Blog Post 6
Excerpt and Story Notes II: “Mama’s Babies” by R. J. Joseph
I smelled expensive cologne on him and knew he was probably lying. If he left, I couldn’t even load up the kids and go to the pharmacy myself. “The café doesn’t open until nine. It’s only four now.”
“I got stuff to do, Zenobia. Get off my back about it.” He left out, slamming the screen door behind him.
I turned to my babies, lined up in the kitchen behind me, Evaline moaning more incessantly than usual. “Okay, Mama’s babies, let’s go put in a movie. Ray, Jr., it’s your turn to pick.” My sweet-faced baby boy smiled at me with uncharacteristically tired eyes and ran into the living room. I unlocked her wheelchair and followed Janey to the couch.
Two movies later, Evaline and Janey were burning with fever. I thought Ray Jr. felt warm, too, so I gave them all fever reducer before putting them to bed a little earlier than usual. After my shower, I sat in bed with a book, too preoccupied to really read it. Instead, I stood and went to the bedroom window. The room overlooked the backyard, which bordered the Brazos River.
I hated that old stinky river, hated the river critters even more. I was glad to only have to chase two kids out to the fence. Janey and Ray Jr. always wanted to take Evaline with them on adventures, and I was glad her wheelchair made them move too slowly to get completely away from me. They loved their sissy and I knew they’d take care of her when I passed on. We really couldn’t count on their daddy to do much of anything.
After I finally fell asleep, Evaline cried out loudly. I stumbled into the girls’ room. Her bed was full of diluted blood, still leaking from her eyes. The fever seemed to be breaking, but she thrashed around like she had severe gas pains. Janey tossed in her little bed, too, but she seemed to stay asleep. I changed Evaline’s sheets and rocked her until she calmed. Then I lay her back down and pulled up the bed guard. Ray Jr. slept peacefully in his room.
“Mama’s Babies” found a home in the anthology Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Volume II after haunting me for years as a nightmare that needed to be exorcised. One of the most horrific aspects of navigating life for me is through the various terrors of parenthood. Those fears rode me like the demons they are in this story.
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