Mama Always Said

by Roni Slye 

Bea patted the dirt down with the back of her shovel and placed a single rose on top of the gravesite, knowing this wouldn’t be her last kill. Growing up, Mama always told her she had no luck and no brains. Mama was right. As much as she tried, she couldn’t stop killing. She knew they’d be coming to seek their revenge.

While washing up at the sink, she heard the faint scratching of claws on her porch. She peeked through the blinds and saw six glowing eyes. She stepped back, nearly tripping over her end table. They knew alright. Old Henry, her 1969 International pickup truck, had taken too many lives through the years. She’d done everything she could, turned on her headlights, obeyed the speed limits, and watched the sides of the road. Even so, the raccoon kit ran in front of the tire. Bea thought the victims’ families must follow the scent of blood because they always found her.

She hated to do it, but she had to take care of the raccoons before they took care of her. She poked holes in her leftover roast beef and filled it with rat poison. Blacky sang from his homemade chicken-wire cage. She’d found the red-winged blackbird in the woods last year with a broken wing. If only Mama was here to see how good she was with Blacky, to see that Bea could do something right.

Bea grabbed a yellowed towel and threw it over Blacky’s cage to shush him while she snuck the beef out to the porch. The raccoons ripped into the meat. With a half-smile, Bea watched through the window as they ate. She didn’t want to kill them, but they didn’t give her any choice. 

*

By the time she finished her chores and shopping it was dusk. Too many animals out this time of day, but she had to get home. Lumbering down the road in Old Henry, she kept a keen eye out for critters. A spotted fawn darted out from between two bushes.

She slowed to let it pass, watching to be sure it was safe. To her dismay, a car approached in the oncoming lane. In the rearview mirror she saw the car swerve around the fawn, and she let out a sigh of relief. Bea wondered where the mother was.

The fawn pranced in quick jolting steps back and forth, not knowing where to go. Bea’s heart quickened and her breath stilled as she watched the fawn get trapped in a sunken driveway and run back toward the road. At the last second, the fawn turned and leaped onto the lawn where its mother was grazing behind a tree.

Happy for the deer, Bea brought her eyes back to the road and saw a little girl with blonde pigtails. She felt the thump as she hit the brakes and saw the girl’s pink bike, with white streamers on the handlebars, go flying. The road was quiet with no one around. Bea had to act quickly. Mama always said to take care of your own mistakes, no leaving a mess for others. Grabbing a blanket from the back of the truck, she knew she’d have to dig a much larger hole this time. 

*

She placed her shovel in the garage, wiping tears away with the back of her hand. The cabin was filled with the smell of roast beef when she entered. She pulled the meat out of the oven, poked holes in it, and set it on the counter to cool. Blacky sang as Bea brewed a pot of tea. Sitting at the kitchen table, she waited. Mama always said they know when you kill one of their own. Mama had never been wrong.

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