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by Katerina Charisi
2016-12-04 12:52:20
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And as I see the end coming, I remember the one who walked among the dead.

The man drank slowly taking long sips, his thick fingers around the old fashioned glass, his silver blue eyes on her. With the corner of her eyes she looked at his hands; rough skin, square knots turning white as he held steadily his drink, dirt under his nails. Clean with an effort, but the signs of hard work in the fields never left. His face had a distant look, confidence, freedom drawn in his wrinkles. A free man, loyal only to his land and the One above.

emi01_400_02“I wanna ma woman stay home”, he said with a smile and emptied his glass with a last long sip, holding it for a moment before he swallows.

“I’m no one’s woman, love. Never was and will never be.”

Emily crossed her arms on her chest and frowned, but the smile was ready to escape from her lips. He flirted with her with his rough and clumsy way for days. He liked his role; the bad, the free, the innocent under his tough mask, waiting for someone who would drop his defenses and carry him in ways he never let anyone to. For a while they confronted each other with their eyes. He lowered his head first, not admitting he lost that little battle though, she could see it in his eyes, and put a banknote on the bar.

“Will see ‘bout that”, he said and turned his back with a smirk. She stared his back and he knew it, he opened the door. He didn’t spare a single look at the gambling tables, she noted that too. Tough glass, no gambler, she thought. Too good to be true.

He left without looking back and a thick cloud of grey and yellow smoke escaped behind him. The door shut leaving half of that smoky cloud inside, surrounding the door as it tried to find its way out, then dissolved and went up to the ceiling. She got back to her duty. More men sat at the bar. If they left the table, they were broke, Rosie said. Most of the times they asked for a last drink that couldn’t pay, Rosie had told her to give them what they want, table or bar, the money still flowed in her business. But only one; just a single one and then send them home to their wives.


“We need you up there, Michael”, Frances said as she heard her screaming again and turned her back, grabbing two pots from the cabinet to boil water, then put her hand over the stove plates. Cornelia gave him two towels and dragged her feet to a chair. She couldn’t climb the stairs to go up. His eyes went to the window above the sink, the black square of the night broke only with a faint moonlight behind dilute clouds.

“God”, he heard himself saying. “Did it have to be in the middle of the night?”

Frances put one towel in the pot. “You can’t order these things, you know. Leave God alone, for he knows what he’s doing. Go, Michael. Now.” She handed him one pot and pushed him, then followed him upstairs. Another scream made him freeze in the middle of the stairs and his mother went in front of him. “Come.” For a moment he just wanted to leave the pot on the floor, turn around and walk outside in the darkness. He had imagined his fatherhood starting somehow ...nicer; calmer, quieter. They went to the room where Bradford and Marianne shared before they move to their own house, and with a clear surprise he saw his father behind Jenny holding her clenched fist. His knots had turned white and a ridiculous urge to laugh burst inside him, when thought his father’s mass and his lightweight wife being so strong that she whited his knots. Frances took the pot from his hands and he just stood there, his eyes fixed on the pale face and the naked half of her on the bed. He still had his hands in the air as if the pot was between them.

“Come”, he heard in a distance his father’s voice. He watched himself walking as in a dream, some murmurs in the back of his head, he saw his hands trying to hold something, somewhere, and then his eyes went on Jenny’s face who looked up as seeking for something in particular there, and felt the scream coming from her inside and she clinched her mouth, tears ran from her eyes and the cry escaped through her teeth.

“Breathe!” his mother shouted. “Just breathe, girl!” Jenny tried to imitate her and Michael stepped back as afraid of the blow, not knowing what to do. He thought of his grandma downstairs and wanted to ran, see if she needed anything and at the same moment he knew his thoughts were stupid, he was just so stupid and silently said he’s sorry to his wife with his eyes, but she didn’t look at him at all. He was sorry that he couldn’t do anything to help her, to make pain go away, but then another scream came out of her throat and he had never imagined she could scream so loud, and when she lifted her waist and imagined her tailbone bending like some creature of the swamps, he just couldn’t be in that room anymore.

“Stop it, Jenny! That’s enough. I gave birth in this house and never made such a fuss, for God’s sake.”

He dashed the stairs and ran outside, catching with the corner of his eyes Cornelia, sitting on the chair in the kitchen, trying not to let her head hit the table as she couldn’t stay awake anymore. With trembling hands he lit a smoke and leaned on the rail of the porch, trying to make his heart stop bouncing. A little later he could just feel calmness turning back to the house, and he knew that all was over.


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