Scarecrow, fiction by Hilary Leftwich

Scare­crow

Dol­ly fakes her death by star­va­tion while the oth­ers at the table take sec­onds from the bowl of mashed pota­toes and slices of meat­loaf. Mama announces there’s no pie for dessert, just but­ter cook­ies. She has lit­tle tol­er­ance left after 20 years spent as a Civ­il War reen­act­ment soldier’s wife. Papa nev­er learned to clean his rifle right and blew half his scalp off, leav­ing Mama a wid­ow and me an orphan, in a sense. Mama spent more time crouch­ing her way through the woods with a shot­gun hunt­ing rab­bits than she did teach­ing me my lessons.

Dol­ly is my only girl and she has grown into two girls. One has eat­en the oth­er. Sun­day sup­pers are usu­al­ly spent with great aunt Lila, cousin Ben­nie and his two boys, and occa­sion­al­ly Uncle Rick and Mort, his deaf and blind cock­er spaniel. I spend most of my time dur­ing the meal har­poon­ing Dol­ly to her seat, slap­ping her hands as they reach for the but­tered bread rolls, the game hens, and the choco­late pud­ding. My hus­band left me four years ago for a truck stop wait­ress who wears ear­rings in the shape of pineap­ples. Mama likes to sneak Dol­ly caramels from her knit­ting bag. Dol­ly stares at her with ador­ing eyes. The kind of stare I nev­er get. You’d think I was starv­ing her. I tell her, you’ll thank me for this when you grow up. That no man alive will mar­ry her in the state she’s in now: swollen and pink like a spoiled lap dog. No decent man, at least.

We nev­er had sweets in the house. Not until Papa blew his brains out all over a Kansas corn field. A month after his funer­al, Mama told me to get in the Chevy and we bounced our way down the grav­el road to the Pick and Save. She filled an entire gro­cery cart with clear­ance sale East­er can­dy. Break­fast was Cad­bury Crème Eggs melt­ed on top of but­ter rich pan­cakes. Lunch was Peeps placed pre­car­i­ous­ly amongst sweet pota­toes, their beaks pok­ing up like tiny moun­tain peaks. Sup­per was bare­ly a slice of meat fol­lowed by huge lumps of ice cream topped with choco­late cov­ered marsh­mal­low bun­nies. After months of eat­ing sug­ar my teeth ached every time I heard a can­dy wrap­per being opened.

I tell Dol­ly, you would have such a pret­ty face if you just stopped stuff­ing your cake hole.

When every­one hoists them­selves out of their seats and retires to the sit­ting room, Dol­ly runs upstairs to the bath­room while Mama and I clear the table like we do every Sun­day. Sup­per plates and cups are gone in a sin­gle trip. I wait until Mama is bent over the sink, her hands cov­ered in lemon-scent­ed suds, to sneak into the side­board. I grab the bot­tle I hid there ear­li­er, tuck it inside my apron pock­et and step out­side on the porch into the night. I stare at the corn­field where the scare­crow hangs, a messy Christ fig­ure in a straw brimmed hat. The crows like to gath­er on him as a meet­ing place. Their talons grip and tear apart the fad­ed gar­ments that were once Papa’s old but­ton up shirt and trousers. They con­sid­er me a use­less threat as I take a long swig from the flask—Maker’s Mark, some­times Vodka–as they regard me. I hear Dol­ly cry­ing from the open win­dow upstairs and Mama hum­ming as she fin­ish­es up the dish­es. Uncle Rick is argu­ing with Great Aunt Lila over the cost of but­ter beans again. I lean against the side of the porch and take anoth­er swig, eye­ball the crows. They have a fun­ny way of pick­ing at each other’s feath­ers. They have a fun­ny way of caw­ing and squawk­ing at each oth­er also, like they’re hav­ing a squab­ble. Maybe they’re decid­ing to set­tle in for the night. Maybe they’ll decide to fly away, tak­ing that old scare­crow along with them.

leftwichHillary Left­wich resides in Den­ver with her son. In her day jobs she has worked as a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor, maid, and pin­up mod­el. She is the asso­ciate edi­tor for The Coni­um Review and Reader/Marketing Coör­di­na­tor for Vestal Review. Her writ­ing has been nom­i­nat­ed for a Push­cart and appears or is forth­com­ing in Hobart, Mat­ter Press, Whiskey­Pa­per, NANO Fic­tion, Mon­key­bi­cy­cle, Dogz­plot, Cease, Cows, Pure Slush, Flash​Fic​tion​.net, decomP Mag­a­zinE, Smoke­long Quarterly’s “Why Flash Fic­tion?” Series, NANO Fiction's "How I Write" and oth­ers.

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3 Responses to Scarecrow, fiction by Hilary Leftwich

  1. robin towne says:

    Deli­cious!

  2. Loved this sto­ry too, Paul. That first para­graph rocks!

  3. Paul Beckman says:

    I love this story–the left over East can­dy with dol­lops of "food' are so great espe­cial­ly to a peeps fan like me. Great pho­to, too.

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