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The Eclectic Pen - Gus's Groceries and Guns

By: Erica M.  
Date Submitted: 10/16/2008
Genre: Literature & Fiction » Short Stories & Anthologies
Words: 1,359

  Gus’s Groceries + Guns

Lenore Makepeace leaned against the truck, shielding her eye with her free hand. With the other she clutched two-year-old Marianne’s hand, wincing slightly as the girl dug her sharp nails into Lenore’s palm.
“Stop that.” Lenore hissed. She straightened slightly as the door to Gus’s Groceries + Guns swung open then slouched again as Mrs. Taylor stepped into sight.
“Lenore Makepeace?” Mrs. Taylor narrowed her eyes studying first Lenore then Marianne, who was busy trying to pull her hand from Lenore’s grasp. Slowly Mrs. Taylor raised a dry, thin hand to her forehead, shading her eyes from the afternoon sun.
“Thought that was you. Come on and get my groceries.”
Lenore bent and picked up Marianne, settling on her hip. Marianne promptly smacked Lenore on her cheek.
“You should beat her more. I beat all my kids and they never gave me no problem.”
Lenore pressed her lips together.
The Taylor boys were notorious in Morgan County. Johnny, the oldest, liked fire. A lot. Big fires in abandoned barns. Bonfires in the trunks of rusted cars left in the middle of a field. Most times if the police smelled fire they went looking for Johnny Taylor first. Marty, the middle boy, liked to keep his criminal activity close to home. His mother’s front door was known to every crackhead, meth addict and middle school boy in search of weed in the county. Eric was the only one of the boys to keep his problems in his own house. His days ran like clockwork. From Monday 8 a.m to Friday afternoon he was a model husband and father. He never missed a PTO meeting or church social. But, every Friday at 5:15 he stopped by Gus’s Groceries + Guns bought two thirty packs of Bud, a pack of Marlboro Menthols, and a bag of chips. By Saturday afternoon his kids had set up camp in their front yard, sleeping in tents and getting their meals through the kitchen window. By Monday morning his wife most usually had two black eyes and bruises from head to toe.
Mrs. Taylor sniffed hard and turned toward the store. “Don’t just stand there. Come on and get my bags.”
“No, Ma’am, I can’t.” Lenore shifted Marianne to the other side and was rewarded by a kick in her back. “Lonnie told me to wait here for him. And I got the baby.”
“She can carry too.”
Mrs. Taylor kept walking, forcing an exiting customer to sidestep into the glass wall. Lenore mutely followed. Silently, she slung the single paper bag under her arm and followed Mrs. Taylor back outside.
“Well now, Lenore,” Mrs. Makepeace stepped into the sunshine and stood by the grocery carts, “I haven’t seen much of you lately. Where you been hiding yourself?”
“I haven’t been hiding.” Lenore gasped as Marianne kicked her in the back. She lowered the girl to the asphalt. “Lonnie doesn’t like me to go out much without him. He says that I don’t know enough people to just wander around by myself yet. He’s real thoughtful that way.” Lenore lowered her head and counted the dried crunchy leaves crowding around her feet.
“She just kicked you.” Mrs. Taylor put her bony hands on her equally bony hips.
“Yes, ma’am, I'm aware.”
“What are you going to do?”
Lenore looked up and frowned. Mrs. Taylor had moved directly into the line of the sun.
“Yes. Do. Implies an action. You can’t let her treat you that way. You’re her mother.”
Lenore turned her head, watching Marianne run laps around the mostly empty parking lot.
“I’m not her mother.” Marianne picked up an empty black plastic bag and chased a stray cat with it. “She’s Lonnie’s. With his first wife.”
“I thought that glint of mean looked familiar.” Mrs. Taylor took the bag from under Lenore’s arm and settled it firmly on her bony hip. “Where’s that husband of yours anyway?”
Lenore followed Mrs. Taylor across the parking lot to her small bright red scooter.
“He’s inside picking up stuff for dinner. He’s very picky about what he eats.”
Mrs. Taylor settled her bag of groceries in the milk crate attached to the front of the scooter.
“Why did you marry him?”
Lenore looked up. She had been studying an ant zigzagging across the pavement. Mrs. Taylor was standing uncomfortably close.
“I’m sorry?”
“You heard me. That Lonnie Makepeace is a boor. A sorry excuse for a man. He drinks too much. Barely works. His family hates him. Apparently, that kid ain't far behind.” Lenore followed Mrs. Taylor’s pointing finger. Marianne had flipped her denim skirt, sewn by hand by Lenore, up and was shaking her white ruffled panties at them.
“He’s a good person.”
“Horse poop.” Mrs. Taylor turned her head and spit at a sauntering dog. The dog stopped, stared at Lenore and Mrs. Taylor and trotted away. “He’s a jackass. I oughta know. I marry jackasses for a profession.”
Lenore shrugged and turned back to Marianne.
Marianne was bent over creating a pool of spit at her feet.
“She hates me.”
“Of course she does. Her daddy hates you. I’ve heard the way he talks to you. Half the town has seen him smack you around.”
Lenore turned to watch an old Dodge pick-up rattle into the parking lot. Elmer Manning jumped from the cab followed by his hound, Bucky, and went into the store.
“Why do you let him hit you?”
Lenore shrugged again and turned to Mrs. Taylor.
“It ain’t a trick question, girl. You either like it or you don’t. Do you like it?”
Lenore shook her head.
“So why do you let him hit you?”
“What am I going to do? He’s big. He’s my husband.”
Mrs. Taylor reached into her low slung leather bag and pulled out a tube of lipstick.
“My second husband tried to bat me around once. Brennan Moody. That’s my girl Delia’s daddy. You ever meet my Delia?”
Lenore shook her head and watched Mrs. Taylor unscrew the cap and apply her bright red lipstick.
“She’s pretty, my Delia. And Smart. She was first in her class. She married a farmer in Iowa. Now she’s got three girls.
“That Moody was a good looking guy. A little crazy. Mean when he wanted to be. He thought it was a good idea to bust my lip one night after a party at Green Hills Baptist. He said I had been flirting with the preacher. Next morning I made him breakfast. A good big one. Scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, French toast with cinnamon and powdered sugar. The works. I made gravy, too. To put over his eggs and grits. Thick gravy. I let him finish his first plate and watched him start on the second. Sopping up his gravy with the French toast. Then as he was sipping his coffee I told him how much rat killer I had mixed into everything on his plate.”
Lenore turned away from Mrs. Taylor. A lone car meandered down Route 174.
“You could have killed him.”
“No. I wasn’t trying to kill him. It was only enough to make him sick. And to get my point across.”
Mrs. Taylor swung her leg over the scooter and pushed the starter.
“What happened after?” Lenore asked over the hum of the scooter.
“He married some poor girl from Maryland. She stabbed him one day after he beat her until her nose ran into her mouth. Didn’t kill him, though. Drinking did that.”
Lenore stepped back as Mrs. Taylor took off the brake.
“Lenore Makepeace, you gotta make a line sometimes. And never cross it. Not ever.”
Mrs. Taylor pushed off, deftly avoiding the many potholes in the parking lot. Lenore lifted her hand and waved briefly. She turned to watch Marianne pick her nose and wipe her finger on her skirt.
Lenore suddenly felt tired. She sat down heavily, groaning a little as she collided with the hot pavement. Marianne trotted over, hesitated, and then kicked Lenore in her knee.
Lenore turned and surveyed Marianne. She really was a beautiful child.
Lenore reached out, grabbed the child’s foot and pulled her to the ground. Marianne landed on top of Lenore, mouth open, breathing hard. Lenore pushed her off and stood up.
“Come on. I’m tired.”

1304 words

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Erica M.

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Comments 1 to 4 of 4
Marta J. (booksnob) - 10/16/2008 1:47 PM ET
Erica, this is teriffic. Is this part of novel? If it's not, it should be. I would definitely read it.
Angela S. (angie0322) - 10/16/2008 11:34 PM ET
Beautifully done. Perfect.
Sabriena W. (hazeleyesrangeleyes) - 10/18/2008 9:14 PM ET
Wow. Is there a part two?
Wendy (Froggie) - 10/21/2008 1:30 PM ET
Erica, WOW - well done. I am in the middle of taking a creative writing class and have read lots of stuff - but yours is great. I don't know if this is meant to be the first chapter of a book or something but I wish that you would post the next section here. I want to know more about Lenore!
Comments 1 to 4 of 4