Mother May I?


Momma told me to always make things right, to say please and thank you, and I’m sorry (not just sorry), and to always always always put things back where I found them. And that’s how come I’m standing in this backyard again trying to jimmy the basement door without waking the neighbors. I know lots of tricks about breaking into houses. But I never do that anymore. Because I know it would upset momma, even though she’s no longer with us, which is just a polite way of saying that she died.

The deadbolt is a good one so I use the tape trick. Just cover the glass with masking tape so that when it breaks the pieces will stick to the glass and not fall and make a lot of noise. Easy peasey!

I close the door behind me, tape some cardboard over the hole where the window was, then I use my tiny notebook and pen to write my apology note.

“I am very sorry about busting out your window. Please forgive me. Here is forty dollars to help pay for my damages. Thank you very much. D.”

Using my whole name would be stupid and could put me back in the slammer.

Inside the house I walk with feathers, just like momma said. And when I talk to myself I will use my inside voice. Those are good burglar strategies, but not so good in prison where they called me lardass and dumbass, but always picked me first for football. Sticks and stones, momma would say.

The safe is upstairs where I found it before. People are surprised I can crack safes because I’m thick in the fingers too, not just the head. The stuff’s all in the bag I brought: cash bundles, four unloaded guns, both watches, and a gold bar, which is just crazy heavy! When the door to the safe clicks open under my fingers a light clicks on behind me.

I turn and squint and then I hear someone laugh. “Well, look who’s here? The retard.”

“That’s not very nice,” I say.

“But it is indeed apt, no?”

I just stare cuz I’m not sure what that means. But my heart is punching away inside my throat.

“What do you have there, Donny?”

“Your stuff.”

“I do believe that’s yours now. You paid for it. About thirty months in medium security, if I recall?”

“I brought it back.”

“And why, pray tell, would you do a thing like that?”

“I’m making amens.”

His face screws up, then unwinds into a grin. “I think you mean amends, Donny.”

I shrug. “So, you want I should leave it here? Or put it back in the safe?”

That’s when he points his big cowboy gun at me. “What I want, Donny, is to know what other merchandise you may have locked up in that van you parked on the corner? I assume this isn’t your only stop.”


“Because you may have a thing or two that interests me.”

“But that’s stealing! And momma says it’s wrong to steal.”

“Momma?” he says, confused, then amused. “Never mind. Stand up and keep your hands where I can see them.”

I start to stand, slow and easy. But then I lunge, bashing his gun hand sideways and cannonballing my forehead into his middle. Air gusts out of him, tickling my scalp. I pin him to the carpet with one hand and point his own gun at him with the other.

“Your momma teach you that move too?”

“Nope,” I say. “Daddy did. And he wasn’t nice like momma.”

He wets his lips and croaks, “Why don’t you just leave those things where they lie then? And we can just call it even.”

I shake my head, slow.

“But think of momma,” he says. “What would she say if she were here?”

“First she would remind me to wash my hands when I make a mess.” His eyes go wide. Then he starts to struggle under my weight. But I don’t smell the piss until I hear momma’s voice coming from my own chapped lips. “Why sing the blues, Donny? Just take those problems and bury ‘em out back!”

~ fin ~

Michael Snyder blackandwhite

Michael Snyder lives in middle Tennessee with his amazing wife and children. His work has appeared in Shotgun Honey, The First LineGreater Sum; Relief Journal; 100 Word Story; Cease, CowsFoliate OakToasted Cheese; Everyday Fiction; among other online haunts. His first three novels were published by Harper Collins/Zondervan. Links to more stories can be found here: