Danny's Dilemma by Sean Lindsay

Danny wakes up in the night, desperate for the toilet at the worst possible time; by Sean Lindsay.

Danny was lying in bed on this warm night, his window open, anxious about where his mother was, when he heard a car pull into the driveway. Then he heard a key slide into the lock, and the front door swing open and bang against the wall. He heard his mother laugh, and knew she'd been drinking. He heard a man's voice try to shush her, and it wasn't his father's.

They came straight up the stairs, banging against the walls, tripping and falling, admonishing each other. Danny pictured her on the man's back. Piggy-back. That's what it sounded like, the way they were tramping on the stairs, then staggering across the floor. He lay quietly in his bed through all this, his body rigid, his mind bewildered. He was desperate to use the toilet but afraid to move. It was a Saturday night, and she wouldn't know if he was home. She could have opened his door a crack and peeked in at him, but she didn't.

He lay there and listened, and, of course, he knew they were having sex, or making love, or whatever, because they were loud, and moaning, and laughing, so what else could they have been doing, his mother and this stranger.

He lifted his legs out of bed. He wanted to creep out and go to the toilet without them hearing. He didn't want her to know he was home, or she'd realize he'd been listening. In the morning she might guess that he'd heard the whole thing, but that would be different. The man would be gone and it would be a new day. Neither of them would mention it.

Sitting there with his feet touching the cold floor, the sounds still coming from her bedroom, he wished things. He wished his father would pull into the driveway and find them upstairs. He would watch his father walk into the room, grab the man by the hair and beat him with his fists; tell him to get the hell out of his house, and to go back to his own family. Then they could start again, just the three of them. They could sit down. Work things out.

He really had to use the toilet. There was no way he'd be able to hold it for even a few more minutes. He tried to stand and nearly let out a groan; his muscles were tight and knotted. His insteps were cramped, and he had to sit back down and wiggle his feet, just so he could walk.

He hadn't been listening for a minute - too caught up in his own thoughts - but he was pretty sure he'd heard the toilet flush. He waited another minute for more sounds from the bedroom, but all was quiet. They'd finished. He stood up slowly, afraid of making noise. The floor creaked beneath him and he froze. If she called out his name he'd die in his tracks. Or he'd do something extra stupid, like hide in his closet to avoid discovery.

His bladder ached. He had to walk out into the hall now, or he'd end up running out.

He crossed the hall silently, and when he was near enough to touch the bathroom door it opened right in front of him, and as it opened he saw a tiny hand switch the light off. His mother stepped out into the hall and stood in front of him, and looked straight into his face.

It was a terrible moment. They stood staring at each other in the dark, with just enough light from somewhere to see each other clearly; just enough to read the expression on the other's face. A wave of embarrassment and guilt shot through Danny and made him catch his breath. He was suddenly so hot. Coming face to face with her and what she'd been doing, the whole nasty truth of it. He felt down with his hands, and grabbed a handful of cotton. He was wearing underwear. But his mother was wearing nothing, and all she could do was hold her arms up in front of her. Danny had not seen her naked for years, and it shocked him. Her hair hung down over her shoulders and part of her chest, like it almost never did, and her hands were trying to cover her breasts, which were small and flattish. He noticed most of all that her belly seemed to be bigger than he thought it would be for a woman so tiny everywhere else, as if she was finally getting older, and becoming heavy in places. His eyes saw the rest of her so quickly that he couldn't remember afterwards if she'd been wearing underwear or not. Later, if he tried, he could see her thighs and her hips, but that was all.

When she spoke it was a harsh whisper. "Danny? What are you doing here? What are you doing here?" For what seemed like an eternity he simply stood there, paralyzed, staring at his naked mother while she tried to hide behind skinny, frail arms.

Finally he said, "I have to use the toilet," and she said, "Well hurry up and get to bed! It's late!" She sounded at her wit's end; as if this was his fault. He watched her hurry the few steps to her bedroom, on her tip toes against the cold hardwood, and pull the door closed behind her.

While he was in the bathroom he sat on the vanity, under the bright light, and examined his face in the mirror, for proof. When he flushed the toilet the loud, rushing water froze him in his tracks. He expected his mother to yell at him again for breaking the silence; for reinforcing the reality of what they'd both just experienced.

He stepped quietly back to his bed and lay there, even more bewildered than before. He felt guilty and relieved and angry all at the same time.

A few moments later he heard them arguing in hushed voices, and seconds later the man was on his way down the stairs and out the door, his mother calling after him. A car roared out of the driveway, down the street, past the homes of the neighbors, to wherever it was the man called home.

Danny stayed in bed and didn't make a sound, lying there for perhaps five minutes, wondering if his mother might come into his room and say something. But she didn't, and when sleep started to take him he didn't fight it, because sleep is the best escape. The last sounds he heard disturbed him because they were so conflicting: the gentle breeze through his window that made his curtains sway back and forth, and the muffled crying that escaped from his mother's bedroom.


  1. what a really fine story, both characters credibly depicted and a perfect last sentence. excellent!

    Mike McC

  2. So much friction, tension and pain is conveyed in this short narrative. Very well done,

  3. A wonderful story perfectly told. Emotions kept under control - so real. Well done, Sean.

  4. A nice little story. I enjoyed it, but I would like to see more dialogue used.

  5. Nicely handled. Terrific tension and vivid character descriptions. Strong attention to detail, with just enough left to the imagination to keep us reading and wanting more.