The boy sits at a little plastic table in the living room, staring at a piece of paper on the table in front of him. He grips a pencil tightly. The pencil has not moved for a long time. A large moth flaps around the room, occasionally smacking against the fluorescent light on the ceiling. Tick tick tick, goes the old, red-rimmed clock on the wall above the table. Still, the boy stares at the piece of paper in front of him, gripping his pencil so tightly that his knuckles have turned pale.
Suddenly, a loud thud echoes in the bedroom. The boy's head jerks up at once. His little body stiffens. With wide eyes, he stares at the closed door along the wall next to the table.
"Shut up," roars a man's voice from within the room. "Why can't you just shut up, you bitch?"
There is the sound of something slamming against a cupboard, over and over again.
The boy drops his pencil. It rolls off the table and clatters on the floor. Rushing towards the door, he flings it open and hurtles into the room. A man, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, is towering up above a woman, who has sunk to the floor at the bottom of a cupboard. Her eyes stare blankly at the boy. As the man raises a clenched fist and brings it down, the boy leaps forward and wraps his little body around the woman. She turns and shields the boy with her shoulder, just as the fist comes smashing upon them.
"Papa," cries the boy, as he struggles to leave his mother's arms, "don't beat Mama anymore. Please."
The man steps back then, his jaws and fists still clenched. Without a word, he turns and stalks out of the room. The woman crawls and stumbles towards the door at once, closing and locking it behind him.
There is silence. Safe silence.
The woman pulls herself back towards the boy and wraps her arms around him. They say nothing. As the boy rests his head on his mother's chest, he thinks, with a cold stab of dread in his tummy, about the sheet of paper on the plastic table in the living room. For a moment he considers unlocking the door and making a quick run for it, but decides against it. His father sometimes comes back for seconds, and the little boy will not risk his mother to complete his homework. Besides, he does not know how to do it anyway.
"Mama," the little boy murmurs.
“Yes, dear?” the woman whispers back in return, stroking the boy’s head tenderly.
“What is the answer to ¾ x ½?”
The woman looks at him blankly.