Sunday, September 18, 2005

FFF #8

Fancy food lover JJ at Purgatorian gives the opening phrase. (This week's phrase: "Hell bent for leather and ugly as a dirt clod...") We write a story. It's a little something called Flash Fiction Friday.

Hell bent for leather and ugly as a dirt clod, she chased me out the door and into the yard, belt in hand, determined to give me what was coming to me, by god. Didn’t matter that I hadn’t been the one who’d eaten the last heel of bread. Didn’t matter because I was the fat kid, so naturally I’d get whupped.

I’d heard her rummaging in the kitchen and then blanched when her outraged scream tore through the thin walls of our bungalow. Instinctively I cradled my Chrissy doll and ran for the screen door. She was a split second behind me, red-faced, grabbing my arm, screaming for me to stop right there! I wrenched free, threw open the door and ran blindly.

The sight of me running with no hesitation, refusing to obey, sent her into shock for a few seconds, precious time I needed to put distance between us, beyond the fierce arc of her metal-tipped belt.

Adrenaline pumped through me as I tore across the yard, not daring to glance back until I reached the dirt road. She strode purposefully toward me, yelling my name, her belt dragging the ground, eyes locked with mine. Tears flowed down my face, unbidden, scared to run, scared not to run. She was quickly closing the gap, a cruel smile tugging at her mouth. Whassamatter, fatso? Out of breath already?

I kept running, clutching Chrissy to me, her chest rising and falling as quickly, as desperately, as mine. I turned around once again as she commanded me to stop or else she’d beat my ass to a bloody pulp. I calculated how far I’d have to run to get to Aunt Tilly’s house, the odds of me making it there before she caught up to me, how mad she’d be when she got there, the further odds of Aunt Tilly standing up to her one more time.

Bits and pieces of our last conversation floated through my head as I gasped for breath, my bare feet pounding the dirt. One of these days you gonna have to stand up for yourself, Aunt Tilly had said sternly. You’re 12 years old now, too old to keep getting beat on. You need to let her know you ain’t gonna take it no more. Show her your strength, girl, that light in your eyes when you tell me one of your fancy stories. She ain’t gonna stop till you make her respect you.

I could hear her behind me on the road, running now, her breath getting ragged, her voice louder. I made a hard right and took a flying leap across the drainage ditch, barely making the other side, falling to my knees. I scrambled up to the top and surveyed the empty field before me, weeds waist high and sure to be full of sticker burrs and cottonmouths. I wished like hell I was wearing my sneakers. Sobs caught in my throat as I weighed my options.

I’ve got you now, lardass. Think you’re so smart. Come here NOW! She stood panting on the other side of the ditch, glaring at me. Beads of sweat ran down her face and that cruel smile was back. She flicked the belt on the ground once, twice. I said NOW.

I took a deep breath and stared right back. I didn’t take it.

Don’t lie to me. You’re only making things worse for yourself. Get your ass over here.

It wasn’t me. I’m not lying.

Shut the hell up and come here or I swear to god you won’t sit down for a week!

Deep breath. No, I won’t. I’m not coming over there and you’re not gonna beat me. Not anymore.

Says who? You? Who the hell do you think you are?

Crying again, dammit. Deep breath. It’s not fair to get beat for something I didn’t do. It’s not right. It’s not fair.

Ain’t nobody said life was fair. You starting to sound like your Aunt Tilly. She gauged the distance to the far side of the ditch and backed up to get a running start.

I started running backwards and heard the words escape from my mouth I HATE YOU SO HELP ME GOD I HATE YOU...

She ran with all her might and tried to jump the ditch. She would have made it, too, if it hadn't been for my babydoll Chrissy, god bless my baby Chrissy, who was lying where I’d dropped her in my frantic struggle to gain the other side of the ditch, who was lying right where mama’s right foot landed when she jumped, which caused her foot to go flying and her body to fall backwards into the ditch with a loud thump and a howl of pain.

I stopped, stunned for a moment. Then I ran forward a little so I could see what was happening. There she was, floundering in the mud and trash, trying to stand up, grabbing her right ankle, screaming in pain. When she saw me, she held out her hand for me to help her up. I stared at her for a long moment, her pudgy white legs protruding from her faded pink house dress, cigarettes dislodged from her pocket into the mud beside her.

I couldn’t help myself, I started to giggle, quietly at first, then building to a full-blown belly laugh. The more she glared and yelled, the more I laughed. The madder she got, the more she struggled to stand up, the harder I shrieked with laughter. I fell to my knees, laughing/sobbing for what seemed like hours.

At some point she’d stopped yelling and sat there quietly, watching me. I gradually stopped laughing and wiped my tears with the back of my filthy hand. Gingerly I crawled down into the ditch beside her and picked up the belt she’d dropped. I hesitated, looking her square in the eye. She returned my gaze but said nothing. I climbed back to the top of the embankment, rolled the belt up into a ball and threw it as hard as I could into the weeds.

I stared at the dried brown overgrown field, gnarly oaks in the distance, blue-gray sky beyond. A dog barked somewhere far off as a car door slammed. Funny, I hadn’t noticed what a pretty day it was.


At September 19, 2005 12:56 AM, Blogger Chrissy said...

Glad to read those good for nothing *chrissy* dolls come in handy sometimes. The belt theme really hits close to home. I can still hear my dad's favorite warning- "I'm gonna warm your fessas!" Inspiring...

At September 19, 2005 8:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the bum of the bread loaf....great piece (I mean the story)

At September 19, 2005 9:23 AM, Blogger sweet trini said...

i love this one, and am left deeply ashamed of my weak entry.
walk good.

At September 19, 2005 2:44 PM, Blogger JJ said...

That's a wonderful story and well told.

At September 19, 2005 7:11 PM, Blogger Monkey said...

Nice suspense. I was truly afraid for her. I'm amazed at how you ran with that "hell bent for leather..."

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