Sometimes Enough is Enough
By Rhonda R Carpenter
The pen glided across the wrinkled page. Her only solace; the silent words upon it and the idea she had finally gotten it right. The one place Barbie did not fear the next mistake or punishment was in the pages of the note book. The one she kept hidden from Ken. She glanced at the clock, ten minutes left before he got home from work. She closed the journal slipped it securely beneath the dresser as far as she could reach and went to check on the children. Alan was18 months and was playing on the floor and Jean 4 was watching cartoons.
Barbie quick stepped through the house picking up the few toys she’d allowed the children to have and put them neatly away. Jean pouted when the doll was taken from her but she didn’t cry, because even at four she understood daddy was about to come home and she must be a good girl.
Alan unseen, toddled to the master bedroom and pulled a single shoe from the closet. He put it on his foot and clumsily shuffled to the bathroom where he quickly lost interest in the shoe and returned to the living room dragging his blanket behind him. Barbie snatched him up and put him in the highchair. She checked the roast in the oven.
“Jean, honey, turn off the TV and come here.” After cleaning Jean’s face she handed Jean the forks, “Help me set the table.”
All the while she nervously glancing out the window. She scanned the room again. Everything was in order. Dinner was ready. The house was spotless. She steadied her nerves assuring herself today would be different. She’d done everything just the way he liked it. He hasn’t always been like this. She told herself. It was her fault. She couldn’t be a good wife. Hadn’t he told her that enough?
Barbie didn’t jump into the relationship with Ken. They’d dated for 6 months and lived together for 2 years and a few months when he’d asked her to marry him. A few months later they were married. The ceremony was lovely. They had rarely fought or disagreed while he courted her. But the night they were married that all changed. He got drunk at the reception. He had thought she was flirting with someone, and she couldn’t even remember who. But that had been the first time he’d hit her. It was just a backhanded slap across the face and several shoves followed by tears and apologies. And what do his apologies mean now? She thought.
How had it come to this? She lived in fear every single day. Scared to think for your self, because she was too stupid. Not allowed to talk to family or old friends. She was trapped in a trailer park, without a car in a Podunk town. He’d ripped the phone from the wall 3 months earlier. She missed her mother’s and grandmother’s calls.
The car door slamming jarred her from her thoughts. She rushed to the fridge and grabbed a beer. Dashed to the drawer to get the opener and dropped the cap in the trashcan. Ken sauntered through the door, letting it bang closed. She flinched involuntarily. He snatched the beer from her hand and shoved his lunch box toward her.
Here we go, She thought, and ran the list in her mind as he started his inspection. He opened the dishwasher, but it was empty. He took a swig of his beer and looked around the room. Even a month earlier she might have tried to distract him by asking about his day. But no more, she waited for his approval her hands clutched together behind her.
He opened the pantry. Labels all faced forward in straight rows. He smiled and took another swig of his beer. Jane fidgeted in her seat and the baby babbled, “Daddy, daddy,” from the highchair. But Ken didn’t notice. Instead he looked over his shoulder at Barbie and laughed. Then strutted to the door way. One finger slid across a clean door frame and when he saw it was dust free his inspection seemed to be over. She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Come on let’s eat. What’s for dinner?” He said with a smile.
“Made you a roast, and some potatoes and carrots.” She answered waiting for him to find something out of place.
He sat down at the table and talked to Alan and Jane, “Hey there little man. Did you miss me?” He tweaked his son’s nose and then tipped the beer to the boy’s lips.
“Oh, Ken, don’t give him beer. He’ll be sick.” She knew it was a mistake the second she spoke.
“Don’t tell me what’s best for my son.” He bellowed tipping the beer to the baby’s lips again.
Barbie served Ken first, then Jane and little Alan next. As she put her food on her plate, Ken slapped her hard on the rear.
“Looks like you tired today, maybe I’m finally getting you into shape. Now if I could get you to shut that mouth. Get me another beer.”
He pinched her hard on the thigh as she turn to get his beer. He ate dinner in 10 bites and demanded another beer while he told her about his stupid boss at the factory. He hated this job and his boss. She’d heard it all before, but she listened. She cleaned the kitchen while he sat on the couch watching the TV.
He drank and drank while she hoped he would fall asleep on the couch. She put the kids to bed and while she was reading to Jean he hollered across the house for another beer which she got for him. He pulled her on to his lap and kissed her hard. His breath was disgusting and it was all she could do not to gage. He shoved his tongue down her throat like he was fishing for something unreachable.
He yanked as his belt and Barbie knew what was coming. She would do it just to keep him happy even though it made her sick to her stomach. Saying no was not an option when he was this drunk or at least this drunk. She began to count in her mind as he gripped the hair at the nap of her neck and shoved her face into his crotch. She counted. And he moaned. She chocked. And he pushed harder. She counted and gratefully he had his release.
“I’m taking a shower.” He slurred standing and staggered out of the room.
She cried as she heaved in the kitchen sink.
“Barbie, get your fat ass in here.”
She froze. Oh god, she thought. Oh god, no. When she turned the corner he threw the shoe at her face. It caught her in the hand that came up to protect her cheek. Blood trickled down the side of her hand but she didn’t feel it.
He came toward her and she screamed. “It was an accident. I swear. It won’t happen again.”
“You can’t even put a shoe away, you lazy cunt.” His fist connected with her mouth. Her head snapped back, but she didn’t loose her footing. She backed away tears spilling down her face and taste of metallic blood in her mouth. He lunged, but fell. She turned and ran. He caught her ankle and she fell to the floor elbows smacked first followed by her chin. The room faded. She crawled.
“Hold still you fucking bitch.” He was pulling her back to the bedroom. She fought crawling forward.
“Please, Ken. Please, Ken, the kids.” She pleaded.
“Fuck the kids and fuck you. I’ll Show you what you are good for.” He flipped her over. Their eyes met, but Ken wasn’t in there and she knew it. He sat on top of her hands around her throat. The back of her head struck the floor over and over with every word. “Don’t—You—Know—I—Love—You! He spit in her face slamming her head off the floor over and over. His eyes glazed and red with furry, foam collected at the corner of his mouth. She was loosing consciousness and all she could think was; you are loving me to death. I am going to die and he is going to do this to my children. That was when Jean’s voice broke through his madness.
“Daddy! Daddy!” His hands released Barbie’s throat. She gasped for air fighting to hold on to consciousness.
There he sat deflated, crying on the floor a crumbled mass of drunken brute. Barbie looked at her daughter and choked out 3 words, “Go, to, bed.” Jean ran to her room.
Barbie pulled herself to her knees, gathered her abuser in her arms and helped him to the couch.
She was suddenly calm. Suddenly clear minded. She left him on the couch and checked on Jean. She told her daughter everything was going to be okay and closed the door as she left the room.
When she went back to the sofa he was still professing it would never happen again and he was sorry, he needed help and tomorrow they would go see someone. She knew these were the lies she had bought into, but this time he was right on one count; he would never do this again.
“Ken, I’m gonna go clean my face. I know you’re sorry. I’ll be right back.” She knew that if there were a next time she’d be dead. Then who would he hit? She looked at herself in the mirror. Can’t let him do this to the children. Enough. She opened the cabinet and grabbed the bottle of sleeping pills poured several into her hand she replaced the bottle.
In the kitchen she pulled two glasses from the cabinet. With every once of sweetness she could muster she asked, “Ken, would you like something stronger than a beer? I’ll make us both a drink and we can decide where to go tomorrow.” Always compliant after a rage-full fit he agreed. She crushed the pills and put half in one glass and half in the other. She said nothing as she poured Jack Daniels in the glasses and stirred them both then added ice and coke and stirred them again.
When she sat on the couch next to him he clung to her as if she were his life line. For a moment—for and instant, it was like he cared if she lived or died. But she knew that was a lie too. She pulled away.
“I know you are sorry.” She handed him the glass. He downed it. “It’s okay, Ken, I know you won’t ever hurt me again.” She took the empty glass and set it on the coffee table. “Here you need this more than me.”
He belched and took the glass. After a few minutes it too was empty. She let him hold her and cry into her shoulder. As his mind dulled hers sprang into action. When he started to snore she slipped from beneath his grip and checked on the children. They were sound asleep. She hovered over his snoring form as she made her final decision.
She had pulled the car to as close to the porch as she could get it, left the passenger side open and half carried, half dragged him to the passenger seat. She buckled in him and returned to check the kids one more time.
The road was dark. No streetlights out here in the boonies. She thought. How many times had he driven her to this very spot and said, “Keep fucking up, bitch and I’ll bash your head in with a shovel and burry you alive. No one will ever find you way out here.”
“There was a day, years ago… when I promised my all to this man.” Stringy brown hair dripped sweat into her angry face as she dug the hole.
“He stole who I was the fucking thief!” Tears stung the back of her eyes but she would not allow them to flow. She held onto her anger like a source of power and dug, mumbling to herself. “I would have laid my life down willingly for him. Not—My—Babies. He’s not going to hurt my babies!” With the shovel in her hands she climbed out of the hole. She caught her breath while she stood over his drugged heap of uselessness slumped in the car seat. She leaned over him and unbuckled the seat belt. He mumbled, “You take…you take good care a your man.”
“Come on, Ken, let’s get you in bed.” She tugged at him and he half helped leaning on her shoulder. “That’s right, just a few steps.”
When she reached the hole she lowered him to the ground. He landed hard on his knees and almost tumbled in the hole. She steadied him until he kneeled there swaying, back and forth. He never opened his eyes. Her grip tightened. Every beating flashed through her mind, every slap, shove, black eye, the broken arm and bruised ribs, the gun shots over her head. She heard her own lame excuses for the injuries in her mind. I slipped and fell; I’m just accident prone… The shovel was perched high above her right shoulder, stepping forward on her left foot she twisted her body weight into the swing and without hesitation screamed and struck at one time. “Enough!”
The shovel blade struck the back of his skull with a loud crack and he fell silently forward. Then toppled into the hole.
Sometime later, she wasn’t sure how long, she pulled into the driveway. When she entered the trailer it was so quiet. So… Still. She opened the kid’s door and they looked sweet sleeping there in their beds. She didn’t go in but closed the door and took a shower until the scalding water turned cold. And then she sat in the stream of water, tears lost in an increasingly cold stream. When she was spent she staggered to the bedroom and wrote it all down in her notebook.
I did this for my children. I did this for my self. I did this for Ken. Someday she would make her daughter understand that no one is allowed to hit her and she would make her son understand that laying hands on a woman, to do harm for any reason, was not acceptable. The writing went on and on until the pen fell from her limp hand and the notebook slipped to the floor and she slept. What she didn’t know that was in the woods a filthy hand clawed itself free of the dirt…
There will be a podcast release of this piece of short fiction in Late June of 2009 on HorrorAddicts.net. The audio podcast will be avaibale as the season 3 contest kicks off!
Music for the pod cast, Awkward Meeting and Gnarled Situation were preformed by Kevin MacLeod and are available at his website Royalty Free at http://www.incompetech.com/
Please Enjoy! You can get more info and hear more of Arlene’s work at www.radasky.com and you can hear more of my work here and at www.themarkofadruid.com. Please look for this story to be featured in an upcoming episode of www.horroraddicts.net.
Arlene Radasky and Rhonda R. Carpenter
Evan St. Clair was six when he found out he had the curse.
His great grandmother Sarah St. Clair was older than old. Like most little boys, he had rarely paid her much mind. But sometimes when he walked past her room and saw her wide-eyed stare, or heard the strange voices and weird screams that came from her stale, smelly room at night, it gave him nightmares.
On Wednesday, the day before Evan’s birthday, he tried to run past the ever-open door of her room. He started back by his room to get up the speed he wanted, but his mom heard him and yelled up the stairs for him not to run in the house. He was still a good boy, a boy who obeyed his mom. So he walked. And there she was, his older-than-dirt great-grandma, sitting in her big floral chair. It was stronger today, the smell of oldness in her room, and he did not want to smell it. He just knew it would give him a stomach ache. His tummy always ached when he walked by her room and lately that feeling had gotten worse. So he tried to tiptoe past her door.
“Evan, is that you?” she said in a crackling voice. “Evaaan, boy. You come here, boy. I’ve got somethin’ to tell you and I can’t see you from here. I want you closer so I can see your eyes, boy. Get yourself in here.”
Evan stopped dead in his tracks. Maybe if he stood still, she would think he was gone. But no, she called his name again. Evan was a good boy so he walked ever-so slowly to her, taking ever-such small steps.
“Oh yuck,” he thought, “this room smells worse than that old, drooling dog down the street after he farts.” When the boys in the neighborhood go tease old Jack, he whines and farts and the boys all run away. Evan wanted to run now. The stench stuck in his throat and his stomach ached like the devil, but he moved closer not wanting to be disrespectful. Disrespect always got you into trouble.
“Yes, Granny?” He choked out the words hoping it would not take long and that he would be able to hold his breath long enough to get through what ever she wanted. He sure wished she would use that Rose Water stuff his mother had got her last Christmas. It was yucky but so much better than this smell.
“Come closer, Evan, closer still,” she croaked. When he stepped into her reach, she clenched his shoulder with her withered hand and pulled him closer. He started to squirm. She tightened her grip with the strength that surprised Evan. “Stand still, boy.” She looked into his eyes and asked, “Tomorrow you will be seven years old, yes?”
Suddenly he remembered and beaming with pride saying, “Yes, Granny, I will be seven tomorrow!”
“Ummhmm. I thought so. I thought it was close to the time. Although, no one in this house tells me anything, any more, I just knew it was time.”
“Time for what, Granny?”
“Time for me to tell you. To tell you about how special you are, my boy.”
Evan saw her empty gums when she smiled. She hardly ever wore her teeth anymore. It fascinated him. How could she eat without teeth?
“About our family. There has not been one such as you in a long time. But I see it in you and every day it grows stronger. It comes from your father’s side, my side of the family you know, and you are the one, now.”
Evan didn’t understand what it was she was talking about and grew more frightened as she gripped his shoulder even tighter. Her eyes widened. Her yellowed nails dug into his flesh. Her lips quivered and her eyes rolled back in her head until all that he could see was white. He started to pull away and call his momma, when he heard it.
A deep voice thundered from somewhere. “You can not protect him, Sarah.” It seemed to come from behind Evan and Granny at the same time. He knew no one else was in the room but his granny and him. Was she magic like that man in the circus that made his dummies talk? He’d never seen her do this before. Then he heard her voice answer.
“Mathias, please not Evan. Why do you have to take him? He’s still just a boy. You were a grown man. You’ve waited this long. Can’t you wait a little longer?” She pleaded with the voice.
“No! I tire of this place. I am ready. He is mine! I shall take him the same as I was, before the stroke of midnight. I can take him on his seventh birthday. I will come on the marrow.” Suddenly the room was quiet. Evan knew the voice was gone. His stomach was jumping and he thought he would throw up.
Granny’s eyelids fluttered and the blue of her eyes was more blue than Evan had ever seen. A snarled grin formed on her face. This wasn’t Granny! He knew it wasn’t, but how could it not be? He was so scared. He struggled harder to get free.
“You’re hurting me. Stop! You’re hurting me!”
Just at that moment, Grace, his mother, ran into the room and pulled him free. As he backed up, he saw his Granny’s other hand held a pair of sheers from her knitting basket.
“Mother St. Clair, what are you doing?” Grace screamed while pushing her son toward the hall.
“He is mine! You can not stop me!” A deep rumbling laugh rolled through the room, vibrating the windows and her bedroom door slammed shut on its own.
Evan felt his mother’s hands run over his body as she looked for a wound and to his relief, found none.
“Are you okay? Evan, are you okay?” She shook him by the shoulders until he made eye contact with her. “Did she hurt you?”
“Ow. My shoulder hurts. She’s strong! Let go, Mom! Ow! I think she was trying to tell me somethin’. But that man’s voice stopped her. Is she alright?”
“She is not well. I want you to stay out of her room until we can sort this out.”
“Okay, Mom,” Evan said, grateful to be told to stay away from that smelly and now scary old lady. Even if she was his great-grandmother. No grandmother is supposed to scare her grandchildren like that.
Evan went outside to play with his friends. When they suggested going to tease Old Jack, he said he didn’t want to go. They all laughed and called him chicken, but he remembered his granny and shivered.
When he was bathed and ready for bed he stopped by her still closed door to listen. He didn’t hear anything. He whispered, “Granny? Are you there?” But there was no answer.
Evan’s father got home late that night. Evan had not seen him all day. He wanted a hug before bed, but when he went downstairs to tell his parents goodnight they were fighting.
“She is a danger to the children. We really need to place her in a home,” said his mother.
“I’ll not put my mother’s mother in a home. It’s not her fault she has the curse. We just need to be more careful, Grace.” said his father.
Evan wondered what they meant-his granny, was in a home, his home. And what was a curse? He didn’t hear any of the bad words in granny’s room, just that strange voice.
Evan went back upstairs. He figured he would give his parents a minute and then call his mom up for a goodnight kiss.
The stink by granny’s room was more powerful than ever before. Evan wondered if Old Jack had gotten in there somehow. He pinched his nose and tapped at the door with his free hand. “Granny?” he said in a loud whisper, but she did not answer.
He climbed into bed and thought about his party tomorrow. All the boys were coming and he was very excited about the cake his mother was going to make. He forgot to call his mom, and drifted into sleep thinking of chocolate on chocolate fudge cake and vanilla ice cream. He dreamed for a while of blowing out the candles on the cake and licking the bowl his mom would make the icing in.
The grandfather clock chimed in the foyer. Usually that did not wake him up, it was too far away, but tonight he heard it like it was right in his room. The chime bonged in his ear and he sat straight up. The dark of his room was lightened by the hall light spilling through the open bedroom door, and he made out Granny standing over his bed. She clutched a pair of scissors, sharp-end pointed at him. Not the way he was taught to handle scissors. He laid back down flat, just in case.
“Evan, I can help you. There isn’t much time. You must take the gift from me, or your soul will be lost and Mathias will return. That must never happen.” Her hands shook and the shears sometimes sharply pointed at him and then traveled back to point at his granny.
Evan stared. He didn’t understand, but he was not afraid the way he was before. He was afraid for his granny, not of her. He shook from head to toe. He tied to sit up but she held one hand on his chest with his father’s strength. Should he call for help? He wondered.
Before he could open his mouth to yell, his granny thrust the shears forward. Blood spurted across Evan, he saw it spray his bed and bedroom wall. She slumped forward, blood still coming from the wound she had caused in her own neck.
“I give my sight to this child.” Blood bubbled on her lips and then she was quiet. For a few seconds, he could feel her body get heavier on him, heavier every second that ticked on the old grandfather clock in the foyer. When the last bubble of blood popped on her lips, Evan had a stray thought of the bubblegum he was chewing only yesterday.
Then something very strange happened. Stranger than everything else that had just happened. Evan still was not afraid and that part mystified him. He never liked to watch scary movies or even some Disney movies because he hated the nightmares he had after. But this was not that kind of afraid. It was like a dream started in his head. He wondered if this was all a dream. Was he really asleep and granny was in the room right next door and not lying on top of him? Oh, he hoped so. But the dream kept on going.
He saw the faces of four men floating in the air. One he knew was Mathias, spoke. “Our family angered the chief of the Indian tribe where we trapped for furs long ago. Prairie wanted his daughter for a bride. When the chief didn’t give her to Prairie, Prairie, the idiot, took her away from her home. When the chief caught Prairie, the chief cursed his soul to float in the nothingness until someone else in his family gave up his body to him. Prairie’s soul waited for years until a male in the family, with the right light in his eyes, was born. After the man lived and loved, Prairie didn’t think it was fair to take him early, Prairie pushed his soul out and slid into his body. It was Claude’s body he took over. Claude took over Francisco’s body and Francisco took mine. All waited until the body he took was grown, but I want you now. When the clock strikes midnight tonight you are mine. Sarah, your granny, thought her powers, her blood, would save you. But they will only work if you know how to use them and you are too young, that is why I come now. She would have taught you when you were older but now she is gone. She can not save you from this fate. I’ll be back.”
Evan tried to call out. He tried to move his arms and legs. He tried to cry but all he could do was breathe. What the man called Mathias had said was becoming a bad memory. Everything seemed like a nightmare and now he was waking up. Waking up to get a drink of water and forget everything he had heard. Evan didn’t understand much and remember less, except that there was an Indian chief and an Indian princess in the story somewhere.
Then he heard screams, the light turned on in his room, and his father was moving Granny’s body off of him. Evan’s mother seized him off the bed into her arms and ran him into the bathroom. There, she took off his pj’s and washed all the blood off him, looking for any injuries.
He tried to tell his parents what happened, but it was hard, he barely remembered himself. The police were called and the family loaded into the car went down to the police station. Evan was asked over and over what had happened. Finally, even the police were convinced that he was a lucky boy to have been asleep and not to have witnessed his grandmother’s tragic suicide.
Later, at home, Evan’s father tucked him in to their bed. His bed was still a mess and his dad said they would have to replace the mattress tomorrow. But tonight, he could sleep in their bed.
Unfortunately, Evan’s party might have to be put off until next week. But they would talk about that tomorrow. Evan was so tired, even that news didn’t disturb him. After all, he would still get his cake, just a few days later his father had promised.
As his dad and mom left the room, Evan heard the first chime of the grandfather clock in the foyer. He woke up a little more and counted. It chimed eleven times. Evan had never, in his memory, been awake this late. He yawned.
Then he smelled Old Jack.
His eyes opened wider. He knew something was going to happen, but he could not remember what. His heart started beating faster, almost like it did when he ran that race at school. Like it did when he woke up from a nightmare. He waited. Eyes wide with fear, heart hammering in his chest. Then he heard a soft whisper. He knew it was his granny. Back when she was young and had a voice like his mom’s.
She said, “Remember he can not take what you do not give him.” And the voice was gone.
Evan’s heart slowed and he yawned again. All this was so confusing. Give who what? Who wanted to take something? How could he stop it? Too many questions. He slipped into twilight sleep.
The grandfather clock in the foyer struck the half hour. The smell of Rose Water filtered into his dream of chocolate cake, but he didn’t wake up.
The clock called out forty-five minutes past eleven. The draperies rustled but the window was closed.
Evan rolled on to his back when the clock in the foyer started signaling the top of the midnight hour. He counted the first six in his dreams, as if he were blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. One, two, three, four, five, six. This year there would be seven candles. Yes, seven…eight. Wait! Not eight, not nine! What the heck?
Evan woke up to Mathias’ voice thundering in the room. It vibrated the very bed Evan sat on, clutching his sheets to his chest.
“Come with me, Boy.”
“Were are you taking me? I don’t want to go with you.”
“To a place were you will never be a lonely or sad. Where you can play all day and eat all the candy and sweets you want.”
The clock struck for the tenth time. Evan heard the soft whisper again.
“Evan, he wants your body,” said Granny.
“Mathias, you want my body?” Evan asked, bottom lip quivering and tears welling in his eyes.
“No, Evan. Of course not. She is a smelly old fool. I want to give you what you want. Your family is waiting to celebrate your birthday here with me. Come on or you will miss the party.”
Evan really wanted the chocolate cake. He thought it was strange that his party was going to be happening when it was dark outside. But the voice made him feel good. He wanted to go with it. Even though he could feel a hand on his shoulder, a lot like his granny’s hand, he wanted that chocolate cake.
He said, “Yes. Mathias. I’ll go with you.”
Evan’s small spirit left his body and he was floating—floating into darkness. He looked back at his body in time to see a gray fog swish into it. It sat up. And laughed a laugh that tore at Evan’s heart. “And now I have your body and I live again! Be gone!” Mathias said with a wave of his hand.
Evan’s spirit tumbled and spun. There was no cake, no party, no family. Just darkness and nothingness. Then he heard another voice. A soft voice, sort of like his mom’s.
“Come here Evan. I will stay with you until you are strong and another is born. Born with the light in their eyes. Born with a body for you.”
And Evan stayed and learned in the darkness, every once in a while, he yearned for the taste of chocolate cake.
The next morning, the body of Evan, now Mathias, woke up. It had oatmeal for breakfast and went outside to play with the boys. Where he taught them better, meaner tricks than just to tease Old Jack. Evan’s parents started their worries about his future then. Worries that maybe the night’s events had affect him. In years to come his father would blame the curse, but his mother would often wonder if that is what made him torture cats and start fires, if it was Granny’s death that caused him to never be good little Evan again…