• • •
Mahty strikes a match and lights the first candle.
Something just went bump in the night. Down in the kitchen. Mahty’s in bed with his fuzzy Franklin Turtle feetie pajamas on and he was just dozing off into a dream about pterodactyls with saddles on their backs like they were horses when something went thud and did so with vitality. Tonight is one of the Early Nights so his Momma should still be up, but she couldn’t have made that thud. That was the thud of dead weight.
The floor creaks as Mahty tiptoes ‘cross his room, but that’s the only noise in the house. The foundation is more solid in the hallway than it is in his bedroom; the rest of Mahty’s journey to the kitchen during the wee hours of one of his Momma’s Early Nights has a kind of silent quality that crawls up Mahty’s back and presses its unwashed hands to his shoulders, and he’s well off that it does. Those hands are the only things that keep him standing when he sees his Momma sprawled on the kitchen floor with blood leaking out of her like a bag full of water poked in seven places with a safety pin.
“Sweetie…” she says faintly, addressing the ceiling. “Oh no… sweetie… the yuckyuck’s all gone now… Momma’s okie dokie…”
Mahty shouts his hysterics through the phone line and into the ear of an emergency operator. When the ambulance arrives it’s escorted by four police officers, two of which are sitting in passenger seats with loaded shotguns in their laps. The center of Wuester isn’t a warm and cozy place, no, it’s mountain. Deep mountain. Folks ain’t right out here. You never know what you might walk into answering an emergency call in the center of Wuester.
“I forgive you for the bloodletting,” Mahty says with reverence. He lights the second candle with the same match, the head of which is no longer burning.
“He’s coming with me, woman!”
“NO!” roars Mahty’s Momma.
She hurls a hot frying pan of scrambled eggs with enough cheese to constipate a black bear directly at Mahty’s Poppa’s head. He ducks in time to dodge a direct impact, and while he pushed Mahty out of the way in time for the boy to dodge the molten eggs, he catches them to the right shoulder and up the side of his face. Mahty is afraid to open his eyes. Everybody is screaming, the alarms are ringing, and nobody’s going to call the police. Nobody ever calls the effin’ police.
“Bitch!” bellows Mahty’s Poppa. As he’s struggling to stand, he reaches his left hand over to the counter and starts grasping. His right hand, meanwhile, is trying to scrape the steaming egg off his face and body, but the stuff has the consistency of slime and every surface it touches it immediately burns to the second degree. He airs no more words, only screams and shouts.
“You’re lucky I don’t kill you!” screams Mahty’s Momma. “I read your journal, I know all about you now you rancid deviant! Get out of my house, get out of my son’s life!”
“I thank you for being both parents when one failed his job,” Mahty says with reverence, his voice low. He lights the third candle, the one in the tall burner in the middle, with the same match, refusing to let go until the candle is lit no matter how many blisters rise out of his fingertips.
“I’m not long for this world, Mahty,” whispers Mahty’s Momma, her voice fighting the air conditioner for dominance. “We need to have a little talk.”
“No Momma, you’re gonna pull through. You’ll be okay, it’s all gonna be okay.”
“Mahty… I’m an odd one, Mahty, but that don’t mean I’m no good. Nor does it mean I’m stupid.”
“Momma no, I would never–”
The beeping of machinery puts an end to that.
“Now…when I’m gone, I’m… I’ll do my best to look after you, baby. Anything you need, you light a few candles in my burners and ask. If I did everything right and I can hold on, I’ll come and help you. Anything you need…”
Tears drip on the bedsheets. “I love you, Momma…”
The life support machine weeps its long hollow cry.
“So I got my first client, Momma. His name don’t matter, he only gave me a few things today, sort of a trial deal… but he has his own business, too. It’s, uh… it’s an odd business, but that don’t mean it’s no good. I have a few other calls I’m waitin’ to receive, and the first big sale is tomorrow. Momma, I’m just askin’ for some help in keepin’ myself goin’. I believe I can make my sales work, but I want all the help I can get, Momma. If you’re holdin’ on, please help me however you can.”
All three candles in the burners blow out simultaneously. The taller burner bursts with flames, they howl out the holes in the sides, illuminating the portrait of Mahty’s Momma strung to the wall above the candle shrine. Shadows dance across her face. Her eyes glow like a blood moon.
Then, the room goes dark.
Mahty stands and takes his leave.
This has been the eighth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~