Over at We Drink Because We’re Poets I started a Seven Day Story Challenge for the followers there. The only required rule was that participants had to write a story that utilized a word provided each day for seven days, without knowing each day’s word until I posted them on the website. Other option rules included limiting the story to 200 words a day (or some other selected limit) and writing entirely in dialogue. The objective, produce a short story in seven days in which each day you stop yourself and leave the story open to a change in direction that may be provided by the next day’s word. The seven words this week were: Proportion, exponential, donate, pugilism, beanbag, scantily, protocol. Or any form of those words.
I took on the challenge, but rather than start a whole new story, I chose to continue with Deviation, a story I wrote last September under much the same conditions. I wrote 200 words exactly each of the first six days of the week and today, I went to 236. The story now is over 6,700 words and has much more to go. I truthfully have no idea when and where it will end.
If you’d like to read the first 5,300 words, it’s here. If you’d prefer a synopsis leading up to this week’s addition, it’s here: Johnny and Mickey are brothers, having their every Friday meal at a local diner. They do what twentysomething men generally do on Fridays — they talk about nothing and everything, they curse, they lust after the waitress, and generally are good-for-nothing. Johnny cares about nothing much more than girls, food, and skating through life. Mickey’s a little bit deeper. In Deviation, they discuss the family secret they’ve never talked about before. Dad physically abuses Mom. Mickey and Johnny decide to do something about it, but first they have to rescue Mom from the jail, where she sits after getting arrested for assaulting a homeless man with her Bible. What follows picks up the story as they leave the diner.
“Did dad bail her out yet?” Mickey asked.
“No. He says he’s not going to either.”
“Why the hell not?”
“He said in his last text, and I quote, ‘I’m tired of her god shit.’”
Mickey started hitting his head against the head rest behind him. “That is so fucked up. It is entirely out of proportion. He beats her up, keeps her hidden away for days while she heals and every once in a while she gets out and wants to share her love of Jesus with others and …
“You got to admit she’s a little overboard with it.”
“Really? You think she’s overboard with her religion?”
“Yeah. She gets a little crazy with it sometimes.” They pulled up to a red light. The car rumbled beneath them. Johnny pulled his pack of cigarettes from the dashboard, tapped one out and lit it.
Mickey sighed and opened his window. “If you’re gonna smoke, could you open your window, too? You know I hate the smell.”
Johnny grumbled but complied. “Don’t you think it’s weird that the Bible is the only book she reads?”
“Weird to you, maybe. But maybe that’s where she finds solace in a life like hers. Ever look at it that way?” Mickey coughed, not because he needed to. “Mom finds a little bit of piece in those words. They comfort her. Why does that have to be weird?”
Johnny looked at the cigarette he held in his fingertips, grimaced and flicked it out the car window. “I’m done with these.”
“Thank you!” Mickey exclaimed, slapping the dashboard with his hand. “You can donate the money you spend on cigarettes to a women’s shelter.”
“What? No way. I’m gonna spend it on Ally.”
“Johnny, we had a deal.”
“Fuckin’ relax, Mickey. I was just kidding. It is so easy to get a rise out of you.”
They rode in silence for a moment before Johnny broke it. “Where we headed?”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. Go home and kick dad’s ass or head to the jail and try to get Mom out?” They pulled to a stop in front of a red light. Straight meant the jail. Left meant home. Right meant indecision.
Mickey drummed his fingers on the arm rest. “We gotta get Mom out of jail.” He looked over at his brother. “Don’t we? We can kick the old man’s ass later.” Johnny laughed, a sound barely audible above the rumble of the Torino’s engine.
“You got any money for bail?”
“Oh. Yeah. That could be a problem. Do you remember how much it was last time?”
Johnny grimaced and thought about it as the cross traffic light switched to yellow. “No. Dad took care of it then.” Their light flicked green. “What do we do?”
Mickey looked at the traffic in the lane next to them begin to move past and looked back at the car behind, it’s headlights glaring, the right one brighter than the left. He turned back as the driver tapped his horn. “You know, my anger has grown exponentially, but I’m not ready for him yet. Let’s get to the jail and find out about bail.” The driver behind them leaned on his horn again.
Johnny began to inch the car out into the intersection. “You sure?”
“Yeah. Let’s get this mess over with. First mom and then we take care of him.” Mickey slapped his hand on the arm rest and bounced in his seat. “I need my anger to coalesce a bit. You know?”
Johnny laughed again. “No. I have absolutely no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. Anger coalescing? Shit.”
Mickey looked out the window as they rode in silence. In the jail’s parking lot, Johnny shook out another cigarette. “What?” he whined, looking at Mickey before his brother could say anything. “Just one more. I’ll be quick.”
“Yeah,” Mickey sighed, settling back in his seat. “You criticize me for not being able to deviate, but you got your habits, too, you know.”
“Smoking aint like only dating blond chicks.”
“Smoking’s a disease. It’s a fucking addiction.”
“Maybe I’m addicted to blondes. You ever think of that?” Mickey laughed. “Maybe there’s an intoxicating scent that emanates from blonde hair that does something to my brain chemistry.”
“Shit.” Johnny opened his door, dropping his cigarette to the ground and smudging it out with the heel of his shoe. “Let’s go.”
Inside, Mickey asked about their mother. The desk sergeant laughed. “You mean the bible thumper who practiced her pugilistic arts on John Dempsey?”
“Hey, that’s our mother you’re talking about.” Johnny’s voice raised a notch.
“Yeah?” The sergeant’s face darkened. “She gave a beat down to a bum.”
“What are you talking about?” And it went up another notch. “She just bumped on the head with her Bible.”
The sergeant chuckled and pulled a file out of the middle of the stack in front of him. “Let’s see. The perpetrator was one Emily Anne Santini.” He looked over his granny glasses. “That your mother?”
“Yes,” Mickey and Johnny replied in unison.
“According to the first officer on the scene, the aforementioned Ms. Santini was found to be standing over Mr. Dempsey, yelling at him, ‘you better find God, my son, or a whole more shit will be raining down upon your soul.’” The sergeant began to close the file. “And that’s when things got a bit more serious.”
“What? What happened?” Mickey asked. “Wait a sec. Our mother wouldn’t have said that.”
Ignoring him, the sergeant went on. “A crowd had gathered, refusing to disperse at the officer’s request. He had to call for reinforcements as they chanted to Ms. Santini for more. The officer retreated to his car and pulled out a beanbag gun and fired it several times into the crowed. Meanwhile Ms. Santini leaned over the unconscious Mr. Dempsey. She thumbed through her Bible, finding a page she wanted and then turned it over and placed the open Bible to cover the man’s face.”
The sergeant leaned back. “That about do it for you gentlemen?” Before they could respond, he slapped his hand down on the desk and jerked upright again. “Hold on a sec. There was something else you might find interesting.” He opened the file and thumbed through a few pages. “Here it is. The page she left the Bible open to had the following passage underlined. Matthew 25:35. ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me …’ What do you make of that?”
“Wow,” Johnny muttered. “I’ve got no fuckin’ clue.”
“Of course, you don’t,” Mickey mumbled back. “Your mind is so scantily clad with the shreds of intelligence, you can’t possibly understand.”
“Yeah, fuck you, too.”
“Ummm. Boys,” the sergeant intervened.
Mickey ignored him. “Johnny, it’s a cry for help. Don’t you get it? She’s hungry and needs to be fed. Your cards mean jack shit to her. She’s thirsty in the middle of a desert. Dad’s flowers and chocolates on his good days don’t carry over to the bad. She is utterly lost and feels unwelcome in her own world. God, I sometimes wonder if one of us was adopted. You absolutely cannot be my brother.”
“I … I … I …,” Johnny stuttered, before turning to the sergeant, waving off his brother. “What’s her bail?”
“She hasn’t been arraigned yet, son.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means,” Mickey answered before the sergeant could. “Bail hasn’t been set.”
“Damn, don’t you watch cop shows?”
“Yeah. I love Law and Order.”
“Learn anything from them?” Mickey looked at the sergeant with sorrow-filled eyes. “Standard protocol is bail isn’t set until the arraignment, am I right?”
“Yes you are.”
“Well, when the hell is that gonna happen?” Johnny demanded.
“Probably Monday. That’s the problem with getting arrested on a Friday night.”
“Fuck that. She’s stuck in here over the weekend and there’s nothing we can do?”
The sergeant suddenly could only focus on the file before him. “Ummm. Yeah.” He looked back up at Johnny. “Sorry.”
Johnny looked at Mickey and then back at the sergeant before returning his gaze to his brother again. His eyes teared up. “Mickey? What are we gonna do? We gotta get mom out of here. This sucks.”
Mickey reached out to hug his brother. “It does,” he whispered in Johnny’s ears. “But let’s go take care of that other thing then. We’ll get her out on Monday after they set bail and make sure he’s long gone before she gets home.”