Just five minutes in and the water is already cold.  His water bill is over a hundred dollars and yet whenever he needs to shower there is never any hot water.  He hears the soft sound of “Rock-a-Bye-Baby” coming from the other side of the bathroom door; Molly must be putting Max down for his nap.  Rinsing the last bit of soap from his hair he sighs.  And then he hears a loud ring echoing from the living room. Without turning off the water he leaps from the shower, still dripping wet, throws an old bathrobe over his body and bolts down the stairs.  He leaves a slick trail behind him and in  his haste he slips on wooden train poised on its track and tumbles into the living room.  “Shit!” His robe has come undone and fallen on the floor but he snatches up the receiver on the fourth ring, just before the machine gets it.

“Can I fucking help you?” He bellows into the phone, the rage spilling out of him like vomit.

A meek voice answers hesitantly, “M-Mr. Charles?” It sounds like a mouse hidden in dust.

“My son is trying to sleep!  Don’t you people have any fucking decency?”  His face is now red as he stands dripping cold water onto the carpet.

The line is silent for a moment and he can hear his own frantic breathing through the receiver. “I-I was just calling to inform you that y-your son Davis did not sh-show up for school.”

“I’ll handle it!” He growls and slams the phone down.  He hears a soft whimper behind him and turns around.  Molly is standing silently, a look of stark surprise on her face.  Max is on her hip and has buried his face into her chest.  She stares at him, this wet, rabid creature glowing in agitation completely naked, and finds herself speechless.  Turning away, she walks back up the stairs to try and soothe Max, still not knowing how to react.  He opens his mouth as if to call her back, but he too is speechless.  He only pulls his robe back on and sits on the couch, sinking his head into his hands in shame.

He had told her last week that it was through; no more lashes, no more screaming.  He would get his anger under control, he wanted to be the best father he could for his four sons.  Empty promises now.  His eyes are still red, but not in anger anymore.  He had promised he would seek help, and yet he hadn’t.  The water upstairs turns off and the house seems unbearably quiet.  All he can hear is his own self-defeat.

Then he hears Molly’s voice, smooth and unwavering, like his mother’s used to be when she calmed him.  Soft notes drift down the stairs and he recognizes the melody.  Hot tears find their way down his face and with them fall all his rage.  Molly can always bring him to his knees.  The lulling song continues and draws him from the couch.  He moves like a ghost up the stairs and into the bedroom.   Molly is standing before the crib, her song gently rocking Max to sleep.  He touches her shoulder and pulls himself tightly around her.  He will be better because she deserves it.


Prompt: A man is in the shower.  The phone rings.  Rather than letting the machine pick up, he jumps out, snatches his dark blue bathrobe from the hook on the bathroom door, and races downstairs, dripping.  He trips on a child’s toy, and curses, wishing he had put a phone in the bedroom. What was he thinking?  He picks up the receiver in the middle of the fourth ring—the last one before the machine was to pick up.  The voice on the phone says . . . 

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One Response to “Better”

  1. Warren Rochelle Says:

    Lashes? Will he now get therapy?