, totally in a different world. She was probably dreaming about nice things, while there I was in misery and despair. My feelings were all turning into anger. I just stood there next to Mom, waiting for something good to happen. This was much more painful and heartbreaking than losing a baseball game or injuring my shoulder. This just tore me up inside and I knew that there was not much I could do. I was expecting something positive to happen, something huge, but who believes in miracles anymore? Miracles are absolute bullshit good things happen because some people are good and great things happen because of luck. All of my thoughts were becoming increasingly negative and no one was there to help me feel better.

Meanwhile, Estaban was walking into the restroom at the other side of the hospital. He went in and said, “Hey kid, you stink! You smell like a grownup. What’re you doing in here?”

“I took my daddy’s aftershave!”

“Whoa, little boy! You can’t be doing that. You’ll be in huge trouble.”

“I’m splashing it on my face just like Daddy does. I snuck it in my jacket pocket. I want to be a big boy. My face is burning bad!”

“What is this? A reenactment of the movie Home Alone?”

“Nope, this is the potty room in a hospital!”

“How old are you?”

“Seven. I took these metal pieces out of Mommy’s jacket pocket. What are they?”

“Those are four safety pins. You stole your daddy’s aftershave and your mommy’s safety pins.

You’re a little thief!”

“What does that word mean?”

“You don’t know a safety pin when you see one and you don’t know the word ‘thief?’ How old are you?”

“I just said ‘seven!’ You look Mexican. Are you Mexican? Will you make me mini tacos in exchange for my Mommy’s four safety pins and my daddy’s aftershave?”

“Get the heck out of this potty room, you thieving, manipulative toddler!”

Then Estaban said a few words in Spanish. The boy was totally confused as he said, “I don’t know what you just said. You started speaking in a different language, I think.”

“I was speaking in Spanish because I did not want you to know what I was saying.”

“What were you saying?”

“I was saying that your daddy is going to punish you for the terrible crimes you are committing. If you continue stealing from your parents, your apologies will go ignored and your tears will stain your face. Your daddy will spank your butt until it’s hotter than planet Mercury and your mommy will never let you eat another Happy Meal until you’re too old to give a gosh darn!”

The boy showed a toothy grin and quipped, “You talk like a doofus in two languages!”

“We are in a bathroom in a hospital. Piss, shit and/or puke, and get your seven-year-old ass out of here!”

“You’re a mean Mexican person!”

“No, no, no. I’m sorry. Spanish people are very nice. Here, you can have my old Target gift card. It still has sixteen bucks on it. You can’t get anything decent, unless you like candy and gum.”

“I love candy and gum!” The boy exclaimed. He snatched it out of Estaban’s hand and ran out of the bathroom faster than a sprinter with a brown recluse spider on his pant leg. Estaban sighed and mumbled, “God, I’m broke again and the shit I had to take got pushed back up into my guts. Now I can’t shit or afford a Pay Day candy bar! Oh, my gosh. I forgot about Mom. Where is Theodorus?”

Estaban rushed into Mom’s room in the hospital, and surprisingly, Dad was on his way. I know because I was watching him, from the window, walk closer to the hospital. I closed the curtains because I didn’t want the sunshine in Mom’s eyes. It was surprising that Dad was on his way because he should’ve been at work; no one, as far as I know, informed him about Mom. I was always surprised at my parents, and I guess the entire family. I remember Dad showing up when I had to get a tooth pulled. I was absolutely shocked. How did Dad know about Mom’s coma? Was it possible that he was here for something else? That was a scary thought. Apart from the circus career, Dad could’ve been a stereotypical cowboy: tall and dark with tight jeans, tasteless boots, and secretly suffering inside.

“Where have you been, Estaban?”

“Oh, I was in the restroom, talking to a seven-year-old thief and then I gave him my last sixteen bucks.”

“This is not a good time to be an idiot!”

“So, where’s your car?”

“Oh, I forgot! I left it at Dairy Queen. I was never able to unlock that steering wheel, or whatever is wrong with it. I’ll have to call someone to take it to the shop.”

“How is Mom? Is she talking yet?”

“No, she’s still completely out of it. I’m really sorry.” I whispered as I watched Estaban’s eyes go from big and eager to small and spacey. I struggled to be silent and patient as he turned around and looked at Mom. She was still breathing, but why? If she had to suffer this much, what’s the point in anything at all? Of course, this life is not all about whether or not we deserve the shit that life flings at us every goddamn day. Endless attempts at comforting myself and justifying the unfairness of life made everything suddenly so complicated.

I did not want to have to wonder and analyze, why this and why that. I wanted just one fucking thing: my mother to be healed. I guess the bigger the wish is, the bigger the disappointment and still, I could do nothing but wish. I have always loved being with my family but never in a hospital, desperately hanging on to the painful suspense of my mother’s fate. I have never been much of a thinker. I have been simple-minded my entire life. I just tap dance and play baseball, or maybe not. I have been trying to guess, analyze, and wonder about everything since Mom went into that coma, so maybe I’m not so simple after all.

Time seemed to be ticking slower and I just felt my emotions getting even more chaotic. Watching my own chest expand and return with every breath had the reality of the whole thing even more unsettling. I mean, this could easily me be one day and the very thought had me breathless. I certainly don’t want to admit such a thing as the possibility of any type of victimization, or whatever, but the truth is the truth. Anyone, at any time, can become a victim of violence, sickness or even old age.

Right or wrong, I was considering yanking Mom’s eyes open. I was starting to wonder about the pros and cons about that, though. I couldn’t seem to think of any pros, so I just kept my goddamn hands to myself. I looked at my brother. His eyes were desperate, anxious, and watering. Our emotions were like pinwheels: quietly spinning and spinning but never fucking getting anywhere. This was our heartache, and no one else’s. I was hurting inside. Estaban was hurting inside. The rest of the hospital? They couldn’t fucking care less. As a nurse walked in, I was sure I could see horns on her head.

The nurse said, “I’m here to help as your mother wakes up.”

I asked, “What’re you talking about? Is Mom going to be okay?”

Estaban’s eyes were growing.

“She is waking up now.”

I sighed and practically stopped breathing as Mom’s eyes slowly opened. At least, now, I didn’t have to knock some doctor out. At that very moment…that intricate second Mom was being healed. My hands were going from cold and sweaty to warm and a little shaky. As unimportant as it is, my shoulder was still throbbing from the game. I couldn’t seem to ignore my own trite pains to rejoice for the miracle of Mom coming back from that coma.

Mom wasn’t talking to us. Her eyes were open, but she did not seem alive. It was like Estaban and I were having a staring contest with our mother who seemed groggy and unaware of anything. Should I talk to her? What if she didn’t respond? What if she needed help but I didn’t know what to do? My IQ is like an elephant. Estaban’s IQ is like a little caterpillar. If I didn’t have what it took to help Mom, she’d be in big trouble. Maybe it’s not completely hopeless. After all, we were in a hospital.

I got on my knees. I was anxious to do that because a floor that appears clean can still be filthy. I was on my knees, anxious about a minute chance of germs on the floor. All of my shallow worries were surfacing at the wrong time. I should’ve been more concerned about Mom than myself. What the fuck is wrong with my crazy ass?!

“Mom, it’s me Theodorus. Estaban is just over there. See, Mom? I’m on the floor. I’m on the clean-looking floor. Here I am, with my handsome yet tender knees on this hospital floor. I have never been so afraid of germs. I am quickly becoming phobic of my microscopic surroundings.”

“Hey, bro. Who really cares?” Estaban whispered.

“Right. Mom, I’m sorry. Can you hear me? Are you okay?”

Mom just stared into my red, puffy eyes. I glanced up at Estaban. He said, “Hey, you hairy mop. Get your rear up and tap dance with me.”

“What?”

Estaban narrowed his eyes and continued, “Mom needs us both right now, you annoying wuss, so come on. I don’t care what you try to do to me, but don’t let our mother down.”

I did what Estaban told me to do. We were tap dancing as quietly as possible. I swear my lungs were filling up with the suspense and horror in the air. A fist was knocking on the door and Estaban jumped in my arms. All right, damn it! I jumped in Estaban’s arms. The doctor looked at me like I’m crazy. All right, damn it. I suppose I am a little crazy!

“It looks like your mother will be just fine.” The doctor said.

“Thank you, doctor.” Estaban said.

“To just be sure, let’s see if we can get her to talk a little. Mrs. Peso, can you hear me? Nod if you can hear me.”

Her gaze remained spacey and just unnatural. It was actually eerie to see her blink. The glass door to total recovery had evidently shattered now. Out of the corner of my eyes, I could see Estaban shake his head. My shoulders sunk in despair and I held my breath a few seconds. It hurt so much to see my mother as a zombie. It was just so unreal and frightening that I wanted to die. Why live a life without your mother? Why pretend to go on day after miserable day without the most special person you’ve ever known? I reached my foot out to kick the doctor in his ass, but Estaban grabbed my hand and bent back my thumb. The doctor could hear my thumb breaking and me whimpering, so of course he turned around.

“Hey, doc!” I said with the widest, fakest smile of all time.”

“Am I missing something? Are you two doing stuff behind my back?” The doctor asked.

I shook my head and Estaban offered, “Just a little brotherly love.”

“Well, that’s nice and everything, but we have a patient here and she isn’t doing very well.”

Before thinking, I blurted out, “I was trying to kick you square in the ass, doc. My brother grabbed my thumb and it broke.”

“Hello?” It was Mom. She was talking.

“Screw it. My fractured thumb can wait. Mom, can you hear me?”

“Yes.” Mom was still pretty dazed, but at least she was speaking.

“Let me see your thumb…go outside and stay with a nurse for a few minutes, you little troublemaker.”

“Maybe it really was an angel, Theodorus. Do you believe now?”

I sighed and wiped my eyes and concluded, “I guess I have no reason to disbelieve. I guess angels are out there somewhere.”

“I’ll see you out there soon…and Mom will, too.”

So, I think that’s about it. We later found out what happened to Dad. On his way in, he met up with a female doctor and practically charmed her pants off. What a shithole. Mom had to be driven to her doctor twice for checkups. We never found out what motivated those scumbags to hurt my mother. Mom did not seem to know, and there were absolutely no witnesses. Not all crimes can be solved, but we can all move on with the strength we do have. Mom will be just fine and so will my thumb. After hot saucing Estaban’s iced mocha coffee energy drink, his throat and intestines will one day be okay. If not, we’ll probably kill each other…with a lot of brotherly love.

Word count: 4,137



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