Another chunk of “Woman;” not done yet, despite my attempts to the contrary. I thought it’d be finished, but it seems to want to be longer than I’d originally intended. Enjoy!
Tonight she was directly below the building, looking straight up at him. Jimmy could see, now that she was close enough, that her mouth was moving constantly behind that obscuring hand. He thought she might be talking, but he couldn’t hear her if she was. The thick glass, the distance, and the wet, heavy air of the October night made sure of that. Jimmy wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what she might be saying. It was probably something that would only make her behavior even worse. “I’m going to eat you, Jimmy,” maybe. Or “I know about the rabbit, Jimmy!”
He hadn’t thought about the rabbit in a long time, until now. At least, that’s what he told himself. The rabbit was actually never far in his thoughts, casting it’s maggot-eaten and still somehow sad gaze over everything he said and did, not that he’d ever admit to it.
Why he was thinking about it now – actually thinking about it, instead of pretending not to – he didn’t know. Why he thought the woman would know anything about it was also a mystery to him. But somehow he was sure of it. After all, scary things like crazy women who crept a little closer to you every night only happened to bad people. He knew that from the movies he watched and the things his parents told him, when they bothered to talk to him at all. It was the only bad thing he’d ever done.
It wasn’t really that bad, he tried to tell himself, but it did no good. The woman standing on the sidewalk below, muttering to herself and smiling up at him said otherwise. In her eyes there was the sum of all bad things, the worst possible things, and she was here for him. There wasn’t any doubt of that. That meant the rabbit had been a very bad thing, too.
He crawled away from the window – somehow, keeping his body below the level of the sill, creeping towards his bed on his belly, made him feel better – and crawled under the covers, pulling them over his head. The air quickly grew stale and muggy, but it was better under there. Safer. If he couldn’t see the bad things, the bad things couldn’t see him.
But he could still see the rabbit. The way it’s paws had looked, battered and torn and covered with blood. The way the the eyes were still moving, like they were watching him, until he realized they were actually maggots and the poor thing’s eyes – big, brown orbs that glimmered and promised all the good things in the world – had been eaten away. The red stains on its nose, probably gained while it battered itself fruitlessly against the cage door in a last attempt to escape.
Jimmy didn’t know he was crying until snot and tears started dripping into his lap and his sinuses sealed up. To find that he still could cry for the rabbit left him feeling somewhat relieved. He’d cried plenty when he found it, of course. Any child would have. But, like most children, it had passed quickly from the sharp cut of recent experience to the dull throb of memory, burying itself deep within and not bobbing to the surface again for months at a time. When he told himself he didn’t remember the rabbit – who hadn’t even been his long enough to get a good name – he didn’t cry, didn’t even feel bad. Not on top, anyway. The idea that he could still cry for his lost pet, in his mind, somehow made it okay, was proof that it wasn’t a bad thing, that he wasn’t a bad kid, didn’t deserve whatever nasty trick the old woman was trying to play on him.
It didn’t help much, though. It still left him with the question of what to do about it. He’d tried talking to his mother, but she had brushed it off. Told him there were no old women in the neighborhood except for Mrs. Misha, and she never left her house because there was something wrong with her legs. She had a helper, a teenage girl named Alison, who came by sometimes and tossed her hair about while she stared with pursed lips at the older boys in the building. But the woman who Jimmy’d seen under the streetlight that first night definitely wasn’t Mrs. Misha – who was fat and in a motorized chair when she left the house – and she definitely wasn’t Alison, who was young and pretty and wore bright colored shirts that barely covered anything at all.
He’d tried to explain those things to his mother, but she’d just started nodding and “uh-hunh”ing before he’d gotten even halfway through, then held up a finger when her phone started buzzing. By the time she was off the line with her assistant, she’d forgotten all about Jimmy’s problem and was focused on her own.
He’d thought about trying to talk to his dad, but that was an even worse idea than his mother. Dad only had two moods, and neither of them was good for important communication. In one, he was sullen, quiet, and responded to almost any question with “Go ask your mother.” In the other, he was erratic and silly, acting more like a kid himself than the grownup he was supposed to be, and asking questions then was liable to set off a chain reaction of bodily noises and yo mama jokes.
Jimmy didn’t have any friends at school – he stuck to himself at recess, usually sitting in the corner of the yard with a PB&J in one hand and a filched Batman in the other, and even the teachers barely knew he was alive unless he had his hand up for the hall pass to use the bathroom.