Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE QUESTION - a short story

                                   THE QUESTION

                               By Roy L. Pickering Jr.

"Let me tell you something, Janice. You screwed up 
big time. There's no way you're going to find another 
man to treat you as good as I did."

"Yeah. You treated me like a goddamn princess."

"You implying that I didn't? You're standing there 

with the fucking Hope diamond on your finger, 
wearing designer clothes, not having to lift a 
finger to do anything but charge things on the 
credit cards I pay the bills for. Yet you still have the 
nerve to ..."

"I had the nerve to raise our child basically by 

myself," Janice said. "I had the audacity to spend 
countless nights alone while you went off on one 
business trip after another."

"And like a fool I thought I could trust you. After 

everything I've done for you. After everything I've 
given ..."

"I'm sick and tired of hearing that, Roland. I'm not 

a whore. I'm not here because you buy me things. 
I'm here because we're supposed to love each other. 
You want to talk about giving things? How about 
the love I squandered on you while you took me 
for granted."

"If you're not a whore then what were you doing 

with James? At least your sister has the excuse of 
being hooked on drugs for making a living on her 
back. At least she gets paid cash in advance. Why 
allow me to rescue you from the streets if this is 
how you choose to repay me?"

Mommy and Daddy are talking too loud at each 

other. I think they're angry, cause that's just how 
they sounded when I wrote on the wall with my 
crayons. I don't like for them to yell at each other. 
It scares me. Daddy goes away all the time. If he 
and Mommy stay mad at each other, maybe he'll 
go away again and not come back this time. I 
wish I could make them stop.

"What kind of thing is that to say? You didn't find 

me on any streets and you sure as hell didn't save 
me from them. And if you want to talk about 
repaying, I repaid you by being a devoted wife for 
five years."

"Devoted wife!? Devoted to what? To spending 

my money? To leeching off of me, because I was a 
fool with a conscience who was raised to pay for 
his mistakes?"

"Pay for his ... Look, Roland, I know you're angry 

and you want to hurt me, but trust me, I feel plenty 
bad already. You think I wanted this to happen? Do 
you have any idea how many nights I've spent in 
our bed alone, wondering why you seemed to want 
to be anywhere but there with me? Did you ever 
consider how it felt for me to be pushed into the 
background of your life?"

"That's a nice song and dance but still no excuse."

"You want an excuse, here's one for you. Five years 

of loneliness was enough. I needed to fill the void 

Oh no, Mommy is starting to cry. Why don't they just 

kiss and make up? Why can't they be happy like the 
time we all went to the fair, and I got to go on a 
bunch of rides and eat cotton candy? That was my favorite 
day ever. Maybe if I ask them to take me to the fair today, 
they'll stop yelling and be happy again.

"You know the nature of my work," Roland said. "I 

have to put in a lot of hours. I need to visit the 
various plants and that means spending time on the 
road. If I didn't do these things I wouldn't be able to 
pay for this big roof that you wanted to be under so 

"What do you know about what I wanted? Did you 

ever once ask me?"

"I didn't have to, it was so obvious. You wanted a 

meal ticket. You wanted to land a man with a solid 
family background, a high paying respectable job, his 
and her cars in the garage, a pool in the backyard, and 
a stellar credit rating. That's what you wanted and 
that's what you got, all courtesy of me."

"No, what I wanted was a man who loves me and 

enjoys spending time with me," Janice said, fighting 
to hold her tears in check. "I wanted to be respected, 
to be listened to, to have passion in my life. What I 
got was a man unable to see through his inflated ego 
well enough to notice any creativity, or intellect, or 
ambition in his wife."

"Let's cut to the chase, Janice, and leave this 

feminist blather to Gloria Steinem. What you 
wanted was a white guy with some cash, and you 
hit pay dirt."

Mommy is shaking. She only does that when she's 

really really mad. My friend Louis told me that his 
dad yelled at his mom every night, so one day she 
packed all their stuff and they went to live with his 
grandma. I like my grandma cause she gives me 
quarters, but I don't want to live there because her 
house smells like cheese. And I'd miss Daddy.

"So it's come to that," Janice said icily.

"It's always been there."

"You want to make certain our marriage is 

irreconcilable, don't you?"

"No, you made sure of that when you slept with 

James. I can't forgive something like that. I deserve 
better than this. Better than you."

"You son of a bitch. I hate you so much."

"You don't know a damn thing about hate, Janice. 

Try being tricked into marrying someone you don't 
love, and being a father to a kid who probably isn't 
even yours. Try being taken for a fool by someone 
who drains your wallet, embarrasses you in front of colleagues, and fucks every Tom, Dick and Harry 
who happen by. Then you'll understand what hate is."

"I did better than that, Roland. I married a man who 

was hardly ever around, and who didn't satisfy me 
when he was. If you only could, I wouldn't have 
needed Tom, Dick, Harry or James."

Stop it! Why won't they stop fighting? Why did 

Daddy hit Mommy? He's not supposed to do that. 
They're not supposed to fight. Families are 
supposed to be happy, like on T.V.

"The truth hurts, doesn't it?" Janice asked, 

liberated more than wounded by the hand of her 
husband. "You can hit me all you want, but it won't 
make you any more of a man. You'll never measure 
up. You never did."

"I should have known better than to get involved 

with you in the first place. So I guess the blame is 
on me. You aren't any different than your sister. 
You've both spent your lives doing it for money. 
Even with the college degree I paid for you to get, 
you still haven't changed. I guess it was my mistake 
to think that you could. Once a nigger, always a 

He left. Daddy went away and he didn't even say 

goodbye. What's going to happen now?

"Ricky, you must listen very carefully to me. We're 

going to be spending a few nights at Grandmas's 
house, just you and Mommy. Won't that be nice? 
Grandma loves it so much when you come to visit. 
I want you to take your favorite clothes from the 
bureau and lay them out on your bed. I'll be up in 
a minute to help you pack."


"Yes, sweetie."

"What's a nigger?"

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