Short Story: Gum Leaf Cushions

Trigger Warning: Misogyny, Violence

Brad and Kim were arguing, again. Their three-year-old was the terror of Freedom Furniture as she slodged pudgy handprints with pink bubblegum all over a shiny glass table. She ran off, came back, jumped up and down – but nothing seemed to get Mummy and Daddy’s attention. 

“It’s hard to explain” Brad was saying, in that voice that adults use when they are trying not to sound like they’re angry. “I just don’t like them.”

Kim rolled her eyes and sighed. “Stop being such a stick in the mud, they’re perfect!” She said loudly, before drawling in a softer, more dangerous tone. “Why don’t you give me one good reason…then I’ll let it go.”

Brad was a deer in headlights. His eyes wide, he was panting for breath while beads of sweat formed on his brow. Sally started jumping up and down, “Daddydaddydaddy!” she screamed in delight, at what felt like the exact volume and pitch of a jackhammer directly next to his ear. “Daaaaaadddddddy!!”.

Kim was looking at him. Just looking, but he knew that what she was really saying was that he was a worm, a slug, a smudge to be scuffed off the underside of her perfect, matching shoes. Everything had to be perfect with Kim, including her husband. Heaven forbid that he have an original opinion. His resentment boiled over, finally snapping his fragile control in two. He could hear the snap of the tree ringing in his ears again as he sneered down at her “You’re pathetic, Kim, do you know that? Trying to corner me like that. I don’t even know why I bother.” 

The shocked look on her face was so satisfying, even better in a landscape view as he walked out the door. Gum leaf cushions at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. Ridiculous. It’s time for a beer, Brad thought, or three.

Carefully avoiding any shade, he traipsed back to the SUV, smugly triumphant in the knowledge that Kim got what she deserved. A flicker of conscience crossed his countenance, as he remembered the look on her face. So similar to the look on his mother’s face after the accident where Dad died. The house was still standing, but he never would again, and Brad’s mother felt such devastation. 

Brad couldn’t stand to look at the monstrous plants. Such thoughts naturally led back to remembering the gum leaf cushions. With that, Brad pushed thoughts of Kim from his mind and returned to the safety of beer. Comforting stuff.

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