It's me again. Told you we'd have three posts this week. Here's the second. For me, writing this story, what you're getting today is the point when everything changes. There's a shift in the dynamics of the relationships. Goals get solidified. Motivations begin to get cemented.
Hope this section lives up to that. As for how much more story there is left, we are about 2/3 of the way through, so there's probably six more weeks to go, but that's just a guess.
Enough of my rambling. Here's the story.
Welcome to the End//Part 23--Mom
I run and find Caroline on the ground, brought to her knees. Her hands are covering her face, and her screams are mixed with sobs.
I look up, and there’s Maggie, her body leaning against the deep orange wall of the food and fiber building. She’s cut across her front, half a dozen slash marks that have gone deep into her chest. There’s something in her hand. It looks like a piece of rebar, probably something she pulled out of the crumbled remains of one of these buildings. I leave Caroline and move to get a better look. If it’s as bad as it seems then Caroline doesn’t need to see her mom like this.
The gashes across her chest are only the biggest of dozens. They cover her arms and legs. Her clothes are cut to sloppy ribbons. She clearly went down fighting. Not surprising. But I wonder why she hadn’t tried some of her hoodoo like Caroline had.
“It takes concentration,” Caroline says from behind me.
“Wait,” I tell her and put my hands out in front of me in an attempt to stop her. She steps around me and kneels in front of Maggie.
“You were wondering what good being able to do magic is if you can’t use it to save yourself.”
I don’t respond.
“It takes concentration,” Caroline says. She puts her hand on Maggie’s. I reach up and pass a hand in front of Maggie’s face and force her eyes to close.
“You need to have a moment to connect with the universe, to pull down the power that you need to finish whatever it is you are wanting to do. The older you are the longer it takes. The bigger the spell the more energy you need. Clearly, she didn’t have time. Not from looking around here. Not seeing what happened. She didn’t stand a chance. Neither did Walter or Britt or Bethany. They were overrun.”
I still don’t know what to say. I’ve never been in a position like this. A friend in college lost his mom, but we weren’t kneeling in front of the body, staring into her face. He was gone. She died in a hospital. It was all so Hollywood. He came back to campus and we gave him space. I need Caroline. She needs me. Space is something we can’t afford.
I stand up and give Caroline time to do whatever it is she needs to do. I back away far enough that whatever it is she’s saying to Maggie is just noise. It sounds like distant mumbling. It could be some kind of mystic thing that they do, but likely it’s just a daughter saying a premature goodbye to her mother.
Caroline stands and turns. Her cheeks are wet. She wipes a tear and says: “We have to bury her.”
“You have a better place?”
Caroline tries to lift Maggie, but she can’t. Maggie had a couple inches and more than a couple of pounds on her daughter. I step in and lift her from the ground, one arm under her knees, the other across her back. Her body is heavy without her helping support any of the weight, and I take it slow down the few steps there are leading to the food and fiber building.
I follow Caroline back to where our camp had been. We pass Walter’s body and Caroline points toward her mother’s bed roll.
“There,” she says. “We’ll go find a place to bury her in the morning.”
It’s beginning to get dark. I go lift Walter. He’s heavier than Maggie and in worse shape. He’s awkward to handle in ways that a human body isn’t supposed to be. It feels more like trying to carry a pile of limbs rather than a body.
I lay him in the little space that he’d claimed and join Caroline up near where they usually install the big cowboy statue when the fair is in session.
“This was mom’s favorite thing,” she says, a big smile painted on her face. “She loved the fair. I think that’s why she chose here as where we ran to. It was a safe space for her. Good memories.”
“Plus, it’s pretty open,” I say.
Caroline is looking up like she can see the cowboy now, lost in some mist-filled magic world. Who knows. Maybe she can see him.
“We’d come once a week whenever the fair was going. Maybe more often if she got a deal on tickets. Every time, even if we’d come the day before, she’d make us take a goofy picture in front of Big Tex. The first were usually all smiles. We’d get a corn dog from a stand over there.” Caroline points. “Put mustard all down the front and hold them up in front of us with Big Tex in the back.”
“ ‘Howdy folks!’ ” She says in a deep twang, imitating the talking statue’s catchphrase.
She turns and walks off. I follow.
“I was thinking that tonight we could stay in the food court. It’s covered. The doors are unlocked.”
Caroline is shaking her head. “Tonight,” she says, “I’m sleeping by mom.”