Sunday, January 6, 2013

Excerpt From: Mississippi Clouds

This kid, Jeffrey, had been bugging me all day. His little bucked-toothed face kept appearing in my head, then I saw he was holding a bunny....So I decided to write him down

“Put it down, Jeffrey.” His mother said, in the patient tone only mothers have. The small gray rabbit he was clutching in his hands was still, probably hoping not to die.

“But mama!” Jeffrey exclaimed, madly in love with the tiny creature he’d found under the house.

“Those things carry rabies. Put it down right now.” But Jeffrey knew she was wrong. Something so small and fluffy couldn’t be capable of hurting him. He clutched it tighter and took off running in the opposite direction. “Jeffrey Freedom Collins, get back here!”

His middle name was Freedom. His mother had named him in a daze of pain killers right after giving birth. She seldom regretted her choice, hoping it would be a reminder to him never to let himself get tied down. Tied down like she was.

Jeffrey Freedom Collins was born on a cold November day in the great state of Mississippi. Cold by Mississippi standards. He was twelve years old, a skinny little thing, his teeth way too big for his head. He did indeed look like a bunny, or a mouse, perhaps the reason for his rodent affinity. He was clumsy, and whiny, and kind of sweet too. His mother loved him, and he could tell she really did. He could tell by the way he caught her looking at him when she thought he wouldn’t notice. His mother resigned herself and walked back into the small house. It was white and well kept. It had a garden and a chicken coop, but no chickens. The washer and dryer were in the shed, and there were clothes lines attached to the side of it. His mother didn’t trust the dryer, thought it would burn up her clothes, and how could it not? So she always hung up the clothes, even though everyone told her it was a waste of time in this day and age.

It was just her and Jeffrey now, since Jeffrey Sr. had left. He was a drunk and most days she was glad he was gone. Today was not one of those days. She felt angry and alone and now that Jeffrey had run off with that varmint in his arms, she could really feel it. She stepped into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. There were three slices of pie left in the pie tin. Rhubarb strawberry. She picked it up along with the can of whipped cream and sat at the kitchen table. After hearing the cooghh of the whipped cream landing foamy on the crust, she absent-mindedly stuck her fork into it, and brought a big bite of sweet and tart pieness to her mouth. The taste didn’t comfort her, but it was all she had at the moment. She stared out the screen door into the hills and fixed her eyes upon a single cloud in the sky. It was a sunny day, but this particular cloud was dark gray. A lone rain cloud floating in the bluest sky. She chewed and swallowed and scooped up another bite. Chew, swallow, feeling the loneliness rise from the depths of her belly and up into her throat. It was not an empty feeling, but rather an unbearable fullness, keeping her from swallowing the pie in her mouth. It made her suddenly nauseous. She swallowed the bite anyway and felt it almost come up again, but it didn’t. She noticed she’d been rocking in her chair. Moving back and forth, she could feel the wooden chair hitting her back over and over. She willed herself to stop and took another bite. She spit it back into the tin and got up to throw the evil thing away. She angrily thrust the pie into the garbage can, upset at herself for once again trying to sublimate her pain with sweets. She squeezed her sides, feeling the extra flesh that had built up over the last three years and slammed the cabinet door shut. “Goddamnit.”

She thought about Jeffrey and how he would not let go of this rabbit thing. She pulled her shirt down over her behind and went into the shed. It was dusty and smelled of oldness and laundry detergent. To the left of the door was a stack of boxes. She remembered she’d put the old birdcage in one of said boxes after Jeffrey‘s first pet, Russell the Parakeet had unexpectedly died. Maybe the little rabbit could live in it for the time being. Then she thought about the chicken coop. If he still wanted that damn rabbit when he got back, she’d tell him he could keep it there, but he’d be responsible for feeding it, and cleaning it. She didn’t like pets. They were dirty and adorable and they made her love them, only to die. A useless endeavor, loving a pet. She smiled to herself when she pictured her little man holding on to the furry thing, defiantly looking at her, ready to defend his love. She would have to let him keep it. He was a courageous little guy, even if a brisk wind could knock him over. She wanted to encourage this, to teach him to stand up for the things he cared about, even if the world told him no. And it would, she could tell he would hear that word a lot, seeing as he’d been doing everything backward since he was born. Her smile grew wider.

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