Make It Pretty

This story is a continuation of the flash fiction I wrote last week for Flash Fiction Friday, though this one has been written based on a prompt from the 500 Club. (If you haven’t read “those screams” yet, you might want to check it out first.) It’s funny–I thought last week’s piece was particularly dark, but that wasn’t the feedback I got on it. And, as I mentioned in one of the comments, no sooner had I posted it than I wanted to go back to it and see what happens beyond the end. 

I knew, even before I looked at any prompts this week, that I would revisit Mr. Kinter and poor Jack. Then, when I saw the prompts at the 500 Club, it was clear I was meant to keep this story going. One of them fit so perfectly with the idea I already had, how could I pass it up? Vye was positively giddy.

Here’s the prompt:

Write a scene with a ticking clock. Figurative or literal, this scene must have a countdown, a deadline, a looming axe about to fall. Go.

Now, let’s see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

make it pretty

James told me not to make any noise. It’s hard, though–like when we were kids and he would make me laugh during church. Momma pinched the back of my arm if I embarrassed her, so I tried to hold it in, but that only made things funnier. James liked to make fun of the preacher. Sometimes we pretended that he was talking about sex instead of Jesus. That was dirty but it always made me laugh, and momma would pinch my arm and put her hand over my mouth to keep me from screaming.

James says that’s where we both learned about the pain.

That was when we were little, though. Sometimes I had bruises on the back of my arm after church, but it wasn’t too bad. James liked it when they were deep and purple, but usually they hardly showed at all, so sometimes he’d help them. When he first started doing it he had to hold me down, but the colors were so pretty and it made him so happy, I ended up asking him to do it. “Make them pretty.” That’s what I said to him.

When we were 12–we’re twins, even though he’s a boy and I’m a girl–James started making the cats pretty. There were tons of them around our house. Most of them were strays, but there was this widow across the street who had at least twenty cats, James said. Sometimes we would make one of hers pretty. As much as I liked the purple on my arms, the red was even lovelier. James was like an artist.

Usually when we made a cat pretty we took it down to our basement. Momma was real sick by then and she didn’t pay any attention to what we did. Besides, that’s where James kept his tools–a pair of pliers, a file, a tack hammer, a funnel, some wire, like the kind they used to hang pictures, and a couple of screw-drivers. Plus, there were lots of bottles of stuff down there. It was always fun to see what would happen if we made the cat drink some.

One time James decided he wanted to make one of the widow’s cats pretty in her own backyard. I carried his tools for him. My job was to be the lookout and to keep quiet. James made my arm pretty before we went to help me remember.

We made the widow’s back porch red. It was beautiful–James said so–and then we hid behind her shed so we could see her when she came out.

She cried for a long time. I’d never heard anyone cry like that. It made me sad, but it made James very happy. He said he liked the sounds of her screams.

He’s going to make this one scream, I think. He can’t see me because James made him blind. I’m just supposed to watch him until James comes back. His tools are all here.

It won’t be long now.