The septic tank lolls in the side yard. Waiting.
Like starting high school next week’s not enough to worry about.
They’re almost finished with the new bathroom. No more trips outside at night in the rain, snow, or worse.
Mother made me quit using the slop jar and started sending me outside when I was six. That’s four years younger than Mary Cecelia had to go outside at night. But I was ready. And only a little scared. Because by then I had learned how to take care of scary things.
That’s the past, Eleanor, as Mother always tells me. But the past is waiting out there.
Right where they’ve marked the ground for that septic tank. The wrong spot. Not where Daddy said.
I watch those men with their shovels. Grimy, sweaty, tanned faces. Don’t have a clue what they’re going to dig up.
“I hate that woman!” Mary Cecelia flops onto our bed.
I turn from the window startled. The algebra homework I was finishing for her falls from my lap. Mary Cecelia doesn’t have time to finish her schoolwork. She’s helping Mother with Mama. Daddy has a job again. (Which is why he’s not here to worry about that digging. He’d know how to stop it.)
Mama, Daddy’s mother, can be a pain. And I know Mary Cecelia doesn’t really hate her. Mama’s sick. I would be too if I’d lived with Arthur. She almost died because of that man. Arsenic in her food. He can’t hurt her anymore.
But he can still cause trouble.
I glance back out at the men with shovels.
Mary Cecelia laughs. “Eleanor’s got the hots for the potty men.”
She doesn’t know what’s buried out there.
Only me and Daddy know.
I often wonder what Daddy would’ve done if it had been Mary Cecelia who wandered out of the house that day instead of me. Neither of us was supposed to be home. No one was supposed to be home. Mother had taken Mama to the doctor again. Mary Cecelia and I were supposed to be at school. But I hated kindergarten. I hid after Mary Cecelia met up with her friends on the walk to school and ran back.
I heard Daddy’s voice outside and the crack of his .22.
“He must be hunting rabbits,” I said to my Cat Girl drawing.
I hadn’t seen Daddy in two weeks. He’d been off working on a road crew in Tennessee.
The name froze on my lips.
“Why is Arthur’s head covered in grape jelly, Daddy?”
Daddy looked at me. I would’ve called it fear on anyone else, but Daddy never was scared.
“Don’t ever tell anyone about this.”
His eyes locked on mine. I just nodded. I stood there while he dug that hole. I stood there while he pushed Arthur in.
Right where they’ve just broke the ground for that septic tank.
I leave our room and pull down Daddy’s rifle from above the kitchen door.
Kevin D Humphries began creating stories before he could write by recording them into a K-Mart tape recorder. He currently lives in Cedar Park, TX — the beautiful, but slightly less-hip neighbor of Austin.
This story is sponsored by
Planet Oz: The Novel — Lost on a planet with only her laser rifle and T.O.W.T.O.H., Dorothy must fight false rulers and her own self-doubt before she can escape from Planet Oz.