Communion, by Kelly DuMar

Kit  crawls out from behind the boxwood shrub as soon as she hears the hiss of the door closing and her school bus grinding forward to its next stop. Quickly, she climbs the steps of her aunt’s front stoop.  The door is locked, so Kit uses the emergency key under the urn of fake pink and white lilies on the doorstep to let herself into the apartment. Standing still in the narrow hallway, she sticks two fingers between her lips, whistles, and listens to the deathly silence.  She opens her backpack, takes out a plastic baggie of Oreo cookies, stuffs it into the pocket of her jeans, then dumps her backpack on the wooden bench by the door. The only sign of life is G.P., napping in his recliner, ear buds of his I pod plugged into each ear. Kit tiptoes past him to the dining room table and kneels, lifting the corner of the plastic table clover, checking underneath. Standing up, she peaks into the empty kitchen, pivots, crosses the room, checks behind the couch. The door to her aunt’s bedroom is closed. Kit cups her ear against it, listening like a doctor for a patient’s heartbeat. After a moment she stuffs her hands in the pockets of her jeans, backs away from the door. G.P. snores once or twice, loudly, Kit holds her breath. He hasn’t eaten the breakfast on a tray beside his chair. Under a paper napkin she finds a dish of fresh strawberries, halved, and, after tasting one, eats until they are gone.

Gin opens her bedroom door, closing it behind her. Kit tries to duck behind the back of G.P.’s recliner, but she’s too late. “You.  Go to school!”

“Yeah, but I just need to say hello to her –”

“No. You’ll miss the bus.”

“I already did,” Kit says, looking Gin in the eye, twisting a string of brown hair around her index finger, pulling it between strawberried lips into her mouth. Gin grips Kit’s elbow, picks up her backpack. “I can’t drive you this morning.  Somebody’s coming –”

“Who?” Kit asks, wiggling in her aunt’s grip.

“You’ll have to take your bike.” Using her free hand, Gin manages to slide a strap of the backpack over Kit’s left shoulder, then the other over the right, giving her a push toward the door. “Now go –”

“Lemme see her!” Kit cries, swinging her right arm out of the strap, but Gin’s forearm squeezes around Kit’s tiny waist, blocking her from darting toward the closed door.

“Shush!  You’ll wake your grandfather!”

“He won’t mind!”

“You wake him, you change him.  Now go to school.” With her other arm, Gin gets the backpack around both of Kit’s shoulders, then grips her elbow.

“Lemme just bring her some water!” Kit swings her arm free.

“Shhh! She has water. I gave her water myself.”

“She needs a hug.”

Gin sighs, letting go of her arm and opens the apartment door. “She needs peace, and so do I –”

Kit backs into the center of the living room. “I won’t even touch her, I’ll just look.  I’ll be so quiet” – she says, stepping closer to the closed door.

“You’re never quiet,” Gin says, still holding the front door open. “Out.”

Kit pauses, rocking forward on the balls of her feet, backward onto her heels. “You’re not the boss of her,” she says, crossing her arms across her rib cage. She leans forward, slightly, shifting the weight of the backpack, keeping her balance.

“Well, I’m the boss of you.”

“I’m the boss of me,” Kit says, sitting down on the couch across from G.P.

Gin’s cheeks blaze and her forehead glosses with beads of sweat. “Go now, or I’m calling your father.”

Kit looks at her fingernails, chewing one for a moment. “He’s at a meeting and he said he can’t be interrupted today no matter what.”

“We’ll see about that –” Gin says, pushing the front door shut. She wipes her palms just above the pockets of her cotton bathrobe and takes, out of the right pocket, her portable phone.

“You’ll be sorry,” Kit says, twisting a strand of hair in her mouth, chewing and sucking.

“You’ll be sorry when he finds out you missed the bus again,” she says, dialing.

“You’ll get him fired and we’ll have to lose all our money and get kicked out of our apartment and we’ll have to drag all our boxes of stuff down here and move in with you and I’ll have to sleep right here in the middle of your floor next to Grandpa and –” Kit says, heaving herself forward, dropping sideways to the floor, using the backpack to cushion the landing. She curls her legs up into her chest.

Get up!”  Gin says, pressing a button to end the call, dropping the phone into her pocket. “I don’t need this today, do you hear me?  Get on your bike and go!” She leans over, gripping the sides of the backpack, pulling Kit to her feet.

“Except the tire’s flat,” Kit says, wriggling out of Gin’s grip.

“You need a spanking.  That’s what.”

“Shhh!  You’ll wake him,” Kit whispers.

“He needs to eat,” Gin says, crossing the room to the table with the breakfast tray. She lifts the napkin and glares at Kit. “Where’s his strawberries?” Kit shrugs. “Agh!  Go fix your bicycle!”

“I don’t have a pump.”

“Well, I can’t drive you!  And I’ve had enough of your mischief –”

Kit crosses the room, stands in front of the closed bedroom door, turns, facing Gin. “She’s dead.”

“What?”

She’s dead, I know it.”

“Stop saying that!  She’s not dead –”

“You been hiding her dead body in there for three days!”

“Stop that nonsense right now!” Gin’s wipes her forehead with the back of her hand.

Kit’s eyes water. “Then why isn’t she out here with Grandpa?”

“She doesn’t like to sleep out here anymore.”

She does, she does, she does! “ Kit screams.  “This is her spot!”

Gin massages her forehead, squeezing the fleshy spot between her eyes with her index finger and thumb. She inhales, deeply, exhales. “It’s not good for her out here, she’s not continent.  You don’t know what that means, and you’re not the one who has to clean up after her either.”

“I would!” Kit yells. G.P. groans from his chair, clears his throat, shifts his rear end in the recliner.

“There, now see what you’ve done?”

G.P. farts, opens his eyes, removes his earphones, speaks loudly. “Why aren’t you in school – don’t tell me they kicked you out?”

“Not yet,” Kit says, less loudly.

“She missed the bus again!”

“I’ll drive her,” G.P. says, leaning forward in his chair.

“Eat your breakfast, Dad.”

He looks at Kit. “Did you do your homework?”

“I didn’t have any,” she says, returning to the couch.

I didn’t have any.  Huh!” Gin touches the side of a teapot with the palm of her hand.

“I didn’t.”

“Why not?” Gin asks.

“They can’t give you homework when it’s a Jewish holiday.”

“Never heard of that,” G.P. says, blowing his nose into a handkerchief he takes from his pocket.

“‘Cause it ain’t true, Dad, no such thing,” Gin says, pouring water from the pot into his mug. “They’re gonna keep you back again.”

“That’s a damn shame,” G.P. says.

Gin carefully sets the tray in his lap. “Eat your breakfast, Dad, I’ve gotta clean up now, before –”

“This is a bran muffin.”

“So?”

“Give it to the dog.”

“I will!” Kit says, jumping up.

“Don’t you dare!” Gin stands with her hands on her hips in front of G.P. “There’s raisins in it, Dad. You like raisins.”

“Raisins suck.  Bran sucks.”

“School sucks,” Kit says, flopping onto the couch.

“Getting’ old sucks,” G.P. says, lifting the tray from his lap. “Getting bossed around sucks.” Gin takes it and sets it back down on his lap.

“Everything sucks,” Kit says. Gin carries the teapot into the kitchen.

“Except strawberries,” G.P. says, looking at Kit. “And chocolate.  Strawberries and chocolate do not suck.”

“Nope.  They don’t.”

“And when it comes time for my last meal, all’s I want is strawberries –” G.P. says loudly.

Gin returns with the teapot, “— and chocolate, we know.” She sets the pot onto his tray, and glares at Kit.  “Enough of this now.  You’re late!”

“’Cause you won’t let me see her!”

“She might like company while she has her breakfast,” G.P. says, winking at Kit.

“She’s not hungry,” Gin says, hands on hips.

“’Cause she needs a walk!” Kit says, jumping up.

“A walk might do her good.” G.P. looks up at Gin.

“You two don’t know what you’re talking about.  You got a tire pump, Dad?”

“In the tool shed.  Gimme my walker and I’ll see if I can –”

“You stay put.  She can get it.”

“That’s right – go on now, and you can see her after school,” G.P. says, shifting his rear in the recliner.

“No, she can’t!  Don’t go promising things –” Gin lifts the tea bag out of his mug, squeezing it between her finger and thumb.

“Why can’t I?”

“‘Cause you’re gonna have detention for being late!” She sets the tea bag on the tray, wipes her fingers on her robe.

“Better she should see her now, then,” G.P.  says, softly.

Gin glares at G.P. until he looks away. She wipes her forehead with the back of her hand, and, after a moment, says, “Oh, for heaven’s sake.  Come over here.” Kit rises, lets the backpack fall off her back onto the floor, and stands in front of Gin. “Empty your pockets,” Gin commands.

Kit crosses her arms, looks at G.P. “Why?”

“You want in?  Empty ‘em.”

“What do you care what’s in her pockets?”

“I know her tricks!  Empty ‘em!”  Kit pulls a half chewed pack of juicy fruit gum out the right pocket of her jeans, puts it in Gin’s open hand, and turns toward the door. “Hold it! This one too!”  Gin says, grabbing her arm, digging her hand into Kit’s left pocket. “Whoop!  There it is!  See that, Dad?  Oreos!” she says, waving a crumpled ziplock bag above her head. “You ain’t goin’ in there with these!” She backs away from Kit, drops the bag into the pocket of her robe.

“That’s my snack for recess!”

“One little cookie never did any harm,” G.P. says.

“— Chocolate cookie! A whole bag of ‘em!” Gin says, shaking her head back and forth.

“Might spark her appetite,” G.P. says.

“Nonsense!  I’ll just hold onto these ‘til you come out,” Gin says, turning awkwardly left, then right, trying to keep Kit from grabbing the bag out of her pocket.

“I don’t need you to!” Kit says, managing to get a grip on the baggie. Gin pulls  when Kit pulls and the bag splits, falls to the floor.  “Look out!” Kit yells, as Gin steps backwards onto the bag.  “You crushed ‘em!  You crushed ‘em to bits!” Kit cries.

“Not all of ‘em!” Gin says, picking up the bag, crumbs of crushed cookie spilling onto the floor.

“Now that’s a shame!” G.P. says.

“You ruined ‘em!  You ruin everything!” Kit says, throwing herself face first onto the pillows of the couch.

“Stop that!” Gin says, fishing through the crumbs in the bag. “Here.  Here’s one.  Not broken at all.”

You eat it.”

“Now, don’t be like that.  Stop your sulking.  This one’s just fine,” Gin says, holding the unbroken Oreo, daintily, between her fingers.

“Give it to me – I’ll eat it,” G.P. says.

Kit sits up and pulls a strand of hair into her mouth. Gin sighs. “You go in, you got one minute, you come out, you get your bike and go.  Deal?” Kit jumps off the couch. “Wait! You might as well take this,” Gin says. Kit grabs the Oreo out of Gin’s hand, pushes open the door, and closes it softly behind her. Gin wipes her fingers against her robe and kneels down, brushing crumbs into a pile. She clears her throat. “Dr. Young’s on her way, Dad,” she says.

“No.”

Yes.  I told her to bring the van this time.” Gin scoops the crumbs into the palm of her hand.

“Give it another day or two,” he says.

“That’d be cruel.  She’s not drinking or eating anything –”

“‘Cause you won’t let her have anything she likes!”

“Oreos can’t keep her alive forever, Dad.”

“She might rally! She might.” G.P. plugs his ears with the ear buds.

“I can’t keep calling Dr. Young to come all the way over here and sending her away –” she says loudly, dropping the handful of crumbs on the tray.

“What?  I can’t hear you –”

“I’ve decided, and that’s it.” She pulls an ear bud out of his ear. “You just help me get your granddaughter off to school before the van gets here.” Gin picks up the tray and carries it to the kitchen. Kit slowly opens the door, closes it behind her. She pulls a strand of hair into her mouth and flops onto the couch without looking at G.P.

“What’s a matter?” he says, removing the other ear bud.

“Nothing.”

“Did you give it to her?” G.P. asks.

Gin returns from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her pockets. “Did she eat it?”

“No.  She didn’t want it,” she says, spitting the twisted strand of hair she’s been sucking out of her mouth

“How could she not want it?” G.P. asks.

Kit takes the cookie out of her pocket and drops it onto the tray. She picks up her backpack and walks toward the front door, stopping in front of the window.  She waits for a moment, says without turning, “There’s a van pulling into the driveway.”

“You sure?” G.P. asks, and Kit nods.

Gin squeezes the bridge of her nose and sits down on the couch. The room is silent. The clock in the kitchen ticks loudly. After a moment, Gin says, “Now, listen to me you two. You know why she didn’t eat it?”

Kit shifts the weight of the backpack. G.P. blows his nose. Gin stands up, walks over to the tray, picks up the cookie. “She didn’t eat it  ‘cause she wants us to eat it for her.”

Kit turns around and looks at Gin. G.P. stuffs his handkerchief back in his pocket. “Here,” Gin says, carefully breaking the cookie into thirds. “See? We all get a piece.” She places one in her father’s hand. She crosses to the window, opens Kit’s hand, and gives her a piece. Kit looks at hers.  G.P. looks at his. Gin pinches hers between her finger and thumb, opens her mouth, places it on her tongue. She closes her mouth and waits, letting the chocolate wafer soften. G.P. and Kit don’t take their eyes off of her. After a moment, Gin closes her eyes and swallows.

* * *

Kelly DuMar is a playwright, fiction writer and workshop facilitator from the Boston area. Her most recent publications include short stories in “Open Road Review” and “Literary Mama,” as well as poems in ‘Lingerpost” and “Blast Furnace,” and short plays by Art Age and “Foxing Quarterly.” Her fiction and poetry have been accepted for upcoming publication in “Red Earth Review” and “Emerge.” Kelly’s plays are produced around the US and Canada and published by dramatic publishers. She will be presenting a workshop, Playback Writing for Poets at the Mass. Poetry Festival in May 2013.

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  1. […] pleased to announce the publication this spring of her short story, “Communion,” in “Sliver of Stone,” literary journal, and the upcoming publication this summer of her short story, “The […]

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