Inspiration for a story can come from anywhere.
One day I was in Walmart and saw a girl who couldn’t have been older than ten paying for a shopping cart full of groceries. She was alone. As I watched her pushing the cart out of the store, I wondered why she was there by herself, what were her circumstances. And a “what if” moment was born…
“You Want More…”
People are looking at me funny, especially the ladies at the registers, ’cause I come here nearly every day. But I can only buy what I can carry home. Mama can’t come and we need food, and if anyone finds out Mama can’t come, me and Lizzy and Josh will have to go to one of those foster homes. And they ain’t good places to be.
I know ’cause I was put in one last year. Lizzy and Josh was put in them too.
My third-grade teacher, Miss Fincher, had seen my busted lip and had called someone and they’d picked me up at school and taken me to this place where a woman in white had looked at me all over, my privates too. I hadn’t liked that one bit. Then she’d told a big fat woman with red lipstick that I had been physically abused.
I didn’t know what abused meant then, but found out later in the foster home they put me in. Mrs. Loudermilk stuck my face in the toilet and held my mouth and nose underwater ’cause when I’d washed the dishes, I’d left a little bit of stuff on a fork. Becky, an older girl with boobs, told me not to tell the social worker ’cause the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but I kept my mouth shut anyway.
And before long, me and Josh and Lizzy were back with Mama, and her boyfriend, Rick, was gone. Rick was the one who’d busted my lip, not Mama. She never laid a hand on me or Lizzy or Josh. But sometimes her boyfriends did.
Everything was fine and dandy for a while. Mama went back to working nights at the diner, and since Lizzie was twelve now, we didn’t need a babysitter no more. Not that Norma, the lady who lived across the hall, had ever done much in the way of babysitting us—unless you called smoking weed, watching soaps, and yelling at one of us to bring her a cold Coke, was babysitting.
Then Mama brought Michael back to our apartment one night. And he was still there when morning came. He was downright mean, and there was no getting away from him ’cause school was out for the summer. And pretty soon Mama was sticking needles in her arms again. Michael did it too, but not as much as Mama.
She stopped going to work. All she wanted to do was lay around in bed. Michael brought men to our house and they went into Mama’s room for a little while, then came out and gave him money. He bought some groceries with the money, but mostly he spent it on the stuff you put in needles.
And you’d better not ask him for more to eat. Josh did and now he don’t talk no more. Michael hit my little brother right in the face with his big fist, walloped him hard enough to knock him down. Josh started crying and that made Michael even madder. He kicked Josh with his pointy-toed cowboy boots, and kept on kicking him, calling him a snotty-nosed little bastard, till Josh stopped crying. He just lay there, curled up on his side in a puddle of pee, quiet as a mouse.
Michael staggered off to Mama’s bedroom, and Lizzie and me cleaned Josh up and put him in bed. I found a dishtowel we could use for a diaper, and Lizzie pinned it on him. I knew something was bad wrong with Josh, not just ’cause he’d peed his pants and hadn’t done that in over a year, but by the way his eyes looked: in one, the black part was bigger than in the other. And his mouth just hung open, slobber running down his chin.
And the next day, he was still the same.
I hated Michael for hurting my little brother. I wished he would go away.
But he didn’t.
And in a few days it got worse.
He tied Lizzy to her bed and ripped off all her clothes. She started screaming real loud so he wadded up her panties and stuffed them in her mouth. When he saw me watching, he slammed the door in my face.
I don’t know what all he did to Lizzy, but since I was ten, I knew some stuff—like what the men did to Mama and that it could make babies. Off and on all night long, I heard my sister’s muffled screams. I heard my brother making wet, gurgling sounds. I heard Mama singing to herself.
And by the time Michael came out of me and Lizzie’s room, I knew what I had to do.
I waited until Mama and Michael stuck the needles in their arms and their minds went away.
I started with Josh. He was easy. I put a pillow over his head and held it there a long time. He didn’t even wiggle, just lay there and let me kill what was left of him.
Lizzie wasn’t much harder. She was already bleeding bad down between her legs, and both her eyes were purple-black and swollen shut. She didn’t even see me when I came over to the bed and put the same pillow over her face that I’d used on Josh. Her legs kicked a little, but since her hands were still tied to the bedposts, there wasn’t much she could do to stop me. And I didn’t think she really wanted to stop me anyway.
Next was Mama. I used the same pillow on her. Like Josh, she didn’t even move.
I saved the best for Michael. No soft pillow for him. I pulled the double-edged knife from its sheath attached to the belt of his jeans that lay in a wrinkled heap on the floor. I didn’t think twice about what I was gonna do. I took that big old knife and made a nice deep cut under his chin, from one ear to the other. His eyes flew open, wide and scared—and hurting. He tried to say something, but the words came out as bubbles from his bloody throat. I held the red, dripping knife right in front of his eyes, let him take a good, long look. His hands came up a little bit like he was reaching for it, then dropped back down.
I thought about something I’d heard in a TV commercial a while back, and it made me smile. I leaned over and whispered in his ear: “You want more, I’ll give you some more.” And I sawed the blade across his throat again and again until I came up against something hard and couldn’t go no deeper.
And now I’m home with the food.
I open a can of pork-and-beans, then gather up four bowls and four spoons and go into the front room where Mama, Lizzy, and Josh are sitting on the floor against the wall in front of the TV. I divide the pork-and-beans into the bowls and stick a spoon into each one. “Here, Mama, here Josh, here Lizzy,” I say as I place a bowl on the floor next to them.
I don’t take none to Michael, who’s still in the bed, ’cause as far as I’m concerned, he can starve to death. Then I plop down next to Mama and we all eat our supper while watching Everybody Loves Raymond.
Image from Pixabay