The Village of Useless Women

“You no longer please me,” Tarik said. “Gather your things and go.”

And with those words, I was banished.

I did not cry. I did not beg. All that would have gotten me was a beating, and in the end, nothing would have changed. My husband no longer desired me, so I was of no use to him. I could either walk away with my head high or be dragged from the village with the promise of Sobro if I returned.

Mosie stood behind and to the left of Tarik, as was proper for a wife. Her smooth round face held nothing but scorn as she watched me. I wondered if she would remember this day when she was standing where I was now, when she had lost the blush of youth and was turned out. Probably not. When I had been brought into Tarik’s hut six summers ago to replace one of his aged wives, I am sure the same contempt had shown in my eyes.

Head down and lips pressed together, I shoved my few dresses and leggings, my combs and spare boots, into my pack. Then I turned to Kaia, who was nursing my son and hers, tears running down her cheeks. She did not look up at me. I no longer existed. Continue reading “The Village of Useless Women”

Yon Side of the Canes

Sheriff Tackey drove by a while ago, eyed me sitting out here on the front porch, drinking, watching the sun going down. I saluted him with Mr. Wild Turkey and yelled out a “howdy.” He acted all casual-like, pretended he didn’t see me.

But I knew he did.

He’s been watching me. He thinks I was the one who did it. I tried to tell him what happened, but him or nobody else believed me. Mayhaps if I’d been in their place, I wouldn’t of either.

Let me tell you how it went down…

Last Sunday morning, Merle and me went hunting down along the slough where the rabbits and skeeters are nigh on the same size. Most folks were in church, but since God had let the cancer take my Lisabeth last year, me and Him had parted company and I’d become real good acquainted with Mr. Wild Turkey. Continue reading “Yon Side of the Canes”

Red Rover

Avery saw the small door on the back wall of the chicken house. It hadn’t been there yesterday evening when she’d gathered eggs. Or at least she hadn’t noticed it then. It was so dark underneath the roosting bars, she might have overlooked it. But she didn’t think so.

Had her daddy made the opening between the coop and adjoining shed where the feed corn was kept when she was at school?

“When did you put the door in the chicken house, Daddy?” she asked him at supper that night.

“What door?” he said around a mouthful of cornbread.

“The one in back under the roosting bars.”

He washed down the cornbread with a big drink of buttermilk, and turned his full attention on Avery. She squirmed under the gaze of his narrowed blue eyes. They always seemed to see right through her and not like what they saw: a girl, not the son he had wanted. His only child, and there’d be no more since her birth had messed up Mama’s insides so bad she couldn’t have any more kids.

“You’re seeing things, girl, there ain’t no door. Why in hell would I put a door there anyway?” Continue reading “Red Rover”

My Way

Not long after I pitched the last of Ted’s fingers out the Winnebago’s window, I saw the mean man and the sad woman.

Still on I-10, I had stopped to fill the gas tank when they pulled in beside me at the pumps. Now, I’m usually one to mind my own business, but they made it kind of hard, screaming and carrying on like they were. You could hear them even though their windows were rolled up. Him, at least. His voice was loud and pissed and carried a ways.

I tried my best to ignore the goings-on in the dusty red car. I had always figured what went on between a man and his wife-or whatever they were to each other-was their business, and nothing good ever came from sticking your nose in. So I stared out over the desert, thinking about Ted, while the gas went glug glug glug into the tank.

The slamming of a door pulled my attention back to the car. The man, a banty rooster runt of a thing, stalked around the front of the car and grabbed the nozzle on the other side of the pump I was using. He screwed off the cap, shoved it inside, then palmed his sweaty dark hair back from his forehead. His eyes met mine, narrowed. “What the hell are you looking at?” he growled. Continue reading “My Way”

The Faded Woman

Martha was a ghost of a woman. She disappeared into her surroundings, blending in as if she were no more than a sheet of wallpaper, sporting bras, hose, and socks, pasted behind the pegs of merchandise she stocked. Like a chameleon, her form merged with her environment.

Day after day, her soft, pasty body trudged up and down the lingerie aisles of the superstore, pushing a shopping cart bristling with a flashy array of leopard-print panties, bright red teddies, and other exotic intimate apparel; but unlike the garments she put out for sale, Martha was anything but colorful.

Thin, straight hair the shade of week-old coffee hung dull and lifeless to her shoulders. Stringy tendrils obscured her downturned face. Pale and rounded and malleable, she was kneaded dough, punched down and waiting for a rise that never happened. When she spoke to a customer—and she only did that when forced to—Martha’s eyes stayed on the wood-laminated floor. Even her “May I help you?” and “Have a nice day.” were smothered things spoken barely above a whisper on good days, and on bad days, a tired, almost-inaudible sigh of sound.

And there were plenty of bad days, days when her head felt as if it were a ball of unmitigated pain that had been created for no other purpose than to punisher her because she wasn’t a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, but most of all, a good enough mother. Martha endured the frequent migraines without complaint, a firm believer that her suffering was atonement for past mistakes, and when God thought she had paid enough, the attacks would cease. And though she told none of her coworkers when she was in the throes of a migraine, a glimpse of her features told the tale—red-rimmed eyes sunk into dark hollows on an otherwise skim milk face.

But regardless of how she felt, Martha plodded through the days, doing her job and doing it well so that at the end of the week she could collect her meager paycheck. Not for herself, but for her two grown daughters and their children. She was determined that her daughters would never do without as she had. Yes, she would always be there for them, paying their rent, buying their groceries, providing whatever their respective husbands didn’t for as long as she had a breath left in her body.

Martha’s children and grandchildren were her life. Only in their presence did her eyes sparkle, her lips curve in a smile, her round shoulders square. Other employees took note of Martha’s transformation when her daughters came into the store; it was like seeing her for the first time. One worker said, “You know, I never realized it before, but Martha’s kind of pretty.” And another remarked on the lovely green shade of her eyes.

Then her family would leave, and Martha would fade away once more, becoming as translucent as the pantyhose tucked inside the packages she placed neatly on shelves. A see-through woman. Barely there at all.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Norma the Bitch

Norma was a bitch no matter how you looked at it. A god-awful, razor-tongued, snooty-nosed bitch.

Of course, Squinch Campbell hadn’t known that when he married her. Like everyone else in town, he had thought he was one lucky son-of-a-gun to be getting such a fine, upstanding woman for a wife. How could he have known that behind her angel face hid the daughter of the devil himself?

God almighty, the woman was downright mean. She was gonna drive him to an early grave, most likely planted right beside them other three husbands of hers.

If he didn’t get rid of her first.

Squinch had never contemplated murder before marrying Norma Bindie; why he couldn’t even so much as squash a bug. But he’d never had anyone pick and peck at him constantly, criticize every single thing he did and didn’t do, all the while looking at him like he was a pile of dog shit they had stepped in. Continue reading “Norma the Bitch”

Forest For The Trees

Brizzle saw them first and alerted the rest of us. I had heard about the two-limbed creatures, but had never seen one. Soon I would. I wondered if I would survive it.

Twink brushed against me. “Will they kill us, Faust?”

The agitation of the cluster vibrated through me like the passing of the furry, horned ones. Everyone was scared. Everyone wondered if the stories we had been told when we were saps were true and not just made-up. You behave now, or the two-limbs will get you, the old ones had threatened.

“The two-limbs will not harm you,” I said to Twink.

A flurry of movement accompanied a ragged cackle. “Do not lie to the sap.” Old Clartha shook a withered, brown limb at me. “They will kill every last one of us, given time.”

Twink shook. The other little saps nearby trembled as well.

“Do not pay any attention to her,” I said. “The sky-fire has affected her mind.”

Old Clartha’s good side swayed toward me. “I might be old and half-dead, but I have not forgotten what was told to me by my mother-tree, and her mother-tree before her, and farther back still.”

Twink said, “What did she tell you?” Her question was echoed over and over by all the younger ones in the cluster. Saps were so curious; they always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything. Continue reading “Forest For The Trees”

A Raccoon Problem

“It’s the goddamn ‘coons,” Maynard Threlkeld said. “That’s what’s getting in your trash.”

Jeffery Kopek smoothed back his thick, dark hair with a nervous hand. “How can you tell?” He eyed the slimy salad greens, moldy tofu, and assorted takeout containers scattered around his overturned garbage can.

“Shot plenty of the rascals back home for making a mess like this.” Maynard waved a hairy, muscled arm toward the scattered trash. “Took a while, but they got the message.”

“But how do you know it wasn’t a dog?” Jeffery asked. “Or even a cat?”

“Cat ain’t stout enough to get the lid off. And as far as a dog goes—you seen any dogs around here, hoss?”

Jeffery shook his head.

“That old Mexican down the street…what’s his name?”

“Mr. Ortiz?”

“Yeah, him,” Maynard said. “He told Kara that ‘coons got into his koi pond last week, ate pretnear every one of ‘em. He restocked it and covered it with some screen wire, but it didn’t do no good. Mangy critters shoved it to one side and had themselves a fish supper.” He shook his head, scratched blond whiskers. “Saw a science show on TV the other night about raccoons coming into towns and causing all kinds of mischief. Said they ain’t got nowhere else to go ‘cause people are taking away their habitats and such.” He nudged an empty soup can with the toe of his boot. “Hate to, but if this keeps up, I might have to break out my pistol.”

Jeffery was horrified. He could just see it now, the authorities showing up at his door, wondering where the shots had come from, wondering if he was involved. They might send him back…there. “The p—police might come? Arrest someone?”
Continue reading “A Raccoon Problem”