It was the Crazy Eights Hour on WZAT, and the disc jockey came on every fifteen minutes to tell the temperature and remind everyone what station they were hearing. He coulda skipped the weather, ‘cause it been the same for the past three weeks – hot and sticky.
I was sleeping, flying, snoring when I woke up in the middle of the air. Mamma tossed me like straw. Her temper was up and I could see a river of sweat pouring down her face. Her eyes were dark from an ugly brown mascara, and I could see the spit on her teeth, hissing at me like she was a bobcat. The house smelled like overcooked bacon, or maybe that was her smell… greasy and damp and musky.
“I been calling you for the past five minutes, Charlie Kitten,” she yell. Only when she yell, it came out hoarse and thick, like a hunk of cabbage was jammed down her throat. “Your Daddy’s gonna be home in five minutes, and you just layin’ there.”
She threw a dirty ashtray at me, and the ashes hung in the air like a dirty sheet. I could almost see the cigarette butts casting shadows on the linoleum.
The sun baked the whole house, even the summer kitchen where everything was s’posed to stay cool.
“Do as I say, or I’m telling your daddy to drown you.” She turned around to leave the room, then stopped. Sometimes Mamma just stopped whatever she was doing and looked at the walls. Sometimes she hummed something sweet, but it always come out muddled and off-key.
Chuck Berry was playing now, something about riding around in his automobile, and Mamma woke up from her little trance. “Did you clean your plate like I told you? Betty’s in the garden, picking me some peas.”
We didn’t have a garden, didn’t have one for nearly two years, but that was Mamma’s way of saying she didn’t remember where Betty even was, even though she been dead three years.
Sunlight came through the windows all slanted and prickled my eyes, I could see the dust motes in the air, drifting down like little angels but I wasn’t sure if I was seeing real things or if my head was still confused from hitting the wall. I didn’t feel headachy, just wanted to get out of the heat and find a cool pond to soak in.
It was too hot, anyway… the pond was already mostly mud. There was no running from the heat, or from my Mamma. She would run me down like a she-cat. She’d done it before, chase me down the road, a broom in one hand and an old ax handle in the other. She never caught me, not once, and by the time I got back home, Mamma had forgotten her reasons for chasing me.
Sometimes the neighbors complained, but mostly they didn’t. People didn’t like to tell in those days.
Excerpt from Cronic – Coming 5/1/15