Locked Away

Beads of filthy sweat rolled down my temples as I clenched my left eye shut to peer through the wooden slats. With only a half inch of space I could almost see the front door in the middle of the deck. The three stairs were visible, but I still couldn’t hear anything except my breath. The sun was beginning to set, which would soon bring the cool night and sometimes I could even see one or two stars. The middle of the day was always the hardest. Mostly because the stuffy heat of the shed made my head feel funny. 

Daddy liked to put me in the shed. He said that it keeps me out of trouble. He would always say, ‘Becky, you don’ wan’ them thieves comin’ and takin’ you way from me, now do ya?’ 

I told him I didn’t like to always be in the shed, but he said it’s the best way to keep me safe. It’s not that bad when dusk begins to take over the sky. Sometimes Daddy will let me out for a spell and when I’m really good he lets me sleep on the bed.

My stomach rumbled. I hoped Daddy would let me eat tonight. I was lucky to eat breakfast yesterday, but the hunger pains were setting in again. They always did. 

I sat down on the floor of dirt, sending a puff of particles to dance in the sunlight beaming through the sideboards. A squeak of the screen door traveled through the slats. Pushing my nose to the wall, I could see Daddy. My tummy grumbled again.

He stumbled out the door and let it slam. I held my breath as I saw his heavy body stagger from side to side just before he tumbled down the three stairs in front of the house. A bowl of food hit the ground, toppling over its contents into the ravenous dirt. My gut clenched at the sight. Daddy lay motionless on the ground as a cloud of dust settled around him. 

Daddy liked to drink the brown stinky stuff all the time and he acted funny when he did it. He wasn’t able to walk straight and he’d stumble around yelling at walls that would never talk back. 

Momma used to tell me, “He’s a good man, Becky, he is. But sometimes good men can get lost along the way.”

I never knew what that meant.

Momma died two years ago. I found her in the corn.

She was lying by the windmill. Whenever I think of it, all I can remember is the blood. Lots of blood. The policeman told me it was an accident, and that she fell down real hard on her head, but I think she was just real sad. Momma never smiled or laughed like other mommas did. Momma cried a lot. She tried to hide it, but I always knew. 

Sometimes I’d see her reading those letters she’d kept in a box under the floor. She didn’t think I was watching, but I watched her, always. Her long wavy hair was the color of the sand and it glistened when the sun hit it just right. I missed Momma. She never used to put me in the shed, and Daddy was nice when Momma was alive. Except for when he was drinking the brown stuff. 

Daddy lay still in front of the ancient steps, but I didn’t stare at Daddy. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bowl. It was the bowl that momma would fill with warm oatmeal every morning. After setting the bowl on the table, she’d kiss my head and tell me how much she loved me.

The food in the bowl was Daddy’s usual. He made beans. Lots and lots of beans. Bean juice laid to rest on his arm. I would starve tonight. Again

Groaning, I pushed myself away from the shed walls. I curled up in my favorite corner of the red shed. I’d have to make it through another night and day without eating. 

Emma IsaacComment