Breaking point - By Mizeta Moon

The day of the school carnival was far from Henrietta’s finest. Her alarm didn’t work properly, her toast burnt, the kids were whiny and out of control, and on a day that she was running late the car wouldn’t start. While they waited for a taxi to take them to Winnetonka Elementary she discovered a run in her last decent pair of pantyhose, then her oldest daughter told her that she was going to run away from home if Henrietta didn’t buy her the latest iPhone. Fat chance of that on a teacher’s salary. Her own phone was years out of date and a fourth grader didn’t need to have a fifteen hundred dollar toy that she’d probably lose on the playground.

When they finally got to school and her kids were in their classrooms, she was chastised by the principal for keeping the ones she was paid to instruct waiting. She apologized profusely but secretly wanted to strangle him for being a pompous ass without sympathy for her misfortunes. When things finally settled down, she was able to focus on preparations for the carnival.

Besides stringing bunting and holiday lights in the gymnasium during nap time, one of her jobs was to set up a table and a goldfish bowl to hold raffle tickets. The attendees could win a big screen TV that had been donated by a local appliance store. Henrietta wished it weren’t against the rules for employees to participate in the drawing as her TV had wavy lines running through it and she could really use an upgrade. Finished with that chore, she sat at her desk wishing she had a bottle of vodka in the drawer and a one-way ticket to somewhere warm and sunny. While her ex took the kids for Christmas break, she could run naked on a sandy beach and make mad passionate love to a stranger.

Instead, she struggled through the rest of the day and was relieved when the carnival started, signaling the possibility of some fun. She and the kids shared ice cream and funnel cakes, then popped balloons with darts and played pin the tail on the donkey. A smile crept onto her face for a moment but quickly disappeared when the principal cornered her by the coat check and fondled her butt, saying he could make things easier for her in return for special favors. After that, she hardly remembered what happened and why she spent the night in jail.

They believed it when she told the cops she didn’t mean to flip out. It was just that she’d had enough and if she’d actually pummeled the principal with a Barbie doll that she yanked from a toddler’s hand she’d have to take their word for it. Evidently, her mother had to come for the kids and were taken away crying when she got arrested. Now her ex would have a valid argument for full-time custody. Waking up in a cell was embarrassing but she wasn’t sorry that the principal would get fried by the media for misconduct. After all, everyone has their breaking point and she’d obviously reached hers. When she was released and told that no charges were being filed, she was relieved but riding the bus home wearing rumpled clothes and tattered nylons added insult to injury.

Her traitorous car sat uncaring in the driveway as she unlocked the door and let herself in. What did it care that she’d face a disciplinary review and might lose her job? At least it was quiet in the house. The smell of burnt toast lingered but was easily ignored as she ran a hot bath, stripped, and slid in, holding the bottle of vodka she grabbed on her way through the kitchen. Drowning her sorrows wouldn’t change the fact that the kids would be home the next day and the alarm clock was still broken, but for the moment she could pretend she was watching the sunset on a tropical island. She still wished she’d won that big screen TV.   

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