Elbows off the Table
By Nick Medina
“She’s really gone and done it this time, Tim,” Wendy sniveled, wiping her snotty nose on her sleeve.
“And he’s still in there?” he asked.
“Yeah; on top of the table.”
“She’s in there too?”
“Yeah. Prob’ly eatin’ right next to him.”
Another torrent of tears seeped through her eyelids.
“Whatta ya gonna do?”
“I dunno,” she sobbed. “They’ll take her away for sure this time.”
“You can’t just leave ‘em like that.”
Tim put his hand on Wendy’s head and drew her closer to him on the faded planks of the dilapidated porch. He
kissed her on the forehead and dragged his hand through her hair until it slid down her back and rested on her
waist.
“How long do ya think they’ll stay like that?” he asked.
“I dunno. You know she ain’t right.”
“She’d have to be to do somethin’ like that.” Tim stopped a tear from rolling down his cheek. “I can’t believe it.”
“Me either...but it’s true. Right inside the door...right on the kitchen table…I ain’t got nobody left but her.”
“You always got me.”
“I know, Tim.”
A cool breeze engaged crispy red and orange leaves in a late afternoon ballet around Wendy and Tim’s ankles. The
wind chilled the tears on their faces. The sun began to set. Wendy would have to go back inside soon.
“Why don’t ya stay with me?” Tim asked. “Until we figure out what to do.”
“I can’t leave her alone.”
“What if she goes off again?”
“I’ll be all right…don’t tell anyone,” she said.
“I won’t say nothin’,” he promised.
Wendy turned the doorknob and pushed open the front door. The salty, sweet scent of cheese, the thick sauce her
mother mixed with the macaroni noodles, filled her nostrils upon stepping into the house. The scent would forever be
linked to the awful memory the meal spawned.
Don’t look, she told herself. Stare straight and just get to your room. But she had to look. She had to see that the
nightmare was really real. It was.
Sammy still had the orange sauce smeared around his mouth. A pale noodle stuck to his pale flesh. He was still
splayed out on the tabletop and he was still dead. The harsh light above the table made the scene even harder to
stomach. Blood stained Sammy’s hair and pooled around his head. Wendy saw it all through the archway that led
into the kitchen.
“Wendy,” a voice quavered from somewhere inside the kitchen, “is that you?”
She didn’t answer. She headed for her room.
“There’s noodles everywhere,” the voice came again. “He knocked over the chair. There’s cheese on the carpet.”
Wendy glanced again and saw that her mother was right. Macaroni and cheese was splattered everywhere.
“He ain’t talkin’ no more,” Wendy’s mother said, “he always likes to pretend.”
Wendy opened her mouth to correct her mother, but she couldn’t bring herself to say that her little brother was
dead. Instead she broke into silent sobs and collapsed on the living room floor where she clawed at the carpet.
Wendy couldn’t sleep that night. She tossed and turned, unable to think about anything but her dead brother on the
kitchen table. She went in and out of nightmares crying. Several times throughout the night she heard tapping at her
bedroom door. She didn’t respond to the hollow thumps, but that didn’t stop her mother from whispering through
the door.
“He’s still pretendin’,” she said the first time.
More crying. More nightmares. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“He needs his Teddy. Do you know where it is?”
Wendy sniffled in response.
“I’ll look under his bed.”
Cry. Nightmare. Cry. Light and feet under the door. Tap. Tap. Tap.
“He’s gonna wake up soon. It’s almost mornin’.”
Morning came slowly. Everything hurt. Nothing made sense. The feet appeared again. The tap, tap, tap gave Wendy
the chills this time.
“He’s still pretendin’,” her mother said. “He’s good at pretendin’.”
Wendy got out of bed and looked at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were puffy and her cheeks were stained. She
could hear her mother shuffling about in the living room. She dreaded leaving the refuge of her bedroom, but she
couldn’t stay cooped up forever.
Don’t look, she told herself over and over as she escaped from her bedroom to the bathroom without casting a
glance into the kitchen.
Wendy did her best to calm her eyes and wash away the tears, but the red spiders that crawled through the white
of her eyes gave away her suffering.
Tap, tap, tap on the bathroom door.
“Wendy? Can I fix you some breakfast?”
“No,” she said, struggling to fight back tears once again. Her stomach lurched at the thought of ever eating at the
kitchen table again. The slippered feet shuffled away into the living room.
You can handle this, Wendy. He’s your brother. He needs you more than ever now.
Wendy tugged open the bathroom door. The stench of old cheese filled the house. It hit her nose with a sharp
pungency. She swallowed hard to keep herself from heaving.
“Wendy?”
“Just a minute, Mom.”
Wendy held on to the wall.
When she blindly inched her way into the living room she let her eyes open a crack. Her gaze started at the floor.
She could see inside the kitchen. The light still burned. The spilled macaroni and cheese still littered the linoleum and
carpet. She raised her eyes. The chair that had been knocked over was righted now. She raised her eyes higher. Her
brother’s corpse was still on the kitchen table. His stuffed bear was under his arm. A bowl of cereal was next to him.
His mother sat at the foot of the table, hunched over a bowl of her own.
“Mom?” Wendy said. “Aren’t you goin’ to work?”
“I ain’t feelin’ too good today, sweetie, come have some breakfast.”
“Mom...Sam…”
“Sammy’s just sleepin’. I told you he’s pretendin’.”
“He ain’t pretendin’, Mama, you killed him.”
“He got mad ‘cause I took too long findin’ his Teddy and now he won’t eat his cereal.”
“Mama,” Wendy said, her voice trembling, “Sammy’s dead. Look at him. He ain’t breathin’.” She shuddered at the
sight of her little brother. The blood in his hair had turned dark purple, almost brown and the puddle under his head
had lost its glossy sheen.
“No elbows on the table,” Wendy’s mother said. “You can’t eat a decent meal with your elbows on the table.”
“You can’t leave him like that,” Wendy said.
“You’ll see, he’ll eat when he wakes up.”
“He ain’t wakin’ up, Mama, he ain’t comin’ back.”
“Quiet now. What would your father say about all your backtalk?”
“He ain’t comin’ back either.”
“I done my best for you two kids.”
“I know, Mama.”
“And now he won’t even stop pretendin’ to eat his cereal.”
Wendy sat on the sofa in the living room. She stared at the wall in front of her, trying not to think of the scene in the
kitchen, but she could hear her mother crunching on her cereal and the sound only emphasized the fact that her
mother was eating breakfast with the body of her dead son sprawled out over the tabletop.
“I ain’t slept well last night,” her mother said when she finished her cereal. “You’re gonna have to watch Sammy for
me while I lie down.”
“Okay, Mama,” Wendy said without shifting her gaze. “I’m so sorry, Sammy,” she whispered when her mother was
gone.
You have to tell someone, her inner voice said. I told Tim, she argued with herself. But he can’t help. If you tell you
know what’ll happen to her. You gotta tell the authorities. They’ll take her away. And what about you? What about
me? What will happen to you?
Wendy’s internal debate ended when footsteps sounded on the front porch. Through the partially open blinds she
saw the mailman. He dropped a few white envelopes into the mailbox and waved at her through the window. She
forced herself to wave back.
Wendy fell asleep on the sofa. She woke when she heard the shuffling of her mother’s feet in the kitchen again.
“You awake?” her mother asked. Wendy didn’t answer. She wasn’t sure if her mother was talking to her or her
brother.
“Wendy, you awake?”
“Yeah, Mama.”
“Come here for a minute.”
Wendy cringed. “Whaddaya need?”
“Come in the kitchen, Wendy.”
Wendy remembered how lonely and scared she felt when her grandmother died, when she had to make the solemn
walk through the funeral home to where her dead grandmother rested in her casket. It was a walk that made her
feel sick to her stomach the closer she got to the cold, pale remains. She had to take that walk now. Each dreadful
step brought her brother’s corpse into better focus.
“Whaddaya need?” Wendy asked again.
“Now I know you ain’t feelin’ too good yourself, God knows you ain’t eatin’ nothin’, but I need your help.”
“With what?”
“Sammy needs a bath. He got macaroni and cheese all over himself.”
“Mama, no,” Wendy protested.
“He ain’t gonna do it himself. Ya know he don’t like his baths.”
“It don’t matter, Mama, Sammy’s dead.”
“You wash him up and get him some clean clothes.”
“Mama, we gotta talk. You gotta listen to me.”
“You do what I say and wash him up now. I gotta start dinner or we’ll all go hungry.”
“I ain’t hungry.”
“Do what I tell ya.” Wendy’s mother lugged a bag of potatoes from under the kitchen sink and heaved it onto the
counter. “Get goin’ now, he’s gotta be clean.”
“I can’t.”
“I said get goin’ now,” she said as she slammed a large knife through one of the potatoes. Thunk!
Wendy lurched toward the table. Sammy’s face was worse than she thought. It wasn’t just crusty cheese and the
hardened noodle that marked him, there were pink splotches, one in the shape of a hand, that hadn’t had the time
to turn to bruises.
Wendy extended her right hand to touch him, but stopped before her fingers reached his flesh. He would be cold she
knew. His monster truck t-shirt had cheese on it too. Mixed with the sharp pungency of the cheese, Wendy could
smell the sweetness of the untouched cereal, the sour scent of the warm milk and the unpleasantness from when
Sammy soiled himself.
“I’ll get some clean clothes,” Wendy said. She hurried away from the kitchen table, the thunk of the knife sinking
through the potatoes echoed into the living room. It continued at as Wendy sifted through her brother’s dresser
drawers.
Before returning to the kitchen she stopped in the bathroom for a basin of warm water and a clean washcloth. She
hauled everything back to the table. Wendy squeezed the washcloth in the water then raised it to wipe Sammy’s
face. She stopped. It hurt too much. She dropped the washcloth and picked up the bowl of uneaten cereal. She
brought it over to the sink and dumped it.
“He wouldn’t eat it ‘cause I took too long findin’ his Teddy,” her mom said.
Wendy sniffled and went back to the table.
He’s your brother. He deserves to be clean.
She picked up the washcloth and started again. She could hardly keep the tears from falling as she wiped at Sammy’
s cheese stained lips and cheeks. She plucked the noodle away from his cheek. The cheese came off easily, but she
couldn’t do anything about the pink splotches. She had to wet his hair to moisten the dried blood. She wiped at his
head with the washcloth, rinsed it in the water, wrung it out and wiped again. She repeated the process with the
rhythm of her mother’s chopping.
Wipe…thunk…rinse…thunk…wring…thunk…wipe…thunk.
By the time she was done the water was red. Sammy had been dead for nearly twenty-four hours. Rigor mortis had
set in. Wendy struggled to pull the t-shirt over her brother’s fixed arms. Removing the corduroys was much easier.
She dabbed the washcloth gently over his entire body before putting on fresh clothes and replacing the bear under
his arm. She took the basin back to the bathroom and emptied the soiled water. When she got back to the kitchen
she found her mother standing over Sammy with a smile on her face.
“He’s always been such a good boy. He’s just always pretendin’,” she said.
Wendy nodded and then realized that something, aside from her dead brother on the table, wasn’t right.
“His eyes,” she said. She went to close them.
“No!” her mother screamed. “Can’t see with his eyes closed.”
“He can’t see anything.”
“Yes he can,” she said. “They’re open ‘cause he’s just pretendin’. I told you that.”
* * *
“She still ain’t snapped out of it,” Wendy said to Tim.
“And he’s still on the table?”
“Yeah. I ain’t even tried to move him.”
“How long can ya let this go on?”
“I dunno. ‘Til she comes to her senses I guess.”
“What if she tries to hurt ya?”
“She can’t hurt me anymore than she already has. I’m gonna talk to her. Tomorrow. Maybe tonight.”
“You want me to stay with ya?”
“No. I gotta do it alone. She won’t let ya in anyway.”
“I’ll stay out here. In case ya need some help.”
“I’ll be all right,” Wendy said. “Tim?”
“Yeah, Wendy?”
“I ain’t gonna be able to see ya for awhile.”
“Whatta ya talkin’ about?”
“I ain’t gonna be able to stay here. I ain’t old enough. If they take her away, I ain’t gonna be able to stay.”
“You can stay with me. My parents don’t care.”
“I can’t. You know I can’t. My life ain’t the same. My life as I knew it ended when Sammy died.”
Wendy suppressed gags at the kitchen table. Her mother ate across from her. Her dead brother lay between them.
There was a plate set out for him too.
“Eat your dinner,” her mother said.
“I ain’t hungry.”
“You ain’t gonna feel better if ya don’t eat your dinner.”
A gray piece of meat, covered in gray gravy next to a pile of sliced potatoes covered in cheese steamed on the plate
in front of Wendy.
“Mama, we gotta talk.”
“Not with your mouth full,” she said. Bits of meat sprung from her own mouth as she spoke. “We don’t talk with our
mouths full and we don’t eat with our elbows on the table.”
“You ain’t listenin’ to me.”
“Eat your dinner and then we’ll talk.”
Wendy twirled her fork in the mess of potatoes. The steaming cheese, sour and strong, made her stomach heave.
“I’m all done,” she said.
“Wash your plate.”
Wendy let the meat and queasy potatoes slide into the trash.           “He still ain’t eatin’,” her mother called before
Wendy could escape to her bedroom.
“He’s dead, Mama.” She turned around and sat on the sofa. “You killed him.”
“I ain’t done no such thing. His eyes are open. He’s pretendin’.”
Wendy started to cry again. “I have to tell on you,” she said. “I have to call and tell them what ya did.”
“I ain’t done nothin’.”
“You killed him, Mama, ‘cause he wouldn’t take his elbows off the table.”
“You can’t eat a decent meal with your elbows on the table.”
“That’s why he was bleedin’. You smashed his head against the table. I gotta call and tell them what ya did. I ain’t
got no choice.”
“Sometimes he don’t listen,” her mother mumbled.
“I ain’t gonna call tonight,” Wendy said, she started to break down, the tears came faster and a burning sensation
composed of sadness, regret and utter hopelessness swelled within her, “but tomorrow I gotta call.”
Wendy managed to fall asleep that night. It was a dreamless sleep, a dark, empty sleep that existed solely as an
escape from the ugliness surrounding her.
The hall light flicked on. The harsh rays trespassed under the door and woke Wendy. She lay there staring at the line
of light under the door. Her eyes burned, but it was quiet so she stayed still and prayed for sleep to overtake her
again. It didn’t.
“WENDY!” her mother screamed from the kitchen. “Wendy he’s DEAD!” Her shrill shrieks were heartbreaking,
terrifying and sickening all at once. “WENDY! SAMMY’S DEAD!”
Wendy jumped out of bed. She felt blinded in the darkness after staring at the light under the door for so long.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
The dark shadows cast by her mother’s feet appeared under the door. The door rattled in its frame.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
“Wendy get out here! Sammy’s dead!”
Wendy waited until the feet disappeared before opening the door. It was just after three in the morning and every
light burned in the house. Wendy rubbed her eyes until the stinging stopped. The living room was empty. Her mother
was nowhere in sight.
“Mama?” Wendy called. After a few seconds of silence she heard guttural grunts coming from the kitchen. “Mama, are
you okay?”
Wendy took slow steps toward the kitchen. She paused just outside the archway. Sammy had been moved. His head
was crooked to the side. His Teddy was on the floor with the spilled macaroni and cheese.
“Mama?” Wendy said again as she peered into the kitchen. Her mother was on her knees by the refrigerator.
“Wendy, Sammy’s dead,” she cried, looking up at her daughter, her body shook with grief.
“I know, Mama, you killed him.”
Wendy’s mother inhaled and made a low shrieking noise that made Wendy think she was suffocating.
“Whaddaya mean I killed him?”
“His elbows...they were on the table. You got mad and said if he wanted to eat with his elbows on the table then he
should eat with his whole body on the table. He died when ya slammed his head against the table.”
Wendy’s mother used the handle on the refrigerator door to pull herself to her feet from the floor. She stood
swaying before Wendy and then smacked her daughter right across the face. “You lie!” she screamed. “He died. I
found him like this.”
“He’s been dead for two days,” Wendy said, she didn’t even feel the sting of the smack.
“No! No he ain’t!”
“You thought he was pretendin’, but I told ya he wasn’t.”
“He ain’t pretendin’. Look at him, he ain’t movin’. He ain’t even breathin’.”
“I know, Mama.”
“Sammy,” she sobbed over her son’s body, desperate and scared and confused. She wrapped her arms around his
tiny neck and pulled him close to her breast like a small child clutching a rag doll. “My Sammy, my little Sammy.”
Her mother’s wailing was deafening. Wendy looked out the living room window. She was sure the entire block would
hear the commotion. She went through the house switching off the lights so as not to draw extra attention to the
house.
“My baby,” her mother continued to cry. “My poor little baby.”
“We can’t leave him like this,” Wendy said, “I’m callin’ tomorrow.”
“Who you callin’?” she asked, dropping Sammy’s corpse onto the tabletop with an empty thud.
“He’s gotta be buried. He can’t stay like this.”
“He can’t be buried! I ain’t puttin’ him in the ground. He’s ‘fraid of the dark!”
“Well I’m callin’ in the mornin’. He can’t stay like this.”
Aside from the sorrowful screeching, her mother didn’t argue. Wendy went back to her room and shut the door.
The mourning went on for nearly an hour. Wendy sat on her bed with the comforter pulled over her head. She
pressed the palms of her hands against her ears, but she could still hear her mother pleading for Sammy to come
back.
“Wake up!” she sobbed, “Please, wake up!” Wendy couldn’t take listening to the pitiful pleading. It tore at her heart.
Her body shook beyond her control. She closed her eyes and sang to drown out the gut-wrenching noise. “Please
God! Baby Jesus, bring him back!
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe...”
It was her brother’s favorite nursery rhyme.             
“Open your eyes! Come to Mama. Mama loves you!”
“She had so many children she didn’t know what to do...”
“Just wake up! You just gotta wake up and everythin’ will be all right like it used to be!”
“So she gave them some broth, without any bread...”
“I’m sorry, Sammy. Just give me another chance. I didn’t mean it. Lord, just give me one more chance. Jesus, just one
more chance!”
“And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed…”
“Just one more chance, goddamn it,” either she pounded on the table or dropped Sammy’s body hard against it,
“just one more chance!”
The pleading diminished into random gasps as her mother struggled to catch her breath. Wendy fell backward on the
bed hoping that the nightmare was nearing its end. She wavered on the brink of sleep half aware of the groaning
that came from the kitchen for what could have been two minutes or two hours, she couldn’t tell, until…slam!...the
back screen door, slapping first against the side of the house and then rattling as it settled back into its frame, made
her bolt upright.
She sat there listening until…tap, tap, tap…she was summoned again. This time the tapping came from behind her,
from against the glass of her window which looked out upon the backyard.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Wendy, come outside,” her mother’s muffled voice came through the glass.
Wendy wandered outside, barefoot and cold. Her breath spread before her in large white plumes. She found her
mother around the side of the house, hidden between bushes and a dying pine tree. Her breath came and went in
bursts quicker than Wendy’s. She had a shovel in her hand.
“Mama, what are ya doin’ out here?”
“I’m buryin’ him like ya said.”
“No, Mama, ya can’t. Not out here.”
“You’d let ‘em take Sammy away. You’d let ‘em take both of us away. What’s gonna happen to you if those sons-a-
bitches take me away? You stop to think about that?”
“Mama don’tcha see that someone’s gotta know? Don’tcha think he oughtta be buried in a cemetery?” she
whispered back.
“You ain’t makin’ that phone call, Wendy. I ain’t gonna let you ruin this family.”
“Mama!”
“You let ‘em take me away and you’ll have nobody. You’ll have nothin’ for the rest’a ya life.”
“But Mama!”
“You wanna give it all up? Is that what you want? You want your whole family to go away like Daddy?”
“Mama?”
“They’ll take you away too. They’ll take you and Sammy and I’ll never see the two of yous again. Now go and get a
shovel.”
“Mama!”
“Do as I say!”
Wendy pleaded with her eyes, but nothing would change her mother’s mind. She shuffled to the shed where she
found a shovel, bent and covered with dirt and went back to her mother behind the bushes.
“Right there,” her mother said. “Dig. I’ll tell you when it’s big enough.”
The two dug until the sky started to brighten.
“That’ll do,” Wendy’s mother decided before the sun came up. “Go inside now and find me a sheet.”
Wendy pulled the cowboy printed sheet from Sammy’s bed and brought it to the kitchen. Her brother’s complexion
started to change. She couldn’t stand to look at him, but she couldn’t take her eyes off him either.
“Good,” her mother said, “that’s his favorite one. Give it here.”
Wendy gave her the sheet, which she used to cover the little boy’s body.
“Grab ‘hold of his feet.”
Wendy started to cry.
“Hurry now, before it gets light and people start to see.”
Wendy held Sammy’s ankles carefully. He was so light, so small. Together she and her mother carried the tiny corpse
to the backyard, to the hole. He just fit. Wendy cried harder seeing him in the dirt.
“Cover him up now.”
Wendy shook her head. Her tears fell onto the sheet.
“Cover him up so we can get back inside before anyone sees.” She peered through the branches of the bushes as
though she expected someone to be looking in their direction.
“It’s the right thing to do.” She used the shovel to push the loose dirt on her son. Wendy cried harder seeing the
clods of dirt over the little cowboys. If she stood there much longer the grave would be mud.
When the dirt had been nicely packed and the sun peeked over the horizon, Wendy’s mother took the shovel from
Wendy’s hand.
“Get to bed now, and if anyone asks you tell ‘em you was there all night, understand?”
Wendy nodded, but didn’t move inside.
“Get inside, Wendy.”
“He can’t stay out here,” she cried.
“I ain’t gonna let ‘em take him away. This is for your own good. You ain’t gonna have a family if they take us away.
Now get in bed before the sun comes up.”
Wendy reluctantly retreated back into the house and fell back into bed. Thin streams of sunlight snuck between the
cracks of the closed blinds.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Wendy looked toward her door.
“You know I love you, don’tcha Wendy?”
Wendy didn’t answer.
“Wendy...I love you, Wendy.”
The doorbell woke Wendy at half past ten. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. They were sore from crying for the last
two days. Her stomach was a tight knot. She hadn’t eaten since before Sammy’s death.
Ding-dong. The doorbell sounded again.
Wendy got out of bed just as…thump, thump, thump, thump, her mother’s footsteps pounded down the hallway.
Wendy’s throat tightened and her heart rate quickened. She pressed her ear against the door and listened.
Ding-dong.
Wendy opened her door a crack. Her mother was in the hallway, standing stiff against the wall.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Someone was pounding on the door now.
“Mama, who’s at the door?” Wendy whispered.
“No one; go on back to sleep,” she hissed.
Ding-dong. Bang! Bang! Bang!
“You gotta answer the door, Mama.”
“Uh-uh. I ain’t gonna let ‘em take ya away.”
“It ain’t them. I ain’t even called yet.”
“Shut up. Close the door,” she said, her eyes full of fear. Her face covered in panic. “Get back to bed.”
Wendy closed the door and leaned her head against it with her eyes closed.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Ding-dong. Ding-dong.
Wendy opened the bedroom door again.
“I gotta answer the door, Mama.” She came into the hallway.
“No!” her mother shrieked.
She lunged at Wendy and caught her by the shoulders, bringing them both to the ground.
Wendy screamed when she fell. Her mother pressed a hand against her mouth.
Ding-dong. Bang! Bang! Bang!
Wendy struggled. She clawed against the carpet to drag herself into the living room.
“No, Wendy! Please, Wendy!” her mother begged.
“I gotta answer the door,” she said.
She screamed when her mother pulled her by the hair.
“Okay, okay, Wendy, I’ll answer the door,” her mother panted, pulling Wendy back into the hallway. “Just don’t
scream no more.”
Wendy’s mother released her hold and found her way to her feet. Her hair, greasy from not having been washed in
days, stuck out every which way.
“I’ll answer the door, but ya gotta stay here, understand?”
Wendy nodded.
“Okay. Good girl, Wendy. I’m gonna answer the door now.”
Bang! Bang! Ding-dong.
Wendy’s mother went into the living room. Wendy heard the click of the dead bolt and then the hinges as they
squeaked open.
“I ain’t comin’ to work today,” Wendy heard her mother say.
She offered no greeting or apology for taking so long answering the door.
“You didn’t show up yesterday and when you weren’t there today I thought something might be wrong.”
Wendy crept to the end of the hallway and peered into the living room. Her mother’s supervisor stood just outside
the door on the front porch.
“I ain’t feelin’ too good.”
“I tried calling, but it seems your phone’s not working.”
“It does that sometimes,” Wendy’s mother said.
“Are you sure everything’s all right? You don’t look well at all.”
“Just ain’t feelin’ too good. I gotta get back to sleep now.”
“Sorry to wake you. I just saw the car in the driveway and thought something might be wrong.”
“Everythin’s fine.”
“You’ll be back at work tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow. Yeah. That’ll be fine.”
Wendy came out of the hallway into the living room. Tears streaked her face. “Mama, where’s Sammy?” she asked.
Her mother stiffened in the doorway.
“Sammy’s playin’ out back,” she mumbled without turning to look at Wendy, her voice flat with fear.
“No he ain’t,” Wendy sobbed, “he ain’t playin’ back there.” Wendy shook her head at her mother’s supervisor and
mouthed, “He’s dead.”
Within an hour after the supervisor left, two police cars pulled into the driveway. Wendy’s mother screamed at the
sight of them. She tried running out the back door, but there were officers out there too.
“You ain’t gonna take me!” she screamed at the uniformed men. “You ain’t gonna break up this family.”
Wendy sat on the sofa crying as the officers restrained her mother. “I’ll tell ya everythin’,” she said numbly. “Sammy’
s out back, between the bushes and the pine tree.”
Authorities roamed the house. They poked and prodded and peeked at every little thing in between hurling
questions at Wendy. She answered each of them honestly.
“She killed him ‘cause he had his elbows on the table,” she said.
“You can’t eat a decent meal with your elbows on the table,” her mother shrieked as they hauled her out of the
house and into one of the waiting squad cars. Those were the last words Wendy heard her mother speak. It would
be the last time she would ever see her mother.