Part 1 here
She came down hard on her butt.
The ship listed to one side. A dream, Jane thought as she slid along the planking. This is just a dream. But that knowledge didn’t stop her from being scared out of her wits, and it sure didn’t stop the all-too-real pain of splinters gouging her palms as she scrabbled for a handhold.
Her fingers brushed—what? She turned her head to the right, and there was The Book and her fingers were gone, swallowed between its open cover. Then her arm was gone, and oh sweet Jesus, it was sucking her up, pulling her inside itself, pulling her into its yellow mouth.
Again, falling, tumbling. And again being deposited. Somewhere.
Jane opened her scrunched-tight eyes. Back resting against the wall, she was sitting on the floor of the closet inside the Liberty Public Library, the feather duster on the varnished boards beside her. And The Book.
She giggled. Silly of her, she’d sat down in the closet to look at The Book, and had fallen asleep. Good thing it was Saturday and she had the place all to herself. It wouldn’t have done for sour-faced Miss Maples to have caught her napping on the job.
Yes, that’s what had happened: she’d fallen asleep and dreamed. And oh, what a lovely dream it had been. Until its end. Continue reading
Jane Hitchcock twitched the feather duster over the shelf of old books, stirring up years of dust that had settled upon their frayed tops. Wonder why they’re hidden away in here where no one can see them, she thought. A treasure they are, so old. And worth a lot of money, I’ll bet.
Her nose tickled. She sneezed, the sound as loud as a thunderclap inside the small closet. The flailing duster snagged one of the books, knocking it to the floor where it lay open, its fragile insides exposed.
Jane bent over—no easy task for her two-hundred-pound-plus frame—and reached for the book. But then she noticed something. Strange. The lines upon the yellowed pages squiggled, wiggled, jiggled.
What in the world…
With a pained grunt, she dropped to her arthritic knees. She pushed back wisps of graying brown hair that had escaped its tight bun and peered at the dancing letters. Something was there, on the page beneath the words. She leaned forward for a closer look.
Her belly shoved up against her ribs, demanding room for itself, almost cutting off her supply of air and causing her to breathe in fast little pants. “What…is…that?” Her chubby fingers splayed over the brittle paper.
And she was falling. Continue reading
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