Login   Sign Up 


Flesh of the Little Ones Part 3

by Sarah 

Posted: 04 August 2003
Word Count: 4009
Summary: Parts one and two are in my archive

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Amelia had been followed once. From the streetcar stop. She got off and he got off and he walked behind her, too too close. And when she started to walk faster so did he. She ran the last few houses home and she said when she looked back, when she was opening the front door, he stood there and watched her. She came into the house that night crying. She’d dropped her bag in the road and Dawn went out to get it, looking up and down for a cryptic stranger. Later, after Amelia had calmed down, Dawn built a fire and made real cocoa for the two girls – bitter like Virginia wanted, and sweet for Amelia. She told them stories about growing up with Del and Gerrald.
She told them about the chickens. Jim kept a chicken coop in the backyard with never more than fifteen or twenty chickens at once. They provided enough eggs for the family and meat on occasion. Dawn thought of them as pets; Jim never told her the meat on her plate came from them. Sitting around the fire with her two daughters, Dawn told about Uncle Gerry revealing ths truth to her, that for her whole young life she’d been eating the flesh of the little ones that pecked around the back yard. One afternoon Uncle Gerry brought Dawn into the garden shed, where they watched Jim through a gap in the wood. It was cold in there, Dawn said, and she was only seven years old. That day had marked the first of the snow for the winter, and there was about half an inch of it over everything. She didn’t have a jacket and was threatening to scream to be let out, when she saw Jim pick up one of the squawking chickens by the neck and carry it over to a wooden block. It occurred to Dawn then, she remembered, that she was finally going to see what the purpose of that block was. There was another block for chopping wood and this one was always just there. Ominous in the middle of the yard and good for nothing, save maybe a hurdle to jump. Jim brought the chicken to the block and held its body with one hand and chopped off its head with the other. He never stopped to even consider the act and Dawn kept silent. Watched the headless chicken run around the yard in circles, flapping its wings and doing little jumps. It fell to the ground after about 15 seconds and then jolted there for a bit. Stained the snow with a little bit of blood.
“I was so upset,” she said to her daughters, who sipped their cocoa and laughed at her. “Don’t laugh at me you little twerps. I was really fond of those chickens. That was one of my friends running around the yard with no head.” The two girls laughed harder at this.
“You were such a hillbilly mom, killin’ chickens,” said Amelia.
“I never killed any of them. I stopped eating them for a couple of years, until I grew out of my fear. After I saw that headless chicken running around the yard, well, there wasn’t anything telling me that it wouldn’t get up off my plate and start running around too.”
“Did grampa get mad at you? For not eating your food?”
“It aggravated him. I mean, once, our cat delivered her kittens at the foot of his bed, while he was still asleep. He didn’t even like the cat; she was a stray your Aunty Del and I brought home not long before this. Only a few days I think. He’d told us we couldn’t keep her but there were so many things, so many people coming in and out of that house. We thought he’d forget. He woke up with wet, slimy feet and when he realised what it was, he rolled the kittens up in the bedsheets and threw the lot out the window.”
“What happened to them?”
“They lived. That house was only one floor and the sheets broke the fall. He wasn’t a bad man. Just a short tempered man.”
“But what happened to the kittens? Did you get to keep them?”
“We gave them all away. And got the cat fixed.”
“He was short tempered because he drank a lot, wasn’t he mom?” Amelia had said, hugging her mug of chocolate.
“Drank a lot of what?” Virginia had said.

Uncle Gerry was hung over. Virginia vacuumed everywhere but avoided the living room because it smelled like sandwich ham, full of the night breath of her drunk uncle. Two hours later he was still there so she leaned over the couch and hissed in his ear, scratched the stubble on his neck. He moaned and rolled over and his bum hung over the side of the couch, showing his baby blue Hanes underwear where the afghan slipped off.
“You’re revolting Uncle Gerry. When are you going to get up and go home?”
He mumbled. Head in the cushions, his white, soft arm over his head. He farted and rolled over again.
“Mom! Wake him up and get him out! He stinks like hell!”
Dawn came into the room with her glasses on, and a telephone book in the crook of her arm. Her magnified eyes blinked around the room. She wrinkled her nose. “It does reek in here. Gerrald. Gerrald.” She shook him. “Get up.”
“I can’t,” he moaned.
“Gerrald. Coffee’s on. Get up and tell me why my daughter has gone AWOL.”
“Amelia’s been gone all day.”
Uncle Gerry sat up, hugged the afghan around his bare chest. His eyes were red and the imprint of a zipper ran across his cheek like a railroad track. “What time is it?”
“Nearly three o’clock. It’s starting to get dark and Amelia hasn’t come home.” She put the phone book on the floor and moved his legs, sat down on the couch. “Tell me what went on last night.”
“Nothing much. Lee, that guy, was getting rowdy. We always fight when we’re loaded.”
“Oh come on Gerry. Why was Amelia crying?”
“I don’t know, maybe she didn’t like to see her uncle get wooped.”
“Are you trying to protect your shithead friend? Was he hitting on my 14-year-old daughter?”
“No Dawn,” he said, watching his own hands twist the afghan.
“How far did it get?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think he kissed her,” Virginia said. She’d been leaning against the door and twirling her hair and waiting for her moment. “They were up against my bedroom door.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Dawn spat, twisted around on the couch to look at her. She hit the back of the couch and got up quickly, tripped on the afghan as she stumbled around the couch and put her hands hard on Virginia’s shoulders. “Why didn’t you tell me? You lied to me, and that is the worst thing you could do.” She started up the stairs and yelled to Uncle Gerry to get dressed and help her find Amelia.
Virginia stayed by the door. At least Dawn hadn’t told her that she, Virginia, was acting like her father, because that really was the worst thing she could do. Virginia watched Uncle Gerry pull on his Levis, kick his toes through and rub his face up and down.
“You all right?” he asked her.
“I’m fine Uncle Gerry. You’re the one who’s in trouble. He was your friend."
“I didn’t know he was a paedophile.”
“What’s that?”
Uncle Gerry looked at her and grimaced, and blew air.
Virginia stayed at home and played radio station while Dawn and Uncle Gerry went out looking for Amelia in Uncle Gerry’s little brown Toyota. She pulled one of the kitchen stools over to the high fi system, stuck the microphone that didn’t work into its socket, or some socket, and became a fast talkin’, dirty, top-100 radio announcer. She played Dawn’s Beetles records, invented adverstisements – ‘Have you got indigestion?’ – and conducted an interview with Dolly Parton – ‘Let’s talk about it Dolly. We all want to talk about it anyway. What is your bra size?’ Dawn called to see if Amelia had shown up yet. Asked Virginia to remind her of the places Amelia might be. Told her to be careful with her albums because last time she played radio station she dropped Dawn’s twenty-year-old Twist and Shout album. Virginia had been flippant about it, and was told she was acting like her father: trivialising what others deemed important. The light grew darker outside and the basement door had to be avoided. Virginia held out as long as she could but by six she was starving, and had to pass the basement door to get to the kitchen. She prepared herself, put her right hand rigidly by the side of her face like a blinder for a horse, wrapped her left arm around her body and sprinted past the basement door into the kitchen. Couldn’t resist imagining a cold, white, wet face, purple lips, looming up from the darkness of it. Long hair wet and strangling around the face of a young, enraged girl. A bony, rigid hand with nails shooting out at the door and making for her throat. She slid into the kitchen on her white sports socks and went to the refridgerator, pulled out leftover turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Piled the plate high.
Dawn and Uncle Gerry came home while she was still eating, without Amelia. Dawn had been crying. Uncle Gerry looked tired, guilty and annoyed. They stood in the front hall and Virginia came through to them, past the basement door without a thought.
“Did you find out where she is?”
Dawn pulled her jacket off and left it on the floor, went into the living room and flopped onto the couch. “She’s not anywhere that we can find her.”
“She’s wise,” said Uncle Gerry. “She’ll come home.” He reached over to the television and pressed the power button, but no life flickered in the screen. He pushed it again, and again.
“Virginia, would you mind making us a pot of strong coffee?” Dawn said, amused with her brother.
“Why doesn’t this fucking thing turn on?”
“It’s unplugged for a month!” Virginia called from the kitchen.
“Why the hell?”
“Because me and Amelia were fighting!”
“What do you do when the hockey’s on?” he asked Dawn, perplexed.

When Virginia was very small, when her father was still in the house, she was afraid to go upstairs by herself to use the bathroom, or get a toy out of her room, or do whatever else might need to be done upstairs. Dawn and her father refused to accompany her, because they thought that would pacify her and she would never grow out of it. (“Grow out of it?” Dawn had mused. “Find me one adult who can sleep with their foot hanging over the bed.”) But a compromise was for Dawn or Virginia’s father to stand at the bottom of the stairs and talk to her while she peed with the door open. Their voices kept the whatever-they-weres (not monsters) under the beds or in the closets, or at the top of the attic stairs.
No, it wasn't monsters she feared; they were comical. Charicatures of their wacky creators. They had googly eyes and hairy backs and most of the time they turned out to be misunderstood, like the Incredible Hulk or Dr Frankenstein’s zombie man. Virginia’s nightmares were of real men, faceless, heartless, determined. Hers were stealthy, agile, not bumbling beasts with bad breath. But the simplest thing could break the spell. Amelia was given a fish tank one year for Christmas, and while the fish were alive, upstairs in their tank in Amelia’s bedroom, that was company enough for Virginia to pee in peace. She was good at rationalising, even when she was four or five. Any other living thing made you not alone.

Amelia was digusted with herself. She had kissed that man Lee, who was probably twenty-five, maybe even older. She’d kissed boys before, even ones who tasted like cigarettes and beer, but this was a man. He had stubble and his teeth were sort of slimy. His hands went straight to her breasts and none of the boys she knew were that bold. His kiss wasn’t hopeful, like the few she’d had before. It wasn’t hasty and cute. It was hard, drunk and demanding. The thought of it now made her sick, and her imagination kept subverting her will, and force feeding her images of wet lips, red veiny hands, stubble.
She was sure only Uncle Gerry saw, and he wouldn’t tell Dawn. He’d have the wrath on him if he did that. Dawn was pretty laid back about most things, but she didn’t want her daughters growing up too quickly.
Amelia had spent the day killing time. Strangling it without mercy in fact. She was hungry and wanted to go home after an hour of wandering downtown, but knew Uncle Gerry wouldn’t leave until it started to get dark. Here was a fine balance though, because darkness would bring worry to her mother’s head and then there would be a discussion and Amelia didn’t know if she could keep from crying if that happened. So she would go home at dusk, and hope Uncle Gerry was gone, and say that she was at a movie. Or say that she was wandering; it wouldn’t matter. Dawn would be meditating and would be so chilled out and streamlined – or whatever it was – when she was finished that she wouldn’t care where her daughter had been. But from the top of the street she could see that Uncle Gerry’s car was still there; had to make a choice between cold and guilt. Fear of the way he might look at her. New fear that meybe he did tell Dawn, in what would be Amelia’s best interest. So she went around to the Donut shop to coerce poor Mrs Park out of a few cigarettes.

Now poor Mrs Park was not so poor. Her sheepish – God bless him – husband and his tyranical mother died together in their apartment in Seoul, when a monsoon afternoon flooded the walls between the plaster and the wood. Her sheepish husband and her tyranical mother-in-law came home after church while Mrs Park was at her daughter Hyun’s open day at kindergarten, celebrating Teacher’s Day. Her sheepish husband probably unlocked the gate with his dripping umbrella in one hand and his mother’s bags of vegetables in the other. As he opened the front door he must have had a difficult time. The umbrella must have been stabbing him in the ribs or some other part because when they found the bodies later, rigid and still a little moist, both he and his tyrannical mother had one hand on the umbrella. He must have passed it to her at the same time as flicking the light switch directly beside the front door. The flooding was so bad, that you could see a line of water gurgling like a brook under the wall paper, from the corner of the ceiling, towards the hanging light fixture in the middle of the ceiling and right into it, where it cascaded out over the naked light bulb like a water fall. A fountain light show. The floor was covered in a slick of water and they hadn’t a hope. Mrs Park had lived in this squalid flat for six years with her sheepish husband and tyranical mother-in-law. There was the kitchen, where the electrocution happened, a small bathroom to the left, and two bedrooms at the back. No hallways connecting them, and cement floors. It’s where her sheepish husband had grown up and it became the place where she scrubbed the dead skin off her mother-in-law’s feet and elbows, cooked her meals, plucked the grey hairs out of her head and read to her. A few weeks after the deaths, a solicitor informed Mrs Park that her daughter Hyun had inherited her tyranical mother-in-law’s estate, worth more than the entire apartment block that housed her little box. Not so tyranical after all. On learning this, Mrs Park had taken Hyun to the cemetary again, a three-hour train ride east out of the city centre, so they could lay paper roses, tangerines, sticky rice and sweet pork wrapped in banana leaf at her grave, and tell her they didn’t mean the things they said after the funeral.
And then they moved to Canada so that when Hyun decided to marry, she wouldn’t have to take care of his mother.

Poor Mrs Park liked the company of the kids who came in and smoked her cigarettes. Hyun was a few hours away at university. Let their own parents worry that they were smoking cigarettes. She was glad to see Amelia on Thanksgiving Day because it had been so quiet all day.
“Happy Thanksgiving Mrs Park,” Amelia said, wolfing down a Bavarian Cream. “Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in China?”
“They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in China. And we don’t celebrate it in Korea also.”
“Korea. I always forget.”
“We celebrate Chuseok. Maybe a little bit the same. We eat lots of food, and give thanks and offerings to ancestors, and spend time with family. Why you not home with your family?”
“Oh, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving either. My mom’s a Buddhist.”
“Lot’s of Buddhists in Korea.”
“Are you?”
“No. My mother and father were Catholic, I am Catholic, my husband was Catholic. My daughter, Hyun, she don’t know what she is. I go to Corpus Christie church, just down Queen St. Very nice, very big. The priest is very eloquent.”

Dawn was in the kitchen, smoking a cigarette, working on the breathing that Aunt Del had taught her. It was supposed to come right from the gut, from the diaphragm, like a singer would breathe. Perhaps cigarette smoke in the lungs was a hindrance. Aunt Del had been trying to convince Dawn into taking yoga classes so that she could work on this kind of thing. Dawn agreed to the Singing and Chanting at Samnang’s house once a week and she even agreed to play dolphin music to herself at night, but yoga required too much commitment. Dolphin music. Where were the tranquil waters now? Where the fuck was her daughter? She could use a little of Samnang now. His strong little hands, veins up the back of those hands and up his arms to the elbows, intertwined like the jungle she imagined him to come from. The first time she went to Singing and Chanting she slammed Aunt Del’s car door on her own hand before she even got into the house. Samnang’s house was small. Clapboard and one floor with a big porch. Flags and streamers floating off the porch and a knit string of fluorescent coloured bobbles over the archway of the front door. Aunt Del called to Samnang for ice. His small, bald head poked through a set of wooden door beads and he came out of a back room, wrapped in a swathe of saffron silk, too much silk for his mini frame.
“We need ice Samnang,” Aunt Del said. “My sister smashed her fingers in the car door.”
“That’s what you get for driving,” he said in English, with a French accent.
“Don’t touch him,” Aunt Del said to Dawn. “You’re a woman.”
“I know that,” Dawn hissed.
Samnang looked at Dawn under hooded lids, smiled out the side of his mouth. “Not my rule,” he said. “A very cruel one, n’est pas?”
He brought her a handful of ice cubes wrapped in a tea towel, and she made sure not to touch his hardened fingers when he handed the bundle to her.
Through the wooden beads was Samnang’s little temple, where the Singing and Chanting happened. A corpulent, golden Buddha, almost life size, hunched on his fat flanks at the front of the small room, about a foot up on a platform. The platform was covered with candles and bowls of fruit, plates of cookies, cakes, chocolates that had turned cloudy, a few plastic two-litre bottles of cola and fizzy lemonade. Bowls of sand with hundreds of spent sticks of insence poking out like uncut grass, and new ones burning. Five other people were there, already sitting in a semi circle on thin pillows, their feet tucked under their legs.
“Take off your shoes,” Aunt Del said, “and don’t show the bottoms of your feet to the Buddha.”
Dawn pulled her shoes off with her toes and threw them in a pile of other shoes, just outside the door. She grabbed a pillow from a pile of them in the corner and kept her eyes low. Nobody here attempted to introduce themselves, or even made eye contact. She’d felt a calm the moment she came into this room, and it didn’t feel odd to sit down next to a blonde woman with braids, almost touching knees, and ignore her completely. Space – the air – was tangeable in this room, and it enveloped, like a hug. Maybe her sister Del wasn’t crazy. She felt a light mist of water on her cheek, in her ear. She put her hand on the side of her face and looked to the right, to the front of the room. Samnang was sitting to the left of the Buddha, squirting a miniature, yellow plastic water gun at her. He stopped, and looked away again. He struck a small, disfigured copper bowl with a gong and the other people in the room took deep breaths, closed their eyes and settled into themselves. The woman next to her flared her nostrils evey time she breathed in, reminded Dawn of some animal. Dawn tried to relax, closed her eyes. What did she know of meditation? Aunt Del had told her not to think of anything. But she was thinking of not thinking. If you must synthesize anything, Aunt Del had said, follow the course of your blood from your heart out to the rest of your body.
So she tried not to think. The refridgerator in the next room buzzed. She had to fart. The ice in the tea towel was melting. A drip of water slowly made its way down her arm but she didn’t want to offend Samnang by wiping it away – in case he was watching the new girl. But eventually, out of boredom more than anything else, she relaxed, and hoped Amelia would cook dinner for Virginia, like she promised. She was pretty good about things like that, Amelia.
Amelia! Fuck it! The front door latch opened and she heard Amelia’s voice.
“I’m home. Mom? Virginia?”
So she was facing the music. Wasn’t going to sneak in or be difficult.
Dawn came running out of the kitchen. She didn’t have her glasses on and could barely see her daughter. “I’m not going to say anything Amelia. You’re just going to tell me what you want to tell me.”
“What do you mean? I was just at a movie.”
“When have you ever been allowed to leave this house without telling me? You’ve been gone all day and I can’t wait until you have kids and can even give a little bit of a shit about what I’m talking about!” Dawn grabbed her then, and held her tightly. “Who were you with?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean today! Who were you with?”
“Nobody mom!” she said, and began to cry.
“I love you Amelia. You can’t torture me like this. Come and have some tea, and we’ll talk about it.”
“Talk about what?”
“You don’t have to feel guilty about it.”
Amelia slumped down onto the floor, flooded. “It’s disgusting!” she cried. “I hate it. I hate him!”
Virginia watched from upstairs through the banister posts, as little sisters do.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Nell at 16:11 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
Sarah, you always do this, you take me into these other lives and places so different from my own and immerse me so thoroughly that I hardly know where I am when the piece finishes. The flesh of the little ones - I shivered as I read that in the text. And the characters you describe seem so alive and yet somehow humanly flawed. The air of menace is building slowly, interspersed with frightening normality. There's a sort of dreadful fascination - I want them to be safe, but for the sake of the story I know they can't be and I have to read on.

A few spelling corrections for you: caricatures, Beatles, tangible, incense.

I'm really into this now, so please hurry and post the next chapter!

Best, Nell.

Nell at 16:14 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
No 'Owner Edit' on the last post so I can't add to it - are you coming to Brighton on the 23rd?

stephanieE at 16:37 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
Calmly perfect writing again Sarah - I have this nasty feeling that I don't want to read too much more, I don't want to know how it's going to develop... but at the same time I enjoy the precision of your writing so much that I want to read more. Humph. Dilemma.

I found another typo: hi-fi rather than high-fi.

Trust all is going well with you following your story success!

Sarah at 16:44 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
Nell, Stephanie, thank you so much. I think I may have mentioned I'm a little reticent posting any of this at all, as it is so raw. The bits you've read date back to somewhere around Christmastime... I've been writing it ever since and haven't gone back to the beginning at all... so it really does feel like opening myself up!!

Thank you for reading.

Yes, I saw something about Brighton on the 23rd, other people writing about it and I felt so out of the loop... what's going on?

Nell at 21:28 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
Sarah, I'm hardly sure how it happened, but it's all on the 'Literary v non-literary' forum, then shifts to 'Brighton Rocks'. We've decided to have a gathering for those who want to meet and put faces to the writings - Brighton on the 23rd. August - (Bank holiday weekend.) Do come - it'll be interesting, revealing, stimulating, exciting and possibly embarrassing, but an event not to be missed! (I hope.)

Mika Smith at 10:20 on 05 August 2003  Report this post

I found the way you wrote Amelia and Lee quite menacing. Really good. The farting uncle on the sofa is a great character too. There are flashes of really good writing in this. I hope you don't mind me saying I didn't like your chicken memory. As a childhood reminiscence it seemed a bit of a cliche and almost stopped me reading further. Having said that, you have a lot of interesting, unusual ideas, the kittens on the end of the bed, although less dramatic worked better for me than the chickens. And the zip mark on the farting uncles face is genius.


Sarah at 12:53 on 05 August 2003  Report this post
Hey, thanks for being honest about the chicken thing. That actually did happen to someone I know, but it's good to hear someone else's opinion, and how it ultimately comes off to the reader.

Hilary Custance at 21:46 on 06 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Sarah, great chapter, comment coming soon. Hope you are coming to Brighton, Hilary

Hilary Custance at 22:19 on 06 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Sarah, back again sooner than I thought. very absorbing stuff this writing, I feel I am being drawn into a situation I would rather not be in, but the writing forces me on. I'm afraid I felt exactly the same as Mika over the chickens (it may be real but it is endlessly told) and like her I really enjoyed the kittens and the zip mark. I should really have re read the early chapters as I got confused about who was who in which generation. It is amazing that we are able to read at all in these tiny snippets. I liked the description of Virginia's real ghosts, though the previous para reads at first as though her father's presence in the house is the source of her fear. I thought the image of Mrs Park's house '...as the place where she scrubbed the dead skin...etc' was original and very powerful.

I wish I thought this would all end happily, but I bet it doesn't.
Really have to go now. Cheers, Hilary

matheson at 20:41 on 26 August 2003  Report this post
Hi Sarah

sorry, as ever, that it takes me so long to get through pieces.

I really liked this piece. The family environments you right are so absorbing and convincing. Dawn, Amelia, Virginia and Gerry are drawn very convincingly. I love the disengagement of the little sister and the lightness in touch in your narration, deftly shifting view point and not raw at all in a literary sense...though interestingly dark in texture and dynamic.

I wasn't offended by the chickens though I can see why other might see it a little as a cliche...my true story is kittens actually, a kind of reversal.

Dawn at Samnangs and Mr Park's electrocution are wonderfully painted and slip so neatly into the flow. They pique my curiosity and make me want more. Great writing.

There are a couple of sentence which jarred but they were sentences not sense...£the light grew darker" overstretched the device for me and the switch from Dawn remembering Samnangs and Amelia coming home was too sharp for me...I think because you shifted both mood and location (I read back and checked she was in her own knitchen but my attention like Dawns was at the shrine.

Great writing Sarah.

All the best


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .