Hershel’s Secret

Damn, it was hard to keep a secret from Maryanne. That woman was so confounded nosey. Asking this, asking that, her voice going all reed-thin like it always did when she didn’t believe a word I was saying.

“And you’re telling me that this time you gotta stay late and work on Mr. Redwine’s truck.” The racket the twins was making in the background pretnear drowned out her voice. “For Pete’s sake, you’re a carpenter, not a mechanic.”

One of ‘em—most likely Alex, he was the noisy one—let out a high-pitched squeal that stabbed my throbbing head like a rusty pitchfork. I yanked my cell away from my ear, whispering “holy shit” through gritted teeth.

Squawk, squawk, squawk spitted out of the phone. I lifted it back to my ear.

“—and we’re gonna talk about it when you get home. This’s been going on for months. Two or three evenings a week, something’s come up and you’ve been getting home late, dark or after. How you been driving nails in the dark, Hershel Thurman Patterson? Huh? You tell me. And your paycheck sure ain’t been getting any bigger.”

Lord-a-mercy, the lying was getting harder and harder to live with. “I…uh…the truck…” Good thing I didn’t have one of them there smartphones. I’d heard tell you could track a body if he had one on him. Continue reading

Saving Grace–part 5, conclusion 

Part 1 here

I knew what It was up to: It was trying to scare Grace and get her to move from between It and Penny. Grace was of the light and that blacker-than-black unthing couldn’t touch her.

Again, they did their dance–It moved left, Grace moved left, It moved right, Grace moved right. Then one of Its great wings sliced down toward Grace and I hollered and Caleb hollered and Will hollered, all three of us thinking that she’d be flattened under that slab of black. But when it touched Grace’s head, the wing burst into flames.

With another roar that shook what was left of my little house, It pulled back the blazing wing into Itself, snuffing out the fire. Then, It folded, and folded again, and kept on folding until It was no bigger than a sheet of paper, and slid in a blacker-than-black square across the floor away from Grace. 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

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

Sins of the Fathers–The Beginning (1)

Prologue

“I know how hard this must be, coming back to where it all happened, but I believe it’s the only way to put an end to the nightmares,” Max said. “Once you see he’s not here, your subconscious can lay the past to rest once and for all, and you can move on with your life. From what you’ve told me about him, his anger issues and such, I doubt he’s even still alive.”

I nodded absently, my gaze on the woods and fields speeding by outside the car window, while thoughts of another journey taken down this same highway many years ago filled my mind.

“Once you bring your fears out into the open and deal with them, they’ll lose their power over you.” He reached across the console and squeezed my thigh with a smooth, sun-bronzed hand. “You know I just want what’s best for you, Chloe. I want you to be happy.”

I turned to him, forcing a smile. “I know, Max. You’ve been so good to me, a lot more so than I deserve.” Continue reading

Sins of the Fathers (2)

“Won’t be much longer now, Chloe.”

Daddy’s voice snapped me to the present. My mind had been far away, back in West Memphis where Mama was buried.

As soon as her funeral had ended that morning—attended only by Daddy, me, and the preacher—Daddy had loaded our suitcases in the car, and we headed west out of the Mississippi River delta country. We were going to live with Grandma.

When I asked why we couldn’t continue living where we were, Daddy had said I needed someone to look out for me when he was on the road. Since I had been taking care of Mama and myself most of my life, I didn’t think I needed someone looking out for me now. But I didn’t say so to Daddy.

He had called his mother before the funeral and told her about Mama. Grandma had said for him to come back home, that she would welcome the company since she was all alone.

I had never met my grandma. When I was younger, I had once asked Mama why we didn’t visit her. Mama had thrown a conniption fit, ranting and raving about what a vicious old bitch Grandma was, and that she hated her.

I never brought it up again.

Mama had no one but Daddy and me to grieve her passing. She was an only child, and her parents had died in a house fire before I was born. Daddy told me she might have died too if she hadn’t been out on a date with him that night.

Now she was gone, and Daddy and I had crossed the state to live with a woman who was a stranger to me, a woman Mama had despised. I wondered if I would hate Grandma too. I wondered what she would think of me. Continue reading