Cleaning Up

by Christopher Woods

“Joey, I’m leaving for the church social. You be sure and let Miss Alma in for Grandpa.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Keep an eye on her. My aloe lotion went missing the last time she was here.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“You listening to me?”

“I’m listening.”

“Clean up Grandpa good. I’ll be checking.”

“I know.”

After his mom left. Joey sat on the porch and waited for Miss Alma. A frog hopped by on the steps, and he tortured it slowly with a sharp stick until it was dead. He was tired of Miss Alma, his mom, and especially Grandpa. Joey had dreams. In another week, the carnival would be in town. When it left, he planned to go with it. He just had a little business to take care of before that.

“Morning, Joey,” Miss Alma said.

“Morning.”  He still had the bloody stick in his hand. Miss Alma saw it but knew it was better than to say anything. Everybody in town knew Joey had problems upstairs.

“Your grandpa ready? All cleaned up?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Good. I don’t like dancing for him when he’s all smelly.”

“I know, Miss Alma.”

Joey followed her into the house. The screen door slammed shut behind them. He looked at Miss Alma’s big backside. She weighed over four hundred pounds and the floorboards creaked beneath her big bare feet, her toenails a bright lacquered red. He had thought about killing her too, but it might look suspicious. No, let her dance and go, and then he’d take care of Grandpa. The spiked lemonade was already fixed.

Miss Alma said good morning to Grandpa, sitting and drooling in his potty chair. Then she began moving slowly, back and forth, singing “Rock of Ages.” It was Grandpa’s favorite song, the one he wanted played at his funeral. His old eyes lit up as Miss Alma moved, swaying this way and that. In a few minutes, it was all over, except for the “clean up” Joey knew was coming.

Joey pressed the five dollar bill in Miss Alma’s hand. She smiled, walked through the screen door and headed back up the dusty road. This was the same road that led to the fairgrounds, where the carnival would set up camp.

“How about some good old lemonade, Grandpa?” Joey asked. He wiped the drool from the old man’s chin.”

“Grandpa smiled. He was still humming “Rock of Ages.”

“Stop singing and drink, Grandpa,” Joey said. He noticed that some of the rat poison was stuck on the rim of the glass. It looked like a margarita, Joey thought. He imagined the carnival traveled to Mexico at least once a year.


Christopher Woods writes and takes pictures in Chappell Hill, Texas,
a rural community of 350 characters.

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