by Scott Ellis
Rudy heaved himself onto the kitchen counter as quietly as he could, then crouched over the top of the refrigerator and lifted the lid from a ceramic, pale green cookie jar and took out a chocolate chip and a peanut butter with cross-hatches pressed with a dinner fork. Gingerly, with all the skill he could recall from playing Operation with his little brother, he set the lid back, but still did not avoid a hollow, tinkling report as it settled into place. Rudy cringed and hopped down to the floor and peered around the corner into the living room, where his step-mother lay on the couch, immersed in the world of the evening news.
He tried his best to walk casually, padding softly on the shag carpet, palming the cookies at his side as he passed in front of a stand upon which two floral lamps cast irregular light over a cherry wood mounted portrait, yet leaving it mostly in shadow.
“Hold it mister.” Rudy recoiled and crashed into the stand, jarring the lights that rattled and fizzled out. The television flicked his step-mother’s shadow at him like a dark tongue as she advanced, fists clenched, face dark, featureless. “Show me.”
He raised a sweaty, trembling hand that gripped the remains of his ruined plunder; bits and crumbs fell away as a sob arose from his chest.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to love you?”
“I’m s-s-sorry,” Rudy began to wail.
“No, but you will be.”