What was it the guy in the adoption workshop said? When all else fails, order a pizza? Cute. Who was he dealing with? Five year olds?

Jennifer folded up the dish towel and put it on the stack on the counter next to the microwave. Maybe ordering a pizza would change the mood in some situations but it wasn’t going to make the fifteen-year old Sarah stop slamming her books on the table and hissing about how no one ever listens to her and how frustrated she is.

“I’m sick and tired of being treated like a second class citizen!” Sarah parked herself in the narrow passageway between the kitchen and the living room. It was where she usually stood to review her day and chat while Jennifer made dinner. But this time, it seemed belligerent, angry, like she was staking out her territory, forming a dare in her head. Her hands gripped the counter on one side and the breakfast table on the other.

Done with her work in the kitchen, Jennifer moved toward the living room, thinking that turning on the evening news might be a way to diffuse a situation that was unpleasant but could get worse. Sarah turned slightly to make her blockage of the passageway more complete.

Jennifer looked at her, trying to ignore the bait of a physical confrontation that was hanging between them like chum thrown off the back of a deep sea fishing boat. She contemplated alternatives and strategy. Would Sarah give way, defer to her? Or would she stand firm and block her? If Sarah blocked her way, then what? Would she have to push her way through? Would she have to back down?

How had it come to this?

“Excuse me, please. I’m going in the living room to watch TV. I need to get through.”

Sarah stood still, inflating herself like an animal would to make itself look bigger and more intimidating.

Jennifer repeated. “Excuse me. I need you to move.”

The punch.

A second punch.

“Stop it! You can’t hit me. I’m your mother.”

A third, a fourth, a fifth punch.

Jennifer felt strangely calm. The punches kept coming. Jennifer was glad Sarah had picked her arm to punch and not her face. Why was that? Maybe Sarah was holding back in deference to her. She wondered how long she’ll keep punching if she didn’t hit her back? Will something kick in? Like regret or shame?

She waited as the time between punches got longer and carried less and less power, less and less anger. Weak, the punches were, as if the whole basis for the attack had evaporated. They both stood there, in the passageway, the daughter still blocking the mother but her body was limp and small, she started leaning against the counter as if she was suddenly exhausted.

All of this will be for naught if she doesn’t move out of my way, Jennifer thought. “Excuse me. I need to get through. We need to move on here.”

“I know, Mom.”

This is a piece of fiction written in response to a Write on Edge prompt involving a photo of two kangaroos who appear to be boxing and a Trifecta Writing Challenge to use the 3rd definition of the word “weak.” Fiction is a new thing for me – very difficult to get the perspective right. Part of my 100 Essay project is to try new challenges – this is one of them.

7 Comments on “Punched

  1. I’m glad the mom kept her cool and didn’t escalate the situation. If I would’ve gone at my mom like that, I’m pretty sure it would’ve been the last time I did it 🙂

  2. Teenagers can be so difficult sometimes. I like Mom’s resilience and her willingness to work things out with Sarah once the girl calmed down.
    Thank you for linking up!

  3. I really loved the way you ended it with the word Mom, that Sarah did, in fact, acknowledge the relationship and the connection between them. Good for you for stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. I saw that you’re going to try to write it from the different perspectives, which is always a great way to get deeper into the motivation behind the interaction.

  4. Well, I don’t write fiction, don’t know how, and have no desire to learn. But I have taught professional writing and have read a whole lot of fiction – preferring literature (however it is defined). I think I’m a pretty good judge of writing and I like this. You pulled me in and it felt like a very plausible exchange. I wonder how it would read if written from the daughter’s perspective, in the daughter’s voice. This is a third person narrative, how about also writing it from the mother’s voice.

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