“The Death of Me” by Laird Long

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Audrey resorts to a dubious method of discipline …

Please enjoy our Feature Story: “The Death of Me” by Laird Long:


Audrey Tremblay was at her wit’s end.

“It’s mine!” Bethany screamed, snatching the picture book out of her brother’s hands. “I found it first!”

“No, it’s mine!” Brady screamed, yanking the book back out of his sister’s hands. “You put it down!”

The other parents and their kids in the children’s section of the public library stared at the pair. As Bethany grabbed onto the book again and it popped open, giving both siblings a cover to tug on, a loud tear rent the air, and the book burst apart at the spine, landing each child on their bum, wailing.

“Madam, if you can’t control your children, I’m going to have to ask you to leave – again!” the librarian whispered fiercely in Audrey’s burning ear. “And that book costs $49.99,” she added. “Payable immediately!”

Bethany threw her half back at Brady, narrowly missing his head. He chucked his half at her, winging her shoulder. “You can have it, cry-baby!” they both cried.

“Do you accept credit cards?” Audrey inquired sheepishly.

*****

Ever since Bethany had turned six and Brady five, the pair had been battling it out, fighting over toys, books, food, pets, the television remote control, video game controllers, their mother’s attention. They’d been best friends up until that point; the day war was declared.

“I just don’t know what to do with you two!” Audrey said, as she dragged them out of the library and across the parking lot to her car. It was another hot, humid summer day, and the woman’s reddened face quickly sheened with sweat under the sweltering sun.

But the heat did nothing to cool off hostilities between her progeny. Bethany spat at Brady, missing the boy and staining her mother’s shorts. Brady spit his gum out into his hand and threw it at Bethany. The sticky wad bounced off the girl and hit the pavement in front of Audrey, who trod on it with her new shoes.

She’d tried everything to encourage the two children to get along: time-outs, lectures, threats, withdrawal of privileges, counseling, separation, segregation. One day, in utter despair, Audrey had pushed them into a closet and locked the door, telling them she wasn’t going to let them out again until they’d settled their differences once and for all.

In the few seconds it took her to hastily unlock the door again, before they killed one another, two spare pillows had been ruptured of feathers and three clean sheets torn to shreds.

“You kids will be the death of me,” Audrey muttered, unfastening Brady from his car seat when they arrived home, and after escorting him inside the house and into his bedroom, she closed the door. She followed the same procedure with Bethany. The neutral middle of the backseat of the car was soaked with saliva from vibrating tongues and puckered lips.

The house was a sweatbox. Audrey slumped into a chair in the living room, blood pressure pounding at her head.

Bethany raced out of her bedroom, carrying a box of crayons in one hand, a coloring book in the other. She was no sooner coloring on the coffee table, smiling sweetly at her beleaguered mother, when Brady charged into the living room and swiped the box of crayons from his sister, spilling half of them onto the floor.

Thin-barreled, multi-colored missiles quickly started flying back and forth, as more were ground into the carpet underfoot by the screaming children.

Audrey leapt to her feet, opened her mouth to yell.

But, suddenly, she felt faint, dizzy, the temperatures external and internal, the temperaments of her children, pushing her over the physical edge. She grabbed onto the back of the chair, swaying slightly.

Bethany and Brady instantly suspended their air war and ran over to their wobbly mother. Brady grasped her right hand, Bethany her left, for support – hers and theirs.

“Mom, are you all right?” the girl asked.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” the boy cried.

“I’m-I’m …” Audrey began, looking down at the two youngsters looking worriedly up at her.

Silence reigned supreme. A ceasefire had been called by mutual consent of both parties, out of concern for something more important than their personal animosity for one another.

“I’m … fine,” Audrey declared at last, her addled mind processing what had just happened.

Could she change, or at least control, her children’s spiteful behavior towards each other by showing them the negative impact that behavior had on the one they both loved? Hadn’t she heard something like that on one of those daytime help shows, about drug addicts kicking the habit when they were forced to realize how they were hurting their parents with their destructive behavior?

Brady slashed an ochre line down Bethany’s bare arm with a crayon. Bethany streaked Brady’s upper lip with a chartreuse smear.

Audrey winced, and wobbled, putting her community theatre skills to use.

The fighting immediately stopped, brother and sister dropping their waxy weapons and helping their mother to the chair.

She looked from one cute, caring face to the other. “You kids will be the death of me – if you aren’t more careful,” she gasped, glowing with inner delight.

Could she get away with it, until they at last grew out of their distaste for one another? Desperate times called for desperate measures.

Audrey took a sip of cool water out of the glass Brady had brought her as she stretched out her legs on the footrest Bethany had pushed over.

Truce never tasted and felt so good.


Laird Long pounds out fiction in all genres. Big guy, sense of humor. Writing credits include: Blue Murder Magazine, Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine, Thriller UK, Bullet, Albedo One, Baen’s Universe, Sniplits, 5 Minute Mystery, The Forensic Examiner, Woman’s World, The Weekly News, that’s life!, and stories in the anthologies Amazing Heroes, The Mammoth Book of New Comic Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Jacobean Whodunits, and The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes and Impossible Mysteries.


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