Inherit My Life – Eric Aldrich

“Does your mom know you haven’t gone to school in four days?” Kev asked Goblin. A Slayer tapestry depicting a bone pentagram hung over the window behind Goblin. The lamp in the corner gave off barely enough light to for Kev read the names in Swank.
“My mom doesn’t know shit. I drive off like I’m going to school, the drive around until her car’s not in the driveway,” Goblin explained from his worn-in hole on the couch, pushed his straight black hair behind his ears. A Pantera tape blared from an old console stereo.
“The school doesn’t call?” Kevin pulled his hair into a curly orange ponytail and stuffed a butt into an overflowing ashtray. Grocery circulars and magazines piled on every surface. This was Kev’s second visit to Goblin’s apartment and he was starting to get why the other dudes hung out there. No rules.
“I delete the messages.”
“They never send her a letter or anything?”
“My mom doesn’t even open the fucking mail.” Goblin gestured envelopes strewn across the rug. One near Kev’s foot was dated four years before.
“Can she read?” Kev thought it must feel weird to be smarter than your mom.
“Just, like, labels on food and shit.” Empty cup-o-noodles and microwave dinner trays lay atop and alongside the other garbage.
“Can she do math?”
“She can count, I guess,” Goblin ashed on the carpet, ground it in with his heel.
“Shit,” Kev tossed the porno on the floor. “I could use another beer.”
“Get me one too,” Goblin said. “Put two more in so she doesn’t notice.”
Dirty laundry lined Kev’s walk to the kitchen. No decorations, just fly paper over the sink. An ancient picture of Goblin and his mom hung on the fridge, stuck there with a magnet of Mickey Mouse giving the finger. The fridge overflowed with Styrofoam. Kev gagged. Fucking sour. He grabbed two Heinekens and went to replace them.
“Dude, there’s only eight beers left. We already drank four,” he yelled to Goblin.
“She won’t notice so long as there are cold ones in the fridge.”
“Goddamn…” Kev put two cans on the shelf and slunk back to his recliner. He tossed Goblin a beer.
“This shit all over the place. How come you don’t throw it away?” Kev asked.
“You my new dad?” They both laughed.
“Why not put the trash in trashbags and take it out?”
“My mom goes apeshit. She accuses me of throwing stuff away all the time. The remote, her hair dryer, her toothbrush. So, fuck it. I don’t throw shit away.”
“Jesus Christ.”
The first side of the Pantera tape ended. Goblin flipped the cassette over. Dimebag Darrell ripped into “I’m Broken.” Kev lipsynched – “I’m broken! Inherit my liiife!” Goblin was playing air guitar when the apartment door cracked. Light streamed through the smoke, fell across the ashtrays on the coffee table. Goblin’s mom slipped in. Stringy hair, plastic glasses, bulbous torso. She was in white scrubs, nametag still on. It said B. Suget, PCA. She had two plastic shopping bags.
“Are those my beers, Charlie?” She asked sternly.
“No, Mom, they’re my fucking beers. What’s for dinner?”
“Those are my beers, Charlie. Put them back.”
Kev concealed his can in the sleeve of his black hoodie. Goblin chugged his.
“There, I put it back,” Goblin punched his chest and belched.
“That’s real nice,” his mom huffed.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Dinner!” Goblin roared, flailing his arms like Kermit the frog. Kev’s face froze in a grin. He couldn’t look at Goblin’s mom. He swiveled the chair away from her.
“Mac and cheese, Charlie, mac and cheese!” B. Suget shouted.
“Muck and cheese, Charlie, muck and cheese!” Goblin parroted back.
“You can make fun of me, but without my job, you wouldn’t eat.”
“You wipe dying old people’s asses.”
“You eat, don’t you?”
“Yeah, fucking muck and cheese every night.”
Kev snuck a look over his shoulder. B. Suget’s eyes rested on Goblin. She seemed only pretending to be angry. She didn’t raise her voice like Kev’s mom would. She and Goblin sounded more like kids bickering. Goblin’s mom clomped off to the kitchen.
“My mom would fucking kill me,” Kev picked at his acne.
“Yeah, well you have, like, an actual mom. You don’t sit in a pile of trash and eat nothing but boxed… muck and cheese!” Goblin yelled the last three words. His mom didn’t respond.
Kev finished his beer in three long swigs, dropped the can, and pushed it under the recliner.
“I got to piss, then I’m taking off,” he said. Goblin nodded.
The bathroom was halfway to the kitchen. The beers were setting in. Kev almost tripped over crumpled jeans. Mildew blackened between the shower tiles and along the edges of the linoleum floor. Kev closed the door with his foot and tried not to touch anything. He steadied himself on the sink while he pissed. There was no soap to wash his hands.
On his way out, Kev stood in the hall and watched Goblin’s mom in the kitchen. She hunched over a card table, drinking a beer and laughing at Family Feud on a little TV. Kev burped, swallowed it. His thinking felt warm. He wondered what would happen if he tried to talk to her, treated her like his other friends’ moms?
He went over and touched her shoulder.
“I’m taking off. See you later, Mrs. Suget,” he said.
“Oh yeah? OK,” she glanced at him, scrunched her forehead, and turned back to the screen. Dandruff scaled her scalp under her hair. She was missing two teeth on the top left.
“Bye,” Kev said.
“Bye,” Goblin’s mom mumbled.
When Kev got back to the living room, Goblin was watching a VHS porno.
“Look at that monster bush,” he pointed to the screen. Kev laughed.
“I’m out, dude,” Kev put his fist toward Goblin for a bump.
“Later,” Goblin bumped it.
Kev tried to close the door, but the hinge was broken. The sun blazed super bright. He blinked and covered his eyes, smacked his parched lips. Kev could walk home in ten minutes, but he was drunk and the smell of cigarettes emanated from deep into his hoodie, so he took the long way down the railroad tracks. The words “muck and cheese” repeated in his head. At first, he imagined Goblin’s voice and laughed, but he kept picturing B. Suget in her chair. He paused, listened to a blue jay, then trudged on.
His mom was stirring a pot when Kev walked in. The kitchen smelled like garlic bread and pasta sauce, but Kev reeked like cigarette smoke. His saliva tasted like ashtray.
“Just in time,” his mom smiled at him over her shoulder. “We’ll be eating in five.”
“OK.” Kev steadied himself on the door frame as he removed his boots. He eyed a route through the kitchen that wouldn’t get close to his mom. Could he change his clothes, spray his hair with deodorant, brush his teeth, and make it down on time?
“Have a good time at Charlie’s?” His mom giggled.
“It was OK.”
Kev waited until she looked away, then rushed through the kitchen. He banged into a chair. A wave of nausea passed through him. He couldn’t sit through dinner drunk. This wasn’t Goblin’s house.
“You alright?” His mom looked over from the stove.
“I need to use the bathroom,” Kev told her. “I ate some of Charlie’s mom’s mac and cheese and it isn’t agreeing with me.”
“Not as good as mine?”
“Not even close.”