Jerry and Me
    Martin Rutley

My mother visits because she likes to ride the subway trains. Jerry says she smells like wild flowers, but I tell him it's really just dead flowers crushed and mixed with water, squeezed into little bottles. I learned that at home, before I realized Jerry wanted me to move out here. My mother thinks we are alike, but she forgets Jerry killed his father one evening after school, 1987.

Had we met randomly on the street we'd have invented excuses and left. Sometimes people clash, there's no fixing that.

I keep him happy with television - cartoons mostly. He likes the show where the dumb cat tries to catch the smart mouse. After he'd seen it a few times he wanted to know why the cat never caught the mouse.

"He ever gets a hold of that mouse, Jerry, and it's end of show," I said.

He won't watch now without looking out for the mouse. "He's under the table, behind the couch, on top of the refrigerator, beneath the ironing board, inside the cupboard," he yells.

Sometimes he won't do anything but sit in his room and cry, his pillow stretched clean across his face. Over time, I've learned to shut him up with cigarette burns to his arms and legs.

"You'll listen to nothing else," I tell him repeatedly.


My mother visits Fridays. She keeps her purse pressed close to her belly, her arms wrapped like barbwire around her body.

"Gloria has been offered a job in Europe," she says. "She's decided to talk it over with Eugene before she makes a decision."

She rarely speaks without giving the impression of having borrowed her words from some magazine she's flicked through while waiting to see a dentist. Jerry listens from behind the door of his room. With an ear pressed to the wall, he mumbles platitudes of bland, indecent affection.

"When you were a boy you never stopped talking," she tells me.

Later, after she's gone, Jerry leaves his room. He stands by the window and waits until he sees her reappear on the street below. Quietly, he asks to see the gifts my Mother has left him.

"Did she bring photographs?" He wants to know.

"Cartoon time, Jerry," I tell him.

Jerry kicks and screams, pulls the TV off its stand, tears down the curtains, but he knows it's all for nothing. When he can do no more, he leans out into the window and tells he can see my mother as she makes her way home.

"Jerry, if you don't move from the window I'll take away your TV time." I tell him.

He steps away from the window, head hung towards the floor. "You should have let me talk with her," he says.


I'm sat in the corner fiddling with the circuitry inside my head. Jerry's in here flicking switches and turning dials, running wires off into places they aren't meant to go.

"You get outta here, Jerry," I tell him.

He doesn't hear, or makes out like he doesn't.

"Forget about your cartoons, Jerry. Forget about me looking out for you."

"My mother's visiting again Friday," he says, cranking a dial round as far as it will go. "You can listen from your room."

Before he can say anymore I begin rolling out language on how I'd flipped my 69' Mustang Fastback while driving home from a bar-crawl with my buddy, Eugene. I tell him I'd once worked a nightshift in a neighboring town, that we'd regularly pumped out a hundred thousand lipstick dispensers in a single shift, ten thousand more than the dayshift.

"You can't drive," he yells, flicking more switches inside my head. "You don't have any friends. You haven't worked a day in your life."

"Get outta my head, Jerry," I yell. I'm hitting my head against the wall of my room, but he's in too deep, I can't get him out.

"You're not that person. You're not somebody else," He's voice is right here, running down the wires inside my head.

"My father is a jazz nut, listens to nothing else," I tell him. "That's how he and my mother met, twenty-five years ago at some club called The Jet Lag Lounge, Tuesday nights. An exercise in managerial bonding, team building outside the office."

"My father hated jazz." Jerry's playing his games again, switching more wires to where they don't belong. "He liked rock n' roll - the Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hendrix."

"My mother had said no, said it wasn't her thing. Janine, her section-supervisor from accounts, insisted it was. According to Janine, my mother had invited my father over to sit at their table, introducing him as 'the man she was going to marry' the second his ass hit the seat."

"My mother looks at you and doesn't know who you are anymore."

Jerry's lying. He's lying because he killed his father when he was fourteen years old. I've tried to help him, support him, but he forgets the things I've done for him. He forgets everything until he's been taken to his room and made to shut up.

"You'll listen to nothing else, Jerry."


Friday afternoon and my mother removes her coat and sits herself in the chair put out for her. She tells me she's smoking again. She began again on Thursday, eleven years after she first quit.

"You don't mind me smoking, do you, Jerry?"

Martin Rutley has been writing short fiction for several years. His influences include William Burroughs, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Franz Kafka. His work has been featured in The Pedestal Magazine, The Fortean Bureau, Cafe Irreal, and Locus Novus among others. He lives in Manchester, England.

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