/’skAn/ : a loosely coiled length of yarn or thread wound on a reel

Goddess of Mikey

So, I figured that I could help break my general writing stoppage by switching gears from Alpha vs Delta for a brief bit. I promise get back to AvD very shortly. In the meantime, here's a story I've hastily entitled "Goddess of Mikey," from an idea that's been bobbing through my head the past few mornings:

"Time to wake up, Mikey," said his mother, softly nudging open his bedroom door.

Mikey had slapped the snooze button on his alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier, at six o'clock. As his mother lacked a similar feature, he groaned and rolled over with his pillow covering his head. Undaunted, she continued into his room to his bedside, to gently shake him awake.

"C'mon sweetie, you'll be late for school."

"School sucks. Wanna sleep."

"You should've gone to bed earlier, kiddo. Now get up. If I don't hear you in the shower in the next ten minutes, I'll be back with a bucket of ice water." She turned and left the room, her footsteps traveling down the hall and downstairs.

Mikey mewled at the injustice and sat up in a huff, the pillow left behind and covers falling away. Nine-and-a-half minutes later — just as he was starting to doze off again — he swore he heard running water and ice cubes being emptied from a freezer tray. Less than thirty seconds after that, he was in the bathroom lathering his hair.

After brushing his teeth and throwing on a t-shirt and jeans, he bounded down the stairs to find a bowl of hot oatmeal, a pile of pills, and a glass of orange juice waiting for him.

"Aw, Mom," he said, "orange juice tastes like crap with toothpaste. Can't I have some Fruity Flakes and a juice box?"

"No," she said. "I have let you eat enough of that crap for the week. You need to balance out with something less likely to send you to school hyper today and give you Diabetes tomorrow." As he slumped into his chair at the table, she ruffled his hair and added, "And do not forget to take your vitamins."

She did let him turn on the TV in the dining room, though, and watch cartoons while he ate. Since he'd actually gotten his homework finished early up the night before, she'd let him play online for an hour or so before bed. So, the cartoons were a nice bonus. She tolerated the bonks, sproings, and booms with a smirk as she ate a bagel, drank her coffee, and read a book across from him.

Finally, just as he was downing the last of the horse pills she'd laid out for him, there was a frantic banging at the door. Mikey jumped up from his chair, ran through the living room to the foyer, and wedged his feet into his shoes. His mother followed calmly behind and opened the door to greet little Janey Franklin vibrating outside on their front step.

Janey collected herself enough to recite, politely, "Good morning Mrs. Peterson. Is Mikey ready to walk to the bus stop?"

"Yes, just about," said his mother. A beat later, Mikey was back to his feet, slipping his arms into the straps of his purple backpack. She leaned down to receive a peck on her cheek, then opened the outside door and ushered him out. "Have a good day at school, angel. I love you."

"Yeah, you too Mom," he yelled as he and Janey ran down the sidewalk toward the school bus stop in the cool air of the early spring morning.

Once the door to the house had closed behind him and they'd gotten a block or so out of earshot, Janey snagged Mikey's hand and said, "Jeeze, Mike, your Mom is kinda creepy!"

"Yeah, well," he said, grinning, "I guess it's a good thing you like me enough to rescue me from the monster house."

Janey punched him hard in the arm with her free hand, but giggled. "Yeah, you're pretty lucky, and don't you forget it."

Unnoticed by either Mikey or Janey, a boy named Bret Smalls had emerged from between a couple of houses behind them. He'd been cutting through yards on the way to the bus stop, and knew these two would be taking this way.

He'd been keeping an eye on Mikey for a few days now. Bret had a crush on Janey, but he'd eat a slug before he told anyone, even Janey herself. But, seeing that little asshead hold her hand had really pissed him off. Fuming and almost panting, Bret walked fast down the sidewalk in his black hoodie and grey corduroys. He was trying to catch up to the pair, yet stay quiet enough that neither of them would turn around and see him before it was too late. He reflected on how hard being sneaky was in these jeans, as he hefted a nice solid rock in his right hand.

Once he got within throwing range — without even a single rearward glance from either of the pair — he reared back and whipped his arm forward to launch the stone right at the back of Mikey's head. Bret had good aim throwing rocks. It whistled through the air in a perfect arc, and Bret felt a thrill anticipating the sound both it and Mikey would make on impact.

A foot or so just behind Mikey, though, the rock's momentum suddenly slowed as if it had hit a wall of water. It tumbled slowly to the ground without a sound, just like a crow's feather shed from a tree branch. Incredulous, Bret drew another, smaller stone from his hoodie pockets and chucked it after the first. Then another and another — he'd filled his pockets with ammunition from driveways on the way this morning, but they must've all had something wrong with them. He'd tried whipping every rock at the asshead's stupid ass head, and every one had gone fluffy by the time it got near him.

Really mad now, Bret balled his fists and started off in a run to close the quarter-block's distance between he and Mikey. If rocks wouldn't do the job, he'd do it with his bare hands. Still oblivious, the lovebirds giggled and babbled to each other in complete ignorance of Bret's approach.

Just about ten feet away from Mikey, Bret caught the toe of one of his shoes in an unnoticed buckle in the sidewalk. A car passed by as Bret went down hard, covering the sound of the pavement driving the air out of him with a woof. His knees bruised badly, and he'd smacked his right cheek into the hard ground with a shock of pain that brought tears welling up. But, he'd have a pile of slugs for breakfast if he let that happen. He mouthed at the air like a spilled fish, felt the shiner already throbbing and growing under his eye. He slowly picked himself up off the ground, and started again toward the bus stop. He wasn't moving all that fast now, though, as stiff knees forced him to limp the rest of the way and he hoped he wouldn't miss his ride.

Not once having become aware of Bret's attempted ambush, Mikey and Janey arrived at the school bus stop outside the church on the corner. They sat next to each other on the front steps, waiting. Bret Smalls dragged himself past them, just in time for the bus to round the corner. He looked in sorry shape, with a black eye, limping, holding his stomach.

"Jeeze," said Janey, "what the heck happened to him?"

"I dunno," said Mikey, "looks like he got into a fight on the way here."

She whistled low, "I hope his folks didn't beat up on him or anything."

"Yeah," he said, "I heard his Dad can get pretty mean. Poor little guy."

As the pair got onto the bus, they paid no mind to Bret's baleful, sullen, eye-squinted glare tracking them all the way to the seats in the back.

Mikey's mother closed the front door behind the kids, chuckling to herself. Little Janey was a little cutie, and she'd turned Mikey into a goof. He'd die if she ever told him that, so she'd just have to keep that under wraps for a few years. And keep an eye on Little Janey.

She returned to the dining room, scooping up the remnants of her son's breakfast. Raising a child was not what she'd expected, she mused. It was at once harder and more rewarding than any of her research had lead her to believe. Mikey was so annoyingly dependent, ignorant, and petulant - but she could see glimmers of an adult intelligence developing within him, a little more every day.

Rinsing out his bowl and juice cup, she considered that her son had given her enough satisfaction so far to keep her from flushing the whole project. She guessed he must fulfill what she'd imagined were the beyond-ancient tatters of deep maternal instinct that had drawn her into this to begin with. One day, she hoped she could have conversations with him as a true peer — if he made it through his encroaching teen angst era without hating her in the course of differentiating himself from her.

She gazed out the kitchen window over the sink, at the empty backyard outside, at blades of grass just starting to reach up from the ground made mush by the spring thaw. She was surrounded by a handful of friends, she sensed. At her current time scale, though, she didn't hear much from them directly. There were a few of them who took turns keeping an eye on she and Mikey. Although they very rarely paid a visit in person, she was comforted by the almost constant presence of a number of guardian angels presiding over Mikey and herself. Their help had come in handy on a handful of occasions over these past dozen trips around the sun. Since her son's birth, her friends' small interventions and corrections had kept both mother and son healthy and clear of tragedy.

She turned off the sink taps, placed the bowl and juice cup into the dishwasher behind her. It occurred to her that, at some point, she'd have to have a discussion with her friends about letting a few non-fatal incidents slip through to Mikey. She'd seen the Smalls boy stalking her son on a few occasions — maybe they'd need to get into a brawl or two at some point and trade bruises. Mikey couldn't be allowed an entirely paradisal childhood and still develop into a fully functioning adult. As it was, she was looking forward to the day she could extricate herself from her biological confines and leave him to his own devices for a few decades. That would probably be the boy's greatest trauma, and he needed to be more experienced with pain in general before he could successfully absorb that particular blow.

As she returned to the table to finish her own breakfast, she sighed. It was difficult going it alone from day to day, minute to minute — but, Mikey had been her idea after all. His father had been there at the beginning, but he'd disappointed her: He'd let his corporeal instantiation expire as he'd absentmindedly slipped back into a more conventional pace of consciousness. By the time his next slice of awareness ticked over, and he realized what he'd done, she would have already put Mikey through college and be well on her way to senescence. His passing hadn't gone easy for Mikey, though — since from Mikey's perspective, his father had simply, inexplicably fallen into a coma one day and never woke again.

As for the rest the people in this world, well, they were really just extras in this story. She supposed she could reach out and play at making a few friends in town, if only to pass the time when Mikey was away from her. She was pretty sure that her nearest neighbors had worrying thoughts about her and how she kept to herself. Not that what anyone else thought really had any bearing on her, but they did influence Mikey's development — that was why, after all, she and her friends had created the sun and the world and filled it with people.

The people were real enough — they'd taken a few millennia to develop a sufficiently rich and stable civilization in which to plant Mikey — but to her, they were just soil for his growth. Once she and Mikey were done with the world, its fate was a toss-up. Maybe her friends would lose interest and leave it to continue unchecked on its own, or maybe they'd have some ideas of their own to try. Either way, she didn't much care.

She sighed again, more deeply this time: If her only regard for others here were as dirt, she could see how she might rub them the wrong way. And right now, she was one of them — instantiated in a tangle of muscle, bone, and nerves and breathing the same air as everyone else on the planet. And eons ago, she'd been in a place not at all unlike this one, a child herself in the decades before she and her friends had all pulled themselves free.

Draining the last of her cold coffee, she supposed she would have to get out and interact with the others around here — for Mikey's sake at least. They might not be as interesting as her real friends, but they were the best she had for now.

Almost on cue, there came a knock at her kitchen back door. Standing there, she could see a woman with an uncertain yet friendly smile, bearing an aluminum foil wrapped bundle. Mirroring that smile, Mikey's mother stood and strode from the dining room to the door.

"Mrs. Peterson," said the woman softly, "You're Mike's mom, right?"

Bemused, Mrs. Peterson replied, "Yes, I am Mikey's mother. And whom might you be?"

"I'm Janet Franklin, little Janey's mother. I made zucchini bread, if you'd like some."

"Come in, please," said Mrs. Peterson, gesturing for Janet to step inside, "I have fresh coffee or orange juice to go with that bread. Also, I would like it if you called me Nicola. "

"Pleased to meet you, Nicola," said Janet, accepting the invitation and stepping into the kitchen. "I'd be grateful for a cup of coffee - mine's black. It smells wonderful."

With two cups of black coffee and two slices of freshly baked warm zucchini bread, Janet and Nicola sat down together at the dining room table and spent the entire morning — and most of the afternoon — getting to know each other and gossiping about their kids. By the time Mikey came back home with Janey in tow, they discovered with a dawning sense of pre-teen dread that a maternal conspiracy had begun.

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