Jake W. Ford: A Fear All Her Own (flash fiction)

Southern Literacy Statement:  I’m a fifth generation East Tennessean. I’ve cleared fields, dug post holes, chopped wood, and hauled hay. Had a beagle named Clyde that wadn’t worth a damn. As a teen I worked at the local AM country radio station which was housed in a trailer where I hosted the Swap & Shop and Flea Market on the Air. I did live remote broadcasts from the county fair and interviewed the FFA Queen. Used to arm wrestle a fur trapper. Watched a possum crawling out of a dead dog and didn’t lose my lunch. One of my best friend’s most prized possessions was a 1969 Snapper with the original paint. Cartoons I drew of him and his Snapper were published in the Southern Lawnmowers Dealers Newsletter. I’ve been bribed many times with homemade chicken and dumplin’s – now ain’t that enough proof?

A Fear All Her Own

Margret was deathly afraid of worms, but snakes not so much. Her daddy had taught her, as he put it, the difference between a good snake and a bad snake. Her uncle on the other hand, told her “the only good snake was a dead snake.” Margret’s opinion fell somewhere between the two, but just the sight of a worm gave her nightmares that seemed to spill over into the daylight. The only good worm was on a hook at the end of a fishing pole she thought, even though she had never been able to bait her own hook. Might seem foolish to some but it was her fear – her very own.

It all started a few years back when her momma had taken ill with the sickness. Her momma had always been a hard worker and this was the first time Margaret had ever seen her momma in bed during the day. Margret tended to her while her daddy was working in the fields. She’d hold her momma’s hand, telling her that everything would be alright, but as days went by her momma’s eyes started to remind Margaret of a fish that had been out of water too long. Then one evening she heard her momma scream and went to see about her. She found her daddy holding her mamma. He said “She’s burning up with fever. Fetch some water quick!”

As Margaret ran to the well she could hear her daddy repeating her momma’s name over and over again, each time more frantic than the last. When she returned with the water her momma’s face was the color of a blacksmiths fire, and then it happened. Her momma let out a gurgling sound and her body went limp. Then worms squirmed from her momma’s body like demons cast out by the laying on of hands. Margaret just stood there watching her daddy holding her momma – his tears mixing with her cold sweat. The parasites had been driven out by fever but something had also been driven out of Margret as well. Tears would not come and never did again.