Street Parenting by Meredith Alling

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, December 5th, 2013

You made us suffer, your father and me...

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Well Barb is at the end of the driveway. She’s looking out onto the street, looking past it. I tell her to come back inside to the party but she says there is no point, he’s gone. I tell her that he just went home, but maybe she knows more than I do because she’s his mother.

What I do know is that he’s got something up with his hair, works at the yogurt place, and has a decent attitude. “Lately he’s been taking off though,” Barb says, “taking off into the night.” I tell her that’s what they do at that age, but she says, “No–” shakes her head “–not like this.”

Maybe that hair is her problem — that and the pants — which seem to be a little too large, but just in the legs. “Well I think he is probably going through a phase,” is what I told Barb, and also what Deb told Barb when we had Barb and Bob over for dinner. But when I say that or when Deb says that, it is pretty much, you know, not heard, because we don’t have kids, so how could we know, ever, anything.

Barb thinks he goes to downtown. She thinks he probably goes there and gets drinks from older people who hang around outside of the stores and will go inside and get drinks for younger people in exchange for one dollar. Barb saw it in the paper, this situation. Well she could be right.

But tonight she is out at the end of the driveway just staring. I want to tell her that pretty much the only teenagers left inside are the ones who are very, very boring, but that will probably really make me sound like a person who doesn’t have kids, and if I want to help, then I should try to sound like one who does.

I put a hand on her shoulder and tell her does she want me to get Bob? She shakes her head very fast and says, “No, he really can’t take anymore of this, he’s on his final straw. Well these kids take it out of you,” she says. “They think we don’t suffer, but we do,” she says. “We worry,” she says, “you know,” but when she looks at me, it is very studying of my eyes in a way that she is figuring out or rather realizing that no, I really do not know.

I do know that someday he’ll fix that hair and those pants definitely. She’ll probably remind him like, Oh remember how bad? You made us suffer, your father and me. This is the way it is and I’ve seen it before but I can’t speak to it because, again.

Is this why Deb and I decided on nope? Probably yeah, and mostly just the whole thing. Everyone being suffering with it. The suffering with the joy but like craving the joy constantly and if it falls short the suffering is hysterical. I mean that just sounds — nope.

Someone’s bicycle is parked near the rose bush and Barb is like, “Can I use this,” and I’m like uhhh. So she gets on and does a few circles on the street, very wobbly circles. “Hey,” she says, “can I use this?” And again I am just making sounds because well Barb is just not the type of person who is suddenly wanting to use a bike.

I look over my shoulder and Bob is pressing up against the window shielding his eyes so he can see through and squinting sort of and his mouth drops open — ha. Shocked, all of us.

Well there goes Barb down the street, she disappears into the dark. Yeah you can use it Barb, I’m thinking, you can do what you need to do.

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meredith allingMeredith Alling lives and writes in Los Angeles, CA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel and Leodegraunce. She can be found on Twitter.

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Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).