A Nice Thing for My Mother by Rachele Salvini

A Nice Thing for My Mother

Mark’s made an unknown woman smile for the first time when he was six years old and he was picking his nose on the train. He was sitting between his grandmother and his mom, who was tightening her trembling fingers around a wet tissue.

Mark looked at the girl sitting in front of him. She had just seen him digging in the depths of his nostril. His grandmother told him off, hissing that a real gentleman must not be caught doing certain things. The girl smiled. His mother, instead, kept quiet.

It was so rare to see a smile on his mother’s face, that Mark decided he would do his best to make every other woman happy.

When his classmates would pull girls’ hair or cut their Barbies’ heads, Mark always came up to them. He cheered them up and made them laugh, pretending to fall and get hurt.
When he grew up and started dating Josie, Mark treated her as well as he could. He spent time with her everyday, even if he was busy preparing his final act. He called it a nice thing for my mother.

He wanted to see his mother smile. She was usually quiet, too busy with cooking and cleaning the house for him and his father or locking herself up in the toilet. Mark was used to her muffled wail.

Before turning seventeen, he had been too small and weak to accomplish his plan and see her smile once and for all. But now, thanks to all the baseball practice after school, his shoulders had squared. His back was as hard as a shell, his legs quick and sturdy, and the muscles of his arms ready to wield any kind of object suitable for the purpose.
The chance finally arrived on a night of September. It was torrid, too torrid for the beginning of autumn. Mark was lying on his bed, reading. He heard his father slamming the hallway door and dragging himself to the kitchen with his usual pace of drunkenness. Mark closed his book slowly. He was extremely calm. As his mother’s screams filled the kitchen for the umpteenth time, Mark bent down to grab the baseball bat from under his bed.

He walked down the stairs, but he stopped abruptly when he felt the bat slipping in his sweaty hand. He stood still, paralysed, and he heard everything, every single scream. He could not take a single step more. He heard his father slamming the door and leaving. His mother was crying, but Mark closed his eyes and climbed up the stairs to go back to bed. He knew he couldn’t make it. He had always known.

His father disappeared. Mark kept on opening the door before every single woman, helped old ladies carrying grocery bags and made everything possible to see his partners smile. But as their lips twitched and opened slightly on their teeth, he would think of his mother’s mouth, still sealed in a sombre line.

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