Saving Grace–part 4

Part 1 here     Part 2  here      Part 3 here

“What was it, child?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but–but Caleb saw it too.” Will turned his face toward his brother. “Didn’t you?”

Caleb shrugged. “Dunno.” His eyes looked a little wild and boogery too. “I guess…something…” He looked back at the night, then sidled up close to me. I put my arm around him and he pressed close.

On the other side of the yard fence, the corn patch lay still and black. Nothing moved amongst the corn stalks that I could tell. But there was something there, all right; I could feel it. And Penny did too. Her hair bristled from her head to the tip of her tail, and she was whining and growling, both at the same time.

“Let’s go inside,” Grace said softly. “Now.” She took my elbow, and with Caleb and Will tucked up against me, guided us all up the steps with a steady hand.

When both my feet were on the porch, I took a good look at my jellyfish-gal, and it came as no surprise that she was now pret’near as tall as me. And Isabelle’s tee shirt barely covered enough to keep her decent. I reckoned I’d better hunt up something to cover her bottom part ’cause at the rate she was going, by morning she’d be full growed.

Grace reached around me and pulled open the screen door. “We’ll be all right in the house, Nana,” she said. “It doesn’t like the light.”

***

It took me a spell to get to sleep that night, and it weren’t because every light in the house was blazing. I kept thinking about It what was out in the corn. And Grace. What was she and where had she come from? And what was It that’d come down after her? And why? Continue reading

Saving Grace–part 3

Part 1 here         Part 2 here

Will didn’t argue with me. All and all he was a good boy, Caleb too. They were a handful for Isabelle though, what with her having to work all the time and no husband to help out. Funny how a man can just walk out on his family and never look back. That’s what Jack Fisher had done though: he’d gotten on a plane to California and called Isabelle on his cell phone somewhere over Colorado and said he was leaving her.

Worry lines creased Isabelle’s young face, worry lines she shouldn’t have, and I hated Jack Fisher all over again.

“Let me help you with that, child.” I reached for one of the bags of groceries.

“I’ve got them, Nana.” Isabelle moved past me and into the kitchen. She plopped the bags down on the countertop and started putting things away.

I felt a tug on my apron and looked down at Will’s upturned face. “I’m thirsty,” he said. “Caleb too.”

While Isabelle bustled about the kitchen, I made a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid, and the boys took their glasses and went out on the back porch. They liked it outside here; there weren’t no outside to speak of at their apartment in the city.

“I’ve got a favor to ask, Nana,” Isabelle said, looking out the window over the sink.

I took two glasses of Kool-Aid to the table and sat down. “Anything you need, all you gotta do is speak up. You know that.”

A breeze sidled through the window screen, ruffling Isabelle’s blonde hair. She closed her eyes and smiled. “It smells so clean out here, the grass, the trees, even the dust from the road.” The smile slipped from her face. “Not like the city where all you smell is gasoline fumes and baking asphalt.”

“You’re welcome to come back home anytime you take a notion. You know that too.”

Pap and me had taken Isabelle in after the car wreck that’d killed Josh and his wife. This old farm was the only home she’d ever known.

“I can’t live way out here, Nana, I have to work.” She opened her eyes and turned to me. “And that’s why I’m here, why I need a favor.”

“Come tell me about it.”

And she did. She told me about the job interview she had set up with a company two states over, a company that’d pay her twice what she was making at the law firm she was working at now. “Marshall is a nice town, Nana,” she said. “And I could have a nice house with plenty of room for the boys and a big yard for them to play in. And a place for you to–”

“Hold on now.” I’d heard this kind of talk before, and I knew that Isabelle meant well, but I wasn’t leaving my home. Me and Penny weren’t going nowhere. “How does this have anything to do with needing a favor from me?” Continue reading

Saving Grace–part 2

Part 1 here

And I could see…

I picked up the flashlight and shined it full on the jellyfish.

I could see inside the thing; its skin or hide or whatever was transparent. Red threads ran all through it, spoking out from a dark spot in its center. And the dark spot moved. Stopped. Moved. It was–

“Well, I’ll be…”

The jellyfish had a heart.

I reckoned whatever else it might be, it was a living being. And the poor thing was cold.

I pulled off my apron and wrapped the thing up in it.

Then somehow I got back up on my feet with the jellyfish snugged in the crook of my arm. And holding the flashlight in that hand and steadying myself on the cane gripped in my other, I made it out of the woods, across the rocky ground, back through the corn patch, up the steps and into the kitchen without so much as a misstep. Now, if I’d been a Godly woman I would’ve thanked Him for seeing me safely home; but since God had let that drunk jackass run over Josh and kill him when he was just twenty-seven years old, I didn’t thank Him for nothing no more.

Penny close at my heels, I passed straight through the dark kitchen into the equally dark front room and plopped down in my recliner. After spending the better part of a day in a hot kitchen, then traipsing about in the woods, I was worn smack-dab out.

The house was too warm but I didn’t feel like getting back up and switching on the fan. ‘Course it was most likely best that I didn’t anyway; the blue-eyed jellyfish still felt coolish. Continue reading

Saving Grace–part 1

Me and Penny were out on the back porch resting our bones when it happened, and truth be told, if we’d still been in the kitchen putting up them sweet Elberta peaches, we would’ve plumb missed it. It was that unspectacular.

It came down out of the dusky sky on a glimmer of light and a whooshing whisper of sound, a thin trail of dark smoke whipping the air behind it like a pissed-off sidewinder, and landed somewhere on yon side of the corn patch. A bit of a rumble followed, vibrating the boards under my bare feet and Penny’s white belly.

Penny raised her head off her paws, her yellow ears perking up. I leaned forward and eyed the deepening shadows amongst the drying cornstalks t’other side of the back-yard fence, wondering what might’ve come down.

An August-sticky breeze ruffled the stringy brown tassels hanging on the few remaining corn ears, and fanned out over the porch, bringing with it the acrid smell of something burning. Not wood. Not dead grass. Not old tires. It was a burn I didn’t know.

I squinted harder into that dark nest of corn, a tad-bit of unease settling inside my gut. I wondered what might be hidden by that corn patch. Little gray men or some such aliens? Pshaw—most likely, just one of them there space rocks had come down.

I reached down and ran my hand over Penny’s back. “Now ain’t we a sight, two squirrely old gals skeert of a rock.”

Penny’s head came up a couple more notches. She flicked her ears. Then with a grunt that sounded a whole lot like me when I rolled out of bed of a morning, she got to her feet and walked over to the edge of the porch. And whined.

Knees popping, I pushed out of the cane-back rocker and shuffled up beside her. “Something out there, gal?” Though Penny was older than me in dog years, her hearing still beat mine any day of the week. Why, she could hear Isabelle’s car when it was still more than a mile off. Yep, when I saw Penny crawling up under the bed, I knew that in a few minutes I’d see my granddaughter’s black Explorer come bouncing around the curve out by the mailbox, bringing groceries and her two rambunctious boys for their weekly visit.

Penny looked up at me and chuffed softly. A milky film covered her blind eye, but the good one was as clear as it’d been when she was a pup, and every bit of her smarts still shined bright in it. And it was telling me there was something out there all right, but it weren’t nothing to be skeert of.

Now, I’d always been a curious sort–that’s how come I’d ended up having Josh six months after me and Pap had gotten hitched up–and Penny too, so I figured neither one of us would rest easy till we’d seen what was out there.

“Well, I reckon we’d best go have a look before it gets dark.” I went back inside the peach-smelling kitchen, rounded up a flashlight and my cane, then pulled on the stiff boots that’d belonged to Pap before he’d passed.

Penny was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. It took me a while to maneuver my way down them, but she sat there like she had all the time in the world, that whatever lay on the other side of the corn patch would still be there when we got there. And if it weren’t, well, most likely it wasn’t worth seeing anyway.

The sunbaked grass crunched under Pap’s boots. If something had been stomping this a’way through the corn, I couldn’t have heard it for all the racket I was making. Made me kind of nervous, the not hearing. But Penny didn’t look nervous, just curious, so I did my best not to be nervous either. Continue reading

Ariel

There had always been something about Ariel, something more than just her beauty, that drew men to her like possums to rotten meat. When she was just a baby, young men and old alike oohed and aahed above her crib; then in grade school, it was the bullies who gave her their lunch money; later still, other women’s husbands made fools of themselves around her. And in Ariel’s old age, cranky old men–who weren’t quite so cranky when she was near–drooled over her at Westlake Nursing Home.
Westlake Nursing Home . . . Ariel’s and my home these past seven years.
We’re old ladies now, my sister and I, but the men still crowd around her like pigs rooting in a trough, she takes from them what she needs, and the horror goes on.
***
I was almost six the night Ariel was born.
Just after sundown, Daddy came out of the bedroom where Mama had cried and yelled all day long, and shut the door behind him. “Look, Katherine.” He squatted down beside me and folded back a corner of the pink blanket, revealing a rosy-cheeked face framed by wispy, blonde hair. “This here is Ariel, your sister. Ain’t she just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” His eyes were all shiny bright, blue lights peeking out of a field of brown hair and whiskers.
She looked like a plain, ordinary baby to me, nothing to get excited about. But I said what Daddy wanted to hear. “Uh huh.”
The bedroom door opened, and Grandma Eula stuck her head out. Her dark eyes fastened on Daddy. “Thought you was going after the doctor.” Behind the solid, gray wall of grandma’s dress, I heard Mama moaning.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Is Mama all right?” Continue reading

No Linda

Darrin McDermott had not wanted his wife to get pregnant. He’d told her up front bad genes roosted in his family tree, and he didn’t want to risk having a defective child. They had agreed before marrying five years earlier that this would be a childless union. But Linda had not stood by their agreement, yet he still loved and adored her–his golden angel.

Darrin now realized he should have used a condom–having a vasectomy had always been out of the question–but Linda had assured him she took her birth control pills faithfully. And she still swore by this, saying the pregnancy was an accident. But he had seen the longing in her eyes when they happened upon a mother and child, and had hurt for her. And perhaps, if he were to be honest, a little for himself.

No, he didn’t believed her, but had never told her so. He couldn’t bear the pain he knew would cloud her beautiful blue eyes if he called her out on it. Continue reading