Freak Shows and Firestorms

b26a7d4704949aa8718ba4beb10dbace

via Pinterest

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars.

It must have been the first time her stepfather threw her to ground right outside the barn and pounded the innocence from her little body. She had fixed her eyes on the North Star while he clawed at her young body and ripped away the threadbare linen that was plastered against his sweat-drenched chest. His drunken smell and calloused hands had ruined the beauty of the star-soaked sky and she kept her eyes closed each time after that.

Even tonight, under the Milky Way, rage filled her heart as she plotted. She watched the red horizon crackle with a fiery blaze and knew they had to go before the dogs showed up.

If only the stock market hadn’t crashed and her daddy hadn’t died. If only her mama hadn’t married that man or been passed out when the circus came through town. Millie’s stepfather grabbed her by the hair, dragged her through the kitchen and out the door while her mama slept off the absinthe purchased with a day’s wages.

The manager licked his chops at the curves barely hidden by her best dress and knew that the novelty of one green eye and one blue would bring more sad saps to the after-midnight tent. He thrust two dollars into the stepfather’s hand and took Millie.

She spit at and slapped the men who filled the burlesque show. She didn’t dance and never smiled. It was after Millie grabbed a customer’s knife and held it to his balls that the manager banished her to clean animal pens. She slept on the ground outside the wagons and used the steady sound of the horses’ breathing to block out the noise–invasive, lecherous thoughts of the men who filled the peep-show tent.

One day, she stole away to see the gypsy who she’d seen hiding in the corners of the grounds.  Millie was drawn to her bright, blue eyes framed by the colorful scarves that hid her brilliant red hair. She felt a kindred soul in her sad spirit and wanted to know more than what the woman’s veiled thoughts revealed.

Millie sat across from her and offered the two cents she’d earned the day before. The gypsy looked at Millie’s pixie face and pushed the pennies back. Her skin prickled with goose bumps as she took Millie’s palm, “You know the hearts of men. You can hear their thoughts?” It was more a statement than a question.

The gypsy continued to move her fingers along Millie’s palm and bristled at the touch of her skin.

“Hatred ravages your body. What is wrong, little one?”

Millie snatched her hand away, looked the gypsy square in the eye and said, “Nothing! You are full of shit!”

Millie hopped up from the table and knew she needed to run. But, it was too late. Sadness and self-loathing emanated from the gypsy and traveled across the room in crimson threads to tangle with Millie’s thoughts before she had a chance to leave.  Millie stopped at the door, turned around and grabbed the gypsy’s face on either side and peered into her lightless eyes.

In that moment, Millie saw every abomination and crime that had been committed against the poor woman. Lost lover and child. The Depression and human slavery. In one vision, she saw the gypsy laying in pig slop looking up to the heavens while the circus manager defiled her over and over again.

“What’s your name?” Millie asked.

“Madame….”

“Your real name!” she spat.

“Dorothy.”

“Dorothy, pack a bag.”

Without question, the gypsy filled a satchel and grabbed Millie’s hand as if in a trance. Millie squeezed it warmly and they exited the wagon under the cover of night with one lantern between them.

Millie could hear his dirty thoughts as she sneaked around the perimeter of the manager’s living quarters. She nearly vomited in disgust at his perverted dreams and her body shook as she torched the entrance and set fire to each corner of his tent. Even if he had been able to wake from his drunken stupor, he wouldn’t be able to escape.

After they reached a safe distance, Millie grasped Dorothy’s hand and sent a message of love and kinship. They watched the blaze a moment longer, set their sites on the North Star and wordlessly planned a trip back  to visit Millie’s stepfather.

aphoto

via Pinterest

 

 

****

Woo Wee! 748 words of devilish fun. Not one to write much from my dark side, it was a lesson in exploration. All of you flash fiction readers/experts feel free to fire away with suggestions and comments. I cared about these characters, but I have no idea if you did and it seems that the reader caring about the characters is the most important thing…no matter what the plot or circumstances.

For those new to Yeah Write, click on the icon to see this week’s challenge sentence and video prompt. You still have time to join!

Grow S&*t, Write S*+t

Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes. Sizing up my hips and breasts with the look of remembrance where his experienced hands had been hours before.

Each time had me tasting the bitter good-bye in his hello kiss. His tongue telegraphed the warning message and I ignored it. As in the beginning, he flashed me the smile that never reached his eyes–eyes that always said so much and so little at the same time.

For the countless time in the last two years, he let me walk away and followed up with a text message the following morning while I was weeding my garden.

I always have a hangover after being with you

His words triggered the itch even though I was determined to stop the cycle. He was like nettle and I was tired of the prick.

Me, too. I’m going to disappear for awhile

Me, too
We can’t keep doing this

Augh. Really, bastard? You’re gonna say it again? But I hardened and resolved.

I’m just going to grow shit and write shit. You won’t hear from me

The conversation continued like it typically did. Both of us confessing remorse and promising to be better. All the while, I weeded and snatched and pulled and plowed the earth to make it whole. I took off my gloves only long enough to reply to each and every last nail he put in the coffin.

He finally ended it with a promise to love me forever (rain or shine) and said he prayed that I’d have a beautiful garden. I prayed that he’d have a beautiful life and meant it. He could always pull that last bit of harshness away and find my soft truth.

The garden that summer was a complete disaster. I nurtured, teased and tried to tickle life to the surface. The result was lifeless, pale-green and lackluster. Storms demolished the heirloom tomatoes, drought sucked the nutrients from the soil, and over-zealous weeding plucked out seedlings before they had a chance to grow.

Typical me. Fluttering, fixing and fucking up. Making mountains while they were still mole-hills. His memory continued to plague me though the vision of his cruel eyes were buried deep in my darkest places.

Places that only he had been.

ALBREC~1

How different would life be had I not glanced his way? Had I not reached out when his eyes spoke to me. Had I recognized the emptiness behind his allure. He didn’t even see it himself until we were too far in.

I never meant to hurt you

You are my one true love

The view of my gardens both sickened and delighted me. Flower and vegetable beds each bore a tribute to our “last” times together. Roses for the first sweet good-bye and pink peonies for an encore the following week. Daisies for a resolve to do better and an entire bed of zinnias when I caved again. We were each consumed by cocaine-laced kisses that devoured us and left a path of pain and regret in its wake.

Grow shit. Write shit.

It was all shit.  No words to feed the craving in my body and nothing that would grow in the wasteland I’d created.

Except for one patch.

A small section in the woodland where I’d carelessly thrown seeds of peppermint. Neglected and forgotten, the mint spread and flourished filling the air with a faint scent of recognition. Just as Hades intended when he created the persistent little plant.

In a flurry, I yanked out stems by the root hoping to contain the infiltration and keep it out of my failing corn patch. Each morning, new life appeared with more vigor until I couldn’t kill it any longer. I surrendered and laid in its bed of invasion. Wisps of peppermint circled my halo of hair and the cool, sticky leaves clung to my thighs. It was then that the phone vibrated and rang the tone reserved just for him.

Are you growing shit?

My fingers sketched the same expanse that his hands had navigated on my body the months before. Lines of regret, scars of passion and the memory of being full right before he emptied me again.