by Sandra Seamans

I dread the twenty mile drive home from my job at Pete's Diner, feeling the waves of nausea churning
through my stomach with each revolution of the tires. Even the pit stop at the grocery store to
supplement my chocolate cache, doesn’t ease the terror suffocating my brain. The bone crunching sound
of my tires hitting the dirt road signals the last lap of the drive, and I want nothing more than to slam on
the brakes. I want to run, but the harpy screech of Mother's voice fills the car and I'm lost.

As my head ratchets up a crushing drum solo, Mother's vile mantra metronomes in my head, the music
of my headache cascading louder with each mile marker. "I'm your mother. Who else would tell you the
truth about yourself, Marcy. You're fat. You're stupid. You're a slob. You live here because no one wants
you, including me. But what can I do? You're my daughter, I have to put up with you."

Slinking ghosts glide beside me every time I walk through the door of her house, only to abandon me
when Mother's ugly words start to vibrate through the rooms, leaving me the solitary recipient of her
biting sarcasm. Mother's trapped me in a nightmare of guilt that began the day Daddy killed himself.
Mother, who surely heard the fatal shot, left him for me to find. He'd squeezed himself into the confines
of my old Barbie playhouse, then splattered his brains across the pink flowered walls, a grim testament
to Mother's manipulating nature.

I was barely eighteen, when Mother stepped into her new career as life-long martyr on the alter of
widowhood, and I took a job waitressing at Peteʼs Diner. While she basked in the sympathies of a group
of her fellow widows, I took orders, flipped burgers and bussed tables. Mother spent her days ignoring
the minor details of life, like cooking, cleaning, and earning a living. Those duties she piled on my sagging
shoulders, guilting me into taking over fatherʼs job as family provider and caregiver. Her rope of guilt
binding me tighter and tighter until there was no escaping her.

Parking the car in the driveway, I stare up at the dismal house. When Daddy was alive the house wore a
fresh coat of paint, and the windows sparkled with a warm friendly glow. Now, the dark empty windows
mirror my despair, leering at my fear. I pop a handful of Goobers, trying to muster enough courage to
enter Motherʼs house of anger and angst. A house so full of darkness and frigid thoughts that the
Goobers need a handful of reinforcements before I dare leave the sanctuary of the car and enter
Mother's domain.

I push open the front door and step into the darkness of the house. Mother keeps the drapes drawn
tight against a possible invasion by an army of sunbeams, preferring to huddle in the thickness of her
sweaters than to allow a little warmth to enter her house. But in the hollows of my heart, I believe she's
more afraid that another Michael might chance to glance in an open window and find a way to rescue me.

My sweet, sweet, Michael, who broke through the dark wall of guilt that Mother had constructed around
me, filling my life with love. A love that shielded me from Mother's hurtful words. But the rabid lioness
inside Mother clawed and chewed at him until he finally left, leaving only a puddle of blood on the kitchen
linoleum to mark his passing through my desperate life.

I can still see her, standing over him with a bloody butcher knife in her hand, claiming he tried to rape
her. Block by heavy block she rebuilt her wall of shame and guilt around me. Asking me what kind of a
woman had she raised, that I could I bring such a monster into her house. How could I be so stupid to
think that I was woman enough to satisfy such a passionate man? What did I think would happen when
such a lustful man set eyes on Motherʼs beauty? His death was my fault, not hers.

Tears spill down my cheeks as I remember how she jabbed the point of the blade into my back as I
cradled Michaelʼs body in my arms. The cunning look on her face when she informed me she wouldnʼt face
the shame of being questioned by the sheriff, having to tell complete strangers that her daughterʼs lover
had tried to rape her. Forcing me at knifepoint to bury my beloved in the backyard. Then holding his
death over me like an guillotine, threatening to tell the police where Iʼd buried my lover when I went
upstairs to pack my belongings. She slit my throat without spilling a drop of blood.

Iʼve managed to survive the lonely years since Michaelʼs death with the comforting bliss of chocolate as
my only companion. Hershey bars, in particular, the extra large, half pound size. With almonds.
Chocolate never lets me down. Chocolate is warm and sensual. Sweet and mellow. The best of friends,
the most acquiescent of lovers. There is no sorrow in the sweet depths of a chocolate bar.

Cautiously, I tip-toe past the kitchen, hoping to avoid Mother, but the grating grind of the garbage
disposal assaults my ears. Motherʼs standing at the sink, stabbing at my secret lover with her bloody
butcher knife. Sheʼs torn the brown suit coat and the beautiful silver lining from his chocolate sweetness,
broken his pristine hardness into hacked off pieces, then stuffed his sleek delicious body into the whirling

"Murderer," I whisper as the howling blades rip and tear at my beloved.

"Mother, what are you doing?"

"I'm getting rid of this disgusting mess you stuff into your face. You're so fat you can barely squeeze
through the doorway. You need to go on a diet before you have a heart attack. Whoʼs going to take care
of me if you die?"

Mother grabs another slab of my precious chocolate and forces it down into the yawning jaws of the
disposal. "I can't live here alone. How can you be so selfish as to put your life in danger. Do you want
them to lock me away in some smelly old nursing home to sleep in my own shit? Stop! What are you
doing? Stop! Have you gone completely mad?"

Reaching around Mother's quivering body, I shut the disposal off. Motherʼs murdering hand is wrapped
around the blades, her blood mingling with the mangled body of my slain lover. Her demanding mouth is
spewing screams that echo around the kitchen, but I hear only a blissful silence.

I close my eyes, savoring the moment. A deep sigh escapes my body. Breathe, I tell myself. One calming
breath at a time. One step at a time. I open my eyes. Mother's hanging over the sink, blood splattered
across the buttoned front of her bulky sweater, her mouth flapping, but her voice gone silent. With
shaking hands, I reach for the phone and dial 911.

As the paramedics gently extract Mother's mangled hand from the disposal, I gasp, and lower my head
between my knees. Gulping for air, I try desperately not to throw up.

The sheriff gently pats my shoulder. "Itʼs all right to feel sick, Marcy. It was just a freak accident."

"I just feel so guilty."

"Don't fret yourself. Between the shock and the blood loss...there was nothing you could have done to
save her."

I bite my tongue to keep from laughing as the paramedics zip Mother into a black body bag. She looks
like a giant Hershey bar. A giggle bubbles up my throat, erupting into the room like an elephant,
stampeding into hysterical laughter as I realize that I'm finally free.