'This is Tyler from across the way.'
'Oh, hi, Tyler. How are you?'
'May. Your mother's out on your front lawn.'
'Where is she?'
'She's not fully clothed.'
And at that point our son, Joshua, and two other boys were totally out of control. They broke into the town hall and trashed the place. Mr. Ryder caught them. He's a decent man but has made a few choice comments to me about Christ and there was one about parenting and another one that was a bit too racially charged. I add up people's inappropriate comments like a tally, like I have a school demerit board in my mind, to help me decide how I feel about them. When Mr. Ryder nicely brought Joshua home after the incident and stood on my porch explaining things, all I could think about were the inappropriate comments he'd made and how dare he tell me about my boy considering his own deficiences.
Rushing broken seeing Mother sprawled nearly naked on her fresh soaked still soppingwet lawn from rain, May's calls for, 'Mom,' and, 'are you alright?' are met with wandering eyes from neighbors perched but hidden, already taking note and Mother staring up like a lost scared and torn animal at the sight of a daughter she doesn't recognize but searches, scanning the deepest sections of herself for truth.
'It's May, Mom. It's me, May. We have to get you inside. Here.'
And she tries to lift Mother, crouching down and gaining leverage but Mother knows she's almost nude and thinks she's fine and says, 'Oh, no, you can't take me. This is the seat, yes, and I'll stay for a while with the birds.'
Mother tangles with May to move but May refuses to let go and says, 'We have to go inside, Mom.'
'He's not going back to that school.'
'I don't care, Marshal. He's not going back.'
'This is honestly not the reaction I was expecting, May.'
'How dare they intervene like this? What the hell does the town hall have to do with the school?'
'They're connected in the community.'
'Suspend Joshua for this? It wasn't even on school grounds. Far from it. This is an outrage, if you ask me.'
'Where else will he go?'
'He can enroll in Brigsby.'
'That will cost...'
'Or we'll move.'
'May. What is this about? What is this geared at?'
'Are you alright?'
'I don't know, Marshal.'
'I thought he'd, you know, be suspended, as the school has stipulated and learn from this and go back to school in two weeks. I think it's a fine punishment.'
'And you want him to go to another school?'
'You're right, alright? I'm just upset.'
'Where is this coming from?'
'Where does Ted Ryder come off snitching on our boy? That man should mind his goddamn business.'
'He was trying to protext the town hall. He was just trying to...'
'Well, maybe if he focused on his own shortcomings he'd be in a much better position overall.'
'You wouldn't believe the things he's said to me, Marshal. You wouldn't believe.'
'Should I be...'
'In any event. It's fine. It doesn't matter. Joshua will ride out this suspension and start fresh afterwards.'
'And what's in here?' asks Mother as May, winded, walks her into the living room, plops her down on the couch and crouches to be eye level.'
'Are you alright, Mom?'
Backhanded and with heat, Mother smacks May across the face and a clap rings out in the house.
'You take that tone with me again, young lady, and you'll be paying for it.'
Her anger writhes out, born from somewhere mysterious and May remains crouches, gawking at Mother.
Banging down the stairs producing noise usually met with May asking him not to bang around, Joshua makes his way into the living room and says, 'Mom, are you...'
'Josh, go upstairs.'
'Is Grandma alright?'
And bang, another smack from Mother to May's face and Joshua's chest tenses up. He gets closer to them with thoughts of intervening but confusion stops those and he just stands weak in the living room.
'Mom, are you alright?'
'Why is Grandma... why is she only wearing a...'
'Your Grandmother is sick. She's very ill.'
The handprints pulse on May's face. Mother peers out the bay window to the front lawn and she smiles at the grass.
'Oh isn't that nice,' she says.
'Why did you break into the town hall?'
'Answer me,' May says, her eyes glowing.
After a moment Joshua says, 'I don't know.'
'Those are birds out there,' Mother says. 'All of them. They're singing. Do you... do you hear them?'
'Do you want me to get a blanket for Grandma? Or a towel or something?'
'What do you think happens to people who break into places and destroy things, Joshua?'
'It was a goof, Mom.'
'Do you want vandalization and destruction to be who you are? What defines your identity?'
'I'm sorry, Mom.'
'What do you think becomes of people who take morality and shred it?' May asks.
'Those birds sing,' Mother says.
'I don't know what to say, Mom.'
Complete quiet dictates the passage of time.
'Get your grandmother a towel.'