The screaming I could handle. We were outside at a public beach after all. Even when he started feeding the seagulls, I could put up with it. I knew the ranger would be around soon enough to stop it. After the second fistful of sand the pre-teen flung at my head, I was done.
I looked to his mother. Laid out under a pale blue umbrella, pulling drags off a hand-held, electronic hookah, and thumbing away on her oversized smartphone. She ignored her demon child who was out-of-control, tearing over the shore without regard to the other park visitors.
This wasn’t an overwhelmed parent, this was a disconnected mother with no intention of reining in an overstimulated adolescent. She didn’t have that apologetic defiance I would expect from a parent doing the best she could with a challenging child. She was bored, and trying to ignore what the rest of us had to endure.
I picked up two corners of my beach blanket and shook the sand off, snapping it with as much force as I could, flinging the grit in her direction.
With languid movements, she wiped at the sand sticking to her oil-slick skin. Spewing a string of obscenities at me, I countered her indignation with a calm assertion that I was just returning her son’s sand. That, and perhaps she needed to keep a closer eye on him.
“I’m not questioning your parenting skills – not my circus, not my monkey.” I began gathering my beach paraphernalia. “I’m just saying that my tax dollars will one day pay for his housing.”
She closed the gap between us in two strides, her fists balled as if to hit me. The air suddenly turned cold, and I could feel droplets of ice forming on my eyelashes, and the creak of icicles growing on the surrounding pines. I turned on my most sincere smile.
“It’s really quiet simple. As easy as ABC,” I said, shouldering my canvas tote. “You need to step up and do your job, or the state will do it for you.”
I left her in a pool of melted ice, shivering from her cold reality.