You Are What You Read

Jane Hitchcock twitched the feather duster over the shelf of old books, stirring up years of dust that had settled upon their frayed tops. Wonder why they’re hidden away in here where no one can see them, she thought. A treasure they are, so old. And worth a lot of money, I’ll bet.

Her nose tickled. She sneezed, the sound as loud as a thunderclap inside the small closet. The flailing duster snagged one of the books, knocking it to the floor where it lay open, its fragile insides exposed. Jane bent over—no easy task for her two-hundred-pound-plus frame—and reached for the book. But then she noticed something. Strange. The lines upon the yellowed pages squiggled, wiggled, jiggled.

What in the world…

With a pained grunt, she dropped to her arthritic knees. She pushed back wisps of graying brown hair that had escaped its tight bun and peered at the dancing letters. Something was there, on the page beneath the words. She leaned forward for a closer look. Her belly shoved upward against her ribs, demanding room for itself, almost cutting off her supply of air and causing her to breathe in fast little pants. “What…is…that?” Her chubby fingers splayed over the brittle paper.

And she was falling. Arms waving, hands clawing futilely for something to hold on to, Jane Hitchcock pitched headfirst into a sepia-ink nothingness. She tumbled head over heels, a muffled scream spiraling out behind her. The long skirt of her full, flowery dress puffed out and wrapped about her shoulders and head. Cold caressed her dimpled thighs. Her scream turned into a wail of panic. I can’t see! Expecting any second to feel her body slam onto the bottom of whatever she’d fallen into and splat red like an overripe tomato, she tore at the twisted cloth, I must see! She yanked the dress tail, heard the growl of its rip, and didn’t care, and jerked it away from her face. And she was still falling. Sepia brown all around, sepia brown above, and below…

Continue reading “You Are What You Read”

The Vacation

“So, you want to go back to the beach this fall,” Michael said, his eyes on the bright brochures spread across the breakfast table between him and Elise. “Did you even give any thought to the mountains?”

“Well, a little,” Elise answered, her hands clenching into fists in her lap. “But you know what the cold does to my arthritis, and I thought…”

Michael’s icy, blue eyes lifted, bored into hers. “You thought what?”

Now it was Elise’s eyes that dropped. “I thought you’d want…er…me to be…” She swallowed the growing lump in her throat. “Comfortable. And I can’t…” Tears filmed her eyes. “I can’t be when all my joints ache.”

Michael stood, swept the brochures and his half-full cup of black coffee from the table. “You know what’s wrong with you, Elise?” he asked, a sneer twisting his lips. “All you think about is yourself.” He stalked to the door leading into the garage, yanked it open, and said over his shoulder, “Take an aspirin, you’ll be fine.”

When Elise heard the garage door closing, she rose unsteadily to her feet. “I can’t go on like this,” she muttered under her breath. “I just can’t.”

Pixie slunk into the kitchen, her grizzled head hanging low. Whining, the old spaniel looked up at Elise.

“I just can’t,” she repeated to the dog.

Elise squatted and began picking up the cup shards, her hands now steady and her fear gone. “I guess I’ll just have to kill the son-of-a bitch.”

Pixie yipped her agreement.

“Now, where did I put that book on poisons…”

©2021 KT Workman

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Faces R Us

“What do you think about this one?” the face tech asked Skyler and Hudson. “The skin tone is a perfect match, cafe au lait…mmm…and that adorable smile…” The tech echoed the smile gracing the small mask’s face—though his with teeth, of course. “Sets the dear little one off on the right path.”

“I don’t know…” Skyler fingered a green-tipped, black cork-screw curl, turned her dark eyes to her husband. “What do you think? Is it too girly?”

“Well, she is a girl, Sweetums,” Hudson answered. “And well…uh…” He felt the heat of an unbecoming blush—thankfully hidden beneath his pale mask—at the unintended faux pas. “Well…uh…for now, that is.”

Skyler’s perfect lips strained slightly downward as her eyes turned back to the tech. “Can you whip up something a bit more gender-neutral? We wouldn’t want the mask to influence how they might develop.”

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It took several days, but little Domino became accustomed to their face and stopped fussing when Skyler smoothed it back on after removing it to clean the bare skin beneath. Skyler hated the daily ordeal, revolted by the imperfections on her infant child’s face…slight, yes, but still ugly. More and more she had turned the task over to Hudson, who seemed unaffected by the baby’s unmasked face. She was so ready for Domino to be able to do the daily cleaning for themself, but the child was only seven months old, so that was a couple of years away. Why, Skyler could barely stand to see her own under-face, let alone anyone else’s. Continue reading “Faces R Us”

Pearls Before Swine / Part Three

Part three of three…

When I stepped into the house after returning the handsaw, a bolt of pain stabbed my lower belly. I crammed the hurt into that dark, crowded place deep inside that Mama couldn’t see, and tended to Sissy. I stripped the smelly clothes from her body, washed her as best I could, then pulled her favorite pink nightgown over her head, all the while talking slowly and softly. I knew she heard me. She stood when I told her to, held up her hands when I said so, but not one word passed her white lips.

Meanwhile, Mama fed thin slats of wood into the cookstove until the thing danced with heat. Sweat ran down her face and soaked the white collar of her dress, turning it pink.

“Put your sister to bed,” she said over her shoulder. “Then come get yourself cleaned up.”

I led Sissy into the little room off the kitchen, and tucked her into the bed we shared. “I’ll be back soon.” No answer from my sister. She rolled over and faced the wall, and I knew if I had looked, her eyes would still be open. “Everything’s gonna be all right. You’re just having a bad dream, and when you wake up in the morning, you won’t even remember it. Just a dream, that’s all.”

“Clara!” Mama yelled.

I wanted nothing more than to crawl into the bed next to Sissy and sleep for days. I was worn out, and my belly hurt real bad. Instead, I patted her shoulder and walked back out into the nightmare. Continue reading “Pearls Before Swine / Part Three”

Pearls Before Swine / Part Two

Part two of three…

“What’s going on here?” Mama said, running her hand over Sissy’s fat belly.

Sissy shrugged her shoulders. “I et too much, I reckon.”

“Don’t sass me, gal.” The back of Mama’s hand cracked across my sister’s face. The blow had a lot of power behind it, knocked Sissy on her butt.

“I’m sorry, Mama.” Sissy cupped her red cheek. “I won’t do it no more.” There hadn’t been any sass in Sissy’s words, but she knew better than to go against Mama. I did too. Since Daddy’d died, Mama had gotten mean and hateful.

“Now I’m gonna ask you one more time—who did this to you?”

Tears trickled down Sissy’s cheeks. She trembled. “I…I don’t know wh…what you mean.”

Mama planted her fists on her ample hips. She looked down at Sissy and shook her head. “Are you that ignorant…you really don’t know?”

Sissy said nothing, just sat on the floor with her head bent, wisps of corn-silk hair sticking to her wet face.

“Get up,” Mama ordered.

Sissy bolted to her feet, a mess of scared-shakes and sniffles.

“You’re pregnant, got a baby in your belly,” Mama said. “Now what I wanna know is what boy put his pecker inside you and got you that way.” Continue reading “Pearls Before Swine / Part Two”

Pearls Before Swine

Part one of three…

I woke in the dark to squeals and yells and thumps and bangs. From somewhere inside the house, Daddy rattled off a string of cuss words, then hollered: “Get the shotgun, Lizzy, something’s got in with the hogs!”

The awfulest commotion was going on outside. It sounded like every pig on the place was pitching a holy fit.

“What is it, Clara?” Sissy asked.

“I don’t know…” I turned back the covers.

She grabbed my arm. “Where’re you going?”

“To see what all the racket’s about.”

Sissy’s fingers dug deeper. “What if it’s the boogeyman?”

I pulled my arm away. “There ain’t no such thing, and you know it.”

My feet hit the floor, and I made a beeline for the slash of light knifing in underneath the closed door, Sissy’s night-breath a hot prickle on the back of my neck. My fingers curled around the doorknob, twisted and pushed.

Light blazed from the 100-watt bulb dangling on the end of the thick, black wire snaking down from the kitchen ceiling, briefly catching Mama and Daddy as they rushed out the back door. I chased after them, Sissy on my heels.

The lantern held high in one hand, the tail of her nightgown in the other, Mama ran neck and neck with Daddy across the back yard and through the gate.

Dewey appeared inside the bouncing circle of light. Mama let out a startled “Oh!” and Daddy a “Jesus Christ!” and we all skidded to a stop.

“Don’t you be going down there, Mr. Primrose,” Dewey said, his eyes all big and wild looking. His oily brown hair stuck out this way and that. Only one gallous of his overalls was fastened; the other flopped down over his scrawny belly. “It’s dangerous. There’s demons loose tonight.” Continue reading “Pearls Before Swine”

Love Hurts

John Parker stepped into his pants, glanced back at the woman sleeping in the bed he had just vacated. And the guilt hit him. Why did he do it? Why did he have to nail some bimbo he’d just met when he had a beautiful, willing wife at home?

He never failed to question his actions after the fact. But never before. When he met a pretty young thing, every thought in his head was crowded out by the one imperative: get her in the sack. And since he fit all the prerequisites—tall, dark, handsome, successful—most A-list women had tucked away in their minds when eyeing a potential hookup, he seldom struck out. It was just so damn easy.

He left three hundred bucks, cab fare plus a little something extra, on the bedside table, and after looking around to see if he’d left anything behind, slipped quietly out the door. He hated goodbyes, some more than others. That’s how he’d ended up married to Liv: he couldn’t tell her goodbye.

Night had slipped over the city while he and Tanya…Tonya, something like that, had played beneath the covers. Liv would be home by now. But he always had the old standby of working late; it had never failed him. She knew his job sometimes required long or odd hours. And she loved him, trusted him.

He felt the guilt niggling at the edge of his thoughts again, pushed it away. After all, he didn’t love those other women, it was nothing, just sex. In his heart, he was true to Liv.

She was waiting when he got home, a smile on her face and his favorite, a dry martini, in her hand. She took his briefcase and jacket. “Working late?” At his eye roll and nod, her red lips curved into a luscious pout. “Poor baby.”

His appreciative eyes followed her as she glided down the entryway. Tendrils of her thick, black hair had escaped its artfully arranged messy bun, brushing the tanned shoulders visible through the diaphanous, white dressing gown that did little to hide her long, lithe, perfect body.

She placed his jacket and briefcase on the small table near the bottom of the staircase, turned, and beckoned with a crooked finger. John recognized that look, the saucy smile, and knew what she wanted. The question was, was he up to the task? But as he strolled toward her, then stepped into her arms, that worry was put to rest.

He nuzzled her neck, breathed in the exotic, musky scent that was all Liv. Slowly, deliberately, he eased aside the white fabric, kissed the small, red birthmark at the base of her throat. “I’ll take a quick shower…” His hand covered a breast. “…then we can get down to business.”

Her hands moved over his back. One glided up, tangled in his hair, turned his head. Lips brushing his ear, she said, “There’s no need for a shower, love.” She nibbled the lobe. “Just like the others, I’ll still smell her stink after you wash.”

He started, pulled back. “Wh…what?” How could she have known? No, no, she couldn’t have known. No way. He was too careful. He relaxed, grinned. “You’re such a tease.”

She looked up at him, eyes heavy with desire. “Am I now?” She leaned into him, kissed his jawline.

John closed his eyes, his sigh turning into a moan when he felt her teeth rake his skin. Then she bit down. Hard. “Ouch!” He jerked away, his hand going to the side of his neck and coming back smeared with blood. “What the hell?” He took in her flushed face, glittering eyes, and blood-smeared mouth, and at that moment, he wanted her more than he ever had before. “Wanna play rough, do you?” He grabbed her arm, yanked her hard against him. “I can handle that.”

Using a fistful of her hair, he yanked back her head, ground his lips against hers. Her arms circled him, clawed at his back. Through a fog of lust, John idly thought how exceptionally strong her arms were, and how rough they felt, and how they reached everywhere—his head, shoulders, lower back, butt cheeks, thighs…calves. Calves? Calves!

He pushed weakly against her, swayed, and would have fallen if she hadn’t been holding onto him. He tried to back away, but his legs refused to cooperate. Nothing on his body wanted to work. Except for his vision. And when he saw his wife, horror rose inside him, squeezing what little breath he had left from his lungs. If he had been able, he would have screamed. And screamed and screamed.

Liv wasn’t Liv anymore. Two additional sets of bristly arms sprouted from her sides and hips that had bloated obscenely. Eight blue eyes instead of two stared back at him. Her face had rounded, her nose had disappeared, and her mouth was much smaller. Which was why he couldn’t understand how it could open so wide…so wide it easily snapped over his head.

He could no longer see as Liv pulled his headless corpse up the stairs and down the hall to their bedroom. He felt nothing as she opened the closet and flung him onto her web. He knew nothing as she injected digestive juices into his cooling body, and her babies eagerly swarmed over the collapsing husk that had once been John Parker.

Liv knew he had been a terrible husband. But to his credit, he was a tasty meal.

©️2020 KT Workman

The Village of Useless Women

“You no longer please me,” Tarik said. “Gather your things and go.”

And with those words, I was banished.

I did not cry. I did not beg. All that would have gotten me was a beating, and in the end, nothing would have changed. My husband no longer desired me, so I was of no use to him. I could either walk away with my head high or be dragged from the village with the promise of Sobro if I returned.

Mosie stood behind and to the left of Tarik, as was proper for a wife. Her smooth round face held nothing but scorn as she watched me. I wondered if she would remember this day when she was standing where I was now, when she had lost the blush of youth and was turned out. Probably not. When I had been brought into Tarik’s hut six summers ago to replace one of his aged wives, I am sure the same contempt had shown in my eyes.

Head down and lips pressed together, I shoved my few dresses and leggings, my combs and spare boots, into my pack. Then I turned to Kaia, who was nursing my son and hers, tears running down her cheeks. She did not look up at me. I no longer existed. Continue reading “The Village of Useless Women”

Yon Side of the Canes

Sheriff Tackey drove by a while ago, eyed me sitting out here on the front porch, drinking, watching the sun going down. I saluted him with Mr. Wild Turkey and yelled out a “howdy.” He acted all casual-like, pretended he didn’t see me.

But I knew he did.

He’s been watching me. He thinks I was the one who did it. I tried to tell him what happened, but him or nobody else believed me. Mayhaps if I’d been in their place, I wouldn’t of either.

Let me tell you how it went down…

Last Sunday morning, Merle and me went hunting down along the slough where the rabbits and skeeters are nigh on the same size. Most folks were in church, but since God had let the cancer take my Lisabeth last year, me and Him had parted company and I’d become real good acquainted with Mr. Wild Turkey. Continue reading “Yon Side of the Canes”

Red Rover

Avery saw the small door on the back wall of the chicken house. It hadn’t been there yesterday evening when she’d gathered eggs. Or at least she hadn’t noticed it then. It was so dark underneath the roosting bars, she might have overlooked it. But she didn’t think so.

Had her daddy made the opening between the coop and adjoining shed where the feed corn was kept when she was at school?

“When did you put the door in the chicken house, Daddy?” she asked him at supper that night.

“What door?” he said around a mouthful of cornbread.

“The one in back under the roosting bars.”

He washed down the cornbread with a big drink of buttermilk, and turned his full attention on Avery. She squirmed under the gaze of his narrowed blue eyes. They always seemed to see right through her and not like what they saw: a girl, not the son he had wanted. His only child, and there’d be no more since her birth had messed up Mama’s insides so bad she couldn’t have any more kids.

“You’re seeing things, girl, there ain’t no door. Why in hell would I put a door there anyway?” Continue reading “Red Rover”