John Hayes

Flash Fiction Winner

M y mother is dead. Seven months ago I stopped her voices from rousting inside my head by cleaving her skull as she fed our hogs. Our boar, Old Bandy, didn't hesitate and stripped flesh from her body as she fell. The other hogs joined the feast. When nothing remained of her bones, I reported her missing. Folks thought her a sorceress and feared her. Little effort was expended to find her. I vowed to kill her again if she returned.

Today at Martin's General store I observe a shopper buy flour, pins, pickles, ribbon, and the red licorice my mother relishes. My mother is cunning. She tries to hide by altering other women's faces so they will look like her. I am not deceived. I have watched this shopper twice before. I know my mother has possessed her body because this shopper's face, unlike most other faces, does not boast my mother's hazel eye.

My mother finishes shopping, her black hem straggles the floor as she leaves. She loads provisions into her buggy, reins her mare and canters from town. Three miles out I overtake her and force her to halt. Her face registers surprise that I have penetrated her camouflage. "I'm scalping you from the neck up," I say. "This time I won't leave you with a face to change. You Jezebel!" I cleave her skull, take her scalp and rest her body in my buckboard. My hogs will eat while I prepare the scalp for my collection.

First published: August 2001