~momma’s rain: ~children in passing:
~birds ‘n bones~
(excerpt - chapter one)
~dig holes & plant ‘em deep~
~it is unamerikan to fail~
~to apply for a permit to speak~
~to dream to die too broke to buy~
~tomorrow’s graveyard markers~
~will not mention the indigent~
~not so much as a hitlerian list~
~you lived in the body of an elephant~
~fed on its carcass for years~
~trapping crows to chase lions~
~for life is a fiction~
~a sad truth~
~a just reward~
~still children smile~
~children in passing~
~I don’t like country western music~
Momma came in, picked Linda up and kissed her chubby cheek. She glanced at the boys. “You guys behave yourselves and no going outside. Keep the door locked. Daddy will be right back to fix you something to eat. Linda’s other diaper is soaking in the toilet. Rinse it out and hang it by the stove, Tommy. If she needs changed before it’s dry go ahead and use a dishtowel instead of a diaper. There’s one hanging from the oven handle on the stove.” She set Linda on the couch, gave Tommy a reassuring smile, and hurried away.
The front door slammed shut. The children heard the sound of Daddy’s old truck starting up and pulling away from the curb. Jackie turned around, stared imploringly at Tommy. “Let me out of the corner.”
Tears brimmed up in Tommy’s eyes. He bit down on his sore finger to stop them. “I can’t, Jackie. He’ll find out then we’ll all be in trouble.”
“How’s he gonna find out?” Jackie challenged. “Who’s gonna tell?”
Phillip sat on the edge of the couch. “I will,” he said, a cruel grin on his little-boy face. “I’ll tell ‘cause you took the bread an’ got me in trouble. It’s all your fault. You knocked me off the couch when I was sleepin’.”
Jackie took a step from the corner, threatened Phillip with a raised fist. “I’ll pound your face, you little brat! You ate half!”
Tommy ran between them, pulled Jackie’s arms behind his back and forced him back into the corner. He gave Jackie’s head a swift bump against the wall for good measure. “Stay there! Don’t be picking on smaller kids!”
“Yeah!” Phillip agreed smugly. “You’re a stealer, Jackie. You’re bad!”
Linda began to wail. She was hungry, upset by all the commotion. Tommy picked her up and she stuffed a thumb in her mouth. She snuggled against his chest and closed her eyes, sucking contentedly.
Daddy didn’t come home after taking Momma to work. The children were hungry, and there was nothing in the house to eat. Tommy pumped some water and they sipped at it but water is a poor substitute for food. Linda and Phillip cried and Jackie moaned and groaned, then finally slid down the wall and rested in a bony pile.
Tommy roamed around the confines of the shack, despairing for a crumb but, as on many a previous night, there were none. The night was long and the radio was singing. His siblings asleep, Tommy went into the kitchen and sat at the table. He rested his head on his arms, ignored the growling of his stomach and drifted into a troubled rest. A few hours later he heard a rattling at the door. He stepped quietly across the room and peeked out the window. It was Momma come home from work. As he unlocked and opened the door, a car pulled away. It was soon lost in its’ own steamy exhaust in the freezing winter night.
“Where’s Daddy?” Momma asked upon entering the house.
“He never came back,” Tommy replied, “I been worried.”
She kissed him on the forehead and handed him a heavy paper bag. It was greasy wet, close to falling apart.
“Never mind your Daddy for now,” she said, “Thank God for the Big Boy.”
Big Boy was the restaurant where Momma worked as a waitress. She wasn’t allowed to take food home but she would bus the tables she waited on and dump the leftovers from the plates in a bag she kept hidden in the kitchen. On nights when Alvin, the cook, brought her home she could sneak the bag out past the owner. The next trick was getting it past Daddy; he didn’t approve of his family eating garbage.
Momma touched Tommy’s face with her cold hands and kissed him again. She glanced at the clock radio wailing Country Western, Marty Robbins all dressed up for the dance. “Twelve thirty,” she murmured, “He’s probably at the bar. That gives us ‘til two to eat. You start sorting and fixing. I’ll get the kids.”
Tommy set the bag on the table and opened it. Though it was full of rotting salad, coffee grounds, and cigarette butts, all he noticed was the smell of food and best of all... meat! He grabbed a piece of chicken fried steak and wolfed it down, coffee grounds, cigarette ashes and all. He had never tasted better food. Momma came back into the kitchen and smiled at him while he wiped his face on his shirt- sleeve.
“They look so peaceful, I decided to let them sleep while we get everything ready,” she whispered. “Tonight we’ll have a feast. I see you found some of the steak. It was the Big Boy special today. There’s lots of it in there.”
They worked together, mother and son, to scrape cigarette ashes, egg yolk, coffee grounds, and soggy napkin off the meat, and began to warm it in a pan on the old stove. Experts at this, they even managed to salvage some mashed potatoes and corn on the cob from the bottom of the bag. The cigarette butts went in Momma's apron pocket to be worked on later. They didn’t have to wake the younger children as it turned out. Phillip and Linda came stumbling into the kitchen, their noses following the aroma of food cooking even before their eyes were ready to open. Momma smiled. “Go get Jackie,” she said to Tommy.
Jackie was standing up straight and stiff, nose stuffed into the corner. He flinched when Tommy touched his arm. “Come on, Jackie,” he whispered excitedly, “Momma brought some really good stuff home from work for us to eat.”
Jackie turned his head from the corner; eyes big and round, he stared at Tommy. His mouth made one word. “Daddy?”
Tommy tugged at his shirtsleeve. “Come on, Daddy’s not home yet. You better hurry up!”
“Wait!” Jackie pleaded. “Is she... Is she in a good mood?”
“The best,” Tommy replied, “Now come on.”
Jackie shielded his eyes from the light as they entered the kitchen. They ate and ate, then sat around burping and smiling like contented chipmunks.
©2015 graphic artwork music & words
conceived by & property of
tom (WordWulf) sterner 2015©