FLASH FICTION, by E.Kramer.
E. Kramer holds a BA and MBA and lives in Southern California. Her short fiction "Crazy" will be running in Apollo's Lyre in the July issue, starting approximately July 20, 2006. Her poetry and microfiction have been recognized numerous times by Southwest Manuscripts, recently winning first place in the 2006 Annual Poetry Contest. She is general manager for East LA Classic Theatre, a non-profit Atrs in Education organization providing literacy interventions for children in underserved communities.
This is her first appearance in Offcourse. Please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s my job ta feed Velvet ever night. Mama feeds her in the mornin’. But last night she hadn’t eaten alla her food Mama put out. She hasn’t done that fer a long time. She’s been a comin’ ta me early ‘n rubbin’ my legs when I’ma watchin’ Howdy Doody and agin after dinner. She’s been real hungry fer a long time.
Mama said ta leave her alone ‘cuz she’s been real fussy when I try ta hold her. She even scratched my face th’ day before.
Used to be she would let me dress her up ‘n push her around with my dolls in th’ buggy. I dressed her in Mama’s old pajama top with my valentine panties on her head.
When I tuck a nap by misself, she used a sleep with me. But Mama’s been a layin’ down with me ever day since her belly got big. She says she’s tired too, and anyways she don’t think I been sleepin’ when Velvet’s with me. She’s right but I ain’t tellin’ her that.
I’m hopin’ that after my lil brother comes that she’s a gonna let me sleep with Velvet agin. Daddy’s a hopin’ the baby’s a boy, but not me.
Mama’s worried ‘cuz Velvet still ain’t eaten from th’ bowl, ‘n nobody’s seen her fur two days. So’s right after I ate breakfast, I came out ta look fer her. I knocked on th’ neighbor’s doors ‘n aksed if they seen Velvet, but nobody has. I been swingin’ and keepin’ lookin’. I thought I heared her by the kitchen when I went in ta potty.
Then outta the blue I heared her agin and it wus getting’ louder. I followed th’ cryin’ to the back door ‘n I knowed she wus under the porch. I peeked in ‘n sure ‘nuf, there wus Velvet. I wus still hearin’ the cryin’, but it don’t make sense ‘cuz Velvet wus real still ‘n her eyes wus shut. When I called her, she opened her eyes and wus lookin’ out at me, just starin’. I called and called, but she wouldn’t come out. I ran in ta tell Mama I found her.
“Mama, Velvet’s under the porch ‘n she’s a cryin’ lots, but her lips ain’t movin’.”
Mama gave that big sigh that she does when there’s a mess and she’s a gonna have ta clean it up. But instead, she said,
“Go get yur Daddy, Patty Jo. We’re a gonna have ta take the boards offa the porch.” Then she rubbed her head ‘n walked away.
I ran ta the basement to tell Daddy what I seen and what Mama said. First he looked upset ‘n then he laughed.
“Daddy, why we gonna have ta take the porch boards up? There’s lotsa room fer her ta git out. She just looks like she’s a restin’. She don’t look hurt.”
“Velvet ain’t gonna come out, Patty Jo. Velvet beat yur Mama. She’s already had her babies under that porch.”
Twenty minutes each Sunday. The minimum she asks of the family. She uses a timer, allowing one uninterrupted minute each, four times around. That’s five minutes weekly they must listen to her without interjecting.
She listens, patiently, hoping they'll share— hoping they'll care. Mostly, both teens “pass” hiding under blankets on the sofa—enduring. Sometimes, in angry tones, they accuse her of hypocrisy.
This week, she mentions two acceptance letters and an encouraging rejection letter from The New Yorker. They grunt. She reminds them the trash didn’t get put out last week and tells them it's time they all learned to do the laundry.
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