Friday, October 5, 2012

Out of the Box

I lay in bed that night with Mac’s gun box heavy on my chest, the frayed strips of old percale sheets still intact, a cloth cross over my heart. I picked a spot on the ceiling and addressed it.
            “Help. Please.”
            Remarkably, I got a few hours sleep. The green numbers on my clock radio glowed 2:36 when I heard a door open slowly, carefully, somewhere in the house. Inside me, my heart bulged, made my skin feel tight. My eyes stung. Dang it! I need more time! 
            I heaved myself up, the gun case solid against me. I peeked out the window beside my bed. My eyes bridged the seven feet between my house and the Macs.’ I squinted at their Venetian blinds. They formed a solid white wall. I whimpered.
            Nothing stirred outside except the rain that was starting to fall. It had been so long since we’d had rain. A stair creaked and I clenched every part of me. I let go of the box and winced as it thudded against my thighs. I picked it up and shook it close to my ear. Felt and heard the weapon’s weight slide left, then right, inside the box. 
            In the moonlight I focused on the cloth bow and whispered
            “Maybe just seeing the gun’ll make him stop. I mean really, I don’t have to kill him. I can just point it at him. Shoot him in the leg if I have to.” The thought of his maroon blood creeping across my beloved pink and green tulip-basket quilt, staining it forever, gave me pause. “Or, I can do what I always do. Roll on my side. Squeeze my eyes shut. Pretend to sleep.”
            I gulped nothing and rapid-blinked tears. Wished tonight was tomorrow. Then it occurred to me: if I don’t stop it this time, the bad thing’ll go on forever and I—
            I gritted my teeth. Balanced the box on my knees, pinched the end of one of the strips. Waited. I focused on my doorknob. The shine of the moon was so bright, surely I’d be able to see the knob twist. Then I'd yank the cloth strip. Flip the latch, fling the box open. Ready, aim—
            I held my hand in front of my face. Even in the half light, I could see my fingers were a blur. Oh, no! What if my gun hand shakes so bad I miss his leg and kill him? Think! What else? What else can I do? I tore at my thumb nail with my teeth. Then I knew. 
          I shoved the gun box off my lap. Tossed back the covers and tiptoe-ran the eight or nine feet to my parents’ bedroom. I barreled through the door and bent over their bed. Pounded the mattress between them.
            “Wake up! Make him stop! Now!”
            As I watched my parents climb out of their separate slumbers, somewhere in the house I heard a door shut slowly, carefully.
Gracie's eyes never left my face as I told my story. Tears leapt from her chin to her lap where her hands worried a hankie.
            “You did wonderfully, Pet," she said when I finished. She gathered me into her arms and spoke against my shoulder. "I’m so proud of you, so glad for you.”
            I melted against her and wept for what seemed like forever. All the while, she poked through my hair with her age-dry fingers, releasing every tangle.
            “Go home and fetch the box,” she said finally. “We’ll have pie when you get back.”
            After we ate, licked our plates, and put our dishes in the sink, Gracie led the way to the living room. She patted the spot beside her on the sofa.
            “Have a seat,” she said. “Bring the box.”
            After I settled beside her she told me to open it. I tugged at the rag ribbon and drew it away. Undid the little brass latch. When I lifted the lid, I gasped. There was no gun. Instead, there was a glass pie plate and an index card that turned out to be Gracie’s secret recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie. Underneath that was my dresser cloth, the one she said I’d need some day.
            I shut my mouth and faced Gracie, eyes wide. “It’s not a . . . ”
            Gracie nodded, smiled slightly. “I know. Mac came up with the plan. I hoped it might work, prayed it would. Oh, how I prayed. Thank God it did.”
            I held my ribs tight and grinned. “Mac saved me,” I said. “I thought it would be you, but him saving me from beyond the grave? That’s really cool, don’t you think?”   



This is a story I will continue to think about. A bit of a surprise ending. Was he thinking as long as she thought she had a gun she'd be safe???
Really enjoy your characters. I know when I come here I'm in for a good read and as you know good reads are addicting.
Thanks much. Barb/Bobbie Ann

Tony said...

I sure love that pie!!!!


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