"We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones." Stephen King


jfowler@gmail.com
Thu 7/12/2014 5:23 PM
To: Benjie14@aol.com
Where r u? Benjie! I’ve been calling…texting, leaving messages on your cell phone!!! Wtf!

jfowler@gmail.com
Thu 7/12/2014 5:23 PM
To: Benjie14@aol.com
I’m freaking out, Benjie! I’m a f*cking lunatic! I can’t do this anymore! I can’t take this shit! Call me! NOW!

jfowler@gmail.com
Thu 7/12/2014 5:24 PM
To: Benjie14@aol.com
I’m nauseous. My body’s swollen. I can’t breathe. I feel like a f*cking blimp! I’ve taken all my meds…

jfowler@gmail.com
Thu 7/12/2014 5:24 PM
To: Benjie14@aol.com
Amanda needs me. She needs more than I can give right now. She cries all the time! All the f*cking time! She’s crying right now! Dammit, Benjie, I need you…Benjie? C’mon, call me! Please.
Please…
Come take the baby before I do something stupid…I’m not in my right mind…



7/12/2014 5:25 PM

“Shhhh…shhhh…I’m here now…don’t cry. Shhhh. I’m here, little one. I’m here.”

Jeanette leaned over the crib and began undressing her baby. Amanda had been restless, fidgety, but stopped fussing the moment she caught sight of her mother. First off came her white nightshirt, swimming with tiny pink flowers. Her mamma--God Bless, had bought the outfit as a first year birthday gift at that cute little baby store up in Matamoras. Jeanette folded the top neatly, feeling the softness of the fabric in between her fingers--crushed cotton, and placed it to the side. Next came the leggings, the ones with the padded feet and stretchy material the color of Day-Glo yellow. Way too bright! The top and bottom were a matching set, and already Amanda was growing out of it. At fourteen months, she was into everything, shuffling around on her hands and knees, taking first steps, standing up and falling backwards, crawling on the floor and collecting dust better than a Swifter. She checked her diaper—dry. Jeanette removed it as well and threw it into the wastebasket. She stroked Amanda’s hair off her forehead, and pushed soft brown locks away from her eyes.

Jeanette covered her shoulder with a blanket from the crib, picked Amanda up and held her bare body close to her chest. She began rocking her back and forth, slowly, gently.

“Shhh…shhhh. It’s all right, baby, I’m here now, I’m here with you…”

Amanda’s hands moved inside Jeanette’s robe, probing, searching for Jeanette’s breast.

“What’cha looking for?” Jeanette had continued breastfeeding Amanda long after the baby books had suggested her to stop. She enjoyed their bond, the togetherness it created between the two of them. Her doctor had warned her not to continue after she started back on her MS medications, but her breasts were so heavy, so full, that sometimes she needed Amanda to suckle them just to release the pressure.

“Not now, baby. Not now.” She pushed her hand away. “Let me tell you the story about your daddy, okay…one last time. Would you like that?” Amanda’s hands began moving up and down, excitedly. Oh, and those eyes, colored with a shade of blue so bright and big and clear, it literally took Jeanette’s breath away. They seemed to sparkle from deep within with a sort of Divine inner light.

“The seed of the devil created you, baby girl…did you know that? That’s right. The devil lives inside you, honey. Right there inside your chubby little belly…”

She leaned Amanda forward, bowing her head down to the floor, and kissing her fat stomach. Jeanette made a blowing sound, wind flapped from between her lips. A smile lit up on Amanda’s face, exposing a few teeth with wide-open spaces: a Gerber smile. Chubby fingers danced in front of her mouth.

“Your daddy…he was a beautiful monster. Beautiful. Mommy didn’t know that at the time, when she first married him, he was so, so handsome, and so, so quiet. Your daddy was one of the most handsome creatures your mommy had ever seen. Like an angel...” Jeanette talked about Smitty as if she were reading a children’s story, complete with ooohhs and ahhhhhs, soft purrs with trills.

She looked at the clock. Time was ticking…tick tock, tick tock…

“That must be why you’re so pretty. You have his face, honey, his features, his eyes--icy and blue and full of the devil. Let’s take a stroll to the bathroom. I have something I want to show you. A secret, our secret…”

The apartment was substandard; a dingy, ramshackle, one-bedroom shit-sty situated on the outskirts of Milford right off Highway 209. A leaky roof dripped rainwater into a dented-up bucket on the back porch. The backyard was a muddy mess; the dirt dug up from a German shepherd Donna and Troy kept tied up to a chain all-day. The dog barked incessantly. White dirty foam gathered at the sides of his mouth from pulling his choker so damn hard.

Her girlfriend was kind enough to let Jeanette crash at their house for the time being. The entire ordeal was putting a strain on Donna’s marriage though. She was a good friend--her best friend actually from high school, and of course, she had wanted to help Jeanette out. What else was she supposed to do? She couldn’t just put her out on the street, now could she? Not with a baby and all.

Donna’s husband was a long haired, low-life who worked as an assistant manager at a Mexican joint over on Hartford Street. He had delusional dreams of being a rock star! Right! And Donna had started working part time again too, just a few days a week as a nurse’s assistant in an old folk’s home over in Port Jervis. Changing beds and cleaning bedpans. Oh, the stories Donna used to share about that smelly place…drinking beers and smoking cigarettes, the two of them sitting close together on Donna's beat up futon sofa after she got off work and waiting for Troy to stumble home.

The clock ticking…tick, tock, tick, tock…

Donna was pregnant now, too. That’s why she went back to work. She wanted to save up a little extra cash for when the baby was born, that is, if her train wreck of a husband didn’t steal it all for beer, or loose it on the blackjack tables at the nearby Poconos casino.

Their bathroom was a narrow, cramped, dark space that smelled of mold and damp rot. A brown colored stain ran a circular marathon inside the bathtub. The grout surrounding the yellow tile was black and old. A small window situated above the toilet was dressed in blue, chintzy, country-style curtains. Jeanette had tried, several times, to clean out that damn tub, but the ring stayed victorious. Not even Comet with extra strength scouring beads could help eliminate that funky buildup.

Jeanette’s life had been a f*cking shit show since running away from Smitty and moving back home with her mamma and Benjie. Benjie was her drunk, deadbeat, couch potato of a brother who watched TV all day and drank super-sized Coors Light on the sofa. He would fall asleep and snore so loud he’d wake himself up. And all of it on their mamma's dime!

Jeanette tried getting her life back together, considering everything she’d been through. And her mamma had helped out, as best she could, by babysitting and taking care of the little one. But once word started circulating around their small town about her ex-husband being Smitty Fowler--the infamous tri-county serial killer, and responsible for the deaths of six teenage girls in the area, well, it seemed as if overnight Jeanette became a piranha and her mamma a fugitive for harboring her. Her own family, her own skin and blood disowned her. Can you believe it?

“What kind of girl marries a serial killer?”

“Were you retarded or something?”

“What was your problem?”

Graffiti, spray-painted across the front porch of her mamma's pristine white house: THE WIFE OF SERIAL KILLER SMITTY FOWLER LIVES HERE! The words spelled out in large explosive letters in paint the color of blood, just dripping with hate.
It was all too much for her mamma. She just couldn’t bear the stress. Her friends at work began to dwindle, just disappeared into thin air, and the community that once supported her, actually looked after her during one of the darkest periods of her life, (when her husband of thirty-four years died of a lingering bout of lung cancer) became intolerant, insensitive and nonexistent.

It was a difficult day when her own mamma had to ask Jeanette to leave the house.

How?

Where?

On what?

Serial killer’s pension?

Jeanette wasn’t working, not yet anyway, and her MS was flaring up like a wildfire from all the stress. The last thing Jeanette thought she would have to worry about was finding a job. Maybe she should have thought about that sooner.

Jeanette took the easy way out. Why not? Quick money for her sordid story: I MARRIED A SERIAL KILLER! When the tabloid TV crews came sniffing around the area, offering Jeanette cold hard cash for her twisted tale, she went for it. The money was good--damn good in fact, but fleeting. The whole ordeal blew over quickly, like a summer thunderstorm. The video footage they filmed was hot one day--front-page fodder, movie-of-the-week material, and the next...cold as ice, the circus act was over, the carnival split town. As if the bloody thing never happened to begin with!

Bye, bye…

The folks in Jeanette's hometown didn’t much appreciate the press nosing around. They didn’t like the story of Smitty Fowler being brought up all over again, regurgitated like supper leftovers. Their sad faces paraded on TMZ and other local channels right alongside the nightly news. The homeroom picture of their sweet, darling Cassidy revisited on national TV; first, a side view, and then a front shot, those ringlets of strawberry-blonde curls falling over her soft, innocent shoulders. Their daughter abducted, held hostage and tortured by Fowler before brutally killing her and turning their sweet departed Cassidy into one of his teenage brides, adding her to his morbid collection of young wives at Highpoint Natural Park.

The girl’s family reacted at first by sending hate mail. Then they started calling, constantly, coming so bold as to actually visit, defiantly stomping right up the front steps to her mamma's house, pounding on the front door and demanding Jeanette’s silence. Hadn’t the town been through enough? How could Jeanette make money--the devil’s money, that is, on something so grotesque, so hurtful, and so callous?

Jeanette’s cell phone vibrated on the kitchen table. She looked down and noticed the caller ID, Roy. She waited for it to silence.

Roy!

I thought I deleted him!


Her mamma had even taken off work to help, using her vacation time to babysit while Jeanette went out searching for a job. The only thing she knew how to do was tend bar, which meant long hours standing on her feet, lifting and stocking heavy cases of beer and liquor, as well as flirting with all those red neck assholes for shitty quarter tips. What was she supposed to do?

So, she accepted a position at a dive bar situated on the outskirts of town, a watering hole for the downtrodden, and met up with a guy by the name of Roy. At first, he seemed like a decent guy. He was recently divorced and hurting for some female company--a friend with benefits—a bootie call. It felt good, you know, the way he smiled, the way he warmed her heart by looking at her admiringly from across the bar. The seductive way he’d toss out a compliment right along with a flashy dollar tip. Even the sex was all right. Not tender or gentle or graceful like Smitty was, but at least he was a body--a man’s body--something warm and hairy who breathed heavy, who whispered nice things in her ears, and smelled of cheap cologne and musky armpits.

Her mamma was not a happy camper, not in the least. Here she was giving up her evenings and hard-earned VK time to look after Amanda, and there goes Jeanette--her own daughter, out-and-about, gallivanting around town and hooking up with another no good son of a bitch. Add one more insult to her mamma's growing list of disappointments.

It didn’t really matter. Roy and she had called it off after only a few weeks of being together. Well, Jeanette had called it off, or at least she had tried to. She neglected returning his phone calls, and acted disinterested whenever he’d plop his skinny ass down on one of the ratty bar stools. That greasy string of a ponytail he kept tied in the back of his head was really starting to annoy her.

Roy turned out to be a drunk, mean-spirited and spiteful, and Jeanette wasn’t up for being his personal punching bag after he ingested a few shots of Johnny Walker. Some nights, she would go to bed in such agony, she would have to bury her body in ice packs, trying to freeze out the bruises, her disease, the sheer intensity of the pain. It felt--honest to god--as if her entire body was on fire, just set aflame, the blood circulating beneath her sensitive skin screaming out for mercy.

There seemed no way out.

And Lord, she tried.

She had even registered for beautician school in Port Jervis, the next town over. Her mamma had cosigned on the bank loan to help make the tuition. Jeanette had always wanted to work in a good profession. Cutting hair and applying smelly permanents to the local “blue hairs” seemed like a decent, if not acceptable trade. The course stretched out for six-months and she had already started taking the classes, but even that came to an abrupt halt. It was difficult organizing proper transportation. She didn’t own a car, and her mamma worked the day shift. Carpooling with the other students back and forth became a logistics issue, a royal pain in the ass. Plus, the added expense of paying for morning day care was beginning to add up. And she flat-out refused to let Benjie babysit her baby girl, so she stopped going. Another disappointment added to her own list of personal failures.

Jeanette rarely drank--a glass of white wine at dinner, a beer with Donna or at a barbecue. Nor was she the type to misuse drugs. But standing behind that bar for all those hours started taking a toll on her body. She began increasing the use of her prescription painkillers to help get her through the evenings. Add to that combination the medication she took for her MS, plus the tiny blue pill she swallowed first thing in the morning, every morning, to stop any attempt of a looming anxiety attack—well, by evening’s end, after a few shots of anejo tequila, the daily dosage of medications she ingested would flip anybody into an mind-altering state. Speeding home after her closing shift, driving her mamma's car, windows open, music blaring, flying high down the back roads, a local cop pulled her over and issued her a DUI. One long, sobering night spent in a smelly jail cell, along with a hefty fine, which of course, she couldn’t afford to pay (thank you, mamma! Again!) as well as the extra expense of needing to hire an attorney to fight her case in court.

Give a girl a f*cking break…

Jeanette leaned over the bathtub. She grazed a finger along the top of the water--warm, but not too hot. She had added bath beads mixed with Epsom salts, splurging on a large bag of it on her last trip to Shop Rite. The lingering scent of lavender with a just a hint of mint camouflaged the musky smell of bathroom mildew.

Earlier, in the kitchen, she had crushed up a half tablet of Paxil, mixing it with a spoon of applesauce, and fed it to Amanda, who lapped it right up, opening and closing her mouth waiting for more. Within minutes, the drug was taking hold and making her sleepy. She kept yawning, wiping at her eyes, and dropping her head onto Jeanette’s shoulder like dead weight.

Yes, this was the best solution…

The only solution…

As if…a voice had come to her from God answering all her prayers. All of them. It was no joke that Amanda did have the seed of the devil planted inside her. She would grow up to be like her father, a monster, a liar, a killer. It was better this way. The voices were talking to Jeanette more frequently now, advising her, telling her exactly what she must do…

Careful, careful, Jeanette…

A plan needed to be executed, and soon.

She had thought about just offing herself. She knew Donna’s husband had a pistol hiding somewhere around the house. She had seen Donna venture into the hall closet off the living room, talking about it in case of an emergency. All she’d have to do is stick the short barrel into her mouth and pull the trigger…but then who would take care of Amanda? Who would know the family history? Who would be able to handle her demon child without Jeanette around to oversee, supervise and watch over her?

No, this was the only answer. This was their only choice…

Her robe fell to the floor by her feet. A few votive candles lined the sink, creating a chorus of flickering lights. Amanda’s cherub face lay heavy on Jeanette’s bosom; her breathing deep and restful. Earlier, Jeanette had swallowed the rest of the pills in the bottle, allowing her the good grace to forget to remember….anything. The world was becoming a blurry fog of no feeling.

Weightlessness…

Why couldn’t it all go back to the way it was? Why did that nosy bitch have to come around and ruin everything? Upset her love nest, her lovely state of denial, her lazy life of loneliness, where the only thing tormenting her at the time, was whether or not the women Smitty was having sex with were pretty. Prettier than her…enough for him to dump her, leave her for another healthier, vital, and younger girl…

God knows, the last thing she ever thought Smitty was…was a killer, a monster, a menace to society.

She stepped into the tub. A thin slick of water overflowed over the side and onto the bathroom floor. She didn’t care. She wouldn’t be around to clean it up. She and Amanda would be in flight somewhere, circling around overhead by the time Donna got home from work and discovered them. Amanda and she would be somewhere between here and there, a chosen purgatory, wherever that place might be.

Benjie…

She lowered her body into the warmth. She felt the water covering her thighs, her stomach, her breasts…Amanda’s back, the yellowish-purple bruises on her forearms—reminders of Roy—that asshole!
Amanda flinched from the sudden shock of wet heat, but didn’t make a fuss, not even a whimper. Her hair was wet now and lay flat and matted against her tiny back as they sank lower. Jeanette forgot to put the music on.

Damn!

She had wanted music…Jackson Brown, the Pretender!

Oh, well, next time, next lifetime…maybe.

She lifted her feet up out of the water and positioned them against the tiles above the faucet. It would be swift and calculated, one big breath taken in through her nose upon going under. She expected a suspended moment of intense burning, a searing sharp pain, as if a knife was piercing through the gauzy fabric of her lungs, and then peace…

Peace…

She hoped Amanda and her would join in death at exactly the same moment, their hearts stopping…together.

“Goodbye little girl, I have done all I can do. I have tried my very best to take care of you and love you…” She looked around the room one last time, the darkness settling in, the tiny flames flickering and hazy on the sink, the water soft and inviting, the scent of lavender hovering around and above them like sweet angels breath. She kissed the top of Amanda’s damp head, held her close to her bosom, locked her arms tight around the baby’s back, and sank below the water level…



Nobody knows exactly what happens once a body starts the process of shutting down. However, there is a suspicion that when one dies, all the senses do not all go out at once, but rather one at a time. Slowly. Gradually, one loses their sense of touch, their taste, smell, their vision, and lastly…sound…


Through a long liquid tunnel comes thumping and banging, hard and strong and forceful!

Jeanette preferred to ignore it; to pretend it wasn’t there…

Go away…

Go away…

A broken window. Glass shattered; a muted explosion.

The house filled with a lone scream, a muffled cry; shrieks of anguish moving toward her, in her direction, hysterical, running down the hallway, the clip, clop, of heavy booted footsteps…


Her lungs were already full.

As planned, she had taken one full intake of water through her nose when she first submerged. Amanda fought, for a second, her body tensing up, spastic, clamoring for one last breath, the will to live so strong. Jeanette held on though, tight, her arms locked securely around her baby, keeping her down. Then Amanda went still--very still, so still Jeanette finally relaxed and released her, allowing her to float…away, a piece of wood, weightless, drifting in between her thighs toward the drain. Strands of hair stuck to Jeanette’s calves, a matted, sticky spider web.

Commotion!

Again, louder and frantic, more urgent, and then the rush of thick arms pushing through the barrier of water, grabbing at her body and pulling her up, up, up, and away from someplace distant; a white place, a soothing place, a place of blue warmth, of Universal acceptance and circular love… Somebody stole her, kidnapped her peace of mind, and dragged her dying, limp body from out of her liquid coffin, flipped her out of the tub, pulled her over the side, and flopped her onto the floor. A dead fish, bloated, and naked and slippery lying beside the grungy bathtub.

Then a force so heavy crushed down upon her, pushing her chest in, forcing her to roll over onto her side. Water purged from her mouth and her nose like toxic bile…

“What the f*ck are you doing? Are you f*cking out of your mind?” A voice cried out!

Fingers intertwined into a fist heaved down upon her chest again, hard and fast and crazy! Water escaped from every possible orifice, an open spigot. Somebody was prying Jeanette’s mouth open and forcing her to gag from the sheer size of his fingers. To choke her, make her vomit, and heave up everything she had ever eaten from out of her stomach…

And then…

A watery gasp as clean air entered and circled around and into her chest cavity.

Her body lifted up, up toward the sink, up toward a bearded man who reeked of alcohol—the sour odor of whiskey and stale cigarette smoke--and the blurry ceiling light centered above her, no longer soothing and white and calm, but jarring and dirty and confusing. Dead houseflies had littered the base of its tinted covering.

Jeanette took in her first full breath of oxygen.

Jeanette was alive…



“What will we do?” Benjie paced back and forth in the living room, glancing at the clock hanging on the wall. His fingers pulled at his straggly beard, twisting it and twirling it, his voice was hoarse, desperate.

Jeanette sat on the floor hunched up against the wall, her body cocooned in a scratchy blanket. Her bare feet and legs were up close to her chest. She was struggling to breathe in, to breathe out…

Amanda was across from her, on the floor, wrapped up as well, her little girl, dead and dumped and discarded like garbage in a large, black plastic Glad bag.

Jeanette’s throat hurt, the inside of her nose burned. Her chest and ribs were sore, bruised from the force of Benjie’s fist pressing down upon her. He stopped mid pace, “What time does Donna get home from work?” He was crying now. His nose was wet with tears; bubbles popped with mucous from out of his nostrils as he spoke. “Talk to me! What time does Donna get home from work?”

Jeanette stared at the clock, that silly, stupid clock Donna bought at T.J. Maxx, cheap and tacky and tasteless. White trash! That’s all they were. White-f*cking-trash! She tried speaking through her swollen throat. She could barely swallow, let alone talk, her lungs were screaming with each attempted breath. Better for her to stay still, try not to breath, try to remain quiet and wait. It was all coming back to her now…

Even with the Paxil, she couldn’t deny what was in front of her, what she remembered--her baby, pulled from the bathtub, dripping with water onto the floor and rolled up in a towel…

“You asshole!” She sobbed. “Why did you save me? I wanted to die with her, my baby. I didn’t want to live, not without her.” A howl bellowed from somewhere so deep within her, a savage yell, a wild animal keening over her dead. “WHY THE F*CK DID YOU SAVE ME?” Tears fell down her cheek. “I hate you! I hate you, Benjie!”

He moved over to her and crouched down, low enough to shove his face up to her. So close, she could feel his beard, the stubble tickling her, his putrid breath. “You can bellyache all you want, but right now little Sister, we have to come up with a plan. Otherwise, your sweet ass will be in jail tonight!” He grabbed hold of her arms and shook her. She flinched. “Listen to me and you listen real good…we don’t have all f*cking night! We need to do something with the baby, and we need to do it now! NOW! Do you hear me?” He held on tighter, his fists surrounded her upper arms. “Not later, not tomorrow, but tonight! Otherwise, kiss your sweet ass goodbye!”

Jeanette stared across the room at the lumpy plastic bag.

Tick-tock, tick-tock…the wall clock chimed 7 PM.

“You need to get out of town, you can’t be here!” Benjie started pacing again, raking his hair, pulling at his beard.

“Who’s that asshole you been hanging out with. You need to call him. You need to tell him to take you somewhere. I’ll get rid of the baby. I’ll bury her somewhere, someplace far away. I’ll tell the family you took Amanda with you. You need to do this, tonight! Otherwise, you’re in deep shit!”

He walked over to the bag. He went to pick it up, but couldn’t. His body crumbled as he began to cry, sobbing.

“Why are you helping me? I don’t care anymore. My life is shit. I don’t have anybody anymore. I don’t give a damn if I live or die.”

“Get your ass up and make a phone call. We ain’t got much time.” He gathered strength, picked the bag up as if it contained toxic material and marched outside. The screen door banged and rattled as he exited. The front door to his truck opened and slammed shut. The fall of daylight surrounded them. Crickets sawed in angry protest. Heavy footsteps moved across the wooden front porch and around back to the shed. Jeannette waited, following the sounds, visualizing where Benjie was, what he was doing. That dog, that stupid f*cking dog barking, continuously, never stopping.

Within minutes, tools hit the back bed of his truck, jarring, raking the bottom, and then the squeak of the screen door opening.

“What the f*ck are you waiting for? We don’t have all night!”

Jeanette tried standing. Her legs were weak, like jelly, like after a strenuous workout, wobbly. Her eyesight was foggy.

“You need to be long gone when Donna gets home! You ain’t got much time, neither! Write her a note! Let her know I came over and broke the window. Tell her I needed to talk to you because…because I was upset you was leaving town. Let her know you took Amanda with you…”

Jeanette leaned over onto her knees and pushed with her palms to get to a upright position. She felt dizzy.

She stumbled into her bedroom and dressed quickly, a white shirt, some jeans, a navy P-coat. She slipped her boots on without socks and filled her backpack with a few pair of clean underwear, a fresh pair of jeans, some makeup. Her body was beginning to wake up, but she was stiff. Aching. The crib was reflected in the mirror. Amanda's crib. She turned away, gathered her hair in a ponytail and moved into the living room. She tried not to think. Only act. In the hallway closet, she reached up to the top shelf and searched along the edges with her fingers. There, in the back, was the pistol Donna had told her about, warned her about actually. She had never touched a firearm before, the feel of cool metal, the smallness of its size, the compactness of death fitting so neatly inside her hand. For a moment the idea of killing herself entered her thoughts, to shoot herself right there in the closet, but she heard Benjie’s voice…

“C’mon, DAMMIT!”

She stashed the gun in her backpack and rushed into the living room, took a piece of paper from a desk drawer and scribbled out a note to Donna. She doubted she would ever see her again, but she was only following orders now.

Dear Donna,
Sorry for the mess…
Benjie came by, drunk, of course…I wouldn’t let him in, so he broke the window. I have to get out of here, Donna. I need to leave. I’m going batshit crazy. I’ve taken Amanda with me. Please don’t call the police. I’m fine. I just need some time to think about all this…my situation. About what I need to do next. Benjie told me he’s sorry about the window, he’ll pay for it come payday. He’ll be by tomorrow to talk to you. I don’t want to be a burden to you any longer.
Thanks for everything…
I love you,
Jeanette.


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Published on October 17, 2015 11:29 • 238 views

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