Selected Fiction

Elizabeth’s short fiction has been published both online and in print, including Remembering Bobby (Ascent Aspirations), Mary-Beth’s Decision (RKVRY online journal), Miranda’s Voice (Open Wide), A Eulogy for Ruth (Spotlight on Recovery Magazine), Angela’s Choice (Every Day Fiction), Pay Dirt (Shoe Music Press), Proof (Flash shot) and more.

Her non-fiction has been published in Spotlight on Recovery Magazine and Our Canada Magazine.

 

Feature Stories  –

The Journey Back

 

She felt the burn of her cigarette reach her right index finger. Holly flinched her hand and put the cigarette out in her car ashtray. Being this close to where she had grown up, opened the floodgates for childhood memories to daydream about.

Holly turned down the street where her baby sister lived. She couldn’t believe Jenny was old enough to be getting married tomorrow.

Wishing she had met Jenny’s fiancé before this, she knew her own mission had been to stay sober. It had been more important than coming back to this neck of the woods. She had built a life for herself out west and hadn’t touched a drop of liquor for seven years now.

Turning in when she saw the Victorian style house her sister had described perfectly, she saw Jenny come flying out the front door waving her arms excitedly. Holly shoved the car in park and jumped out to embrace her.

Jenny spoke first. “Oh, Holly! I’m so glad you’re going to be here with me on my big day! Thank you so much for driving all this way!”

Crystal stroked her little sister’s hair. “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, kid.”

Jenny tugged at Holly’s arm. “Turn off the car. Let’s get your suitcase. I can’t wait for you to meet Kyle!”

Holly knew the day spent driving there had been worth it, to see Jenny so happy. The sisters strolled inside, their arms wrapped around each other.

Jenny yelled. “Kyle, come down here and meet my sister!”

Holly saw his feet coming down the staircase and froze. She and Kyle stared at each other.

Jenny looked bewildered. “What? What’s the matter? Do you two know each other?”

Holly spoke first. “Um, I think we went to the same high school.”

Kyle quickly jumped in. “Yeah, that’s it. I thought I knew you from somewhere.”

How could she tell her own sister that she was about to marry someone that she had slept with, let alone had a torrid affair with? Christ, it was her breakup with Kyle that had sent her into such a tailspin, that her drinking had spiralled out of control.

Jenny looked at them like a little girl. “But you liked each other at least, didn’t you?”

Holly felt like she was going to pass out. “Jenny, why don’t you put the kettle on and make us a cup of tea while I freshen up?”

“Oh, God. Where’s my manners? Of course, the bathroom’s just down the hall.”

Holly’s legs felt like wet noodles while she stood looking in the bathroom mirror. She closed her eyes and pictured a bottle of wine at her lips, the sweet nectar flowing like a current down her throat. Jenny’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Tea’s ready, sis.”

Splashing some cold water on her face, she wondered if she should tell her sister. She shook her head. No, what was she thinking? Holly breathed deeply and walked to the kitchen. Jenny and Kyle were already drinking their tea. She picked up a cookie and took a bite. She glanced at Kyle. He seemed relaxed, but she wasn’t sure. “So, have you ever been married before, Kyle?”

Jenny looked surprised. “Holly! That seems very personal, for your first question to Kyle.”

Kyle seemed unfazed. “Yes, Holly. I was married before.”

“And what ended it?”

Kyle took a sip of his tea. “As I’ve told Jenny, I cheated on my first wife.”

Holly was glad he had been honest about that, at least. She had hated being the other woman when she was in love with Kyle, but when they had met it had been such a powerful connection she hadn’t been able to stop herself from seeing him.

Jenny looked uncomfortable. “Can we please change the subject? Anything but ancient history, please. How’s your job going, Holly?”

Holly leaned back in her chair. “Good. Did I tell you I’m the floor supervisor now?”

Jenny spoke to Kyle. “Remember I told you Holly had applied for the supervisor position at the rehab where she works?”

Kyle nodded. “Good for you, Holly. We’re proud of you.”

Holly stood up. “If you don’t mind guys, I’m gonna turn in early.” She smiled at Jenny. “Big day tomorrow.”

Jenny’s face lit up. “I can’t believe the wedding’s tomorrow. C’mon, I’ll show you to your room.”

Holly’s mind was racing as she lay in her sister’s spare room. She had always felt more like a mother than a sister to Jenny with nine years between them. Once their father died, their mother had been unable to cope. The last thing her mother had said to her before she abandoned them was to take care of Jenny. And she had.

Holly heard a knock on the door. Jenny poked her head in. “Thought I’d check on ya, before I turned in. You okay, Holly?”

Holly smiled. “I’m just tired, kid. It was a long drive.”

“Funny how you and Kyle met before, in high school.”

For the first time in her life Holly had lied to Jenny. But it was better than the truth. What else could she say? Jenny, the truth is I loved Kyle more than I’ve ever loved anyone in my life. I started drinking when Kyle and I broke up. Instead, Holly just smiled. “Life is sure funny, Jenny. You go get some sleep. You’ll be the most beautiful bride in the world tomorrow.”

Jenny walked over and kissed Holly’s head. Thanks for coming, Holl. Sweet dreams.”

The door shut and Holly sat up in bed. She didn’t know what to do. She wondered if she should just get in the car and start for home.

Suddenly, she felt weak with exhaustion. Surely Kyle had seen pictures of her. How could he have kept this secret from Jenny?”

There was another knock at the door. Jenny must have forgotten to tell her something. “Come in.”

Holly felt herself start to shake when Kyle opened the door. “Holly, I thought we should talk.”

She got up.“You talk. I’ll listen, thanks.”

“I love your sister. I really do. We were already serious when I found out you were her older sister.”

Holly stared at him. “How could you do this to me? To her? You know how much I loved you.”

Kyle took a deep breath. “I was never happy in my first marriage, Holly. And then you came along and I fell so hard, so deep, so fast. I was scared. I had to break it off with you to get some perspective in my life.”

Holly wondered if he was on the verge of tears. “Why didn’t you call me when your marriage ended?”

“I did try to call you, but your roommate said you had moved out west to start a new life.” He wiped a lone tear. “I had to let you move on with your life.”

“Yeah, well I did a really good job of that. Spent the next year inside a bottle of wine. And the next three months after that at rehab, trying to figure out what had happened to me.”

Kyle walked over to her and stroked the side of her face with the back of his fingers. “I didn’t know then, Holly.”

Holly stared up at him. “Well, ya know now.”

Kyle leaned over and kissed her gently.

She put her hands on the back of his neck and kissed him harder. She hadn’t felt this intensity since she was with him so many years ago.

Kyle took her hands off of his neck, and shook his head. “I can’t. I can’t. I’m so sorry.”

He closed the door behind him.

Holly put her hands over her mouth to muffle her sobs. What had she done? She felt shame and panic rising inside of her.

She grabbed her suitcase and threw her things in it. Grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, she wrote, ‘Dear Jenny, I am so, so sorry that I had to leave. I love you with all my heart. I am afraid this trip back could be a trigger for me to start drinking again. Holly.’

Holly quietly walked downstairs. She saw the wine rack in the dining room, picked up two bottles and put them in her suitcase.

Driving until she found a motel, she went inside and pressed the number of her sponsor on her phone. She heard Samantha’s comforting voice. “Hello?”

“Oh Sam, it’s me. I’m a mess, a total mess.”

Samantha’s voice was calm. “Take a breath, sweetie. You knew this would be hard. Weddings always are.”

“It’s not that. It’s…never mind.” She hung up the phone. What the hell did Samantha know? She had relapsed twice herself.

The phone rang. Holly ignored it. She got the wine out of her suitcase and prayed. “God, give me strength.”

She opened the wine. Smelling it, she ran her hands up and down the bottle. She tried one last time. “God, help me.”

Holly put the bottle to her mouth and drank until she could feel her insides burn with satisfaction. She gasped and drank until both bottles were empty.

Feeling a gentle wave of numbness caress her, she couldn’t feel a thing. Holly stumbled over to the bed and fell on top of it. She knew it would be a long journey back tomorrow.

 

An Evening to Remember

She felt stressed lately and knew she desperately needed an evening of relaxation, a chance to feel like her old self again.

Going through their collection of jazz music, she realized that already her shoulders didn’t feel like a cord was running through them pulling them tighter and tighter.

She went to the wine rack and selected their best bottle of sauvignon blanc. When she got out the good glasses they had brought back from Paris, she noticed a slight tinge of plum lipstick still holding strong to the glass since their last evening together. She closed her eyes and could taste his kiss as she ran her finger softly across her bottom lip.

After she had slipped into the crème outfit he had picked out for her, she put the Christmas tree lights on and lit every candle in the room, until her shadow swayed beside her. The ambiance was just as she’d hoped and the stillness of the moment surrounded her.

She retrieved the poured glasses of wine and sat one beside his chair and one beside hers, like always. For the first time in months she was actually relaxing. She sank into the arm chair and felt warmth as the wine spread through her.

It seemed a perfect evening while the snow fell like sprinkled sugar outside, and the sound of saxophone weaved its way through her.

She raised her glass and looked at the empty chair across from her. Lifting her glass, she whispered the toast that he had said to her for so many years. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

She had cried enough tears since he died to last a lifetime, but tonight she smiled. She knew the routine of their Christmas ritual would sustain her. She sat and watched the golden candle melt on the table between them. She was happy that finally, they both were at peace.

 

Mama’s Words

She lay on the floor, unable to get up. Floundering like a catfish out of water, she closed her eyes and waited for the sound of his heavy boots to return. This time his voice arrived first, sounding as though his words were trying to escape around a mouth full of marbles.

“Jesus Christ, China Doll! What you doin’ laying on the floor?”
Janey-Sue waited for his bear paw hand to reach for hers. Standing crooked in front of him she lied easily. She knew he didn’t even remember. “Fell over that darn footstool my daddy made for me.”

He pulled her head to his chest. “You seem to be fallin’ a lot these days, Janey-Sue. You need to be more careful, girl.”

With her hand on her back, Janey-Sue inched toward the bathroom. She stood looking at herself in the mirror. Her small fingers caressed the scar beneath her left eye, and she wondered when her eyes had become so lifeless.

She winced leaning over to pick up Billy’s dirty overalls, and when the flask of whiskey in his pocket fell to the floor, she just scooped it up and slid it back in, as much a ritual as her set up for Bingo was. She prayed to a God who didn’t seem to be listening none these days, to please not let Billy drink again tonight.

Janey-Sue went to the kitchen to prepare beef stew, just the way Billy liked it. Janey-Sue smiled thinking of her mama’s words when she was just knee high to a grasshopper. “A good woman’s got to take care of her man, and give them what they deserve!” Then her mama would smile at her daddy, and her daddy would grin at her like a Cheshire cat.

Janey-Sue cut the beef in cubes just the size Billy liked ‘em. Two bite beef, he’d say, wiping the juice off his rugged face with the back of his flannel shirt.

She listened to Billy’s voice floating across the yard like a foghorn on a stormy night while he chatted with Big Earl, their neighbour.

“Be right back, Earl. Jack Daniel is coming to visit with us.” Janey-Sue plastered on a smile when she heard the screen door creak shut behind him. “You’re not gonna start drinkin’ this early are ya, sugar?” Billy leaned over and planted a kiss on Janey-Sue’s swollen lip. “Now hush, you remember what your mama always told you, God rest her soul.”

Janey Sue was watching the t.v. when she heard Billy stumble back into the kitchen. She wrapped her cardigan tightly around herself while he bellowed “God damn it, China Doll, where is my other bottle of whiskey?”

For the first time in her marriage, Janey Sue didn’t feel anxious. As a matter of fact, she didn’t feel anything at all. She walked up so close to Billy, she had to tilt her head way back to look up at him, like she was looking up to the heavens above. As his arm raised over her, his shrouded eyes didn’t see the knife Janey-Sue held in her blistered hand. She thrust it into him, thinking she could use the sleeve of his flannel shirt to wipe the blood up after. Cause that’s what good girls do, she thought. For the first time in months, Janey-Sue’s lips curled into a smile. She’d given him just what he deserved. Mama’s words had served her well.

 

Miranda’s voice (previously published in Open Wide magazine)

The clock chimed twice and echoed throughout their house. She lay beside him in the semi-darkness watching him sleep. Goosebumps scurried up her arms. Would she have the strength this time to take their three children and leave in the morning? Her finger skirted back and forth across her dry lips.
Miranda’s bare feet padded down the cold hall floor to the bathroom. She stood transfixed in front of the mirror, hoping to see the reflection in the dark eyes staring back at her.

She went to each child’s bedroom and pulled their blankets around them before getting back into bed. “God, give me a sign. Please.” Her mind felt crowded, like a book with too many words for the pages.
She prodded Jim with the tips of her fingers. “How could you?”
His eyes didn’t open, but she knew by his breathing that he had heard her. He shook his head slightly. His voice was deep with sleep. “I thought we went over all this.”
“But, twenty-one years old, Jim. You have a fourteen years old daughter, for Christ’s sake.” He rolled over and faced the window. She could see the outline of his clenched jaw in the stream of light from the streetlamp. “I know how old our daughter is. I’ve already apologized a hundred times. What else can I say?” Miranda felt the pain of a rope willing its grip around her chest again, tightening like a winch on their sailboat.

The clock chimed six times, commanding Miranda to get up. She went into the bathroom gagging while she brushed her teeth. She grasped the vanity tightly, unable to breathe deeply. “Are you done in there? I need to get ready for work.” She opened the door and brushed by his large frame on the way to each of the children’s bedrooms.

“Good morning, sunshine. Time to get up.” Miranda walked downstairs to make breakfast. She set muffins and fruit on each plate, kissing her children as they took their usual places. Stroking her daughter’s hair, Miranda took a deep breath. “Daddy and I have something to tell you.” The rope in her chest gripped tighter, as her daughter’s nervous eyes waited.

Jim sauntered in adjusting his tie. “You have something to tell them.”
Miranda sat still until she heard the door close behind him. She stared out at the swing set in the backyard while the sound of his car became faint.
Miranda had rehearsed this moment in her mind so many times before. She felt the fear from her children envelope her. Waiting one last time for some sort of sign, she realized none was coming. Miranda finally found her voice, cracking like ice underfoot. “I’m going to need your help, kids. We need to pack.”

An Innocent Victim

She could hear him yelling from the kitchen, before he shut the door behind him. “Have something ready for dinner when I get home, for once!”

Asshole. Janey went back to daydreaming, which was pretty much her only hobby these days. She stood gazing at the forest outside their bedroom window. The window was open so she could feel the spring breeze on her face, as she rocked back and forth gently.

She watched a large bird perched on a small branch at the top of the tree. It began to fly towards her with a wingspan so broad it reminded her of a superhero with a satin cape.

The bird was inside her room in an instant and she could hear her own scream as though it was coming from someone else. Janey covered her head with her hands as she ran out of the room. The frantic bird knocked over their wedding picture, and she could hear the glass shattering as she ran to the kitchen. Picking up the broom that had been resting in the corner for months, she ran at the bird with it. Janey swung hard, using every bit of force in her tiny body. She stood staring at the sheer beauty of the dead bird before her. Walking to the stove, Janey opened the bottom drawer and got out the roasting pan, not even used at Thanksgiving this year.

She lay the bird gently in it, and turned the oven on high. Janey sat down at the kitchen table and composed a simple note to her husband. “Dinner’s in the oven.”

She walked out the door, and didn’t bother to look back.

Pay Dirt (currently published, Shoe Music Press)

He remembered it clearly. In grade 8 English class, the teacher had asked them to fill in the blank at the end of the sentence and write a paragraph or two about it. “In my next life I will have more _____.” He had worked harder on that than anything in school before.  Johnny looked at the red words on the paper in front of him, his lips moving slightly as he read them again.

“In my next life I will have more of everything. I won’t have just a half a bowl of cereal in the morning for breakfast. I’ll have shampoo and toothpaste to last till the last day of the week. I’ll have enough money to help buy my mama a house. I’ll have enough money to get a lawyer good enough to keep my daddy in jail where he belongs.” It was the first and last A+ he would ever receive.

Johnny learned then to speak from the heart to get what he wanted. He left school and got a job the next week. When Mr. Neil asked him why he should hire him, Johnny reached in his pocket and pulled out the paper with the A+ on it. Mr. Neil took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, looking like he had seen too many papers just like this one.

“What time ya gonna be here tomorrow, kid?”

Johnny grinned and jumped up to shake his hand. “How’s 6:00?”

“Hell, we don’t even open till 11:00. You ever washed dishes before?”

Johnny nodded. “Wash ‘em every night so my mama don’t have to when she gets home from work.”

Johnny was standing outside shivering in his best shirt that was too small for him, when Mr. Neil drove up at 10:45. He started a routine when he was handed his first earnings, putting half the cash in his mama’s hand Friday morning, and the other half in a big jar in his bedroom. He put the paper with the A+ on it in the jar too, just to remind him what he was working seven days a week for.

Two days after Johnny’s sixteenth birthday he arrived home to the unmistakeable sound of his father’s gravelly voice telling his mama he was a changed man.
Johnny threw his keys on the nearest table. “What the hell you doin’ here?”

Johnny’s dad’s eyes always reminded him of a snake he saw down near the creek once. “Just came to see you and your mama, and get what’s owed me, that’s all.”

For the first time Johnny towered over his daddy. His voice was as deep as any man’s. “We don’t want you here.”

Johnny’s mom stepped between them. “It’s okay, Johnny. Daddy just needs some help getting set up again.”

Johnny watched the corners of his daddy’s tobacco stained lips turn up, before he smirked. “That’ll be an awful cold day in hell before that’s gonna happen.”

Johnny’s mama walked to his bedroom, and came out holding the big jar. He hadn’t seen her hands shake so bad since the last time the bastard was here.

Johnny grabbed the jar from her and held it as tightly as if it were pure gold. “Ain’t no way that dirt bag is getting his dirty paws on our money.”

Her head hanging low, Johnny’s mom began to weep. “But I owe him, Johnny. He’ll never leave me alone till I pay him what I owe him.”

As Johnny’s dad grabbed for the jar, Johnny hit him in the head with it, using the force of every muscle he had developed over three years of scrubbing pots and pans till they shone like sunshine through a church window.

Blood sprayed like a garden hose all over Johnny, as his mom dialled the phone for help. Johnny stood over his dad motionless, watching him take his last breath.

The policeman who arrived first had been there before. He looked at the blood on Johnny’s hands and snorted. “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, now does it Junior?”

Johnny could hear his mother’s pleas to the policeman piercing a trail behind him as they led him away in handcuffs.

The next day Johnny’s mom came to visit him in the very same cell his daddy had been in many times before. Clutching the money and the note, she told Johnny she was going to go open an account for him at the bank on Main Street.

“That money’s for you, mama. All I want is the paper with it.”

After his mama left, Johnny read it again. He was glad that at least he’d have a full size breakfast, and shampoo and toothpaste every day of the week. His mama had enough for a little down payment on a house, and he wouldn’t be needing a lawyer at all now.

 

Crystal’s Luck

She put down her coffee cup and rushed to her husband. His large frame was hunched over on the kitchen chair, with tears streaming down his face. She threw herself across his back, gently stroking his hair.

“I’m so sorry, Jimmy. You have to believe me. I’m so sorry.”

Jimmy brushed her off of him as he stood up and turned to look at her. His face twisted in anger. “How could you do this to us, Crystal?” He slammed the bank statement down on the table, his voice rising. “Forty-two thousand dollars! Forty two goddamned thousand dollars! Do you know how long it takes me to make forty-two thousand dollars, Crystal? Do you?”

Crystal felt the heat of shame flaming her face. “I know I need help, Jimmy. Just tell me what I should do.”

“For starters, get yourself down to that casino and self-disclose. At least then they won’t let you in there anymore. Tell them your husband will sue their sorry ass if they ever let you set foot in there again.” Jimmy picked up his lunch pail and thermos. “I gotta get to work.”

Crystal watched him slam the door and with shaking hands, picked up her car keys. She didn’t know how she could have done this to him. While she drove to the casino she thought about what she would say to them while she signed the self-exclusion papers, saying she wouldn’t be allowed on the premises anymore. As she climbed onto the casino shuttle bus she watched the flickering lights of the casino beckoning her.

The cheerful bus driver stopped at the entrance and flung open the door. “Good Luck, Crystal!”

She walked down the steps and waved. “Thanks, Bud. I’m gonna need it.”

Crystal opened the door to the casino and at once was assaulted by the clamouring and ringing of the slot machines. She sauntered around and looked at all of her favourites, listening to the familiar sounds and music of each one. Her eyes drank in the fuchsia and crimson bulbs while they winked rhythmically at her. Feeling a sense of nervousness and excitement wrestling in her stomach, she sat down at her usual spot and put her hand on the arm of the Burning Ember machine. Her heart began to pound.

Crystal reached in her purse and got out the hundred dollar bill her mother had loaned her for groceries. She put it robotically in the ‘face side up’ slot, then rubbed her hand on the ball at the end of the lever for luck. Pulling it over and over, she watched the credits multiplying on the screen in front of her. Her glazed eyes stared while the congratulatory music sang out and danced in her head. She had never had a significant win so fast. The jackpot said two thousand, four hundred and eighty-seven dollars. Crystal sat still, feeling the excitement light up every inch of her body. The casino attendant approached her grinning. “Looks like your lucky day, ma’am.”

Crystal put her hand out for her reimbursement ticket. “Looks like it is.”

She started to walk toward the manager’s door. At least she would go home with a bit of money for Jimmy. She stopped, with her legs shaking, and stared at her favourite machine, the Triple Diamond. Maybe she could just play half of her winnings, to try and win more to take home. No more than a thousand. Winning today had to be an omen, a sign of some kind that this was her lucky day. She closed her eyes and prayed. “Please God, let me make it up to Jimmy. He works so hard.”

Crystal wiped the tears from her eyes and put her hand on the lever and pulled. As more and more total credits fell, Crystal began to feel panic rising inside her. The next thousand just had to be luckier. With each pull, she could feel her face flush with anticipation. Crystal stared at the zero winnings on the machine, with nausea twirling in her stomach.

Driving home she thought about what to tell Jimmy when he got home. Tears of humiliation trickled down her face as she opened her door and went to their bedroom. She pulled back their comforter and climbed under it, pulling it over her head. The phone on the nightstand rang. Reaching for it, apprehension flowed through her. “Hello?”

The concern in Jimmy’s voice sprang through the line. “How’d it go at the casino? Did you tell them not to let you in there anymore? Did you sign papers?”

Crystal’s voice was calm while she listened to herself lie to the only man she’d ever loved. “Yes. Now, don’t you worry about it, I’ll make it up to you. I promise.”

She took a breath. “I love you.”

Jimmy’s voice cracked. “I love you, too.”

Crystal hung up and put her head back on the pillow. She just knew she’d have better luck at the casino tomorrow.

Mary-Beth’s Decision (previously published, RKVRY online journal)

FullSizeRender (6) When she walked into their little bungalow her eyes went to the empty bottle of whiskey on the table. She gingerly pulled her shoes of her swollen feet and put them neatly on the mat facing the door.

She wondered if this would be the night she left him. She went into the tiny bedroom and stood expressionless watching him sleep. He snored loudly, and stopped breathing for a second or two. She thought of how much easier it would be if she didn’t have to pack, as she covered him with the old patched quilt her grandmother had made.

“That you, Mary-Beth?” he muttered.

She looked at the drool, dried like yellow snowflakes down the left side of his chin.“Yes, it’s just me.”

“Makin’ dinner for us?”

“Of course.” She lied, knowing his heavy eyes would close again soon. She picked up his flannel shirt and hung it in the closet. On cue, she heard the snoring start again as she walked to the kitchen.

She had been wakened by a dream last night in which she had no arms and legs. She had just laid there unable to get up. Waking up trembling, she had quickly felt for her legs.

Mary-Beth shook her head and started to unwrap some processed cheese from the plastic wrap. She pushed the toaster handle down and put some sour cream and onion potato chips on an old ironstone plate.

After she ate, she would go down to the cellar and get the black nylon suitcase her mother had given her the Christmas before she died. Just in case she needed it. Mary-Beth looked at her watch and hurried to the living room. Wheel of Fortune was about to start. Mary-Beth smiled when she saw how Vanna White’s dress glittered as she turned the letters.

The images from the old T.V. danced in otherwise dark room as Mary-Beth went to make herself a cup of tea. While she waited for the kettle to boil, she washed and dried her plate. She heard Jimmy in the bathroom moaning softly. He was bent over the toilet, his body heaving uncontrollably. Mary-Beth got a wet washcloth and handed it to him when he finally stood up.

“You workin’ tomorrow, Mare?” he asked as he ran the lukewarm cloth across the black stubble on his face.

“Who else would take care of Mrs. McGee if I didn’t?” She took the washcloth from him and threw it in the wicker hamper.

She thought of how she would trim the old ladies’ thick toenails for her tomorrow, and then paint them a nice bright colour like marmalade orange. She couldn’t believe she had worked for her for almost fifteen years.

“What would I ever do without you, Mary?” Jimmy asked as she straightened the cotton sheets and plumped the feather pillows before he got back into the old brown metal bed.

Mary-Beth felt tears stinging her eyes as she pulled the rusty chain on the lamp by his bedside. They both knew that just like Mrs. McGee, he’d never have to find out.

 

 Remembering Bobby (previously published, Ascent Aspirations)

The cans of green beans were lined up on the grocery shelf like little soldiers. She reached for a can of Green Giant, and then robotically filled the top portion of the metal grocery cart with five more.

As she steered her wobbling buggy toward the check out express line for eight items and under, she thought about the phone call she had received earlier, telling her Bobby had suffered a heart attack and dropped dead. She hadn’t known where the bastard was for years.

The last thing he said to her when he swaggered out the door eight years ago was “and don’t buy no more yellow waxy tastin’ beans. For the last goddamn time I want green goddamn beans!” The trailer door had slammed behind him, leaving her laying on the shiny linoleum floor, her pretty face bloodied by his fist for the last time.

Kelsey opened the plastic Farmer Jack bag and stacked the beans carefully like she was organizing rations for battle.

She put her blue Chevy in reverse and then headed to Bayside Cemetery serenaded by Shania Twain singing “Man, I feel like a woman.”

She could hear the cans of green beans rattling aimlessly in the bed of her truck. She remembered when she met him, how kind he’d been to her ageing Grandma, who had raised her. She didn’t know then that his motive was the inheritance her terminally ill Grandma was going to leave her. And God knows he was handsome, with his jet black hair, and shirtsleeves that stretched across his rippling muscles.

Kelsey fingered the faded scar running along the right side of her face as she turned up the gravel road to the tiny cemetery. She spotted Bobby’s brother standing in front of the gaping hole, his hands folded in front of his Levi’s, a cigarette dangling precariously from his mouth.

Kelsey slammed the truck door and retrieved the bag of green beans from the truck. Clutching the bag, Kelsey strode up to Bobby’s brother. He eyed her suspiciously.

“How y’all doin’ Kels? Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Kelsey rose up to her full height of five foot two. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, Buddy.” She marched through the churned dirt to the other side of the rectangular opening, listening to the hum of voices rise in the misty air.

Kelsey gripped the first can of green beans in her clenched fist and raised her arm back and fired with great precision at the pine box below her.

Bobby’s brother’s gruff voice snapped. “What the hell you doin’?”

Kelsey pelted the next can with such a force it dented the top of the casket. One can after the other left their imprint on Bobby’s eternal resting place.

After each can had been released into the precipice of brown earth below, Kelsey swirled around and marched back toward her truck. Her tongue glided over her bottom lip, enjoying the sweet taste of revenge.

Kelsey swung open her truck door and looked back at the mourners shaking their heads as obscenities floated in her direction. Kelsey’s clear and even voice rang out into the fog. “I remembered the green beans this time, Bobby.”

Dust from the country road clouded Kelsey’s rearview mirror as she pressed her leather boot down on the accelerator.

 

Little Gretchen, (previously published, Micro Horror)

She knew she was getting smaller by the day. She began to stay indoors so people wouldn’t see how tiny she had become.

Gretchen had spent years trying to get Abraham out of her mind. Although he consumed her thoughts daily she didn’t think it was in an obsessive way, as she always continued to function. He was the first man she had fallen in love with, and despite having flings along the way, there he was, stuck in her mind like paper on glue. He would show up every few years, and she’d always let him in, no questions asked.

Gretchen climbed up on the chair, and then her dresser. She lovingly stroked the picture of Abraham she had hidden under her Bible. Gretchen jumped off the dresser onto the chair, and down onto the floor. Her once shoulder-length hair now dragged on the floor behind her. She curled up on the pillow that she now used for a bed. During the night was when inches of her would disappear. Gretchen wondered how much of herself would be lost tonight.

Gretchen awoke to a knock on the door. Groggy, she went and tried to get up on the chair by the window. Gretchen realized she couldn’t reach the bottom rung of the chair now. She saw a shadow pass by. A man’s head was peering in the window, illuminated only by the moonlight behind him. Abraham.

Gretchen began running and tripped trying to get over a bump in the carpet. She turned over and realized the moonlight was shining down on her. She saw Abraham’s shocked expression when he spotted her. He had a look of horror etched on his face. Slowly Abraham backed away from the window until she couldn’t see him anymore.

Gretchen was used to him leaving. She went back to her pillow and rocked herself to sleep. She knew this time he’d never be back. She wondered if there’d be anything left of her by morning.