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Authors: Lawrence Santoro

Drink for the Thirst to Come (24 page)

BOOK: Drink for the Thirst to Come
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She stunk.

He yelled and yelled and in a moment he was whipped up and out of the frame.

Then there was Mommy, and Erin skittered into the dark corner of the cage and no, no, no, no, she knew she’d hurt. She knew she wouldn’t know why fucking Jesus fucking Christ why was she so Goddamned bad? Why was she so...? She could feel it now...

This was when she was still alive, when she was the rat in the basement. Mommy told her that was what she was. To her, to Baby: the big, bad rat in the basement. What Baby’d called her.

Even after Mommy’d punished her for letting Baby see her, she’d remembered when Baby had first come home and she had touched him with her lips. She remembered the time when she had first, and for the only time, felt the cool life of his shadow across her eyes.

Ever after, once a week maybe, just once a week, she’d touch her own hand to her lip and close her eye for a moment, trying to imagine it was Baby’s hand she kissed.

A long, long time later, the door to the cellar opened and it wasn’t Mommy.

She’d been sitting. That’s what she did most days. Then the cellar door opened and she scooted to the cagedoor so Mommy didn’t have to get down and crawl to catch hold of her for Jesus’s sake.

The cellar door opened and nothing happened.

A foot sounded on the stair but the light didn’t come. In a little while the foot stepped on the squeaky tread. It didn’t squeak like when Mommy stepped on it, no, it squeaked different.

It was gray outside and the world didn’t make much light around her, but in the shadow on the stairs there was a small person. She had never seen a small person and she covered herself with her piece of blanket.

“Come out,” the voice of the small person said. “I see you. You come out.”

She peeked. The small person was near the cage. He was bigger than she was, but she knew he was Baby. Baby alone. She slipped her head out of the blanket and looked at him.

A beam of yellow light smacked her dead on the eyeballs. It felt like toothache exploding in her face. She screamed and her own voice scared her. It was like nothing she’d ever heard. It was just her but it was a ghost, a monster, a rat, yes a rat in the basement, and she was screaming from fear of herself.

Then Baby was screaming and the light fell from his hands and rolled on the floor. He ran. He clamored up the steps one at a time and the wooden door above slammed.

She screamed for a few minutes. Through Baby banging on the door, above, and his screaming and crying. She screamed into the silence that followed. She screamed for a little, and then she was quiet again because she knew Mommy would come.

Mommy came later that night. And that was the last day she lived. Before Mommy reached her Erin began whispering, telling Mommy she was really bad and she would never make another sound ever again. She wouldn’t really, really wouldn’t. She didn’t sit by the door of the cage; she drew as far away from it as she could. She knew it was bad, but she was afraid.

Mommy was quiet, coming. She wasn’t saying Jesus’s sake and fucking Christ and Goddamn rat. She walked down and picked up the flashlight that had gone dark on the floor in the hours since Baby’d been down to see where rat lived.

She clicked the dead flashlight and put it on the bench behind her. She came to the cage and unlocked the gate. She got on her hands and knees and reached inside. Erin pressed against the farthest corner, saying, “no Mommy, no Mommy, no Mommy,” but Mommy squeezed further and further in, caught her leg, and drew Erin forth.

Erin whimpered. She whispered no, no, no, no, no, no. She would never ever ever ever say anything again.

Mommy picked her up. She looked at her. Mommy was so big, so much bigger every day. Now she was the biggest thing in all the world. And Mommy put her hands around Erin’s middle and pressed. Erin took a last breath and tasted Mommy’s perfume and said, no, no, no. Then Mommy pressed more and more and Erin felt herself break inside, felt herself crack, felt sharp things stab her and stab her. Then she couldn’t breathe, not even a little and in a short time, held close to Mommy, in Mommy’s hands, she died.

That wasn’t too bad, Erin remembered. There had been worse. When she’d spilled on the new dress from the Sears. That’d been worse. That had been a day! A whap, whap, whap, picked by the feet and spun, day. A wheee, and her face went wham-bong against the metal pole that held up the house from down in the basement day. That day, Mommy’d dropped her, “little fucker,” Mommy’d called her, “crawl out of me, will you,” she said. Then she’d shoved a rolled up newspaper down her throat until she nearly choked.

“You’ll wear that thing until you wear it out,” Mommy’d said, letting her go, letting her pull the paper out of her mouth.

Mommy sat on her for a while and hit her with a piece of coal from the bin. She hoped that showed her, Mommy’d said. She’d have to learn, Mommy said. And hit her. Learn to take care of things I give you. And hit her. Cost good money, these things. And hit her. She’d wear that dress. And hit her. Wear that fucking dress until Christ Jesus took it off her. Oh the dress was a wreck after that.

And Mommy had left Jaw to watch out what she did down there.

Then Mommy was gone, the door slammed and she didn’t eat ever after. She didn’t make any more fuss after that. Now that was a day.

Except Baby’d come down and she screamed and Mommy came and Erin died. That was another day.

Mommy took her body and put it outside with the trash. Just like she said, except she buried her where the rainspout poured. Nobody knew. Nobody had known she ever was; they knew less of her now that she wasn’t.

Erin stayed in the basement. After a while she got used to being dead.

People came later, living people whom she could hardly see. They took all the things out of the basement. They took the dog cage and Erin had no place to be. In a little bit, Mommy came down and stood in the dark.

Erin wanted to cry, but the dead didn’t do that. Mommy looked so beautiful. She was dressed for going. Erin knew it. Mommy looked around the empty basement. Finally she found Erin after looking long and hard, looked right at her.

“You better stay right here, young lady,” Mommy said quietly. “You stay here or I’ll be back for you. You hear?”

Then Mommy was gone.

How long ago?

Now, every day, all days alike, Erin came into the world, sat in the pain and waited.

The basement filled, then emptied, more people came, more things went.

One day, the basement was gone. Big machines rumbled through. The house fell. The machines rolled right through her. Light pounded down, dirt filled her and she rose to the surface. All her pains remained, pieces of her hung to the iron, to the men who walked right through her in daylight. She watched as her body was unearthed. She watched as people came and looked. She watched, sitting as close as she could to where he little dog cage had been, as people lifted her from the ground and put her in a bag.

“Bye-bye,” she said as her body went away. “Bye-bye.”

Night. She waited.

Day. The living came with more machines. They dug out her basement again and she found the old spot where she’d lived and waited the years for Mommy. The living built.

Days went along. All days, alike. The new basement was bright. The ceiling was white and smooth. Bright tube lights lit the place.

The living came and went. They passed through her like light through a window.

Then one night Mommy came.

Erin didn’t recognize her at first. First, she was a shadow, something in the dark. The shadow was stick-thin, but Erin knew her Mommy.

Mommy was acting funny, too. Nobody was with them here in the basement but Mommy was struggling, fighting against something and losing the fight. Mommy never lost a fight. That was funny and Erin almost laughed. Somebody forcing Mommy! Despite her fear, Erin giggled a little.

Mommy screamed. Not words, a jagged something poured out of her.

The giggle dried up in Erin. She hid in the dark corner where the dog cage had been. The new basement was different, but she knew where it had been all those years. It felt so good to be in this place with Mommy again.

After the scream, Mommy didn’t say a word. Not one word. That was not like her, either. Erin heard noises crawling around down inside her Mommy. Sobbing snuffles and gulps burped out. Mommy came forward, dragged, shoved, pushed, one shaking foot at a time. She was not moving on her own. It was as though people invisible were moving her like a big dolly. Erin wanted to go to her, to help her, but she couldn’t, just couldn’t. Oh, Mommy! Tears formed in the eyes of the little dead girl. Tears she’d not been able to shed since her death.

As the Mommy shadow wobbled toward Erin, thin moonlight from the window touched her. It didn’t brighten but cut right through her and she staggered on. When she reached the place where the old light bulb had hung overhead for so many years, so many years ago, a hard streak of yellow light poured across Mommy’s face. Mommy was hard and solid. Her skin hung in spotty folds. Her nose was a hook, thin skin over thin bone. Her beautiful green eyes were milk-cloudy marbles bulging from her pointy face. …and her hair! Oh, her hair was stringy, gray. Mommy’d never been like this. Mommy was pretty. Mommy’d always loved her hair, her thick red hair, and would never let it go like that. And she was scared. Mommy was never scared. Her eyes were big. Mommy’s eyes were steady and cool. When she got mad, her green eyes went dark and squinty. But Erin had never seen them wide like this.

Ohhhh! Mommy is dead, Erin knew.

Erin looked and, oh my, dissolving into being above Mommy, there was the bulb, there was the electric wire from which the bulb had hung, there was the old ceiling, the boards, beams and pipes. It all faded into being above Mommy and spread out above them both, spread to the corners. Then down the old walls flowed, down from where the ceiling ended, the old basement ran like spilled honey, oozing, covering. Erin remembered. Oh Mommy was mad when she had spilled honey at breakfast. Mommy had showed her! Face pressed to the pancake griddle showed her. She never spilled that Goddamned honey again, no sir.

The old basement reached the floor and crept across the new concrete, under Mommy’s feet; the change washed over to where Erin cuddled with the corner’s darkness. It rippled under her and when she looked again, there it was: Home. As it always had been and was always meant to be. Like loving arms, the cage spread up and around Erin, embraced her in its cool metal bars.

Erin peeked between the fingers she held over her eyes. Beyond the cage, there was Mommy and she was, oh, God, real as always and growing younger and younger. The red steeped through the grey hair that hung like weeds from Mommy’s head. In a few moments, she was as Erin remembered. The thin body filled, became round and firm. Her face molded itself into the old shape Erin had always, always loved. The wrinkles around her eyes, above her lips, the loose skin tightened, fleshed the bones. She was growing pretty all over again.

Crunches came from Mommy, like tiny twigs breaking, like little bones snapping. Erin knew those sounds. And there were slurpy squishes as the old beauty blew her up like a beautiful Mommy balloon.

Mommy screamed all the while, then it was done. All done. All done and Mommy stopped screaming forever. The dead didn’t scream.

Erin wondered. Had she been a bad little fucker again? She wasn’t sure. Mommy was hurting and when Mommy hurt, it was Erin’s fault, dirty little cunt.

Mommy stood under the old yellow bulb. Erin skittered toward the cage door, remembered what Mommy’d done the last time she’d come looking and her bad little bastard had tried to keep away. Erin waited by the door now, waited for Mommy.

“I was good, Mommy,” Erin tried to say. Her mouth was broken though so she could only whisper. “I was good. I waited,” she whispered.

Mommy tried to scream, but couldn’t. Above the gurgles that she could get out came the sound of tearing cloth. Swish, swish, rip, rip, rip. Mommy’s beautiful blouse, her skirt, everything she wore shredded and flew to pieces and she stood naked under the bulb.

Mommy’s pretty little titties were all big now and sagging full. Her belly was swelling just like before Baby had come.

Oh, Mommy’s going to bring home another Baby, Erin just knew it. She hoped, this time, she’d be allowed to hold Baby and kiss him and give Baby his bottle. Now that she was dead and now that Mommy knew what a good girl she could be.

The invisible people dragged one Mommy foot forward, then the other, then the first. They walked her like a rag doll, a beautiful, beautiful big rag doll, toward the cage in the corner.

Mommy pressed back, as if leaning against the people who weren’t there, the ones who were dancing her out of the light and toward the cage. Her titties flopped; her hairy dirty-parts went open and shut, open and shut, open and shut as her legs quivered into the shadows.

Then, wham! Mommy slammed to her knees in front of Erin, the invisibles shoved her face down on top of the cage. Mommy’s looked big-eyed down on Erin from overhead. Mommy made a strangled gulping, burping sound again as her bones and skin tried to flow around and through the bars. Her titties pressed against the cage door right at Erin’s face. And they were so pretty. So warm and soft, so rich looking.

Erin wanted Mommy to stop hurting, wanted the invisibles to stop making Mommy hurt. She reached out and touched Mommy’s breast. Mommy moaned and the breast strained against the wire bars. The brown titty tip grew firm, swelled; it reached toward Erin.

Mommy tried to scream.

“No!” Erin yelled in her dusty broken-Jaw whisper. “Don’t hurt Mommy!”

Erin leaned forward and pressed her lips against the straining titty and ohhh my, it felt so good to touch Mommy with her burning mouth. The nipple slipped so easy in between her shredded lips. Erin’s jagged teeth massaged her Mommy’s flesh and oh, her Mommy flowed, flowed so warm and sweet and thick into her, the Mommy milk surrounded her thick tongue, broken palate, shredded cheeks.

Erin closed her eyes. So good to suckle there again. She remembered. That’s what she did, the little girl who was dead, she remembered. She remembered this very nipple from so many years ago. She remembered Mommy’s hand supporting her heavy little head, cradling her body against her Mommy warmth and Mommy smell.

BOOK: Drink for the Thirst to Come
7.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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