Dahti Blanchard

This is a YA short story I wrote some time ago and enjoyed the writing. I posted it to a site for critique and got some very condescending comments essentially saying “Nice try dear and someday when you grow up you’ll become a real writer.” I was actually thrilled. I must have done something right to make them all think this middle-aged mother was a teenaged aspiring author.


“So Erin says to me, ‘Hey, we’ve tried purple, we’ve tried green, blue and red, but we haven’t tried all of them together.’ So we went to Charlie’s house cause he’s got the biggest supply and then we did this. Whaddya think?” I lift a hank of my multi-colored hair and wave it at my mother. And what does she do? She smiles.

“Not bad,” she says in that irritating, accepting voice. “Though, I really liked it best when it was all blue. It went with so many things.”

What’s wrong with this woman? I mean, what does it take to get a rise out of her? She’s not bad—in fact I’ll even go so far as to say she’s pretty good as far as parental units go. But I’m a teenager for crissake! She’s not supposed to like this stuff. All my other friends’ parents come unglued every time we change hair colors or pierce another, previously untouched body section. But not my mother. She’s just not normal.

And maybe I’m not either. I didn’t even realize I was supposed to rebel and make her life miserable until I heard it from Erin’s dad shortly after my fourteenth birthday. A case of arrested development I guess. I’d wasted a whole year of teenhood before overhearing him tell Erin’s stepmom, “I know she has to get her teen angst, rebellion, or whatever the hell you want to call it, out to develop normally, but does she have to be so damn irritating about it?” I knew he had to be talking about Erin because she and Tonya (the stepmom) were the only two shes in the household. He couldn’t be talking about Tonya because (a) he was using third person and (b) Tonya isn’t a teenager. She’s at least twenty-five. And obviously he couldn’t have been talking about Erin’s mom because she’s way older than twenty-five. And he doesn’t talk about her much anyway. Besides, he usually uses something stronger than the word irritating when he does.

But I’m getting off the story here. The point is, it made me realize what a freakish family my mother and I made up, and it was up to me to do something about it. At first I thought the problem was me. I was just too easy going and didn’t present my mother with enough challenges. But then I took one of those tests in “Teen Zine” that tells you if you’re normal or a freak and it said I was more or less normal. So I knew it had to be Mom.

Now, everything I’ve tried to annoy her with is something I actually like. I mean, I wouldn’t do something just because of its annoyance potential. Well, okay, except maybe for that time I tried smoking a cigarette in front of her. That grossed even me out. Mom’s response to it? “I suspect you’ve learned your lesson on that one.” Argggggg! She was right. I had.

So now here I am with rainbow hair and I’m thinking, where do I go from here? I could tell her I’m going to join the Republican party when I turn eighteen. Vote straight down the party line. But she’d see right through that and just laugh. Even I couldn’t go that far.

I plunk myself down in a kitchen chair across from her and put my chin in my hands. (Carefully, the new piercing at the corner of my mouth is still a little sore.) And I look at her really close. She looks normal. For a grownup. Black hair with gray streaks, two eyes, a nose and a mouth—all pretty much in the right places. Her clothes are maybe a little more colorful than, say Charlie’s mom’s, but nothing out of the ordinary. I’m pretty sure she’s not on drugs, prescription or otherwise, that would mellow her out so much that she’d just accept anything. After all, she gets mad when our neighbor’s dog digs up her garden, or a nuclear waste site gets proposed for some town that doesn’t want it. So, why is it she doesn’t get mad at me?

She puts down the pen she’s been writing with and yawns, and then she sees I’ve been looking at her. “Okay, Chris,” she says. “What’s up? Do we need to talk?”

Uh-oh. Mom’s big on talking things out. Usually I hate that and answer yes or no to as many questions as I can get away with. And that doesn’t even set her off! But this time, I can’t help myself.

“How come nothing I do makes you mad?” I blurt. “Don’t you care enough to yell at me about anything?” Whoa! Where did that come from?

“You want me to yell at you?” she asks like I’ve gone completely insane. Have I?

I try to back-pedal. “No! That’s not what I meant. I… You… It’s just that Erin’s dad yells at her practically all the time, Charlie’s parents yell at him, and I can’t remember the last time you raised your voice at me. Is something wrong?”

Mom stares at me like she doesn’t know me, then she slams her hand on the table which makes me jump about a foot in the air. “Let me get this straight,” she hisses. “You think there’s something wrong with me as a mother because I don’t scream at every stupid little thing you do? You want me to tell you that I hate your hair color? That your clothes are ugly?”

Hey," I say and put my hands up. "I didn’t say that. Don’t go ballistic…

But she does go ballistic. “You ungrateful child! After all I’ve done for you! How dare you suggest I’m a bad mother?”

Now I’m getting mad. When did I say she was a bad mother? “Calm down, Mom! What set you off? I just asked a simple question ya know.”

There’s nothing simple about suggesting I haven’t done everything in my power to give you the best possible life! I’ve slaved away, sacrificed everything, and this is the thanks I receive. What a way to treat your mother!

At this point I don’t know whether to explode back at her or run away. She’s obviously gone off the deep end. Jeez, who would have thought she could be so… so… normal. It sucks. She’s acting like a maniac. I’m feeling ticked off, I’m feeling hurt, I’m feeling…

Wait a minute. I’m feeling… suspicious. I start to count in my head how many cliches just came out of her mouth. My mother hates cliches.

I lean toward her to get a better look into that angry face. She’s frowning all right, but those eyes! They give her away. I’m disgusted with myself for falling for it so easily. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” I demand.

She moves forward, putting herself in range to plant a kiss on my forehead. “Yes dear. Did it make you feel any better?”

No. I knew you didn’t mean it either. I was just playing along.

Of course you were." She tries not to look smug. I try not to let her see how much I hated the whole little episode. "Just let me know, Chris, anytime you feel the need for me to be a normal parent and yell at you again, I’ll work on my delivery. I’m sure I can be more convincing next time.

That’s okay," I tell her. "I don’t want you to go to all that trouble. If I feel the need I’ll just go over to Erin’s. Her dad’s had way more practice at it.

It’s up to you." She smiles at me. "I am a good mother you know.

I know," is all I say because I can’t think of anything else. Except… "Mom?

“Hmm?” She’s picked her pen back up, but looks my way before putting it to the paper in front of her.

I squirm a little before asking, “Do you really hate my hair? Or my clothes?”

She laughs. “Nope. I’m not fond of that last little ornament stuck through the edge of your lip, though. It’s a likely place for an infection to set in. Does that make you feel any better?”

“Of course not,” I say. But I’ve lied. For some stupid reason, it does.

© 2008 Dahti Blanchard
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