I lunge forward as her hand is suspended mid-air. I have no plan, no choice of action. In fact, I feel as if I’m not acting at all, just watching my body from a far removed corner of the universe. I grab her braid. It’s long and thick. She’s not expecting my attack, so she starts to fall backward. Half my weight, and a foot shorter, she feels hollow and light. I yank her off the bed, her braid wrapped around my hand. She falls on her rear, her cry of surprise drowned out by the baby and the music. Her mouth is open, her eyes wide as she stares up at me. I glance up at the bed to make sure Little Mo isn’t about to roll off. His eyes are open, and he’s sucking his fist.
The sight of him trips a switch in me. I can almost hear it. Click. My brain suddenly stops warning me that I am going to lose control, though I do not in fact lose control. I am about as calm as I’ve ever been. A smooth river. A sleeping baby. The melody of a harp. My body moves naturally. I don’t just want to stop what’s happening. I want vengeance. The same voice that urged me in here is telling me that she needs to pay for what she was doing to Little Mo.
I drag her by her hair to the dresser, chipped and old with sharp edges. There are bottles of nail polish lined up on top of it—blues and turquoises. Vola is over her initial shock, struggling to get away from me. I wind her hair tighter around my fist and lift her knees off the ground ‘til she’s in a half-standing position. Her mouth is moving, her lips curling over words that I can’t hear. Her fists slam into my sides and stomach, anything that she can reach. She’s ineffective, a light breeze trying to move a tree. I look down in her empty eyes for long seconds, trying to drag answers out of them. No answers. She’s sick. Demented. Physically beautiful. Not worth the life she was given. A predator. A bully. I see my mother in her gray ghost irises. And then, as hard as I can, I slam her left temple into the corner of the dresser. She falls at my feet. Limp. Flesh and bones, but I took her soul.
I smile gravely, and somewhere deep, deep inside of me I know that what I am doing is not normal. I look over at the bed. Little Mo’s unfocused eyes are on me. I calmly walk to him and pick him up, holding him against my chest, rocking him side to side. “Shh,” I say. I rub his little back, kiss his temple. How long had she been doing this to him? I thought there was something wrong with him mentally, but now I know that’s not true. His unfocused eyes, the limpness of his body when you hold him, the way he doesn’t really hear your voice—it’s all her, what she’s done to him.
When he’s asleep, I lay him in his crib. There is a stool in the corner of the bedroom. I drag it over to the dresser and place it in between the wall and Vola’s body. Then I go to the closet to look for a shoe. I find a plastic flip-flop from Old Navy.
Then I go to the kitchen to find the spider. It’s on the wall above the sink, not far from the bottle of oil where I first saw it. A furrow spider. I cup it in my hands and carry it to the bedroom. I let it crawl up the wall above Vola’s body, watching it zigzag a path. I never once think about the grown-up Mo, downstairs cooking his crack. At any moment he could walk into the bedroom, but I am not afraid. I do not care about anything except the spider. When it’s almost to the ceiling, I climb onto the stool and hit it with the flip-flop, making sure to smear it across the wall. A dramatic death. Poor spider. I wipe the flip-flop clean of fingerprints, and position it in Vola’s limp hand. Then I turn the stool on its side, glance at Little Mo one last time. He sighs in his sleep, the deep and raspy sigh of someone who spent the evening crying.
I close the bedroom door softly behind me so as not to wake him, and rub my sleeve over the knob just in case. On my way out, I straighten the car seat, put the keys neatly on the kitchen counter, and lock the door from the inside.
I smile halfheartedly at the crescent moon. Some people see a thumbnail clipping, but I see a curved mouth. The moon is wicked, jealous of the sun. People do bad things in the dark, under the hollow gaze of the moon. It’s smiling at me now, proud of my sin. I’m not proud. I’m not anything. An eye for an eye, I tell myself. A beating for a beating.
THE RAG is full of muted colors. Everything faded, plaids and flower patterns rubbed on the knees and elbows, an ink stain on a sleeve, a coffee stain where a woman’s breast had once been pressed. It is depressing to touch the things that people do not want—the washed out, misshapen, frayed. But today, the day after I killed a woman in cold blood, everything in the Rag seems overly bright. I want to close my eyes against the onslaught of colors and patterns. I want to be somewhere still and quiet to go over the details of last night.
I think I’m crazy. Not the crazy that most people are proud of: Girl, you are so crazy!
I’m the kind of crazy that no one knows about. Jeffrey Dahmer crazy, Aileen Wuornos crazy, Charles Manson crazy. All the people I’ve Googled at the local library, and then subsequently read books about, crazy. Had they known the extent of their insanity? Or had they justified their behavior? Narcissists. At least I know. Right? I am not justifying what I did.
I fold clothes, I put cash in the register, I carry a bag of trash to the dumpster out back. I do all of the day-to-day things, trying to grasp a sense of normalcy, while my hands tremor, and my stomach rolls itself into a knot. At any moment I expect the fat, greasy cops of the Bone to come storming into the Rag to arrest me. But the most I see of the police are a couple cruisers stopping across the street to get lunch from the food truck.
Sandy shoots me looks throughout the day, asking me what’s wrong, bringing me a bagel from the food truck. I smile and shake my head. Feign a headache. I fold clothes, I dust shelves, I empty bags, I push buttons on the register. I go to the bathroom and lean against the wall, trying to imagine what prison will be like.
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