Pay The Fiddler

Marlena wouldn’t have opened her door to just any man, a girl had to be careful after all. But when she’d parted the curtains a smidge and got a gander of the pretty man standing on the stoop, she about tripped over her own feet getting to the door and flinging it open.

“Well, hello there,” she said, pasting on a saucy grin. “What can I do for you?”

Light bugs and moths danced around the porch light, throwing flitting shadows over a scarred but handsome face. He quirked a black eyebrow. “Marlena Bledsoe?”

“The one and only.” Must’ve been asking about me down at Rudy’s. She tucked a bleached-blonde curl behind her ear, cocked a hip.

“It’s time to pay.”

The smile slid from Marlena’s face. Her belly knotted up. “Huh?” But she knew…

“Hassie sent me.”

“Who’re you?” And she knew that too.

“Cicero.” His golden eyes met hers. “Here’s what you’re going to do…” Continue reading “Pay The Fiddler”

Good Enough

Marlena was going to have to do something about the sheriff.

“You be nice to me, and I won’t pay Marshal a visit,” he’d said last night, his hot damp hand squeezing her thigh. “Won’t go poking around in the woods out back of his trailer, see what I can find.”

She had been taking a break between shows at Rudy’s, slumped in a back booth sipping a beer when Leroy Jones, sheriff of Rooker County, had plopped down beside her and delivered his ultimatum. She’d known what he meant by being “nice”, she hadn’t fallen off the turnip truck yesterday. The nerve! She might strip for a living, but that didn’t make her a whore.

Now, she was between a rock and a hard place. Either give the sheriff what he wanted, or see her brother, Marshall, get hauled in for growing marijuana—wasn’t like he cooked meth or nothing bad like that—leaving his wife and five kids to fend for themselves.

Yeah, she was going to have to do something, and that was the reason she was here now, crawling at a snail’s pace down Forked Tree Road, risking tearing the bottom out of her old Thunderbird, to pay a visit to Aunt Hassie.

‘Cause everybody knew that Aunt Hassie could fix most anything—for a price. Continue reading “Good Enough”

The Right Way

“You’re not doing that right,” Ted said, crowding up against my side, using his considerable bulk to nudge me out of his way. He opened the upper cabinet, swinging it so wide it almost hit the side of my head.

I moved a step to my right, pausing the round and round motion of the paring knife circling the potato in my hand. Taking a deep breath, I stared out the small window at the red sky cradling the late-evening sun sinking over the distant mountains.. A hot puff of desert air found its way between the two panes of roll-out glass, riffling the sweaty tendrils of fading auburn hair sticking to my cheeks. I sighed.

He thunked down a cup on the countertop, then snagged the carafe brimming with fresh brewed coffee, sloshing some onto the Formica I had wiped down not five minutes ago.

“You need to use the peeler like I do…”

And just when’s the last time you did that? I thought.

“…not a knife,” he continued. “You’re wasting too much of the potato. Why do you always have to do things the hard way, Lulu?”

“It’s not hard for me. It’s the way I’ve always done it, the way my mama done it.” Go away! Leave me alone! I focused on the melancholy saguaro cactuses dotting the landscape, their heavy arms raised in silent surrender.

“But you’d save time and potato if you did it my way.” Continue reading “The Right Way”

It

I dreamed it, and now it’s mine…

The vile thing cries out from under the bed, demanding to be fed when I nurse Joey. I try to ignore it, but I’m its mother, and I can’t.

I can’t!

Lord knows I’ve tried.

Its wet screeching affects me every bit as much as Joey’s soft cries. I can’t deny it substance. So I gather its scaly body to my breast, hot pain piercing my nipple as its teeth sinks in, and it feeds, first on my milk, then my blood.

It’s growing faster than Joey, barely a month old and already crawling. How long before it walks? How long before it will be able to climb unaided into bed with me? How long before it can clamber up the side of Joey’s crib?

I have to kill it before I’m any weaker.

I can do this. I have the knife in my hand.

Freshly fed, stomach full of my milk and blood, it’s sleeping in its dark nest under the bed. Now is the time.

I hunker to my knees, raise the knife, and slowly lift the bedskirt.

There the evil thing is, lying on its side facing me, its long pink tail curled over its eyes like some obscene sleeping mask.

Joey whimpers.

I glance over my shoulder, lay a finger over my lips “shh”, then turn back to my other son—

And see a dark blur of movement, angry red eyes, and a huge, suckered mouth full of needle teeth. Then pain—oh god, the pain—and darkness as those teeth close over my face. And rip.

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