Willow’s Cross

MJG Zine 5 Comments

painters_cross

By Mari Mitchell.

My name is Willow. I do not look, or feel like a Willow.. Willows are statuesque; they should be graceful and ethereal. I resemble Mrs. Potato Head. I have an older stepbrother named Patrick. He does not look like a Patrick either, more like Jack Skellington only with more hair and flesh. Everyone knows that Patricks have red hair, freckles and should be short. I do not think our parents are very good at naming things.. We are five years apart in age and from different planets. I of course am from Earth and he is from the planet Weirdo with its moons Stupid-Head and Dumbo.

Where we live you can get gas, liquor, or you can be saved by Jesus, but if you want anything else, you have to go to town. In town we saw a bad horror movie – Patrick’s choice, he loved it by the way; ate some yummy Thai food — my choice; and shopped– Mom’s choice. It was on the way back that we noticed it.

Image from here.

“Hey, would you look at that,” Patrick said with a small amount of glee in his voice.

“Look at what?” Mom asked.

He pointed to a small white cross with something written on it along the side of the highway. Its yellow flowers waved to us as if to get our attention.

“Someone died there. How sad… I wonder who?” Mom said with a touch of sadness in her voice.

“Who cares, they’re dead and wormy now.” He laughed to himself.

See what I mean. Total lump of lint.

“Patrick Raymond Barker, you show respect for the dead!”

He said nothing more but smirked his heart out nonetheless.

“It must not have happened very long ago… I hope it didn’t hurt too much,” I said.

Patrick in true lint monster form added sound effects of a crash and an explosion, complete with hand gestures.

Mom frowned and hit his arm.

Images of that cross haunted me. Who was the cross for? How old were they when they died? What happened? Did it hurt? Does it still? What did they look like? Thinking of it made me feel lonely and cold inside.

I turned on the light by my bed to work on my journal.

+++

Patrick came into my room without knocking. He saw that I was sketching and pulled it from my hands, ripping the page in the process. He teased me about it when he saw that the picture was of the cross. We fought about him going in to my room, and taking my journal. Both of us got in trouble for fighting and I got in trouble for swearing. HE DID NOT GET IN TROUBLE FOR GOING INTO MY ROOM WITHOUT ASKING, OR FOR TAKING MY JOURNAL, OR FOR RIPPING IT! Apparently the fact that IT was in MY room and in MY hands did NOT matter. Somehow it was my fault for leaving it around. Mom always takes his side because his dad died.

I am pretty sure that I could make voodoo dolls of them. Mom would get a pin in her right knee and would never suspect me of doing anything wrong. Jerk-face on the other hand, would get one large though the top of his head. I would twirl his pin around a bit too.

I marked the end of the entry with thick black marks.

+++

Patrick went back to his pit of black to shoot zombies on his computer. If I had had a computer, I would have done more than look at porn and kill things on it. What a waste.

I did not want to think about crosses, death, stepbrothers, and unjust, unfair mothers for a while, so I picked up my copy of “Pet Semetery..” I should have been reading “Holes” but I read that a couple of years before. Besides I wanted to read something inappropriate for my age.

Because I was still in grade school, I got home before Patrick, Mom was still at work, so I had the house to myself. Usually I was very good and I did what I should. Did I ever get any credit for it? No! I was still really mad about what happened last night. If I had entered his room or did something to his stuff, I’d be in for it.

He had left the door to his dungeon open. I peaked in to the pit of black and what did I see? I saw his obsession: … It was out on his desk, helpless … unprotected. Oh no, what if something happened to it? It might vanish? Poof, where did it go? Surely, I would not know.

Zombie Killer 2 and I locked the door to my room, grabbed the last Zagnut and made it quick to the library. I would be able to make a good case that I had been there all afternoon if I came back with a fresh stack of books. All I would had to do was wait for Mom to get home before I did.

When you went to the library, you could see the solitary cross with yellow flowers. It’s like a sentinel; warning all who passed that life was fragile, a reminder of someone’s grief, of someone’s loss. Even when I was not close to the cross it was with me. I could not help but wonder what it felt like. Were they alone in the dark?

I wrote in my journal:

+++

~ Crosses are thought of as peaceful, and hopeful, when all they really are, are just markers of grief.

~ Crosses are where life and death touch each of us.

~ Crosses are symbols of torture. Christ might have willingly sacrificed himself on one, but that was not the intent of those that sent him to it.

I sketched a monkey contemplating a cross.

+++

I was brilliant. I was so brilliant that Mom believed every word I said and he got restriction for hitting me and now he wasn’t be able to play his stupid game with his gross friends this Saturday. Boohoo.

Mom was gone for the weekend with her sister Lydia. It was a surprise and since Patrick-the-Impossible was home for the weekend anyway, it worked out well. Boy did fate have it in for me, or what? I knew he would seize upon this opportunity even though Mom warned him not to.

I wrote in my journal:

+++

~ Crosses show us where one world touches another.

~ Crosses are markers of a life that is now gone.

~ Crosses are symbols of death touching us. And in touching one do we not touch death?

~ What lies under them, is there pain, is there light, is there time, is there only rot and decay?

I drew flowers that cried.

+++

The morning came, and Mom was gone. Patrick had taken the opportunity to play NiN at what had to be at full volume.

The plan was to go the bathroom, grab something quick to eat, go back to my room and barricade myself in. Later, I could sneak out and take the bus somewhere or at least hang out at the library.

When I came back to my sanctuary, guess who was lying on my bed gloating about something?

“So the cross really freaked you out?”

I pretended to not know what he was talking about. “What cross?”

“The one on the side of the highway,” he said smugly.

“NO!” I protested.

“Are you sure? Because that’s not what I read.”

“Read?” My journals. He read them! My face grew hot with anger. That’s when I noticed that all of my journals were missing. All twenty-two and half of them– gone. All of my art, my lovely poems, all of my thoughts, innermost feelings, all of my stories, secrets untold were gone. A voodoo doll was too good for him! Black magic, I could find something somewhere. I’d make him into a rat and keep him for a pet.

“I am going to call Mom!”

“Go ahead, but you will never see them again. No matter how much I get in to trouble for it.”

“All right I will give you back your stupid game.”

“Good.”

I got on my bike and went to where I stashed his stupid, zombie game. It was there, unharmed.

Out of breath, I entered and found him in his room on his computer now blaring Marilyn Manson and him singing along.

“Got it?” he asked without looking.

“Yes.” I handed him the disc. He placed it back in to his computer. I stood there waiting for him to say something about my journals, to do something. He began to shoot zombies again.

“Well, where are they?”

“What?”

My eyes narrowed, staring intensely at his arrogancy of massive stupidity. “My journals!”

“They’re safe… for now.” He smirked.

Now what the hell did he want?

“I’ve only got twenty bucks, you can have it all. Just give me back my stuff.”

“Okay… but you have to get me something first.”

“Name it.” I shifted from one foot to another.

“I want you to get me that cross.”

My eyes widened with outrage. “What? You’re kidding. No!”

“Okay.”

“Okay what, give me back my stuff.”

“No cross, no journals.”

“Fine!” I stumped off to my room. My thoughts looked for something I could say, something I could do or offer. I stared at my empty shelf knowing that part of my soul was now gone, probably forever.

He came in to my room and sat right next to me, so close he was touching me. No matter where I went he went too, right next to me. He kept on repeating, “Give me what I want and I will go away.”

“Oh look, it’s getting dark. I can’t wait to go to bed tonight.”

“What!” The thought of it sickened me. I did not want him in my bed. We did not even sit next to each other when we watched TV.

“Give me what I want and I will go away,” he repeated for the hundredth time. I wished with all of my heart that something dreadful would drag him away.

“Damn I hope I don’t fart too much tonight, or roll over. I might accidentally… push you off the bed when your asleep.”

“I said I would do it tomorrow.”

“Well Waddle-o, tomorrow may never come. I had better stay close, just in case. Gosh I hope I don’t wet the bed.”

I sighed with exasperation. “Fine! Anything would be better than sleeping with you next to me.”

I grabbed my backpack and a flashlight. He had reached new levels of crap. My bike was on the front porch still. At least it wasn’t very far.

I mean, what could happen? No one was going to reach up from the ground and pull me under. That kind of thing didn’t really happen does it? I hoped.

No stars were out; the air was cool and thick with mist. Sooner than I thought, I was there. I could hardly catch my breath and my heart pounded so hard that I thought it burst out of my chest.

I put my bike down and walked over to the cross. The yellow flowers no longer waved but stood still. I placed my hands on the body of the cross, held my breath and pulled hard, expecting there to be resistance. Instead I fell flat on my ass hitting my head on the ground. The cross lay upon my chest. I must have looked like I was fit to be put in the ground.

There were no other screams but my own.

I searched the dark as I found my feet and looked for a figure in tattered clothes with glowing eyes trying to take back their cross.

No one. I was all alone. And I very much wanted it to stay that way. I shoved  as much of the cross as I could into the pack, and made my way back before the undead changed their minds. An odd thought occurred to me just then, maybe the reason zombies always want brains are to change their minds?

Home. He lay on the couch watching something gross again, eating ice cream and Doritos. Those three should have been enough to make anyone sick. I handed him my pack. “Cool.” He sat up and said with the movie, “I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter tied to this fucking couch!” and placed it on pause.

He grabbed the cross and went straight into his room.

“Where are they?”

“They’re in your room.”

He was right. There they all were back of the shelf. I inspected them for damage and placed them back into order. Relief. It was all over..

All of a sudden he was hammering. I went to Patrick’s oubliette to see what he had done. Above his bed was the cross. W.W. Jabocs 2-21-06 was written in black letters.

“You can’t do that!”

“I just did.” He went back to the living room, flopped back on the couch and hit play.

“That’s sick! That’s depraved!” My stomach twisted in knots.

“Shut up. What did you think I wanted it for, a paperweight?”

It was gross and disrespectful and wrong. Okay, okay Mom would never allow him to keep it and he would never see the light of day again when she got back. Maybe the computer would be mine afterwards? Happy thought that.

I slept with my door locked and the light on.

I awoke to the noise of things falling in Patrick’s room. I could make out someone talking. I opened my door carefully to see a man slowly walking out our front door.

I could hear Patrick panting. Slowly my eyes became accustomed to the light in his room. He stood in the far corner of his room. The room had a strange smell to it.

Then Patrick did something strange, he spoke nicely to me and asked if I was all right.

“What happened?”

I looked to where the cross had been. It was no longer there.

***

We passed the rest of the night together on the couch. I wished that we were religious types. I’d given anything for a Bible. What Patrick wished for was that we were the gun carrying types. Together we turned on every light and locked everything up. We even placed a heavy table in front of the door.

Neither of us slept until after the sun had risen. The warm light helped to hold back all the bad things that lived in the night.

I wanted to call Mom but Patrick wouldn’t let me. He said that we would both get in lots of trouble and we would not be believed. Worst of all was the possibility that, if we told anyone, everyone would know. It would make our lives at school a nightmare.

I woke. The house smelled like something had been burnt. I went straight to the kitchen.

“You’re burning the toast.” I got no response.

I poured a huge bowel of cereal; part Lucky Charms, part Life Cereal and a pinch of Rice Crispies for sound.

I called out, “Hey, you want some cereal too? After all, it’s the most important meal of the afternoon.” I got no response again.

I plopped on the couch to watch TV while I ate. The X-Files were on so I quickly changed the channel to an old sitcom. It was the one where the mad scientists kidnapped Gilligan..

I was sure of a couple of things; we had made it through the night together as a real family, Mom would be home soon and nothing would ever be the same.

Patrick shuffled back into the living room. He was wrapped tight in a green blanket. “We’re out of aspirin.” He collapsed onto the recliner.

I looked at him. He was pale. “Are you feeling all right?”

He shook his head no. “I think I’ve got the flu.”

“Do you want me to get you some juice? I could make some soup fresh out of the can, just like Mom’s.” I really liked playing nurse. I think that’s what I’ll be when I grow up.

“No. But could you get me another blanket. I’m cold.”

I tucked him in and made him some juice anyway. I placed it on the side table with a straw in it.

The rest of the afternoon I watched whatever I wanted to with the volume low.

He moaned and talked in his sleep. Poor Patrick, he must have had nightmares – the kind you get when you’re real sick.

In the middle of Sponge Bob, my brother screamed and sat up. “It burns! It burns!” He struggled to free himself from the imaginary fire. He wasn’t pale anymore, now he was red.

I tried hard to hold him down but he was always stronger than me. He headed for the bathroom and turned on the shower. I followed him in. At first I thought it was steam from the shower until the cold water hit me. Smoke rose from his pores. Patrick screamed and twisted in pain. I didn’t know what to do. How do you put out a fire that’s on the inside of your brother?

With arms pleading for help he reached for me. Deep split ran across his face and arms. Blood and water rushed down the drain.  The smoke grew in thickness. My brother’s skin blackened like burnt meat. I grabbed his arms and tried desperately to make him go with me to get help. Sheets of his skin came off in my hands.

Then it stopped.

He stopped screaming.

He stopped moving.

He stopped suffering.

***

Mom came home early from her trip. We buried him next to his father and moved in with my aunt.

One day instead of going to school, I went back to the old house. It was uninhabited still. In the front yard I placed a white cross. In black letters I wrote my brother’s name on it. Underneath I buried his game and a journal I wrote for him. I told him that I was sorry. I told him that I loved him. I told how mom still told silly stories about. I told him how we missed him. Then I planted yellow flowers next to Patrick’s cross.

+++

The house is silent and empty still. No one ever made it a home again. I go by sometimes to see if the yellow flowers still dance in the moonlight beside my brother’s cross.

END

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mari Mitchell lives in the high deserts of California. She has placed in several contests on Writing.com and has had almost 20 things published in her first 2 years of submitting. Some can be found on Cherry Bleeds, Morphus Tales, and the anthology The Black Whole. Her tale “Alice in Ink” was chosen as Editor’s Choice in Grim Graffiti of 1/08.

Comments 5

  1. Masterful. The story grabbed me, pulled me in, and made its point effectively and quickly. Very good use of the short story format. I could see this being developed into a television script (GOOD television script. I don’t mean to damn with faint praise.)

  2. You’re welcome. It’s nice to know at least some of the authors besides MJG are watching comments.

    One thing that makes this story unusual for the genre is that the character who directly violated the grave, Willow, the narrator, escaped retribution from the deceased. In most stories the vengeful dead are more thorough. I’m happy Willow lived, though.

  3. Post
    Author

    Great points David, I too wondered at how Willow got to escape Scot-free, but I guess it was more about intent than it was about the actual crime. Or perhaps just about where the cross ended up.

    Mari- Thanks for checking in 🙂

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