A New Short Story by Author Heidi Slowinski

August Short Story Feature

One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. Goodreads has recently done away with their creative writing feature.

My selection this month is a new piece I’ve been working on recently. This story focuses on a single mother who experienced the trauma of domestic violence as a child. A cycle that repeated itself in her own life and impacted the upbringing of her own children, passing the trauma on to be repeated in a new generation.

I hope you’ll take something else away from the story when we open on characters who do not know the protogonist. All they see is a crazy, drunk woman causing chaos. And we’re left with their judgement of her.

But the don’t recognize the struggle she has experienced throughout her life. Might they have held greater sympathy for her if they were aware of her story? Please join the conversation! Leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page. Thank you for reading!

Shattered Glass

  

               It started off as a typical Friday night. Same old faces in the same old run-down bar on the outskirts of town.

               “Fuck the Nazis,” a woman shouted over the scuffling, forceful steps of a struggle. “Goddamn fascists.” As Nicky’s body shuttered in the cold of the walk-in cooler, she thought to herself, this is insane. This is completely and utterly insane. That seemed to be the same thought running through the minds of her two friends and the other two women shivering around her.

               Cheryl was a single mom, raising three daughters with no support. When John called from the road, fifteen years ago, to say he wasn’t coming home, she decided she was done relying on men. When the divorce was finalized, she packed up the girls and moved to a rented house, out in the country. The girls each had their own room, for the first time. There was plenty of room for them to play. They could have all the pets they wanted. She even managed to get a horse for them to ride. It was the childhood she always dreamed of when she was a little girl.

               Instead, her childhood memories were filled with shattering glass and angry voices, followed by her mother crying and pleading with her father to stop. Her mother tried to hide the bruises but there was nothing she could do to hide her father’s affair with the bottle.

               Enlisting in the Army was Cheryl’s way out. She would travel. She would get an education and retirement benefits. It was a stable life. At least that was the plan. Then, one night, at a bar off base, she met Rick. He was good looking and he said all the right things. Two babies and a few black eyes later, Rick got on his motorcycle and drove away. Her Army career was over.

               She had no other choice. She packed up the girls and moved back home. It was just temporary. A few months so she could get back on her feet. Then she’d find her own place with the girls. Until she met John. Cheryl was waiting tables at an all-night diner, off the interstate. The clientele was mainly long-haul truckers and cops. John came in for a cup of coffee and a greasy blue plate special. A week later, he was back. And what seemed like every week after. He made her feel like something other than just a mother again. She felt like a woman. A few early mornings, making love in the sleeper of his truck after her shift and she was late.

               John was thrilled when she told him the news. When her shift ended, he helped her into the cab of his truck and drove to Atlantic City where they were married. Her mother was furious when she called, from the road, to say she wouldn’t be home for a few days.

               But the wife of a long-haul trucker is a lonely one. She told herself it was just the tv in the background at the motel John was calling from. John loved her. He wouldn’t cheat. The last time he came home, she was throwing in his laundry when her fingers caught something that didn’t belong in a man’s laundry bag. Cheryl’s hand came away from the pile of jeans, t-shirts, and flannels holding a lacy pair of panties.

               “What the hell are these?” she demanded, waving them in his face. He shoved her hand away with his left as he raised the can of beer in his right to his mouth.

               “The fuck is your problem, baby?” he asked. “I got those for you. Thought you’d look sexy in them.”

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               Cheryl closed her eyes. The rage started in her core. It grew with each breath, flowing through her until it burned in every fiber of her body.

               “Really, John,” she responded through gritted teeth. “You thought these would look sexy on me?” She spread the scrap of fabric across her hand. “You thought I would look sexy wearing some whore’s dirty panties?!” Cheryl thrust the stained, stiff crouch fabric into his face, forcefully rubbing it over his nose. John tried to pull away but his head was pinned against the headrest of the ratty recliner he was sitting in.

               “God damn it,” he shouted grabbing her wrist as he forced his way to his feet, knocking Cheryl to the floor. He threw his half-empty beer can across the room. It left a hole above the tv. A spray of foam and beer ran down the wall. “I work my ass off. On the road, every week to support this family. Keeping a roof over the heads of two brats that aren’t even mine. All I ask, when I come home is a clean house, a decent meal, and maybe a little love in the sack. Instead, you sit on your ass around here, doing god knows what. The house is a fucking dumb. Does it really surprise you I go out looking for a little on the side when I’m on the road? What man wouldn’t, coming home to this shit.”

               Cheryl sobbed in a crumpled heap on the floor.

               “Well, you can at least do one goddamn thing for me.” He reached down, grabbed Cheryl’s hair, and yanked her to her feet. Cheryl’s hands flew up to his but his grip was too strong. “Come on, baby.” His fingers tightened in her hair as he reached down to the floor, snagging the dirty lace underwear with the index finger of his free hand. He wrenched her head back as he forced her toward their bedroom. Cheryl’s mouth fell open at the shock of the pain. “Time to do your wifely duties.” He dangled the panties in front of her face, giving one more hard yank on her hair. Then he stuffed the panties into her mouth. He kicked the door shut behind them.

               Cheryl lay still as silent tears flowed down her face. She was curled in a ball, near the edge of the mattress hugging her ripped blouse around herself. Her torn cotton underwear was still stuck around her thigh.

               Sometime just after midnight, the bed creaked and groaned as John rolled out. Cheryl didn’t move. She heard the bathroom door close. A while later, she heard the back door close. His pickup started in the driveway and then it drove away. Cheryl waited another hour. She slowly eased herself up, and found her nightgown and a fresh pair of underwear on her way to the bathroom. She splashed away the mascara streaks from her face, then gently washed herself with a washcloth and warm water. She dressed and went back to bed. Cheryl fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. It seemed like she’d just closed her eyes when she heard a timid little knock at the bedroom door.

               “Mommy,” called a little voice.

               “I’ll be right there baby,” Cheryl responded. “Take your sisters into the kitchen and I’ll be right in. We’ll have pancakes this morning. Mommy just needs a minute.”

               “Mommy’s making pancakes,” she heard her oldest shout over her running steps to the kitchen.                Cheryl took a few breaths. She rolled out of bed slowly, gritting her teeth through the pain. Cheryl pulled on a robe, to cover the bruises from the night before. She paused at the bedroom door,

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letting out one last long breath before she opened it and made her way to the kitchen to feed the girls.

               John called from the road to say he wasn’t coming home. She filed for divorce, found a job, and the rental house in the country. They finally had some peace. She had her hands full as her girls became teenagers. The youngest was a senior in high school when she met Rob. Rob was different. Rob didn’t drink. He went to church. He treated her with respect. He was understanding about her past and encouraged her to try a support group. He was kind and caring. He told her she was beautiful. They’d only been living together a few weeks when the police pulled up to the house one night. Rob was on his way home from a work trip. Cheryl promised to wait up for him and instead she was sitting across from a police officer and a chaplain. A drunk driver. Speeding. Died on impact. Cheryl wasn’t fully taking in their words.

               Her whole life changed that night. She stopped going to group. She drank more than was good for her. And she was angry. She was so incredibly angry. The girls were all grown now. She was all alone. They invited her out to dinner one Friday night. The oldest was engaged. Not that she gave a shit. She told all three of them men aren’t worth it. The middle one’s boyfriend was with them too. The youngest was the smart one. She was working through nursing school and still single. Cheryl had three drinks with dinner and then the kids all wanted to go to a bar nearby. They hadn’t all been together in so long. Cheryl tried to keep her focus on that. But she couldn’t help but resent them for their naive happiness. The two oldest reminded her of herself when she first met Rick. All bubbly smiles and giggles. She wanted to tell them they were idiots. Life was going to teach them how stupid they were. It was only a matter of time. Instead, she ordered another drink.

               There was a crowd at the dive bar the kids picked. The middle one’s boyfriend knew the owners. The kids played darts and some music on the jukebox. Cheryl drank. Everyone she tried to talk to was rude or ignored her. Before she knew it there were only three or four other people left in the place. She was angry. Where the hell did they all get off ignoring her and treating her like she were trash? Where the hell did Rick get off, walking out on her with two small kids to raise with no education and no job? The bastard never paid a dime in child support. Where the hell did John get off cheating on her with all those trashy bitches? And what he did to her the night he finally left. Rob was the worst one of all. He treated her right. Respected her, made her feel like she wasn’t nothing. And then the bastard just went and got himself killed. Just left her here all alone. And her girls moved out with lives of their own. It was all bullshit.

               “Stop,” she heard someone shouting at her. There were chairs and barstools scattered all around her. Two of her girls were crying. Why the hell were they being so damn dramatic?

               “Either you get your mother under control, or I will,” she heard the bartender say.

               Through the haze of all she’d had to drink, she saw a man who looked just like all the others who had screwed up her life. And he was talking to her sweet angels. The little girls she tried so hard to protect from assholes like him. Who the fuck did he think he was? That piece of shit was making her babies cry.               

“Hey!” she shouted. “Don’t you talk to my babies like that!” She stumbled toward him. “Don’t you talk to my babies!” she slurred. Cheryl clumsily drew her arm back. She lost her balance as she tried

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to force her arm forward to swing at him. The bartender grabbed her arm, spun her around, and pinned her arm behind her back.

               “Knock it the hell off,” he shouted.

               Her mind spun out of control. Every instinct in her said to fight. She couldn’t process what was happening to her or how she ended up pinned on the floor. Someone was yelling for someone to get in the walk-in. Were they going to put her in the cooler? Were they going to freeze her? How long would she be locked in She tried to fight but she couldn’t. Her daughters’ boyfriends moved in and helped the bartenders. She was up on her feet and they were dragging her. She was not going in that cooler. She tried to fight and she yelled. She was not going in the cooler. Then she realized she was outside. They released her and the bartender went back inside. But the boyfriends were still around her. She needed to hide. She tried to run but she tripped. She crawled under a nearby car.

               “Oh my god, Mom. What the hell are you doing? Why can’t we ever just have a nice time?” one of her daughters yelled in a cracking voice.

               “Jesus Christ Mom. Get the hell out of there,” another yelled. There was arguing around her but she couldn’t understand what they were saying.

               “Okay, get the hell out from under Amber’s car or I’m calling the cops,” shrieked one of her daughters.

               “Oh my god, just call the damn cops. She’s fucking nuts,” it sounded like one of the boyfriend. The glow of the red and blue lights flashed around her about 10 minutes later.

               “Ma’am, why don’t you come on out of there and let’s have a little chat,” came a calm man’s voice.

               “Goddamn it Mom. Get the fuck out here,” one of the girls screamed.

               “Okay, let’s just calm down and move over there. That’s not helpful right now,” the officer said.

               Cheryl finally came out from under the car. The officer offered her a hand to help her up. She swatted it away.

               “Alright,” the officer responded, withdrawing his hand. Once she was on her feet, he asked to have a little talk. Cheryl wobbled. There seemed to be three officers in front of her but only one spoke. She heard one of her girls sobbing but her eyes wouldn’t focus on the group across the parking lot. The officer tried to ask her questions but she couldn’t think. She couldn’t make his words make sense.

               “I’m going inside to talk to the bartender. You getting anywhere here?” someone asked.

               “Nah, she’s pretty out of it,” said the officer who was talking to her.

               “Those are her daughters and a couple of their boyfriends over there. Sounds like she had too much to drink and started throwing bar stools and stuff around. Apparently, a couple of people had to hide in the walk-in while they dragged her out here.”

“I’ll find out if there was any damage.”

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               Nicky watched as the bartender unlocked the door to let the police officer in. She just wanted to call it a night and go home but the bartender said they all had to stay in case the cops wanted to take statements. Plus that lunatic woman was still outside.

The officer and the bartender went to the other side of the bar, away from Nicky and the friends she met out for a girls’ night and one other woman who seemed to be hanging out with the bartender. It was quiet so their conversation was easy to hear as the guy described the woman getting out of control. She only had a couple of drinks and didn’t seem drunk when he served her. All of a sudden she just went off. There didn’t seem to be any damage. Just get the group out of the parking lot so the rest of the customers can safely leave. The woman clearly needs some help.

When the parking lot was clear and the squad cars pulled away, Nicky said goodnight to her friends, got into her car, and headed for home.

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Past Short Story Features:

[March Featured Short Story] The Bus to Haifa by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. The story I’ve selected for this month is […]

[April Featured Short Story] The Kashering by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. My selection this month is more personal in […]

[May Featured Short Story] My Name is Hathor by Heidi Slowinski

Monthly Short Story Feature One of my writing goals for 2022 is to create more short stories. They’re a good creative exercise and sometimes lead to bigger ideas for novels. Or who knows, maybe an eventual collection of short stories in the form of a new book. My selection this month is just for fun. […]

Enter the Short Story Contest

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Visit the Contests page for this month’s theme and full contest rules.

There is an entry fee of $5.00 USD. The winning entry receives a prize based on the number of entries, not less than $25.00 USD.

Don’t wait, enter today!

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