William T. Hathaway
My dad was cheating on mom. I saw him and his girl friend at a
disco, dancing and kissing. She was plump and plain, not much
older than me, the kind who'd probably have to take whatever she
could get, and that turned out to be dad. He was dancing like
he was trying to be a kid. It made me hate them both, and I left
before they saw me.
Mom had been acting strange for a couple of months, so I think
she knew about it but didn't say anything. She drank a lot more
than usual and moped around like she wanted to cry, which she
Now that I knew why she was feeling so bad, I hated him all the
more. Most of all, I wanted to make her feel better.
Dad was "away on business" a lot of the weekends. Mom
drank even more then, trying to blot it out. I couldn't stand
to see her so sad. One night she sort of passed out in the living
room. I picked her up and carried her into their bedroom. One
of my hands was on her bottom and the other beside her breast.
Mom's skirt was way up — I could see her legs and underpants.
I thought she looked great, much better than that girl at the
I laid her on the bed, and she sort of half woke up. "Nightie-night?"
nightie-night," I said.
I wasn't sure what she meant until she pointed at the closet.
"Oh, your nightgown."
I opened the closet and saw something silken hanging from a hook
on the other side of the door. I brought it back while mom was
trying to get out of her clothes. She wasn't doing too well, so
I helped her, first the blouse, then the skirt, then I stopped.
I was getting so turned on looking at her. I wanted to keep going
but I thought I better not. Mom couldn't keep her eyes open, I
don't think she really knew I was there anymore. She reached around
and undid her bra. I'd seen her breasts once or twice, but that
was years ago. Now I just stared ... got totally excited. They
looked so great. It was like I could remember being there as a
baby and now needed more than anything to be back, like I hadn't
had any food all those years, now starving and found this delicious
feast right there in front of me.
Mom slumped over on the bed and fell asleep again. I felt so sorry
for her. I got in with her, just to hold her and make her feel
better. I lay right up against her. She rolled a little, and her
tit was right in my face. I snuggled into it and kissed it. A
voice inside said this was weird and wrong, but I got to thinking
about all the really wrong, weird things in the world —
bombs, torture, starvation — and this seemed pretty good
in comparison. I sucked mom's tits a long time. She was still
asleep, but they got firm and the nipples hard.
I got so hard it hurt. I took off my clothes. Then I took off
her underpants. As soon as I saw her bush, I knew I had to go
back there, knew I'd been missing it all those years. I started
to rub it, and it got wet ... and mom woke up.
I had one hand on her breast and the other on her pussy. She gaped
at me and mumbled something, then closed her eyes but left her
mouth open. I kissed it and she kissed me back. She didn't open
her eyes again and seemed half asleep. She opened her legs, though,
and let me keep rubbing. The sounds she made weren't snores but
When I put my root in her, mom raised her hips and twisted around
it, gasped and bit her lip, but kept her eyes closed. When I came
inside her plunging and pumping, she opened her eyes and looked
at me with wide helpless eyes and clutched her arms and legs around
me. When I sucked her clit afterwards, she closed her eyes and
came with wild buckings and thrashings and a shout of glory.
I've had quite a few girls and this was the best ever. No comparison.
We started in doing it regularly. She stopped drinking as much,
and that made it even better. She seemed happy, and that made
me feel great.
We talked about dad's cheating. She'd known about it a long time,
felt terrible, but now suddenly it didn't bother her anymore.
She said it was worth it because it meant we didn't have to feel
bad about what we were doing.
And what we were doing kept getting better. We always looked forward
to his weekends away. We did it all sorts of ways. It gave me
a tremendous sense of power to see my mother turn into a submissive
woman under my hands, offering herself up to be kissed and fondled.
Once I sucked her for a hour, loving every minute of it, and she
came three times.
One night after we fucked mom wanted me in her again, so she was
sucking me to get it hard. We were both in heaven until the door
banged open and a voice shouted, "Freeze!" It was dad.
He had a gun. He ran at us holding it with both hands, pointing
it first at mom, then at me, swearing at us.
Mom screamed and fell back on the bed. I just sort of withered.
Having a cocked pistol pointed at it tends to be hard on hard-ons.
The gun was shaking in dad's hands. His face was sweaty. "You
were blowin' him, well, I'm gonna blow it off ... blow both of
He slapped her and his lips curled back from his teeth. "Killing's
too easy for you ... too quick. Prison! Both of you! Everybody's
going to know ... sick twisted freaks! Rest of your life in a
He called the police from the bedroom phone, waving the revolver
at us. He didn't even let us get dressed. The cops came in with
disgusted looks on their faces, but at least they let us get dressed
before putting us in two separate cars and driving us away.
At the station three cops made me pull down my pants. One held
my arms behind my back, another grabbed my legs. The third grabbed
my dick. I thought he was going to castrate me, but he jabbed
a cotton swab up it, hurt like hell.
Mom told me later they stuck a swab up her too, but at least it
was police women and they weren't so mean.
The cops put me in a cell with three thugs and told them what
I'd done. They beat the hell out of me.
Next day the cops said they had positive DNA evidence, an open
and shut case of felony incest. With dad's testimony we were sure
to go to prison, separate men's and women's. The sentence would
probably be five years, but if we had good behavior we might get
out in four, but there was no way we'd have good behavior because
when the other cons found out what we'd done, they'd beat us up
all the time, so we'd get a sheet as troublemakers. Way prisons
are, we might never get out. The cops did their best to scare
us, and they succeeded. Our lives seemed ruined right after they'd
become their happiest.
Then this button-down collar from the district attorney's told
us if we just signed confessions and pleaded guilty, he could
recommend three year sentences. When we were paroled afterwards,
though, we couldn't see each other again or we'd go back to prison.
Either way, our lives seemed over.
By now we had a lawyer, a public defender, and he advised us not
to sign. This made the cops mad. They took me into a little room.
I thought they were going to beat a confession out of me. But
instead they brought in a preacher. He gave me a friendly, concerned
smile like he really cared about me, then told me mom and I would
burn in hell for the rest of eternity unless we confessed and
begged Jesus for forgiveness. He told me what hell was like for
people who do incest. I won't tell you about it — even the
Nazis weren't that cruel. But he said Jesus would forgive us if
By now I was so scared I was getting mad and wanted to fight back.
I refused to confess. He said sternly at least get down on your
knees and pray for forgiveness. I said no. He said then God can't
As he was leaving, the older cop said, "Sorry, Reverend,
but I'm not surprised. I seen cases like this before. Once a mother
and son get started on incest, there's no way to stop 'em. They're
not sorry. They'll find some way to keep doin' it. You just have
to shoot 'em ... keep it from spreading." He gave me a murderous
The Memphis paper ran an article with our names, jail mugshots,
and a quote from the district attorney that we were "guilty
of a spree of incestuous copulation." After that there were
lots of hate letters to the editor about what should happen to
Finally the lawyer got us out on bail. Mom had to put up her half
ownership of the house as collateral. We had to sign a paper saying
we wouldn't see each other except when our attorney was there.
I got put in a foster home, but they wouldn't let me back in school
— I might contaminate the others. Mom rented a hotel room.
She got fired from her waitress job.
Neither one of us saw dad, but we got a message from him saying
he'd be in the front row at our trial. He said he got suspicious
when he saw hickeys on both of our necks. To trap us, he waited
outside the house until he saw lights on only in her bedroom.
Mom and I met with the lawyer to talk about the case. He said
it looked bad. It was great to see mom again, even though both
of us cried and we couldn't hold each other. As we were leaving,
she pushed a note into my pocket.
I waited until I rode my bike around the corner to read it: "Meet
me 9 tonight at the Rock-Around-the-Clock Truck Stop." (There's
lots of things named after rock 'n' roll in Memphis since it's
I was worried we'd get into worse trouble, but I knew it was important.
At the foster home I wasn't allowed out after dark, so I had to
sneak out a back window.
As I rode up to the truck stop, mom was standing outside. She
motioned me to follow her around the corner where it was darker.
The first thing she did was throw her arms around me and give
me a big kiss on the lips. Suddenly I felt a lot better. Then
she said we were leaving, scramming, beating it, jumping bail,
getting out right now.
I saw she'd dyed her hair blonde. She gave me a can of blonde
spray and told me how to use it. She fed a bunch of quarters into
the door of one of those little rooms where the truckers shower
and clean up. She didn't go in with me, though — we were
taking enough risks as it was.
I came out sneezing from the dye fumes but blonde. She looked
me over and told me to go back in and do the eyebrows.
Then she went into the restaurant and found a trucker who'd take
us as far as St. Louis. It was a long ride up the river. We were
both tired but too hyped up to sleep and worried if there was
news about us on the radio and the trucker got suspicious, we
might have to get out fast. If we got caught now, we'd go to prison
a lot longer. But the news was about other things, war overseas,
murder at home.
The trucker turned out to be a nice guy. He didn't ask too many
questions, and he let us out before dawn in downtown St. Louis.
Glad to be just the two of us again, we kissed and hugged, then
walked down to the river, afraid, happy, excited. As if following
the flowing water, our thoughts returned to Memphis and the life
we'd left behind — friends, school, job, dad. We cried awhile
but were relieved to be free, at least for now, and knew we had
to keep moving against the current.
St. Louis has this huge tall Gateway Arch by the river, a monument
to the pioneers, and as the sky was starting to get pale, we saw
the first light of the oncoming sun glinting the top, making the
metal glow. The light slowly spread down it until the whole arch
shone silver as the sun crossed the horizon. Then the river started
to glow, and all this beauty filled us with hope. Maybe we could
get away, stay out of prison, stay together. We were pioneers
too, in a way, blazing new trails, new ways of people being together.
We had breakfast in an all-night place at Laclede's Landing overlooking
the Mississippi. As we were eating, four cops came in and walked
towards us. Suddenly all our hopes were smashed. How did they
find us? The trucker? They were too near for us to run. All we
could do was stare at each other like we'd never see each other
The cops sat down at another table and ordered their first donut
of the day. They didn't even notice us. We relaxed ... a little.
We walked into the business district as the stores were starting
to open. All we had were the clothes on our backs and mom's credit
cards. We charged a whole bunch of stuff — not just clothes
but suitcases, soap, food, everything we'd need. The credit card
slips meant they could trace us to St. Louis, so we lugged the
stuff down to the Greyhound station and got tickets for the next
bus to Chicago, leaving in an hour. Yesterday in Memphis mom had
taken the maximum cash advance on all her cards and wanted to
try it again here, maybe we were far enough away that it would
work again, they wouldn't be alerted so soon. While I watched
the stuff, she went out to a bank. We knew this was taking a chance
but we needed the cash and didn't want to use the plastic in Chicago.
She let me hold all the cash we had. In case she didn't come back,
I was supposed to get on the bus without her so they wouldn't
arrest me too. If they gave her some story in the bank that she
was supposed to wait there, she was going to run out. I was worried
the whole time she was gone. All I could do was watch the door.
When she walked back through it half an hour later smiling, I
nearly cried with relief.
By now we were both totally knocked out. As soon as we got on
the bus, we fell asleep hugging and didn't wake up until Chicago.
We got two cheap rooms in separate hotels, took a hot bath together
at her place, then went to bed but not to sleep. Making love to
her this time was different. We were now closer than ever before.
It was us against the world, and we had to stay together.
Mom dyed her hair blonde for real, not just the spray. I kidded
her that she looked like a Barbie doll, and she said if that was
true then I was Ken. We laughed about it but then got to thinking
we were going to need new names anyway. She said she'd always
liked Barbara and would keep it. I didn't want to be Ken, though
— too obvious. Kent sounded better.
What about last names? she asked.
I thought about it for a while, then took her hand. We should
have the same name, I told her. I loved her and wanted to be married
to her. It'd be easier to live together as a married couple. She
looked so young anyway.
She cried but she was happy.
We looked through the phone book like it was a catalogue of last
names until we found one we both liked (I don't want to tell you).
We decided to take seven years off mom's age to make her twenty-nine
and add three years to mine to make me twenty-one.
I didn't like my blonde hair, so I washed it out and grew a beard
Mom got a waitress job at a big restaurant down by the Loop, then
got me hired there as a dishwasher. We rented a furnished apartment
— it wasn't much, but it was our first very own home.
We started to feel that the worst might be over, that we'd swum
across the deep part of the river and could finally feel the ground
of the other shore under our feet. We might make it. We began
to enjoy life and each other.
Wages in the kitchen were sub-minimum, so lots of the workers
were illegal aliens, from all sorts of countries. I got to know
some of them well enough so that we trusted each other and started
asking about ways of getting identity papers. It wasn't easy now
with all the Homeland Security surveillance, but before long I
had the name of a guy who ran a photo studio and made fake IDs
on the side. It cost a fortune, a stack of dishes as high as the
Sears Tower, but mom and I got birth certificates, driver licenses,
Social Security cards, and a marriage certificate.
We decided to move once more, as kind of a cut-out in case we
got traced from St. Louis. We got back on the bus and rode a long
time (I don't want to say where). The bus was interesting because
you not only see the country but you ride with a group of Americans
you never see on TV — poor people, lots of them.
Mom and I like our new town. It's smaller than Memphis and Chicago,
but big enough so that newcomers don't stand out, not a lot of
crime, not a lot of cops.
Mom taught me how to be a waiter, and we both got jobs at different
restaurants. I'm making more than she is because the fancy places
like to have men waiters. I can't get over it — she's been
doing the job for fifteen years and taught me everything I know
about it and my check's bigger than hers because I'm a man. Talk
about not right!
I don't want to be a waiter all my life, so I took the GED test
and got a high school diploma and now I'm going part time to the
Last month we got married — a beautiful church service (we
never could believe God hated us for loving each other). We told
the minister we were married before by a justice of the peace
but now wanted to do it right. We've made a lot of friends at
For our honeymoon we rented a cabin on a lake. We paddled canoes
like Indians, sang songs, made love, and laughed. We did a ritual
where we both forgave dad and thanked him in our hearts for being
such an adulterous jerk and cheating on her.
William T. Hathaway's first
novel, A World of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award. His new
one, Lila, the Revolutionary, is the story of an eight-year-old
Indian girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice.
Chapters are posted at www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. He was a
Fulbright professor of creative writing at universities in Germany,
where he currently lives. A selection of his writing is available
© 2018 by William T. Hathaway