One Stone

I found an old wooden cigar box in a church office and I was inspired by the treasures it held. There was just an old receipt and the idea for this story.
Marty hated the sound of birds. She would lie under her Bratz comforter and listen to them chirp cheerily outside her window. The light in her bedroom would turn from gray to orange. And the birds would sing. The pink flowered wallpaper would peek around her posters of Edward and Harry Potter. And the birds would sing. Marty would hear her mother’s slow shuffling steps from the master bedroom to the kitchen, smell the coffee brewing, hear the soft click of the liquor cabinet as her mom took her eye opener. And those damn birds would sing and song and sing. Marty would listen to their singing until she would hear her mom tap lightly on her bedroom door.
“Tina honey, time to get up.”
When her mom would open the door then Marty would pretend to be asleep. Some mornings her mother with crept in quietly and kiss her forehead smelling of vodka and bitter coffee; other mornings her mom would watch Marty from the doorway. Either way was horrible and Marty only got up when the coast was clear.
This morning was a watching from the doorway. As soon as her door closed, Marty sprang into action. Her uniform for school was laid out on the lime green and pink striped rocking chair. Her morning routine of wash face brush teeth make a ponytail was under nine minutes. Her shimmery lavender backpack stood at attention by the bedroom door. Marty sped through her morning. Backpack slung over one shoulder she pauses in the hallway, looking left and right before scurrying to the kitchen. The kitchen was always a crap shoot. Would her mom and step-dad both be there finishing breakfast, laughing and joking? Would Donny have not come home again and Mom would be making a big breakfast and talking loud and bright?
This morning was a bowl of instant oatmeal and slices of buttered jelly toast alone on the counter. Marty shoveled in the cereal, grabbed her lunchbox, aimed for the door. Don’s car was in the driveway. Marty’s body slumped as she ate the warm soggy sweet bread on the way to school.
The school day slipped away and almost before she knew it Marty was back before her own front door. She stared at the door before taking out the key held on a ball chain around her neck. The house was still. Marty made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and devoured them with three glasses of milk. Carefully she washed and dried the glass and plate and knife. She checked the counter for crumbs. Next she got out her wooden cigar box and made a nest of pillows on the den sofa. It was a Costa Rica Gold cider box with golden foil, a deep red label, and a border of dancing Spanish ladies. Scotch tape carefully applied held the broken hinges to the box. She fished through her box of treasures for her tiny stuffed polar bear. With a plateful of Nilla Wafers on her stomach and he bear tucked under her chin Marty flipped through channels, car races, tornados in the Midwest, Silent Library, half of The Thundermans, finally the end of a really good Brady Bunch. At 5:59, she brushed off her plate and put it back in the cabinet, fluffed up the sofa, found the cookie box under the sofa send returned it to the kitchen and then spirited away into her bedroom with her backpack and cigar box.
When she heard the sound of garage door opening, Marty quickly closed her Encyclopedia Brown and hid her treasure box behind her stack of Nancy Drews. When her mother timidly knocked Marty was surrounded by school books.
“Hi, how’s my Tina Sweetie? Don’t tell me you still working on that homework,” Her mother said, peering around Marty’s bedroom door. Marty’s mother, Rene, had long thick golden brown hair that she curled in waves around her lovely lovely tawny brown face. She was tall but had a habit of sloping her shoulder to appear smaller, more delicate. She was slender but dressed to show off her figure. Marta thought her mother always tried to look like a Walt Disney fawn. Her mother’s big light brown eyes were round and concerned. Marty’s own big light brown eyes were suddenly equal round and concerned.
“Oh, I’m just swamped here. They give us some much stupid work,” Marty replied pitifully.
“Why don’t I–”
Quickly Marty closed her history notebook. “Hold on mom I don’t need help. I mean you know how the math gets you all fuddled up and I have to do it myself and really I’ll be done soon.
Marty’s mother looked down for a moment but then brighten. “Okay you holler if you get in the weeds. I’m making your favorite meatloaf.” They shared a smile and her mother closed the door.
With a sigh, Marty opened her notebook and glanced over the answers. Marty always did her homework during class or in the library. She had read everything worth reading that she was allowed to read in the school library anyways. She used to do all of her homework during September but that attracted attention so she learned to piece it out. Marty erased one of her right answers and rewrote it with a few spelling mistakes so it looked better then she went back to Sally Kimball and Encyclopedia Brown.
Dinner time was always the longest part of the day. Some days Marty could finagle a stomachache or a headache and skip dinner all together. But too many of those bring you to the doctor or worse the head doctor. Marty thought about her trips to the doctors, doctors with frizzy hair and sour breath who pretended to care. She learned one thing, you can think it but don’t say it. Marty was still thinking when her mother’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“Dinner’s ready.”
The dinner room table was huge, long dark wood. Marty loved the smooth solid of it under her fingers. But dining room tables are for company. They ate in a little space off the kitchen with an oval pressed particle board yellow oak veneer. Marty always wanted to peel off the table’s skin but once before her parents’ divorce when she chipped the side under her plate just a little her dad slapped her hand and said this is why we can’t have nice things.
Hands folded, she sat in her place beneath the window. Her step dad Don was already seated with the Inquirer, a drink, and a cigarette at the head of the table. His head was focused on the folded dirty gray rectangle of newspaper. Brightening, Don put down the paper and the cigarette when Marty approached the table.
“So how was school, Marty? Did you discover a new planet? Create a secret formula? Tell me how you set the world on fire?”
Don’s voice was warm and deep and flowed over a room. Don was very tall and lean with brightly colored ties, well tailored suits, one thin gold chain and deep dimples in his dark brown face. His face wasn’t handsome it was better than handsome, his face radiated attractive happiness. Marty smiled up at him basking in his grin.
“Martina! Didn’t I tell you to take off your uniform and put on play clothes when you came home.”
Don rolled his eyes. “What’s her prob?” He asked with a crinkled smile. Marty glared at him and then swiftly dropped her eyes to her plate. “I mean you cares, am I right….” Don’s voice trailed away. He say in the awkward silence then returned to his newspaper. Rene came to the table with a platter of Salisbury steak and a bowl of steaming broccoli. She hurried back to the kitchen for the mashed potatoes and a pitcher of iced tea. She chattering away filling the room with talk.
“I had the craziest day today. Mary was on the phone half the day talking to her daughter about God knows what and Mr. Plotz tried to kill the coffee machine this morning. How’s dinner, everybody? I had a devil of a time with my potatoes. How’s dinner? Honey, if you need help with homework I can sit down with you tonight?”
Marty shook her head no without looking up.
Rene turned to Don. “For instant potatoes they’re great,” Don snapped.”everything is fine for Pete’s sake.” They finished the meal in silence.
After dinner Marty retreated to her room, Rene to the den with the stereo and a Long Island Iced Tea, and Don took a shower and left. Marty fell asleep on one of her books to the sounds of Phyllis Hyman.
It was the chirping of birds that woke her up. Marty looked around her room uncertainly before becoming fully awake. The house was still. Marty’s window was wide open to catch the breeze. Even though it was barely light the birds in the hedge beneath her window were in full form. Slipping her small fingers into the grooves of the sill, she slipped open the screen. The birds quieted for a moment before returning to song. Marty went to her bookshelf for her treasure box. Reverently she opened it and took out a large oval stone. She heard the wheels of Don’s car crunch on the gravel driveway. Marty returned to the open window and geared up into the pitcher stance that Don had showed her. She listened for the opening of his car door, the sound of his drunken feet on the driveway, the satisfying chunk sound of the car door slamming shut. Marty let the stone fly with all of her strength. Marty listened to crack of Don’s head and watched him stumbled forward and land face first in the layer of river jack that outlined their front yard. She waited ten minutes for him to get up or move. The only change was a sudden early morning rain. The birds stayed quiet. Marty closed the screen, curled under her comforter, and slept.

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