By Natasha Post
Ona was the type of place where everyone knew everyone’s business, the best sweet tea was made daily at the Mobile station down the way, and every old biddy over fifty thought they were the moral judgment of the town. Dan’s aunt, May Cartwright, was among them. She valued herself a Godly woman who came from a good family. They were good Christian people who attended church, had prayer groups, bake sales, and charity events. May directed each and every one of them with an iron fist of fire, brimstone, and judgment. She believed she was ten feet above the rest of the town with a clean soul, God on her side, and shit that smelled like the aroma of gardenias on a warm summer day. May didn’t think herself a sinner, but thought that just about everyone else was. She enjoyed letting folk know it too.
It was just after Sunday church that news broke of her brother in laws unfaithfulness. May felt her family had been shamed. A few months later the harlot announced she was pregnant, and May was certain the embarrassment would drive her to an early grave. Her sister forgave the cheating bastard and thought it the right thing to do to raise the child, since the harlot wanted nothing to do with him.
Dan’s father and step mother had been loving parents, but Aunt May had no problem opinionating just how worthless the bastard boy was. She’d often throw slights his way, punish him for things he didn’t do, and promise that God’s wrath was coming for him. Dan’s parents passed away in a car accident not long after he turned nineteen – which May imagined was God’s justice slamming down upon them for harboring the boy. She took in their younger child, Gidget, but since Dan was of legal age, she figured he could make it on his own.
Dan got a job at the local tourist attraction, Swamp Lands Airboat Gator Tours, and found a small place in town. It wasn’t much, just a one bedroom studio over the old bar that’d been around since before he was born. To supplement the rent he did a bit of handy work around the building. Most folk had no problem with Dan. It was only May and her gaggle of judgment bringers that felt the need to remind Dan he would never be worth the breath they were wasting on him. It made him wonder why May had been so insistent on doing so. Dan did his best to avoid May, but since she was watching over his little sister, and anyone could just about spit from one end of town to the other, it was inevitable to cross paths with her. He’d lived with May’s view of him for long enough and learned, for the most part, to ignore it, despite the anger it stirred in him. Turning his resentment outward, only ever made things worse. His daddy had whipped him once when he was a child for voicing his opinion of May. Afterwards he explained that while May was wrong, Dan was too, and he needed to learn that people would think what they thought, but ultimately, who Dan would be was up to him. After that, no matter how cruel May acted, Dan never raised his voice and politely greeted her in turn.
Gidget disappeared from her bed in the middle of the night, and May called him. Dan was too worried about his sister to think about how much it must have prickled May’s pear to have to ask him for help. Dan found Gidget at the cemetery next to their parent’s graves, curled up, and sleeping in the dirt. She had started sleep walking. He’d brought her home safe, but May didn’t thank him. She believed God was now punishing Gidget because of the tarnish Dan brought upon them. Pushing away the anger, Dan sighed and left. May took precautions to keep Gidget from getting out of the house, but every so often the girl would manage to sneak out, and May would call Dan. She’d tell him to check the usual spots. He’d be surprised she knew the usual spots since May never went out to look for her. Each time Dan would find Gidget, bring her home, and May would find a new way to place the blame on him.
When Gidget wandered off she was usually in one of three places: the cemetery, the park, or the drive-in. This time, Dan found her on the highway five miles outside of town beneath the Swamp Lands Airboat Gator Tours billboard. It was worrisome that she was going out of the town, and when Dan brought her home with bloody feet, May decided it was the last straw, and explained to Dan that she was going to put the girl in the local mental institution. Dan started to protest, but May reminded him he had no say in this. She was only telling him because it was the Godly thing to do. Dan didn’t think the Godly thing was to lock away a teenage girl.
The quaint country themed living room with wood floors and tanned couches set the scene for the verbal boxing match. Dan and May started yelling, slinging slander, and saying things that Dan knew he’d regret later, but May probably wouldn’t. It was the first time since Dan had been a child that he’d vocalized his anger and hatred. It escalated into fury, dredging up every memory of May trying to verbally beat him down, each punishment he hadn’t deserved, and compounding everything with the fact she now wanted to lock Gidget away. He knocked a lamp from the side table. It shattered, the pieces scattering across the floor. The resentment Dan had been concealing, that he had so carefully controlled for well over a decade dissolved, and so did his world.
Dan didn’t know how much time had passed, but when the world came back it was vivid. The sun streamed brighter through the sheer curtains over the window making the broken lamp shards glitter on the ground. A wood pecker grated its beak against a tree and a metallic, sharp scent grounded Dan back in reality. May’s body lay on the floor lifeless and covered in blood. Fear slammed into him, his chest tightened, and Dan looked down at his hands. They were drenched in the crimson, his pocket knife glistening in his grip. Stumbling back, Dan fell on the couch. Gidget stood at the base of the stairs, trembling in shock with a look of horror on her face.
There was a triumphant smile on May’s wrinkle lined lips, as if in death she was justified with everything she’d said about him. Dan’s memories were missing, but there was no doubt it had been his hand that ended her life. May have been a cruel old bitty, but she hadn’t deserved this. He could have taken Gidget and run. Dan had lost time, killed May in a rage, but if he ran now, everything she had claimed about him would be absolute truth. He’d spent his life defying May’s beliefs of him. There was no way in hell he was going to let her words hold meaning, especially not now. His voice trembled as he reassured Gidget it would be all right. Taking out his cell phone, Dan called the sheriff.
Just a side note this was written for my fiction writing class. I got a 96%, worked on it more based on the critiques and thought I’d post it here. Dialogue was not allowed. I hope you enjoyed.