WRITING Hell is Where the Heart Is

Mundane Monster

The most uninspiring of monsters
Original poster
Posting Speed
1-3 posts per day, One post per day, 1-3 posts per week
Writing Levels
Beginner, Elementary, Intermediate, Adaptable
Preferred Character Gender
Male, Female, Transgender
Fantasy, Modern Fantasy, Animal based, Scifi, Modern, Horror, Comedy, Slice of life.
Here's a story I've been working on. The chapters are super short and that's probably how they'll stay. I have a general outline in my head for this story, so expect demons and supernatural stuff in the future!

Summary: In the wake of her father's death, Greer finds herself parenting her depressed and despondent mother, and protecting her nervous, hypochondriac older brother Toby, who's being harassed by their father's old business partners.

Chapter One

Frank’s Diner is a grimy 80’s themed restaurant sandwiched between a luxury spa place and a Whole Foods. It’s the only place in the city that hasn’t been gentrified yet and reminds the city-goers of the type of place Green Point used to be. The employees--all women except Joe the cook--trapeze across the dingy vomit pink and boring blue tiles in outdated waitress uniforms with note pads stuffed in their pockets and pencils tucked behind their ears. Each waitress has their hair pulled into a tired and messy ponytail with a few scripted, rebellious strands stuck to their sweaty foreheads. The chunky jukebox in the corner plays fuzzy staticky oldies music until the record skips and loops the same lines, and Cherry--our waitress--kicks it in just the right spot to get it working again. She does this three times on her way back to our booth, I counted.

“Y’all okay over here? Need a refill?” Cherry sounds like she smokes at least two packs of cigarettes a day.

I swirl my straw through the dredges of my milkshake and shake my head. Toby tears a piece off of the same grilled cheese that he’s been nibbling on for thirty minutes. Our mom says something around the mouthful of the third deluxe bacon burger she’s ordered. Cherry frowns and looks to me to translate.

“Another burger, please,” I clarify. Mom gives me a thumbs-up as she devours the last of her burger.

“Mmph, and more fries,” she grunts. Condiments mixed with oil drip down her fingers and spatter the grease-stained table.

Cherry nods warily and hurries to the kitchen. Probably to talk shit about the petite woman shoving burgers down her gullet, while her children stare at the table in silence.

Other kids would be embarrassed by this display of parental slobbishness. On any other day, I would slide down in my seat and cover my face. On any other day, Toby wouldn’t even be here. But today is different. Today mom gets a pass for ordering enough food for three people and eating it within seconds.

Funerals always work up an appetite.

Chapter Two

Dad’s death was unexpected. Well, most are. But his loss hit us faster than the truck that ran him over.

Mom is a mess without him. After the post-funeral burger session at Frank’s mom is a zombie. We leave the diner, three smears of black against the bright backdrop of Green Point city. We don’t blend into the crowd around us. People give us a wide berth as if they know we’re going through some shit. Or maybe it’s because mom looks like patient zero after eating four disgusting greasy burgers. She’s sweating as we walk three abreast down the sidewalk. I loop my arm through hers--not for comradery--but because I don’t need another parent falling into the street and getting flattened by a semi.

I don’t know how to react to losing Dad. In fact, I haven’t. Reacted, that is. Toby cried. Mom screamed for hours then ate enough burgers for a complete family. But I haven’t done anything. I heard the news from the cops that came to our door--I told my mom and Toby--and then I shut down. I probably need to see a therapist. But that’s not an option now. Dad’s fancy job afforded us the best doctors but now that he’s dead the best I can hope for is an emotionally available parent. But oh yeah, that’s not an option.

Mom teeters on her five-inch heels and I go rigid to support her weight. I may have inherited my height from my dad, but that didn’t make me any stronger--just willowy. Toby stares at his polished dress shoes, unaware of mom’s unsteady gait until I hip bump her in his direction and he latches onto her arm to steady her. We return to our apartment this way--a bizarre sight to our neighbor’s, I’m sure.

We live (but not for long) in a penthouse on the good side of Green Point. The doorman avoids our eyes when we pull mom into the lobby. Is he unsure if he should say he’s sorry for our loss? Or is he preparing himself for when we’re no longer tenants? Either way, I’m fine with his lack of interaction. I don’t feel like dealing with anyone else’s feelings today.

Chapter Three

As soon as the elevator doors open to our penthouse, I’m relieved of both my mom’s and Toby’s presence. Mom staggers toward the hall that leads to the guest bathroom, and Toby jogs up the stairs to his bedroom. Gurgling sounds of upheaval pull me in mom’s direction. The bathroom door is flung wide open and I turn the corner to see her with her head in the toilet. The sharp scent of vomit hangs heavy in the air, and I struggle to control my gag reflexes. I grab mom’s shoulders and pull her up so her head is above the bowl. The ends of her hair are wet and decorated with peach-colored vomit chunks. Her back arches and jolts as waves of nausea wreak havoc on her insides and force her to expel half-chewed chunks of deluxe bacon burgers.

When she’s finally finished I rigidly allow her to huddle against me as her nausea shapeshifts into pent up sadness and sobs wrack her petite body. I can’t bring myself to cry with her. I feel like an alien observing their human experiment. This is the second time I’ve seen my mother breakdown like this. Two years ago, when she found out her brother died, she latched onto my father and sobbed for hours. I was a bystander back then, as I am now. I remember watching my father wrap his arms around her and stroke her back with his big hands. I remember seeing this and thinking about whether I could ever let someone else’s feelings stain my clothing like that.

After a few minutes, my mother’s sobs tapered into a long and drawn-out whimper. I thought at first that she was mumbling gibberish, but when I tuned in, I realize she is repeating my dad’s name over and over as if somehow, that pitiful display of verbiage will bring him back.

"Come on, let's get you in bed. I'll bring you a cup of ginger tea later,"

"With honey?" She looks up at me like a child and I hate it.

"With honey."

I stand mom up and lead her out of the bathroom, down the hall past Toby's room, to her own. I reach for the handle but she stops abruptly.

“No, no...The guest room. I can’t--I don’t--”

I see fresh tears welling in the corners of her eyes and before they can fall I release the handle and pull her to the guest room next to my bedroom. The room is sparsely decorated for guests that we’ve never entertained. Mom collapses on the bed and curls into a ball in the middle of the queen-sized bed. I leave the door cracked and pad down the hall and down the steps to the kitchen. While I make mom's tea, I gaze at the penthouse, the high ceilings, and the modern furniture. I wonder how hard it'll be to sell this stuff. Or the entire penthouse. There's no way we can keep living here on mom's teacher salary--and fuck, school. Toby and I will have to finish our high school years at a public school because there's no way we'll be able to afford the tuition for Gershwin Prep.

I grab a pad of paper and a pen from the junk drawer and begin writing down all of our expenses--all the ones I could think of at least. I don't know the exact numbers for our expenses, so I write down estimates. I'm in the middle of figuring out how much the electric bill is when Toby rushes past me. I didn't even hear him come down the steps. He's changed out of his black suit to tattered jeans and a gray hoodie. His eyes never leave the ground as he walks past.

"Where are you going?" I demand. Now was not the time for us to be splitting up. If anything, now was the time to figure out how the hell we're going to survive without dad.