Pearls Before Swine–Part 3

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

When I came back from the barn after returning the handsaw, a bolt of pain stabbed my lower belly as I stepped inside the house. I crammed the hurt into that dark, crowded place deep inside me that Mama couldn’t see, undressed Sissy, ran a damp cloth over her clammy body, and pulled her favorite pink nightgown over her head, all the while talking slowly and softly. I knew she heard me. She stood when I told her to, held up her hands when I said so, but not one word passed her white lips.

Meanwhile, Mama fed thin slats of wood into the cook stove until the thing danced with heat. Sweat ran down her face and soaked the white collar of her dress, turning it pink.

“Put your sister to bed,” she said over her shoulder. “Then come get yourself cleaned up.”

I led Sissy into the little room off the kitchen, and tucked her into the bed we shared. “I’ll be back.

No answer from my sister. She rolled over and faced the wall. If I looked, I knew her eyes would still be open.

I laid my hand on her shoulder. “Everything’s gonna be all right. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have forgotten all about tonight. Just a dream, that’s all. A bad dream.”

“Clara!” Mama yelled.

I wanted nothing more than to crawl into the bed next to Sissy and sleep for days. I was worn out and my belly hurt real bad. Instead, I patted her shoulder and walked back out into the nightmare. Continue reading

Pearls Before Swine–part 2

Part 1 here

Mama collapsed onto one of the straight-backed chairs that circled the kitchen table. She sighed, shook her head. “Sit down, gals.” We did, and she told us what we were gonna do. “Keep them bellies covered with baggy clothes, and don’t tell nobody you’re carrying. School’s practically out for the summer, and before it starts up again, the babies’ll most likely be here.”

We nodded our heads. “Yes, Mama.”

“Now…” Her dark eyes leveled on me. “Who put his pecker in you and your sister? Was it that Franklin boy?” She was talking about Tommy Franklin. He’d kissed me a couple of times in back of the church, but he’d never put his pecker in me. I didn’t even know people did that until…

“No, Mama,” I said.

“Leroy Massy?”

“No, Mama.”

“Then who in the name of Jesus was it?” She slapped the table. Sissy squealed. Mama’s eyes turned to her. “Or was there more than one?” Continue reading

Pearls Before Swine–part 1

I woke in the dark to squeals and yells and thumps and bangs. From somewhere inside the house, Daddy rattled off a string of cusswords, then hollered: “Get the shotgun, Lizzy, something’s got in with the hogs!”

The awfulest commotion was going on outside. It sounded like every pig on the place was pitching a holy fit.

“What is it, Clara?” Sissy asked.

“I don’t know…” I turned back the covers.

She grabbed my arm. “Where’re you going?”

“To see what all the racket’s about.”

Sissy’s fingers dug deeper. “What if it’s the boogeyman?”

I pulled my arm away. “There ain’t no such thing and you know it.”

My feet hit the floor and I made a beeline for the slash of light knifing in underneath the closed door, Sissy’s night-breath a hot prickle on the back of my neck. My fingers curled around the doorknob, twisted and pushed.

Light blared from the 100-watt bulb dangling on the end of the thick, black wire snaking down from the kitchen ceiling, spotlighting Mama and Daddy for a few seconds before they rushed out the back door.

I chased after them, Sissy right on my heels.

The lantern held high in one hand, the tail of her nightgown in the other, Mama ran neck and neck with Daddy across the back yard and through the gate.

Dewey appeared inside the bouncing circle of light. Mama let out a startled “Oh!” and Daddy a “Jesus Christ!” and we all skidded to a stop.

“Don’t you be going down there, Mr. Primrose,” Dewey said, his eyes all big and wild looking. His oily brown hair stuck out this a’way and that a’way. Only one gallous of his overalls was fastened; the other flopped down over his scrawny belly. “It’s dangerous. There’s demons loose tonight. Continue reading

The Show–part 2

click here for part 1

My feet stepped light and quick and I was at the bed and I raised the bat and I started down with it. Mama’s eyes popped open.

“Shasta!” Mama threw up her arms, and the bat hit them and not her head. I raised the bat again, but before I could bring it down, Mama reached up and grabbed it and yanked it out of my hands. Then, quick as a cat, she scrabbled up on her knees. Her arms straight and stiff, she held the bat out between us like it was a cross and I was a vampire or something. “What are you doing?”

I had to get it back. I had to stop her. I had to kill her!

I lunged for the bat, but Mama jerked it aside. I fell flat on my face into a cloud of bedcovers that smelled like lavender bath salts. And then the smell was all around me as Mama rolled me and wrapped me and I could hear her crying and saying my name over and over again. I couldn’t move my arms or my legs. I could barely breathe.

Then over the sucking noises I was making and the sniffling noises Mama was making, I heard Joey. Crying.

Mama went dead quiet like she was holding her breath. I felt the bed jiggle, then go still. Then from a ways off—I think out in the hall–“Joey…”

I felt a sharp tug and I rolled and rolled, out of the bedclothes and onto the floor. Tock loomed over me, a frown pulling down the corners of her mouth, allowing only two long fangs to poke out. Boy, did she look mad. Continue reading

The Show–part 1

When Tock the cat came to visit, she made me do mean things. Mama said to ignore Tock, that she wasn’t real, just in my head. But how could I ignore something ten feet tall and purple all over that yelled at me to hit things?

And really, I didn’t want to ignore Tock ’cause she was fun to play with. Boy, could she make me laugh. She made Minute Hand and Second Hand, the two rats that lived in the wall behind the cook stove, do all kinds of funny stuff. Like dance on the table while we ate supper. ‘Course, it wasn’t very funny when they tramped through the potato salad. Yuck! Who wants to eat potato salad that rats have tracked in? Not me. And I didn’t want Mama to eat any either, so I pitched the bowl with its squishy yellow footprints out the back door.

And that made Mama mad.  Continue reading