Mary was fed up with Bob and his teenage ways. Was it too much to ask to keep his clothes off the floor and the trash cans emptied without constant reminders? Mary called up the stairs to Bob to let him know dinner was almost ready and asked him to come set the table. She received no reply. Moments later the heavy footsteps of a tall nineteen year old walked down the stairs, sighing the entire way. He set the table without saying a word. “What am I going to do with this child” she thought, shaking her head.
Bob’s kid sister helped Mary finish the cooking, while they waited for his younger brother to return home from his job as a mechanic’s assistant. Once they were all together, they sat down to eat. The conversation was casual, mostly talk of the day, and most of it done by the younger children. Bob commented here and there. Mary just sat and listened.
Since her husband had passed, Mary had done her best to raise the three children on her own. But it was hard. The boys were turning into men and she knew they needed their father. And Mary really needed her husband. She missed him terribly. It had only been five years since he passed, be it felt like a lifetime. She excused herself from the table.
As she got up, Mary told the children to clear the table and do the dishes. As usual, Bob put up a fuss. She asked him to please stop complaining and just help out before she made him do it all by himself. Bob mumbled unintelligently and started to clear the table.
Mary retreated to her room and sat on the edge of the bed. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She didn’t mean to be so hard on Bob, but she knew he would have it worse in a few weeks. Bob had joined the Army and he was leaving soon. Mary worried when she would see him next, as the country was currently engaged in war. She hoped for the best, but feared for the worst.
Mary closed her eyes.
After what seemed like hours, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes to see a tall, young man. Mary reached out her hand and touched his cheek.
“My Bobby, when did you get so handsome,” she asked.
The young man replied, “No Grandma, it’s Andrew.”
“Where is my Bobby,” Mary asked, puzzled?
Andrew paused for a moment before he replied, “Uncle Bob passed in Vietnam Grandma. Don’t you remember?”
Mary just stared at the young man, not recognizing his face, trying to let his words sink in as if it was the first time she had heard them. Nothing made sense. She felt confused. She felt lost. She looked around, feeling like a visitor in a foreign land of strange faces. She didn’t understand.
Editor’s Note: This was an assignment for a writing class I am taking. The assignment was to use a prompt as the opening line of your story – the prompt I used was “Mary was fed up with Bob and” – and end it with a twist. It was also supposed to be done in around 20 minutes and 300 words or less. I managed the 20 minute goal, not so much on the 300 words. I ended up with 500. And I will not go a single word less.