This one is from the archives, but fits the Sunday Scribbling prompt of "Brave."
My mother stands at the sink peeling potatoes, her navy pantsuit protected by an apron that has happy yellow gingham ruffles sewn on, when I burst through the front door in a mix of frustration/fright/rage.
“I hate the sixth-grade!” I scream as I rip the backpack from my shoulder and fling it one-handed into the oak breakfast nook.
She turns, fingers the pearl necklace across her throat, places a hand on her hip and begins to say something as I turn and stomp down the basement steps to my bedroom.
I stand in front of the mirror and assess the damage: ripped T-shirt, snot-filled spit drying in my hair, tiny flakes of dried blood that encircles both nostrils, one eye already going blackish-green.
I pitch myself across the bed and cry myself to sleep.
Dinner goes on without me.
The next morning, my mother wakes me gently and before I can speak, she puts the pads of three fingers across my lips and taps the end of my nose lovingly with her index finger.
She’s dressed in a one-piece buckskin dress, the color of young corn silk. Intricate beading hangs across the bodice, the sleeves.
Her face is a horrific canvas of war paint; the inside of her ears are coated red; her cheeks and forehead are black, with orange and red circles across the cheeks; her eyes are rimmed in yellow and red.
A single black feather rises from her greased hair, just above her right ear.
She motions for me to swing myself to a sitting position and takes a large handful of Crisco and tames my unruly bedhead, that nasty cowlick - the dried spit - with the hydrogenated goop.
Next, she crushes charcoal between her palms and rubs my face with it. She dips quick fingers into bowls of color concoctions and adds red dots across my forehead, paints my lips crimson, rings my eyes in ghostly white and adds stripes of orange, white and yellow across my chest.
“Put on your worst pair of jeans and come up to breakfast,” she says as she clears everything to a serving platter and stands.
In the breakfast nook over a bowl of Fruit Loops, she splays five black feathers open like a poker hand and sticks them in my hair. The tips of each feather have been dipped alternately in red and white paint.
“This is what you must do,” she says. “Walk confidently – calmly – to the largest bully in the group, and at the last moment, rush him. Scream the anger in your heart.
“And then kick him as hard as you can, squarely in the nuts.”
At the dinner table that night, everything is back as it was; mother is dressed in a trim black skirt and a robin’s egg blue knit shirt, the pearls’ soapy luster play cool against her ivory skin.
My dad has the newspaper folded into a tidy rectangle and scans yesterday’s baseball statistics. Meatloaf, spring peas and mashed potatoes are heaped onto the good China plates.
Mother gets up from the formal dining table, a dark mahogany relic from her great-great-grandparents, to fetch the ketchup from the kitchen.
In the ensuing silence, my father can no longer take it.
“Damn your mother and her warrior bloodlust!” he protests in a low, hushed tone.
I remain silent, my head slightly bowed to hid the expanse of a toothy smile.
I’ve a hand under my shirt, stroking with my fingers a lone eagle feather.
Knowing full well the month of detention had secured my place as a brave.
conversations with myself
50 minutes ago