The Whittling of Animals

by Maggie Veness

2nd Prize in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2015

Kept ya kids outa sight and ya trap shut whenever Charlie come home lookin mad. Served him supper quick-smart then spread ya legs. After that he’d stay on the sofa watchin TV, cussin an yellin for more beer, drinkin til he passed out.

Day ya special little man turned nine he learnt never ta pesta daddy with questions again. Little man stopped talkin that terrible day. A year’s passed since—first few months spent mendin bones an learnin to walk proper again. Took ta sittin on the porch whittlin animals outa balsa with his pocket knife. Moment he heard daddy’s truck turn into the lane after work he’d limp inside, stay in his bedroom til lights out. Ya told ya special little man it was alright, him not talkin. When he was good an ready be just fine. That’s what ya said.

Couple Saturdays back Charlie come home filthy-mad. Thank the Lord baby was sleepin. First ya copped a fist in the face. Them big white knuckles felt like nuts an bolts. Pinned ya down with your arms shoved up ya back an near yanked all the hair outa ya skull. Done ya over the kitchen table—that back way what makes ya bleed. But ya never cried. Then come ya special little man limpin real quiet up behind. Sunk that pocket knife deep into his daddy’s throat an yanked it sideways hard as any grown-up. Sliced clean through Charlie’s windpipe. He fell down gurglin an spurtin blood. Looked real surprised. Took a good long while ta stop strugglin.

Helped ya special little man get washed up then went an woke baby so all three of ya could sit cuddlin on the sofa.

‘It be awright now Mamma,’ says a teensy voice.

Holy-holy! Hearin them first words after one entire year made ya cry an cry. Yes sir.

Walked the kids to the store for ice-cream cones, then on the way back Annie Rogers from down the lane was out checkin her mailbox so ya stopped for a long chat. Thank-you Jesus for the alibi.

Told that fat policeman ya come home from the park an found Charlie cold on the kitchen floor. Ha! Think ya be tellin anyone ya special little man done it? When he come right out an asked if ya killed your own husband ya eyeballed him straight an said as God be ya witness it weren’t you, an now what was ya gonna do, left to raise them two sweet kids all by ya lonesome?

Fat policeman kept gorkin at the bruises on ya cheek, lookin ya over, lickin his lips. Said he might believe ya story if ya was real nice to him when he called back later—after ya kids were tucked up an sleepin.

Fat policeman’s been callin in most every night since; puttin them handcuffs on ya; takin that leather belt from his trousers; leavin bruises on ya same as Charlie.

Fat policeman better watch out for ya special little man.

 

Maggie Veness

The Whittling of Animals won 2nd prize in the Bare Fiction Prize for Flash Fiction 2015, as chosen by Richard Skinner, and appeared in Issue 7 of Bare Fiction Magazine in May 2016.