My Mother’s Keeper

Shacheyanna (SJ) Johnson, Writer

“Mr. Johnson?” A voice calls from the doorway. “Is there a Mr. Johnson?”

“Oh! Right here.” A man hurriedly stood up from the waiting area. Seated between a plastic fern and a table full of Healthy Living Tips magazines he was eying. “That is Clinton Johnson, right? I was just wondering since there’s a lot of us— Johnson’s I mean,” he chuckles until slowly it fades through the waiting room. The man behind the desk throws a look at him, before going back to typing on his computer.

“This way please, Mr. Johnson.” The receptionist flashes a closed-mouth smile at him, turns around, and walks to the doorway she had come from. The man follows as he scratches the back of his neck, winding down a hallway thinking it belonged in a hospital, rather than an office building.

“So…come here often?” The man quips as they pass another person. As they shoot him a confused smile while walking past, the lady in front answers.

“I’m here and there.” She peers back at him, to then look down at her clipboard to scratch something on it. They continue walking, nothing to hear but footsteps and shallow breathing.

“If you don’t mind, I have a question. Just how long is this hallway? Not that I’m an impatient person or anything but I was mildly curious. It just seems like we’ve been walking…for a long time.” The man looks around, seeing all the identical-looking doors. The only differences were the grey nameplates next to them, changing from name to name. Dr. Bravodka…Dr. Eathens…Dr. Hanklye…Dr. Johnson…“Oh! Look, Dr. Johnson! See I told you there were a lot of us-” the man halts his step. Barely halting before bumping into the lady. “Oh! Sorry, I didn’t know we had stopped. I’m a bit of klutz when I don’t pay attention, but then again who isn’t?” The man grins.

The lady peers back at him and smiles. “We have arrived.”

“Arrived?” The man looks around at all of the doors confused, “What do you mean we’ve-” looking towards the nameplate on the door next to him he realizes. He has made it to Dr. Kane’s office. Smiling he spins once, twice in the other direction until his back is to the door. Peering down the hallway, he frowns.

“You must be Mr. Johnson, correct? I’ve been looking for you.” The man pivots towards the voice, seeing an older woman standing inside of a doorway to a room. “I am Dr. Kane, as you might already know. But you are welcome to call me Angie. Why don’t you come inside so we can start your session, Mr. Johnson?” Angie gestures inside.

“Clinton.” Angie raises her eyebrows. “I mean you can call me Clinton,” the man states.

“Alright then. Clinton,” she shoots him a wink, “Why don’t you come inside and take a seat?”

“Of course.” The man follows Angie inside her office, taking a look back into the deserted hallway before shutting the door.

“How are you doing today, Clinton?” Angie questions, taking a seat in one of the chairs placed in the room.

Clinton sits across from her before replying, “Good? A bit nervous but fine nonetheless.” Giving a small smile, he clasps his palms together.

“I understand that most people find this to be a little nerve-racking, but there’s nothing to be nervous about,” Angie says. She reaches forwards between them to pour a glass of water. Handing it to Clinton, she watches as he takes it with both hands raising it for a sip. “This is our first meeting together so why don’t we start off slow. I already know that you’re a male, 26- no excuse me, 27. You also work for a software design company, correct?” She glances up from the notepad perched on her lap. “Why don’t you tell me a little about your job? What do you do there?”

“I develop solution programs and codes for different companies who might have problems with their software systems. Nothing hard.”

“Well, for someone who can barely work a computer themselves, that sounds extremely strenuous.” Angie grins before asking another question. “What was your childhood like?” Clinton pauses the sip he was about to take, lowering the glass to his lap. Curling his fingers around the drink, he lets out a sigh.

“Well, It was pretty normal until my dad died. That’s when things took a bit of a turn.”

“Take your time,” Angie speaks softly, flipping to a fresh page in her notepad. “There’s no rush, share only what you want to share.” A pause. “When did it start?” Clinton looks up from his fingers gripping the water and takes a small breath.

“It started with my mother. After his— my father’s that is— death she was just kind of never really there…until she was.”


“Hello?” A voice calls from within the apartment. Clinton taking off his shoes looks up, hearing footsteps coming from down the entryway. “Oh Clinton! You startled me— say something when you come in! Unless you want to scare an old woman to death!”

“…Sorry mom. I won’t do it again,” he says, kissing the woman’s cheek.

“It’s fine, it’s fine, I was only joking. I’m glad you’re back dear, I was just prepping for dinner. It’s your favorite! Hamburger soup. Now, why don’t you go wash up, by the time you’re finished it should be done.” The woman patted Clinton’s cheek, turning towards the doorway to the dining area. The clattering and grinding of dishes against each other could be heard as she set the table.

Clinton paused in the doorway for a moment, watching as she busied herself with her task. He starts treading towards his room but pauses as he hears his mother call out from behind.

“Oh, Clinton. While we’re eating, tell me all about your day today. Okay? We haven’t done that in a while. I miss it.” Clinton drops his head, breaking what little eye contact they shared. Raising it up to swallow.

“Of course.”

“Good. I’ll wait for you. Now go,” she slinks back into the dining room. Clinton walks down the hallway in silence.


“The food is delicious, Mom. Thank you for making it. But if you weren’t going to eat it, you could’ve at least prepared something else for yourself.” Clinton chews, looking across from him to the chair his mother was sitting in, then to the empty space in front of his mother.

There’s a breath of silence before his mother replies, with a barely-there smile. “You know I can’t cook.”

“I know. But what does that have to do with you eating?”

“When I did it, it somehow never turned out well. Your father used to laugh at me, and even gave me that horrible nickname. What was it again…?”

“I don’t know. But you should-”

“Ah-ha!” She shouts as she slaps the table, toppling some soup out of the bowl. “The Salmonella Queen! It wasn’t even funny. I gave you guys food poisoning one time, and now I’m labeled for life!”


“It’s not fair, I tell you! It’s just not.”

Staring at the speckled drops of soup on the table, Clinton reaches for a napkin to lay over it. He watches as the liquid seeps into it— staining the white.

“Tsk. It’s not just going to go away by putting something over it. You can’t just forget it’s there, nor can you pretend it is. Haven’t I taught you that?”

Clinton looks up to the empty seat in front of him.

“…I know.”