the short story project


G.G. Hamilton

Peanut Butter Mother

We were making peanut butter cookies, my girlfriend and I. She sat at the dining room table, reading a recipe off some website. She was wearing her glasses, not her contacts. I liked her grey sweatpants, the material looked soft. She was also wearing my school sweater. She looked better in it than I ever could.
            “One cup of peanut butter,” she said.
            I untwisted the jar and lifted it over the measuring glass.
            “A cup?”
            “A cup.”
            I let the peanut butter fall, slowly, like a shining brown waterfall. It was smooth and gave off an intoxicating smell. I lifted the jar higher, and the stream hitting the measuring cup got thinner.
            I stopped pouring.
            Her glasses had fallen to edge of her nose and she was looking at me over the frame.
            “Is that one cup?”
            I looked at the measuring glass: the line of peanut butter ended at 1 and 2/3rd cups.
            “Just a bit over.”
            “Okay,” she said, “It looked like you were going to pour the jar empty.”
            I probably would have.
            “I just want to make sure they taste like peanut butter.”
            “They’re peanut butter cookies. Trust me, they’ll taste like peanut butter.”
            “Are you sure?”
“Stop playing around. Yes, I’m sure,” she readjusted her glasses, “Did your mom never make you peanut butter cookies when you were younger?”
“When I was younger,” I said, “my mother wouldn’t let me eat peanut butter.”
My mother was allergic to peanut butter. She wouldn’t let anything with peanuts enter her house. I wasn’t allowed to try anything with a peanut in it, even when I was away from home.
            “If I eat a peanut, I could die,” she would tell me, “Do you want your mother to die?”
            I would tell her, no.
            “Then stay away from peanuts.”
            But everyone at school ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When the kids offered to swap their sandwiches for my Fruit-by-the-foot, I told them, no. Even though I was desperate to know the taste of peanut butter, I was too scared of my mother to accept their offers.
I think my constant refusal to barter in the lunch room was the reason they stopped eating with me.
            Then there was my seventh grade play. I was understudy for the part of Willy Loman. It was the last day of our production, and the lead actor, James Huwitz, had broken his leg the night before.
I was going to star in the play!
I told my mom.
“That’s great,” she said, “I’ll stop by to watch after work. And, when you’re done, we can go out for dinner to celebrate.”
I didn’t see her during the play. The auditorium was filled and my mother was never one to come early. I thought, hopefully, that she was just lost amongst the sea of faces in the crowd.
The crowd talked a lot. They also laughed at parts of the play that weren’t funny. I didn’t like the crowd.
Then the show ended. Then everyone left. Then I was seated by myself in the empty auditorium.
One of my teachers offered to give me a ride home, but I told him my mom was coming.
“Are you hungry?” he said.
I told him, yes, and he brought me to the teacher’s lounge.
There were cabinets, a fridge, and tables. He pulled open a cabinet and brought down a loaf of bread.
“Do you have any allergies, or foods you can’t eat?” he said.
He opened the fridge and pulled out a jar of peanut butter. He looked in the fridge some more.
“It doesn’t look like we have any jam,” he said, “Do you like peanut butter?”
He made a peanut butter sandwich and gave it to me. I took a big first bite. It was sticky, and didn’t taste very good. My teacher was watching me, so I made sure to eat the whole thing, but it took me a while. The stickiness made it hard to chew.
When I finished, he asked me, “Would you like another?”
I told him, no, that one was plenty. I thanked him and went to the parking lot to wait for my mom.
My teacher came outside a half hour later. I made sure to hide so he couldn’t see me. He left and went home.
Forty-five minutes later my mom came.
“Sweetie!” she said through the car window, “There you are! I was wondering where you were!”
I got into the car and noticed that she was wearing a shiny black dress that flowed down her body. Her eyeballs popped from her face and her lips were a deep red.
“I am so sorry I missed your play,” she said, “I had to work late and totally forgot!” She leaned over and gave me a kiss, “Your breath smells funny. Did you eat?”
Her breath smelled of alcohol.
“Good!” she said, “I ate, too! Seeing as we both ate, there’s no need to go out for dinner. We’ll just go home. It’s awfully late for dinner anyways!”
She was so happy. I didn’t know why she was so happy.
“How was the play?”
I told her, it was fine.
“Fine? It was probably great. I’m sure you were amazing!” she coughed, “I’m so angry at myself for missing it!” She coughed again.
“I must have something in my throat,” she said, “It – tickles.
“Oh, sweetie! I – almost forgot to mention! I was talking – talking to this man earlier – ”
I saw her eyes fill with panic. She let go of the steering wheel and leaned over to me. We crashed.
            My body was squished by the airbag. The glass of our windshield had shattered. I could only move my neck. I turned to my mother. Her face was swollen and her eyeballs were massive. She was still leaning over to me, but she wasn’t moving. Her eyeballs were so big.
            I heard something outside and then a man opened my mother’s door. He pulled her out of the seat and looked at her.
            “What happened?” he said, “What’s wrong with her?”
            “She’s drunk.”
            The man’s face changed. He came to my side of the car and pulled me out.
            “Are you okay?” he said.
            I told him, I was.
            “The police are on the way. They’ll take your mother to the hospital. Are you sure you’re okay?”
            I looked at my girlfriend. She wasn’t wearing her glasses anymore and she had a concerned look on her face. She got up from her chair and walked over to me.
I embraced her, dropping my head, and letting my eyes dry on her sweater.

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