The Locusts Have Eaten Everything

“He didn’t do it.” Mom takes a deep breath. She exhales. “I don’t care what the other student said—my son would never hurt anyone.”

I listen. I maintain meaningful eye contact. I nod my head. As a trained school administrator, I know to let her talk. Best practices and all.

I also know how today’s conference is going to go. Mom is going to tell me how wonderful Tommy is, how he’s never been in trouble, how he would never hurt a fly. And I’m going to repeat myself a lot.

Yes, I understand, but I was there. Yes, I hear what you’re saying, but I saw it happen. Yes, I am listening, but there were other witnesses.

The woman sitting in my office is tired. Like allmoms are tired. Like most women of a certain age are tired. I recognize the look.

It’s what I assume someone being carjacked looks like when a cop pulls them over and asks, “Is everything okay? You were driving a bit erratically back there.”

We want to say, “Officer, the guy in the backseat has a gun in my back and it’s really hard for me to drive under these conditions and that’s why I swerved back there and would you please make me get of the car or just glance behind me because I’m thinking this is not going to end well and honestly none of this is how I imagined my life at all.”

But we don’t say any of this, because the guy with a gun in our back has threatened to kill us if we do.

“I’m fine.”

It’s what we tell the cop. It’s what the mom tells me when I invite her to take a seat and ask, How are you?  It’s what we always say. We moms. We women of a certain age. 

The mom sitting in my office folds her arms across her chest and threatens to hire an attorney. She says this isn’t the first time we’ve harassed her son like this. She wants an explanation for why we let other students do whatever they want but as soon as Tommy does one little thing, he’s sent to the principal. She doesn’t stop talking for fifteen minutes. I listen. I nod. I make eye contact.

There.

There’s the look. The one we’d give the cop on traffic duty. Mom’s eyes glaze with an exhaustion no nap can fix and silently beg: Help. Me.

I ask her if Tommy’s been having problems at home, anything that would be concerning to her, anything that would explain why he suddenly stabbed the kid in front of him with a pencil.

Mom takes a deep breath. She exhales. “He ripped the heads off all his G.I. Joe action figures. Except for Cobra Commander. He still has his head.”

I nod. I call the guidance counselor on the phone and ask her to join the meeting. I call the front desk and tell them to cancel my lunch with the athletic director. The failing football players will have to wait.

We ask Mom when the decapitation started. She shrugs. “I don’t know. I mean, I work full-time and his sister keeps us busy with the teenager thing; it’s a constant battle with her. Tommy’s never been an issue. He’s an angel compared to Beth. She’s the one we’ve caught drinking and smoking pot and sending pictures of herself to boys.” She looks down and shakes her head. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this.”

The counselor and I listen. We maintain meaningful eye contact. We nod. We ask about the dad—the husband—but Mom is done talking. We refer her and Tommy to a professional with more training, someone who might be able to help. We let Tommy off with a few days of OSS instead of expelling him. We schedule a meeting with the stabbed student’s mom who has called to demand expulsion. We leave work for the day.

I stop for groceries on the way home, just one more thing on the long list of things to do. I shuffle my cart to the cashier, a perky teenager with braces and heavy make-up. I don’t make eye contact. She scans my food and chirps, “How are you today? Did you find everything you were looking for?”

I nod. I’m fine.

I rifle through my purse so I’m ready when it’s time to pay.

Marissa Glover lives in the United States, where she teaches at Saint Leo University in Florida. She is co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Her work most recently appears in River Mouth Review, Middle House Review, The UCity Review, and HocTok Magazine. Marissa’s poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, will be published by Mercer University Press in 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.

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