This story is PG.
Two o’clock in the morning. Mother has finally finished her nightly prayers, and is asleep with her bedroom light still on. The rest of the house is dark, except for the pale TV light. Eve’s knees, folded to her chest, press against the screen. She’s peeled the tape off the remote, and Hitchcock’s “Sabotage” fills her head with worldly desires.
Boyfriends. Husbands. Sex. Babies.
A boy. A bomb. Death. Bad things.
The volume turned almost all the way down, she strains to hear the movie dialogue. Her eyes flicker and close, the soft words slurring into a bright sparkle and brilliance of dreams. An explosion.
Then silence, for a long time . . until . .
“My husband is dead!”
Eve’s eyes blink open, and she turns off the TV.
The floorboards creak, and Eve freezes. From the corner of her eye, she sees a shape slowly move down the hall. It carries a gleaming white pitcher. Eve shuts her eyes tight and holds her breath.
The ice-cold water hits hard and fast, drenching Eve and the floor.
Mother points a bony finger at Eve’s face, then jabs a pointy fingernail in Eve’s forehead.
“Listen to me, girl!” Mother spits. “Don’t you be filling your head with willful, sinful thoughts. I once did, and God put the sign of the curse on your baby sister, and she died. You’ve got the curse too, but you ain’t got no sign, and you ain’t dead, cause you keep it locked up inside, where it belongs. But any more willfulness, and it’ll have to come out. Don’t you forget that.”
“Yes, mother.” Eve shivers, her wet nightgown cold against her skin.
Mother turns, then pauses. “Don’t you dare push your curse to the outside. If I see the curse again, it will kill me. You hear? Kill me!”
Mother collapses on the floor and sobs. Eve rises and stands next to her. Mother beats her fists against Eve’s shins. After several minutes, Mother is spent. Eve helps her to her feet, guides her to her room, and puts her to bed.
In her own room, Eve reclines on her bed, still wet. After an hour, her shivering fades, and she dreams.
Warm white light, its rays piercing.
The next morning, Eve digs her babysitting money out from beneath her mattress. Five years’ worth, and four hundred ninety-eight dollars, mostly in fives and ones.
Mother is awake and praying, and Eve eavesdrops.
“Yes, Jesus, I know the pain is a gift from God.”
Still telling Jesus about how wicked her daughter is. There’s time.
Eve quietly opens the front door and steps outside into the bright sunshine. She walks three miles to the nearest bus stop and waits. Two hours later, the bus picks her up. In her seat, she digs through her purse and pulls out a pair a shears. She cuts off the sleeves of her dress, then cuts the bottom of her dress off at mid-thigh. She cuts a slit up the side. At the station, she transfers to another bus, and watches the landscape change from fields to neighborhoods to buildings. She steps out into the big city at noon. The sun rays blush her skin. After walking the hot city streets for a couple hours, Eve sees a sign.
GRAND OPENING – HOT GIRL SALON – ASK ABOUT OUR SPECIAL
Eve walks in.
“What can I do for you, hon?”
“I don’t know. What can you do for fifty dollars?”
“Well . . I could give your hair a trim. Makeup your face. For ten dollars more, I could give you the special today and do your nails too. Fingers and toes in sparkly polish.”
An hour later, a sparkly Eve waves down a taxi.
“Take me to the nearest bar, please.”
“Nearest bar? That’s Shark Lake. That one don’t open ‘til five.”
The taxi drops her off in the parking lot. She walks to the back lot. Next to the lot is an auto body shop. In the weeds by the fence, she sees a big rig tire. She yawns, crawls inside, and goes to sleep.
It’s dark. Heavy metal music hammers the air. Eve wakes. She stretches, crawls out of the tire, and smooths the front of her dress. Back in the front lot, red and blue neon flash “Shark Lake Bar” inside a giant shark’s jaws. A row of motorcycles lines the bar front.
Eve’s walks into the dim, smoky bar and sits on a stool. The bartender squints at her and sips from a bottled water.
“What’ll it be?”
“Uh . . beer. The light kind. Budweiser.”
Across the room in a booth, a biker sits next to a tired, haggard-looking woman. He whistles loud. Eve half-turns on her stool. The biker shines a laser pointer at Eve’s left breast. He circles the nipple slowly at first, then faster, forming a red ring around the nipple. Eve turns to face him. He laser-circles her right breast. Eve slips off her bar stool and crosses her arms over her chest. The biker points his laser at Eve’s crotch. He clicks the laser off and on, off and on, faster and faster.
“Here’s your beer.”
Eve digs in her purse, pulls out a wad of ones, and smooths them on the bar top. She grabs her beer with both hands and makes her way across the crowded room.
The back of the bar is filled with leather-wearing bikers and hot pants-wearing women. A fog of cigarette and marijuana smoke hangs low.
Eve passes a table where a portly biker with a scruffy beard and missing teeth laughs between drags on his cigarette.
“Looks like Harley’s gonna git lucky tonight! An’ she’s a looker, this one!” the biker says.
“Shaddup, Chig!” the haggard woman yells.
Harley scowls at Chig. He throws his laser point against Chig’s head with a PING.
“Godamnit, Harley!” he says, rubbing his temple. He turns to Eve. “Hey looker, yer boy Harley’s got AIDS!” He sneers over his shoulder. “How’d ya like that, Harley?” He laughs between drags again.
Eve walks up to Harley’s booth. He looks her up and down, raises his boot off the floor, and places it against the haggard woman’s thigh. With one hard kick, she shoots out of the booth and lands with a THUD on the floor. She stands, silent, and takes a seat at the next booth.
Eve sits across from Harley, her beer still in her hands. In the middle of the table sits a black helmet with a white diamond painted on top. Eve stares at the diamond, trembling. She sips her beer.
“Ya like my helmet?” Harley says. “The diamond means I’m hard-headed.” He grins and winks. “Ya understand?”
Eve shakes her head.
“Don’t worry. I’ll help ya understand.”
They sit for an hour without speaking as the jukebox spits out Metallica and Motörhead. Another beer later, her trembling fades.
“Ya wanna see what I mean by hard-headed?”
Eve glances up and shrugs. Harley grabs her hand and pulls her out of the booth. He leads her out of the bar and around to the back lot.
He pushes her against the dumpster and slides his hands under the cut fray of her dress. He kisses her neck, then bites it. Eve winces.
“My name is Eve Lynn Quinn-”
“Don’t tell me yer name, cunt,” he growls in her ear.
Eve shuts her eyes tight and holds her breath. A tightness around her waist. A rip. An unbelievable piercing pain.
A gift from God.
A flooding warmth.
Eve opens her eyes. She’s alone. She finds her way back to the tire. She sleeps.
The next morning, she gets a room and a cleaning job down the block at the YWCA. She spends months scrubbing floors until they glisten and gleam.
One day, the piercing pain returns. Eve takes a cab to the bar.
Harley will help me understand.
The bar is closed. She walks around to the dumpster and crawls inside. Eve’s water breaks hard and fast, drenching the floor. An hour later, she sits in a pool of blood, and pushes. And pushes. And pushes. And screams.
The pain is a gift from God.
The dumpster fades away. She dreams.
A willful mass twists and rips. A warmth between her legs. Eve’s eyes flutter open and she focuses.
A low wheeze.
Another low wheeze.
Eve studies the mass at her feet. It’s breathing.
Its red skin is cracked. Bleeding.
Nose and ears are missing.
No eyes. Two red, bulging balls.
Puffy red lips pulled back into a wide grimace.
Twelve fingers. Twelve toes.
Maybe I should show Mother.
The wheezing stops.
Eve digs in her purse. Twelve dollars. She kisses her dead baby, lays it on a bag of moldy hamburger buns, and covers it with a grease-stained dishtowel.
Twelve dollars is enough to get me back home.