Flash Fiction: Mario Piumetti Jr.

***This was originally submitted in January, 2012*******

Welcome to a new feature: Flash Fiction. If you would like to submit, please contact me with a story of 1,000 words or fewer. This first entry is from…

Are You Proud of Me?
By: Mario Piumetti Jr.
             The clanking of glass bottles awoke Silvia, and she quietly got out of bed to follow the sound to its source.  It came from the downstairs kitchen, and she saw a dim light from the top of the stair.  She held onto the banister and crept to the bottom of the stairs like a child trying to sneak up on Santa Claus.  The light came from around the corner just beyond the entry into the kitchen.  When Silvia got to the threshold, she saw that the deep amber hue actually came from the little office down the hall, and there she found her son Andrew quietly chugging down a shot of Martini and Rossi.
            Silvia was no stranger to alcohol in the family.  Her brother Adrian had a drinking habit, and her nephew Felix was the town drunk back in Germany.  He’d fallen so miserably with drugs in the United States that the authorities deported his ass to a country where he could speak the language but was pretty much illiterate in all other matters.
            “Andrew!” she gasped.  “What are you doing?”
            “Oh, just livin’ the good life,” he said.
            “Living the good life?  Getting drunk in the office is living the good life?”
            “Shhh!”  Andrew held a hand in the air to quiet his mother.  “People are trying to sleep, you know.”
            Silvia looked at the corner desk.  Half a dozen bottles were strewn out on its surface.  Grand Marnier.  Captain Morgan.  Slivovitz.  Enough alcohol to kill ten old men, let alone one young man in his twenties.
            “Andrew, this isn’t you.  This isn’t how I raised you.”
            Andrew leaned against the desk and looked down at the smooth surface.  The light came from a fixture beneath an overhead cabinet, and it reflected off the desktop in such a way that it was hypnotic even to the sober.
            “I’m sorry,” he said.
            “What’s wrong with you?”
            Andrew shook his head.  His moment of clarity was temporarily clouded by guilt and anger.  “Please, please don’t talk to me like one of your drunk and dead weight nephews.  I’m your fucking son, goddamit.”
            “Yes, you are my son,” Silvia said.  “That’s why I have every right to be worried for you.  You’re not too old for me to care about.”  Silvia tried to hold back the memories of her sibling and his venomous words when he had too much to drink, words that even after thirty years brought tears to her eyes.  “Please sit.”
            Andrew had no choice but to comply.  He had too much alcohol in his system to form an independent thought.  He did, however, have enough impetus to indulge in what he desired, and he desired to kick his feet up.  Andrew went into the nearby family room and plopped himself across the dark brown leather couch.
            “What do you want, Mom?” he asked.
            “What do you want?” she answered.  For all her son’s bravado, she knew that Andrew was hurting over something.  He wasn’t like the others in her family who had some sort of parental neglect to blame for their current condition.  Andrew had been hugged and emotionally supported since he was an infant; his father followed him from delivery to the maternity ward to ensure that no clumsy nurse would switch him with another.
            “Are you proud of me?” he said.  “I mean, you and Dad.  Have I ever shamed you guys?”
            “Why are you asking me this?” Silvia asked Andrew.  “You know we’re proud of you.”
            Andrew pivoted and propped himself up on an elbow, trying to look sober as he smoothed out his hair with one hand.  It didn’t work and his hair ended up further disheveled.  He knocked back another shot and said, “You guys sure don’t act like it.”
            “How?”  Andrew only shifted his shoulders and grunted in reply.  “Are you upset because you’re still living at home?”
            Andrew took a small sip from his glass, just enough to wet his lips.  They started to feel cracked.  He put his glass down on the coffee table and slowly rotated it along its base.
            “That might be a reason,” he said.  “I’m twenty-six years old, Mom.  I shouldn’t be here.  It’s not right.  I don’t care if a lot of people my age are going through the same thing.  It’s just not right.”
            “I know,” Silvia said.  “But you graduated just as the Recession started.  You didn’t know things would end up like this.”  Andrew finished his glass.  Silvia put her hand over it to keep him from pouring another round.  “You can’t keep doing this though.  If you do, you’ll stop being and artist and start being a drunk.”
            “Sometimes I do my best drawings when I’m drunk, Mom.”
            Silvia waved a hand over the table.  “Do you see any sketchbooks or pencils?  I don’t.  You have to keep at it because I can’t do it for you, and neither can your father.”
            Silvia didn’t mother Andrew any further.  She knew he hated being lectured to.  But she did take the bottle and glass from him to the kitchen and returned shortly with a chilled mug of water.  He didn’t leap for it right away, and he didn’t resist it either.  She said her goodnight to him, telling him not to stay up too late.  Andrew nodded.  After a few minutes, he picked up the mug and took a long sip of water.  Part of him savored the sharp freshness, and another part of him longed to dive back into the liquor.  Instead, he sat in the family room and continued to give his attention to the water.
            Andrew stared at the far wall of the room.  He had no idea what he would do in the morning.
Mario Piumetti Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles.  He has a B.A. in English from California Lutheran University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.  His primary genre is science fiction with survival and culture clashes forming the central themes of his work.  He maintains a blog on writing called My Corner of the Catacombs (http://mariopiumetti.blogspot.com).
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