Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing: A Writing Prompt from Anna Beguins

Trigger Warning: violence, sexual abuse

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In my dream, Bette and I had stolen down to Honey Swamp Island to smoke some weed and escape the nightmare that had been our childhood. I’d never been to the island, but in my mind I knew exactly what it looked like. Tall cypress creating a canopy for the canary grass and wild flowers beneath it. I’d also never smoked weed, but I enjoyed the notion of being cool enough to hold the joint between my thumb and forefinger—like the girls in my Latin class. They often snuck away from Sister Bernard Marie and lit up in the bathroom while I was stuck doing verb declension, and promising not to tattle.

When Bette wasn’t in my dream, it was Joe. In my reverie, Joe and I always did more than share a toke, and I often went to bed beckoning the images of him to come visit while I slept.

I was just lighting up when the odor of the swamp and sewer rested upon my lips. As the aroma continue to fill my nose, I started to dream that my chest was being crushed by a feral pig, and I couldn’t breathe. The pig’s tusks lunged at my eyes and the swamp in my nose smelled of Sazerac laced with a heavy cigar. A thick wetness spread across my lips like the ooze of the slime mold that snaked at the bottom of the trees outside my window. I jerked my brain awake and leaped out of the deepest corridors of sleep with my fists raised.

“Hey now, Jax, you don’t wanna wake nobody up.”

The dirty bastard reeked of money; Garden District, invitation-only, Hurricane party-money. But I knew better. Even at seventeen, I could see the grime and smell the residue of a wicked man barely hidden beneath the three-piece suit stretched to the limits at its buttons.

Mama said she felt sorry for him after his wife died, but the town knew she let him stay because he was our one source of income, and a ticket into a decent parish school. She wasn’t about to walk away from an extra dime or two, and he wasn’t going to turn down a female offering sex for a little spending money.

The rank man leered at me from a kneeling vantage-point on my bed. The single tuft of red hair on his head was messy and even in the dark, I could see the slick of fried chicken grease in his pork chop sideburns. My fingernails dug into my palms as I looked around for my youngest sister who usually shared my bed.

“Where’s Mason?”

He backed off the bed, and pulled a chair over from the desk. He flipped the back so that he could straddle the chair and face me. In the moonlight, I could see that his pants were undone, though he could have busted out of them, I wasn’t sure.

“She’s at the house with Millie and Gigi.”

Sleeping in the shack off the main house was always a risk, so at least I knew Mason was in a safer place than myself. Mama and Aunt Millie were two formidable woman, so it was no surprise that he chose the younger, more vulnerable Seydoux females to harass. He said he’d kill all three of us if we ever said anything.

“And you, Miss Jackson, I’d make you watch first. All of it.”

I’d attempted to tell Aunt Millie before, but she wasn’t a very good listener. Millie had her personal skeletons, and my half-confessions stirred painful old bones buried in the locked chest at the foot of her bed.

I’d inherited Millie’s willowy frame and pale blue eyes, and unfortunately, not a lick of her temper. “She could start an argument in an empty house,” goes one Southern expression, and that about described Aunt Millie to a tee. She even taught me to curse in Cajun, hoping she could get a rise out of me.  “Little warbler,” she often called me, because I could set off a string of four letters and make it sound like I was singing Amazing Grace to the Sunday congregation.

The first time it had happened, I was just trying to be polite to Mama’s new boyfriend. I thought he was confused and making a mistake. I didn’t want to make him mad, so I endured and cried myself to sleep after saying three Rosaries.

Over the years, I’d learned to fight back, because the sin of teenage pregnancy outweighed my fear of this old couillon (coo-yaw), “Leave me the fuck alone,” I said between my teeth as I gathered the dirty sheets around my body. The word felt good on my tongue, and I made a mental note to use it again as needed.

Mama wasn’t much for housekeeping in those days, so I could feel my stomach churn with disgust as I continued to smell the swamp and liquor in his pores mixed with the dried blood and sweat on the sheets.

“Your other sister, she keeps a room to herself. If you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll just head over there.” His lips pulled back to reveal yellow teeth, blackened roots thick with chunks of tobacco and half-eaten food.

I screamed and lunged at him. I was a whopping one hundred ten pounds, but the years of fury his abuse had built was enough to knock him onto the corner of the desk. His head made a horrible knock and I could feel the weight of the blow in my teeth. His body went limp, and I watched the blood pour from the back of his skull and pool into the cracks of the peeling linoleum floor. I could taste blood and adrenalin in my mouth as the realization of what I did invaded my body.

“Damn, the head sure bleeds a lot.” The matter-of-fact voice came from the doorway and I lifted my eyes to meet Bette’s –my younger, beautiful, dark-eyed sister with curves that belonged to a woman more than a thirteen-year-old.

“He was getting ready to take his turn with me or go see you. I couldn’t let him do it again. I just couldn’t, Bette.”

She crouched beside me, two teenagers with a highly regarded community member laying highly dead between us. Without words we grabbed arms and legs and dragged him onto the back porch. The grey wood smelled of must and moth balls. My stomach couldn’t take it any more, so I puked all over the ground.

“You never could hold your supper,” Bette said.

I wiped my mouth and looked at the pool of blood mixed with my vomit—almost giddy at the irony of it. The notion that this man, born into linen and freshly pressed privilege would meet his end after crossing an angry swamp rat one too many times.

“What are we gonna do with him, Jax?”

“Gonna bury him. Fetch my car keys, and don’t tell Mama or Millie. I know just the place.”

Huge shout-out to Christy for prompting us over at her site. Go check out this month’s prompts if you want to join the fun! Too short of notice? She’ll share a whole new set for December, too.

I know this is a strange and dirty take on the prompt, but there’s a reason. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and wanted to be efficient with my time. At first, I didn’t think the prompt would work, but as you can see…I may have just created the ‘inciting event‘ as a result. Jax and Bette have been playing hopscotch in my brain for several years – it’s only fitting that I introduce them to you in private first.

Only 5K more words to make the 50K goal and complete a partial first draft. The novel I have sketched in my head and in hundreds of notes on my desk, is closer to 80K – murder, mystery, sex, lies, and deep-seeded family ties and secrets. People will wonder about my sanity if it ever comes to print. That’s okay…that’ll mean I did my job 🙂

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PS: This piece is highly unedited (wrote in less than 2 hours), and rough on purpose–I don’t do a lot of editing during NaNoWriMo.  Open to suggestions, ideas, and “what ifs.” The idea to murder the rank man came when I read Christy’s prompt. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Into the Mystic

“Do you believe in magic? Not just in any magic, but the magic in a young girl’s heart, how the music can free her, whenever it starts? . . . I hope you do, because what follows is a story about the magical power of music, memory, and love.”

This was the prelude to the story Christy shared in October on Words for the Weekend. She and Cayman revived our beloved characters Sam and Dave, and suddenly, the story is taking on a life of its own. Jennie created Sam in the very first volume, and we have all fallen in love with her…and the journey.

If you need to get caught up, here are the stories from Jennie, Cayman, and Christy in order of publication.

Volume 16; The Day the World Went Away
Volume 43; It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Just Another Day: Signs, Memories, and Bob Marleys
Walking on a Blood Red Moon
The Long Way Home

 After reading Walking on a Blood Red Moon, I wanted to know more about Rebecca. What follows is my entry into the lovely madness.

*****

Into the Mystic

These mortal lullabies of pain
May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden’s locks;
Or when a thousand moons shall wane

~~Lord Alfred Tennyson

I was supposed to be a doctor. Not your average Dr. Prick with a vacation home and a shitty bedside manner, but one who was going to save lives. You know, cure cancer, eliminate diabetes and abolish infant mortality.

Even by my unreachable standards, I was a badass. Ivy League sweaters had recruited me before I was out of high school, and I sprinted to Emory University with a full scholarship. The Marta was both a highway to Hell screaming away from a rough, roach-infested childhood, as well as the rail leading to dorm rooms and roommates with daddy issues. After the first semester, the white coats fast-tracked me, and I graduated from med school before my eighteenth birthday. I liked the shiny objects in the lab, and I could dissect a cadaver in my sleep. Like a junkie, I thrived on the adrenalin produced by thirty-six-hour shifts in the ER and a side-gig at the CDC.

The CDC is where I met Jimmy—we shared a hood and a Bunsen burner. Like me, he first-year gunner resident, but that’s where our similarities ended. He was confident, smart, and damned sexy. Larger than life, gregarious with an easy smile and dimples that knocked the sensible shoes off of my feet.

I was in love with him, but too chicken to tell. Love scared the shit of me. You know? And I didn’t want jinx the chemistry. My stomach lurched when his fingers knocked on mine, and I relished catching him map out every inch of my body during morning cardiology rounds. Yeah. Cheesy, like a bad zombie movie. I was a fucking idiot when it came to matters of the heart.

He made my gut hurt when he looked at me in a certain way. Expectant—like he imagined my belly big with his babies. I’m not denying having written his last name next to mine inside a borrowed Grey’s Anatomy textbook. Rebecca Du Maurier. I wanted his ring on my little green finger, but first, I had promises to keep. Cancer was not going to cure itself.

When in doubt, always know your way out.

I’d put on a chastity belt long ago. Not because I’m virtuous, God no! I was cautious and level-headed, but a crazy part of me worried that I’d burn in Hell if I broke that seal. Thou shalt not. Sure, I didn’t mind messing around a little, but it was difficult for me to maintain control when he touched me. During one of our “study sessions,” he peeled off his tee-shirt with such self-confidence that all I could do was stare, and then struggle to keep my perky parts covered. I shook like a stupid little girl, and he liked it.

But, I fought him (and me) and remained a technical virgin until the very end. And the end came too soon.

A woman with a commanding presence and a government badge tried to shoo us lab rats out before things got terrible. She was off to catch a plane, and suggested that we do the same, HICPAC practices be damned.

People scurried out of the air-sealed room leaving only Jimmy and myself. A virus was wiping out the population, and all I could think about was that I was never getting laid. (really?) He would never have the chance to know me. To know that I could have rocked his world. (I would have) That I’d never get to be his missus. (truth)

No matter how desperate the situation seems, time spent thinking clearly is never time wasted.

I left Jimmy slumped over in the isolation room. It sucked, but I had no time to dwell on the Alanis-ish irony. I emptied my backpack and filled it back up with matches, a scalpel, scissors, antibiotics, Neosporin, and a propane torch. I reviewed the discarded stack of books and weighed my options. I ditched Netter’s for Tennyson, and Lippincott’s for Bronte. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

Travel light.

A blur of days followed, and I prayed for amnesia. I couldn’t ditch the memory of Jimmy’s terrified, hazel eyes filling the rectangle of the PAPR face cover. He looked at me through the glass, plasma seeping from the lesions all over his body. His hands were splayed across the glass. Like that same bad movie, I matched my fingers to his, pretending that the two-inch barrier didn’t hinder our shared energy. He pleaded for me to leave, so I did. Like a chicken shit.

I grabbed the bag and mentally thanked the Romanesque rowing coach for moving me to the hammer spot mid-season. The training hours paid off as I sprinted through and around parked cars on I-85. Ha! The easiest I had ever been able to navigate through traffic leaving Peachtree at rush hour. The physical exertion provided enough morphine-like endorphins to block the pain of the previous twenty minutes. I didn’t take the time to see the viral effects on the people trapped in their cars. My life-saving innards left their cozy philanthropic cells while self-preservation pervaded every ounce of my lithe body.

Cardio.

At some point, I must have fallen asleep on that first night. Tucked in the underbrush, with an English teacher’s voice in my head.

“Do you know where the wicked go after death?”
“They go to hell.”
“And what is hell?” Can you tell me that?
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, be to be burned forever?”
“No sir.”“Then what must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment: my answer when it did come was objectionable. “I must keep in good health, and not die.”

The group I crossed paths with appeared trustworthy, at least at the outset. I liked Dave’s deep-set eyes, and my ancient soul stirred when he spoke to me. He let me lay beside him at night. He thought I was scared and cold, but I just wanted his man’s body next to mine. I have a degree in biochemistry and know the Voo Doo response a woman’s body has. Fucking oxytocin. He made me miss Jimmy. The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

Dave waxed on about Buddha, but I could tell that his words belonged to someone else—someone decidedly feminine.  I heard his breath hitch when I flung my unruly hair around my head and pretended to strike a tree pose. It was my first attempt at levity after I’d abandoned Jimmy. Dave’s eyes saw me for a moment and then left to find something else.

Who was this woman? A wife? A lover? Whoever she was, she traipsed and hop-scotched through his nightmares. Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. His lilting words and poetic descriptions of her reminded me of the government chick who had evacuated the CDC offices. Even with her fancy title and government clearance, she possessed the humility of someone who’d give you her world if it made yours better. Despite myself, I was jealous of her long and lean with legs that seemed to snake all the way to her eyeballs. Her laugh was a crescendo of notes accentuated by a look that would command a man to part the sea just to be between her legs. Would I have the chance to be old enough to feel comfortable in my skin?

I imagined Dave and his woman had a cute dog with a hippy name and danced in the kitchen. To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love. I bet she wore lipstick when she folded his laundry. I imagined her tree poses were real and that she had mastered the bakasana. She probably made him wait to take her to bed, and I respected her for that.

I almost asked him where she was, this Sam, the name that left his lips when he struggled against the dreams.  I didn’t want or need to know, even though he did. I could empathize–being driven crazy by the not knowing. But I knew where Jimmy was, where I left him, and the thought didn’t comfort me at all.

I was rifling through my bag when ratty pages of a Keats poem fell onto the ground. Rife between the Neosporin and Twinkies, Dave handed the folio to me and said, “Will you read it?” I recognized a look I was used to seeing on Jimmy’s face and obliged.

Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall

Keats could always take me to another place; it wasn’t long after that we were knee-deep in shit again. Dave tried to steer me away from the fire and the bikers who thought I looked like a sweet treat. Red hair was my life-long sorrow. Memories of my dad’s Vietnam era music rang in my ears as I struggled to maneuver through the brush. Over on the mountain, thunder magic spoke. Let the people know my wisdom. Fill the land with smoke.

It was useless, though. My trained legs were worthless with only Twinkie fuel in the tank, and I started to fall behind. Why the fuck were they wasting their bullets on us anyway? I was just about ready to dive into the clay when the ammunition hit its target—my heart. Another Morrisette moment.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

From across the river, they watched me crumble as my eyes faded to black. Was it this dark or am I staring at the insides of my eyeballs? Misery racked my weary bones, but I couldn’t decipher the origination. My eyes fluttered open to find three little birds perched on the tree above me. The breeze kissed my face–warm waves interlaced with flecks of cold peppering my cheeks. God, I loved that sensation. Peaceful, enveloping, sensual. Jimmy used to make me close my eyes so he could run his lips over my eyelashes, and breathe into my hair. He’d press his forehead to mine, inhale and then whisper, “You smell like vanilla and chocolate.”

I cried, sobbed, retched–racked with guilt and longing. I ached to hear his voice again. To feel him take me in. I should have never left.

Then the calm returned, the little birds sang, and I snuggled into the bank—burrowed into what would be my forever home. The clay was malleable, familiar, and warm, and the timing was right. Hello, Love. I’m on my way.

We were borne before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic

I don’t have to fear it and I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic
Come on, girl

Too late to stop now

*****

Playing off of what Jennie, Christy, and Cayman created, I left a few Easter eggs of my own. Did you find any along the way? Hint: Rebecca was a ravenous reader of the classics.

And, what would the next installation in the Zombie Apocalypse be without a playlist and a signature video?

Sending a heartfelt thank you to Christy and Cayman for inspiring me, and coaxing me out of my tightly wound, twined ball.

Bonus: Something wicked wonderful this way comes. Stay tuned.