Friday 15 March 2024

Anger Management by Rachel Hawes, ristretto



“Hello Cordelia” Sherry said. Again, there was the same circle of chairs. Same people like all the other times. Just one new guy with his arms crossed tightly over his bulging chest.

“Sorry I’m late,” I squeaked, after grabbing the last two snicker doodles on a plate next to the 1990’s almost empty coffee pot. Only a few people looked up to register my apology as I shook the dregs before pouring them into a cracked mug. I took the seat next to the new guy and smiled, waving my lukewarm beverage in greeting. His name tag read “Butch”. He stared straight ahead, as if I didn’t exist.

“It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it” I whispered loudly after leaning closer to his ear. “Your name, I mean.” I wiggled in my seat to get a better view of his massive body.

“Huh?” Butch said, frowning.

“I mean, look at you. Your shirt is so tight I can see your nipples.” I said, licking my lips. “Your muscles are like the ones the guys on the cover of those romance novels have. It’s as if, I don’t know, it’s like they’re speaking to me.” I made talking gestures with my right thumb and four of my fingers to illustrate my point while giving my most charming smile.

“Jesus Christ” Butch said, throwing his pamphlet on the ground. “Do I have to f*cking sit next to this b*tch?” he asked Sherry after standing up. He was even bigger upright. A pleasant tingling went from the base of my spine up to my face.

"Cordelia, personal space,” Sherry intoned. “Personal space.”

“Of course!” I inched my chair a foot away from Butch, closer to Michael. Michael put his hoody over his head and started humming The Star Wars theme. I tapped my right foot in lock step with the music. I knew this one.

“I love that song!” I jumped up into the middle of the circle to face Michael while conducting my arms to the crescendo. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in before letting it out with a loud sigh.

“You gonna let that tiny b*tch do that?” Butch asked Sherry. “Just like that, in front of all of these mother-f*ckers?” Tears tinged the corner of his eyes where the top and bottom lids met.

Sweetly I turned to face him, made a raspberry noise with my lips, kissed my hand and touched my butt before sitting back down in my designated chair.

“Cordelia only has a few more weeks before she graduates out of AM1, Butch. She’s made so much progress,” Sherry said, glancing down at her clipboard. “Cordelia, can you remind everyone why you were sent here?”

“Weeelllll, the people I work with didn’t understand any of my jokes,” I said, laying my hand against the top of Michael’s head, trying to figure out if both of my palms could fit under his hoody so I could better stroke his thick wavy black hair.

“Can I go to the restroom?” Michael asked, but he left the room before Sherry replied. I rested my hand under my chin and raised my eyebrows while curling my legs under me in a lotus position. I stared into Butch’s eyes.

“You’re full of sh*t” Butch said, cupping his right fist inside his left hand like a pitcher with his ball and his glove before a throw. “Is she for real?” Butch asked, looking at everyone else in the room.

“Anger comes out in many ways,” Sherry said, writing a few notes on the paper on her clipboard.               

Michael came back into the room and walked around all of the chairs but still the only one open was next to me. I stood up, grabbed his arm, and pulled him back to his previous seat.

“Boundaries, Cordelia. Boundaries,” Sherry nodded left and right with her eyes closed.


I followed Butch out to the alleyway when the meeting was done.

“You live around here?” I asked, giving him my best curtsy. Butch kept walking and smoking his cigarette. I tried to keep up.

“You didn’t make any sense in there,” I said, running so as not to lose him. I hated to lose people, especially ones with huge arms and tight grabby-looking hands.

“I have to catch my bus, you dumb twit,” Butch spat out, picking up his pace. In the far distance a bus moved slowly towards us.

“You think you can just leave me?” I said to his retreating back. Without looking he started to cross the street. “You’re not as big as you think you are,” I yelled while looking for something, anything, to throw at his huge head. Not to hurt him, of course, just to get his attention. Not finding anything I threw my phone and it glanced his right ear.

“What the f*ck?” Butch said as he turned to look at me as the blinking walk signal morphed to the stop hand signal.

“Oh my God, get my phone, get my phone. Hurry up. Please get my phone! Oh my God!”              

And the funny thing was, Butch did! He bent down to pick up my phone just as a tractor trailer ran through the light. As the horn blared and his body was lifted high up into the air I thought, hmmmm, someone really should have taught him the right way to cross the street when he was younger. But I guess no one had cared enough to have done that for him.


About the author


Rachel Hawes writes about education, technology and history. Currently Rachel is a middle school English and Technology teacher. Originally from the Boston area, she now lives in Arizona where she enjoys southwestern sunsets, the dry heat, and walking with her dogs. 

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