Tag Archives: dysfunctional families

Snug as Two Bugs in a Rug

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If not for being hidden out in the middle of nowhere, the farmhouse’s slanted red roof would’ve seemed a beacon meant to draw people’s attention. The residents within sure didn’t want anyone to notice their whereabouts, not with what went on elsewhere on the property. Leastways, not with what got buried behind their small outbuilding.

The pair labored under a starlit sky that cast just enough illumination for their work. James Earl shot his sister a stern look. “Poppy, you would just about give Mother the fits if she seen how you left that pick ax laying around like that.” He pointed to the ground where the implement lay. “She learned you better than that, girl.”

Poppy resented his constant badgering and focused her icy glare on the ground in front of her instead of on his face, her primary target. “It’s not like she’s here to see it, James. She’s been dead and gone for almost 10 years.” The woman disguised her expression to a more neutral visage before looking up at her sibling.

“Don’t you speak ill of my sweet mother,” he warned. It was not as if he owned the exclusive rights to her memory.

Poppy kept her tone steady. “Don’t you imagine Momma would be a bit more disturbed to know what you used that ax for?” Their parents left the farm to the pair as an inheritance, never suspecting they would remain together indefinitely. Those years put them in a close proximity that often tested Poppy’s nerves.

“And she was my mother, too.” She was finding it more difficult to mask the contention in her voice. Not that James would notice.

Random visitors limped their vehicles along in seek of help on the road, and often fancied them a couple at first meeting. Not many people stopped by any other time. Three RVs out front used to belong to random stragglers who had the bad luck of mechanical problems. Some lacked the gasoline to get them to safety.

Those drivers didn’t know that pair long carried a grudge against the world that intersected with their own path. James Earl and Poppy continued to work at the hole where the latest set of passersby were set to spend their eternal rest. Each of three other mounds had finally begun to settle to an even plane with the surrounding earth. Those spots shouldn’t draw any attention from an otherwise unsuspecting eye.

Poppy and James Earl hoped no one would find out about the treasures they collected from those unlucky travelers. The jewelry and cash locked up in a safe nestled inside a wall in the house, all the souvenirs they hoarded from their victims. Any clothing or other possessions had long since been burned elsewhere and not a trace left of the folks. 

Thinking about that loot made James Earl smile as he stood beside the indented place, hands on his hips, surveying their handiwork. He said, “You know, Poppy, at this rate we ought to have enough together by next year to take that trip up to Des Moines like we always hoped. It will finally be time for a celebration.” His head bobbed up and down with satisfaction.

“I don’t know, James Earl,” Poppy seemed to agree. She picked her tool up from the ground and moved strategically around behind her brother. Just before she raised the pick up over his head to land a fatal blow, she told him, “I might just be drivin’ that road on my own.” 

Our Write Side writing prompt – celebration

photo: “shed rust” by Rusty via Flickr

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The Youngest One in Curls

15444909486_a0c87c381b_bJoleen woke with one eye fixed on faux wood-grain paneled wall of a tiny 4×4 room in her mother’s house trailer. Her tongue seemed velcroed to the roof of her mouth, and she had to think for a minute where she was. The room became another temporary stay-over after getting fired from her Sunoco cashier job and losing the old rental house. Inside her skull felt like a ball peen hammer rapped against the frontal lobe.

The other eye didn’t open, as it was swollen shut, another telltale sign of the previous night’s inebriation. Apparently a fist glued it closed when her loose lips pissed somebody off at the bar, a conversation the young woman couldn’t quite call to memory.

She yelled toward the bedroom door, “What the hell is all that racket?” The volume of her raspy voice intensified the headache she suddenly realized came from all the beers she lost count drinking.

No one answered her question, but the noise continued. Joleen started to question whether it was real or just the pounding of her headache. She tried again. “Anybody here?”

“You’re the one yelling,” Joleen’s mother answered from the adjacent bathroom. “That’s the only thing I hear, girl. I’m trying to enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.”

Her mother’s husband must’ve already left for the day, so the woman had retreated to the john instead of him for a change. Their house usually reeked to high heaven. With more than two adults squatting in a space that small, bathroom smells tend to stink up a place.

Joleen never imagined herself living with the pair of them. This certainly wasn’t what she’d envisioned for herself, her childhood hopes merely fairy tales of what she’d wished would come true. It wasn’t until much later she discovered everything they’d told her as a kid was a lie. Television, teachers, everybody touted the same bullshit philosophies.

Being so young and naive, she believed it all. Why should she think they fabricated the dream at the time? Experience taught her otherwise.

“Girl, you better get your ass outta that bed before that social worker gets here.” Her mother stood in the bedroom doorway zipping the fly of her pants. “If you want to keep up that unemployment check, wash that greasy hair and make yourself presentable. Show her something besides that shiner on your face.”

Joleen grumbled and covered her head with the blanket. “What happened to ya anyways? Looks like ya didn’t get the best of the situation,” the older woman chuckled. “Thought I learned ya better than that.”

“I don’t know exactly, but I don’t need you bitchin’ at me about it,” she answered sarcastically. “That rag social worker will be doing that soon enough. She’ll clean her car with bleach wipes when I get out of it whether I shower or not. Thinks I got lice or something.”

Her mom laughed out loud and turned around in the cramped hallway to retreat to the living room. A laugh-track of a Brady Bunch re-run rang out from the television.

“And turn that damn t.v. down. My head’s about to split open,” she spat at the woman’s back.Only another chuckle came in response.

The musical clatter of the show’s closing credits assaulted her eardrums, but at least its loudness subsided. The song, which she knew by heart, then mentally repeated with the beat of her temporal pulse.

“I wonder where you got yer glowing personality, Joleen,” her mom called. “Musta been yer daddy’s side.” Contempt leaked from her tone. “No wonder somebody dotted yer eye.”

“Oh, thanks, Momma. Your motherly love and concern warms my heart.” Joleen grumbled again, shot her the finger behind her back, and rolled over trying to sneak in just another five minutes to quell her throbbing forehead.

“I’m tellin’ ya. You best get outta there and wash yer ass, Joleen!” A sudden pounding slogged from the front door down the hall to yank her upright on the mattress.

“Oh, shit,” her mother guffawed. “Too late!”

 

*Our Write Side writing prompt: fabricated

(photo: Freaktography via Flickr)

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A Mother’s Love

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They stoked up quite a kerfuffle right there in front of the principal’s secretary and several other parents. Angel’s thin frame shook in anger, cheekbones stabbing out through skin stretched over her hollowed-out face. She stood opposite her mother, Lilly’s grandmother, in a showdown just before the girl’s Kindergarten graduation was scheduled to begin. Two grown adults, mother and daughter, set to throw down.

Angel having been awake for 24 hours didn’t help her mental state. Her latest boyfriend kept her up the night before to sample his latest batch, which helped kindle the paranoia of her mother’s determination to get her six-year old taken away by Child Protective Services. She may not take the best care of Lilly, but she wouldn’t stand for anyone’s public criticism.

Lilly lived with her grandma, or the girl would’ve fended for herself the entire school year. Her momma might actually love her, too, but she loved her drugs of choice as much or more.

“What’s going on out here?” Mrs. Phillips rushed into the hallway at all the yelling to find the pair about to square off.

“I’ll be damned if that woman’s allowed in here to watch my baby’s program,” Angel said. “Can’t you see to it she’s kicked outta this school?” Her nose hovered so menacingly close to her mother’s that the rot from Angel’s teeth seemed the only thing keeping them apart.

The principal’s eyebrows arched, incredulous at the younger woman’s assumption. “Not if she’s Lilly’s legal guardian, Angel,” she replied. “And this altercation cannot happen here. You’re both going to need to settle down if you want to stay.” She glanced back and forth between the pair in search of any reaction to the contrary and noticed only a difference in weight and wrinkled skin between the two. Same bleached hair, same defensive demeanor. Angel might become a split image of her mother in a few years, if she lived to experience it.

Fortunately choosing seats on opposite sides the center aisle, the ceremony began without students or other audience members being any the wiser. “The show must go on, as they say,” Mrs. Phillips told her secretary. Unless someone moved out of the district before August, she’d have to deal with this kith and kin again all too soon in the new school year.

Thirteen children wearing miniature blue caps and gowns lined the wooden risers on the stage, and their families beamed up at them from folding chairs across the gymnasium floor. Cherubic Lilly grinned down from her row, and she raised a hand to wave at her grandma.

Our Write Side prompt: kerfuffle (one of my favorite words)

Photo: glasseyejack via Flickr

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