A drug addict seeks the comfort of home.
|Carrie’s sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel of her Impala as it rattled and bounced over the scattered mud holes. A mammoth chasm appeared, forcing her to jerk the wheel to the left. She swore and slammed on the brakes.
Up ahead, the branches of an old willow tree draped over the last curve. On the other side—home. She didn’t need to see it to know that it was there, just like it’d always been. And Momma too, waitin’ for her prodigal daughter to come home.
She’d smile and open her arms wide, and Carrie’d go runnin’ to her like she did when she was young. Most mommas would turn their child away after the things she’d done, but not Carrie’s. All she’d have to do is repent, and Momma would fix everything. Carrie would say she was sorry for stealin’ her money and lyin’ to her. Then, there’d be no more sleepin’ on the streets. No more sleepin’ with strange men. No more scrounging for her next meal. Of course, she’d want Carrie to give up the rush, but….
Shaking her head, Carrie’s heart slammed against her chest. She reached over and snatched her purse, dumping it on the seat. She rifled through the contents until she found it. The last needle. She kicked off her flip-flops and slid the needle between her toes; the fire rushed up, engulfing her. Oh, God, she needed this. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t function without it.
She grinned. Reckon what Momma didn't know wouldn't hurt her none. She’d give up the men, the stealin’ and everything else draggin’ her down, but not the candy. It kept her goin’. It helped her forget.
A flicker of movement in the rear view mirror caught Carrie’s eye. A woman sat in the back seat, sneering. Her stringy blond hair lay plastered against the side of her head, and she was missin’ one of her front teeth like she’d been in a fight or something. She looked eerily familiar.
“How… how did you get in here?” Carrie whimpered, but the intruder continued to stare, her eyes wide, twitching. Despite the heat and humidity, Carrie felt chills wrack her body.
Twice Carrie grabbed for the door handle and missed before yanking it open. The sudden release dumped her face-first into a mud puddle. She scrambled away on all fours, but by the time she righted herself and scraped the muck from her eyes, the woman was gone.
“Now, where in hell did she go?”
No way was Carrie gettin’ back in that car, so she turned and half stumbled, half ran up the lane toward the curve. Toward Momma. A mockingbird screeched, “Keep goin’ you lazy, good for nothin’ piece a trash. You ain’t staying with me.” Carrie jumped because it sounded just like Daddy’s voice, but that made no sense. Momma had wrote five years ago that Daddy had died. Drank himself to death and good riddance too.
Carrie could’ve gone home then, but she didn’t. Didn’t write back neither, and Momma had stopped writin’ after that. She’d done her duty and told Carrie about Daddy, and that was that. Said if Carrie wanted to speak to her… wanted to change her ways, well, she knowed where she’d be.
I’m ready now Momma. Reckon I have to be. I got nowhere else to go. Finally, Carrie reached the willow tree and parted the branches like Momma had said Moses parted the Red Sea. But there weren’t no promise land waitin’ for her on the other side.
Instead, a crumbling chimney stood guard over the charred remains of the right side of the house. The left side leaned in on itself, and what was left of the roof caved in toward the center. An empty window frame gaped at her, and like a cruel wink, the front porch roof draped down over the door, barring entrance.
“Momma?” Carrie dived into the weeds and bushes that had overrun the yard and rushed toward the house. She screamed Momma’s name again. She had to be there. She had to be.
Carrie wasn’t sure what she expected to find when she reached the porch, but it wasn’t the sign nailed to the pole. “Condemned by Order of Hawkins County, Tennessee.” Carrie sunk down to her knees and gaped. Condemned….
"Momma?" A lone tear slid down her cheek.