Her arrival was ungraceful. Flailing green wings and long limbs. She landed on the cuff of my pink sheer shirt. Her spines pinched my wrist, holding me prisoner. I tried to reach for the wine, desperate, but her antenna flickered with my movement. So I returned to a seat position and she stilled. My captor turned her triangle head outward and stared.
Aaron was supposed to be home two hours ago. 5pm is when His Father’s bi-monthly weekend custody arrangement ends. But His Father is late, again. His Father is not “stuck in traffic” late or “forgot the suitcase” late. No, His Father is, “Aaron will arrive home distressed and crying so hard he will be unable to eat dinner and fall asleep in his clothes” late.
Divining my fate, I grabbed a bottle of white, a bag of Cheetos and headed to the patio. The patio would give this sad meal the ambiance of civility. Plus, unlike last time, I will not be waiting on the front steps. Unlike last time, I will not run at His Father’s car while it’s still moving and pull Aaron out screaming “You selfish asshole! You will never see your son again.” Unlike last time, I will not kick His Father’s bumper so hard that I break my pinky toe. Unlike last time, I will not be “belligerent, her actions harmed Aaron both physically and emotionally.” The plan was to take a sobering breath as I walked from the patio to the front door, wipe the orange dust off my face and welcome my son home.
But here I am, trapped on the patio, watching her, the praying mantis. She is watching the air, poised. Her stillness is a mask, giving the appearance of rest, disguising the impending ambush. She moves faster than my senses can acknowledge. I see her still and then she has a stinkbug clasped in her maniples, it’s legs kicking air as she eats it.
His Father did, once, bring Aaron home at the agreed upon time. His Father left him on the sidewalk clutching the crumbs of a cookie. Ice cream was dripping from his chin. Aaron started to pull his suitcase up the stairs to our house. Then, just as His Father disappeared from sight, Aaron threw-up. It was not a “little lollipop for the drive” amount or “a cookie to end a great weekend together” amount. No it was a, “Aaron had to be taken to the Emergency Room this evening with severe stomach pains. Doctor’s estimate that he consumed over a gallon of ice cream and a half dozen cookies.” amount.
I hear His Father’s car pull up, the gravel crunching under the tires. It’s 8pm, past Aaron’s bedtime. The car door slams closed and muted voices can be heard. The front door bell rings. But this time I am sitting here, still. His Father can let them in, he has a key.
Tara Van De Mark is a recovering attorney now writer based in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Flash Fiction Magazine, Tiny Molecules, Crepe & Penn and the Closed Eye Open. She can be found at http://www.taravandemark.com