It is dark out. Ma flips down a switch on the wall by the front door and the porch light outside goes dark. She makes way for Doogs who storms over and throws the switch back up so the porch light flickers for a second, then glows steadily. Sitting on the floor, hiding between the couch and TV, I can see the porch light on outside through the thin curtains. It hums when it’s on but I can’t hear it humming right now because Doogs is screaming at Ma to just fuck off when he has company over and Ma is saying this is her house. Doogs seems to calm down a bit but it’s all purposeful like which makes it even scarier and he says this ain’tyer house ‘cause since Pa left now I’m the man uh the house and Ma really has nothing to say to that.
I don’t like it now that Doogs is bigger than Ma and I love Ma more than I love Doogs but I used to love them both the same. But now Doogs scares me a lot and I used to cry when he got all scary like but that bothered him and made him notice me and made him worse. So I don’t cry anymore and I try not to bother him or make him notice me but just stay quiet and hide when he gets all scary like. And Ma loves me more than she loves Doogs and I know this ‘cause she said so even though she probably didn’t think I could get her.
And now she’s crying quietly when she comes over and picks me up from the floor and says it’s okay baby, it’s okay Jackie, we’ll just go out and let Doogs have the house, ‘cause there really is nothing she can do.
Doogs says fuckin’ right you will.
Ma kicks open the screen door and it whacks against the side of the trailer and she carries me outside before the door swings back shut in its frame. The porch light shines and throws our shadows all long like across the dirt before us. Amy is out there covered in tattoos, standing with one arm crossed under the other and smoking a cigarette, looking at us all pissed off like.
Ma doesn’t say anything and doesn’t stop moving. Amy tosses her cigarette in the dirt and stamps on it and throws open the screen door and goes inside. Ma just keeps hurrying across the dirt lot with me wrapped up in one arm looking back over her shoulder.
She says things that she thinks I don’t get, like you wanna man uh the house me, huh, you wanna be the man uh the house well we’ll just see who’s the man uh the house when there’s no more woman uh the house‘n no more person to pay rent on the house and we should just leave, we’ll just up ‘n leave little Jackie ‘n me ‘n we’ll just go, we don’ needa stay here no more that’s fer sure, whadda we needa stay here for and history’s repeatin’ history’s repeatin’ and let’s just up ‘n leave ‘n we’ll see how he likes it then ‘n it’ll be just Jackie ‘n me ‘n I’ll be able to raise ‘im up right away from that monster brother uh his ‘n then he won’t end up a monster like that brother uh his oh lord how did I birth sucha monster.
Talking like that all the way through the rows to Mrs. Morrison’s house and probably not thinking I get her. But I do get her and it makes me sad ‘cause I don’t want to leave Doogie ‘cause I think that he needs us. Walking, our shadows are one shadow together jumping far out across the dirt lot from Ma’s feet in many directions from the many porch lights on the sides of many trailers—but everyone always calls them houses.
In Mrs. Morrison’s house, which looks almost exactly the same as our house, she puts on water for tea and sits with us. She says things like that boy oughtanever’ve been born and that boy uh yers’d be better off dead and Ma crying and no longer quietly. And me sitting in the corner loving Ma and even loving Doogs a little and feeling sorry for all of us. I wonder if Mrs. Morrison is right to say that Doogs should be dead. Because she’s a grownup so it seems like she’s must be right and especially since all the mean things that Doogs does but still I wonder if she’s right. Then Ma agrees with her and so I think well they’re both grownups and they both agree and Doogs is really mean after all….
Mrs. Morrison lets us sleep on the couch in her living room and offers to make coffee in the morning but Ma says we can’t stay ‘n hide here all day and thank you for everything Mrs. Morrison but we really oughta be going. She goes outside with me wrapped up in one arm and she’s talking to herself again but I don’t gether because I’m thinking of ways to end Doogs’s life if that really is what’s for the best and the best and right thing to do.
Up in the sky is grey and everything down here seems grey, even the trees and the dirt and the dirty white trailers and I usually hate when it’s grey but today I like it for some reason and I don’t know why. Low on the horizon way out where the highway goes back uphill I can see some blue there as Ma carries me away from it.
When we get home Ma brings me inside and stands there with me in the doorway and looks at Doogs who is laid out on the couch smoking and watching cartoons. He glances at Ma and looks back at the TV. Amy is standing at the kitchen counter stirring coffee with a knife. She throws the knife in the sink where it clatters. Then she turns and leans up against the counter, holding the mug in her hands. She raises the mug to her face and blows on it and the steam shoots out forward and then goes back to rising up out of the mug in slow waves.
Ma says d’ya really gotta smoke that in here? but Doogs ignores her so Ma puts me down on the floor and stomps off into her bedroom.
Doogs gets up off the couch and makes his way over to Amy. She’s still up against the counter holding the coffee mug and Doogs stands there and touches her hips and looks down at her ‘cause he’s taller. He says sorry about her, baby. Amy says it’s all right Doogie, it’s not yer fault, and I start to feel so so mad that Doogs can be so nice to Amy and so mean to Ma and me.
I remember to think of ways to end Doogs’s life. I haven’t decided how and don’t really know how so I think of what I’ve seen on TV. Doogs touches Amy’s tummy and rubs her tummy in circles all nice and soft like and asks her if she’s thought of any names.Guns work to end people’s lives on TV. Except Doogs keeps his locked up so I could never get it. Amy says you could be a little nicer to yer Ma and Doogs says we don’t need ‘er, we only need each other. Amy says are you gonna tell her? And Doogs says we only need you and me. And touching Doogs’s hand on her tummy Amy says and little him or her. Doogs says and little him or her.
I sit there on the floor and start to play with the dust on the floor and push it into piles on the floor and wipe it around with my finger and it sticks to my finger so I put my finger in my mouth. Doogs goes back to the couch and Amy follows him and Doogs lies back on his back and the TV still on while Amy sits over him and starts riding on him. I think maybe she’s trying to end Doogs’s life but that doesn’t make sense because she likes Doogs and even if she didn’t like Doogs it’s not like Doogs would just let her end his life so easy just like that. They stop and Doogs offers her the funny smelling cigarette but Amy says no, not now that I have little him or her. Then they start again and both start making funny noises.
Ma comes back out and says Jesus Christ you two Jackie is right fuckin’ here. She rushes over to me and picks me up and Doogs says fuck off Ma. Ma carries me away to her bedroom and looking back over Ma’s shoulder I see Amy take her shirt off and then I think of knives.
The next day when Amy is gone and Ma is still asleep in her room and Doogs is asleep on the couch I go into the kitchen and push a chair over to the counter and climb up on it and find the knife that Amy left in the sink. I put the knife on the chair and climb down all careful like and take the knife over to Doogs. I don’t know where to put the knife so I start feeling all over his body for good spots. Guns usually go in the head on TV so I start feeling his head but I don’t think I could get the knife in his head and then I remember that sometimes knives go in the neck on TV. I keep the knife steady with two hands and hold the point to the bottom of his neck and touch it there where it’s soft.
Doogs opens his eyes.
They’re all bloodshot and tired like and he looks right at me. I look at him and he doesn’t do anything or really even seem to see me there. I push the knife in.
It’s not so hard.
His eyes go wide and he sees me for the first time and really sees me and tries to shout but just chokes and gasps. He swats at me and I fall over on my bum and start to cry really a lot. I’m all sticky and red.
Suddenly Ma is in the room in a bathrobe with her hair all messed up like and her mouth is a big, wide hole. I’ve never seen a wider mouth. She holds her hand to her mouth and starts screaming. I’m still crying and I cover my ears. Then she runs over to Doogs who’s clawing at his neck with one hand where blood is coming out and out and out and he reaches towards Ma with his other hand. Ma kneels down on the floor beside the couch and he’s choking and reaching at her and looking at her with his eyes all wide and scared and his tongue is out all weird like. She holds her hands in the air around his head and neck like she’s gonna touch him but she doesn’t touch him and her hands are shaking really, really a lot. Then Doogs stops making noises and stops moving except for the blood that’s still coming out all red like out of his neck but less now. Ma finally puts her arms around him and she gets all sticky and red.
I stop crying because I don’t get it.
Then Amy is standing in the doorway holding grocery bags at her sides. The bags hit the floor and she collapses there in the doorway and falls back outinto the dirt lot where the porch light is still on. It’s quiet for a moment and I can hear the porch light humming.
Ma turns and sees me there all sticky and red. She falls back onto the floor and looks at me. She draws her knees up and puts her arms over them and hangs her head down in her arms between her knees. She’s crying really, really a lot. And I don’t get why she’s crying ‘cause I saved her and I saved us and we’re safe now and so I think, Why is she crying?We’re safe now. So why is she crying?
About the Author
Samuel Stone is a precocious-philosophy-literature-double-major-turned-struggling-fiction-writer. This is his second published piece. His first appeared in Issue No. 34 of Adelaide Literary Magazine and can be read in print or online at adelaidemagazine.org. He lives in New York.