- Kathryn FItzpatrick
Citizens Unhappy with the New Town Scene
There’s a herd of mothers shoving through the congregating archway like wildebeests, massive and lumbering, crowding the door so as to get one of the pews with an attached cushion. Mrs. Connor from the school, Lisa and Pam, a few mothers from the PTA. They stand in clusters discussing mini-vans and rec soccer, the weather, their insufferable men. BEside the pulpit there’s a cardboard nativity scene somebody didn’t bother to put away. The plastic baby Jesus gazes up at me with its one open eye, screaming for another follower. Just as I would do with my own daughters, I pull a roll of duct tape from my purse and begin wrapping it around it’s head: once, twice, three times, until I’m sure it’s learned that humans shouldn’t stare at people.
“Excuse me! If everyone could have a seat, I’m going to begin. Thanks!” I shout in the way that sounds like I’m asking a question. “For those of you who don’t know, my name is Roxanne Floss. Recently I moved to town with my husband and my two girls, and since I’ve lived here, I've noticed a disturbing trend. Last month, we saw three disappearances from the Van Buren Apartments here in Middleville. Freddy Brown, Paul Stevens, and Greg Belcher. Who can tell me what else happened last month? Anyone?” I press a red button on the control board, the lights go down, and a commemorative slideshow starts playing. The sweet boys flash on the projector in hoodies, yearbook photos, and as babies playing in the community pool. The boys’ mothers stand in the winds wailing incessantly. Caroline Harland, bulbous and sweaty, sneezes from the audience.
“None of our vigilant neighborhood watch ladies? No? The strip mall, the teen center, the Whole Foods Market? While I’ve only been living in Middleville for a short time, it is easy to see the effect town-wide urbanization is having on our youth population: they are running away from home, they are joining gangs, my goodness, my own daughter’s taken to watching MSNBC!”
They all gasp and non, remarking on their own teenagers’ habits of listening to NPR while baking vegan brownies and other such activities unworthy of morally-sound adolescents.
“We need to demand the town officials stop this wide-spread commercialization of Middleville for our children! That is why I have called his meeting, to form a platform from which we can voice our concerns: Citizens Unhappy with the New Town Scene.”
My audience claps and Caroline Harland makes an effort to leap from her seat, gasping and huffing as she hoists her massive frame onto quivering legs. The whole Harland family is as vile as she is. Her son has no friends, watches pornogrpahy all day in his room- a rotten waste of a proper human experience.
The congregation goes quiet and I can hear scuffing against the tile in the vestibule. A fragrant quality hangs in the air as a young man enters the room. He’s wearing a flannel button-up with a hood attached that’s somewhere between a jacket and a shirt-- it’s not my taste. He’s also wearing gym shorts that swing past his knees, a wool cap, sneakers with no socks.
“Are you lost, Mr. Brown? It’s a school night, you know.” I feel the skin around my joints loosening in response to the Nutrient’s presence.
“Yeah, I uh, heard you guys-- ladies, was having a meeting about the kidnappings--”
“Disappearances? Let’s choose out words more carefully, Mr. Brown.”
The mothers stare at their laps and mumbler in agreement. I dim the lights on the switchboard, feeling my teeth rattle in their sockets.
“Yeah, well, the search i’nt goin’ so great, and I was thinkin’ I could help, be like the vigil-lentils or Dog the Bounty Hunter. Somethin’ badass like that.”
The mothers look in every direction except his as if they had just crossed paths with an unwed teenage mother.
“Actually, we were just wrapping up. Ladies? We’ll meet back here next Tuesday at eight to discuss action plans. Mr. Brown, will you be needing a ride home? It’s not safe out there.”
I reach below the pulpit to get my purse and my left index finger catches a loose screw. I can feel it dislodge from my knuckle, and the brittle skin around it shedding in cornflake-sized patches. I detach my finder and stick it in my pocket.
The Life-Source nods, As we exit the church, my molars uproot. I spit them on the pavement.
“Yuh dropped some change I think, Mrs. Floss.”
“You remind me so much of your brother. You get that a lot? I’m sure?”
It says something back, but my flesh is already collapsing, preparing to absorb the Nutrient., First my skin starts falling off in large, translucent sheets. Around my elbows and knees, my shins, my forehead. The muscles and bones begin to dissolve into a thick, crimson trail behind me. I peel back my scalp to reveal pulsing black, an inky shadow against the unholy darkness of the church parking lot. The husk of my form is now scattered across the pavement. The Life-Source sees nothing, just keeps its head down and its hands in its pockets as I drag it away into the night.