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Dread Episodes

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“We stopped looking for monsters under the bed when we realized they were inside us.” - - Charles Darwin

Humor / Thriller
Cricket Elleson
Age Rating:

Mamma Said, Mamma Said

A crystal sleek trail of water traveled over rounded curve and sunken concave making its way down to the lowest point it could before being absorbed into the heat of the surrounding air. A solidly frozen cube of ice, stolen from the metal try that had been buried deep in the frigid air of the freezer chest, quickly became a cool drizzle of liquid dripping from between its cold surface and the heated skin of Junie Miller. A languid mood had settled upon her while she lounged in the chaise lawn chair in the front yard; the ice cube dissolving in her fingertips and against her tanning skin.

Mamma hadn’t gone to choir practice today. It was “too ungodly hot to be singing up in that stuffy choir balcony” she had said and she had opted to stay home instead, interrupting Junie’s afternoon plans.

When Junie had decided she would make lemonade and sun herself in the yard, Mamma had denied her. She said that “no respectable young lady would flaunt her bits and pieces to the neighborhood by laying half nude in the yard.”

Junie disagreed.

Tugging at the hem of her shorts Junie shifted in the chaise to angle her body more towards the beating rays of the sun; the cube of frozen water nearly gone now. That was Mamma’s way, to always spoil her fun. It was the height of summer, what was she supposed to do, walk around in galoshes and a parka? Half the neighborhood was out sunning themselves or swimming at the local pool. Mamma wouldn’t stand for it, she would say time and time again, there was "no way on this green earth she’d allow her daughter to be seen as a street corner starlet with no sense of modesty." Mamma wouldn’t even allow her to wear shorts that came above her knee.

Junie had her own ideas. When Mamma would shop for new casserole and bread tins for the Sunday fellowship, Junie would make her way through the department store and secretly buy her own clothing with the money she saved from babysitting the next door neighbor’s bratty children; of course she was only allowed to save what was left after tithing a percentage to the church. Mamma would have it no other way. Junie's private clothing stash had doubled over two years of babysitting, and she now owned several pair of cute little shorts and a few miniskirts. Mamma never saw these as she hid them in and old Parcheesi and checkers game boxes at the bottom of her closet.

The glass of lemonade dripped condensation onto her bare midriff. It was cool, sweet and refreshing. She had purposely added extra sugar. Junie waved to a car passing by the house. One day she’d be able to drive far away from this place, when she was old enough to have her license and had enough money to buy a car. She’d buy a convertible and wear bright scarves on her head to keep her hair in place and big round, dark sunglasses like all the movie stars wore. Mamma had said there would be no need for Junie to learn to drive, "driving was for the man of the house" and she could "wait until she was married proper", then her husband would decide if she would drive or not. Junie scoffed and swirled her lemonade in the confines of the tall glass. What did Mamma know about that anyway? They hadn’t had a “man of the house” since Daddy left twelve years ago.

Junie rolled over onto her stomach, the heat of the afternoon sun scorching her bare back. She picked at her fingertips, trying to rid the short nails of the sticky residue that was embedded beneath them. Mamma made her clip her nails every week.

“Long nails are for harlots”, Mamma would recite as she watched Junie manicure her nails over the bathroom sink. Junie decided she’d let her nails grow now and then paint them fire engine red.

“How’s that for harlot, Mamma?’ she yelled into the humid air, shaking her lemonade glass in her clenched fingers. Several ice cubes clinked as they melted and shifted position, continuing to water down the half empty glass of liquid.

In bare feet with glass in hand, Junie strolled across the front lawn and ascended the three steps to the front porch before entering the small house on the corner lot. The air inside the house was thick and heavy, the temperature at least ten degrees hotter inside. Mamma refused to buy air conditioning units.

“God only gives us what we can endure,” she always said. Apparently Mamma couldn’t endure it because she had bought herself an electric fan that she kept in her bedroom and forbid Junie to use.

Junie now stood in the kitchen, her hair blowing out behind her as the rotating blades, within their metal cage, oscillated back and forth on the kitchen counter. She sipped the last few swallows of lemonade before refilling her glass.

Stepping over Mamma’s body she lifted the freezer chest lid and retrieved a second tray of ice cubes. Snapping back the metal leaver, the cubes popped up with a loud crack. The sound put a smile on Junie’s lips. “Hear that Mamma? Fresh, cold ice on a hot summer day.”

Mamma laid lifeless on the back porch, her glazed eyes wide, long deep scratches along one cheek and an All Star Slugger wooden bat laying on the floor next to her. Junie dropped the ice into her drink. Mamma wouldn’t be saying anything about it.

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