The Writer's Cramp 6/18/20
Boy, was she in a bad temper. “Leave mom alone. She’s in one of her moods.” I watched as mom threw the beach towel on the sand and then threw herself on it.
Johnny and I ran to the water, away from her sharp claws. She could dig into your arms, leave marks that stayed for hours. We played in the waves until our fingers turned into prunes. Then we made a sand castle until some smart aleck kids came along and kicked it over. After that we collected some sea shells, kept our eyes on mom.
Finally mom decided it was time to go home. She gathered us up, drove us home in the old car, she and the car smoking like chimneys. We left her alone while the night got dark. Johnny pulled out an apple and we shared it while playing on the swing set.
“How high can you go?” I pumped my legs and aimed for the stars.
Johnny got his legs going, trying to catch up. “Higher than you, smarty boots, just watch!”
The swing set chains, rusty and worn, sang their song. It sounded like ‘whiz kid, whiz kid’, over and over.
A neighbor yelled out a window. “Shut up out there! You kids get inside before I tell the cops!”
Our back door opened, mom stomped out. “What in the sam hill are you two up to out here? I could hear the neighbor all the way inside. Are you two causing trouble again?” She grabbed our arms, left those claw marks, drug us inside and threw us into our bedroom. “Now stay there, be quiet, and don’t come out.” The door slammed.
“Great. What do we do? Johnny, I have to go pee. What do we do?”
“I don’t know. Can you wait a few more minutes?” He emptied his pockets of sea shells and sand. “Let’s play with the shells we collected. In a few minutes, if it’s quiet, maybe you can sneak out and use the bathroom.”
We moved the shells around the floor, arranged the sand around the shells, found a hermit crab and played with it. The shells moved closer and closer to the door. I listened under the door, trying to hear mom’s breathing, smell the smoke of mom’s cigarettes.
“I think it’s okay, Johnny. I’m gonna try,” I whispered and cracked the door open an inch, checked for mom. She was asleep on the couch. The TV was on, no smoke from her cigarettes. I crawled to the bathroom, peed and crawled back, too afraid to flush and wake the beast, as we called mom behind her back.
“I’m hungry Johnny. Aren’t you?” He looked at me and nodded.
“Geesh, kid. First you gotta use the toilet, now you’re hungry. No wonder mom’s always mad. Tell you what, I’ll sneak out and check out the kitchen, you stay here and stay quiet. Deal?”
I nodded and watched as Johnny crawled out of our bedroom, down the hall to the kitchen. He glanced at mom, still asleep, as he passed her and went to the kitchen, gathered something and then crawled back.
“What did you find?”
“The beast hasn’t gotten any more food. All I could find were some old crackers. Here.” Johnny emptied his pockets of some old saltines. We ate them in a hurry.
“Don’t you have any candy or anything else in here?”
“We ate all the Halloween candy last night, remember? No, nothing else.”
I was hungry, there had to be more food somewhere else.
“Maybe beast has some candy in her purse.”
“Don’t go back out there! She’ll wake up and we’ll be in big trouble.” Johnny grabbed my arm and tried to stop me, but I was already crawling down the hall.
I went to the purse and rummaged around. Nothing but some tissues, a lighter, and some coins. Not even an old mint in the bottom. ‘Rats,’ I thought. The beast’s arm touched mine as I crawled past. It was cold. I stopped. I touched the arm. It was as cold as a stone. I crawled back to Johnny.
“Johnny!” I yelled. “Mom, there’s something wrong with mom! Come and see, you gotta go see.” I got up and pulled him out to the living room.
We stood over mom. She laid on the couch. Her one arm laid on the floor and one on her chest. A cigarette was in her mouth. Her eyes were still open. It was like she was staring at the ceiling.
“What do we do, Johnny?” I stood behind Johnny, afraid to stand next to the beast. I was afraid it would suddenly wake and sink her claws into my arm.
Johnny lifted an arm. “She’s cold. I think she died. I think the beast is dead. Maybe we should call somebody.” He sat down on the floor. I sat beside him.
“Who do we call, Johnny? Who do we call when a beast dies?”
“I think we call the cops, kid. Yep, I think that’s what we do. So let’s call the cops. We’ll tell them the beast is dead, and it is cold and it is mom and they need to know.”
I thought about this for a moment. “Do you think the cops will think we made the beast die? Because maybe if I hadn’t gone to the bathroom and stayed in the bedroom like the beast said, maybe it wouldn’t have died.”
“No kid, I think it was dead when you went pee. You weren’t the one to make the beast die. I think maybe it was sick. Maybe it had a problem. We were in the bedroom playing with the shells and the hermit crab, remember?”
Johnny moved to the phone in the kitchen. “I’m going to call the cops now. They’re going to come, take the beast away. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Johnny. Let them take the beast away. You’n me, we’re ready.”