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By Adrian W. Lilly
Melvin glanced across the seat to his fiancée, Judy, but continued to look
past her, to the blurred patchwork of trees buzzing past the window.
Sometimes, watching the trees whiz by so fast made his head hurt. He put his
hand to his temple and returned his concentration to the road. Melvin was
glad he would be home soon. It had been years.
Judy shifted her weight, then opened her eyes to look at Melvin. She cocked
her head to the side and said in a sleepy voice, “How long, hun?”
Melvin reached over and patted her knee. “Not long now, my sweet.” He
looked at the composition of the sky out his window. The farther north you
drive, he thought, the deeper the blue of the sky. The contrast of the fluffy,
large white clouds seemed almost super-imposed against the deep blue.
Sometimes it made him feel like he was flying.
Judy was excited to meet his mother, he knew. After six months together, it
certainly was time for her to meet Mother. “It’s just a couple more miles, my
sweet.” He hoped they liked each other, but mostly he hoped Mother liked
Judy. She was a nice girl.
So far, so good, Melvin thought while he looked at Judy and his mother
playing cards. They both loved double solitaire and that was good. His
mother would ask him to play, but he always lost. His mother liked
competition. Lucky for Judy, she didn’t mind losing. Judy was very good at
Mother had prepared chicken and dumplings for dinner. Judy had
complemented Mother on her cooking. “Mrs. Jennings,” she’d said, “this is
one of the most delicious meals I ever had. You’ll have to teach me to cook
like this for Melvin.” Judy had blushed then. “I’m afraid my cooking doesn’t
“But you look like you eat well, my dear,” Mother had said, and Judy had
taken that well.
Melvin continued to watch them play cards. Shuffling cards from one pile to
another and placing them face up. Melvin didn’t like watching; the cards had
little doggies on them and it made him sad. They reminded him of his little
dog, Rascal. He was dead.
Sometimes it made him so angry at his mother to think about Rascal. He was
only a puppy and puppies have accidents. But Mother had been so angry.
She had yelled, “open the cellar door.” She kicked the puppy down the
cellar stairs. Melvin remembered running down and touching him, but he
wouldn’t get up. Then, he got cold. Mother had said, “Just dig a hole in the
dirt down there and bury it. Stop that sniveling.” Oh, it made him so angry
Judy was talking to him. She was ready for bed.
“Do you think she likes me?” Judy asked, not sure if she cared. Melvin was
the most gentle, calm man she had ever met. Maybe he wasn’t bright, or
even gorgeous, but she’d been through enough in her life to know that the
most important thing about someone was how well he treated you. For god’s
sake, Melvin treated her like a queen, when most men treat a plump, thirty-
seven year old waitress like shit. Things had to go well with his mother.
Melvin nodded as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off his shoes.
“Finish unlacing them, hun.” Judy said.
She just couldn’t figure out how such a sweet guy had such a viscous bitch
for a mother. The woman did nothing but insult her since she’d arrived. Told
her not to dye her hair, not to eat too much, asked was she cheating at
cards. She’d dye her hair if she wanted damn-well-to and she didn’t need to
cheat to beat some old bitch at cards.
And to criticize! Judy had a lot of criticism herself for the old bitch’s musty,
decrepit house. As she drove up to it—God! The front porch was screened
in and falling down. It needed a fresh coat of paint like nothing else. Then
the way the lady kept it so closed up. It was musty and her smoking left the
place yellowed and stale. The air was so full of dust, Judy had begun to
spastically sneeze as she walked in. Besides, she could have sworn she
smelled cat spray, but there were no cats to be seen. Well, it was only one
weekend, and if she only had to see the bitch twice a year until she died, then
she could do it. Melvin was worth it.
Judy turned from her thoughts and glanced up to Melvin. He was naked
beside her. Judy glanced at his protruding belly and skinny ribs. He began
to caress her shoulder. She felt odd to have sex in the old lady’s house, but...
then again, she hoped the old bitch heard them. Maybe she’d have a heart
attack this weekend.
Melvin remembered. Mother didn’t think so, but he did. He remembered
when he had an older brother named Billy. They had played together all the
time. That was before Dad had left. He remembered that, too.
Dad was gone so often with his job. He’d come home and be angry because
Mother was being bad. She used to like to hurt Billy and Dad would get so
angry. He told Mother that she was very crazy and that she needed help.
She would just cuss and cuss. Then one day, Dad never came back home.
Mother blamed Billy.
She would always punish him and say bad things to him. He took it for so
long—even when she dumped hot water from the stove on him. Then, one
day, he hit her back and Melvin—he knew it was a bad idea—and he told Billy
Melvin tossed suddenly in his sleep and whined. Judy bolted up and stared
at him. Though she still wondered what caused him to have fitful sleep, she
was now able to sleep through it. She slid back down onto her pillow and
tugged the covers away from Melvin just a little. Now there was enough slack
that he could toss without disturbing her. She rolled away from him and
closed her eyes.
––And then, Mother was so angry. She said, “Melvin, open the cellar door.”
Melvin shook his head, no. But her voice had been so mean, “Melvin.” And
he had to. Then she kicked Billy and he fell just like Rascal. The crunch had
been so awful. Melvin tried to run and hide, but Mother grabbed him by the
hair and knocked him down. “You little bastard! You go down there and dig
a hole and bury him like your damn dog.”
Melvin crawled to the door and scooted down the stairs on his butt because
he didn’t want her to knock him down and make him dead, too. But she
closed and locked the door instead. The cellar was so scary and dark;
Melvin hated it. And it was hard to dig such a big hole. He got so tired and
dirty and Billy just lay there with his eyes open and not blinking. But he didn’t
look that hurt, just a trickle of blood coming from his ear.
Melvin hated to touch his cold skin when he had to drag him in the hole. And
he didn’t want to put dirt in his brother’s eyes; it wasn’t nice. He pushed on
the lids and tried to make them stay shut, but they wouldn’t. It made Melvin
cry. It made him so angry at Mother, but still he was scared.
Judy awoke, surprised at how late she had slept. She and Melvin had been
up late…but not that late. She kicked her legs over the side of the bed and
slipped her feet into her slippers. Should she go down stairs in her robe?
She decided to dress.
Just as she was about to open the bedroom door, she heard muffled voices.
It sounded as though Melvin and his mother were arguing. Judy cracked the
door. The voices were coming from the bottom of the stairs. “You’re a dirty
boy, Melvin. I heard you last night,” the old lady’s voice was thick with
disgust. “Do I have to punish you?”
Judy’s hand trembled on the door. She couldn’t believe what she was
hearing. She was filled with disgust and anger. Why would Melvin let his
mother talk to him that way? He was a grown man! Judy eased the door
open more then craned her neck, hoping to see them. Looking over the
railing, she could just see the lady’s back and the edge of Melvin’s face in the
kitchen doorway. A slant of light was illuminating one side, while the other
was darkened from the corner of the room. Is he standing in the corner?
“That girl is a whore, Melvin.”
Judy had heard enough. She backed into the room and tossed her things
together. No one called her a whore, no one. When she had finally gotten
away from her ex, she swore she’d never be called that again. Certainly not
by some old bitch.
Her bag slung over her shoulder, Judy stomped down the steps, allowing her
heavy footsteps to rattle the dusty pictures on the wall. Melvin was sitting at
the kitchen table, eating oatmeal. The bitch was at the stove. “Melvin,” Judy
called as she barged into the kitchen, “are you ready to leave?”
The old woman’s back was still to Judy as she called, “You’re not going
anywhere with my boy, whore.”
Judy paused, taken aback. “You bitch. You crazy bitch,” she spat. She
slung her bag off her shoulder and it thudded on the floor. “I’m a whore
because I slept with your son? Well, I got news for you, it wasn’t the first
time,” her head bobbed on her shoulders, while she shook her finger. “And
something else—that’s what adults in relationships do, lady.”
The old woman tossed the wooded spoon she was using onto the stovetop
and spun to face Judy. “Get out of my house!” She screeched.
“That’s what I’m doing. Melvin?” He had his hands pressed to his ears, and
he was shaking his head. Judy’s voice faltered, “Melvin?” He wasn’t moving.
Tears were flowing from his clenched eyes. “Are you coming?”
The old woman cackled from her position at the stove. “Melvin, open the
His eyes bolted open, walnut-sized mausoleums. “No, Momma,” he shook his
“What’s going on?” Judy asked. Child abuse carried into adulthood? Sexual
abuse? What had she gotten herself into? Her mind was quaking, trying to
process what she was witnessing.
The old lady was bent over the oatmeal like a harpy. “Now, Melvin!”
He rose in halted jerks, trembling, then trudged across the floor, dragging his
feet, a windblown grocery sack. The creak of the door hinges and the
scuffling of the wood on the linoleum echoed across the silent kitchen. Melvin
flipped on the cellar light and trudged down the stairs, his head vanishing like
a sunbather into the ocean.
“Melvin?” Judy whispered. Glancing at the woman, she crept toward the
cellar door. What the hell was he doing? He was waiting at the bottom of the
stairs, shaking his head and sobbing. His hands were shoved in his pockets
while his feet danced around on the dirt floor, like a child who needed to pee.
A dim light played across the room.
Judy’s eyes rolled over the floor; the dirt was disturbed, rough furrows dug
Judy bolted upright as she heard rushing footsteps behind her.
|About Adrian W. Lilly
Adrian W. Lilly is the
author of the novels The
Devil You Know, Red
Haze, and The Wolf at
His Door, and The Wolf
in His Arms: Books One
and Two of The Runes
Trilogy. Adrian writes
novels, short stories,
and poetry and has
spent many years as a
copywriter in the