Mercedes Lawry has published short fiction in several journals including, Gravel, Cleaver, Garbanzo, and the previously named, Newer York. She’s published poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, & Prairie Schooner and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize three times. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.
Sooner or Later
Mama run away again. Pap says she is high strung and she’ll be back when the strings loosen. Gram shakes her head and gives me a shave of chocolate. I don’t cry anymore cause I’m big now and I know things just is. I think about going out to pester Pap’s old yellow dog, Hy, under the cottonwood tree, but he don’t always like being woke up and he might nip me and it ain’t worth that. I might go down by the creek but I gotta be back to do chores for Gram before dinner and it’s easy to forget time down the creek. I start dreaming or pretending and when I’m late, Gram’s mouth is one straight line and she looks disappointed and I feel bad. If it wasn’t for her and Pap, I’d be in an orphanage and Mama would be locked up in a crazyhouse or even jail. The world doesn’t take kindly to the high strung, Pap says.
Sometimes Mama is sweet and calls me her best baby even tho I ain’t a baby but I like it when she’s nice and holds on to me. I wish she would be that way all the time, I wouldn’t mind the baby calling. Gram said I had a brother once but he died before I got here. I’m not allowed to talk to Mama about him but I know where he’s buried. I wish he wasn’t dead cause he could help with chores.
Mama gave me a secret. After I found the knife under the bed she said this is our secret. I couldn’t tell Gram or Pap. I found it when I was putting my treasure box under there – some stones and shiny buttons and a bird’s bone head with the beak and all – Pap called it a skull. Don’t they need the knife, I asked her, Gram and Pap? It’s not their knife, Mama said. It’s ours. I don’t know how she got a knife, maybe one of those times she run off.
The thing is, she took it with her. Maybe she needs it to get food in the woods. When she comes back, I’m gonna ask her did she kill a squirrel? Maybe it’s in case somebody tries to hurt her though I don’t want to think about that too much. She would stab them dead fast as lighting – that’s how I see it.
After he finds the paper with the scratch marks remarking how many days Mama’s been gone, Pap cautions me not to worry, she’ll be back like she always does. I consider telling him about the knife but I don’t. I wonder does the knife make a difference on when she’ll come back – sooner or later? If she don’t come back, I’ll tell about the knife.