January 3rd 1968; Two miles outside Topeka Kansas
He woke up as he had gone to sleep, cold and thirsty. The basement was pitch black except for a rectangular ring of light around the door at the top of the stairs leading to the kitchen. He knew it was day now; when she put him in here, it had been daytime and the lights were off in the kitchen. That meant that light was day light.
He had heard rats before he fell asleep, but they seemed more interested in the rotten potatoes in the corner which he had found scrabbling around. A 10 year old will eat anything if he gets hungry enough, and he hadn’t had a meal for a day prior to even being put down here. She had said she was just going out for an hour, but she always said that. Sometimes she would bring them home and he would only be down here a short while.
But then there would be long times too. Like now. He heard footsteps over him in the hall, and the latch on the basement door lifting, and then the footsteps again overhead. She would fall asleep on the couch, but she may have got him some candy on the kitchen table.He climbed up the stairs and pushed open the door gingerly, the daylight almost blinding him initially. He grabbed his paper cup from his hiding place and turned on the kitchen faucet. The water spattered out, the pipes still defrosting slowly after last weeks ice storm. He slowly tiptoed around the kitchen corner into the small dark living room.
She lay there, asleep already on the couch, the bruise around her right eye fading now, stains down her plain white top just visible under her heavy army surplus parka coat, her hand wrapped around a small bottle of vodka. He went over to the window and peered through the net curtains and blinds. It was already snowing outside again, the flakes seesawing slowly down, sometimes crashing into the window. The dog was still in there, tied to the kennel, the door of which he had blocked yesterday morning.
He went to the hall and put on his boots and coat. His small penknife was still safely tucked in the inside coat pocket. He smiled to himself, pleased. She was fast asleep, she would hear nothing. He opened the back door onto the porch and looked out at the grey monotone sky, stretching for miles in front of him until it eventually merged with off white snow covered fields. The dog was already whimpering, weak. This might not last as long as he had hoped. He took out the knife, flipped out the blade and stepped out into the gently falling snow.
4 years later, November
He had heard them fighting, it sounded like the usual Saturday night fighting. Now he at least could just stay in the room. He had no idea who the man was, his mother didn’t make a habit of introducing her latest friend from the bars. She was drunk as usual, whoever the man was also sounded pretty drunk. They had being going at it now for a good 10 minutes cussing at one another.
Suddenly there was a loud crash and her mother screamed loudly. He heard footsteps in the hall followed by the front door slamming and the car outside pulling away. He crept out of his bed and made his way into the living room. The single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling illuminated the room harshly, the lack of a light shade laying bare the general mess, empty bottles and upturned fast food containers littering the room. The tv was on, an old black and white cowboy film showing, the volume turned right up. His mother was lying on the couch, her garish pink cotton blouse ruined, with a dark patch spreading from the knife plunged into the right side of her chest, just beside the breast bone. She seemed to be gasping, little bubbles of blood forming with each attempted word, bigger ones bursting leaving speckled stains around her upper lip and the tip of her nose. Her eyes looked frightened, desperate. She was looking at him, seemingly trying to plead, pointing at her phone which lay on the floor by the tv.
He smelt pizza too, above the usual dank damp smell of the house. He looked at her, an expressionless look, turning his head ever so slightly on its side, almost like the way a dog would when puzzled. He smiled briefly and walked out and around to the kitchen. Sure enough, there was a new pizza box on the table. He brought it back into the living room and sat down on the dirty stained single seater they had and tucked in. Pepperoni and extra cheese. Delicious.
His mother let out a low groan. Her time was near now. She was soon to pass. He watched her as she gasped, trying to make words, but all she could do was blow blood bubbles. He got up and switched the channel to the comedy channel. This new show M.A.S.H was starting . He was Missouri bound, he had finally escaped this place. His only remaining relative was his aunt down there where he went one summer as a kid. She wasn’t rich or anything but at least he’d get away from the cold. He hoped the pizza wasn’t all that different. He looked over at his mother again. She seemed to be really struggling now, making almost a loud whistling noise. He turned up the volume on the tv. The theme music was very catchy and competed now with his whistling mom. He hoped she wouldn’t be much longer. The show had only just started.