Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm Not Drunk

I was tired and ready to get home so the flashing blue light in my rearview mirror was annoying. I knew I hadn’t been speeding and I had used my turn signals so had no idea what they were pulling me over for.

When the officer reached my window, he said, “Please step out of the car, Ma’am.”

“What?” I asked. I had never before been ordered out of my car when stopped.

“Please step out of the car.”

I still didn’t know what was going on, but when he stepped back I opened the door. Of course, I tripped getting out and almost fell. I would have if he hadn’t caught my arm and pulled me against his chest. 

“Thank you,” I mumbled. I knew my cheeks were blazing.

“No problem, Ma’am.”

“Will you tell me what this is about?” I asked.

“We need you to blow into this please,” he said, and it was then I noticed his partner standing at the end of the car. “We need to check your blood alcohol level.”

“But I don’t drink,” I said. 

He and his partner exchanged a glance that I was sure said they had heard that before. 

“If that’s true, we can all go home soon, Ma’am,” he said and held the Breathalyzer out toward my mouth. 

I went ahead and blew in the contraption. I knew I wasn’t drunk. I hadn’t had anything to drink in years and had only drunk three times in my whole life.

I saw the confused look on their faces as they saw the results. I smiled, thinking I was fixing to be allowed to leave. That’s what I get for thinking.

“It seems our machine is malfunctioning. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Ma’am, but can you step out here to the line for me?”

I sighed and followed him to the center line. “Why do I have to do this? I know I passed your Breathalyzer.”

“The results are inconclusive, Ma’am, and since you were swerving over the lines while driving, we need to do these simple tests.”

Simple tests he said. Oh, they looked simple enough when he demonstrated them, but for someone like me who suffers from vertigo and dizziness, they weren’t simple at all. 

He wanted me to stand on my left foot, close my eyes and touch my nose with my right hand. I tried. I really did.

It took me several tries, and some assistance from him, before I was able to stand on one foot with my eyes closed without falling over. When I finally mastered that part, I held my arms out to my sides as he had done. Then things got really interesting.

When I tried to touch my nose with my finger, I started falling. I ended up poking myself in the eyeball and being caught, for the humpteenth time, by the officer so I wouldn’t hit the ground.

“I have vertigo,” I tried to explain.

“Ma’am?” the officer asked.

“My balance is bad because I have vertigo. That’s why I can’t pass the test. I’m not drunk.”

The officer at the end of the car cleared his throat and shook his head. 

“That may be, Ma’am,” the officer beside me said. “But we need to confirm it. Will you consent to a blood test to check your alcohol level?”

“I don’t think I have much choice do I?” I asked. 

“Not much, Ma’am.”

“Okay, let’s get it over with.”

He took my keys and drove me while his partner followed. We went to the local clinic. I’d been there a few times before for colds. I hoped nobody would recognize me, but what I was worrying about most was the fact that I had been out all day and hadn’t drunk any water in a few hours. If I was dehydrated, they would never get blood from my veins.

The officer told the nurse what he needed and she set about getting everything together. When she came at me with the needle I stopped her.

“You’ll never get that thing in my vein,” I told her. 


“They always use the butterfly needles. My veins are small, they move and they are deep. That kind of needle won’t work.”

The nurse smiled and looked at the officer. The smile told me all I needed to know. I wasn’t surprised at all when she said that she would like to try anyway. They all think it’s operator error and not my veins until they see for themselves.

I left the clinic thirty minutes later. I looked like the walking wounded. The nurse had finally quit after five sticks and used a cheek swab test. I wish she had started with it. 

“Vertigo, huh?” the officer said.

“Yep,” I answered. 

I had explained about the vertigo getting worse when I was overly tired, and after spending the day with my dying father, the stress and fatigue were at an all-time high. The nurse had me do some tests that showed I really did have vertigo and they were satisfied. The officer had said he was going to drive me home, that I didn’t need to be behind the wheel. 

“You sure you have time to drive me home?” I asked.

“I’m off afterward. My partner will do the paperwork.”

I looked sideways at him and remembered the feel of his chest all the times he had kept me from falling. He caught me looking and smiled. I ducked my head, but then thought what the heck. What did I have to lose?

“In that case,” I said and winked. “Would you like to come in for dinner?”

His smile grew and he said, “I think I better. Who else is going to catch you when you fall into the oven?”

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I sit alone and I wait. The silence is deafening. The blackness is total. The fear, my fear, suffocates me. I can actually taste it. The salty, gaulding bile rises in the back of my throat and I gag on the futility of it all. How could I, of all people, have ended up like this? 

I pride myself on being self-sufficient. I have never needed anybody. Not until now. Now, I would give my right arm for one of my big brothers or my ex-husband to walk through the door. I would kiss the feet of my worst enemy were she to get me out of here. 

But that was not to be the case. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but it’s been a while. My hair is a good two inches longer than when I arrived. That same ex-husband would love it. He always griped when I cut my hair. Now, I wish I was bald. The lice wouldn’t have as much to chew on.

In some ways I’m glad I can’t see myself. From what I can guess, my body is a total mess, and the smell, well I don’t even like to think about that. The dirt and excrement covering my body stink to high heaven, but the rats don’t seem to mind. Every now and then one will take a nibble. 

I have infection somewhere. I can smell it. Rotting flesh. I can’t find it though, with my hands tied behind my back. I can’t even feel my hands anymore. And my legs, well, that was a whole other story.

I don’t think whoever dropped me in here wanted it to happen. My screams and the snaps of breaking bone seemed to have shocked him. I don’t know what he expected. You drop a bound woman down and thirty foot hole and something is going to break. He did splint them for me. Not that it did much good. Still hurt like hell for a while. Not so much anymore.

Nothing hurts now. I don’t know whether it’s lack of food or just body parts dying, and I don’t really care. It’s nice not to be in constant pain. I know, pain means my body is still fighting, but my mind can only stand so much fight. I’m tired.

I try to sleep, but it doesn’t work. The rats keep me awake. I lay here and I listen to them coming. I can keep them away by screaming or jerking as much as possible, but eventually exhaustion takes over and I’ll pass out. I wake up and feel them. My shrieks force them away again but it’s too late. I think that’s where the infection came from.

I still have no idea why he took me. I asked, at first, but soon learned it was a hopeless case. He wasn’t going to tell me. All he would do was mumble something about uppity women thinking he was stupid. “I’ll show you stupid,” he would yell every time he slapped me, or he’d ask, “Who’s stupid now?” while he was bucking on top of me. 

I’ve never met the man before in my life but that didn’t seem to matter. He still hated me. You want to hear the sick part? I wish he would come back. 

I wanted him to stay away at first. I would scream and curse at him every chance I got. I told him I would rather starve than have him touch me again. I spoke in big words to make him feel as stupid as he said women thought him to be. I made him furious. I did a good job. 

Too good.

He hasn’t been back in a long time. My stomach quit rumbling a while back. Now, it’s just a gnawing pain that won’t go away. I’ve had dry heaves and the passing out spells are coming closer together. I would eat the rats, but I can’t catch one in my mouth. I’ve tried.

I wonder if anyone misses me. My family probably hasn’t even noticed I’m gone yet. I only talk to them a couple times a year. I guess maybe my clients wonder where I went, but freelance designers aren’t always the most reliable so I’m sure they just hired someone else when I failed to show up. The bill collectors are probably more worried about me than anyone else.

It turns out independence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and I’m not as independent as I thought I was. I’m lonely. I miss talking with people. I miss my family. I miss my life. I miss a lot of things.

“Wake up!” 

I can’t believe it. He’s back! I must have passed out again and didn’t hear him come in. 

He has coffee. I can smell it. I miss coffee.

He also has a bag. I don’t know what’s in it, but it smells delicious. I miss food.

He has a bucket and rag. Soapy water! I miss taking a shower.

He has the knife. He pushes it into my throat as he rapes me so I won’t resist. He doesn’t need the knife anymore. 

“Did you miss me?” he asks.

“Yes,” I whisper back.

I miss a lot of things.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Brother's Keeper

“Please, help me.”
Billy barely heard the plea from inside the box. In the beginning, the screaming and cursing were so loud they hurt his ears, and he thought the kicking was sure to burst the box right open, but, evidently shipping crates were as strong as they claimed. The kicking and screaming wouldn’t do any good anyway. Billy had learned the hard way that nobody heard your screams out there.
By the time the dirt had reached the half-way point of the box, the cursing had stopped and the clawing and begging started. The first shovelful of dirt Billy threw on top of the crate brought about pounding and promises. Unfortunately, Billy had given up on promises a long time ago.
“I… can’t… breathe.”
Billy laughed. “I used to feel the same way when you had my face crushed into the pillow.”
“Billy? Is…”
“Hello, Dad.”
“Please, son,…out”
Billy ignored his father’s begging and kept shoveling dirt onto and around the box. He was almost finished when his father started crying.
“Please stop!” his father wailed. “Please!”
“How many times did I say the same thing to you?” Billy demanded. “You know, I thought it was my fault. That I was somehow to blame for the pain you caused me all these years. That I did something wrong or I really was evil like you said. You had me convinced, Dad, until last night.”
When the begging and crying stopped, Billy said, “That’s right. I saw you coming out of Jeremy’s room last night.”
“I…promise it..wi…ll…never…happ…”
“It should have never happened in the first place!” Billy yelled. “He’s only six!”
“I know. I’m…sorr…y.”
“Sorry isn’t going to cut it this time, Dad,” Billy said and threw another mound of dirt onto the crate. “Sorry won’t bring his innocence back.” He pushed the shovel into the ground again. “Sorry won’t stop his tears!” He brought the shovel around once more. “Sorry won’t ease the pain! Sorry won’t stop the blood!” Billy screamed as the shovel handle cracked. “Sorry won’t give me back the last eight years!”
The head of the shovel slashing his arm as it flew by snapped Billy out of his rage. He tore a piece of his shirttail off and tied it around his arm. He’d go to his uncle, a doctor, later. The man was used to patching him up and not asking questions.
No matter how hard Billy tried to put his brother out of his mind, the boy’s pleas from the night before kept haunting him. He could still see his father coming out of Jeremy’s room and hear Jeremy saying, “I’m so sorry, Daddy, I will be a good boy from now on. I promise.”
Billy had waited until their father went into his own room before going to Jeremy. The boy didn’t want to talk about it at first, but after Billy started talking about his own experiences, Jeremy finally opened up. By the time he was through, Billy was shaking so hard he could barely stand. He promised his little brother that nobody would ever hurt him again.
“Never again, Jeremy,” he whispered as he picked up the shovel head and started scraping dirt into the hole. He noticed how his blood mingled with the older, dried blood from where he’d hit his father earlier that morning. Billy somehow thought it fitting. After all, they both had blood on their hands in one way or another.
“Please, God,” his father whispered as the dirt rained through the few remaining holes in the crate.
“Go ahead and pray,” Billy said. “It won’t do you any good. God quit listening to this family a long time ago.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let's eat Grandma

I thought up this story after seeing a meme on Facebook about grammar. It was the one with:

"Let's eat grandma" vs "Let's eat, Grandma"

I'm sure you can guess which my story is about.


“Let’s eat grandma.”

The others looked at Nate as if he’d just grown two heads.

“Are you crazy?”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“What is your problem?”

“My problem is that I’m starving,” Nate answered. “We haven’t had anything but stringy rat stew in two weeks. My stomach is fixin’ to eat my backbone if we don’t get some food soon.”

“We’re all hungry,” Blake said. “That doesn’t mean we need to turn into cannibals.”

“What’s the big deal?” Nate asked. “She’s gotta be, what, close to ninety by now? How much longer can she have anyway?”

 “I can’t believe you’re even thinkin’ about eating grandma. It’s, it’s disgusting!” Billy snapped. “She’s not dead yet!”

“Well,” Nate asked, “what do y’all suggest we do?”

None of the others had an answer for him. They all looked around at the alley they called home. The cardboard boxes they slept in. The threadbare sheets they covered themselves with, and grandma, huddled in the corner, shivering.

“Look at her,” Nate ordered. When the others had complied, he went on. “She is cold and sick. We’d be doing her a favor. Putting her out of her misery.”

“You talk about her like she was a dog!” Shelly cried. “She’s our grandma!”

“Is she?” Nate asked. “Do any of us really know if the woman is our grandma?”

One by one, they all shook their heads. None of them remembered their families, or a time before the alley. All they remembered, to a child, was hunger, cold, pain, begging, stealing, and grandma. She had always been there it seemed.

“It doesn’t matter if she’s our real grandma,” Billy said. “She takes care of us. That’s what counts.”

The others shook their heads in agreement, but Nate saw them sneak a glance at the crumpled woman. He knew they were listening.

“How does she take care of us exactly?” he asked. “We go out and pick pockets or beg from store owners for what little we get. We get hauled in by the cops when we’re caught, and they can never seem to find grandma when they come looking. We skin and cook the rats, we round up water from the lake; we huddle together under our pitiful sheets to stay warm while grandma sleeps comfortably under three blankets with an overcoat on. Who’s taking care of who?”

Billy didn’t even have an answer for that. He knew Nate was right. All the children did, but what he was talking about was crazy. They couldn’t kill and eat the woman. Could they?

“It doesn’t matter,” Billy decided. “We still can’t eat her.”

The others stood beside him, in front of grandma, a solid barrier between Nate and the old woman. Nate knew he had lost them.

“Okay, okay, I give up. We’ll just eat rats until we die.”

With that, Nate disappeared from the alley. The others took refuge around the pitiful fire Billy started and tried to get warm. Grandma watched them from the corner.

About ten minutes later, when she was sure Nate wasn’t coming right back, Grandma scooted over to the group. “You know he has a point.” She said to the kids.

They all looked at her but kept silent. Nobody knew what she meant. Surely she didn’t mean for them to eat her.

“We are starving. We do need food.”

The children still didn’t speak. They waited to see what Grandma said next.

“The problem is, I’m too old and stringy to feed you kids,” Grandma said.

“We would never eat you!”

“Nate was just being crazy!”

“We won’t let anything happen to you, Grandma,” Billy stated.

“Hush, children,” Grandma said. “I know none of you would hurt me. None of you here right now anyway.”

The children knew she was talking about Nate. The one person missing from their group. They all turned to look toward the end of the alley, afraid he was back. When the old woman in front of them shivered and huddled into herself in fear, the children stood tall.

“We will take care of Nate,” Billy told her.

“Yeah,” Blake added, “we’ll kick him out of the group.”

“I’m afraid that won’t do it,” Grandma replied. “Just because he’s not in the group doesn’t mean he can’t still sneak around.”

She watched as the children absorbed what she was telling them. She forced a tear just in case they weren’t fully on her side yet. They had always done what she told them, but this was different. Still, Grandma was sure she had them when they all joined hands and vowed to protect her. What else could they do, really, she surmised. They were still children after all, and, whether they would admit it or not, they wanted an adult around to guide them.

“If you really want to protect me, we have to take care of Nate,” she told the children.

“What do you mean, take care of him?” Billy asked.

Grandma looked him hard in the eye and said, “I think you know.”

All of the children gasped and stepped back.

“I know, I know,” Grandma said. “It’s not something we want to do, but if we don’t then he will kill me.” When the children still didn’t immediately agree, she added. “Believe me, he will. Probably tonight after you’ve all gone to bed. You know he always stays up late.”

The children did know. Nate roamed around all night sometimes, so much so that the others had grown accustomed to it and no longer heard him, which could mean the end for Grandma.

“It’s him or me, children,” Grandma stated, tears rolling down her face. “I will leave the decision up to you. Just know that whatever you decide is okay with me. I love you all,” she stopped to clear her throat, “and would gladly give my life for you.”

The children all rushed forward and hugged her. Over their heads, Grandma smiled.

Later that night, when Nate came back to the alley, the children were waiting. He lay down in his cardboard box and rolled over. The children pounced. Each using whatever club, stick or pot was handy. It took a while, but, eventually, Nate stopped moving.

Grandma oversaw the dismemberment. The children looked away as she filleted Nate and dug holes to bury and preserve the meat. None of them turned down the stew she served afterward, though. It smelled so much better than rat.