Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shifting Gears Flash - Sandra Seamans

by Sandra Seamans

Cindi felt the plaster and lath walls of her cage creeping closer, squeezing the air from her lungs. She grabbed the television remote, punching up the volume until the sound waves forced the encroaching walls to retreat. Another hour and her husband, Jim, would be home and their apartment wouldn't feel so claustrophobic.

"Breathe, girl, you've got to breathe," she muttered. In and out. In and out until her heartbeats slowed and the sweat dried cold on her body.

A fist pounding on the door slammed her heart back into high gear. She hit mute on the remote, trying to pretend she wasn’t there, praying the door wouldn’t surrender to the assault on its wooden panels. Today was the first Friday of the month, and the landlord was busy ambushing paychecks before they got swilled back at the local bar or pumped into some monster 4X4's gas tank.

Cindi shuddered. She couldn't stand how the man looked at her. Booley Jackson made her feel like she was walking around naked, his leering eyes slowly raping her. She needed to breathe. In and out. Her heartbeats slowing with the sound of Jim’s truck wheeling into the driveway.

Jim was the hub of her world. Without him, she didn't exist. His vague promise of a nice little doublewide was the only dream she permitted herself, but even that dream was fading. After buying gas, beer and accessories for Jim's toys there was barely enough left to pay the rent let alone buy a house. With the price of gas rising, their plans had to change. Shivering, she remembered Booley's lewd jokes about a flat-backing exchange.

A key scratched in the lock. Cindi ran to her husband, throwing her arms around his grease-streaked coveralls, the scent of gasoline wrapping around her like a snare.

Leaning back, she looked up into his face, "Booley stopped by for the rent."

He pushed her away. "Yeah, I talked to him when I came in. We settled on a payment plan." Jim didn't look at her, just started jamming clothes into his duffle bag. "Don't bother fixing supper, I'm outta here for the weekend."

"What kind of payments?" she asked.

"Don't go pitching one of your hissy fits. You know how things are. I've sold damn near everything we own. You'd best be nice to Booley this weekend or we'll find ourselves living in a briar patch."

“You ain’t sold everything.”

“You expect me to sell my truck? Maybe walk to work?”

“No, not the truck. You could sell your motorcycle, the boat, and the four wheeler. If you sold those gas guzzlers we could afford to buy a house.”

“A house? We’re barely making ends meet and you want to buy a house?”

“I could get a job, help pay the bills.”

“You ain't getting a job. I seen them wives who work, thinkin’ they’re better’n their husbands just because they make a few dollars. Out there strutting their goods, looking to step up in the world. I won’t have no wife of mine looking down her nose at me.”

“I can’t get a job but I can spread my legs to pay the rent?”

“If you really love me, you'll take care of Booley without making a fuss.”

Jim slammed out of the apartment. Cindi heard his motorcycle kick to life, heard him roar off down the road, then Booley came knocking.

“Breathe, girl. In and out. In and out,” screamed her brain as Booley's heavy body pounded her into the mattress.

Rent collecting done, Booley said, “You ain’t much, are you?”

Cindi trembled beneath the sheets, relief flooding through her body as Booley zipped his pants and crossed the room to leave. His parting shot shattered her life.

“You’d best get used to me, girl, cause your husband and I made a deal. You’re mine for the weekend and I’m guessing this’ll be his regular method of payment from here on in. Oh, and don't bother getting dressed, I'll be back."

Tears bubbled up in Cindi's eyes, her world exploding with the realization that she was nothing more than an untapped piggy bank to her husband. Her hands fumbled under the mattress, searching for the gun Jim kept hidden there.

The sound of Boolie’s returning footsteps in the hall gave her courage. “Breathe deep, girl, you can do this,” she muttered. Her heart shifted down as she slid the barrel of the gun into her mouth.



Gerald So said...

Chilling, Sandra.

r2 said...

Oh shoot, no pun intended, I was hoping she would use the gun on Boolie.

Nice work. Very dark.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It took my breath away. Yikes. Nice one, Sandra.

WellesFan said...

Damn. I'm speechless.

Cormac Brown said...

That was some good graphic prose about her claustrophobia and though I was rooting for Booley or Jim to get it, that was the right ending.

Paul D Brazill said...

I'm late to this but-what a gem!

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, very brutal. To think that some folks end up in situations like this.