04 January 2014

"DO YOU WANT TO HAVE TEA?" by Kaila Cummings

T.S. Eliot once said, “In my beginning is my end.”

Slim Jims, hard liquor and drugs are my childhood. “You want to come to the package store with me? I'll buy you a Slim Jim.” Whenever I think of my father, I taste Slim Jims. I vomit.

Mechanically separated chicken, corn and wheat proteins, lactic acid starter culture, dextrose, salt, sodium nitrite, hydrolyzed soy.

Those days you played ball, had spectators in your dance recital, had happy family meals where you all tell each other about your day.

I babysat my father instead.

My mother is a saint.

A person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and typically regarded as being in heaven after death.

He doesn't know my age, my major, my birthday. He's very good at being a vegetable on the chair downstairs. But he can't be asparagus, I like it too much.

Tea at three. My tattoo. “Do you want to have tea?” In between our tears, our couch became a safe haven.

A hot drink made by infusing the dried, crushed leaves of the tea plant in boiling water.

The evergreen shrub or small tree that produces tea leaves, native to South and eastern Asia.

I sleep with a knife under my pillow. There's one in my desk, under my bed, and in my top right drawer.

One day, like most days, he was fucked. A vacation he ruined. A vacation. We ripped open a black trash bag and tied it between his legs. A grown-up diaper.

A piece of absorbent material wrapped around a baby's bottom and between its legs to absorb and retain urine and feces.

A very young child, especially one newly or recently born.

Normal fathers take their kids out on vacations. Our entertainment was painting his toenails black and throwing books at his head.

I'm not allowed to tell any of you the secret of the family. You will believe anything I say.

An intentionally false statement.

On father's day I bring my mother out to dinner and buy her a card.

On father's day I cry.

It was my brother's graduation party. My father passed out in the corner of the room. We went home.

“Do you want to have tea?” In between our tears, our couch became a safe haven.

My father stumbled upstairs with an abundance of neck ties and he threw them on the couch. He stumbled back downstairs, slammed the door and locked it.

A mechanism for keeping a door, lid, etc, fastened, typically operated by a key of a particular form.

We heard a crash. My mother and brother ran downstairs, slammed the door to open it. I ran and called the cops. The operator told me to describe the scene. I don't know what I said, but I do remember telling them I think my father killed himself. I hung up the phone. Questions would only get me into trouble. I called my Uncle Freddy and told him to come quickly.

My father was “fine”. He had a seizure.

A sudden attack of illness, esp. a stroke or an epileptic fit.

The cops asked to speak to the person who called.

I lied to the cops. I'm a good liar, it's what I was trained to do.

One time in eighth grade I cheated on my boyfriend. I lied, he believed me. Another time I told my mother I was sleeping at my best friend's house. I really slept at a man's apartment in Northampton. Another time I told my teacher my homework flew out my sunroof. That was the complete truth, but it sure sounded like a lie. He believed me.

The cops knew I was lying.

“Do you want to have tea?” In between our tears, our couch became a safe haven.

That night was bad. My father lost his mind. Insanity.

In a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction.

He passed out naked on the bathroom floor. He shit himself.

Do you know what it's like to clean your naked father?

We convinced him to go to the asylum.

The drive to Vermont made me sick. I had to sit next to him, smelling feces and vodka. We arrived. Once inside, we had to give up our bags, our shoelaces, our jackets.

My mother made me hug my father. She wanted me to lie to the doctors, make them believe that I loved my father. She makes me lie to put on an act. An act for all of you to see.

Behave in the way specified.

We had freedom for a couple of days. We drank tea.

We got a phone call my dad was free. The con artist.

He is a great liar just like me.

Doctors and nurses don't know anything. They are the most unintelligent people I know.

One day of being home, a replay. He escaped into the night.

Break free from confinement or control.

We were scared this time. We had no idea where he would be. We called the police, there was nothing. We called the hospitals, nothing.

That night our cousin Matt slept over to protect us. We ate Taco Bell and told ghost stories.

An American chain of fast-food restaurants based in Irvine, California.

A story involving ghosts or ghostly circumstances, intended to be suspenseful and scary.

The fucking HIPAA law. He was found half naked on a park bench at 3 in the morning, completely obliterated.

My mother and I went to the hospital. My father tried to attack us and was restrained.

The shrink wanted to talk to us.

A medical practitioner specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

We told him the truth. I didn't have to lie. He promised us he wouldn't let my dad go this time.

One day later, my dad was let go. A con artist. He is a great liar just like me.

You will believe anything I say.

T.S. Eliot once said, “For you know only a heap of broken images.”


Kaila Cummings is an English major in her senior year at Westfield State University. She uses her home life, her dead end job, and her love for horror movies to influence her work.

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