Sam dealt with his mother’s death almost as though nothing had happened. And in reality, not much had; his mother’s presence still manifested at the breakfast table, only sans her screwdriver and dry toast. He turned his bacon and mayo sandwich over, as was his custom due to his tendency to disproportionately eat the bottom bun of the sandwich.
“We should have gotten you braces,” Joyce said. Sam shrugged.
“It adds character now.”
Even in death his mother couldn’t relax, her regret turning thick and stiff in her veins. She moved in rigid, statuesque angles, reflexively reaching for the screwdriver that wasn’t there. When she clenched her hand around nothing, a thin ripple of annoyance and surprise moved across her eyebrows and nothing more.
Through the front door Sam’s sister, Caitlin, walked in with a young couple in tow.
“Here we have a nice, two story, three bedroom—“ she paused as soon as she saw Sam. “Complete with a beautiful breakfast nook, as you can see.”
The young couple were visibly uncomfortable. Sam brushed off and extended a hand.
“Hi, I’m Sam Hartley, the owner.”
The young man hesitated, but shook the Sam’s hand lightly.
“How about y’all check out the upstairs, I’ll be right on up,” Caitlin said. As soon as the two were out of sight she grabbed him by the sleeve.
“We loving talked about this, god damnit,” she said right into his ear.
“I know, I’m sorry, but mom just thinks it would be best if I was here when you’re showing people around.”
Their mother nodded. Caitlin’s nostrils flared and she took a deep breath. Ever since their mother designated Sam as the beneficiary of her ghostly visage, Sam’s relationships with his sister had become strained.
Caitlin opened her mouth to speak but only a hoarse cough came out. She doubled over in a coughing fit, before turning to brace herself on the table.
“Oh watch out for mom—“
Caitlin lurched forward, her entire body phasing through their mother, and she kept coughing. Caitlin’s bobbing head pushed back and forth through their mother’s frowning face. Finally she took out a handkerchief and hacked something throaty and viscous into it. Sam could see something dark and red before she hid the handkerchief back into the folds of her clothes.
“I am going to sell this goddamn house with or without you,” Caitlin hissed and marched up stairs. Joyce reached for the absent screwdriver again.
Just past midnight Sam woke to the sound of glass on glass and found his sister on the couch, tears in her eyes. On the glass coffee table rested the family photo Caitlin had been holding, but now her face was buried in her handkerchief again, trying to muffle the coughing.
Sam sat next to her, putting a hand on her back.
“I just don’t know what to do,” she said. “Why you? Why did she choose you?”
Behind them in the kitchen Joyce sat with her legs off the side of the chair, staring at Sam. He didn’t want to make eye contact, but he stole a glance and immediately felt shame.
“Does she even talk about me?” Caitlin asked, looking up at Sam with giant, teary orbs. This time he didn’t look back because he knew their mother was looking the other way.
“How about you stay here tonight, in the guest room?”
They stood together, Caitlin hunched slightly, Sam’s arm around her. As he walked her towards the stairs, he stared at the back of his mother’s head. Joyce’s legs were still swung around to the side of the chair, but she kept her tightly wound bun of hair pointed directly at them.
At the top of the stairs Caitlin stumbled, catching herself two steps before the crest. She hacked, wet and full of gravel. Prostrate on the stairs she waved Sam away.
“Let me get you a glass of water.”
He traversed the kitchen without contact and returned unhurried to his sister. The glass of water sat untouched on the stair next to Caitlin, and Sam leaned against the wall, staring at the ceiling.
“Katy, you’ll think of something, I’m sure of it,” he said. “There’re all sorts of forgiveness programs, you just have to look for them.”
The wheezing slowly died down, and Sam felt very sure he saw his sister nod. He leaned down to his sister, placing a hand on her back.
“Mom said it was for the best this way.”
In an apoplectic shout, Caitlin swung her body around, grabbing his wrist with one arm, and pushing the side of his knee with another. Sam pitched sidelong, tumbling down the stairs before landing in a pile like dirty laundry at the bottom of the stairs.
Caitlin’s gasped asthmatic, shivering all over. She stood and scanned in jerking motions. Finally, she tipped the glass of water over with her foot, and she bounded down the stairs, leaping over Sam’s broken body. She closed the front door with her hand under her shirt and the locked the deadbolt. The water glass came to a final halt against the body of Sam, the last sound in the house for weeks.
Sam sat at the table, looking at his mother, who still reached for that screwdriver and toast unconsciously. Caitlin laid the final paperwork on the breakfast table and presented a beautiful fountain pen to an older gentleman. A quick scrawl, with a final blot at the end of the last letter in the signature, and the man picked up the piece of egg shell paper and blew to dry the ink.
Caitlin and the man shook hands and she made her way to the front door. She turned a final time and pretended to smile at the man, but she made eye contact with her brother. Sam smiled at her and turned over the imaginary bacon and mayo sandwich in his hands absent mindedly
|# ¿ Oct 5, 2014 23:34|
|# ¿ May 25, 2022 22:20|
|# ¿ Nov 4, 2014 21:43|
Theme: Winter Air
One more head, that was all Julius, the criminal, needed. Just one more head. Daniel wondered if he would have taken his had he told him no. Daniel tried to keep a clear head through the pounding headache as he sucked from the oxygen mask. They had taken a spill down the snow covered scree, trying to find that one last zombie head Julius was sure was in the area. Julius suffered what might be a broken ankle, but the old Sherpa boots the guards had given them concealed all parts of their feet.
“gently caress, I was so close,” Julius said. “God just one more for those loving head-tossers. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been up here?”
The guards had paired Daniel with Julius on purpose despite the significant differences in quotas still left. Julius was one of the more experienced thinners, they called them, and Daniel had just been handed his sentence. At first Daniel believed his 100 heads to be a death sentence, but when he saw how efficiently Julius could scale the pass and harvest the still-frozen zombie heads his fears began to melt off. Until he learned that Julius was near done with his horrific 500.
Daniel shook his head, trying to get the blackness out of the corners of his eyes. He continued to suck on the oxygen mask and hammered on his thighs to get the feeling back. Julius hobbled over to him, the bundle of heads hanging heavy on his injured side. One more head didn’t mean anything to Daniel, but now the bastard might have killed them both. He made sure to keep his distance, even with Julius’s injury.
As Julius got closer Daniel stood, clutching the oxygen tank. Julius paused. Daniel wished he could see the man’s face, but the sunglasses and balaclava covered it completely.
“What are you doing?” Julius asked.
“What are you doing?!”
“I just need some air, man,” Julius said. Daniel took off the mask quickly, warm embarrassment creeping through his neck making it itchy. Julius breathed in controlled, deep breaths.
“We might have to stay up here for the night, I don’t think I can make it back down,” Julius said.
Daniel imagined the man skulking over his sleeping bag, the machete glinting in the moonlight. Julius was in no condition to dig up anymore lifeless bodies, he wouldn’t have to. He would have his head that night. The tossers at the bottom of the pass wouldn’t even know, or care. Zombie heads or convict heads, same difference.
“We won’t last the night, we’ll freeze up here.”
“We’ll be okay, I’ve been doing this for a while now.”
“No, we have to go back, we have to go back.”
Julius fell silent and instead kept breathing in the mask. Daniel felt the man’s gaze look deep inside him. A memory of Daniel when he was first sent to prison came rushing back. Sam Watson, a skin head from the yard, stood in front of him. Just staring down at Daniel. Daring him to fight back. When Daniel hesitated, Sam pushed him, punched him, shoved him to the ground and spit on him. Every day Sam knew Daniel wouldn’t, maybe he couldn’t, fight back. Daniel could feel Julius looking at him the exact same way that Sammy looked at him that very first day.
“We’re gonna stay here for the night, we have food, we have enough air, we are going to be okay,” Julius said. “And in the morning, we’re going to get one more head before we get to camp, right Daniel?”
Daniel slumped to the ground. There was nothing he could say. The sharp, cold air caught in his lungs, freezing them, constricting their ability to take in enough oxygen. They felt like an according that couldn’t stretch out all the way and he reached his hands out for the mask.
Julius paused and put the mask down.
“You have to calm down, you’re just hyper-ventilating, that’s normal, you can get control of it,” Julius said. Daniel nodded, but still grasped for the mask, his fingers curling in their gloves. Julius handed Daniel the mask, and he nursed the air for several long minutes.
“Okay that’s enough, we’re going to have to save that.” When Julius reached for it he felt Sammy tower over him, and he thrashed wildly. Julius was thrown off balance and tripped over the bag of zombie heads.
Daniel fell on him with a savagery he would vaguely remember. The dull machete hacked again and again, first getting caught in the thick wool and fleece lined jacket, and then in Julius’s forearms as he tried to shield himself from the blows.
Finally, Daniel felt the neck fully give and he fell in a heap next to the still body. Nausea wracked his body and lightheadedness prevented him from climbing to his feet. He rolled on the ground feeling for where the mask was. Long moments passed as he thrashed about blindly. His hands found home as he banged them on the metal canister. Pins and needles shot through his entire arm, and he had to shift his weight to his other, but the pull from the oxygen mask immediately gave him relief.
After several minutes he gathered Julius’s head and tossed it into the sack with handfuls of snow and rocks, hoping to disguise the gruesome crime in the mountain pass. In one hand he dragged the sack full of heads, and in the other the oxygen tank, each making grooves in the scree as he lurched downwards. He was wearing the oxygen mask now, but he couldn’t seem to shake the darkness completely from his eyes.
“Julius, Julius Rogers,” Daniel said. In front of him the head-tossers stood side by side. He heaved the burlap sack onto the wooden table and sat down. Underneath his parka he chewed his bottom lip furiously. One by one the counters rolled a head, made a hash and tossed it into thick plastic bin.
“Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen,” the tosser called. The counter marked. Daniel couldn’t watch as they went through the last of them. He put his hands in front of him, wrists together, sleeves pulled slightly back for the inevitable realization. “Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen.”
The tosser paused. The counter walked up to Daniel.
“Congratulations, you’re a free man Julius Rogers,” the man said. Daniel turned and saw the man had extended a hand. Numbly he stood, and grasped the counter’s hand as hard as he could through the glove. Daniel stumbled out of the tent, shivering uncontrollably, the blackness seeping further into his eyes.
|# ¿ Nov 10, 2014 04:35|