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Authors: Karina Sims

Sinners Circle

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Sinners
Circle

Karina
Sims

 

2014

Dark
Hall Press

A
Division of New Street Communications, LLC

Wickford
, RI

 

Copyright 2014
Karina Sims

All rights reserved
under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except for brief
quotations for review purposes, no part of this work may be reproduced in any
form without the permission of Dark Hall Press, a division of New Street
Communications, LLC.

Published 2014

Dark Hall Press

darkhallpress.com

A Division of New
Street Communications, LLC

Wickford
, RI

 

This book is dedicated to my
mother,
Vanita
Sims.

I love you deeply, but you
drive me crazy.

 

I

I
was born in the summertime, inside a house inside a storm. The winds and quakes
were so bad mom said they had to loop rope through the handles on the cabinets
to keep the dishes from spilling onto the floor. My Aunt Marcy wrapped duct
tape on all the black plated chandeliers, said they looked like shiny wasp
nests swinging this way and that. They locked all the windows, pushed bookcases
over the tall ones in case the glass broke and shot across the room like
sparkling shrapnel.

My mother told me she and Marcy
were in the living room drinking hot chocolate and keeping their candles low in
case anyone passing through the long stretches of wheat fields came close
enough to notice the house they were holed up in. They were playing cribbage
and it doesn’t matter who was winning because somewhere in either the middle or
the end my mother’s water broke. At first the two of them just stared at the
puddle under the chair, the wet spreading in my mother’s jeans until she bucked
forward. Her mouth gaping, eyes closed, she knocked the cribbage board onto the
floor, fingers clawed out towards Marcy.

And then the storm started.
Between contractions my mother was shuffling through the house pushing
forgotten furniture that wasn’t hers across dusty rooms that belonged to no
one.

Even with all the windows blocked
and exits sealed my aunt was still nervous. In between telling my fifteen year
old mother to push, she would get up from between her shaking, pencil-thin legs
and peek through tiny holes in the furniture piled in front of the windows.
“What if someone’s coming?”

My mother said she couldn’t
remember much of that night. She kept blacking out, waking up soaked in sweat,
her
head in Marcy’s lap. At some point, just before I came
out, she said she came to for a moment. Marcy was across the room, back against
the front door, hugging her knees and crying beneath that polished wasp nest
that swung slow and steady as a pendulum. After that, she said all she could
remember was me in her arms and how it took half an hour for Marcy to work up
the nerve to cut the umbilical cord. She kept crying and picking up and putting
down the kitchen knife saying things like, “What if I kill her? What if I hurt
her? What if she dies and it’s
my
fault?”

I wasn’t a big baby. My mom being
so young at the time and on the run with her little sister, without a doctor to
tell her, it was several years later that she discovered I was three weeks
premature.

When I was six, every night she
ended the story with, “But I knew when I looked at your tiny face, and you
opened those big blue eyes, you were my little girl.” My mother would squeeze
me inside my bed, flick the lights off and blow me a kiss. “I love you,
sweetheart.” When she shut the skinny four panel door, I’d crawl out of bed and
look through the honeycomb shades, my eyes sweeping the rest of the trailers in
the park, looking through windows into other people’s lives. I’d watch the
teenagers kiss and feel each other up on the baseball field I could only see
half of from my window. I’d listen to the sounds of radios and arguments and
car engines turning over, and the constant, shrill cry of crickets. I’d do this
until I heard the TV in the living room turn off, my mom phoning somebody,
leaving a message, hanging up. I’d wait fifteen minutes after I heard her pull
out the cot and stop shifting around on the springs, and then I’d open my door,
tip toe down the hallway and crawl in beside her. Even when she was drunk, mom
kissed my hair and sang to me. Twinkling stars, mockingbirds, black sheep. I’d
fall asleep with the smell of gin and stale cigarette smoke in my nostrils, but
‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine’ in my ears and my hands pressed against
my mother’s heart.

II

Carl, he’s waving a
picture of Marilyn Monroe in my face. His labored breathing and the crunching
sound of paper barely muffles the sound of somebody moaning in the next room as
they pinch off a heavy shit in the toilet. “According to Maria, this is the
devil.”

Marilyn’s
paper face folding and unfolding as she flaps between Carl’s fingers, it’s like
she’s blowing air under my eyelids.

“Maria
said Marilyn would whisper stuff to her while she was sleeping. Like, she would
make Maria get up and do shit. She wound up in this place...” His finger
circles the ceiling. “…after she walked through a sliding glass door at 3am.
Neighbors found her covered in blood, passed out on their lawn.”

He
leans in close, his lips barely on my cheek, his eyes aimed straight up,
“Marilyn Monroe made Maria eat her own dog.”

He
slaps the photo down onto the wood desk he’s leaning against. Its surface is
carved up with so many little swastikas and massive ‘FUCK YOU’s I’m surprised
it doesn’t cave in like balsa-wood when Carl raps his knuckles all over the
‘SATAN’ and ‘PUSSY’ gashes.

He
pulls a dusty Sony Watchman off the shelf, one of those portable TV sets you
don’t see anymore, and wags it in my face. “Steven thought Jesus was talking to
him through this thing. He thought God was televising His messages. See this?”
He slides a finger over the ‘Watchman’ logo. “He thought it, literally, meant
‘watch man’. With this hunk of junk, Steve thought he was a Shepherd of men.”

Carl
slams it on the table, hard, and reaches for a hamster wheel. “This made Greg
think he could punish his enemies. He would buy hamsters, take them home and
watch them run on it. After a few hours, he’d burn the little beasts so the
cops couldn’t find any evidence in case the person he was trying to
kill,
did actually
die
.”

I
take the wheel from
Carl,
slip my fingers in and out
of the little spaces between the wires. “How’d he get in here?”

“Pet
shop owner called the ASPCA after his eleventh hamster. When someone came
poking around, they found crushed snakes nailed all around his door frame. He
wound up attacking the poor ASPCA gal with a garden rake. Really fucked up one
of her arms, I guess.”

The
toilet flushes in the other room so I don’t quite hear Carl when he says
something about Greg having raccoon fur glued to his armpits when he got here.

“I’m
gonna
take this stuff home with me when they get
discharged, add it to the collection.”

He
takes the hamster wheel away from me, plugs his finger through the middle and
spins it a little. I try cracking my neck, but nothing happens.

He
leans against the tin shelves that are sagging under the weight of all the
piled junk. Carl tosses the hamster wheel onto the table and tents his fingers,
“I
gotta
go do rounds in a few minutes. You can wait
in the common room for me if you want, but I’ll be an hour, maybe less.”

I
nod, follow him out the little storage room and past the men’s bathroom. We go
down this real shabby looking hallway, the carpet is so worn down you can see
the cement flooring coming through in some places. At the end of the hallway we
go through this steel door with a grated window, which takes us through the
residence quarters. Each little room has its own metal door, clipboards
dangling from yarn tied through the wire windows. It’s eerie because on one
side almost everybody is weeping, on the other side, you can hear patients
screaming and their jaws grinding. That awful sound of tooth on tooth echoing
loud as their socked feet slam the bolted bed frames, the noise following you
in tiny booms down the corridor.

Carl
takes me into the main lobby and says he’ll be back in a bit. He says if I need
anything, just talk to the nurse at the office and “…make sure you show her
your visitor’s pass.”

I
sit down on this huge floral couch and reach for a magazine as Carl disappears
around a corner.

I’m
leafing through issues of
Anchor
,
SZ
,
Black
And White
,
Cosmopolitan
,
Mental
Health Today
when this fat guy comes
shuffling up to me and says, “They keep
Archies
in
the library.”

“Library?”

He
points a sausage finger at a table, the steel legs wrapped in electrical tape.
There’s
three Granny Smith Apple boxes half full of assorted
reading material, and when I dig through them, they consist mainly of motel
Bibles and
Jughead
Double Digests
. I grab one where
Jughead
is dressed like a mummy on the front cover, telling
a cute pirate girl that his favorite type of music is ‘
wrap
.’
I walk back to the couch but the fat guy is sitting in my spot, staring into
space, a look of total despair spreading almost instantly across his face.

I
sit at the very end of the couch, scratch my crotch and wonder if Carl will be
back sooner than he said. Ethel is wrapping her arms around
Jughead
who is clearly unpleased when the fat guy at the other end of the couch starts
crying. I look at the clock and know that if he keeps crying, within five
minutes a nurse will come. I know that within eight minutes she’ll go back into
her little office and within ten minutes she’ll be feeding him
Ativan
. Within twelve minutes I can be in the coma ward and
within thirteen minutes I can be inside a patient’s room with the door locked
behind me.

But
only if the fat man keeps crying.
If he stops, the nurse won’t come. If he isn’t crying I won’t be able to get
into the coma ward. Funny thing about this hospital is
,
there are only two ways to enter the coma ward. One is by elevator, which
requires special authorization codes. That and there are video surveillance
cameras above the button panel. Sure, I could keep my head down, but eventually
I would be caught. Not to mention, I imagine the code is subject to change as
well, and clearly I am not hospital personnel.

The
only other method of entry would be right through that door beside the nurses’
station. The coma ward functions in accordance with the psychiatric ward, which
I am inside right now. This is a special psych ward though, in the sense that
this ward specializes almost exclusively in psychotics. When one of the
patients here undergoes some kind of massive mental breakdown, they dope them
up and wheel them into the coma ward for a couple a days. What it boils down to
is
,
Carl is rubbing elbows with the hardcore
psychotics and inner city lunatics who wind up getting shipped to this very
special floor. He’s checking beds every fifteen minutes to make sure no one has
swallowed their tongue or caved their skull in against the wall, he’s checking
to see that they haven’t sliced their wrists on the wall vents or punctured an
artery while digging imaginary microchips out of their arms or thighs. He is
fishing clothing out of the toilets, tightening arm restraints, and assuring
anxious patients that nobody is following them, that nobody is listening in. He
is scrubbing piss off the walls and taking home their memorabilia.

I’ve
known Carl for a good eight years now, and he’s worked here for seven of those.
When we first met, we were both at a lesbian bar. We were laughing at the same
drag queen and he wound up taking home the girl I was going to murder that
night. I guess he started dating this waitress Alison who works at a coffee
shop a few stores down from the porn store I’m working at. The two of them came
in one night looking for a blow-up sheep for a friend’s birthday party. He
weaseled his way into my life like that and it was painfully embarrassing to be
friends with a guy. I’d considered slitting his throat when he invited me on a
hike, but when I saw Alison get in the car I knew it wouldn’t happen. When I
discovered he worked here, I thought it would be good fun to come poke at the
psychotics; that is until I discovered the coma ward. Then I started returning
Carl’s phone calls. I started inviting him over for beers and I started
laughing at his stupid jokes.
The other night he clapped me
on the back and said, “Amanda, you’re the closest friend I’ve ever had.”
We were doing shots and flicking quarters at strippers, I was heating mine with
a lighter. “You’re not ‘core like me, but you understand that maybe I’m just a
lot different than the rest of the world. Thanks.”

I
flipped a quarter down the poster funnel a stripper was holding over her
landing strip. She yelped and looked around, whistled the bouncer over and
pointed at the two guys in front of me. I looked at Carl as the bouncer hauled
the two dudes away and smiled as we took their seats, but I wasn’t smiling
because of him. He grinned back and ran a hand through his
faggy
emo
hair.

Back
on the couch, the fat man puts his head down to his knees, rocking himself a
little. From out the nurse’s station, the biggest but-her-face comes skipping
over with a meds cup. She’s soothing the big dummy as I slip through the coma
ward door, wave my visitors pass in a passing orderly’s direction and walk up
and down the hallways, peering in at the sleeping patients.

Depending
on what you want to do, it’s best to find a patient who’s already covered in
cuts and burns. It’s best to find a woman whose already bruised up, so new
handprints won’t seem so unusual, though I’m sure for research purposes this
really fucks up the healing statistics.

I
stop outside the room of a girl whose face is covered in bandages, strands of
blonde hair poking through the top. I laugh, thinking about the
Jug Head Digest
, all wrapped up like a
mummy, talking to the sexy pirate. I look up and down the hallway, it’s totally
clear, so I slip inside, lock the door and roll the little curtain down over
the window. I stand there for a few seconds, take off my jacket and pick up the
clipboard swinging at the foot of the bed. Marianne
Pollanski
DOB: May 7, 1993, injured in a car accident, multiple bone fractures,
lacerations to the stomach and pelvis from dashboard, second-degree burns on
the face, thighs and calves from explosion of vehicle gas tank. Highlighted at
the bottom are the words: Condition: critical/unstable.

I
put the clipboard down and sit on the edge of her bed.

Up
on the window ledge are flowers, decorated helium balloons proclaiming ‘Happy
birthday,’ ‘Get well soon’ cards and pictures of teenagers jumping on a
trampoline, a little blonde girl smiling so big her eyes are closed. I roll the
covers down to get a look at her legs. They look like two yellow banana peppers
cooked over a campfire. Unopened birthday presents stacked on the floor, a
rugby jersey and field hockey stick
laid
carefully out
on a chair beside a breathing machine. I look from the pictures, down to the
girl wrapped up in this bed, barely alive.
Poor little
Marianne.

I
breathe
heavy,
put her little hand in mine. I stroke
the puffy skin and give her fingers a gentle squeeze. I get up, pick some lint
off her tiny jersey and turn her field hockey stick over in my hands. I trace
my fingers over the smooth wood and turn to Marianne, laughing a little, “You
any good?”

I
smile when she doesn’t answer.
“So modest.
You’re so
modest, Marianne.” I try balancing the stick on my palm and walk over to the
window. I look at a picture of a smiling boy, Marianne piggy backing on top of
him.

“You
think he’ll still go down on you?” I point the stick at her legs and chuckle.

I
try cracking my neck again and when nothing happens I check my watch. If this
hospital’s employees aren’t on smoke breaks, I have eight minutes. I flex my
grip on the stick with both hands and yank off her covers.

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