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Writing Prompt 18

Study a stranger. 
Go home and write a tragedy about his or her mother.

Dennis gave a deep sigh as he turned down his street. All the other houses were decorated for the holiday season. Some houses simply had a few candles in the windows with a wreath on the door. Other houses were more ornately adorned with lights that danced and twinkled. There were houses with giant blowups on Santa or snow globes. Then there was his house with no lights and no decorations. He hated driving home on these winter nights when it was so obvious they were the odd family out on the block.

He pulled into his drive way and groaned when he saw that the house was completely dark. His mother hadn't turned the lights on, which meant she was sitting in the dark. He wondered if she even realized that she was sitting in the dark. Dennis walked into the house and stopped. He heard his mother humming. It wasn't unusual that she was humming, but the song was one he hadn't heard her sing since his childhood.  It was a Christmas carol. His mother had grown to dislike the holiday.

It all started when his father had left one year saying he was going out Christmas shopping and never came back. Two years later the divorce papers showed up the day before Christmas. Dad had found a new family and wanted to official cut ties to his old one. Then five years ago, Dennis's brother, Kevin had gotten sick at an office holiday party. He ended up in the hospital around New Years and slowly deteriorated and now was living full time in a nursing home. Around the same time she started to shut down herself, leaving Dennis the only functioning member of the family.

Dennis turned on some lights as he moved through the house. He went into his mother's room and found her sitting in her rocking chair, looking out the window and humming Christmas songs.

"Mom?" Dennis stood in the doorway.  She stopped humming and looked over at him. She was the mother of his youth, soft and beautiful.

"Do you see the lights?"  She looked back out the window. "They are so pretty."

Dennis hesitated, weighing the risks of asking, but he found he couldn't stop the words. "Do you want to decorate the house this year?"

The moment the words left his mouth he knew he should have kept quite. His mother stopped rocking. She turned and glared at him and she was no longer the mother of his youth but the mother who haunted his reality. Her eyes were distant and cold and her face had lost the light it had just so recently held. She didn't say anything but just turned away and closed the blinds. Then she looked forward at the blank wall and went back to rocking.

Dennis took a deep breath. "I'll start dinner now and come get you when it's ready."

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