Meredith Alling
INSUBORDINATION

 

I am buttering bread when a man wearing a mask walks in and says “OK, on the floor.” So I put down the butter knife and sit cross-legged. He says “Where are the others?” and I shake my head and he says “Who is all that bread for?” and I say “Me” and he says “Unlikely” and then Danny and Clark walk into the kitchen and the man says “OK guys, down on the floor.” So the boys get down. I ask “What do you want?” and the man says “Money” and I say “We don’t have any money, as you can see” and the boys look at me. He says “Where is the man of the house?” and I say “These are the men” and he looks at the boys and they both straighten up for a moment. I can see Clark’s hands are shaking but Danny looks tough. He’s got that firm lip he gets when he’s fed up, when he wants Spaghetti-O’s instead of a sandwich, the hockey shirt instead of the truck shirt. “OK” the man says. He comes to me and lifts me by the elbow. Danny says “Hey.” I tell him it’s OK. I tell him to stay down. The man takes me to the bedroom and says “Show me where it is.” I say “There isn’t anything to show.” He says “Show me something then.” I don’t know what he means but I pull open the top drawer of the dresser with all of the jewelry. He peeks inside. “Something else,” he says. I pick up the wooden box from the vanity and open it, hand him my father’s gold watch. “This is nice,” he says. He pockets it, then says “OK, what else?” I look around the room. I open the second drawer of the dresser and reach under the sweaters. I pull out a framed photo of me at Niagara Falls. “Have you been?” I ask. The man takes the photo and looks at it. “No” he says. “This is bullshit.” I tell him I have twenty-two dollars in my purse. He makes me get it. Danny says “Mom?” from the other room and I say “Sit down Danny.” The man is mad. He gets in my face. I say “Why did you come here?” He says “I saw the BMW” and I say “That’s an old car. You can have it.” He says “I know.” I say “Why don’t you leave?” and he says “No.” I say “Why don’t you stay then?” and he says “What the fuck.” I am trying to remember any story about this kind of thing. About what people did and how they survived. “My brother is a cop,” I say. The man laughs. “I used to be a cop,” he says. He walks around the bedroom touching my things. He pulls the curtain aside and looks into the street. “Who is that?” he says. I go to the window and stand next to him. There is a woman parking her car. “I don’t know,” I say. “Yes you do,” the man says. “I honestly don’t.” The man drops the curtain and sits down on the bed. He looks up at me and for the first time I see that those eyes in the holes are green. “You have green eyes,” I say. “Don’t talk to me like that,” he says. I hear noise in the kitchen. “Boys, sit down!” I shout. The man laughs. I look at him. “This isn’t funny,” I say. He stands up. He stands over me. “I’m going to burn this house down,” he says. I shrug. I lean on the dresser. “I’m going to burn the car.” I tell him it’s his car. He takes the Niagara Falls picture and throws it against the wall. Danny yells from the kitchen. “Sit down!” I shout. The man looks at me and I look at him. His eyes become narrow. “You are under arrest,” he says. “For what?” I say. “Insubordination,” he says. I shake my head. The man wipes his hand over the front of his mask. “You’re a misfit,” he says. He walks back to the kitchen and I follow close behind him. “Your mother is a law breaker,” he says to the boys. “Your mother is a danger to society.” Clark and Danny look at me. Clark cocks his head. The man takes a piece of buttered bread and eats it through his mask. I lean against the wall and nod. “She’s a misfit,” the man says, his mouth filled with bread. He walks slowly to the front door, still chewing. He pushes some magazines off the coffee table. I say “Goodnight, Officer” before closing the door behind him.

 
 



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Meredith Alling lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in DOGZPLOT, Monkeybicycle, Storm Cellar, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. Her website is here and she is on Twitter @meremyth.