Shuffleboard Games
Judy Cabito
Break
I'm at the kitchen table staring at a cup of coffee when I hear, coming from the dark hallway, that familiar sound of the judge's shuffling feet— Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle There's no hiding. I'll face the same questions, the same interrogations: "Who you been with? When are you planning to get a life? What time did you get home last night?"
I'll say, "Not late."
She'll push, "What's 'not late'?"
"Ten, eleven, after midnight. I don't remember."
She'll want more.
"Where did you go? To the movies? To a bar?"
As though I shouldn't, as though it were a crime to go to a bar. She's probably never been in one.
She'll add a, "humph," then get back to the subject, prying everything out of me before I leave for school. I'm twenty-two, what right did she have, why doesn't she just get a life of her own and leave mine alone?
Her shuffles grow closer. Midway down the hall, they stop.
She's getting old. She should be more concerned about her sliding health than my attitude. She is forever reminding me, "Your attitude, young lady, could use an adjustment."
Whats kind of an adjustment? Wearing pink skirts and Mary-Jane's? Curling my hair so I'd look like Shirley Temple? "What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. You know perfectly well, young lady."
But I don't. I'm not all bad. One or two kid things: shoplifting (everybody does), a speeding ticket or two (who doesn't have a drawer full?), and the suspensions. I haven't had one all semester. She's forever harassing me about a job, knowing I'm loaded down with two classes. I'm bound to flunk if she keeps putting pressure on me.
Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle. Slippers sliding across the floor. Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle.
You'd think she'd practice what she preaches, "Pick up your feet, stand tall, be proud, look proud." She must have said that a gazillion times. I get it. The rest is just nagging, nagging, nagging.
Today I'm going to hold firm, she's not going to worm out of me about the joint. You'd have thought that cop would have had a coronary when he found out who my mom is— the local judge. I'm the only kid in town whose mom is more powerful than the chief-of-police, but that cop didn't blink once when he looked at my license. All he said was, "Expired?"
Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle. The door swings open.
"Oh!" the judge says. "Up already?"
"Yes 'am."
"Busy day ahead?"
"Yes 'am."
I can't handle the pressure. I know I'll break. She knows how to get to me.
She pours herself a cup of coffee and heads back down the hall. Shuffle, shuffle. The door flaps back and forth.
It's only a matter of time before I confess. It was only one. Why did they have to tell her?
"Tell me? Tell me what?" she'll ask.
"About the one lousy joint, that's all. I'd swear on a stack of law books. I swear."
"Just one? Humph."
The kitchen door flaps back and forth. I see a flash of her pink velour bunny slippers disappear around the corner.
Shuffle, shuffle. Shuffle, shuffle.
Judy Cabito lives Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Gator Springs Gazette, The Writer's eZine, IceFlow, Flashquake, Alighted and Book by Authors (published by the Long Beach Library.) She grew up steps from the Puget Sound and calls herself a Westcoaster, if there is such a thing.