She was only three weeks old, my beautiful baby girl. Jimmy was five. Such a good boy, so well behaved. Well, there was the incident with the kitten, but he assured me that was an accident.
I was only gone for a minute. I should have stayed with the car. I know that now. But the pump thing was broken and wouldn’t take my card. The lady said over the speaker that I had to come in and pay. I could have taken them in with me, but it was raining so hard I decided to leave them there. I got soaked to the bone as I made a mad dash for the store.
Then this fat lady in front of me had her card declined. She tried a different card. How many cards did the bitch have? When the second card was declined she started fishing through this enormous purse of hers and pulling out a dollar then another then she started digging in there and pulling out quarters. I kept glancing out the window into the dark at my car wondering if I had turned the motor off, I checked for the third or fourth time to make sure I had the keys. Should I have locked the doors? You know how you worry about those things.
I gave the fat lady a big sigh and she gave me a “go to hell” look. I offered to buy her beer for her, but she said no.
Then a girl opened up the other register, and I went over and paid for the gas and bought the lottery tickets like we always do on Tuesday, and the ticket machine was slow because of the big jackpot, and I kept glancing at the car, hoping the kids were alright in there. I got my ticket and ran out, but I was too late. I opened the door and screamed. My knees buckled.
There was my sweet baby girl, my angel, blood all over her face, one eye dislodged from its socket, and here was Jimmy calmly sitting there holding the bloody flashlight.
While I was waiting for Doug and the ambulance, with all the people standing around shaking their heads, one old lady said, “Why did you do it, Jimmy?”
“She wouldn’t stop crying,” is all he said.
They come to see me during visiting hours most Sundays, but even now, even with the Xanax and the Klonopin, I can’t bring myself to look at him, afraid of what I might do.
Paul Garrett is a writer, farmer, educator, and former NC resident living in the upstate of South Carolina. He has published work in several genres including short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, journalism, and photos in both local and regional publications including Blackheart Magazine, The Petigru Review, The Charlotte (NC) Observer, The Greenville (SC) News, Writer’s Digest, and Blue Ridge Country magazine. He currently teaches creative writing and facilitates a writer’s workshop in Pickens, SC.