by Rebecca Blevins
"NO!" I shout at the vile wreck of a thing grinning at me--if what essentially looks like a trash heap can grin. A person can only take so much, and I have finally reached my breaking point. "I won't, I can't, I WON'T!"
It sits there, daring me, mocking me. Gravy from its last meal drips off cold lips; half-chewed potato, soggy broccoli pokes between holes in the stench of crusty teeth. It holds my gaze as if Medusa herself holds me prisoner, the glinty-eyed and slimy-tongued monstrosity poised to snatch me up in its cold, Machiavellian grip, stuff me into its gaping maw, and with painful prods and pokes from sharp claws, drown me in the moldering heat of its belly.
I can't look away. I'm trapped, doomed to suffer an interminable fate, one which gets more terrifying the longer I try to break free day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Even after all this time, something inside me rebels, burns brightly. Then, the sound of softly-padded footsteps crack into my frozen terror.
"Mommy!" My tousled red-headed son plods into the kitchen wearing his fluffy dinosaur foot slippers, rubbing sleep from his eyes with pale fists. "What's for breakfast?"
Before I address my fate, I clear off the table, pick some bits of ham off my son's booster seat, wipe it with a washcloth, then watch him climb in because if I don't I'll hear, "I can do it myself!"
I bang around the cupboards before finding a small, plastic pumpkin tray left from Halloween, scatter some Toasty O's on it, and put the tray in front of my son. He shoves it away and cries, "I don't want cereal. I want pancakes!"
The monster grins, beckons, smiles with silver teeth. My carefully-built defenses shatter. I plug the sink, run the hot water faucet, and squirt in enough pomegranate-scented dish soap to float the weight of my defeat. "I'll make some pancakes in a few minutes, honey. Mommy has to do the dishes first."