Friday, August 20, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Kill Mommy

An audio version of this story is available. Click on the triangle on the left to begin listening, or click on this text to download the MP3.

Five minutes into the first quarter, Bob heard something behind him. He looked behind the sofa and saw his son trudging towards the stairs. He wore his cowboy hat and cap gun belt.

“What did Mom say about wearing that stuff inside, Junior?”

The boy didn’t look at him. He said, in a pathetic John Wayne impression, “I’ve come to kill Mom.”

“Well she’s not upstairs. She’s out picking up dinner. Take that off and come watch the game.”

Junior did not take off his gear, but he did come sit on the sofa. He ate a Frito and glared at the Dallas defense. He stroked his plastic gun in the holster.

After a few disappointing downs, Bob examined the boy.

“You know that thing doesn’t shoot real bullets. This plan's not liable to work out for you.”

“I couldn’t find a real one, and this is loud. Loud noises give old people heart attack sometimes.”

“She’ll love to hear that.”

Dallas fumbled for the first, but likely not last time today.

“Why are you going to kill her?”

Junior talked at the screen, like the play-by-play analysts already knew and commiserated on this.

“She told Linda Waldemaar that I like her.”

“Sharing feelings.” Bob ate a Frito. “Vile.”

“Now everyone at school knows. They made fun of me. I’ll be unpopular forever.”

“That is how it rolls. A girl found out I liked her in the second grade and no one has liked me since. I only got your mother through elaborate negotiation and bear traps.”

“When she comes home, I’m going to kill her. Then I’ll probably kill myself.”

“Well the cap gun is half-assing it. You’re getting big. You can wield a bludgeon.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you still have that baseball bat we got for your birthday? That’s one.”

Junior wandered out through the patio. He returned with no cowboy hat, the bat in both hands. He held it up for approval.

“Yeah,” assured his father. “That’s a strong bat. Louisville wood. Your mother picked it out.”

Junior grimaced. He slid his hands down to the grip and wound up, perhaps imagining his mother’s face being pitched down the plate at sixty miles an hour. It looked like he bunted.

“I’m going to use it to kill her.”

“It’ll hurt. But on second thought,” Bob deliberated, looking to the fire place, “what about those pokers? They’re metal, swing easier, and pointed at the end. You could really hurt someone with that.”

Junior looked at the rack of fireplace tools. When he didn't take one, Bob got up, selected the cast iron poker and tossed it to him. Junior barely caught it.

“Go on outside and whack a couple trees. Get the feel for it.”

Junior exited via the patio again. Bob sipped his beer as the Dallas defense continued to give up first down after first down.

At the twenty yard line, he heard a clang and a yelp from outside. He stuck his head out the glass door and saw Junior standing by a tree, clutching his fingers. The poker lay in the grass.

“That’s no good,” Bob chastised. “How can you kill a full grown woman if you can barely assault an overgrown plant? Imagine your mother lying there on the dirt, blood oozing from her cheek, the job unfinished. How disappointed she’d be in you.”

Junior pouted furiously down at the poker.

“Why did she have to tell Linda Waldeamaar?”

Bob collected the poker. He brushed the dirt off and asked, “Is this the Linda you’ve been pining over all year?”

“Sort of.”

“You keep writing her notes and not sending them? You go down to her bus stop but never say hi? Keep sitting behind her in class?”

“Sort of.”

“Junior, do you know what a stalker is?”


“Well Linda's got the internet and she does. She and Mrs. Waldemaar started thinking you were one, and your mother talked to Mrs. Waldemaar to keep them from doing anything drastic. Linda probably found out that way, when her own mother tattled.”

Junior kept pouting at the ground where the poker had been. He reached to his holster, cap gun still hanging there in full loyalty.

“I probably shouldn’t kill her for that.”

“Use your better judgment. But before she gets home, how about you put this poker and that gun away, and go call Linda? If she already thinks you’re a weirdo then you’re free to say whatever you want. Tell her how you feel. Can’t take more guts than killing your mother.”

Junior took the poker and waddled off on his duties. Bob took another beer and resumed his life in front of the television. Dallas took the ball eighty-three yards and kicked a field goal.

Junior grabbed the cordless and started up the stairs, for the privacy of his room. He paused on the third step.



“I’m sorry nobody likes you.”

Bob frowned at the screen. This kickoff was important.

“I get by.”

The audio version of this monologue was made possible by two fine guys. Max Cantor created the audio player and provided the bandwidth. Andreas Sundgren helped get me a new microphone so I can start recording again. I'd like to thank both of them.


  1. A horror story that can't quite decide to be horrible. Drew me right in and carried me along, non-stop ride, John. What a piece of work. Well done sir.

  2. John, I really really dug this. It was both oddly twisted anf funny at the same time. Really reminded me of vintage Carver - sans Internet references. Great reading, too...

  3. This was excellent! Loved how Dad seemed to help him through the whole thing but was really just setting him up for a darn life lesson. No wonder no one likes him...

  4. Well, it's not too hard to see what everyone else sees in this guy -- and they don't like him.

    I, on the other hand, did like him. Not my parenting style to be sure, but he got the boy to the right place. How do you argue that?

    Brilliant voice. Excellent pacing. Great job all around, but ... what's wrong with Dallas's D?

  5. The kid cowboy watching the Cowboys fumble as he too fumbles weaponry, feelings & life itself. Wonderful.

    "Looked like he bunted" - hilarious

    marc nash

  6. John, this is one of your best, in my humble opinion. I love how you use the football game to coincide with their dialogue, and how horrifying, but, as Ant said, also funny. I wasn't sure whether to say "Oh no, no" or laugh out loud.
    Fantastic work!

  7. I don't believe I have tee-heed at a story so hard in a while. I love this guy's method of teaching life lessons and I just giggled my way through the entirety of the story from the moment I realized Junior was going to try to scare his mother to death with a cap-gun induced heart attack. This is a damn good story, and the title distracted me from your ThursdayTale. I shall go finish reading and comment upon that now. Cheerio and rock on!

  8. Oh my God, it's my stepdad. This sounds like a John Cusak film waiting to be made. (sorry, that's who I pictured Bob looking like). This was fascinatingly fun in a queasy sort of way. I dearly hope this kid turns out to be no bigger a nut job than the rest of us.

    Well played, John-o.

  9. Given your usual fare, I was really worried for his mom. This was incredibly sweet without being maudlin. Great ending as well.

  10. Absolutely adored this! And a big awwww to "I'm sorry nobody likes you."

  11. This is EXACTLY how I deal with my own kids.

    Brilliant, John, just wonderful.

  12. John. (can't stop smiling) One of my all-time favorites of yours.

    Me, I actually kind of adore the dad. He got right down on the boy's level and nudged him to learn for himself. No judgment.

    And the imagery is excellent, and the dialogue, too. And funny.

    Just a truly great story.

  13. Mike, all us kids dream horror stories for our parents and guardians from time to time. Glad this one got you for so long. Did anything particularly catch you?

    Anthony, I guess I need to read more Raymond Carver, not that I'm anything other than flattered at the comparison. What shorts would you recommend?

    Eric, everybody has their own parenting style. His is just a little Hannibal.

    J. Dane Bathory, the only autobiographical thing about this is watching the Dallas Cowboys stink at football. They're won Superbowls and made the playoffs plenty of years, yet living here in New York, nearly every time I get to see one of their games on TV they fold like a card table. It's as though they save up failure for me.

    Mr. Marc, I wondered if you'd like that bunting line.
    Deanna, what makes this stand out for you against my other flashes?

    Monja, thank you for stopping by today and leaving such detailed thoughts. I admit that the title is a little sensational -so much so that I couldn't bring myself to change it. Glad it got you giggling.

  14. Monica, if Cusack wants the options I'd be happy to talk to him. I promise the kid does not turn out much worse than the average Joe - and some people actually like him.

    Valerie, I wondered if anyone would bring expectations like that. I purposefully played with them a little. Glad the sweetness survived for you.

    Marisa, that's my favorite line too. Did you really "awww" at it?
    Tony, I'm so glad you're my friend. That way you can't be my dad. Actually, want to be my dad? My birthday's coming up.

    Wow Gracie, thanks! So you and Deanna liked this above nearly anything else I've done. I wonder if this means I should come to the mundane world more often. I liked how you read it as the dad descending to Junior's level - I purposefully got out of their heads so people could project like that.

  15. Nicely done.

    I really enjoyed this. It reminded me a lot of my nephew recently - much younger though. His Mom took away his toy trucks because he gave his sister a black eye.

    He promptly told his Mother in his 5 year old voice that he would give her a black eye too if she didn't give back his trucks.

    I still don't know how she kept a straight face and sent him to his room. :)

  16. That was pretty disturbing for a story that ended up with a pouty little boy!

  17. No wonder no one likes Dad, damn life lessons when your pissed just make you want to bludgeon everyone in sight. :) nicely done

  18. Like Valerie, I was a bit worried where this story was going. I really enjoyed how the father cleverly twisted around the boy's reasoning. Unconventional but it worked!

  19. "negotiation and bear traps"


    Actually, I laughed throughout the story but I confess there was a heavy thing in my stomach. You never know if dad is being serious about killing mom or not.

    Love how you unfolded the story smoothly, and also dad's teaching strategy, Mr. Ogre. ;)

  20. Well played. I thought this was taking a very dark turn with the father's suggestions. I like the way he guided the boy to more reasonable actions.

  21. Okay, but excessively verbose. The exposition was really painful to read.

  22. Tina, I'm pretty sure I made threats like that to my mom when I was young enough. My parents didn't abide it - this dad is much nicer. But I can't imagine not laughing at the threats of a toddler.

    Gany, may I ask what disturbed you? Just that the father would behave this way?

    Jason, he just wanted to watch the game. I swear.

    Mari, glad this cracked you up so much.

    Ts and Tim, I like that people read it this way. Do you think people expect a sinister dad out of me at this point?

    Khakjaan, what parts struck as having too much exposition? Anyone who feels this got verbose, please point out examples for me. I'm quite interested in criticism.

  23. This is exactly how I intend to parent. Including the play-by-play. Doomsday Defense forever. Well done!

  24. I love how the father never freaked out on the kid. The story had a nice, relaxed, easy rhythm and, honestly, I don't see anything verbose about it. It was pretty clean, actually.
    Liked a lot.

  25. Bart Simpson: "Nothing ruins fun like finding out it builds character."
    This was a great read. Sinister, but homely at the same time.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  26. I absolutely loved this story, John. The dialogue, the football, the reasoning...perfection. Excellent job!

  27. John, this story had a great sense of rhythm, and the dialogue works well also.

  28. d hilarious, and also a little sweet under it all. The tone is great - the dad's matter-of-factness with the whole situation.

  29. I have to agree that John Cusack would be perfect here.
    "If she already thinks you’re a weirdo then you’re free to say whatever you want" - so, so true. Despite the fact that I'm aware of this, it has worked on me a few times. To the point of marriage, even.

  30. I loved this story. But I have a sneaking suspicion that you wrote it just to show off your John Wayne impression.

  31. thanks for a good article on Mars Rover. i like it.

  32. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Keep it up.

  33. Terrific story. Wow that kid is harboring some serious feelings. Thank goodness he vented them on the tree first. Loved how the dad brought the boy around in a nontraditional way.

  34. I think the whole family needs counseling. That kid has serious issues. Great story John. The voice of the kid was especially effective. I could see a messed up kid talking that way.

  35. I didn't see this an inkling of horror in this story. I loved the way the dad calmly made his son see reason without forcing it on him. Reminds me a bit of my mom's parenting style - she gently lead us to make our own decisions but usually they were the ones she wanted us to reach (wait, that may explain a lot...). LOL!

  36. Now that's good fathering. I laughed all the way through.

  37. Oh I LOVE that! At first I thought maybe the dad was going to set the son up to murder his wife, but that was genius. Bravo!

  38. OK, as a mommy, i have to say this gave me the heebie jeebies. But fortunately my 4yo isn't big enough to wield a baseball bat yet. Great story :-)

  39. This is a good one, Mr Wiswell. I've liked it and shared it in Google Reader, so you'll become an overnight success now.

  40. Brilliant bit of parenting there. Funny and tender with a great last line. Bob is cool.

  41. I love the way the dad shows him how things work rather than lecturing. Good to feel sorry for the poor guy at the end. Kids can be so brutal with their honesty. Fabulous story.

  42. Loved this! At first I thought - 'No, no, no! Don't let him kill his mom!' My stomach was in a knot all the time, because I had no idea what to expect. Great story!

  43. Oh wow, that was weird and creepy and told so casually. You can write like a sick twisted freak and make the reader cheer for him. That's SO wrong. And yet, so right.

  44. Oh wow, that was weird and creepy and told so casually. You can write like a sick twisted freak and make the reader cheer for him. That's SO wrong. And yet, so right.

  45. From very disturbing to frickin adorable in a remarkably smooth transition. Gah, I liked the bear traps comment too. And I like how when the reader realizes what the dad's actually doing, the entire rest of the story snaps into a different perspective.


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