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Never Gonna Say Goodbye - A Flash Fiction Story
Published November 18, 2013 by Mary McShane
Mama was waiting at the bottom of the stairs for me to come down to say goodbye before she went to work. She worked the evening shift at a big insurance company in center city.
My brother had already given her a kiss and was told he was in charge. He received his orders, some chores our Daddy wanted done before he got home. He wouldn't be home for two or three hours yet.
Although I was the oldest, my brother always seemed to be the one our parents put in charge.
"C'mon, Robin," she hollered up the stairs, "get down here and give me my kiss goodbye so I can leave for work."
"Just go, Mama," I hollered back, "I'm in the bathroom and I'm gonna be a while. I don't feel so good."
I kissed my hand and threw her a kiss. "I love you, Mama. Have a good evening at work."
I could see Mama through the bannister, looking at her watch and hoisting her pocketbook higher on her shoulder. I knew she was getting more agitated by the minute.
"All right, Robin," she said, repeating her nightly speech about my homework. "Get done quickly so you can go do your homework. You know how your father hates it when you have your books all spread out when he wants to put dinner on the table."
The phone rang and my brother ran to answer it. "Mama, it's for you. It's Daddy," he said.
"Of course it is. What does he want now?" she went out of my view to the phone table in the hall. I could hear her cursing at him, saying she knew he was cheating on her. It wasn't the first time she had accused him but she never had proof.
My stomach was hurting more now. I was afraid to get up from the toilet.
Mama came back from the phone and told my brother, "Russell, your father is going to be late again, so don't turn the oven on at four, turn it on at five. Do you want me to call you to remind you?"
Why he was trusted with simple tasks that either of us could do, I would never understand. It was like they thought I was an imbecile, too stupid to get the concept of turning the dial to a number.
"No, no, I'll remember this time, Mama," Russell said from the couch where his nose was buried in a book.
"Robin, you still can't come say goodbye?" she called.
"Mama, my stomach is really hurting now. I can't." I blew her another kiss and pushed the door shut with my hand. It slammed loudly, but I really didn't mean it.
"I'm running late. I'm leaving now," she hollered upstairs. "If I get hit by a bus, you are never gonna say goodbye to me again."
She always said this whenever one of us didn't hustle to say goodbye to her before she left for work. Daddy just walked out the door and went to work, calling out a "goodbye, I love you" but Mama needed a big send off.
She left and I heard the key turn the lock in the door. We were told to stay in, but it was like they never trusted us. The door was always locked while we were in the house when neither parent was home. By four o'clock, I finally started to feel better and joined Russell at the ktichen table where we both sat and did our homework.
At five, my brother forgot to turn on the oven. I didn't remember either.
Daddy came home at six. And boy, was he mad that dinner wasn't cooked!
When he opened the oven door and saw that raw chicken, he turned to where we were sitting at the kitchen table and started yelling. He went on and on about how we were never going to grow up as responsible adults and that we needed to be taught a lesson.
I watched him go to the refrigerator, take out a beer, and then he took off his belt. My brother and I both cringed because we knew what was coming next.
Suddenly he remembered the oven, reached over to close the oven door. He noticed the gas pilot light wasn't on, so he took his pack of cigarettes and matches from his shirt pocket.
He put a cigarette in his mouth and tore off a match from the matchbook.
I can still remember the smell of the sulphur as he struck the match and that was the last thing I remembered.
Someone called Mama and told her she had to leave work early and to come right home. They didn't tell her why; I guess they didn't want her to get hit by a bus on the way home.
When she saw the Fire Rescue Squad in front of our house with my brother and I sitting on the cot inside, she started to cry.
"Thank God you both are all right," she cried.
The fireman told Mama that what probably happened was the gas pilot had blown out. He said it was likely that the gas leaked, causing the explosion. Another fireman said it was a wonder that my brother and I got out alive.
Mama hugged us close again, thankful we were all right and said, "Yes, that must have been why, because I'm sure the pilot was lit when I left for work."
She didn't tell the fireman that this is the third time that dinner wasn't cooked because the pilot light was out in the oven.
We were never gonna say goodbye to Daddy again.
None of us were too sad about it.
© Mary McShane
© 2013 Mary McShane