Marlene

"Look! Look behind you!...So stupid."

Peeking between two stubby fingers a plump, bespectacled old woman snarls at her 30" dusty tv. Her favorite actress is currently being hacked to death; the horror scene continues but she's had enough.

"Oh I can't watch this- gon put up my blood pressure." With her face slightly turned away from the TV, wincing at every scream, she reaches around her plastic covered couch for the remote. After a few aggressive taps she's found her local news station. Hands on her knees, she pushes herself up off the couch and looks around for something she can busy herself with. She spots that her wall hangings have gone crooked. She fixes the valedictorian certificate, the dipolmas, all read ‘JUSTIN GARRISON’- her only grandchild. She’s then moved back to the TV stand to fix the family photos. After she moves them where she wants them, she stands before the TV and watches. A tall, female reporter stood in front of a car dealership; behind her police officers mark off the front entrance with caution tape.

“-This just in, there was been a reported robbery and murder at Benito’s Auto car dealership down here in the Bayway area. Before the dealership could open its doors this morning, an employee came in to find an open safe and owner Benito shot twice in the chest. Police are currently checking surveillance video-”

“Town’s gone to complete shit.”

The reporter continued in the background, “The masked suspect was last scene in a light blue sweater, black boots, and jeans exiting through the back door of the dealership.” But by then she had waddled off in the direction of her overly decorated kitchen. Shoving aside the multicolored beaded curtains at the entrance, she reached into ther cupboards for her favorite shortbeard cookie. Next, she began to fill a kettle with water.

Squinting over the top of her glasses out the kitchen window; she notices her neighbors’ dogs basking in the morning sun. Twin dachshunds without a care in the world-until, suddenly, their ears point and they jump to attention. One starts to bark as the other paces side to side growling.

“Oh shut up,” she growls right back. The kitchen chair lets out a small groan under her weight as she plops down in it. It’s a lovely early spring day- despite the barking in the background. The eastern facing house greeting the sun beams, illuminating her little bungalow. She looks over her kitchen, then the living room tapping her fingers on the table. The news had moved on to an accident on the Garden State Parkway. Reaching into her oversized pockets on her pink robe she pulls out her flip phone. Maybe someone else to talk to today other than the TV? She calls but straight to voicemail. Frowning, she hangs up and calls right back. Voicemail again but this time,

“Justin, it’s your grandmother. I haven’t seen or heard from you in days. I see you don’t care about me. I could have died.” Good, a guilty message always helped get her way before and it’ll probably work again.

And with that the kettle started to shriek. Pouring herself a cup of Earl Grey she sits back down in front of her cookies, ready to enjoy her small meal.

“ARF! ARF! ARF!

The tea cup slips from her arthritic hand in shock. She lets out a deep, menacing growl before giving the chair a hard scoot back. She grabs the kettle off the stove top and storms through the back door, down the wooden steps.

“I don’t know why they leave these damned dogs outside.”

The dogs are much louder now, much more alert. They’re focused on the shed; they don’t even notice her creep up behind them. She crosses the pebbled line that seperates the conjoined yards and launches the boiling water onto the dogs tawny coats.

“Go to hell!”

The beasts scurry under their porch, giving her a threatening growl. Satisifed, she wheels back around, however she doesn’t get far before hearing the sound of metal scrape behind her. Looking over her shoulder she sees a man emerge from the shed. His chest raising and falling rapidly behind his light blue shirt, he points a gun at her. Before a scream can escape her mouth the man clasps his hand over it and the two struggle up the stairs into the kitchen.

The dogs watch silently.

Slamming the back door, “I need help Ma.”

“Justin-it’s you? You who’s on the TV,” Ma stammers.

He quickly scans the house pulling open drawers and discarding the contents to the floor. Watching him ransack her home, she snaps out of her shock and digs into her pockets for her phone.

“You piece of shit. Can’t hold a job...Killing that man, oh Jesus, I dont know how you ended up like this-”

“He fucking owed me that money!...didn’t even get all of it- WHO ARE YOU CALLING?”

She shrieks as he grabs the phone out of her hands, slamming it to the ground.

“Hello 9-1-”

He smashes the phone with his boot.

His hand shakes as he points the gun at her again. His eyes are big and wild, darting around the house as sweat falls from his nose and chin. In disbelief, “You called the cops?” Her jaw clenches in defiance as she takes a small step forward.

“Go ‘head.” They step around the living in tandem, eyes locked on one another.

“Where’s mom’s money?”

How dare you? My daughter turns in her fucking grave!”

With one hand Justin snatches her car keys on the end table close to him; the other keeps the gun pointed her forehead.

Three sharp knocks at the door. They freeze.

“Rahway police!”

He thrusts the gun inches in her direction as if to say, “You better not open it.” They hear three knocks again. The officer repeats his call out but they stay silent.

She quickly walks to the TV stand. Her eyes catch the old family photos of her, a preteen Justin, and her daughter. All smiling, all happy.

“Whoa what are you doing?

She removes a thick, off-white envelope.

“Here... You have what you want now get out of my house.”

Justin holds back tears, screwing up his face before lowering his gun and taking the envelope.

Listen, I’m sorry Ma-”

“I’m not your ‘Ma’. When Marlene died, you died with her. Get out.”

“Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf!”

Scratching at the back door coupled with the deafening barking could only mean that the twin beats crossed over Ma’s yard to seek revenge. Then the sound of footsteps up the wooden steps to the back door.

“Alright, alright calm down... move.” One of the dogs whimper away. “Rahway Police-anyone home?” This voice did not belong to the same officer from the front.

“Fuck...fuck...” He’s becoming hysterical, pivoting his gun between his grandma and the back door, the walls are closing in. The second officer jiggles the back door handle. In a rash decision, Justin fires three shots into it. Ma and Justin hear the thud of a body tumble down steps amongst the chorus of barks. He immediately flees out the door. Frozen in place, Ma gives a longing look over at the photos on the tv stand. To stay or to follow? She briskly walks out the back door after him.

The officer at the front of the house, hearing commotion, runs down the driveway. He hides behind a row of tall evergreen shrubs against the side of the bungalow.

Standing across the hatchback,“ Justin you’re not going to get far. Just turn yourself in.”

He can barely look at her. Hands so shaken the car keys drop when he tries to enter the car.

“Hands up!”

A head pops up 6 yards down the driveway behind a shrub. Justin fires but misses. The head pops back down. The officer hooks his arm over the side of the shrub in Justin’s direction firing 4 shots....

And then he hears the screech of a car blast down the drive, missing him by only inches. He fires a shot into the car but too late. He starts to run after it but stops, he must check on his partner. He quickly radios in the description of the car and whatever license plate he could make out. Turning back down the driveway he notices a body down the other end.

There face down, blood seeping through pink fur laid, an old woman.

“10-78, 10-78, I have a woman here. She’s been shot. I need an ambulane now,” the officer turns her on her side, cupping her face in his hand. From half way closed eyes, Ma manages a small smirk. She takes two small inhales

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” she reaches out a hand and taps the officer. “I’m gonna see my Marlene.”