Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Mask

A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes. They are usually worn on the face. 
Jenni with an “I” had to laugh a little when her teacher read the definition in class. They are invisible, she said aloud.
“I’m sorry, Jenni, did you have something to add?” her teacher Mrs. Wheatcroft asked. Her bright colored moo moo danced across her body when she waddled towards Jenni.
Jenni looked up from her paper. “I said they are invisible,” she replied in almost a whisper.
“Why would you say that?” Mrs Wheatcroft asked.
“My mama wears one all the time. You folks never see it, but I do,” she said.
“Why would you say such a horrible thing about your mom? She has been a wonderful help in this class room,” Mrs. Wheatcroft said.
“Of course, that’s the mask,” Jenni replied.
“You can go to the principal’s office until you decide to apologize about the statements made about your mother and stop interrupting this class,” Mrs. Wheatcroft said in a huff.
The fat woman pointed towards the door. Jenni smiled, “I didn’t want to have your fat ass as a teacher anyways,” Jenni responded on her way out the door.
She heard Mrs.Wheatcroft tell the class to finish copying the definitions from the book.
She made her way down the hall, not really sure why she spoke up in class. She just knew what she said was true. Just the other day, Jenni was given a simple chore to do, take the trash out. The job itself, simple. Take the bag out of the trash can, walk it out to the dumpster in the alley and toss the bag in, replace the removed bag in the trashcan.
Simple enough, even a toddler could do it. Jenni lost her way though. On her way to the dumpster she ran into Suzy from down the street. Jenni loved playing with Suzy. Suzy had a shiny pink new bike and her mom always had snacks ready for her when she got home. Jenni didn’t remember a single time she heard Suzy’s mom yell or scream. Suzy had pretty blond hair that her mother curled and oh man was it ever pretty, as Jenni would say.
“Wanna ride bikes?” Suzy asked.
“Mine is broke,” Jenni said.
“That’s ok, I’ll ride the scooter and you can ride my bike,” Suzy said.
Jenni’s eyes brightened and her heart raced a little with anticipation. “Really? Your mom won’t mind?”
“Why would she, it’s my bike,” Suzy stated.
“Sure, “ she shut the lid to the trashcan and raced off with Suzy.
Just the thought of riding a shiny new bike, one that wasn’t some hand me down or picked up from the dump was too much temptation to walk away from. To have something new, even if just for a moment oh the sweet joy of it caused her heart to flutter and her mind to wander. The final part of her chore, putting a new bag in the trash can, skipped like a rock skipping across the pond.
They arrived at Suzy’s house. There was a small wicker table and chair set sitting on the porch a few feet away from the front door. On the table was a small plate of cheese and crackers and two glasses of milk.
“Thanks mom, “Suzy yelled in the screen door.
“Stay around this block,” Suzy’s mom said through the screen.
“Will do,” Suzy replied. “Here have one, “ she handed Jenni a cracker with cheese in the middle along with a glass of milk.
Jenni smiled, “Thank you. Is your mom always like this?”
“Yes, isn’t yours?”
“What is she like?”
“You don’t want to know. Come on let’s go riding,” Jenni said, avoiding the question.
Suzy climbed on the scooter and just like she said, Jenni was able to get on the shiny new bike. The pink bike had glittering tassels flowing out from the handle bars. They danced in the wind and brushed against Jenni’s arm. The pedals glided with ease. Up. . . Down. . . Up… Down.  The wind passed through her hair and for the first time in Jenni’s life, she felt a freedom she had never known.
“I could use this to leave everyone behind,” she thought. “That would be stealing though,”
The sun began to settle beyond the horizon creating an orange hue across the sky. “We better get back home, “Suzy said.
Jenni’s heart dropped. “Yeah, I know. Thanks for letting me ride your pretty new bike,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” Suzy answered.
“Oh no! I forgot the bag!” Jenni yelled out.
She raced Suzy’s bike back to her house. “I have to get home,” she told Suzy.
“What bag?” Suzy asked.
“The trash bag,” Jenni responded. She felt the blood rush out of her face. If her mom already knew-
Jenny raced off without explanation. She ran in through the side door of the house, the one closest to the kitchen an reached into the drawer for the box of trash bags.
“Looking for these?” Jenni jumped at the voice.
The box of trash bags slammed down on her head. The first try met with such a force, it was like a brick had stuck her.
Some slammed into her side causing Jenni’s mind to blacken in pain. Terror masked the pain and adrenaline of surviving kicked in. Jenni backed away from the crazed woman with the box, fashioned as a weapon of discipline. The door bell rang.  Her mom stopped the box from slamming down on her in mid air.
“I’ll be back to finish this in a minute. Don’t even think of moving,” her mom said.
Jenni watched her mom brush her hair in place with both hands. She heard her mom open the door, wearing the mask she always wore when people were around.
“Can I help you?”
“My mom said Jenni could come over for smore’s we’re doing them in the back yard. Can she come?”
Jenni recognized Suzy’s voice and wanted to scream out for her to run. She didn’t though. She stayed silent, on the floor against the cabinets. She did as she was told.
A tingling sensation trickled down her face. Jenni reached up to touch it and brought into her eyesight  Blood soaked finger tips.  Her head ached from the slight touch. Her head had been gouged just above the hair line. Her arms had scratches from the heavy box.
A few moments later her mom came back. “I bet you never forget to put a trash bag in the trash can again,” she said. “Go clean yourself up and get to bed. I don’t want to see you again.”
Jenni rushed up the stairs and into the bathroom. She turned the shower, took her clothes off and stepped inside. The running water muffled her silent sobs. The water blood mixed at the bottom of the shower. Her body racked with bruises, scratches and her head pounded.
There were so many times she wanted to say please, it isn’t safe. Can I come home with you?
She thought about it on the way to the principal’s office. She knew though, no one would believe her. The invisible mask her mom wore in the world was made of sweet invisible honey that was sour to the taste and painful to the touch.


Daenira said...

I'm literally shaken by your words. Such brutal honesty through the eyes of a child. I sure hope more people read these words. I had a friend whose mother was very much the same. Good mother to the word, horrible monster to her children. I really admire this work.

Joann Hamann-Buchanan said...

Thank you. I should probably let you know my mom is pretty I know this form of abuse happens though and it is hard to know without being able to do something.

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