Still Alive

My dad told my mother that it was not the right time in his life; that everything was happening too fast and he wanted to wait a few more years. So, when she started crying, he knew he had her convinced. They went together.

The small office was in a house on South Laughter Street, right downtown next to the municipal swimming pool.

Outside. a few feet from the road was a sign, sticking out of the lawn like a cheap campaign slogan. Written in an old English font and beginning to fade in the sun.

“Cash only, discretion is our only priority.
S. Laughter Street Clinic.”

Mother cried when she read it.

Inside a man took them into a surgical theatre and asked my mother to relax and lay on the table.  My father didn’t want to stay in the room, but the doctor ordered him to.

“Murder is not easy, Mr. Frente.” He put on plastic gloves. “Your wife  will need you to take some of the blame once she realizes what she’s done. To stand at the morning mirror tomorrow, alone and before God, will not be like it was this morning. I hope you understand that.”

My mother started crying again.

“Why do you cry?” The doctor asked perplexed.

She said nothing, sobbing.

“Why is she crying?” He asked my father.

My father looked at my mother. “She doesn’t want to be a murderess.”

“Do you blame her?”

“No, but we can’t have a child now. We’re not ready. There’s too much at stake. My job, the money. There’s just to much to do before…”

The doctor nodded his head and went to his cabinet where he brought back a bible. Inside he had a page marked. “will you please read from the highlighted area before we begin?”

Pushing the bible away from him, he yelled. “What’s this?”

“Just read the last rights. At least you can do that much.”

“No. I will not. Now, you have the money. So, do your job, will you?”

“I’m afraid you don’t understand. sir. I’m not going to do it. I’m going to explain the instruments to you and you are going to do it. Anyone can do it once they are shown how.”

“What?” He couldn’t stand it anymore. “I paid you to do it. What do you think? I’m no doctor.”

“You don’t need a doctor. Doctors are for healing people. You need a clean room, clean instruments, and secret place to commit murder, which I have provided for you. You need me to stay quiet once you are finished killing this child and, since you have paid me very well to do so, I will. But I am not a murderer. No amount of money could persuade me to kill an innocent child.”

My mother was off the table and through the door before my father could reply. She did not return to the car, but instead called a taxi and only left the S. Laughter Street Clinic when it arrived.

She divorced my father and has never seen him again.

The first entry in my journal is this: my mother was convinced to have an abortion, but in the end it didn’t matter. I was still born.

 

You’d Better Learn

 

“You’d Better Learn”

by Thadd Presley

 

“This isn’t how it has to be,” John told the man who held the bolt cutters. “I’m tryin’ my best t’ hold everythin’ together.” He looked toward his wife. “And just look!!” Sobbing, he slowly lifted his hand and pointed. “Look at what I come home to.”

Blood was dripping from his hand and running in streams down his forearm. When he focused on the blood, he felt a wave of dizziness flow from his head to his mid-section. “She’s here sucking up the profits while I’m out working.”

“So, that’s where your money’s goin’. Big Daddy wanted me to find out what’s going on with you.”
The black man, held the mouth of the bolt cutters out, waiting for another finger. John’s ring finger was next in line. He focused his attention on the woman huddled in the corner crying. “That true? You stealin’ Big Daddy’s dope?” He patiently waited for a response. “Hey, you hear me. Look here! You smokin’ up your man’s money and making him late on his payments?”

She started to say something, but her voice failed.

“Tell me somethin’, John, seriously,” the the black man asked, “what you gonna do? You want me to take another of your fingers or do I take one of hers? Big Daddy wants two fingers.”

“Just tell him to give me more time. I’ll have his money.”

“I’m telling you. Time’s up. He’s using you to send a message to everyone else. He wants you to know that he’s finished with you.”

These words meant more to John than losing his pinky finger. He couldn’t survive without Big Daddy’s help. “Come on, man. Just take the other finger, but don’t cut me off.”

When the executioner cut the ring finger from the hand, the bone popped loudly as it broke. John screamed and his wife joined him. Lying on the blood covered ground was John’s two fingers. The newest one twitched, as if trying to crawl away. John’s wedding ring was still on the finger.

“My job’s done here, John. Be sure to have the money by Friday. I don’t want to…”

John looked up quickly, his voice barely a squeak. “You mean, I still have to pay?”

The black man sighed. “Don’t tell me you haven’t learned your lesson. You owe Big Daddy. Now, don’t you think it’s in your best interest to pay him?”

“But my fingers? God!”

“God?” The black man asked.

John lowered his head.

“I’ll not have you takin’ my Lord’s name in vain.”

“But, I really have to pay Big Daddy all the money?”

“If you don’t, I’ll have to shoot your wife in the face.” He looked over at her. “She’s the problem anyway, right?”

John stared at the floor, not wanting to look at his fingers. But, for some reason he couldn’t take his eyes off of them. Is this really happening, he thought.

“Am I really…”

The executioner slapped John in the face. “Yes, you really are. Now, wake up.”

John didn’t know what the man had said, but he answered, “Yeah, right.” A shutter went through his body. “You’re right.”

“Now, get him to a hospital.” He told the wife.

“What do I say to them?” John whispered.

“Tell them you got your fingers cut off because you owe for drugs.”

“Really?” John was light headed. The world was growing black around the edges.

“Woman!” The the executioner said, standing up. “Get your man to the hospital.”

She looked up, eyes yellow and dull. “What do I tell them?”

“Tell them you brought him to the hospital because if you didn’t a big black man said he was going to kill you.”

Her eyes flickered, showing the smallest recognition of life. “Really?” She asked.

“Yeah, really.”

Slowly she stood up and started toward her husband. He wasn’t looking at the ground anymore. He was limp. His head flopped back, eyes glaring at the ceiling. “Do you think he’s dead?”

“He will be very soon.”

Grief came over her, but then the executioner also saw relief. “I’m going to miss him so much,” she said. “He was my high school love.”

The moment was lost when the executioner spoke. “Big Daddy wants his money. He doesn’t care who pays it. Don’t let your husband’s sacrifice be for nothing. I’ll be back on Friday.”

“What! Wait! I can’t—”

“You’ve almost a week. You can.”

“I’ll don’t know how to come up with twenty thousand—”

“Well, you’d better learn.”

She sat in silence as the big man walked out of the small apartment.

Easter, Bloody Easter

Easter, Bloody Easter

by Thadd Presley

“That’s exactly what she told me,” Anita said, handing the sheriff her ID. “I just don’t know what else to do. She said she would kill me if I so much as came down here.”

The sheriff held up his hand to get the attention of an officer.

“And we both know she can.” She was scared and it showed.  “You have to help me.”

“So she told you not to come here and you came anyway?” The sheriff was surprised. Anita shook her head and then, realizing that she was saying no, she nodded.

“Yes, I had to. She has my brother in her basement.”

“But, she said she would kill you.”

“Yes, I know. Please help me.”

“OK.” Fear was visible in the sheriff’s eyes. “Just stay right here.” He waved again for an officer. “I have to make a phone call and get this straightened out.” The sheriff rose from the chair and walked towards her from behind his desk. “Just to be sure. You’re mother has your brother locked in the basement and she is going to kill you because you came down here and told the police?”

“God, yes. What is wrong with you?” Anita was starting to get frustrated. She had already spent thirty minutes explaining to the police that her mother had gone crazy and was torturing her brother.

“Nothing is wrong with me, Anita. I have to get the facts straight. Don’t you see that it’s hard for me to believe a story like this. You’re mother is one of our town leaders and my boss’ wife.”

“Yes, call my dad. Please! I know he’s out of town, but he will tell you that she has been acting funny lately.”

“That’s exactly what I’m doing.”

The sheriff was almost out of the door when Anita screamed.

He turned around and saw blood pouring from her eye. “Dear God,” he exclaimed and ran to her. “What did you do?”

Anita couldn’t answer him, although she tried. Her mouth just wouldn’t say the words.

“Sheriff Coffee,” a deputy called, then he saw the blood. “What’s happening to her?”

“God only knows, Stephen. Get in here and hold her still.”

Stephen entered the small office and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The young girl was sitting in the expensive leather chair with her head lolling from left to right. A thin stream of blood was spurting out from the corner of her eye with every heart beat.
“What is she trying to say,” the sheriff asked. It was obvious to both men that her mouth was moving and words were slowly being formed, but it was in slow motion. Much to slow for them to understand.
“Here.” Stephen pushed a blank piece of paper on the sheriff’s desk.
“Try to write on this, Anita.”

There was no time to think. The sheriff barely had his hand out of the way when Anita used her bloody finger to draw on the paper. She moved her hand back and forth and up and down, lubricated by the blood on her hand.

“What is that?” the Sheriff asked.

“Good Lord. It’s not one of those pentagram things is it?” Stephen looked at the dark red scribble and put his hand on the desk, trying to settled his spinning head. But, it did no good. He was suddenly overwhelmed by dizziness, puke rushed up his throat and sprayed out of his mouth and nose. The sheriff didn’t have time to flinch before the hot, grey, half digested oatmeal landed on his shirt and fell, stinking, on his trousers.

“Damn it, Stephen, pay attention,” he said. But, it was too late. The deputy had passed out and was sliding slowly across the desk, into the floor.
“Anita, please, look at me.” The Sheriff straightened her up as he said it, wanting to get the situation under control. But as Anita continued to draw on the paper with her own blood, the sheriff realized that she had drawn a stick figure. What was she pointing at it, trying to tell him something. He felt as if he was running out of time. “Someone get in here.”

“If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” a voice said. He whirled around. 

“Anita?” But he realized it wasn’t her voice. There was no one else in the room with them.

“If you tell, I will kill you.” He knew the sound was in his head. As suddenly as he realized it, a pain shot through his temple down to his right hand. He instinctively knelt down and held his head in his left hand.

“Who’s there?”

“No,” Anita said, forcefully. “He won’t tell.”

“Who’s doing this?” The sheriff demanded.

The voice was louder. “I have you all right here with me.”

The pain in the sheriff’s temple grew and warm liquid flowed onto his lips and down his chin. He reached for his gun and saw that his shirt sleeve was red. He realized it was blood. Before he lost consciousness, he knew what she was trying to draw and he almost had time to laugh.

Why didn’t she listen to her mother? What could he have done to help her? The police are no match for a voodoo doll.