Previously on Suzie’s House, Suzie said to her son, “Ben, you’re going to have to go live with your father for a while.”
The scream built slowly. At first Ben could not think at all. He knew what his mother had said – that he would have to go live with his father – but the words refused to make sense.
Once he overcame the thickness of his own head, he simply couldn’t believe it. Mom knew how he felt about Dad. She knew he didn’t want to live with him. She was on his side. She would never do this to him.
A joke. It had to be a joke.
She wasn’t smiling. If anything she looked as if someone had just died. Someone she loved a lot.
He shook his head. She couldn’t mean it. Could she? Pressure built behind his eyes, like they were going to explode or leek or something. He blinked hard, trying to keep his eyes clear, but it wasn’t doing much good. Not that he was going to cry or anything. He was way too big to cry. Besides, if she was serious about sending him away she’d say so, wouldn’t she?
She did. She had. She never looked this serious when she didn’t mean something.
Didn’t she know what it was like for him? But how could she? He ever told her.
The time Dad locked him out because Dad’s latest girlfriend wanted to run around naked Ben had never said a thing. He walked home, like he did lots of times, and he didn’t say anything, and Mom didn’t ask. She just said he was always welcome at home.
The time Dad threatened to make it so Ben couldn’t go to Great America with Mom because he refused to scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush, Ben just waited to see what would happen. Nothing ever did. Ben wasn’t sure if Dad said something to Mom about it or not, but he remembered her saying on the phone that a guy couldn’t take away privileges if he wasn’t the one to offer them to begin with.
Ben’s chest tightened. He didn’t want to have to scrub the kitchen floor just because there was no where else for him to go. He didn’t want to wander around town because Dad didn’t feel like letting him in. The scream inside him still hadn’t made it out of his throat, but it was getting louder. He hick-uped when he tried to breathe.
What about school? Would Mom come and pick him up, or would it be Dad? Ben remembered the time Dad got mad at Eric Johnson for skateboarding too close to the car. He got out and started yelling and yelling like some cranky old man. Ben sunk down in the seat, but people still knew it was him. Some of the kids teased him for weeks and Eric threatened to take his lunch money. Ben never said anything about it to Mom.
And now he was going to have to live like that all the time.
How could she do this to him? Hadn’t he been good? Hadn’t he done everything Mom wanted? What had he done wrong? What? When? It wasn’t fair!
He tried to swallow the yell, but it wouldn’t wait any longer. Something inside broke. He could feel it like phlegm in the chest. It broke, and all the smarting behind his eyes and all the anger, and everything he had been holding back all this time came flooding out. The scream was free.