When a child is hurt its like a big breath is being sucked in. It’s a bubble of time. The world stops, it hiccups, and something seizes. That bubble pops. What was alive is vacuumed out and life goes on. I guess it’s my fault. I went back. I lied to myself then and said I went back for my stuff. I went back for her.
I called Callie and tried to convince her to come with me. What did I know about kids? I never was one. I thought… I didn’t think really. My plan was to get to another state to a shelter for abused runaways. I was going to leave her there. I guess she read my mind. She pulled it out from under her pink comforter. She sat criss cross applesauce on her pretty pink bed and pillows… BANG!
I see Mama. I see me. We’re in the kitchen arguing. “Well she couldn’t rightfully stay here! Not in the same house where … everything happened. How could you let that happen to her?!” How could you let that happen to us? I know now it was because it happened to her.
“AWWW No! Don’t put this on me babay gurl!” She shouts me down. When she talks she makes a sucking sound. Half of her bottom jaw is missing teeth. She told me Callie’s father Dewy knocked them out with Davey’s baseball bat. I didn’t dare to ask her what she had done to deserve it. Mama would just lie anyway. She wrings her hands and paces back a forth. She needs another fix. She’s mumbling and scratching. She couldn’t stay clean even for Callie. “I knew when you come you’d blame me. You were always bad luck!” Mama points at me. “I’ll fix yooooooooooooooou!” She finally leaves.
Her daughter is dead upstairs and as usual she was worried about herself. She wouldn’t let me call an ambulance or the police but when she runs off I dial 911. My arm burns from Mama’s scratches as I talk to the dispatcher. I give the address and phone number. I tell him Callie’s eleven with a gunshot wound to the head. He asks if I’m her parent. “No, I’m her sister.” I reply.
I smell the distinct bitter armpit odor of plastic burning. I watch myself drop the phone and it swings away on its curly tail. I chase after me out into the yard to make sure Mama’s not burning the house down. There she is having a bonfire. She’s emptying Jennifer’s purse over a medium size pit. The shovel stands stuck in the dirt like a spoon in a piece of birthday cake. She shoots streams of lighter fluid enraging the flames. She makes noises that sounds of which can only be described as her interpretation of laughter. Never having done it before she fails at it as she did parenting four children.
It begins to drizzle in the graveyard of a once beautiful garden. The American flag and Don’t Tread On Me Gadsden flag beat against the surging winds on a metal pole. The rain gets heavier but it can’t extinguish the flames. The fire dances absorbing the weather and white smoke rises. Mama looks like she’s melting as her leathery skin beads with raindrops. I jump into the fire and Mama grins.
She waves good-bye.