Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly. Likewise, I say come into my fiction. Experience my world of created characters and settings. Enjoy or not at all, come again if you must, there will be more to read, for my collection is not a few.
The following short stories were compiled throughout the years while I was a student at New York University and Longridge Writer’s School.
I thought Alma was a nice lady, but that was before she tried to kill me. I was ten when she came. Back then I was too young to understand her fury. Enraged, she pounded my frail body until my bones ached. When my parents tried to intervene she beat them to the ground. After she had her way with us, she swooped down on the cowering neighbours. Would they escape unscathed? I shuddered at the thought.
The events surrounding her visit have become permanent fixtures in my mind. When she left, she took my best friend, Timmy with her.
Alma’s arrival was swift and sudden. She struck with a force that hurled the roof off our modest three-bedroom-wooden-home into neighbour Dookie’s garden, three hundred yards away.
“Maa! Paa! I screamed and Alma swallowed it in a deep howl. She roared in anger and Timmy tucked his tail between his hind legs and scooted under the bed. The house shuddered. Pa grabbed my hand. “Run,” he shouted. “The house is coming down.” We exited, Ma in front and Pa and I behind, just as the walls collapsed. Immediately Alma ripped the wood apart and tossed the shards into the raging wind.
Through the howls, Ma shouted for us to go to the school. Hands linked tight together we bowed our heads against the stinging rain and plodded along the muddy road. Every so often we had to dodge flying debris. We stopped at Dookie’s place. Half of our roof had flattened the back of his house. The other half lay in crumpled patches in his garden. Ma and Pa hastened to see if any one was trapped inside. That’s when I remembered Timmy.
I had never seen my parents prepare for anyone’s visit like they did for Alma’s. They hoarded food like they were preparing for a wedding: Flour, oil, rice, sugar, baking powder, split peas, red beans, potatoes; anything they could remember. And they stacked matches, candles, batteries and pitch-oil as if they expected an eternal blackout. Pa filled all five barrels and every utensil he could find in the kitchen, buckets, pans, pots, basins, with tap water.
“Suki, get a pound of butter from the shop. Suki get a can of biscuit, get a pound of cheese; get this, get that, as if the shop was closing down and food was going out of existence. Ma had me running back and forth all day fetching this and fetching that. I resented Alma for forcing all that work on me and wished she’d change her mind and not visit after all. But she didn’t. And when she finally came, she wrecked lives and took lives. That was in October, 1972.
I remember how she kept pushing me backwards as I retraced my steps home. “Timmy. Timmy,” I called and my voice drowned in my throat. A clap of thunder shot through the angry sky and the day darkened like Alma’s rage. Slush rose hurriedly around my feet. Lightening crackled and I pushed forward, faster, thinking only of Timmy.
I was cold and afraid, still I had to find him. Four years before, he had been dumped to die, in a muddy ditch by a stone hearted human being. I was on my way home from school when I heard his weak whimpers. Ma was furious when I arrived home with my new pet and threatened to give him away every time he peed or pooped on her freshly vanished floor.
The wreckage of what used to be our home loomed ahead. As nature reeled under Alma’s wrath I felt a weakening in her might. And I waited until she became exhausted. The rain lightened and I pressed forward calling for Timmy as loud as I could. A faint whimper sounded as I rounded the back of the wreckage. “Timmy?” I called and waited for the mutt’s reply. He whimpered again, more urgent this time. “Timmy.” He barked a weak, pained sound. He was only ten feet away from where the house once stood, trapped under a pile of firewood and debris.
Earlier on, while the house still stood, and before Alma had disrupted our orderliness, I had sneaked him indoors from the shed, at the back of the house where Pa had tethered him so he would be safe from Alma. Timmy was banned from the house. Ma and Pa made sure of that when they found him hidden under my bed, rearing a nest of fleas. I got a licking and had to sleep in the hall for a week.
I kicked and pushed at the debris to rescue Timmy. When the weight fell from his body, he struggled to his feet, tried to shake himself and flopped down. At the third try he limped over and licked my face and hands. I could tell he was badly hurt. Blood dripped from is nose and huge patches of crimson flesh glistened where fur was ripped from his back and sides. His right front paw was twisted awkwardly. The back leg on his left side was broken. The bone protruded through the fur. He did his best to walk and whimpered with each step.
Slowly we made our way to the school building. Halfway there, the rain intensified and the wind strengthened. The water rose steadily. I knew then that the nearby BC river had overflowed its bank. And if we didn’t hurry we’d be swept away. I urged Timmy on. After a few jerky steps, he stopped. I urged him forward, but he just stood there.
The thought of drowning in the flood scared me. Thunder rolled, lightening flashed, and Alma attacked again. The wind roared and the torrent started. I was frightened for myself and for Timmy. The rising water was taking him further from me and I could barely see him through the pelting rain. Inside me, fear rose, faster than the raging water. I turned to run and saw Pa wading towards me. He grabbed me by the arm and we ran all the way to the school. It would become our home for the next week.
Furious at our escape, Alma pounded the building all night, rattling windows and doors to get inside. Huddled, we tried to sleep. So did the other families hiding inside with us. Sometime during the night Alma calmed down. In the morning she was gone and so was Timmy.