They Shall Take Up Serpents: Chapter 3

This work is being posted in an incomplete form for instructional purposes. I believe it is useful and illustrative for new writers to see how messy a first draft is, so I am posting this piece of writing without even a second reading. 

If you would like to peek in on me while I’m writing, you can find the live Google Doc at this link and leave comments on the story. 

Connor’s cells seemed to vibrate during the walk home. He was filled with a foreign energy. The moon hung high overhead and the moisture in the air was becoming heavy and dew started to settle on the grass. Connor’s problems left him for a few moments, and he rewound the night in his mind over and over, dissecting every little interaction, emblazoning the images in his mind lest he forget them. He desperately fought to hold on to his uplifted spirit, onto the high of affirmation. He didn’t even fret over his fight with his grandfather, or what Gregory revealed about Eloise. He didn’t let his troubles in, at least not until he crossed the yard and opened the front door of his grandfather’s house.

Jorge was asleep in his chair, snoring quietly. Connor grabbed a throw blanket from the back of the living room couch and covered his grandfather, who grasped at the blanket hungrily and pulled it about him. Connor sat and watched the old man as he slept. Jorge was a mean, stubborn, and unsympathetic asshole, but Connor knew that Jorge would soon be his only family. Connor thought back over his life with the old man and remembered a time before adult responsibilities and anxieties about the future tainted their relationship.

When Connor was a young child, he stuck to the old man like a duckling sticks to its mother. Jorge doted on young Connor, hanging on his every word, buying him whatever he wanted, and dropping everything at a moment’s notice to play silly games in the yard. Connor’s favorite thing in the world was when his grandfather took him on four-wheeler rides through the woods. The old man cranked the throttle wide open, and the young child squealed in delight at the wind whipping by his face and booming like thunder in his ears. Eloise fretted over the possibility of an accident. She would shriek at Jorge to “slow down” and “be careful,” but the old man seemed to delight in his wife’s panic as much as the child’s excitement.

The was in the time before Sean McDermott was killed in a grizzly accident at his the Rayloc car parts plant in the center of town. Sean’s accident was the talk and pity of the town when it happened. The official accident report placed the blame on a man that Connor had never met. His name was Alan Vanderbeak, and he flipped the breaker that electrocuted Sean McDermott and ruined Connor’s life. Connor answered the door when the police showed up with a lawyer from the company to deliver the bad news. The officer asked Connor is his mother was home. She was. He got her, and when she saw the men, she fell to the floor sobbing. One of the police officers crouched to put his arms around Kathleen McDermot. He whispered comforting words in her ear until she was calm enough to sign the company man’s paperwork. The officer left a card behind and told Kathleen that his name was Jeromy Kerns, and she could call him if she needed anything.

Kathleen fought to maintain normalcy in those first weeks after her husband’s death. Connor took on as much household responsibility as his young soul could handle. He decided to take of his mother, to become the new man of the house. He was extra careful to clean up after himself, and he made his own breakfast so his mother could sleep late into the afternoon. But before long, the household started to fall apart. Connor began to notice that everything nice they once had began to disappear. The fridge was empty. The electric was shut off and there was no water coming from the faucets. They showered at Jorge and Eloise’s and ate dinner there most nights. But Kathleen still slept late into the afternoon.

Then Connor remembered the little paper card and the kind policemen, and he wasn’t sure why, but he called the number for officer Jeromy Kerns, who picked up on the second ring. “Hello, this is Officer Jeromy Kerns.”

Connor wasn’t sure what to say, “Hello.”

“Who is this?”

“This is Connor McDermot. You were at my house a few weeks ago when my dad died.”

“Oh yeah. You’re the little guy, right?”

“I’m twelve.” Connor scoffed.

“Right. Well, what do you need Connor?”

“Can you help me? You said you’d help if we needed it, and there’s no food here, and no power, and no water. I’m hungry.”

“Where’s your mother? Kathleen right?”

“Yeah. She’s sleeping. She sleeps a lot.”

Kerns sighed deeply into the phone, “alright. I’ll be over soon.”

And he was. He knocked on the door and Kathleen screamed about “someone knocking on my goddamn door in the middle of the day,” but her tone changed when she saw the deputy standing handsomely in his uniform, carrying a bag full of sandwiches from the local deli. Kathleen began to cry, and the kind officer comforted her and spoke softly to her while Connor sat in the other room and ate two of the sandwiches. Connor read his latest library book and eavesdropped on their conversation until he went to sleep late in the evening. Jermony Kerns left the next morning, and his mom seemed much happier.

If Connor hadn’t of picked up that little paper card and called that phone number, he may still have his mom. He wasn’t naive enough to think that his mother would’ve magically gotten her shit together and stepped into the role of single motherhood, but he may at least know where she was or if she was alive.

Connor’s final memory of his mother was when she left him on the front step of Jorge and Eloise’s house. His grandparents weren’t even home at the time. Kathleen told Connor to “stay put and don’t wander off,” and then she climbed in Jeromy Kerns old, sputtering car, and she was gone from his life forever. It seemed like so long ago, but the wound still bled.

Connor sat on the old porch swing with the peeling paint and kicked at where his tears left wet spots on the decking boards until Jorge and Eloise finally pulled into the driveway.

“Connor?” The old woman shuffled quickly on to the porch and lifted his chin with her hand. She put her arms around him and Connor inhaled the comforting smell of his grandmother’s perfume. “Wha- what are you doing here sweety? Where’s your mommy?” Connor sniffled, but couldn’t speak. “Jorge! The old lady snapped over her shoulder. She was much stronger then. What’re you doing carrying those groceries in? Can’t you see there’s something wrong?”

“Pretty easy to see what’s wrong.” Jorge grunted and hefted all but two of the grocery bags and climbed slowly with them up the wooden porch steps. “Connor, be a good boy and grab those last two bags for your grandma. Eloise, let’s make the boy something to eat. Son, I want you to grab those bags and put them in the kitchen, make you something to snack on and then sit and watch TV. You can sit in grandpa’s chair.” The old man spoke to his wife, “boy needs something to do and something to eat,” and then he walked past her into the house.

Connor did as he was told. Jorge left him two big bags full of heavy cans and jars. Connor had to make two trips to get both bags into the house. He grabbed a bag of chips from where Jorge kept his hidden junk food stash in the bottom cabinet behind the baking supplies, and he thoroughly enjoyed the mind-numbing colors and sound effects of the television.

But Connor could still hear his grandma and pap’s hushed conversations coming through the thin dividing wall of the kitchen.

“We can’t keep him Jorge. A boy needs his mother.”

“Damnit Eloise,” Jorge pounded his fist on the counter and then remembered that he was supposed to be whispering, “his mother’s gone. She left him here. It ain’t like we didn’t see something like this coming. Where’s the boy better off? Sure as hell not being raised by two lunatics like Kathleen and Jeromy Kerns.”

“I know you’re right, but…poor Connor. His mother and his father. We’re almost too old to raise him. We will be dead before he’s grown.”

Jorge did some math on his hands, “I ain’t plannin’ on dying that soon.”

“No one does,” the old woman answered simply.

To Connor’s knowledge the pair never discussed further whether or not Connor would live with them. The decision came easy to them both, and they never seemingly gave further thought to raising their grandson. It was just something that they did and had to do. Jorge and Eloise did try off and on for several years to find Kathleen, not because they didn’t want to or could not afford to raise their grandson, but because Eloise though it was important for a boy to at least know his mother in light of the fact that Sean McDermott was dead.

Connor wondered how he could’ve been so ungrateful to the stubborn old man. The still-lingering high from his evening at the church allowed Connor to see that Jorge had only wanted what he thought was best for Connor. Jorge and Eloise still saw Connor as the little boy crying on his doorstep with nowhere to go and no one to love him. They didn’t realize that he had grown, and that now he needed the freedom to make his own decisions and mistakes. But Connor was also at fault. He hadn’t done what William Gregory demanded and taken responsibility for himself. Connor was a writer who didn’t write. He recognized in his moment of clarity that Connor hadn’t taken responsibility for his future, and that in reality, he didn’t have any plan for it. Tomorrow, Connor resolved to take those small steps that the minister suggested. He would take responsibility for himself. He would no longer, how had the minister put it, be estranged from those that love him.

But it was late, and Connor’s shift at the store would come early.

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