Iowa Writes

CATIE MALOOLY
Excerpt from "Punching Bag"


     "You're an ungrateful little bitch, you know that?" Of course I did, she had certainly reminded me enough times. "I don't know where this fucking attitude of yours comes from." I didn't know either, considering I hadn't actually said anything. "You don't do shit around here, but still go do whatever the fuck you want?" I wanted to ask how she knew what I did and did not do during the day, but figured it was easier to keep quiet. She would eventually retreat back to bed where she had been spending the majority of her time lately.
     Something had changed over the past few months. I learned quickly to get used to my mother's new moods in order to survive them. Most of the time they didn't faze me. I treated life with her like a game - while she was yelling, how long could I stare without blinking? How many times did she clench her fists? Or my favorite, how many days in row could she stay asleep in her room? These games passed the time, but no one ever won. There were bad nights. Most nights were bad nights, actually. But this night was special. This night went on for days.
     My mother's face was inches from mine as she towered over me. Her usual dark summer glow had been replaced by a grey, ashy complexion this year. The life seemed to be drained from her eyes, only brightening for a moment when she thought of a new insult to hurl my way. I could have used the duration of her tantrum to figure out what I had done to make her so upset, but I wasn't particularly interested. The dead fly on the hardwood floor turned into a miniature hockey puck for my cat's one-man team. I heard volume but couldn't hear words. The cat had scored a goal, and I wanted to celebrate with him.

     "You're an ungrateful little bitch, you know that?" Of course I did, she had certainly reminded me enough times. "I don't know where this fucking attitude of yours comes from." I didn't know either, considering I hadn't actually said anything. "You don't do shit around here, but still go do whatever the fuck you want?" I wanted to ask how she knew what I did and did not do during the day, but figured it was easier to keep quiet. She would eventually retreat back to bed where she had been spending the majority of her time lately.
     Something had changed over the past few months. I learned quickly to get used to my mother's new moods in order to survive them. Most of the time they didn't faze me. I treated life with her like a game - while she was yelling, how long could I stare without blinking? How many times did she clench her fists? Or my favorite, how many days in row could she stay asleep in her room? These games passed the time, but no one ever won. There were bad nights. Most nights were bad nights, actually. But this night was special. This night went on for days.
     My mother's face was inches from mine as she towered over me. Her usual dark summer glow had been replaced by a grey, ashy complexion this year. The life seemed to be drained from her eyes, only brightening for a moment when she thought of a new insult to hurl my way. I could have used the duration of her tantrum to figure out what I had done to make her so upset, but I wasn't particularly interested. The dead fly on the hardwood floor turned into a miniature hockey puck for my cat's one-man team. I heard volume but couldn't hear words. The cat had scored a goal, and I wanted to celebrate with him.
     When she grew tired of my presence, she stormed off, treating the stairs to her bedroom as if they had tried to mug her. The sound of fists hitting walls should have startled me, but my mind didn't know surprise anymore. Continuing to take out her rage on inanimate objects would be fine, even typical, but I couldn't help but feel nervous about what she might do to my siblings and me. I contemplated grabbing them and sprinting to the neighbors, but it would have made tomorrow that much worse.
     When the commotion upstairs finally ceased, I grabbed the phone. Even though we had an entire floor separating us, I was afraid to speak above a whisper. My grandma's voice was huskier than normal, but waking her was my only option.
     "She's really mad this time Grandma." My voice was breaking, making me more frustrated than anything else. "Cate, what is she doing?" She sounded so concerned, and I almost immediately regretted calling her. "She won't stop screaming at us and throwing things and dad's not here and I don't know what to do and I'm scared."
     "I'll be right over."
     Clutching my pink woven baby blanket, I realized I had taken my dad's place for the night. When my mother got like this, he would sit there, listening to her insult and belittle him until she had exhausted herself - my mother's punching bag. Tonight's business trip allowed him to sit this round out, so I tagged in. Her verbal left hooks had me on my back, and she only needed to get in one or two more for the KO. I would have appreciated her showing some mercy and ending a few rounds early, so I could have been awake to hear the doorbell in the middle of the night.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


CATIE MALOOLY

Catie Malooly was raised in Darien, Illinois, a Chicago suburb with the actual tag line "A Nice Place to Live." Currently a junior at the University of Iowa, Catie is majoring in both Journalism and Communication Studies, while also pursing an English minor. This passage is part of a longer piece entitled "Punching Bag," about an incident between Catie and her mother when she was twelve years old.

This page was first displayed
on July 25, 2011

Find us on Facebook