by Tara Adams
photo by DirtHat
Jeepers Creepers Contest Winner!
The little Honda came to an abrupt stop, tossing empty diet soda cans in the back near the vacant infant car seat. Chandra put out her cigarette, smoked down to the filter and gnawed at the end. Adjusting the rear view mirror to her face, she rubbed her thumb against her tongue and smudged the purple eye shadow on her lids. She fluffed her hair, an unnatural shade of red, and wiped the stickiness of the hairspray residue on her hole-filled jeans. With trembling hands, she unwrapped a piece of gum and chewed frantically.
Cursing under her breath, she brushed her broken seat belt out of her way. Chandra hated seat belts and had previously cut the obnoxious thing out of the way. ‘I’m too fat to wear a seat belt’, she had explained to Ma. At the thought of that bitch, Chandra kicked a tire on the way to the trunk. She heaved a large black bag from the compartment and grabbed the empty single serving sized milk jug she had filled with quarters. The street lamp, illuminating the parking lot, flickered in protest.
Dragging the plastic bag to the front entrance of the laundry mat, she rested her back on the glass door so that she faced the empty lot. Chandra lit another cigarette and disregarding the no-smoking sign, she inched her way through the doors while sliding the bag across the linoleum. With gum stuck in her cheek and the cigarette hanging from her lips, she chose the middle machine in the row of washers. Chandra dumped clothes into the machine without regards to light or dark. She thought, ‘Too full my ass, Ma’. Powder detergent was poured inside and quarters were entered into the appropriate slot.
Chandra looked up for a place to sit and found that she was the lone customer on this hot sticky night. She turned around and hauled herself up to sit on top of the washing machine. Bet I could break it and ride it like a stallion, thought Chandra smiling wickedly. She had wanted the man she saw at her apartment building fixing a car. The thought made her tongue move suggestively on her teeth. She wanted many people, such as her step-father. The Bitch didn’t know how to take care of him anyway. Her mind roamed in painful and pleasurable ways, until she saw a movement in the reflection of the dryer.
Turning her head to look around her, she saw nothing there. Her breasts, unencumbered by a bra, bounced as she shook off the feeling that something had been there. She turned back around. Sitting to her right was an old woman who hadn’t been there before. Her knitting needles clicked. Chandra’s heart raced as her mind tried to wrap itself around how swiftly this elderly person would have had to pass her to get from the door to the chair. Perhaps that was what I saw behind me, Chandra cautioned herself from her own imagination. Her stepfather always said there were lies that humans made up to tell themselves.
The old woman coughed, “You shouldn’t sit on them.”
“I am not hurting it.”
The woman’s voice sounded like the crackling of white noise on a broken television set, “No the men, dear. You shouldn’t sit on them men.”
Chandra’s mouth gaped and she tried muddling her way through her confusion to become angry, but then a clinking bell sound at the entrance of the laundry mat caught her attention. Chandra’s eyes grew wide as she stared at the man walking into the room. He appeared freshly shaven and the peppery smell of aftershave fluttered through her nostrils as he passed. Sitting at a cheaply made card table held together by duct tape, the man sat a paper bag down and nodded to the old woman.
Slowly, he removed his tattered scarf to reveal a white collar at the base of his throat. His black attire made him seem darker under the dim lighting of the laundry mat. He looked down both sleeves of his black vestment as he smiled, then showed both of his hands to Chandra. Reaching into the brown paper bag, he removed a teapot. Blue Chinese men were painted on the sides of the porcelain.
Chandra spoke in an attempt to break the ice, “My grandmother had a teapot just like that.”
“Emma was a fine woman,” the man rumbled.
A tightening crept across Chandra’s chest, “How did you know my grandma?”
The fluorescent lights which were still working flickered a few times. The washing machine stopped and continued.
“I am sorry. You said?” the man responded.
Foreboding was acknowledged and Chandra looked to the parking lot. She wondered how long it would take to get from the top of her rented washing machine to her Honda. Mentally calculating that her chances were better off the equipment, Chandra slid off the washing machine while never taking her eyes of the man. She looked back towards him. He now held a fancy teacup to his lips.
“Darkness is the absence of light and evil is nothing to no one.”
“Now, now, old woman. There is no need to get territorial. I just want to have a chat with our mutual interest.”
Chandra found her voice though it was weak, “Do you two know each other?”
The woman threw her knitting needles and yarn to the ground, “Without him no one sees me! I am supposed to be loved!” The woman fell to her knees and with quick brittle movements, crawled to her fallen skein and petted it as if the wool was still on the sheep and the damage was yet done.
Chandra reached for the old woman’s trembling hands but was met with a scream, “Do not touch me girl! If you touch me you will bleed as if you never were.” The woman started coughing and spitting. Her breathing grew labored and then eased as Chandra backed up to the rows of washers.
What her backside was met with was hard flesh. She knew without turning her head that the teapot had been abandoned and the man with the white collar stood behind her. Trying to step forward, she was caught at the waist by his hands. Slowly, they moved towards her lower stomach leaving a trail of slime across her clothing. Chandra stifled a scream, but whimpered against her will.
“What choices did you make, Chandra?”
“I did not want it.”
The old woman was bleeding from her palms, “You destroyed it.”
“No, Ma wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t let me get rid of it.”
The man chuckled low next to her ear and his fingernails grew long, threatening to punctuate the skin protecting her intestines, “You should have left it alive for me.”
“I breathed life into it,” shrieked the old woman.
The man threw Chandra down, cracking her head on the linoleum.
“Do you understand that it was her,” the man wailed loudly, “I had no influence.” He knelt beside the woman and stroked her graying hair. “I hate her. She took all my fun away. She acted alone and without my consent.”
“She acted against my blessing.”
The man stood and kicked the old woman. “You made her,” he crooned.
Stepping towards Chandra, the man picked her up by the red curls and slammed her against the whirling washer. The lights in the laundry mat went out and the empty dryers kicked on.
Chandra gasped for air as the man hauled her upwards by the neck. Her feet dangled off the ground and her face was pulled close to his so that she could see his tears. “Do you know the choice you have made with your fucking free will?”
He sat her down gently, pointed to her washing machine and commanded, “Get me something to drink.”
With wobbling knees and blood trickling down her forehead, Chandra stepped to the washing machine and opened the lid. The gag reflex was too strong. She stood frozen as the contents of her stomach eased out of her mouth and dripped down her chin.
The old woman stood on haggard legs and walked towards the washing machine. Gingerly, with dripping hands she lifted the baby from the water, like a believer from a fount. The woman went to move towards the door with the little body, but Chandra’s hand caught her arm. The woman hissed and drew back her limb saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” She then left through the entrance, alarming the clinking bell.
The man gazed down upon Chandra, “You little shit. Do you know why it is the greatest sin to kill a child? Because it hinders us both. I have no use for those who get in my way. Isn’t a shame when both God won’t cure you and the Devil doesn’t want you?”
Tara T. Adams considers herself a rookie word smith. She enjoys the adventure of writing multiple genres. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and is currently living in Eastern Montana while teaching. Tara is the proud mother of a Pug and a Beagle.