You know she’s a loaded gun.
Click, click, boom.
“Lucy, what the hell did you do?” Benny says when we walk into the house and he sees the glass on the floor.
“What needed to be done,” I reply. My cheeks are burning.
“She’s going to lose her mind!”
“But Benny--” I punch my hands into my pockets.
“God Lucy! You can’t just break shit. Anything sets Mama off these days--”
“Just shut up Benny!” I cry. I don’t have to be reminded how bad it is. She’s moody, bitter, drunk… and she hates me and Benny more than she usually does. It ain’t fair. And Benny The Saint is gonna take the fall for what I done. Even if it was to protect him.
So I do the only thing I can think of.
Hard and fast, away from my twin brother. I know Benny will wait for Mama. He always does. He helps her into bed when she’s too drunk, and if she’s sober, she’ll see what I done. She’ll see the missing wooden shadow box, the one with Daddy’s flag. The one I took and hid in Gramps garage, cause it’s mine-- me and Benny’s.
The only thing we got left of Daddy that she ain’t pawned.
But worse she’ll see the picture frame of Harold, shattered. And the horns in black marker and the scribbles over his evil pervert shit-face.
“Lucy, why you runnin so fast? You steal somethin?” My cousin JJ’s up in a tree, probably lookin for bird nests to destroy.
“NO! JJ you fucking idiot,” I bark at him.
His eyes glow and he jumps out of the tree and blocks my path between the fences. JJ loves to fight. But I’m not in the mood today.
“Well, you done somethin wrong, you runnin from the devil,” he accuses.
Maybe I am.
“Get outta my way JJ, before I kick you in the nuts,” I warn him.
He laughs in my face.
His breath smells like hot dogs.
“Try it Lucy,” he dares me.
I puff up as big as I can make myself. Just like I did with Harold. That fucking prick. And Mama’s gonna cry now cause he’s gone. Why’d Daddy have to go and die? And why’d she have to fill their bed with the first loser to come sniffin around?
“Hey, you kids! No fighting in my yard!” Mrs. Petty yells.
“This ain’t your yard Mary Lou,” JJ yells back at her.
She charges at us and the only thing keeping her from boxing our ears is the chain link fence. “What you call me? Have some manners you little piss ant.” She reaches her arm between the links and tries to grab JJ.
“That’s your name ain’t it? Mary Lou?” He smirks. JJ loves calling grown-ups by their first names-- it makes them curl up, like when me and Benny used to pour salt on fat banana slugs.
“I was just leaving, but JJ’s blocking the way,” I cover my ears.
“Looked to me like you and piss ant were about to start brawling back here. You know I don’t tolerate fightin.” She stretches her arm through the fence as far as it can go. Her skin is crepey and might tear off.
“I’m right here Mary Lou.” JJ positions himself.
“You’re stupid. She gonna get a broom and smack you,” I tell him.
“Nah,” he says with a shrug.
While JJ’s busy tormenting Mrs. Petty, I start running again. I don’t know where I’m going, I just know I don’t wanna be here no more. I’m tired of feeling this pathetic. So I push myself harder, faster. Before I know it, I’m on the farthest edge of town and I’m still running at top speed. Because of Mama. Because of fucking pervert Harold. Because of stupid selfless Benny who’s gonna take my licks from Mama when she blows.
I’m on the side of the highway and I'm desperate to keep going. I hate myself. I hate that I’m so selfish. That I’d let my twin brother stay and take my beating for me. But, he’s always so fucking happy. Even when she rages on him. Even when he’s the victim. It’s like he’s sick in the head-- but he thinks he’s being a hero.
I don’t want to talk to nobody.
How’d it get so dark?
A car pulls over further up the road. The red tail lights are snake eyes staring at me in the night. “Lucy you little bitch. I’m gonna beat your ass girl!” The voice from the car-- a bullet. I reach to my chest. There’s a void where my heart used to be.
I run down the embankment towards the river. I can hear it rushing just like I can hear her rushing and crashing down after me. Don’t she see what she does to me? To Benny?
“Leave me the fuck alone,” I scream over my shoulder as I slide past a patch of maple trees. I grab one and fling myself around before I reach the edge of the river.
“You think you’re special? You think cause Harold left me, that you’re better than me now?” Mama sobs through the trees. But really she’s firing off more shots at me-- a spray of shotgun pellets, ripping my flesh.
I look down at myself.
There’s not much left.
A big hole ripped through my chest.
Most of the flesh torn from my limbs.
“I ain’t special Mama,” the words slip from my mouth. I cringe.
The train tracks ain’t far-- and the old bridge me and Benny and Daddy used to jump off on hot days two summers ago. Before Daddy died in Afghanistan.
“You somethin real special Lucy,” Daddy’s voice was as proud as I ever heard it the first time I jumped by myself.
“Nah, just regular old me,” I laughed and shook the water from my hair.
“I ain’t never met a girl as brave as you Lucy,” he got soft, only for a moment. “Look at me girl. When I’m gone, you gotta protect Benny. He needs you. He’s weak. Not like me and you.”
“But, Daddy, Benny ain’t weak, he’s brave and strong! Look at him out there swimming against the current,” I said and pointed to Benny who just did another cannon ball.
“Benny is kind and he’s strong-- that’s for sure. He’s, well he’s sweet as pie. But, Lucy, if something happens to me--”
“Don’t say that Daddy!” I pulled on his arm and grabbed him.
“Listen to me Lucy. I’m tellin you this for your own damn good! Your brother will take his beatings like a man. But, sometimes you’ve got to stand up and fight. You’ve got to fight the shit that gets thrown at you. You can’t just smile and accept your licks. You’re gonna have to protect him. Do you get what I’m sayin?” Daddy picked up a towel and wrapped it around me.
“Dad, Dad! Did you see how far I jumped?” Benny came running back across the bridge happy as I ever saw him.
“Sure did champ!”
This hole in my chest is making it hard to breathe.
I’m standing on the bridge.
“What? You gonna jump? What a coward. Can’t even face the shit you done Lucy,” Mama starts to laugh.
“What I can’t face is YOU,” I scream. “Ever since Daddy died, you been a different person Mama! You hate me and Benny. You bring that shithead Harold into our house. That fucking pervert tried to put his hands on Benny! I recorded it on my phone and I will upload it to the sheriff if he ever comes back to our fucking house again.”
“I ain’t lyin! Ask Benny!”
“Get your ass back here Lucy. You know I hate heights. Just come on,” Mama starts begging. She stays on the side of the bridge.
“No! I’m going to stay with Gramps until you figure your shit out. He said I could,” I yell at Mama.
“Hell no! You ain’t goin to stay with him. You’re MY kid. You’re MY fucking kid!” Mama sobs.
But her sobs aren’t enough to fill the holes in me.
And if I go, so will Benny. He might love Mama. But, he loves me more.
I close my eyes. I picture JJ jumping out of that tree earlier. And I smile.
And then I jump.
Good thing Gramps' house is down river.