I started two different flash pieces this week and they both decided they wanted to be much more than that, at least shorts, so I’ve put them aside to “perfect” for submission and decided to recycle for today’s story. That Night by the Creek was originally published as a #fridayflash on The Other Side of Deanna (now closed) in May of 2011. It is rated PG-13, according to my standards. I hope you enjoy!
That Night by the Creek, by Deanna Schrayer
Momma pulled off the road in the gravel alongside the creek and cut the headlights. It was so dark I couldn’t see the chicken leg I’d been eating. I heard the tall pines rustling as if it were windy but I felt no breeze at all, even though all the windows in the car were down. I heard the frogs croaking, the creek trickling, (normally it would be rushing but it hadn’t rained in weeks), and Momma breathing heavy. “You ‘bout done with that chicken Stella?” she asked.
“Almost,” I said, wanting to know why she cared, why we had stopped in the dark at such a late hour, but not daring to ask.
“Hurry up,” she said, “I gotta get our contraband outta here so Daddy won’t know we bought fast food.”
“Contra what?” I asked.
“Never mind,” she jerked the chicken leg out of my hand without even having to feel around for it in the dark. In a second I heard a dull thud as it hit the road. Then the flame of her lighter erupted in front of my face, barely missing my nose and she dug around under my feet in the floorboard, gathering up the wax paper and straw wrapper I’d carelessly dropped. “Look around,” she told me, “make sure there ain’t no more trash in here.”
I didn’t understand why she was whispering like we needed to keep our eating a secret but I did as I was told. I found another straw wrapper but it was crushed up and brown, it couldn’t have been from the meal we’d just had. I turned it over with my toe like I would a dead beetle and Momma smacked my leg, hard. “I said get all the trash Stella!” She reached down and picked it up, stuck it in the bag with the rest of the trash, leaned over my lap, and tossed the bag across me and out the window.
Her bushy yellow hair tickled my cheek. The trash went over the bank and landed near the creek. As Momma sat back up in her seat her elbow hit the glove box and it popped open. The faint light inside showed a pair of jumper cables, a bunch of wadded up paper, a pack of gum, and a package of Wet Ones. Momma sat real quiet, not moving to start the car or even to close the glove box. Finally she reached down and opened the Wet Ones, pulling several out and throwing them in my lap. “Here,” she said, “wipe all that grease off your hands.” I did as I was told and she took the dirty rags from me and threw them out the window too.
Momma straightened in her seat but she didn’t start the car. After a minute her lighter flickered back to life and I watched her puff in hard as she lit a cigarette. She’d been smoking Virginia Slims for about a month now, claiming if Daddy could drink then she oughta be able to have some vice. The smoke curled across the car and into my face, shoving its way up my nose and making it itch. I held my breath. Every few seconds the tip of the cigarette would glow brighter and Momma released a heavier breath; it sounded like she was trying to sigh her soul right out of her body.
When I heard a loud snap outside my window I jumped and banged my head on the roof. It sounded like when Daddy broke wood up for campfires. I looked out but couldn’t see anything. I rolled up my window.
“Stella!” Momma whisper-yelled. I glanced towards her voice and looked intently at the spectre-like form of her transparent face above the flame of the lighter. Her eyes slowly moved from mine to the window behind me then grew wide with terror. “Get down!” she screamed.
Before I could reach the floorboard glass shattered all around me and thick, suffocating arms wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t see Momma anymore.