Archive for May, 2014

A story for the Rebirth Anthology

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2014 by drmagoo


Eric Martell

#J.A.MesPress Book Yes

I buried them in the garden. First Laurie, then Tim-Tim, then Papa Joel. Then Momma, who we thought would outlive us all. I’d cried when Laurie died, her sweet face yellow and twisted, her throat torn raw from night after night – then day after night – of screaming. Words I didn’t know and then things that weren’t words.

We held a service, after a fashion, before Papa Joel footed the spade into the east end of the garden, nearest the roses that were Laurie’s favorite. The four of us who remained intoned the words we’d been taught kneeling on a hard wood floor, in penance for crimes both imaginary and terrible. I stopped going to church when Laurie took sick, and by the time Papa Joel stepped into the hole and asked for her body, I knew none of us would ever be back.

Tim-Tim watched us cover her up, but didn’t move to help. He was coughing by then, and I knew he was wondering where we’d put him. Near the oak, as it turned out, working hard to avoid roots as thick as Papa Joel’s leg, and just a week after Laurie. He didn’t suffer like she had, although when Momma heard that shotgun blast, she cursed not just for the son she’d lost, but for the shell that we’d no longer have when the time came. We had a reasonable supply in the closet, but reasonable wasn’t forever, and no one had come down the road from the north with a wagon and supplies for more than a year.

I thought Papa Joel and Momma would go together. They took sick at the same time, and howled something fierce in the night, their faces wet with sweat and spit and pus. But Momma rallied just a bit, and Papa Joel didn’t, and she was able to sit in a chair next to the garden while I dug the hole and pulled Papa Joel in. That’s when the terror took me, the realization that when she left, I’d be alone. A twelve year old girl with a shotgun, a reasonable number of shells, and something in the air that killed but that I couldn’t shoot.

“It’s alright, child. You’ll cry a lot in the night, but crying ain’t dead, and ain’t dead means maybe it gets better.” I didn’t see Momma get up and come over to me, and I don’t know how she climbed down into that hole with me and Papa Joel’s body, but I felt her arms around me, and she kissed the top of my head like she always had when I woke up in the night after a bad dream. Her voice had no anger, no recrimination, and no fear.

“Put me over there, where the lilies used to grow. You remember how we’d pull the weeds in the spring and watch the first shoots poking through the dirt?” I nodded, the tears drying up a bit, but still not trusting myself to speak. “When the wind was right, we’d hear the spring melt rushing through the stream. I want to hear that again. I won’t make it through this winter, we both know that, but you’ll put me there, won’t you?”

“I will, Momma.” And even though Papa Joel had died, that was a good day. Momma was strong enough to make her soup for dinner, and, used to cooking for five as she was, there was enough left over that I didn’t have to cook for a while. Not until after she relapsed. Not until after she died, gritting her teeth against the pain as I held her against me. Not until I buried her in the not-quite-frozen ground, where the lilies used to grow, out where you could hear the spring melt rushing through the stream when the wind was right.

I don’t know why I never came down with it, but by the time winter was over and more nights than not passed without a hard freeze, I was inches taller and a child no longer. I hadn’t had to draw from the shotgun shell supply often, and there was enough coyote meat in the ice chest that I’d make it until summer. Maybe longer if the wagons started rolling again. And maybe, if the right man looked at me the right way, I’d leave the whole place behind, especially that garden.

The clip-clop of hooves was audible before I could see the horses, echoing throughout the valley while I was hanging the washing. I cautiously peered out the front window, my heart racing, though whether from fear or from excitement I could not say. It was a proper wagon, the kind I hadn’t seen in ages, all red and yellow, with the words “P. Donaldson & Family, Merchants & Smiths” written on the side in foot-high letters. They slowed down as they approached the house, but I sped up, rushing out to meet them. Driving the wagon was a youngish woman, maybe twice my age, with her hair in a marriage knot and her husband beside.

She smiled at me, and I burst into tears.

The first human contact I’d had in months was her thin body wrapped tightly around me as I sobbed. I heard chattering voices, and saw three children scamper out of the wagon. Much too young to be anything but cute, they looked at the house with awe.

When the tears slowed to a trickle, the woman spoke. “They’re all gone.” It wasn’t a question, but I nodded. She pulled me close again. “Show us. Share them with us.”

I took her by the hand and led the family out behind the house, around towards the garden. The wind was high that day, and I could hear the stream, swollen with spring melt, rushing in the distance.

“Are they over here?” I wiped the tears from my eyes with my sleeve to see where she was pointing. “Over where the lilies are beginning to sprout?”


Flash Friday, volume 2 week 22

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2014 by drmagoo


Tilly’s body wasn’t yet stiff when I’d lowered it into the garden, but in these things, the old ways were best. Get it gone and move on. I shouldn’t have even let Mallory name it, but she was as pig-headed as her father, and who can stop a young girl from dreaming when the moon is high?

Probably would have been best to have given her the brew as soon as she’d quickened, but it looked like the war was coming to an end, and for the first time in generations, there was hope. And she’d be growing during the winter, when the fields were fallow – we could afford to take a chance.

But now it was spring, and the earth was ripe, and the war claimed more lives every day. It was just Mallory and me from here on, and the corn wouldn’t plant itself. We couldn’t afford a mouth that couldn’t feed itself, not now. Maybe not ever.

Mid-Week Blues Buster, week 2.8

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2014 by drmagoo


3:51:31 AM

The second hand drags itself that one final mark and I push the button. The beep-beep of the alarm fails to sound, and I see the drop fall into the IV. I count to forty this time before I start to feel it, not a rush, not anymore, but a gradual retreat. I always forget how tense I get, like I’m about to fly off the edge of being able to cope with the pain, and it’s not until I breathe deeply that I realize how little air I’d been taking in.

3:53:02 AM

The pain doesn’t go away. It used to, back when the morphine was ibuprofen and I didn’t see Atropos’ scissors in the doctor’s eyes. But there’s still something like relief, or at least something like sleep. The hands on the clock fade, and I step into a dream. Each dream is a continuation of the last, as if there’s something in my unconscious mind that wants to know how it all turns out. I suspect there’s no real continuity, but it doesn’t really matter, because she’s there, and she’s young and beautiful and I can still run.

3:55:59 AM

The tick of the clock wakes me from the dream. Only three minutes that time, and the transition from the pretend to the real was sharp. I could still feel her arms and smell her hair – the herbal shampoo that she loved, that lingered in the air long after she’d left. The last words she had said were as ethereal as hope, but my body responded anyway – her lips, her voice, her breath in my ear never failed to summon that desire. Not all of me was dead, not yet, although the catheter took even this small joy from me. The drugs were still there, still working their magic, and I drifted back off.

3:57:22 AM

Where there’s light, there must be shadow. This was the other dream, the one that reminds me that when I die, all will be suffering. All will be pain. All will be consumed by the dark. The dark screams at me, teeth and viscera, and I know what it wants. But I don’t go to it. Not yet.

3:58:43 AM

The passing conversation of nurses in the hall cuts the dream mercifully short, but this one never truly leaves me. I know when it’s visited because the pain is back. The morphine has done what it could do. They could give me more, I know – they could make me comfortable – but they tell me I don’t hurt enough. That there’s still hope. That if I get as much as I want, I could become addicted, and then getting clean would be a nightmare.

3:59:02 AM

The nightmare is the monster in my colon, eating me from the inside out.

3:59:10 AM

The convulsion comes, and I hunch over in my bed, clenching my teeth to keep the cries in. I’ve seen the pain in the nurses’ eyes. They want to help, but can’t, and they know that, and they know that I know that. No need to call Angie in – at least I think it’s Angie’s night – if her pity would help, I’d take it, but it won’t. And she uses an herbal shampoo that just makes my heart ache. All thoughts of lips and caresses in the dark are gone now, but I still miss her, even through the pain.

4:01:31 AM

I push the button.