Tag Archives: Slivers of Life: A Short Story Collection

Remaining Ruth: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote back in 2013. It’s about a girl trying to hold tight her grasp on self-identity. This one appears in my first short story collection Slivers of Life.

Remaining Ruth

I heard my mother say, “It could be she’s just that kind of girl.”

I knew she meant me because my father responded, “No daughter of mine will be that kind of girl.”

I’m an only child, so forget any misunderstandings. Besides, just what kind of girl were they debating me to be?

I slipped through the back door, just inside the kitchen, crouched low near the refrigerator, and listened to their talk in the next room. I’m either a lesbian or a drug addict, depending on their deciphering of my mood on any given day.

Okay. True. I do keep my hair cut short and dyed black. I also prefer jeans and T-shirts to dresses and skirts. But that doesn’t make me a lesbian. Of course, there is that other thing…

My father said, “Maybe we should send her to one of those Catholic schools.”

“We’re not Catholic, Fred,” my mother reminded him.

“But they know how to deal with these sorts of things, Miriam.”

What sorts of things? I wondered, angling for a closer peek into the living room. I didn’t need to see, though. My father would be parked in his recliner, newspaper open and held in front of him. My mother, she’d be seated on the sofa, watching the television with the sound turned all the way down.

I’d never get past them. At least not without a hundred questions tossed in my face.

“Maybe we should just leave her be,” my mother offered. “I had my own moody moments at that age.”

A low harrumph, is all my father managed.

As much as I hated the idea of confrontation, I despised even more the notion of hiding out in the kitchen all night.

He’s the one who caught me, came right up out of his recliner as soon as I entered the room. “Let’s see what’s in your pockets, young lady.”

I knew the drill. They’d been doing this since the end of the school year, when I’d been stupid enough to leave a joint in my jacket, where my nosy mother happened upon it.

“I’m not carrying,” I told my father. “I smoked it before I came in.”

“So disrespectful,” my mother lamented. “I never sassed my parents when I was fourteen.”

“Gonna let them nuns straighten you out,” my father threatened, searching the pockets of my jean jacket.

He found nothing incriminating. I’d learned to never carry anything on me—at least not where they’d bother to look.

“Can I go to my room now?” I asked, not really looking for that argument my parents seemed to enjoy so much.

My father gave up a subtle nod I’d have missed if I hadn’t been looking for it.

They took my phone—and my bedroom door.

But I still had the bathroom.

I closed myself inside, pressed the lock. They’d come knocking in a while, demanding to know what all goes on when they can’t see.

They’ll never see what they don’t really want to see, though.

Muffled voices trickled through the floorboards, putting them still in the living room.

My mother’s the one who caught me kissing Megan Vennerhull. That’s where the whole lesbian thing came from. But we were just practicing. Megan pretended I was David Skillsky and I, well, I too imagined Megan was really David Skillsky—I just told her I’d been dreaming of Michael Kranshaw to keep her from freaking out. Megan has been in love with David since the third grade. But so have I.

Can’t tell that to Megan, though.

My fingers worked at the buttons on my jeans; I tugged them off my hips.

My father never used those multi-bladed razors. “One blade is all it takes,” he’d tell the television, whenever one of those commercials touting three blades came on.

I agree. One blade is all it takes.

I twisted the razor’s handle, retrieved the shiny blade from its open mouth.

It’s not a suicide attempt. I’ve never wanted to die. It’s just something I need, something I dream about when moments of stress find in me an easy target.

And I never cut too deep, either; just enough for bleeding.

Just enough for a taste of pain.

They never look at my hips—or my inner thighs. Nobody looks there. Nobody sees or knows.

My mother’s voice disrupted my moment of pleasure. “Are you going to be long in there, honey?”

“Be out in a minute,” I assured her, knowing full-well my father would be beside her in short order, threatening to remove even the bathroom door.

A quick cut just beneath my stomach let go that crimson release.

Better than an orgasm, this.

My father intruded; his meaty fists banged against the door. “I’ll break this son of a bitch down, Ruthie, you don’t open this door!”

“Can I wash my hands first?” I asked, rinsing the blade before returning it to its proper place of honor.

They weren’t quick enough—not this time, at least. I still owned one secret belonging only to me.

One more day I could still be the Ruth I wanted to be.

© 2013 Beem Weeks

This story, along with 19 others, is available in Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories. Find it at all online booksellers.

Discussing Books, Writing, Inspiration, and Reviews: A YouTube Interview!

I was honored to be invited for an interview on Smart Cherry’s Thoughts YouTube channel back in December. We talked about writing, my books, where inspiration comes from, and opinions on positive versus negative reviews. Here is that interview.

WELCOME TO THE 2019 OCTOBER-WEEN BLOCK PARTY!

Greetings to all! Welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s 2019 October-ween Block Party! Today, in keeping with the Halloween spirit, I am sharing my short story entitled Monster, from my short story collection Strange Hwy

CONGRATULATIONS TO MY WINNERS! 

1. Mark Bierman

2. Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

3. Jerry Marquardt

**This giveaway is now closed**

Three lucky readers will win prizes! (Who doesn’t like prizes?)

Here are my prize packs:

1. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

2. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

3. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

Those books to choose from are:

  1. Jazz Baby
  2. Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories
  3. Strange Hwy: Short Stories

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below!

And now, on to my Halloween short story. . .

 

Monster

 

“Indecent liberties with a minor,” my mother explained, repeating the same words Danny Deagle sprinkled on us kids earlier in the day. “I don’t want you girls trick-or-treating at his house tonight.”

The old man at the end of the street, she meant. A swirl of new words followed him into our neighborhood—words shrouded in secrecy, in a thick fog of mystery. The simple ones I’d commit to memory, intending find them in the dictionary I got for my tenth birthday this past summer—a secret gift that nobody else knew about.

Perv—that’s the one I looked up last night, right before bed. Millicent, my older sister, she used it when telling Grandma Myron about the new neighbor in question. But if there’s such a word as perv, well, old Merriam-Webster hasn’t been told. I couldn’t find it to save my life.

“I ain’t going anywhere near that side of the street,” Millicent announced. “—not as long as he’s lurking down there.”

She’d go over there, though. Millicent thinks she’s hot you-know-what just because she’s thirteen now. Besides, every kid in the neighborhood wants to be the first one to walk up those front steps and ring the doorbell. You have to be seen doing it, though, or it won’t count for anything.

I tossed in a handful of words meant to be my two cents. “Danny Deagle says he got in trouble down in Kentucky before he got in trouble here in Ohio—that old man, I mean.”

Danny Deagle knows about these sorts of things. His stepdad is a cop.

My mother lit a fresh Marlboro and proclaimed, “He’s got no business staying on this street—not with all you kids around.” Thin lazy smoke slithered from her nostrils like twin snakes in search of a meal. “Don’t let me hear that you girls went trick-or-treating at his house.”

* * *

Millicent dressed as a belly dancer again—same as last Halloween and the one before that. She just likes the attention from boys like Danny Deagle and Jeff Brahm. But they like her only because she’s practically naked in her costume.

Me? I got stuck being a hobo again—even though my mother promised me I could be the belly dancer this year.

Millicent grabbed her pillowcase from the kitchen table and said, “Ready, dweeb?”

“You’re the dweeb,” I argued, snatching my own pillowcase.

My mother said, “Don’t stay out all night.”

We’d stay out as long as it took to fill those pillowcases to the full.

Danny Deagle met us in front of his house. Those gray eyes of his drank up Millicent like she’s cool water and he’s been thirsty for days. But he really couldn’t be blamed. Booty shorts and a sports bra, that’s all she wore underneath that sheer white fabric that left her belly bare and exposed.

Our father, before he remarried and moved to Cincinnati, wouldn’t have allowed one of his daughters to go traipsing through the neighborhood wearing only a couple of tissue papers.

.

But our father doesn’t come around anymore. And our mother, she won’t play the villain—as she likes to say. So Millicent gets away with murder.

Kids of all ages crisscrossed our neighborhood exchanging tricks for treats. Smarties and Sweettarts mingled with fun-sized Snickers and Milky Ways in the bottom of our pillowcases. And later, when we’d finally have to call it a night, Millicent would try to swindle me out of all of my Hershey’s Miniatures, offering junk like jelly beans and peanut butter chews for trade.

Billy Pinsler found us where Delbert Avenue and McCaully Drive cross. Billy’s my age—only shorter. “Anybody going to the perv’s house?” he asked.

Danny fixed me in his sight. “You’ll go up there, won’t you, Melanie?”

My head twisted left and right. “Mom said to stay away from his house,” I told him, knowing full-well he’d poke and prod until I agreed to answer his dare.

Danny’s good like that. He knows how to get kids to do what he’s too scared to do—only he’d never admit to being scared.

Millicent joined the push, said, “Since when do you listen to Mom?”

We were already there, bags half-full, in front of that house on the end of our street. I’d be the one going, as usual.

“Melanie won’t go,” Billy announced. “She’s too scared.”

My eyes found Millicent’s eyes. “You’re the one who’s half naked; why don’t you go up there?”

“Because the guy’s a perv, nimrod!” said Danny. “You want him to try something with her?”

And what about me?

I tossed my gaze toward that house. A lone porch light shined out of the dark.

“If I scream,” I said, walking to my demise, “you better run and call the cops.”

A fall breeze passed through the trees overhead, sending loose leaves gliding to the ground.

My legs went heavy and stiff, unwilling to move without provocation. Somewhere on that street a dog barked warnings at kids in costumes.

My body halted at the bottom step leading to the front door. I tossed a glance over my shoulder. Millicent, Danny, and Billy took refuge behind shrubs at the foot of the driveway.

“Ain’t gotta be scared,” the voice said, suddenly there like a spook in the night. “Just come on up. I won’t bite—except you want I should.”

A bead of sweat raced down my belly, which was stuffed with an old pillow to make me look fat.

Gray hair going thin twisted this way and that, like weeds, atop his head. Skinny, like maybe he’d been sick for a while.

My foot found the first step, brought us closer.

He asked, “You gonna say it?”

I would. It only seemed right. “Trick or treat.”

A laugh just like my father’s slipped past his lips. He kind of resembled him, too, around the eyes and nose.

“You say it with no real conviction, girl,” he said, almost accusing me of something.

The mouth of my pillowcase yawned wide, ready to swallow whatever treats he chose to dispense.

Two Hershey’s miniatures.

Mr. Goodbar and Krackle.

“Where’s your sister?” he wondered aloud, throwing his gaze like a pair of marbles down the driveway.

“Hiding,” I confessed, backing away.

But those eyes of his—cobalt blue, same as my father’s—took hold on me, wandered along my length as if sizing me for a new dress.

“You ’sposed to be a bum?” he asked.

Denim coveralls, a gray T-shirt that used to be white, and worn-out tennis shoes seemed the easiest of Halloween costumes to put together.

I corrected him, said, “A hobo.”

“Hobo, huh?” He waggled his finger, drew me closer to his grasp. “Take the rest of these,” he said, offering me the entire bowl of miniatures.

“What about the other kids?”

“Ain’t no other kids. You the only one come ’round tonight.”

It made my bag heavier and more than satisfied, this extra loot.

My voice came tight, higher-pitched than normal. “Thank you.”

“Polite—just like your daddy at that age.” The weight of his body found relief against the door frame. “Did you get the Merriam-Webster I sent for your birthday?”

My head tipped a nod, my voice said, “Thank you, Granddad.”

* * *

“Did he lose his goo over you?” Danny Deagle asked, acting like a big brother. “I’ll tell my stepdad if he did.”

“He didn’t,” I assured him, not really understanding what goo just might get lost.

Millicent’s gaze took hold on mine, passed words into my head, words demanding my silence on the matter.

Aloud, her words asked, “What’d he give you?”

“Jellybeans,” I told her. “Nothing but jellybeans.”

This story can be found in Strange Hwy: Short Stories.

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy–don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.

You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,

  • A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
  • A winged man, an angel? Demon–?
  • Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
  • Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
  • Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
  • Dead brother, open confession.
  • First love, supernatural?–family becomes whole!

You can exit the Strange Hwy, and come back any time you want.

See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

BUY: