There are rules and the number one rule is silences from all of us in the house. There are punishments: from missing a meal, to standing at attention for hours on end and more.

We can hear Moss and Sharon talking to Sharon’s brother Fydor. That’s all they do is talk. Talk and yell and threaten each other so when they finally come down to the basement with our food it’s cold and wrinkly, but we nod our thanks and take our dish and go sit on the floor and eat it.

Fydor asks if any of us want ice cream for dessert and all of us except Martin raise our hands. Martin yells out, “I do”. And since he broke the silence no one gets dessert, but that night Martin gets a blanket party,

Momma hasn’t been allowed to speak for three months now. She uses an Etch-a-Sketch to communicate with us. Her punishment is almost over, the night before her last day she passes the Etch-a-Sketch around telling us kids she’s getting picked up to go to a shelter and we are welcome to come.

Mom crushes a dozen Tylenol PM pills in Dad’s meatloaf and sets out a bottle of tequila for him. He eats and drinks to excess and minutes before he passes out he brings the Etch-a-Sketch out and slurring his words confronts Mom with it. She says nothing but turns the dials and erases what she’d written and us kids are outside watching through the kitchen window as Dad beckons Mom over. She shakes her head and Dad keels over onto the floor. Mom leaves him there, gets our suitcases and we wait for the shelter van to pick us up, but it doesn’t show.

Mom goes back into the house, rummages through Dad’s pocket and takes his wallet with his credit card and cash and calls an Uber. The Uber driver turns out to be Fydor. The next day we’re all back in the house on thirty-day silences.

Paul Beckman

Paul Beckman has two story collections, “Peek” and “Come! Meet My Family and other stories”. He has had over 300 of his stories published in print, on line in the following magazines as well as others: Literary Orphans, Connecticut Review, Playboy, Matter Press, Litro, Thrice Fiction, The Airgonaught, Jellyfish Review, and R.K.V.R.Y. He runs the monthly FBomb NY flash fiction reading series at KGB. His story, “Brother Speak” was selected for the 2018 Norton Microfiction Anthology.

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