Thomas stood on a doormat and wondered whether he ought to apologise to it. Although doormats were used to being stood upon, he was convinced they were far less accustomed to being apologised to, which was unfair, considering the extent to which they were stood upon. Moreover, Thomas wasn't convinced he ranked any higher in the overall scheme of things than it did. Before he had a chance to, however, the door opened and Thomas shat himself. The massive woman standing before him glared with the sort of disgust and contempt that unreasonable mothers are renowned for.
"Hello, Mother," said Thomas, not wanting to move because of the considerable volume of excrement filling his trousers.
Her contempt bred a sneer so robust that is could have been used to move crates around large industrial warehouses. She turned from him in as much as her massive frame allowed when confined by walls, and shook her head as much as an absence of neck permitted. "Shit yourself, did you?" she said.
"Not really. It's just remnants of last night's dinner."
She scoffed. "Cooked, did you?"
"In a manner of speaking. I fried some beans."
"Did you remember to take them out of the tin first?"
"That's where the manner of speaking comes in." He left the doormat and followed her, apologising to it after all, considering the manure that had run down his trouser leg and dribbled over his shoe.
"You didn't just shit on my doormat, did you?" She was already elsewhere, though her contempt was omniscient.
"In a manner of speaking."
The house was small, drab and devoid of colour, other than faded hues of once fashionable pastels and the bright labels of empty soft drink containers. There were also some pictures of diseased mouths that cigarette containers specialised in which had been nailed to walls in an attempt at themed decor, and a stale fog hung in the air that smelt as though it still held bits of lung.
He followed her into a kitchen only marginally less pleasant than the inside of his trousers.
"Couldn't fucking hack it then?" she said, wedging herself against a grimy plastic table piled with ashtrays so stuffed, that the whole arrangement looked geothermal. She fell onto a chair that wouldn't remain functional much longer and scowled at him.
"I can hack it, Mother," Thomas said. "I've just returned for Oscar, that's all."
She scoffed again. or coughed; it was hard to discern through the stink of smoke. "I don't know where the fuck it is." She indicated a sink piled with broken dishes. "It's probably under that lot." She lit a cigarette and continued killing herself.
"Is he outside?" Thomas asked, keen for some fresh air.
"How the fuck should I know? I haven't been out there myself since the late seventies."
Thomas opened a back door that looked onto a small area paved in rubbish, some of which helped prop up a fence that was in no state to define boundaries. He looked fondly at the remnants of a tree which he used to swing from as a child, up until his mother had it poisoned and burnt. He called his cat, but there was no sound, other than the muffled pop of dead rats caught beneath layers of discarded asbestos and fossilised stratification of newspapers. Despite the grey and mold, the sky above was blue, and he smiled at having found the courage to finally leave home. He returned indoors, uncertain whether he should check his room, despite having grown up in it. His mother hadn't been happy about him leaving, despite consistently telling him to fuck off.
"Should I check in my room?" he called, worried what she might have done to it, considering the screams and punches she'd thrown the last time he was in it.
"It's no longer your room!"
"Have you turned it into a study then?" he asked.
"What the fuck do I need a study for? I'm not some stupid wanker!"
"It's nice to have a study."
"That's because you're a stupid wanker!"
Thomas sighed. "We've been over this, Mother." He looked at its door and the remnants of sticky tape that had held up pictures he'd done at school—until she burnt them also. "I'm not a stupid wanker," he said. "I just find being here rather suffocating, that's all."
"An ungrateful stupid wanker!"
"Mother, I'm thirty-six. I can't stay here forever. We've been over this—"
"I'm not a tosser—"
"Fucking ungrateful stupid wanking tosser."
"Mother, please. This isn't helping anyone." He put a hand upon what was left of its handle. "And anyway, you've been telling me to leave for ages."
"That's because you're such a fucking stupid wanking tosser!"
"I'm not a tosser, Mother. You know that. You're just trying to get me upset."
"I'm not going to rise to it, Mother. Moving out has been a good thing. It's made me see things differently."
"Oh, you retard!" she said. "You sound like such a fucking retarded stupid wanking tosser! No wonder you can't get a girlfriend. Any woman who'd accidentally look at you would wonder whether you even have a penis."
"Despite the fact you look like a dick."
"I do not look like a dick."
"You do. You look like a small dick that doesn't work."
"You know," said Thomas, opening the door, "it's only since moving out that I've realised how unhelpful that sort of talk is—"
He didn't get much further, and instead threw a hand over his mouth and stared at a room he didn't recognise. Its walls, once a cadaver shade of grey, were completely wallpapered in thick wads of clotted newspaper—as was his bed—and the ceiling, the latter covered in thrown lumps of papier mache that looked like a massive infestations of wasp nests. The air was damp with ink and rotting paper, some of which had liquefied and run in dark oil across what had once been a carpet, but now looked even more geothermal that the kitchen table.
Sick squirted between his fingers and he collapsed to the floor, where he breathed heavily until an asthma attack prevented both.
When he look up, his mother's excuse for ankles were in front of him. He looked up further at a towering mass of post-menopausal woman that rendered assignment of gender redundant.
"Look at you," she sneered, hands on the sort of hips that afforded her the same displacement as ocean-going steam liner. "Pathetic. Do you really think you can survive out there without getting punched or hospitalised?"
"What would you know?" he said, spitting at sick and wiping his hands across the carpet. "You haven't been out in it for decades."
"That's because I was too fucking busy bringing you up."
Thomas pulled himself up the wall. A week ago he'd never have dared challenge her, but since moving out, he'd found an unfamiliar confidence. And after the sort of childhood that Social Services were invented for, he saw her in a different light—one that had him realising darkness existed for a reason.
"Bringing me up?" he cried. But you didn't give me a name until I was nine!"
"That's because you didn't deserve one."
"Every child deserves a name!"
"Not if they don't matter."
"Well, that's not what Social Services said—"
"Social Services can go and fuck themselves—and then they can fuck you. They'd like that, considering you're such a dick—"
"You can't keep saying that, Mother!"
When he put hands over his ears, she shouted.
"I'm not a dick!"
"What are you then?"
"No, Mother! No more!"
Her bulk loomed closer in a mass of dead ash and loathing. "What are you?"
He felt sobs rise. "I'm not doing this anymore! I can't!" He tried pulling his head off, despite a lifetime of previous attempts being unsuccessful.
A slap stung his arms. "What are you?" she growled. "Tell me!"
"I'm not doing it, Mother!" he cried, wanting to cradle himself and sink to the floor. "Not anymore!"
"You fucking tell me what you are!" she cried. "Or you will go to your room! Now, what are you?"
Through gritted teeth, he growled, "I'm not doing this anymore!"
"Right. We'll see about that." She grabbed his hair and dragged him toward the newspaper-clad room.
"No!" he cried, flailing at her. "Not in there!"
She pulled his head backwards and leant close. "Then tell me what you are."
Sobs arrived. He would have collapsed, but his scalp wouldn't let him.
"And what else?"
He tried shaking his head, but her grip prevented him. She pushed him towards the door.
"No!" he cried.
"Then what else are you?"
"A retard." His sobs grew with each confession. "And a stupid fucking wanker!"
She dropped him like an aborted foetus, before pulling a sleeve up his arm and pointing at the scars upon it. "I've already made it clear once before, haven't I?" she said.
He tried nodding, but continued shaking instead.
"I can't see properly!" he cried.
When she slapped his face, tears flew all over the place.
He looked at his arm, knowing well what was on it.
"Failure," he whispered.
She nodded. "And don't you ever forget it."
After a solid kick, she doused him with the sort of phlegm he'd already coughed up all over the carpet. He lay for a time, wondering whether returning for his cat had been a mistake.
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