cut for your pleasure.
Margaret took another drag off her cigarette, and pulled her shirt in tighter against the frigid wind. Her hair whipped around in the light snow, and the white light of the porch light illuminated the backyard like some gaudy Russian James Bond shot. She hated it when her stepmother came along with her mother. Almost harder than the fact that mom was a dyke, was the fact that she married a flower child, who abhorred smoking, even if it was in her hostess's own house.
Mom hadn't always been a dyke. The genesis of that weirdness lay in the latter chapters of her adolescence. The day after her seventeenth birthday, in fact, when she brought home a "friend," a small, pale girl called Lisette, and kept her in her room all night. Margaret's mother, divorced for years, could hardly stand the fact that her daughter was getting more action than she was, and since her luck with men had long since run out, she decided to one-up her fledgling lesbian teenage daughter. Lisette had quite a time the next morning coming out of the shower.
Lisette had been willing to continue the relationship, even though her mother had been partaking of the same delights she had. After that, Margaret simply couldn't look at another woman the same way again. Taking a lazy puff in a short break in the wind, Margaret had to admit, her mom had done much better for the exchange than she had, which was another reason that the fact she was smoking outside of her own place irritated her. Hissing softly on the last drag before flicking the butt into the black and white of the shadows, Margaret purposefully held it in so she could exhale it after she had gotten back into the kitchen.
Deanna, Margaret's overweight, belligerent, saggy-breasted stepmother, was sitting at the kitchen table, fingering the rim of one of Margaret's favorite tumblers from Ikea. Margaret noticed the amber dregs floating the ice cubes in the glass, which were melting in the warmth of the kitchen. The moon was rising white as bone through the window on the other side of the kitchen. Deanna looked at Margaret in the way that only a resentful stepparent looks at a child of any age, the dark rings under her eyes deeply cast in shadow.
"What are you doing?" Margaret growled.
Deanna looked into her drink, contemplating how to react to Margaret's question, when Margaret cut off her plodding thoughts in a staccato report of frustration.
"Where did you find that bottle Dean? I thought I hid them all well enough."
Deanna’s chins snapped up as she fixed a dangerous glare on Margaret, her finger slipping into the tumbler like a sausage hitting a panful of bacon grease. The chills and gooselflesh Dean’s look caused would have sent Margaret running if she weren't PMSsing, but she was, so she shoved her fist down the lion's throat, knowing she had started a fight by using her stemother's's most hated nickname.
Deanna licked her lips before she started, an act that always reminded Margaret of Jabba the Hutt.
"You have no right to talk to me like that you trollop! If you had minded your mother growing up, you'd have a properly stocked liquor cabinet somewhere in this dump, instead of forcing your guests to sift through dirty laundry to find a bottle of no-account well sludge."
Deanna's cheeks were flushed, a bad sign for sure. Margaret wondered where her mother was, since Deanna's tone had gotten dangerously piercing in the latter words of her little outburst. The silence hung in the air between them like a net full of trout; taut, writhing, and ready to burst at any moment.
Abruptly, Margaret cursed softly, as she remembered Darren’s habit of hiding a bottle of booze in his hamper. He must have tipped Deanna off to it, just to cause trouble.
Of course, Darren, Margaret's younger brother, was sound asleep. After losing his job and being evicted from his apartment, he had begged his older sister for a place to crash until he found something better. "Just for a few months," he had pleaded, using the same eyes that always netted him the bigger slice of birthday cake, even if it wasn’t his birthday. That was two years ago. If Margaret had ever detested him for his laziness and insolence, her hatred was now magnified by his devious (not to mention obvious) plan to pit his chain-smoking sister against their mutant, probably hermaphroditic stepmother.
"The only reason we don't have a liquor cabinet, Dean, is because, since my dad died skunk drunk three years ago, and since then, I haven't had a single fond memory that involves booze. Everything I keep around the house is for guests and parties, but I figured I should save some from your spongy mouth. I guess you should be glad Darren was nice enough to keep something lying around for you so you don’t go looking too hard.”
Margaret was breathing hard, breaking into a quick sweat in the combination of the anger, and the heat of the kitchen against her skin, still cold from the outdoor breeze.
“Now, are you going to toss the rest, or am I going to get my mother in on your position in relation to the wagon pulling away down the road?"
Dean grunted, hefting her weight back into her chair like a toad about to hop after a beetle in low flight. Margaret cupped her hand behind her back, ready to slap the glass out of the air if it came flying at her. A part of her mind chuckled at the image of a kung-fu move borne purely out of susrvival in a life with an alcoholic with good aim. Dean usually had lousy aim.
Instead of throwing the glass, Deanna stood quickly, using the momentum of her bulky arm to fuel the overhand spike she gave the glass, right into the tile floor of the kitchen. Whiskey, glass, and ice flowered in a bloom of chaos as booze. Deanna grunted again, and walked away from the mess towards the living room.
Margaret stared at the shattered tumbler, unsure of what was ice and what was glass. A thin stream of whiskey trickled down towards her toes across the crème-colored tile.
"Hmm," she thought, "my kitchen is on a slope..."
Quickly, this thought jumped to, "I really should clean this up," which morphed finally into, "I should have Darren do it, that little shit."
Almost as an afterthought, unpleasant realization crested her mental horizon.
"My favorite fucking glass! Now it's an incomplete set! That cunt is dead."
Pressing the back of her thin body against the refrigerator to avoid the sharded remains of her beloved tumbler, Margaret tiptoed into the living room. Within, she found Deanna on the couch, rolls of puckered fat sticking out from under her t-shirt, watching an infomercial for the Ronco Grlling System.
Eyes drilling into the periphery of Deanna’s vision, Margaret spat, "That was my favorite glass, you bitch."
Deanna ignored Margaret, intensely staring at the leg of lam the plastic faced man on the television was explaining how to "inject it with a special basting syringe"
Even more furious for having been ignored, Margaret took a tentative half step into the aura of her stepmother’s everpresent BO.
"I said that was my favorite glass BITCH!" Margaret shouted as she folded her arms beneath her breasts, and spread her legs a little. Just as the last syllable of her intonation died in the air, competing with the tinny music coming from the television, Margaret's mother came out of the bathroom, with a flush and a foreboding (yet welcome) waft of perfume.
"Megs, you shouldn’t talk to Dee that way! Apologize immediately! I taught you better than that."
Margaret's head was spinning. She found herself confronted with a strange dilemma. Should she sell a drunk Deanna out to her widowed and otherwise lonely mother? Should she play on her mother's obsessive-compulsive disorder, and tell her that there was a broken glass on the kitchen floor that demanded removal? Maybe she should just tell them both to fuck off.
"First of all," she sighed, "my name is Margaret. Second of all..."
Margaret glanced at Deanna, who, for the first time since Margaret had known her, was looking up at her with a face that deserved pity. Her eyes wide and gentle, and there was a pucker of a frown creasing her first and second chins.
"Second of all..."
Margaret paused to think a second about how her mother was staring at her, annoyed at being disturbed during her nightly beauty regimen. Mom was waiting for an answer, her patience clearly wearing as dangerously thin. Margaret did not wnt her mother to lose that patience…again.
Before she could start her improve stream of lies, the sleepy growl of her brother, snapped her from her moment of rapt contemplation as he shambled out past his cracked bedroom door.
"What's the fucking racket out here?"
Margaret’s eyes widened a bit at her brother’s tone, appearance, and choice of words. Margaret’s mother was incensed, suddenly preaching to her lover, who was trying very hard to look like a sofa pillow with doughy arms.
"Good lord! Dee, you think that with all the work I put into raising two well adjusted individuals as a single mother, my two children could learn to keep a civil tongue around her!"
Darren grunted again, and wandered towards the kitchen. If he saw Deanna at all, he gave no notice of it. Darren shuffled across the salmon shag carpet, itching his scalp with one hand, and, what Margaret assumed was his nuts beneath his boxers with the other. Margaret was about to warn him about the glass on the floor when he shouldered into her, roughly, as he pushed past her to get into the kitchen. For all her furious stance gave her in looks, it did little against the irate bulk of her 300+ lb. brother, freshly awakened and annoyed.
"Mar-gar-et," her mother said, enunciating every syllable in the most obnoxious fashion she could muster,
"I would have thought that by now you and Dee would be getting a long a little better. She tries to put up with your attitude, I wish you would be nice to her..."
"She's sitting right here," Deanna mumbled.
Margaret's mother ignored her life partner.
"I just don't understand why you can't be a little more _civil_ at least."
"Mom, you don't understand, okay? When I came in from the porch, your beloved Dee was sitting in the kitchen...
A loud yelp from the kitchen snapped the three women's heads in that direction.
"Son of a bitch! There's broken glass all over the floor! My goddamn foot is bleeding! What the shit? Fuck, FUCK!!"
Dee paled visibly as Margaret’s mother scuttled across the carpet, like an anemic bloodhound on the trail her son had left moments before. Before she could make it halfway across the room, Deanna stood up, and put her bulk between Margaret and her mother.
"Tina, just sit, I'm sure Meg..er..Margaret can help Darren. You know how you get around blood, and he did say he was bleeding...”
Margaret's mother's demeanor shifted the instant Deanna's hand found her wrist. Margaret watched, fascinated, like a bystander before a master snake charmer, as Deanna guided her mother towards the sofa. Roncoman, still looking like a poorly painted Joker from a Tim Burton movie, speared two whole chickens on his tripod of torture.
Margaret's trance, however, was broken soundly by a very loud "Shi...FUCK." from her brother, right before a floor shifting thud, and a whiny scream finding it's way from the kitchen like a teakettle left on to boil too long.
Margaret's mother's knees were bent to sit on the sofa, entranced partially by the rotating chickens on the screen, and partially by Deanna's soothing voice. When she heard Darren's whimpering cries, she snapped to maternal attention and surprised her daughter and her lover by slipping past both of them into the kitchen. A sliver of broken glass slipped into the soft arch of her tiny feet, but she barely noticed, transfixed instead by the sight of her baby boy, sitting on the kitchen floor, blood seeping out from between his fingers.
"Darren, my baby! What happened?"
He was shocked, the palm of his hand was shredded. Margaret and Deanna stood in the doorway, staring at the linebacker-ish Darren, who looked from his mother to his sister and back again, before settling his eyes on Deanna.
"It smells like closing time at a bar in here!" grunted Darren softly, as if he were speaking to himself.
“Never mind that now Darren honey, you are bleeding, all over! Oh, your foot too! Meg, do you have a first aid kit? Actually no, that will be too messy. Get me some towels. Dee, go warm up the car, we are going to go to the emergency room. Meg, forget the towels, get me a phone, I’ll have to call an ambulance. Oh, and the snow, lord, what if they can’t make it. Oh Meg, don’t stand there, hurry! Dee, what are you gawking at? Get hustling woman, there is probably an inch of snow on the car by now, and the engine isn’t getting any war..”
Tina’s nervous gabbering was pulsing against the ears of everyone in and near the cramped quarters of the kitchen. As she turned about to bark her orders, Darren found his feet, and was slowly picking over his wounds. His hand looked like the mutant child of a glass porcupine and a roast beef. His back on one side seemed to have quite a number of small scratches in it, and his elbow on his left arm was bleeding. He was holding one foot off the floor slightly, and Margaret could see a small puddle of blood working its way across the kitchen floor from it, sliding slowly towards the outside door.
Slowly, but with growing volume, Darren began telling his mother to shut up. As her rate of gibbering increased, so did the depth and volume of his intonations, until he finally cut her off at her last request to her wife with a “SHUT THE EVERFUCKING HELL UP MA!”
Tina stared at her son in utter disbelief and shock. Deanna was stopped in her tracks toward the closet to grab coats for everyone, and Margaret stared at Darren's mouth, stunned at what had just come out of it. A tittering of giggles suddenly racked her thin frame and unfettered from the strong chains of will she had bound them in, deep in her belly. The giggles quickly turned to laughs, which, before long, led to her face contorted in an uncontrollable fit of laughter. Tina looked at daughter like a mother eagle chosing between two eaglets.
"Young lady, this is no laughing matter! Your brother is bleeding!"
Margaret could not reply, for she was too busy trying to catch her breath through hysterical gasps.
"Mom!" she finally managed, tears streaming down her cheeks, "he just told you to shut the EVER FUCKING HELL up! That is beautiful!"
Margaret's laughter danced around the room like a butterfly alone in a sunflower field. Before long, both Darren and Deanna were chortling where they stood, and Margaret was downright doubled over with laughter. Tina's face took on a grim smile, dangerous, like a nurse shark at the bottom of a reef cave.
Before either Darren or Deanna could move into wholesale laugher though, Tina noticed that it was not only her son's foot that was adding to the small red sea streaming towards the Promised Land at the low end of the kitchen. As soon as she realized she was bleeding, Tina fainted dead away, like a tied stack of newspapers tossed from a slow moving truck in the early morning - a small bounce and a vociferous flop.
Deanna pushed past Margaret, and crouched at Tina's side. The jostle of Deanna's shoulder against hers turned Margaret's laughter into a light chuckle and she undoubled herself and took a tentative pace into the kitchen, careful not to step on any of the glass.
"Tina?" Deanna yelled, "Teen? Wake up honey!"
Deanna slapped the unconscious woman's face a few times. No response. She put her ear to Tina's mouth and when she found her breathing shallow, Deanna placed her lips to those of her lover and began to administer CPR.
"Fuckin gross!" Darren blurted, as Margaret watched in shock.
After three or four puffs, and a pregnant pause, Tina's head snapped away and her eyes flew wide open.
"Dee! Have you been drinking?"