This weeks Fiction Friday entry for the Write Anything blog started off rather confusing. Last week there was a mix-up with the prompts and the one I was expecting to use, for this week, became an option for last week. With that prompt being offered as an option for last week, an entirely new prompt was introduced for this week.

I was kind of bummed out when that happened because I was already developing a story in my mind to incorporate a murder and a clown as the suspect. When the slate was wiped clean and a new prompt issued, I was right back to not knowing where to go with it.

I was suddenly struck with an idea and began writing. Armed only with this tiny piece of the puzzle, I shot from the hip on how to place that piece and make the storyline move toward it. I wound up much happier with this weeks result than I was with The Creeper.

Fiction Friday #151
While digging in a cereal box for the toy surprise, a child makes a grisly discovery.

Man of the House

“Sweetie, I’m going to work now.” Jared’s mother called from the back bedroom of their small inner city apartment. “Remember, if you need anything go to Mrs. Clemens at the end of the hall. She is in room five-twelve. She is very nice, I met her yesterday when I came home from work”.

“Sweetie, I’m twelve years old and man of the house. Why does she insist on calling me sweetie all the time.” Jared grumbled to himself before calling out “Yes Mom”. “Did you even hear one word I said” she barked at him suddenly standing right behind the boy. “Yeah, cereal is in the cabinet and Mrs. Clemens is down the hall in room fifty-two”. “No!” she roared. “Mrs. Clemens is in room five-twelve! If I had a choice I would not leave you here by yourself while I go to work. You are going to have to learn to pull your head out of the clouds when it matters. I have no time for this right now, I’m going to work. We will finish this discussion when I get home”. The last few words were cut off quickly by the thudding of the old wooden apartment door.

“I’ll show her just how responsible I am, right after the Power Rangers are over”. A smile settled over Jared’s face and he settled back into the decrepit sofa. At one time, his mother would say, this sofa was top of the line. Now it was worn with age, littered with tiny cuts and scrapes from the numerous moves from one run-down apartment to the next. Now it was little more than one run-down item in a run-down home, covered up by an old bed sheet.

Before the Power Rangers could morph into the superhero roles and slay this weeks villain, the sound of a key began to work the lock on the door. “Mom must have forgotten something, sounds like she almost has the lock undone, she can handle that herself. No need for me to get up.” The last pin tumbled into place and the key was jiggled around in the lock and the old wooden door creaked open.

“So what did you forget this time mom?” Jared pitched his voice in a cocky manner that he was sure he’d pay for later. “Pssh, is that the way you speak to your mother. You need to get your head out of more than the clouds.” The strange voice sent Jared soaring to his feet.

“I’m Mrs. Clemens. I bumped into your mother in the hall and she told me you would need looking in on throughout the day. Said you were a dreamer and needed to get your head out of the clouds before she could feel comfortable with leaving you home alone all day. Lucky for you I work at the middle school around the corner, so while you spend your summer sitting about on your rump, I’ll be right down the hall”. The older woman had a no nonsense air about her. She spoke firmly as she walked about tidying up the small kitchen table.

Jared stood there, mouth open, not sure of what to do or say. Who was this woman to just let herself in and take charge while mom was gone? “Don’t stand there looking like you are trying to catch flies”. Mrs. Clemens was bent over the table pointing with a dingy wash rag “Turn off that idiot box and help me straighten up. I won’t have you eating breakfast in this filth. Such a poor woman, works all day while her lazy son sits around and does nothing. Man of the house, how suiting”.

When Jared didn’t respond fast enough, Mrs. Clemens hurled the dirty wash rag at the boy. Mouth agape, the grimy wet rag slapped him in the face. As the wet cloth began to mold itself to the boys face, part of found its way inside the boys open mouth. The bouquet of soapy water and kitchen table grime flooded his palate. In an instant the boy was bent over retching at the foulness that this miserable old woman threw at him.

“Man of the house you may call yourself, but you are still a boy. When I tell you to do something, you best get too it instead of standing around like a dolt with your mouth hanging open. Now, get over here and help me straighten up”. This time Jared snapped to action and was stumbling over his own feet to obey her command. Mrs. Clemens let out an audible sigh which showed that her patients was wearing thin. “Fetch the rag from the floor over there and use it to finish cleaning up this jelly while I gather up your breakfast.”

A moment later Jared managed to scrub the table top clean. It took far more effort than the boy would have expected, but then again, his mother always cleaned up the globs of jelly left from his messy snacks throughout the day. Before his mind could drift off to daydreaming, the sound of a metal spoon being tossed into a glass bowl commanded his attention. “Here, take your cereal and eat”.

Jared slumped down into the chair and reached for the box of cereal as Mrs. Clemens headed to the sink to rinse out the filthy rag. “I told her I wanted Count Chocula and she bought me Apple Jacks”. The mere whisper of the words to himself prompted Mrs. Clemens to look over her shoulder at the boy and scowl. “Spoiled little brat complains even when he has it good. He’s lucky he isn’t mine, would make due with a bag of Fruit Oh’s and like it”. The woman spoke to no one in particular and shook her head as she continued her task of wringing the rag free of jelly and dirt.

Even with Jared’s mother gone for the day, it looked as if he was going to have a long day ahead of him. Mrs. Clemens wasn’t in the house ten minutes before she was barking orders and hitting him in the face with soiled wash rags. What was he in for?

Popping the top open on the cereal box, he began digging around inside for the prize. Jared was too old for cereal prizes, of course, but it was still fun to dig them out. As his hand shoved the dry cereal around in the box, he finally found what he was looking for. It was cool to the touch with a smoothness that reminded him of matchbox car. Unable to contain his excitement, he pulled his hand free from the box and spilled Apple Jacks across the freshly cleaned table.

As Jared created the mess, Mrs. Clemens looked at him defiantly with a sly smile spread over her face. “So, what was the prize my dear little boy”. Smiling back at the woman, Jared opened up his fist to admire his prize. At the sight of it, Jared shrieked and threw it down onto the table. Landing on its back, the large roach righted itself and began scrambling through the fresh mess of the table and towards Jared.

In an attempt to get away, he began shuffling in his chair. The legs became tangled on a dirty throw rug and he toppled backwards. When the high backed kitchen chair made contact with the floor, it knocked the wind out of him. He laid there for a moment wheezing, trying to regain his breath. Looking up towards the ceiling, Mrs. Clemens came into view. There was a sudden thump as she struck the bug with her clenched fist and ended its life.

Calmly, the older woman pulled a chair from the table and took a seat facing him. She seated herself with her legs crossed and her hands folder in her lap as if nothing happened. She looked down at him with a calm look in her eye and a sly smile on her face. “That, dear boy, was my gift to you. I found him over there on the counter eating, what I presume, was your jelly sandwich from last night”.

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