Posted on August 7, 2015August 7, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair8.7.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Shelby Lee Adams August 7, 2015: There was always a story. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Mom blames pa for everything. If the sun din’t come up of a morning then she’d blame pa for that, too. And god knows what else besides. She says he’s just no good and he don’t care ‘bout no one but hisself. She says we oughta mind that.
I don’t rightly see it that way and I don’t think she do neither – not really. He does what he can and I reckon he does alright. He puts money in mom’s pocket and it’s ‘bout enough we got food on the table most every day and shirts on us backs and a roof over our heads and the roof don;t leak cos he sees to that.
Pa’s got a job breaking rocks at the quarry and it’s hard graft for what they pay and when he comes home all covered in dust, well, he just wants to kick back and enjoy a cold beer and I don’t see as no one can blame him for that. But mom has a list of things needs doing round the house and she don’t let pa sit for more than a minute. That’s why he don’t always come home after his work.
Pa drinks his cold beer some afternoons at The Pit, which is a spit and sawdust bar at the back of main street. They know him there and they know me, too, cos mom sends me to fetch pa if he ain’t back before eight. And pa has a table in The Pit and a girl called Maddy sits with him and he says she’s just sitting, but I know she’s doing more than that.
Mom says I’ve to bring him straight home, which aint easy with the beers he’s drunk. Wavy is the way I bring him home. Maddy asks if I need help, but I tell her it’s ok. She kisses me on the head and she kisses pa on the lips, but I don’t tell mom ‘bout any of that.
And mom scolds pa when I get him home and he don’t seem to notice. He fixes the porch light when she asks him, concentrating so hard he don’t hear nothing but the birds, and he mends a chair that’s been crooked for more than a week and he sees to the washing machine, which plays up every now and again. He aint so far in drink that he can’t do all of that.
And when he’s done, mom still don’t say nothing good ‘bout him, ‘cept she opens him a beer and she sets a plate of hot food before him and she says he better eat what she’s cooked for him. And pa does as he’s told and all us kids compete to impress him ’bout the day we’ve had.
Later, I hear them, mom and pa in their room, and I hear the words mom says to him in the dark when she thinks no one’s listening, and her words then are soft as butter and slippy like oil, and pa purrs, and he kisses mom, and soon enough there’s blowing and moaning and the floor shaking, like the wind’s taken hold of everything, and pa’s calling on God and Jesus and he’s saying ‘fuck’ and mom’s telling him not to stop and just not to.
And in the morning, after pa’s left early doors for work, mom blames pa for us being six when before we was five, and she says one day soon enough we’ll be seven, and she strokes the round that her belly has become these past months. And she says she don’t know how ever we’ll manage, with one more mouth to feed, and I know pa and he says we just will and he’s probably right.
Momma don’t like it none. She says she don’t. She’s allus telling how it aint right and it aint clean. And cleanliness is next to Godliness, she says, and she says finding a dead squirrel or bird in her freezer, well it’s like she’s living with the Devil hisself. She’s meaning pop and what he does in his spare time.
Honest to goodness and God, Marie, I din’t kill no raccoon or bear cub. They was just laying there at the side of the road, like they was sleeping. Maybe they was hit by a passing car or a truck. Shit happens.
Momma says it don’t have nothing to do with goodness, what with all God’s dead creatures finding their way to her kitchen. And she says pop should boil his jackrabbit bones out of the house so there warn’t no smell for her to breathe in.
Pop just kisses momma and touches her diddies and he says he loves her to the moon and back. And momma is softer then, a little she is, but still hard set ‘gainst a dead raccoon sleeping in her deep freeze, even if it is taped up in plastic so it don’t touch nothing else. And momma calls pop a Devil and a dirty Devil with his hands running over her hips and holding her ass like he’s holding two melons and weighing ‘em as though he has a choice to make.
He says he’s ‘bout God’s business, with his skinning and bone-boiling and stuffing. And he says what he does is an art. He aint messing when he says that and he takes a real pride in what he does. And I heared people say as much, that pop is an artist of the finest order. And some of ‘em bring dead animlas for pop to make into something – pets, sometimes: cats or dogs that was loved when they lived and they will be loved again when pop has done with them. And they bring pop pictures of their pets just as they want to remember ‘em.
God’s business, momma scoffs. And she says things what are dead should be laid in the ground and maybe prayers said over ‘em or hymns sung. And the dead given over to God, she says, and remembered in thought and not made to look like they is alive again and glass-eyes fitted so they look at you cold.
Pop and momma going at it like horses at a gallop in the bedroom and I hear ‘em through the crack in the door. And by degrees and breathless, momma is brought round to pop’s way of thinking in the end. Always she is. And pop boils his snake bones all curled up in one of momma’s pans, or the prize cat fish Tom Dooley caught, or Miss Maisie’s parrot that was her papa’s parrot before it was hers – pop boiling them in momma’s kitchen, and though she don’t like it, she can be persuaded by what pop does with her in the bedroom.
And when pop’s done with a project and he gives the stuffed animal away again, well there’s a sorta hole in the house and it’s like we had a pet for a few days and now it’s gone. And momma says she’s glad it’s gone – the dead rabbit or fox or wildcat – but I see her looking to where it was before and I aint so sure she is all glad like she says.
Mom woke us one night and it was dark as pockets and she said we was not to make a sound but we was to come to the window. I thought maybe there was something special ‘bout the moon or the stars cos she’d done that before. Or maybe there was a owl calling into the night or bats was swooping down on moths and flies caught in the yellow porch-light. Or it was snowing and the whole world made soft as feathers and white and new.
I didn’t see nothing at first and nor did Trudi and we just looked at mom like she’d woke us for no reason. She put one finger ‘cross her lips and made a noise of secrets or wishes, or the sea running over sand. And she pointed to where the trash cans sat. I saw that the lid was off one of the cans and there was a movement there in the shadows.
It was a raccoon with its fox-sharp face and its lone ranger mask and its zebra stripe tail. Mom opened the window a little so we could hear it scraping at the rubbish, and sniffing and snorting, and making small trilling chatter. It was better than stars with tails or bats catching moths or snow falling.
Then pa stepped out onto the porch and he had his shotgun and he was looking hard and mean. And pa shot the raccoon twice. Me and Trudi and mom, we couldn’t believe it, the shocked roar of the gun and then the silence, which was an absence of all sound but especially the chatter of the raccoon was missing. Mom put one hand over Trudi’s eyes and she sucked in air and she blew it out through her nose.
Pa said after that they was no better than rats or mice and that was his all his reason for what he done. He said he’d do it again, too, in a blink. And he kicked the table leg and he went out to the backyard and smoked two cigarettes, one after the other. And mom said for Trudi to hush her crying now and to just forget about what she saw. And she said we’d best get ready for school.
We didn’t say nothing more ‘bout it. Not me or Trudi or mom. Not pa neither. It was like nothing had happened and we all just went back to how we was before. ‘Cept for Trudi.
Trudi wrote that she hated pa. She wrote it small so no one but me and her could see. She wrote it on the wall in the dark behind the wardrobe and she showed me – woke me one night like mom did and pulled me over to the wardrobe and with her torch she showed me. ‘I hate pa’. Then she put one finger ‘cross her lips, same as mom before, and she made the sound the same – the sound of secrets or wishes or sea running.