Now that enough time has passed since this story was published and “first rights” have come and gone, I can share this story with you all. So without further adu, here is my short story that was published in 94 Creations, The Devil Inside.
The Devil Inside
The Good Book teaches us, well-behaved women act a certain way. I’m one of them women. In my home, I stands tall, quiet. City folk think we just walk about in bare feet, kicking up pig dung and spitting out children. Truth be told, we do our part. They do theirs. That’s the way the world works. That’s how it’s always worked.
Taking some new-fangled dish soap my husband bought from the city, I hope he’ll like his supper tonight. I ring my hands out on the same faded burlap towel used since momma did these dishes. Just the way the world works. He tries. I know he does. A chip in one of the bigger saucers sends me back.
That child of mine. What a handful.
Never listens. Does whatever she wants. Something’s broken with that one. I tell you. Not how I raised her though. No way. Raised her like a proper girl. Wasn’t till she started schooling she came down with a case of the overalls and chopped off hair. Looks like a dang-gum boy.
Through the window I looked out for so many years, I sees the tree she played Tea Time under. Them were better days. She a changed one now. No more Tea Time. No nothing time. Just stays out the house like we got the sickness or something.
For a moment, I think I sees her holding that tea cup all proper like. Always smiling. Always giggling like a woman should.
I giggle, though I try not to.
She should do right though.
She fades away in my mind as something comes over the hill, way back yonder. Ain’t nobody run like that in these parts since my pappy died mid-sleep while back. My hands go dry as my heart stops itself dead. Who is it?
Little better in, I see the overalls. I lose sight of her as I roll my eyes. Nobody around, so I can do what I want. Nobody telling me I ain’t acting proper. Closer still, I see that dang-gum mark. That Devil’s Mark. On her cheek.
She say she got it tussling with a boy. I say she ain’t doing it right. But I know better. Wasn’t no boy. Was the Devil Himself. Since that mark hopped up on her face, it’s been nothing but trouble round here.
That’s when she started dressing funny. Talking funny too. Sometimes not at all. When she does, it’s Devil words. Two weeks later, momma run off. Left me to care for pappy and my own family. Ain’t right. But that’s how it works.
Week after that, pappy died. Nobody know why. Least that’s what they say. I know different. She does the Devil’s work. It’s that dang-gum mark. Can’t prove nothing. Don’t need to. A woman know these things.
“Momma,” someone screams.
It’s my babe. But her voice ain’t one I heard in a Mark’s age. I think it’s my memories, playing games. The Devil tempting me to things that ain’t real. Then I hear again. Same as before.
“Momma,” my babe yells.
I rub my eyes with momma’s towel, look again. She dressed like the Devil, but she sounding like my babe.
“Oh Babe,” I yell out the window that ain’t been a window in two years. “What is it, babe?”
“Come quick,” she hollers in the innocent voice I know from before. Fear of God is all over her, but I can’t help smiling. My babe is back. Then I see the Devil’s Mark and I think it’s a trick. I can’t help it.
“What is it, child?”
“Poppa. It’s poppa, momma.” She yells from under that crabapple tree. Behind her fear, I see my babe again. Even behind that mark. Dang-gum scar. My heart pushes to my mouth. My Man. Oh my Heaven, my Man is in trouble.
I run out the back door, not ladylike at all.
“What is it, child,” I screams. “What’s happened to my Man?”
“Poppa,” she says as she leans over to catch her breath. “Poppa fell off the cliff.”
She grabs me by the arm, all rough, the way he does. I already scared. All kinds of stories play out inside me. Him all busted up, laying in the creek bed. His blood all over the forest.
We run. We run so long, my chest feels dry, my breasts are sore. They good for child rearing, not for running. Not for well-raised ladies.
Over the hills, she drags me to the woods. Trees slap my face. I’m used to that sort of dealings.
Another couple hills with branches slapping me. I see the cliff ahead through a break in the growths. My chest’s going explode on itself. I know it. But I don’t care. My Man’s hurt.
He’s spread out on the ground like some drunk nights I find him. First I thinks I see him breathing. Then he’s not. My Man’s not breathing.
Sheriff comes to “take names” and makes nice talk with me and my babe. No tears like I thought I would. I got my babe back. She comes and hugs me. We both look at my Man. I look down at her. She smiles something funny. Then I know. A woman always knows.
The Devil’s gone. I gots my babe back. That’s how it works. I squeezes her. The Devil inside her’s gone too.