fuckup day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a mum trying to hold everything together while having a truly shitty day. The story is 4000 words, it's been through a few drafts, but I will never know how it comes across to readers until you tell me. Thanks for reading!

Submitted: November 06, 2016

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Submitted: November 06, 2016

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Fuckup Day

 

Janelle pulled the curtains open and lit up a joint and thought, Please tell me I bought the fuckin candles… Yup. Sorted. Three brittle candles, 99 cents from the supermarket, which was less than the $1.06 of petrol it took to drive to Pak N Save. She made the bed, fantasised about throwing out her duvet, as if she had the money for a new one. It’d had the come of six guys on it, including JJ. JJ loved to come on things. JJ was like a destructive 8 year old. She couldn’t believe she’d had a baby with that piece of shit, and that after three years of existence, Kruizer was still nothing like her dad. That was about the only thing she agreed with her Mumsy about.

It was Kruizer’s third birthday today and even if everything in her life was fucked-up, Janelle was gonna make sure her girl’s birthday was not.

Janelle popped a handful of Arrows and Lorazepams, said ‘Urgh,’ and shuddered and went and sat on the toilet and got thirty seconds of peace. When she came out of the toilet, she saw Kruizer had poured her own Froot Loops and had turned her iPad on YouTube was taking care of her. The kitchen floor had a white puddle of milk on it. First fuck-up of the day.

Janelle was trying to find clean leggings in a pile of dirty laundry when a cop, a female, craned her head inside Janelle’s flat then let her whole body come with it.

‘Way to knock,’ Janelle said, pulling some shorts the final inch over her hips. ‘You sure you’re allowed to enter someone’s house like that?’

‘Not exactly your house if you’re renting, is it,’ said the cop, but she stopped moving inward and stood with a wide stance, clutching a tiny notebook and a pen. This cop – something Thai-looking – had a partner behind her, some desi Indian lady with a full-on dot between her eyebrows. Janelle had had her wrists grabbed by a lot of cops, but a desi and a Thai together? That was something new.

The pigshits stood beside the pair of tiny pink gumboots just inside the door and asked if everything was going alright with the restraining order she’d put on JJ. He’d been getting more out-of-it since he went from a hangaround to a prospect, saying Yes to fights he would’ve turned down a year ago, standing over courier drivers and petrol pumpers and shit. Prospect prospect prospect! Patch for a smash! Smash for ya patch!  

‘So your arse is on my property just cause you care about my wellbeing?’

‘And to ask if you’re in possession of anything illicit we should know about.’

Janelle folded her arms. ‘I can’t really be fucked having this conversation unless you’re allowed to do what you’re doing. Go talk to my mum’s place if you want someone to talk shit about me.’

The Asian one pressed her pen against her notepad, ready to capture what she came for. ‘So, to clarify, JJ’s not been coming round? Not possibly parking a few contraband items here? No booty calls?’

‘Booty… honest, you can fuck him if you want, but JJ’s up outta my life.’ Until lunchtime every other fucking day, she wanted to add. ‘Go raid the clubhouse. Bad dudes are all in there. Here it’s only bad mothers.’

One of them gave Janelle a business card. ‘Call this number directly to reach me, sister,’ said the chick-Indian, as if her and Janelle were on the same level. They turned on their thick black rubber boots and walked back to the cop car. They hadn’t even turned the engine off, as if checking on Janelle wasn’t important enough to park for.

She followed them out, picking up her watering can and showering Kruizer’s carrots. No one in the universe knew she’d spent $20 to push 250 seeds into a shitty patch of soil she didn’t even own. Growing carrots in rental dirt to chip a few bucks off her grocery bill made her feel responsible and hopeful and it taught Kruize some shit, plus the flowers were sort-of pretty and they looked like a tiny, stiff bouquet Janelle and Kruizey could take turns tossing behind their backs, giggling, pretending someone had married them.

Janelle was heading back inside to check on Kruize-woozy when another vehicle crunched up the driveway. It said HH on its licence plate.

‘KRUIZE?!’ Janelle shrieked, running back to the kitchen, ‘You sure you’re okay?’

Kruizey looked up from her screen. ‘Wuv you, mama.’

‘Stay here, babe, don’t go anywhere.’

Two bulldykes were getting out of the HH car but God didn’t let the cops stop them. Janelle made a mental note of God’s latest fuck-up. They had to be debt collectors from Home Helpers, these ladies. You grabbed Size 2 knickers with Humpty Dumpty on them out of a door-to-door homewares van, no money down, and if you didn’t pay a month later, they sent dykes round to your house.

These dykes had thick muscles on their arms and weirdly painted fingernails. One had a shaved head, one had dreadlocks. Neither dyke took off her sunglasses.

‘See you had the 5-0 round,’ one of them said. ‘You got friends in the police gang, eh?’

‘Gimme a fuckin break.’

‘Here’s the list of shit you owe,’ said the shaven-headed debt collector. She pushed into Janelle’s hands a list of things with really specific names. Janelle cringed as she recognised them. Breville Moonmash juicer; LG Dreamview television. The Sunshine 630 laptop computer Janelle had hoped could pretty-up her CV and get her a job. Fuck. She’d only remembered the Kruizey’s knickers. Funny how shit like that went. If Janelle got kerb-stomped today, Kruize would be the only thing she’d think off. Not the pain, not God, not the pigshits who never helped people with no money – just Kruizey, looking at Humpty Dumpty between her legs and grinning as she waddled around the house.

‘Total’s eight hundred,’ said the dyke with sand-coloured dreads.

‘Shivers, I got ten cash, fifteen maybe… I can make a payment today? I could, like, borrow off my mum? I got my daughter’s birthday to pay for, y’know.’

‘I got a kid too.’

‘Nice! Amen to that, right?’

‘And my kid doesn’t have a FUCKIN SCROUNGER FOR A MUM. Ten won’t even pay for the fuckin gas it took to drive here.’

Kruizer stumbled into the hallway behind her mum, sucking her thumb. Janelle scooped her up and shielded her with a shoulder.

‘Thirty bucks by six o’clock, y’hear? OI. Y’HEAR?’

‘Promise,’ Janelle told the women. They retreated to their car, walking through the carrot patch.  Janelle’s neighbours, decent Koreans with decent cars, would’ve witnessed firstly the cops, now this embarrassing shit. No wonder everyone hates white people, Janelle thought.

Janelle closed the door, kissed the cheeks of Kruizer, whose birthday was rushing by minute by minute. ‘Sorry, Kruizy-Kruze. Mummy was at work.’ She latched the door, pulled down Kruizer’s Humpty Dumpty knickers, checked Kruizer’s vagina, put moisturiser on it, put some foaming carpet cleaner and a sheet of newspaper over the spilled cereal on the lounge carpet. She caught up on the conversation bubbles on her phone, went to the end of the driveway, lifted an inch of bills from the mailbox before she found Kruizey’s first present of the day: a free sample of this beef jerky Kruizer bit into hungrily.

 

Janelle was sipping a quick Bacardi and trying to find a good birthday cake recipe on her phone when chainsaws began to roar in the driveway. JJ was here. Fuck. She could put the celebrations off until tonight but Kruize would start raising questions about why there was no cake, if, God, if SOMEONE didn’t get a cake sorted.  

JJ clomped into the house with his half-helmet on and stood over Janelle, blocking the light. She heard his biker friends bellow at him, ‘TWO MINUTES, PROSPECT,’ revving their engines.

He tilted his head at her. C’mon, missy. Get on the fuckin hog, the tilt said, You’re inconveniencing us.

‘It’s bub’s birthday,’ Janelle said, ‘So if you’re wanting me to come out with yous… .’

‘Mum’s expecting you,’ JJ said, ‘Fuck am I supposed to tell her?’

‘Tell her we broke up, I don’t give a shit.’

‘You disrespecting my mum? Here – take this before I smack you.’ JJ took out a tinnie and a point bag plus a fifty. ‘Merry Christmas.’

Birthday. It’s your daughter’s birthday. Not Christmas.’

‘Shut the fuck up, you fuckup. Birthday’s what I said. Here.’ He tried to put them in Janelle’s hand. When she didn’t take them, he put them on the table. Janelle’s fingers were inches away from the pain relief, the freedom, the bulldykes’ payment.

JJ’s head wiggled strangely. He was tweaking. A little giggle burrowed through his teeth. ‘How’s my bank account by the way? Hn hn hn.’

‘It’s in the hot water cupboard still. Doesn’t exactly have legs, does it.’

She slid the pain relief back towards JJ. ‘I really wish you’d take your stash home, Jayj.’

‘Nah-uh. Gotta respect ya mum. Put it in the cupboard already.’

‘And maybe bring something for your actual daughter next time.’

‘Still got ya ring on? Give us that, that’s a grand worth. Your daughter oughta have it. News flash: I ain’t marryin ya any more.’

Janelle bunched her fingers and pulled her fist under the table to hide the engagement ring JJ had gotten down on his knees and given her at Nitro Circus that night.

Janelle followed JJ as he went stomping up and down the hall and finally found his daughter in the wash room, scooping a mountain of laundry powder with a toy digger. JJ knocked the washing powder under the bath with his clumsy boot, scooped up Kruizer and held the girl against his spiky leather.

‘That shit’s poison,’ JJ said, toeing the pile of powder. ‘God you’re useless.’

‘Drugs are poison; that powder there’s worth two bucks,’ Janelle said, ‘Listen, I’m on a budget and you need to– ’

JJ picked up a scoop of laundry powder, pushed Janelle’s throat against the wall and held the washing powder in front of her nose. ‘Want this in your eyes? EH?’

Janelle wrenched out of JJ’s grasp, dripped down the wall and pulled Kruizer safely between her legs.

‘PROSPECT! HURRY YOUR ARSE UP!’

JJ dashed the powder on Janelle’s knees, kissed his daughter on the scalp, said ‘I’m comin back,’ and clomped back out to his bike.

‘Daddeeee!’ Kruizer squealed, ‘My birfdayyyyy.’ She ran hard at her dad, hit the door just as it was closing, and fell back into the arms of Janelle. Mama had got up off the floor just in time to catch her.

 

Fay the Carer was the fourth fuckin disturbance of the day. She arrived while Janelle was occupied in the woodshed, caught Kruizer with a bottle of perfume, took it out of her hands just in time to stop the girl drinking it.

‘G’day!’ Fay pipped.

‘No, it ain’t a good day.’ Janelle had to let a caregiver take over for 90 minutes. Court had recommended it, plus apparently it was ‘weird’ for a mama to be with her girl around lunchtime. Lunchtime was when you were supposed to go to Zumba classes and sip $12 juices afterwards then post photos of paleo salads on your Instagram. At least, that’s what all her friends online indicated. Janelle had been reading their stupid updates while she sat out in the woodshed in silence, hunched over her phone, smoking a skinny pale joint and slurping bourbon and coke and trying to feel average. Average would be better than anything she’d felt all year.

‘Tell me Janelle: how is your mum doing?’

‘I dunno. Ask her if you can catch her without anxiety pills in her fuckin mouth.’

Fay took the birthday girl out to the driveway and strapped her into her Plunket car. Kruizer didn’t scream and beg to remain with her mum. Fay was warm and perfect and clean. There were no loud motorbikes around Fay.

‘Cheers for taking her. But yous’ll be back in 90 minutes, eh? We got a party to take care of.’

‘She needs lunch,’ Fay said, frowning. ‘I’ll get some protein down her. See you in a bit.’  

Janelle went and sat on the breakfast bar, kicking her heels against the cupboard, feeling like her daughter being taken away was a criticism. On her phone was a text from her probation guy. Janelle was supposed to be at community service. She’d got extra hours for failing to show up to complete the first hundred hours and now had 160 hours to work off, meaning no time for actual money-work, except banking JJ’s stash for fifty a week.

She didn’t text probation back. They wouldn’t believe her if she told them about her life.

Her mobile went off and Janelle put down the bourbon and coke she’d just opened, parking it on the laptop computer containing her CV, her photos, her half-finished assignments for that dumbarse medical typing qualification that she probably wouldn’t score anyway.

Mumsy. Fuck. ‘I can’t really talk now. Got some stuff on. Are you coming round here and baking a cake for Kruize or not?’

Mumsy asked why Janelle couldn’t just buy a cake from Countdown like everybody else in this world and where her selfish streak had come from anyway – You got it from your uncle Jono, well he’s second to last in a looong line of bastards and it seems to me you’ve elected to take after him – and finally Mumsy asked to speak to her granddaughter.

‘Plunket lady took her.’

‘They’ve taken her? They’ve TAKEN her. You stupid, STUPID– ’

‘Not like that, fuckin hell. Just a Plunket playdate. She’s probly on a roundabout laughing her arse off right now. She loves other people looking after her.’

‘Well perhaps I should show her some real mothering and take her on a weekly basis, then.’

‘I WISH YOU ACTUALLY WOULD.’

‘So you can have time to, what – go to Zumba classes?’

‘YES. ACTUALLY FUCKING YES. YES I WANT TO GO TO FUCKING ZUMBA INSTEAD OF FUCKING COURT.’ Janelle squeezed the phone between her head and her shoulder and rolled a smoke and gulped something relaxing. ‘Look, Mums, can you just say if you’re coming round or not? Else I’ll do the cake myself.’

‘I can’t just go filling up the petrol tank willy-nilly can I. God you’re thoughtless somet– ’

Janelle ended the call, let herself collapse to the carpet, her nostrils sticking against the tiny woollen curls. She ignited her cigarette lighter, held it against the corner of a faded rug, hoping to see flames. This kind of burn needed petrol, she decided. She blew the flame out, walked onto the driveway, backed her car carefully out onto the road and raced up to Mobil, not giving a fuck if she were caught driving while disqualified. More community service hours. So what. She filled an empty milk bottle with petrol, paid for it and by the time she returned, Fay was waiting in the driveway, carrying Kruizer’s limp body.

‘Chuck her in her room,’ Janelle said, exhausted. ‘You can head off. You’re a total lifesaver, Fay.’

Fay went down the hall, paused and sniffed the air. ‘Did something… burn in here?’

‘Just chuck her in bed.’

Fay put Kruizer down, backed gently out of the bedroom and shut the door silently. She backed up until she touched the table, turned around and saw the empty black can lying face-down on Janelle’s laptop.

Janelle spotted it at the same time, took the roach of the joint and held it up, shrugging. ‘Ruined, then, eh. Fuck it.’ She sparked her lighter and sucked a puff of black smoke and collapsed against the wall.

‘Sugar… .’ Fay stroked Janelle’s shoulder, moving past, heading for the front door and stepping back into her shoes. ‘Just got to pop out to my car, fetch my bag. Here – I’ll write you a cheque.’

‘DON’T YOU GIMME A HANDOUT. DON’T YOU EVER ACT LIKE YOU’RE BETTER. I’ve had a pretty fucked-up day so I’m telling you to get lost, Fay, for your sake.’ She picked up her $1500 laptop, stepped on the pedal of the rubbish bin and dumped the computer in the bin with a clang. ‘GO BACK TO YOUR HAPPY LIFE WITH YOUR FUCKIN’ INSURANCE AND FUCKING NICE TEETH WITH NO FUCKIN CAVITIES.’

Fay scampered out of her house. Janelle seized her mobile, phoned Home Helpers, phoned the pigs, phoned JJ and his little boyscouts. Come getcha blood money, she dared them, Come take fuckin’ everything. Got me some gas and I’ma burn this motherfucker down. Come catch JJ breaching his protection order. Come put me on the block, Gangster. She drank three bourbons, paced the kitchen, shredded her pointless vouchers. Come alllllll you fuckers.

*

The debt collectors were first to arrive, crunching the driveway gravel just as the sun was starting to break open and leak its yolk across the sky. They got out of the car, left the doors open and the engine running, spitting hoikers of yellow cigarettey gunk on the welcome mat.

‘Stuff’s inside,’ Janelle said, moving out of the way, ‘On the table.’

She’s promised them 30 bucks out of 800 owed, but she’d laid out $190 of merch – bags of powder, foils of weed, three cigars with the tobacco emptied out and weed stuffed in to make ‘em into blunts, plus a vial of weed oil.

‘Fuckin A-right,’ said the dreadlocked bulldyke. She was cramming the merch in an ice cream container as a bike arrived, rumbling, then rumbled even closer, and closer, then JJ dipped his front wheel inside Janelle’s hallway, twisting the doormat.

JJ clomped down the hallway, the buckles on his leather armour tinkling. He didn’t slow down to ask questions, just saw two strangers with their fingers on his merch. The dreadlocked one noticed him, moved forward to confront him, and collapsed with an exploded nose as JJ’s helmet crushed her face.  

He paused for a moment to pick a tooth out of his brow before he roared ‘CUNT’ and dragged the debt collectors down the hall and out of the front door, one in a headlock, the other by her legs. He dumped them on the concrete patio.

‘THIS HERE’S TRIBAL! TRIBAL!’

Kruizer appeared out of her bedroom, clutching Elmo and rubbing her eyes. JJ snatched her up.  

Janelle tried to seize her. ‘DON’T – what are you– ’

‘Sweetmeat,’ JJ said, tipping helmet into his hands and picking bloody blonde hairs off it, ‘Tell daddy where mummy keeps the birthday presents, eh girl?’

Janelle watched her daughter point to the hot water cupboard.

As JJ emptied the bank he dropped Kruizer, who went running into her mummy’s arms. JJ packed the stash in a bag on his bike. As he put the key in, revved the engine and knocked back the kickstand with his heel he was surprised to see the Indian chick-cop and her partner rolling up the driveway, slowing and stopping.

‘Awesome timing,’ JJ announced loudly, ‘I’s just cleaning up this shitty useless mother’s drug den.

‘Tell tales if you want, I don’t give a fuck,’ Janelle called out, pushing Kruizer’s face against her boobs and holding out her phone while she captured a video.

JJ shook his head like a tired old man. ‘Yous oughta call Child Protection.’

‘Preciate the help,’ said one pigshit.

‘I take it you won’t mind coming to the station to put a few things on paper?’ said the other.

JJ gave them a wink then buckled his helmet. ‘Wouldn’t mind at all.’

She continued filming as JJ showed the cops the harmful substances he’d helpfully removed.  She filmed JJ following the authorities to the station. She was still standing there, watching the gap where they’d been, when six other bikers turned up.

‘You missed your prospect by about a minute,’ Janelle said, her voice exhausted, raspy. Kruizer was heavy. She swapped her girl from one arm to the other. ‘JJ’s gone down to the cop shop to snitch on everyone. Better hurry if you wanna stop him.’

‘Snitch?’

‘Big time snitch, I’m telling yous.’

‘You better be on the level, skank,’ said one of the bikers, with yellow words and trim and designs on his vest. Fully patched. A senior.

The bikers lowered their shades and she showed them the video of JJ and the cops talking, the familiar pats on the shoulders, JJ’s good guy nark voice. The bikers cursed and punched their chests and flattened the carrot flowers as they rumbled away.

Janelle had just sat down in the lounge to rest her shoulders and smoke a cone while Kruizer watched vids on the iPad when Mumsy arrived with a giant laundry tub. Inside was a Betty Crocker cake, two perfect eggs and a litre of milk.

Janelle took the iPad out of her girl’s hands and replaced it with a kiss on Kruizer’s scalp.

‘Go give your granny a kiss, babe.’

Mother and daughter and granddaughter mixed the cake, argued about how to dispose of the eggshells, put the sloppy bake mix in the oven, argued about whether Kruizer was allowed to lick the eggbeaters or not and finally and sat around the table drinking water. There was nothing left to drink, and Janelle kept leaving the table to pee. She fetched her largest, sharpest knife as she returned to the table.

They talked about Janelle’s piece-of-shit father, about Mumsy taking the Ministry of Social Development to a dispute tribunal to get her compensation extended another six months, about the spot on her lung, about some brawl at her niece’s league game coz the ref was a Muslim and those people don’t know shit about shit.

Janelle pulled the cake out and was setting it back on the table when she let slip that she was supposed to be at community service otherwise they’ll put a warrant out for her arrest.

‘YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO COMPLETE YOUR HOURS TODAY, TODAY IS MONDAY.’

‘Chill, mum. Eat some cake. Kruize: cover your ears.’

‘HOW DARE YOU DO THIS, JANELLE. YOU’RE A LOSER. YOU’RE A TOTAL WASTE.’

Janelle didn’t slap her, walk out or reach for her lighter and a little stick of joy. She just laughed, wrapped her fingers around the handle of the steak knife and tapped it against her palm.

‘Mumz, today is not Monday anymore, today’s not even Fuckup Day: today’s my daughter’s birthday. That’s all I’m gonna let it be. Now unless you want me clean up the one remaining problem in my life I suggest you sit down and shut the fuck up. Kruize: cover your eyes.’

‘Wh – what are you fixing to do with that, that knife?’

Janelle slammed the knife down then pushed it across the table and leaned back. ‘Hurry up and cut us a slice of cake already, Mumsy. Fuck’s sake.’

While Mumsy cut the cake with wobbling hands and Kruizer stood on her chair so she could rest her elbows in front of the cake, Janelle reached on top of the highest shelf, took the milk bottle full of orange liquid, opened the lid.

‘Janelle, I’m… JANELLE. DON’T. DON’T YOU DARE. Is that – is that gas? Don’t! DON’T!’

‘NEXT TIME I TELL YOU TO COME ROUND FOR YOUR FUCKIN GRAND DAUGHTER’S FUCKING BIRTHDAY, DON’T SAY YOU AIN’T GOT ENOUGH FUCKING GAS. FUCK!’

She pushed the bottle hard into her mum’s arms. ‘PUT IT IN YOUR CAR. SAVE IT.’

Mumsy pushed back from the table and Janelle reached into the back pocket of her shorts and pulled a lighter forth.

‘JANELLE! WHAT ARE YOU – WHAT –

Janelle flared the lighter. She reached into her other pocket, pulled a tiny package out and pressed it onto the table. ‘Ain’t you never seen candles before? Jesus, Mum.’

 


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