The heavy metal doors clanged shut behind the woman, wearing no makeup or jewelry.
She was there to see her boy. He had requested that she look as plain as possible when she visited. Regardless of best her efforts, lonely men still leered through the glass windows as they shuffled past.
She didn’t notice; she stared at her son. His blonde hair was shorn close to his skull, its shape so familiar to her hands. He had gained weight, filling out his orange suit for the first time in months. She guessed that he had been working out, too.
She was happy to see him alive and sober, yet, she felt guilty at her surprise that he hadn’t disappointed her in some new way. He was finally free from drugs and a life on the street. On the inside, he was exposed to a different set of dangers but she knew where he was every night, more or less.
“What’s new, kid?” she asked, afraid her voice would crack with emotion if she said more.
Grinning, his blue eyes sparkled with excitement.
“Ma, my taffy business is going really well. I’ve come up with a new flavor, chocolate and strawberry. I can’t make enough of it, the guys like it so well.”
“That’s great, buddy,” she exclaimed.
“Remember that praying mantis that I told you about last time?” he asked.
“Of course, how is it?” she inquired of his temporary roommate.
His face fell as he explained, “She died a few weeks ago.”
Smiling again, he continued, “It’s ok because she must have been pregnant and now there are a bunch of praying mantis babies in here.”
In spite of herself, the woman laughed out loud, and covered her mouth when she remembered that she was still upset with her son. She couldn’t help but to imagine the tiny flashes of green crawling and praying as they pleased. It meant there could be freedom in a place of bars and shackles. New life and nature are possible even in a sterile place that focused on constantly reminding its residents of their past.
Her son nodded in agreement. “That’s a good idea, but some of the guys rounded up the babies. Now, they’re selling them as pets.”
“Really,” she asked and went on after a second of consideration, “I would definitely have one as a pet.”
“Where would you keep it?” she asked curiously.
Sadly, he patted his shoulder, “Right here. That’s where it would ride.”
“Why don’t you buy one with some of your taffy?” his mother asked, suddenly indignant that the others might have something that her son did not; it was just a maternal reaction.
“No ma, it wouldn’t be right. It would just be taken from me.”
She was crushed by his conviction.
- Praying Mantis (jeannemelanson88.wordpress.com)
- Praying mantids. (brianasbugblog.wordpress.com)