Marin & Melvin: A SurrenderedPen Short Story 

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Marin sits cross-legged on the green, tweed couch. It’s dingy and smells a little like pee. Two small holes in the left arm of the couch came from me and Benji. We tried to fix the broken leg and accidentally pushed the screwdriver into the arm. Twice. The right arm of the chair has three dents in it because it is so stinking old. It squeaks as Marin stretches her back.

I am nine. Marin is 23. She is my mother. She is so far from being a mother like other kids’ moms. She doesn’t help with homework or take me to the park. I don’t ever remember playing a game with her.

She shifts again on the couch and stares at the TV.

“Marin,” I say.

“Yea. What?”

I don’t know when I started calling her Marin. She didn’t seem like a mommy. Not like G-mommy.

“Can I have a cupcake?”

It’s is 9 o’clock at night. G-mommy would make sure I was in bed with covers up to my neck. G-mommy would say no to a cupcake at 9 o’clock at night.

Marin says yes. I think I could ask her for 20-dollars from her jean pocket right now and she would say yes.

I stand in the little room we call the kitchen, chewing a bite of my cupcake. We don’t have a door for the kitchen. You can sit at the table and watch anyone looking at the TV. I stare at Marin. She stares at the TV.

This is a bad day. A day when Marin remembers something sad. I know to do everything quietly. Don’t make a sound. Don’t ask too many questions. Don’t make any mistakes. If I do something to make Marin stop thinking, then she gets angry. Very angry. Bad angry. She throws stuff. Slams stuff on the table. Says nasty things about my face and my body. The f-word comes out a lot. It’s so bad and I think she is saying all this to someone else, but I’m the only one here. I get every ugly word.

When the days are good, Marin is someone else. She is a better mother. I almost call her mom on those days but I don’t. The day doesn’t last long enough.

Marin is pretty. Her face is skinny. Her nose is small. Her eyes are big and brown. She laughs so hard on those days, making me laugh, and I don’t know why. She also talks to animals a lot. Miss Brick’s cat. Henry’s dog. The stupid snake in auntie’s living room. She talks to them. She touches them gently. She can tell you if they are sick or if they just have to fart.

On the good days, I think Marin should be an animal doctor. She’s very good with animals. She doesn’t need to be a cashier at Tony’s corner store. She sucks at the job. She keeps getting the register stuck, and she can’t tell you where the peas are. But Tony lets her stay, so he can look at her with his freaky eyes.

Marin should be someone else. She should be doing something else. Instead, she sits in this small apartment where Miss Connie’s twin boys bang against the walls of their place, and Miss Connie keeps shouting at them, and Marin turns the TV louder, tuning everyone out.

I worry about her. The sad-bad days come a lot quicker now, and she is meaner if I make a mistake. Sometimes a man stops by to give her a small, plastic bag. He winks at me while she gives him money. Then she closes the door and runs to the bathroom. When she comes out she is too tired to even turn up the sound on the TV.

I worry about her.

“Melvin,” Marin calls.

I jump up and drop a big chunk of my cupcake on the floor, Marin doesn’t see it.

“A man is coming to bring me something. Let him in.”

“Ok,” I say.

Marin should be somebody else. She should be someplace else. I worry about her.

Written by Andrea Gadson–Photo: Aneta Ivanova, Lynn Koenig/Moment/Getty Images