I have a cold, and was rained on today. So, I found that reason enough to take it as a reminder to post this before Thursday ends, because that’s how deadlines see my boots! I feel much better [from the cold] and might actually sleep better that I did last night, if at all. This is another short story that I kept telling myself needed a second part too many times that I actually gave it a part B.
**we still have no title for this, so we’ll just call it ‘Short Story 3a’ for now
Short Story 3a
If there was one thing that Joseph knew about his mother, it was that she kept time. With her tiny wrist watch that she barely looked at but always seemed to know what time it was, his mother was a special breed. She was reliable. Everyone said it to him. Not that he didn’t know it himself. People only had a strange need to remind him of things about his mother. They told him how beautiful she was, as if he didn’t marvel at her face every morning he pushed past the bed sheet that separated his sleeping area from the sitting room area to find her, smiling at him while two cups of tea steamed on the stool before her. They told him how kind she was, as if he never noticed her giving most of herself everyday to people who didn’t appreciate her enough. People liked to say things about his mother.
They talked of her bravery. How kind, generous and honest a soul she had. They said things he already knew. How she was always where she was supposed to be. On time, with her clothes fitting and proper, topped with the brightest smile in any room.
Joseph’s mother, with her tiny wrist watch on her left hand (because she needed her right hand to “do things”) arrived five minutes early to everything, and never a second late. Her hair, always in perfect curls that she labored over the night before so she would have enough time for him in the morning. People admired the natural curls on her head, unbeknownst to them of the forty five minutes she spent each evening to tie bantu knots on her head before carefully tying a satin scarf to sleep.
People only saw what she allowed. He knew more. He heard the sighs she released when it was just the two of them. Saw her closed eyes as she fought back tears (or what he assumed were tears) when she came out of Mr Damu’s home office that day.
“What’s wrong?” he has asked her, ready to go through the heavy set doors to fight the bulky man sitting behind the big mahogany desk. She smiled at him and said everything was fine. No matter, she would tell him when she was ready. She always told him when something bothered her. There were no secrets. It was just the two of them, and the unwritten rule was that they would keep nothing from each other.
“Nothing, Monkey,” she told him.
People had been watching. She couldn’t have told him then. He would wait till they got home. Wait till she went behind the bed sheet. Ever the gentleman, he allowed her to change out of her outside clothes first. The house was big enough for them, but some compromises had to be made. For a few minutes each day, while changing into pajamas, and out of outside clothes, or right after a shower, one of them was behind the bed sheet that separated his sleeping area and the sitting room.
“How was your day, Monkey?” she would ask while behind the sheet, her breath short because she was trying to change out of her clothes as fast as she could. He knew she loved looking at him. Her monkey. He has started disliking that moniker. He knew if he told her, it would break her heart, and the last thing Joseph wanted to do was break his mother’s heart.
Going to the Damus’ mansion was something she had talked about all week. “If they give me a job, it will pay better. They’re doing interviews, you know. Sandra told me. They need someone to take care of old Mrs. Damu. Poor thing has Alzheimer’s. Can you spell Alzheimer’s, Monkey?”
She laughed. He remembered her laugh. Bubbly, rich and coming from somewhere deep in her stomach. His mother laughed like the world needed to hear the tickle in her throat. It was a beautiful laugh. Everyone said so. It was a laugh filled with flowers and puppies and cinnamon pancakes. When his mother laughed, their house became so huge that the walls echoed with the sound. “Replace the other a’s with e’s”
“That’s my genius boy!” she said, emerging from behind the bed sheet that hung on a rope that ran along the roof, separating the room into two. “Well, how do I look?”
It was an unnecessary question. Everything she wore found a way to fit around her slender figure. She looked good whether she tied a leso around her waist or wore her Sunday clothes, like she was. The bright yellow skirt and white embroidered cotton blouse that he knew all too well were perfect just as they were every other Sunday.
“Monkey? How do I look?” she was waiting for an answer.
“Stupendous!” He recalled a word he had learned at school. It brought the smile he enjoyed seeing. The gap in her front teeth showed first, followed by dimples so deep he could drink out of them. She ushered him out the door and locked up.
“Here,” she told him. “You’re a big boy. You can carry the house keys today.”
Joseph took the keys from her, a responsibility he had asked for each time they went out. The keys felt big in his hands. They felt heavy and he liked it. He closed his fist around the keys and held on tight. He would be damned if he lost them.
When they got to the Damus’ mansion, Joseph marveled at the house. They were first led to a room that looked like the reception at a hospital. “Please wait here,” the maid in a black and white uniform told them as she hurried off to tell the big man of their arrival.
Oh kids! So many things are happening, and I know a whole lot more about dragons now, counting all the HOTD content with The Inheritance Series that I’m devouring in the time I can steal.
I wrote some short stories last year, and would like to share them with you kids. Some of them got shortlisted, some got on some long lists, and some I simply enjoyed writing. They will be posted in no order up till Jan 31st when we start the new year. I don’t think I can explain my not posting last year. Maybe I will sometime, but then again, who knows. If you’ve read them all, good for you. If you haven’t, I’m so happy you get to experience my phychotic breaks of 2021. And yeah, I planned on posting these Dec last year, but I forced myself to live in the moment so much that I simply didn’t.
That was a year. Is all I will say. A new job, all the differences and difficulties that made everything tie up so well. Up to the moment I was screaming my lungs out at midnight on Dec 31/Jan 1, I still couldn’t believe it. I don’t think I do right now. My boss(yeah, HER!) urges us to move on, regardless of circumstances, and maybe this is what I should do.
So, anyway, here is one short story; Disintegrating
When I wrote this, I had lost my great grandma and they wanted a horror story from me. The first I have written. So, I put myself in a coffin, and let the words roam.
I keep lying here as I disintegrate. There is nowhere to be, nowhere to go. There are many of us, and new ones come in every single day. We have no breaks. It is a constant battle, disintegrating. I don’t like it one bit.
The first few weeks are the worst. You don’t understand what is happening, yet it keeps happening. Piece by piece, atom by atom. The new guys scream the most. I’m used to it. I don’t scream anymore. I didn’t even scream much when I came here. I only missed ma and pa.
Their memory keeps fading as my body follows. It’s not much of a body at this point, but it’s still better than what the others look like. I still have most of me, even though the pain of disintegrating is a little worse than what the others suffer. It’s a good thing I came in young. Travis said my pain is bearable because there is so little of me. It is probably the one good thing about dying young.
Travis is great. He’s older, much older. He says he doesn’t know how long he has been here. He also says that with time, I will also stop the count. Today is day fifty-eight since I was put in the ground, and sixty-six since I died. Pneumonia did me in. Ma and Pa did not have health insurance. It is such a cold world out there, even colder than in here.
Most people come in dressed in black. I like watching the younger kids who come in. They have no idea how good they have it. How fast I would trade places with any of them. To feel my feet again. To play in the sand and not just lie in it. To blow out candles on my birthday. I don’t even remember when I was born, just the day I died.
I remember my chest constricting. How I would gasp for air that never came. I remember lying in my bedroom, thinking of times when I was better. Times that I do not remember now.
Travis was the first dead guy who talked to me. The others are a little focused on feeling their pain. They don’t like me very much. I suspect it’s because I feel less pain because I died so young. I didn’t ask for it. If I had the choice, I would be out in the sun, playing with the other children who came in today.
Day sixty-one of disintegrating. I could say the worst thing is feeling the worms in my stomach. When I first started seeing them, it wasn’t so bad. They were my friends. The first one I met was Michael. He was very shy. It was his first time meeting a child under here and he didn’t really know what to do. We talked for a while, but he did not have much to say. I wanted to know if he knew how Ma and Pa were doing. Then a few of his friends showed up.
I would say the worst of the worms is Shirley. She eats into me like her life depends on it. The appetite of that worm is abnormal. She could eat for the whole neighborhood. The neighborhood I lived in was…I forget. I don’t have a lot of details about my previous life. My memory keeps failing me.
Day eighty-three and Shirley is in my lungs. It reminds me of the day I came here. When the pain in my chest finally stopped and I thought that it was the end. It was all so strange. There was this finality in the air as I was put in the ground. I could hear crying but could not see who was shedding tears for me. My lungs were quiet. I don’t think I would have thought of my lungs ever again had Shirley not been munching away in my left bronchiole. She has such an appetite for a worm so small.
Some guy called Travis tried to reach out to me today. He was very worn out. He seemed like he was a washed out version of himself. Painted beige and left to dry, but there he was. He is very strange. He said something to me. “I guess they are eating at your brain now. I am older, so I can keep most of my memories. You, however, child, may not remember your own name.” I have been thinking about his words. What is a name?
I don’t understand a lot of things. Michael says it is because I am so young. I think it’s so unfair that other people remember but others forget. His bites are smaller now. He says I disintegrate faster and he is trying to keep me here as long as possible. Where is here?
It feels so damp all the time. I feel so alone even with Michael and Shirley and that Travis guy hovering. It’s so cold. Sometimes, I open my eyes and see all three of them looking down at me. They talk among themselves. Sometimes, I catch some of their conversation.
“Such a pity…”
“…been through enough…so strong…such will in such a small body”
“Can we continue feeding now?”
“…She was too young…I feed slower, so she lasts longer”
“Ha-ha, I munch to my heart’s content. She’ll be gone soon anyway”
“Yes…so sad. Gone, just like that”
I think they talk about me. Though other times, I can’t be too sure. Day one-hundred-and-forty-six is a lot harder than I thought. There is not much left. Three people look at me. There is a familiarity in their eyes that I recognize, but I can’t keep my eyes open enough to know who they are.
One of them is older. He has friendly eyes. He seems like he is in a lot of pain. I feel no pain. My body is numb. Almost non-existent. I can feel nothing. I am not sure I know what I should be feeling, but I know I don’t feel it. The older guy hovers and lifts his hand to me. I try to touch him, but can’t.
The other two look alike. They seem related. There is a slight difference with them. One looks like someone who I could be friends with. The other looks like they could eat me alive. It is a constant battle, disintegrating. I don’t like it one bit.