October 12, 2007

Fiction Friday: sentimental endings

This Week’s Theme: Use this quote as the spark for anything you want. “I’m not one for sentimental endings. Not this time.”
"I'm not one for sentimental endings. Not this time."

It wasn't the tone of Adam's voice that chilled my blood, or even the words. It was the stark emotionlessness of his steel gray eyes. At just eight years old, he had already seen more pain and death than most men see in a lifetime. The problem was, he was the one causing it.

"Sedimentary what?" His sister, Grace, bless her heart, had just finished fourth grade but no one could quite figure out how. She glanced away from the mirror at Adam, then back to continue gazing at her own deep, stunningly blue eyes and golden hair.

Adam rolled his eyes in just the way that an eight year old shouldn't.

I knew what was coming, and I also knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. Adam had already sensed the fear and anger in my heart, so deep this time that I couldn't hide it from him. His mind was set. Poor Donnie. To Adam, Donnie would look no different from the insane pit bull that had attacked Grace last year. At the time, it was a blur, an unbelievable sequence. I found myself watching Adam watching me, his clear gaze appearing so empty yet hiding so much power.

The choking rumble of Donnie's pickup filled the darkness outside the window, and a brief flash of headlights reflected off Grace's mirror and then snuffed themselves out. The loud screeching creak of the old truck's dented door shut up the frogs momentarily, and the uneven scuffing of Donnie's work boots in the gravel let me know that he'd been down to Danny's tavern again. He'd have been better off getting in a wreck off the old drawbridge and drowning than coming home drunk and mean. Adam's gaze slid sideways to the door. I found myself wondering if Adam would wait until Donnie... did something bad. Like that crazed dog.

A knock on the door. Among the three of us only I tensed. My hair stood up all over my neck, and my feet tapped, ruffling the hem of my flowered dress and making an almost raining pitter-pat on the threadbare carpet.

"Manda!" Donnie's drawl clawed through and around the locked door. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swore I could smell the bourbon on his breath. "Ain't it time I met those cute little ones of your'n?" His voice dripped sarcasm. "How come you been hidin' them from me? You know we talked of this."

I didn't want to answer. My feet tapped, but my body felt glued to the sofa.

Another knock, more determined and threatening. Adam gazed at the door, impassive and curious the way a normal eight year old might look. Grace hummed to herself, twisting and twirling her golden hair in the pale light of the dim bulb hanging unshaded from the middle of the ceiling. "Manda! Don't keep your man waiting on the doorstep now!"

Adam swiveled his gaze to me. "Shall I let him in, Mom?"

I tried to think nothing, tried to feel nothing. Did I want Donnie to come in? Did I want what I knew was going to happen? Or did I want... what? More pain?

Grace tilted her head to one side and smiled at me in the mirror. "Let him in, Mommy." Her smile was so genuine and innocent, so untroubled by the past, so unconcerned with the future.

My eyes flicked to Adam, and he knew.

A moment later, just when the pounding on the door was about to begin again, the door vanished. It didn't explode or open or disintegrate; it just ceased to be. The children seemed not to notice, but Donnie noticed as his hand, in mid-pound, swung down where the door had been and carried his body with it, stumbling out of the darkness into my dim living room. "What the hell?"

He righted himself, wobbling slightly, his eyes squinty and his hair jagged from under his cap. He looked first at me, triumph and disdain mixed in his sneer, then glanced past Adam to have his drunken gaze rest on Grace. Just eleven, she had the body of a voluptuous sixteen year old, and I saw the hunger, the lust rising in Donnie's eyes. "Well, Manda, you didn't tell me you had a sister."

I tried to speak, but my mouth felt filled with dust, and my body began to quiver. Adam observed us both at once, watching Donnie with his eyes and watching me with... some other part of him. Donnie moved toward Grace, his hands greasy and his shirt sweat-stained, and I felt it then. The anger, the revulsion. I glanced at Adam.

"You're doing it, Mom." He watched, a little smile curling the edges of his mouth. "Don't hold it back. Let it happen. You can do it, too." His mouth didn't move, but I heard his voice in my head. "It's the right thing. You know it is."

As Donnie's hand reached out to touch Grace's hair, I let go of something inside. I didn't understand it, didn't know what I was doing. It felt like that moment when you've been holding in the pee for hours and you finally let it loose, a relief, a breaking of something, a flooding of energy. And Donnie vanished.

He didn't explode. He didn't disintegrate. He just ceased to be.

Adam's smile had made itself complete now. And I understood.

"I guess," I said to him, "I'm not one for sentimental endings either."

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Anonymous said...

Now that is a power I'd like to have! I liked the story - lots of possibilities from the onset, and the ending delivered a creative twist that I didn't see coming at first.

Anonymous said...

Oh that was very cool. Seems a lot of people are taking this prompt the domestic violence route. It's kind of interesting from a sociological standpoint.

Anonymous said...

It had to end like that! No other way...