I’d like to introduce you all to Laura Lord. She is not only a great writer but truly a kind, generous and giving person. Laura, without even really knowing me, designed my cover for my e book with the image that I chose. I am very grateful to her.
That being said, I couldn’t pass up this short story submission that Laura wants to share with us, because it’s so creepily good!!
Enjoy the read and Happy Halloween to you all!
Hi guys! It’s me, Laura A. Lord, aka the Mama. I’m a mother (obviously) of two wonderful little monsters, with another on the way, an author, a blogger…the list goes on and on. I am blessed enough to be able to spend most all of my days writing, and have published three books in the last few years. You can check them out on Amazon, and I’ll love you forever, or at least really, really like you. Better even, follow me on wordpress and check out my, almost daily, musings and snippets of life with children, family, the Husband, and my dementia-suffering uncle. Laughter truly is medicine, and I medicate daily.
It is Better
“And so put to death the sinful, earthly things…” Brian began, pausing as his lips fought with the next words. “…lurking with you. Have nothing to do with sexual immority…”
“Immorality, Brian. Immorality,” their teacher, Ms. Grayson, corrected him.
“Immorality, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, ‘cause a greedy person is an idolater…” His words came faster, catching up and running over one another. “…worshipping all the things in the world. Because these are sins, and God is angry and coming.”
“The anger of God is coming.”
“Yeah. Colossians three, five through six.”
“Practice more, Brian. Cassidy, you’re next,” Ms. Grayson said, not even looking up from the yellowing pages of her Bible.
Standing in front of her chair, Cassidy stared at the ceiling and recited the words she’d been practicing all week. “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew five, verse thirty.”
Ms. Grayson looked up, nodded her head briefly, and pointed to the next student. “Liam, you’re up.”
Cassidy sat in front of her closet, pulling the laces tight on her tennis shoes, before running down the hall and into the kitchen. Her mother stood there, dish towel in hand, staring out the window. For a Sunday afternoon, her mother looked wonderful. Her long brown hair was pulled up into a neat bun, with small wisps of curls hanging down to frame her face. She wore her best dress, the light blue one with the large white polka dots. It was sleeveless, and fell just below her knees. Red heels adorned her feet and Cassidy could see the faint glimmer of a pair of diamond studs in her ears.
This was every Sunday. Her father would go out after church to visit with his parishioners, and mother would dress up and wait for the man who came by to fix things up at the house. The parsonage was an old farmhouse, and it seemed something was always broken.
“Can I go play with Jacob?”
Cassidy’s mother briefly shook her head, turning to look down at her daughter as if she’d appeared out of thin air. “Yes. Of course, honey.”
As Cassidy turned to run out the door, she heard her mother’s voice behind her. “And stay outside this afternoon. You don’t need to be in and out while Mr. Thomas is here fixing up the bathroom. You hear?”
“Yes, mother!” She called, the screen door already slamming as she wound her way through the small patch of garden and into the back yard where a tire swing hung from an old birch tree and a small fort made from old pallets sat off against the fence. Pushing her head into the fort, she whispered, “Jacob?”
“I’m right here, stupid,” he laughed, jumping down from the top of the fort to land behind her. Cassidy about jumped out of her skin, and she swung around and punched him in the shoulder. Jacob was bigger than her, but at ten he was two years older and a boy on top of that, so she expected it. He just laughed at her efforts at bravery. “C’mon. Let’s go down by the creek.”
Cassidy went behind the fort to the fence and lifted the section they had cut free from the ground. Jacob slid out first, and Cassidy followed behind him, a trail of grass stains and dirt running a new streak down the center of her shirt and jeans. Within moments they were free of the yard and slipping through the brush at the edge of the woods.
It wasn’t much of a woods, just a thin strip of trees that grew on either side of the small creek. When they got there, the two slipped off their shoes and rolled their pant legs up to slip their feet into the water. It was cold and bit against their skin. Jacob and Cassidy sat there in silence for a few moments, comfortable enough with one another to not feel the need for constant conversation. That was an adult thing. Kids knew it was okay to just shut up sometimes and listen.
In all that quiet, it was easy to hear the sound of a backfiring pick-up truck. Mr. Thomas’ truck to be exact. Every Sunday, around the same time, his loud truck would go bouncing down the road towards Cassidy’s house and they’d listen to the pop-pop-pop of his exhaust until it sputtered to a stop in her driveway.
The truck had been silent for a good few minutes before Jacob even said anything. “You know he’s not fixing anything, don’t you?”
“The bathroom’s busted again,” Cassidy muttered. “Stupid old house and all the stupid stuff that breaks.”
Jacob laughed. “That bathroom is fine. Ain’t nothing broken.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know,” he countered.
“You don’t know a thing, Jacob Marley.”
“Oh yeah,” he said, getting a bit riled now. “I know Mr. Thomas don’t come over here every Sunday to fix nothing. I know his wife died awhile back and the pastor ain’t here and Mr. Thomas only comes over when he’s not.”
“So,” Cassidy said.
“So, I know Mr. Thomas is doing stuff with your mama that only married people are supposed to do. They’re sinning.”
Cassidy jumped him, her hands shoved against his shoulders and her legs wrapped around his sides. She raised a fist and punched him square in the nose. “You take it back, Jacob Marley! You take it back!”
She screamed, and Jacob rolled so he was on top. He pinned her arms down and got right down in her face. “I ain’t gonna hit you, ‘cause you’re a girl, but I’m going to prove it to you. C’mon.”
He climbed off her and started off back towards the fence. Cassidy lay there for a moment, staring off at Jacob’s back, before she rolled to her feet and stared to follow, slowly. Her fist went to her eye, wiping away a tear. She was not going to cry in front of Jacob. A small streak of dirt stained her face, and she sniffed once or twice, before jogging to catch up with him.
She held the fence again, as Jacob shimmied through and then followed him through. They crouched behind the fort, while Jacob whispered. “If we sneak over there by the window, real quiet, we’ll be able to see inside. Your mama’s got those white curtains. You can just about see right through them.”
Cassidy nodded her head. She really didn’t have much to say, and there wasn’t any use in arguing with Jacob when he had his mind stuck on something. Jacob ran over to the house, close to the backdoor at a crouch, and Cassidy followed behind him. The two pushed themselves up against the siding and began creeping slowly down the side of the house. Cassidy kicked one of the garden stones and cried out. Jacob’s hand came down across her mouth and he shoved a finger in front of his lips to tell her to shush.
After a few painful minutes at this pace, the two were near her mother’s window. They knelt down on the ground and crawled under it, so the ledge was right about their heads. The window was open, and Cassidy could hear the radio playing inside. It was some kind of sappy love music and it must have gotten her mother upset, because Cassidy could hear her crying. She didn’t even wait for Jacob, but popped up and looked in the window.
The curtains were sheer and with the light behind them, it wasn’t hard to see in. It was harder to tell what was going on. There was a large lump on the bed moving around under the blankets. Cassidy titled her head to the side, trying to figure out what her mother was doing. Suddenly she heard giggles, a sound she couldn’t ever remember coming from her mother’s lips, followed by a man’s deeper laugh. At the head of the bed, she could see her mother’s hair all loose from its pins and hanging over the pillow, a big hand was twisted up in it and pulling at the curls.
Jacob grabbed her then, pulled her down and after him as he ran back across the yard and dived behind the fort. In seconds, they were under the fence, through the brush, and back into the woods. Cassidy let go of him then, snatching her hand away and crossing her arms across her chest.
“That was stupid. They could’ve seen you.”
“Well, they didn’t see me. They was a bit too busy to notice me.”
Jacob put his arm around her shoulder and Cassidy leaned into him. “I told you they was sinning,” he muttered.
Cassidy sniffed, wiping a hand across her nose, before plopping down on the leaf-covered ground. She picked up the small, dead leaves and began tearing them into pieces, as Jacob rambled on.
“Don’t mean to say, I told you so, but I did…Ought to do something about it, you know?…Can’t just let them…It’s sinning…It’s sinning…”
“I need to tell my dad,” Cassidy interrupted him.
“No!” Jacob yelled, climbing to his feet. He began pacing in front of her, running a hand through his hair. “You can’t do that!”
“Why not? He should know his wife’s sinning. He’s the pastor. He’s got to know this stuff!”
“’Cause you can’t. You just can’t.”
“I can too, Jacob, and I’m gonna.”
Jacob knelt down in front of Cassidy and pulled the broken leaves out of her hands. “You listen here. It’s like that verse you been practicing all week. You tell him and he’s gonna get mad. If he gets mad, it’s a sin. You can’t make him sin and that’ll make him sin. It’s gotta be a sin to make someone else sin, right? So you can’t tell him. You got to take care of it yourself.”
“How am I gonna do that?”
“You got to cut the sin out. That’s what it says, right? You got to cut it out.”
Cassidy screwed her lips up, a bad habit when she was deep in thought. She didn’t want to make her father sin. He was the pastor. It would be really bad if he sinned. It would be like her passing the sin over to her dad, and that wasn’t fair. It would probably be double sin on her for doing it, and she’d sure end up in hell for that. She thought about her verse.
“It says it’s better to lose a part than end up with the whole thing in hell,” she said, quietly.
Jacob nodded. He took her hand and led her back to the creek, where under a rock they had buried all the little treasures they’d found around her house and yard. On the top of the pile was the knife her dad had given her for Christmas last year. Cassidy had cut her name, and Jacob’s, into a tree with it. It was her favorite gift from her dad, and she rubbed her fingers across the bright red handle of it and smiled.
Taylor Grayson, or Rev as most people in town called him, pulled in his driveway later that afternoon. He had to park off to the side, in the yard, since a large grey truck was taking up most of the drive. Taylor briefly wondered who had come over to visit, but he recognized Thomas’ truck and figured the visit had more to do with some pipe that had broken or switch that wouldn’t work.
The house was silent when he came in. “Linda? Cass?” He called. “Thomas, you here man?” Taylor peeked out the back door into the yard, and saw nothing. It was still plenty light out, and Cassidy was probably out by the creek. She spent a good part of her time there anymore. Making his way down the hallway, he saw his bedroom door cracked and went to push it open. It moved slowly, something heavy seeming to block its inward swing. With a shove, he got it the rest of the way open.
Cassidy sat on the small loveseat in the room, looking intently at the empty space beside her. She was talking quite animatedly with it, the empty space, and didn’t even notice his entrance. Taylor felt a scream clawing its way up his throat. He hit his knees, the sound enough to jar Cassidy back to reality. She looked at her father quietly, as his eyes stayed focused on the bed.
Thick pools of blood, so red it was black, dripped from the dust cover to the floor and lay in congealing puddles around the nightstand. A man’s hand hung down, with rivers of blood still running in thick, choking streams down to the floor. Linda lay there, under the pale chest of the man, her eyes opened and staring at the ceiling. Her mouth was frozen in a grotesque ‘o’, a large red pocketknife sticking out of the center of her forehead.
“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew five, verse thirty.”
Taylor heard Cassidy speak, tears streaming down his face, as he turned to her. She smiled and looked over to the empty cushions beside her. “Jacob and I didn’t want you to sin, Daddy. We cut the sin out for you.” Blood had decorated her cheeks and matted in her hair. She’d left smears of it on the pale rose print of the loveseat. And as she came running over to her father, arms outstretched to wrap around him, the dark smears highlighted the bright smile that lit her face.
“You’re welcome, Daddy. You’re welcome.”
© Laura Lord 2013