by Gabriella Billadeau


     I been told that stress is what makes my husband act crazy. That he does not know what he is doin’ when he is yellin’ at me, throwin’ my shit ‘round, or threatenin’ me or himself if I should get the right mind to leave. Stress must be a mighty powerful thing.

    I think it is, cause maybe that’s why I even got myself into this bad situation to begin with. A young woman with a new baby and no man to support her. No, my baby’s father decided he had enough when we started to see my belly bloat and then my father simply couldn’t allow a pretty, little whore like me to stay under his roof. Always seemed curious to me how it was his house, when it was Ma who swept it.

    Stress and a young baby and no home, well that’s the recipe for a lot of awful things. My awful thing is called Dave and he loves me with all his heart. It ain’t a very big one, but it is a heart and so I guess that should mean somethin’ to me. Dave and I, we started goin’ together right ‘round the time my baby was just starting to crawl and Dave gave us a place to stay and food to eat so for a while Dave was alright. He was even alright to me when I found my baby dead one morning in his crib. Sweet thing had SIDS the doctor said and I told myself God loved him too much and that he needed to go sooner than expected. Dave agreed with me and so then Dave was better than alright. He was real good to me.

    But it’s been years since my sweet baby went and now I’m still with Dave. But Dave ain’t too good no more. Nah, Dave, he likes to yell. I been told that stress’ll do that to ya, and I agree. Stress can kill ya, and I know it because it happened to my Ma. Poor lady just wanted to make sure the bread was fresh everyday and that the linens were always clean for a guest that never came. No one wanted to come if my father would be around.

    Maybe it was stress that had me toyin’ with Dave’s food, but I think it had somethin’ to do with the way he yelled at me all the time. I think at some point his yelling turned the voice in my head into a yeller too. I could yell at myself for not foldin’ a shirt right on the third try or for missin’ some dirt in the corners of my kitchen floor. I yelled at me for everything, till one day I was showerin’, shavin’ my legs and knicked the back of my knee. And damn did that hurt! Well now I was washing my own blood down the shower drain and then I started to yell at myself until I realized, Maeve, what the hell are you doing, yellin’ at yourself like some type of crazy? And I had a really good laugh as I finished shavin’ and washin’ my hair.

    That same night I decided to make Dave the first of a whole bunch of chocolate mousse pies. I did the expected, whippin’ the cream and meltin’ the chocolate, but then I added a little somethin’ special just for him. Told him I was tryin’ to make somethin’ my Ma always made. I had a good laugh about that much later, cause dumb ol’ Dave never knew Ma well enough to know she wasn’t quite that brave.

    But so I make him these pies and he eats ‘em all up, like the fat piggy he is. He ate every bite of every pie and then always wondered why he was gettin’ sick later that night, trying not to fill his draws with my chocolate pie. I could hear him shoutin’ in pain, his body sweatin’ and lurchin’ until it was out. It took the poor bastard almost a month, but eventually he got the right mind to ask me if I wanted a bite, and I told him I was watching my figure.

    Dumb Dave knew better than to believe a girl who always had her dessert.

    And so Dave yelled at me, cussin’ and shoutin’ about how I’m nothin’, a worthless, childless bitch. Oh, yeah, Dave got out all his yellin’ but I didn’t listen to him this time. I just went about my ways cleanin’ my kitchen and washin’ our dishes. This drove him straight crazy and he grabbed me by the waist and looked me dead in the eye.

    “Maeve, I don’t know what’s got into you, but don’t you go doin’ somethin’ crazy now.”

    I stared back at him, doin’ my very best not to laugh in his big, dumb face. And he could see me tryin’ not to do so. So he grabbed onto my hips tighter and whispered to me.

    “If you leave me, Maeve, I’ll walk myself down the road there and throw myself off that bridge. I’ll just walk on out and jump clear off. And I’ll only think a’ you when I do it.”

    Now this here broke me, I mean this fool thought he gon’ come into my kitchen and grab onta me and tell me he would die without me? I put my hands on my hips then and whispered back.

    “Dave, if you walk down to that bridge, stand up on the ledge and ask me to stop you, I’ll walk right up and push you myself.”

    I let out a laugh I didn’t know was comin’ and boy, did Dave hate me right then and there. His face got all ugly right quick, and he grabbed my left wrist. I turned myself around to my dishes rack and I grabbed the only gift my Ma could ever give me.

    I grabbed that big frying pan, still wet from the sink and womped Dave right in the face. I didn’t hit him too hard, since I didn’t know I was gonna be hittin’ him anyways, and he took a moment to stand still and stare at me. But then clenched my wrist tight and I knew I was in for it, so again I swung that pan and batted him in the head.

    I didn’t want to hurt him, not really, and I didn’t want him to bleed, or die, or nothin’. But I think my Ma was there with me in that second, and for every time my father hit her and for every time she tried to get away and came back for me, we hit Dave in the head with that pan until he let go of my wrist and fell to the floor.

    I didn’t stop to check on him, or grab a bag, or nothin’. This wasn’t some type of daring scheme I had planned out in the middle of some late night. This was me and my yelling head voice havin’ a good laugh and poor, dumb Dave was gon’ be the point of my laugh, since I always made him laugh before this moment.

    So I walked out of my kitchen and out of my house, into the darkness and onto the road. I had my pan in hand and no shoes on. I walked down the road and crossed the bridge Dave promised to jump from and I laughed real loud about my quick, witty response. I mean, wow, that was a good one, huh?

    But I didn’t jump. I just kept walkin’ until I got to Ms. Chatenwel’s place about an hour later. She was shocked to see me and said so a whole lot, but I didn’t say nothin’. When she pulled me inside her sittin’ room, she calls it a parlor because she married well and then divorced even better, she saw the pan and then she covered her mouth and I started to laugh again.

    She sat me down on her scratchy pink sofa and whispered a little prayer to me, the way she always did at church when I was growin’ up. Then she smiled for a moment before walkin’ over to the phone. She dialed the police first and then Martin Mahoney, Attorney at Law. He’s one of those guys you see on TV commercials everyday for about a year so that you memorize their commercial tune. I think his was somethin’ like “Martin, dun dun dun na na na dun, Mahoney, dun dun dun na na na, Attorney at Law.” Funny how I remember that still.

    Anyways, she called him too and the police arrived just a few minutes later.

    “Stress,” Ms. Chatenwel told them. “It had to be stress.”