The phone rang, and nothing was the same again.
I was only ten at the time, but I remember it as clearly as what I ate for breakfast. Or at least I think I do. I read somewhere that each time you remember a memory, you are merely remembering the last time you remembered it.
Well, that’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? So do your memories really exist? Or are they just memories of memories of memories of memories…?
Anyways, back to that phone call.
I was sitting at the kitchen table, working on my math homework. We had just learned about dividing fractions, and I was having trouble understanding what to do. Which way did things have to flip? What’s cross-multiplying? It just didn’t make sense.
Looking back now, I scoff at how much time I spent working on my math homework. Little did I know how far technology would advance in the coming decades. I haven’t done math by hand since middle school, I think. Do kids these days still do math by hand, or do their smartphones just tell them all the answers?
Wait, I’ve gotten off track again. What are we talking about?
Oh, yes. The phone call.
I was ten years old and sitting at the kitchen table, doing my math homework. Mama was sitting next to me, clipping coupons from the newspaper. Mama sure did love her coupons. She could take a $100 grocery bill down to $2.50 with her eyes closed. She took pride in her penny-pinching and bragged to all the neighbors about the deals she scored each week.
Coupons are funny, don’t you think? Sales, too. Why not just charge people what you want to charge them rather than making them jump through hoops or wait for a certain day to get that price?
Sorry, got lost in my thoughts again.
So there we were, Mama and I. Sitting at the kitchen table, each working on our little projects. Baby Cooper was in his high chair, eating some cereal. Well, maybe not so much eating. Playing, more like. Cooper loved food, but mostly to make a mess with rather than to eat. The amount of food we cleared off his chair tray and the floor under him could’ve fed two kids his age.
Maybe that’s why Mama needed her coupons so much. Instead of feeding one baby, she needed enough to feed three!
It was a typical day, really. Or it had been up to that point.
The three of us were each in our own little world. Just one chair sat empty.
It wasn’t always empty thought. It was Daddy’s seat. Facing the living room TV and closest to the refrigerator. Daddy could watch his baseball games while chowing down on dinner Mama made with her coupon-bought food. Always a beer in hand. His special juice, he called it. It kept him calm, Mama said.
Not too calm, though. Not if he had too many. When that happened, I could hear him yelling at Mama for hours. Baby Cooper screamed until his face was purple when that happened. I tried to keep him quiet, so Daddy wouldn’t try to find us. But boy, did Baby Cooper have a good set of lungs. Those nights were far from calm.
I try not to think about those nights too much. I guess I remember those memories a lot less because I try not to remember them. But when I do, I can still feel myself shaking.
Those fractions were driving me nuts. I finally put my pencil down and looked up at the clock. When did it get so late? The big hand was inching closer to the faded gold seven.
That wasn’t right. Daddy was always home right when the big and little hands stretched straight up and down.
Mama looked up to see what I was staring at. I could tell she was thinking the same thing I was because her brows tugged together. I called that her thinking face. Usually, I loved Mama’s thinking face because it meant she was coming up with a new game to play. But not this time. This wasn’t a good thinking face.
Before I could open my mouth, the phone rang. I knew that this wasn’t any old phone call. This was a big one.
And I was right. Nothing was the same again.
But at least I didn’t have to smell Daddy’s special juice ever again.
Prompt: The phone rang, and nothing was ever the same again.
Prompt source: @promptedtowrite
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