Feed on

Rhoades, Ailish

October 6th 2018

Contemporary International Writers


Son, You’re the Angel of Death


I snuck out of the house early, just as the sun was peeping over the mountains behind my house. I brought my little sister Charlie with me, to see the chickens. Chickens were the only thing that could make Charlie laugh these days, since Daddy ran off. Charlie was Daddy’s girl, he always used to bring her out to the barn in the morning, swinging a metal pail behind him to put the eggs they collected in. That was her job, to collect the eggs so Mama could make breakfast for us after chores were done. Daddy used to pick up the chickens and pretend to make them fly towards her head, that always made her shriek with laughter. Mama didn’t like us going out to see the chickens before church, but Charlie had looked so sad and I wanted to make her feel better. I just wanted to make her feel better. When she was done collecting the eggs, I picked up our sweetest hen, her name was Hen-rietta, and ran towards Charlie while making airplane noises. I thought I was doing it right, but I scared her and she dropped the pail and I heard the cracking of eggshells. Charlie started crying and Mama must have heard because she came running out in her nightgown and curlers. She scooped up Charlie with one hand, and smacked me across the face with the other. She didn’t say a single word.

I gathered up the eggs that hadn’t broken and walked back to the house, head hung low. I just want to help, Mama and Charlie have been so sad since Daddy left, I just want to help. As I was walking up the front steps of our wide front porch, I noticed our neighbor Jimmy sitting in the old rocking chair next to the door. He rose slowly, careful not to drop the Bible in his left hand, grabbing my arm as I walked up to him with his right. “Your Mama is going through enough without you causing trouble young man. You do as you’re told and that’s it. I always told your Daddy you were the angel of death.” Shaking his head, “Sure is a shame.” My shoulders hunched I walked through the front door, my mood bluer than the flowers on the wallpaper in our kitchen. I just want to help. I stood on the stepstool and grabbed the big mixing bowl off the top shelf, and the wire whisk out of the ceramic vase by the sink. I heated up the skillet and cracked the eggs into the bowl, whisking them up with a little milk, just how Mama likes them. I scrambled them in the skillet, then put the leftover bacon from the morning before on plates with the eggs.

Mama and Charlie came down the stairs, freshly showered and dressed in their Sunday best. Mama scowled when she saw the plates on the table. “You’re supposed to be a man Jacob. You shouldn’t be cooking breakfast. After church you’re helping Jimmy and Pastor George in the garage. The tractors acting up again and it’s time for you to start earning your keep around here. Go get washed up.” My eyes felt hot with tears as I turned away and walked upstairs to get changed.

After the service Mama walked me over to the church garage, the sign reading “Anointed Hands Car Care” hung over the wooden barn doors at the entrance. I thought it was strange seeing the two men, with their white shirt sleeves rolled up to their elbows, and the line of grease ending right below. I don’t know anything about tractors, I know I’m just getting in the way. I just want to help, but I have never been very good with mechanics. I like to be in the kitchen, or with the animals on the farm, but if this is what Mama needs of me, I guess this is where I’ll be. I roll up the sleeves of my blue striped button down, just like Pastor George, and walk over to the other men.

On the long walk back home, I let the tears roll down my face. Jimmy’s words pounded in my head like the hammer Pastor George used on the tractors big wheels, “You’re the angel of darkness son.” Daddy was the one who left, I just wanted to help Mama and Charlie. I try to make them smile, make Mama’s life a little easier, but I still just get in the way. Maybe I am the angel of darkness. As if to confirm my thoughts, a shiny black crow flew over my head and landed on my shoulder. It stared me right in the eye as I stopped dead in my tracks, horrified. The tears stopped flowing as I stared back into his beady little eyes. He seemed to be egging me on, daring me to make him leave. “Well Mr. Crow, at least I have you to keep me company. You might just be my only friend now.” I began walking again, tense with the anticipation of the crows departure from my shoulder, but was surprised when he stayed perched. As I walked, two more crows started flapping around my head before settling on either arm. The omen is clear as day, I am the angel of darkness, “Thank you Lord, I understand. I am a burden. I am darkness. What do I do now? Where do I go? Why was it Daddy who left, should it have been me?” I screeched up to the heavens, all the while the crows stared up at me with their cold, judgemental eyes. I began flapping my arms, begging them to leave me be.

I began running, pumping my arms hard the crows flew off, the sound of them squacking filled the air. I didn’t stop pumping until I had flung myself up the three steps to the front door. Shoving open the screen door I raced into my room, falling to the bed gasping for air. Whether I was choking from the run, or from my tears I was unsure. I heard the door open softly behind me, and sat up when I felt a little hand on my shoulder. Charlie cautiously climbed up onto my bed, sitting facing me. I turned to face the door she had just walked in through, until I felt her place both hands on either side of my face and turn me to face her. “Thank you for breakfast Jakey. The eggs tasted like sunshine. You’re my sunshine Jakey.” I looked at her little girl face, the chubby cheeks and the pink ribbons in her pigtails. You are my sunshine was our favorite song when we were really little, we used to run around the yard singing it at the top of our lungs to each other. “You’re my sunshine too Charlie.” She grabbed my hand and hopped off the bed. I followed her down the stairs and out the screen door, back to the coop where the chickens lived. “Can you make them fly Jakey?” I picked Hen-rietta up off the grass, and made my most believable airplane noise, swinging Hen-rietta around. Charlie’s laughter filled the air like music, swirling up past the crows, and up to the heavens. I must have swung Hen-rietta a little too hard because I felt her go limp in my hands, dead weight. The angel of darkness has struck again.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.