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morning sickness
from the unpublished short story archives, circa 2002
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)

Note: We never, ever run fiction or short stories, but 1) Jason has been a staff member forever and deserves the nod and 2) The story below is just that good.

Raymond Harris awoke one morning at the hollow sound of Momma’s face being smacked so hard that she staggered across the kitchen and hit her forehead on the sink. He sat up in his piss-stained bed, then ran to the door and cracked it open just enough to see without being seen. Bobby, Momma’s boyfriend, was manhandling her dutifully -- cursing her, punching her in the gut, while accusing of her of unthinkable acts. Raymond had had enough. He would not cry himself again. He would not have Momma carted off to the emergency room one more time to have her wounds barely treated due to her lack of insurance. He would not call the police to have them tell his Momma that, despite her broken rib, because there were no bruises on her body, there was really nothing they could do for her. Raymond decided that today, two weeks after his 8th birthday, he was going to save Momma’s life for good.

Raymond burst out of the room and quickly grabbed the half-inch thick broom handle just inside the small kitchen. He steadied it like he had seen Reggie Jackson do once on television. He crept up behind Bobby and put all his might into breaking Bobby’s back.

“You motherfucker,” Bobby said.

“Raymond, no!” said Momma.

Bobby turned back to face him. He really wasn’t that much taller than Raymond, just stronger.

“How you think you hurting me, little man?” Bobby said, grabbing him by the neck. “With your little fragile ass. I’ll break that broom over your head, little nigga!”

Raymond retreated while swinging the broom to ward him off. His wild swings were uncontrolled and probably wouldn’t have hurt Bobby even if they connected. But Raymond wanted to cause a distraction. He wanted to buy Momma time to flee, to get the hell away from this crazy man. But Momma did nothing. She sat on the floor – watching in horror, of course – but did not move.

“Run! Momma, run!” Raymond said, as he valiantly tried to fend him off. “I got you covered.”

But Bobby grabbed the broom and wrestled it free. “I’m a kill your ass now boy,” he said. He hit Raymond on the shoulder.

Something in Raymond’s shout triggered Momma to snap out of her spell. She rose quickly and jumped onto Bobby’s back.

“Broad, you crazy!” Bobby said, trying to control her wild, skinny frame while trying to murder her son. “Get your raggedy ass off me.” And they fought one another – man against woman and boy. Then the doorbell rang.

The fighting stopped. And there was a strange sense of order then. Momma climbed off Bobby’s back to allow him to answer the door.

“You two motherfuckers better not go nowhere,” Bobby said, ambling towards the door.

He opened it and Raymond saw that the two men on the other side of the door were police officers.

“Good afternoon, sir,” said one of them. “I’m Officer Edderton, this is Officer East, Toledo Police. We got a call about a domestic disturbance.”

“Oh, uh, Officer, there must be a mistake,” replied Bobby, his voice lightening. “No disturbance here. Just a happy day with the family.”

“Do you mind if we take a look inside?” said Officer East.

Bobby took a step back from him and extended his arms like a circus showman. “Naw,” he said, kindly. “Go ahead.” Officer Edderton was short and pale with a thick moustache and dark, brown hair. Officer East was tall and wide as a couch, with a buzzcut and the same sunglasses as Michael Jackson. They were both white. As the officers entered the home and began scouting the scene, Momma kneeled behind Raymond and began to whisper into his ear with all the venom she could muster.

“You little bastard,” Momma said. “What the hell is wrong with you, calling the cops like that? Don’t you know if them cops find Bobby’s warrant, he’s going back to jail? And then, where will we be? He paid for all this shit. And if they find out I’m strung out on this motherfucking blow, you can kiss your momma goodbye, too. You don’t know how to leave shit alone. You should’ve died with your daddy.”

Momma had said a lot of hurtful things to Raymond, so many that he didn’t know which to believe and which to ignore. But that one really hurt. He wanted to cry, but already, by the age of eight, Raymond had learned how to control his emotions. Crying was weak. And there was no time for weakness, not with all this weakness surrounding him. So he stood very quietly, his tiny eyes following Bobby as he talked nice to the policemen. Suddenly, Raymond saw what he needed to do next. It unfolded in front of his eyes gracefully and simply like an instant replay on a football game. If this didn’t work, he was going to be in hell. But then again, he already was.

“Excuse me, sir?” Raymond said to Officer Edderton, who stood closer. “Can I show you something?”

“No,” Bobby said, pointing his finger at Raymond. “These are two busy men. They ain’t got time to play with you. Sit your little ass down somewhere.”

“That’s okay,” Officer Edderton interrupted, “we’re not that busy.”

He advanced towards Raymond and bent over so they were face to face.

“Now,” Officer Edderton said, smiling. “What did you want to show me?”

Raymond stood directly across from him now and stared directly into his eyes. He averted his gaze for a moment, long enough to direct it at Bobby.

“This,” Raymond replied. Raymond rolled up his left shirt sleeve, revealing a brown mark just above his left bicep, the result of a neighborhood football game he played the previous weekend at Mulberry Park.

“Son,” Officer Edderton, said, now staring directly back into Raymond’s eyes. “Who did this to you?”

Raymond looked at the floor as his eyes began to water a bit. “Him,” he said, pointing his right index finger at lobby.

Officer East, standing right next to Bobby, turned towards him. “Is this true?” he asked.

Bobby went off. “Hell naw, it ain’t true!” he said. “Probably got that playing football or something with them kids down the street. I ain’t laid a hand on that little nigga!”

“Well, sir, we’d like to ask you a few questions,” Officer East said. “If you’d like to come with us.”

“You arresting me?” Bobby asked.

“No,” Officer East replied.

“Well, then, I ain’t going nowhere with you,” Bobby said, “I know my rights. If you ain’t arresting me, you can ask me questions right here.”

As Bobby and the officers went back and forth, Raymond stood still as a turtle in his shell and prayed silently for God to remove him from this situation. Sure, he had connived to get to get to this point, but he had already learned that life wasn’t fair. If it was, Daddy would still be alive and Momma wouldn’t have fallen in love with a pony-tailed ex-gangbanger pimp, who was determined to kill them both.

“Understand what I’m saying now,” Bobby said, “I don’t mean no disrespect. No disrespect intended at all. It’s just… we all make mistakes, but I’m just here trying to love my woman, you know? And help her raise her son that she had by my friend, my partner Andre. That’s all, man. I’m just a dude trying to live the best life I can. I don’t need no trouble.”

The officers didn’t look like they believed a word, and by the time that news of Bobby and Momma’s criminal record returned back to the officers, the trip downtown became mandatory.


Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

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