by Soupcan Jay
An exercise in trying to tell a big story with few words, a tragedy unfolds beautifully.
By Jason Cameron
Danielle reached behind the cereal boxes and felt around for the coffee can. She pulled it out very carefully, ran to the bathroom and locked the door. She sat on the floor with her back against the tattered old hamper. Then she closed her eyes and whispered a little prayer, for she was still young enough to believe that God might replace the money she knew her father had spent on liquor the night before. Deep in her little 6 year old heart, she knew the money was gone for good, but she wouldn’t cry until she saw the empty can with her own brown eyes.
She held the can tight to her chest and pried the lid off with little fingers. It plopped on the tile floor and she opened her eyes, but she looked up to the ceiling. She wasn’t ready to see it. She closed her eyes and prayed again, this time aloud. She begged:
“God, my daddy doesn’t mean to be a bad man. He’s just sick. Please make him better, and please let there be some money in this can. I can’t go hungry again. Amen.”
She turned her head down to face the can and opened her eyes. There was nothing to see but the shiny bottom and a few coffee grounds. Her father had let her down again. She felt the tears welling in her eyes and the emptiness in her stomach turned hard. But the urge to cry was choked-off by something more ominous: it was fear, but not like any fear she had ever known. She knew at that moment that something was about to happen. Something awful was going to happen and she might be the one doing it. The coffee can fell to the floor and no tears came.
Danielle walked, as if in a trance, back to the kitchen. Pulling a drawer slowly, she peeked inside. All the knives seemed to sparkle and shine. But she would not take a knife. She picked up the large serving fork; the one with the handle that was plastic but looked like bone. She held it in her hand like a weapon and walked into the bedroom where her father was passed-out on the bed. She climbed into the bed and lay down beside him. With one swift motion, she swung the fork down hard, jamming it into her thigh.
She heard screaming and did not realize at first that they were her own screams. She sat up and watched as blood came out of the holes where she had removed the fork. She saw her father jump out of bed. He was screaming, “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST” over and over again. She saw the circle of red blood growing on the dingy white sheet. As she drifted off to sleep, she thought, “There will be food at the hospital. I will tell them he did it.”