We're safe in the dark, under the stove. No one can get us here and we can see what goes on at night. The sight of muddy, giant footprints — overflowing lakes. One roach says, "Be sure you step around the muck. You could drown."
The other, properly groomed in manners, replies, "I thank you very much." This little critter looks around: scattered boxes, dirty laundry everywhere, an almost empty penny jar. "Don't be fooled," says the roach. It isn't merely bugs like us that shun the light.
"Did you see that? Scumbag swung his fist at Beth again — blood's running down her cheek — he broke a tooth. I heard her choke and swallow it like Blue Jays swallow seeds. Except the bird got food. Beth met drunken bitterness by simply being in the room. Now the kids are racing for their beds. Their legs like soggy twigs. Betcha they crawl under the frame. Again."
"Can't blame 'em, not one tiny bit," says another roach. Agreed. They sigh in unison.
Sunlight is an enemy like Adolf Hitler, Ben Laden, or Saddam Hussein. Terrorists, all four them, especially the light. The roaches briefly jet under the stove. Pitch black is very comforting.
"Did you hear that?" asks another roach.
"Yup, we did."
"Hum. A fiddler on roof. Could be Mourning Doves in harmony. Let's listen to the music. This silent room is deafening."
"This fortress of despair is not a home, wanna move?" asks another roach.
"We can't," the roaches all chime in. "We promised we'd keep watch for God, take notes, and email twice a week."
"What if he kills her, breaks her neck, splits her head wide open with an axe, before it's time to let God know? He's busy as it is."
"We could and should call 911. But, I'm afraid that no one will pick up. Just like two weeks ago. Beth's bruises are as black as bats, and plastic shades in January constitute a stupid move. Anyone can guess. They just don't, don't bother asking anything that's relevant in grocery lines."
"Can't blame her for just staying home. I would too. Glad we taught her how to hide. Too bad it doesn't always work. He takes her by surprise, like some odd ending of a book."
"The kids are flat as waffles under their beds. Let's scurry through the awful glare, get to them, keep them company. We'll let them sit and count our bodies, one by one — distraction helps."
"You got it. On the count of three, let's move! Haul the slow ones on your backs. These little kids need every one of us." They stream across a grimy hardwood floor at rocket speed. "I wish these idiots would mop this mess more than once a year. The filth is gross and slows us down. Tissue falling from broken leaf spines, sharp needles of dead Christmas trees, dust balls wrapped in cobwebs — they all make rushing difficult. Besides the menthol scent of pine is gone. It's hard to breathe."
"I know. Ask the kids. They're holding in their growling stomachs, lifeless puppets on a stage they didn't choose. I find this very sad."
"Me too. Be sure you tell big Max, the five-year-old, 'Switch off lights,' so we can visit without the interruption of the light.'"
"Anna's skinny as a rope. Her ribs are showing through her jammies. I feel even sadder now."
"So, do I. At three year's old, she doesn't know how to fix a sandwich yet. Tell Max to raid the fridge."
"Already looked. Nothing there but beer and wine and lettuce slimier than slugs, maybe some molded bread. What do we have stashed under the stove that we can share?" "Nothing much. Just coffee grounds and cracker crumbs. And Beth needs ice for her cheek."
"Tell Max to grab that bag of frozen peas, hand it to his mama, squeeze her tight around her thighs, then give his dad a glass of whiskey — maybe if we're lucky — he'll pass out, ignore her pilfered soul."
"The peas might work, but evil never passes out."
"Then wave your magic wand — shrink Beth and all three kids to grains of sugar — they can hide beneath the stove with us. Dark is all we have to offer them."
Janet Buckis a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck's most recent work is featured in Janet Buck is a seven-time Pushcart Nominee & the author of four full-length collections of poetry. Buck's most recent work is featured in The Birmingham Arts Journal, Antiphon, Offcourse, PoetryBay, Poetrysuperhighway, Abramelin, The Writing Disorder, Misfit Magazine, Lavender Wolves, riverbabble, The Danforth Review & other journals worldwide. Her latest print collection of verse, Dirty Laundry, is currently available at all fine bookstores. Buck’s debut novel, Samantha Stone: A Novel of Mystery, Memoir & Romance, was released courtesy of Vine Leaves Press in September, 2016. Janet lives & writes in Southern Oregon — just hours away from Crater Lake, one of the seven wonders of the world. For links, announcements, and interviews with Janet, visit her new website: www.janetibuck.com