The potato hit the kitchen window with the suddenness of a determined and misdirected bird. It was a surprise to all of us, even our mother, who had thrown the hot, fully baked vegetable as hard as she could. The shrapnel showered the kitchen counter in a starchy radius.
She’d had no recourse – Dad had slammed the door hard, and she was left standing there stupidly. The wicker basket she’d hung on the back of the door had fallen to the ground and left scattered bits of dried baby’s breath, like tiny hollow spiders all over the floor. Later, she would have to sweep these up. And now, she would also need to clean up the clumps of exploded potato that ran down the window, steaming and slipping.
My sisters and I frowned at each other and thought, What’d she go and do that for? It was our job to tolerate our dad’s temper: as far as I could tell, this was what dads did. They yelled, they stormed out, they came home after you’d gone to bed. We knew how it went, and she should know better. It was as predictable as the storylines in the comics that Dad picked up for us at garage sales. The same stories over and over but I kept reading anyway, lulled and soothed by the promise of Betty loves Archie loves Veronica.
One of us released a small nervous laugh. She spun around to our three faces that wouldn’t return her gaze, each of us afraid and unprepared to be what she was looking for. She made some throaty noises in recognition of her audience. It sounded the same as when she watched a sad movie, and I’d feel ashamed because I wasn’t crying, I didn’t understand. Quietly, she scooped up the pieces of her protest from the windowsill onto her own plate and sat down with us to eat.
I remembered Mom saying she had loved playing on a community softball team, among other things, before she got married. Later that night in bed I imagined myself in uniform, zinging Russets over home plate. Mom, crouched at bat, connected over and over, smashing each strike into the sky.