Sarah was driving to the shopping mall in Casper Wyoming to get the birthday present for their daughter Janice, and on the eternally long drive into the downtown area she had started reminiscing about how her life had became so prosaic, complacent, and as of late, full of volatile marital arguments. Her childhood was plagued with the insanities and mishaps of their family, which had slowly fallen apart to become the constant talk of the neighbors in the mountainous area of West Virginia.
When she was about the age of seven, her oldest brother had been sent to prison after shooting a game warden by mistake while Deer hunting. The problem was that at the time he was stoned and drunk, and at a distance of fifty yards he shot the game warden that was at that time of year when Deer hunters flocked into the woods, wearing a neon colored green and yellow striped jacket and hat. The court had shown no leniency and her brother had gotten a twenty year sentence for manslaughter. It was catastrophic for their mother and also the first event which had slowly led to her demise.
At around the age of twelve, her next older brother was diagnosed with multiple personalities, and a few of them were sadistically cruel and dangerous. After switching personas during an appointment one day at the Psychotherapist, he attempted to rape the well meaning doctor. When that didn’t work, his cruel persona decided to strangle her and then splayed her naked body on her office desk for the next poor person to find when they entered her office for their appointment. Her brother was thereafter committed to an institution for an unlimited sentence and their family was once again in the spotlight of the surrounding communities. Her father had taken to drinking and naturally started to frequent either of the two bars in the area, only to get involved in bar room brawls whenever someone started to face him with the facts of his two incarcerated sons. That is when he started to spend many a night in the county jails drunk tank, so he could repeat the process a few days later on. He had never laid a hand on her mother as far as she had known, but now her mothers psyche had three deep scars which wouldn’t ever heal, and then one day when Sarah was already sixteen, her mother decided to climb into the bathtub so as not to make a mess all over the floor as she slit her wrist over and over with a razor blade from her husbands shaver. Sarah remembers clearly to this day how the county coroner had laughed and commented that women always do it somewhere so there is the least amount of mess for others to clean up afterwards.
After that day it was only the two of them in the big house and her father had now only one purpose in life, which was to stay continually drunk, 24/7. And for her it was either being at home, constantly doing the housework or taking hour long walks in the mountains to escape the virtual prison which her home had then become. When she had heard that the little restaurant up on the hiking trail needed a waitress to help out in the high seasons of spring till the end of October, she took a chance, applied for the job and to her surprise was hired. When she had told her father the good news that evening he was furious. They argued back and forth, and he had founded all of his arguments on his theory that the boss would soon be bedding her and also the fact that she would be making less than the minimum wage required by law. It was the first and only time she had fought with her father and she had only won the argument with him when she made the ultimatum that either she was allowed to work there or she would leave home and never set a foot in the house again. Later on in the evening, as her father had downed the last swig of his bottle of Capt. Black whiskey, he finally gave up the fight and told her to ‘go to hell if she so wants to’. She had fought and won the battle, and didn’t have to give up the secret that her new boss was also a homosexual who wouldn’t look twice at a naked woman even if he was forced to! And she didn’t care much about the meager pay because he was giving her a chance to work, even though her family had become the pariahs of the mountains. Her new boss’s advice to her was to use only her first name on the waitress shirt and never to give up her last name to anyone who didn’t already know it. He wasn’t born and raised here in the mountains but he sure had learned the cultural obstacles pretty quick! In his case it was either that or become the receiving end of some country hicks tire iron, and that was exactly why he understood Sarah’s situation so well. She wasn’t the one who brought shame on the family and therefore deserved a chance at life.
The months had gone by and because the locals didn’t frequent the restaurant, she was just another beautiful courteous young lady in a restaurant. And she had already built up a good reputation amongst the tourist who repeatedly stopped by for something to eat before they hit the wandering trails which wound throughout the Appalachian mountainsides. Then one day she heard a man talking outside while she was in the kitchen preparing the orders to be brought out to the tourist, and something in the mellifluous sounding voice sounded to her like angels were singing inside of her. When she brought the plates out to the terrace, she seen him, and at that moment she realized why she was on the face of this earth in the first place. To her he looked like a god in the disguise of a man and when he turned to her and smiled, it was as if she was absorbed by his beauty. She also had a strange feeling in her stomach like she never had before, and it felt like heaven. When they had finished and had gone off to wander along the trails, she had at first felt depressed that he had not asked for her phone number or something, anything so she would at least know that he was also interested in her. Then after a few weeks had gone by and she had almost forgotten about him, (although during the nights in bed she did have her fantasies), the telephone on the wall of the restaurant had rang, and when she had answered with the expectations of taking a reservation for the lunch hour, his voice came through the phone and immediately asked how she was doing. It was like the voice was a hand which now strangled her, for she was so enthralled to hear him that she couldn’t get a single word out of her mouth. It was only when she heard him apologize and that maybe he shouldn’t have called her that she quickly found her speech again and had said; “Just hearing your voice again makes me feel like I’m in heaven!”
His name was Steven and he had asked her if she could get the next Saturday off from work so they could wander the trails together, and without even asking her boss, she immediately said yes. It was a day that she would never forget as she walked with him throughout the trails. He was such a good listener and as the hours passed by, she had opened up to him and as it all poured out of her like a damned up flood, he learned all of the nasty secrets of her family, which didn’t seem to bother him at all, for at least she had some sort of family. He had no family anymore after a tragic car accident many years ago had left him unscathed, while decimating the rest of his family. By the time they came back to the restaurant dusk had come and passed, and they were walking hand in hand as if it was a normal thing. Steven had then asked her to come and visit him down in Morgantown where he had an apartment while he was finishing his last semester studying Electrical Engineering at the West Virginia University. She was then wondering how he could afford that, and seeing the question in her eyes, had said; “Life insurance!” Then he hopped into his Ford truck and left.
It was a long lonely week for her. Every night when she went home she seen that the only thing that was left of their home was a drunkard for a father, and the seed of an idea grew inside her head. On the following Saturday morning a decision was made, and she boarded a Greyhound bus instead of going to work, with the knowledge that she would never look back, regardless of what the future had in store for her in her life. For a mountain girl she had found his apartment pretty easily in the city jungle! So when he had answered the door dressed in only his underwear, she jumped into his arms and kicked the door shut at the same time. It became the door to her new home.
She had acquired a few odd jobs here and there making minimum wage, (which was still lots more than she was used to making without tips), until his semester was finished with his degree in the hand, and then they married before taking off for Wyoming, where his father had left him with a house on Archery Road close to Casper mountain. They had talked it over but she had said that wherever he went would be her home. That and the fact that she said it would be a better place for their new baby to grow up in!
That was now over four years ago and in the meantime he had gotten employment at the Casper electric company, albeit for much less pay than even an engineer fresh out of college would deserve. But the economy was in the beginnings of a slump and the relation of qualified engineers to placements was astronomical. She had started to argue with him about ‘that’s the reason you studied, to make more money than a menial laborer!’ He had thought her bad attitude was due to the hormonal problems during the pregnancy and trying to consol her, had said; “A job is still better than no job!” Their baby was born and at first they were overjoyed with their daughter Janice, ignoring the signs of their marriage going flat. After Janice seemed to be somewhat different than other small babies, they made a visit at the children’s hospital and learned that she was slightly mentally impaired and had autism. The arguments between them and as to whose fault it was that Janice was (as Steven often said, „Stupid”), started. Soon it was an almost daily morning routine and he always pointed out the fact that her side of the family was the crazy ones, not his! Janice finally learned to walk at the age of two and speech was like a race horse still waiting in the starting gates. Sarah excused it due to the fact that Janice was still considered an infant, whereby Steven stated that infant comes from the Latin word ‘Infans’ which meant incapable of speech. That little snide comment resulted in another battle of the sexes. Janice had a little puppet doll made out of scrap cloth that Sarah had tediously sewn for her and it had become her constant comforter. If she didn’t have it in her hands at all times, (even when in the bathtub), then all hell would break loose. Nobody had mentioned to them at the children’s hospital what it would mean to have an autistic child, and what it would mean for them as it continued to wear and tear at their marriage. He was always at work doing overtime which was good for the household budget, but she started to constantly complain that she was always alone with Janice and (his!) dog Spook. Sarah had an aversion towards the dog but the mutt was exactly like the puppet comforter, it always had to be around Janice. Otherwise she would literally go Nuclear until Spook was again by her side. Regardless how many arguments they had about the dog, Janice, and her life as a recluse encroaching upon her, Steven still had no idea what it is like when the dog goes out to shit and Janice wasn’t sleeping at the moment! She had only one person that she could think of as a friend because she was living so far out in nowhere land, and that she had more friends while living in the mountains than she would ever find here.
And at the breakfast table this morning she had thrown it at him that she was better off before she met him, whereby he totally ignored her trying to start another fight. He told her to drive to downtown Casper and get the plastic ball as a birthday present for Janice and then had stormed out the door. She was furious as she jumped up from the chair and ran out onto the front porch to stand next to the lover’s swing which was swaying gently in the morning breeze. She had screamed at him to never ever come back, but before he drove off, he had rolled the window down from his Ford F-150 and in a voice as cold as ice, told her she should take the idiot kid and drive back to her crazy family in the hills. Then he cranked the country music up as loud as he could, rolled the window up so the Air conditioner could do its job in the oppressive morning heat, and spun out of the driveway in a cloud of gravel and dust.
So now she was pulling into the humongous parking lot of the shopping mall in Casper and the heat wave which had started last week was at its apex, pushing the thermometer up to the 104° mark. She hated the heat, the loneliness and her husbands’ miserly way of only saving up their money and not doing anything for enjoyment. She also realized that he hasn’t even touched her in well over two months, not even for sex!
It was already pretty crowded although it was only eleven in the morning, but she found a spot and parked the van, only to look around the seat to Janice and discover that she was deep asleep. Wonderful, simply fantastic! She thought. To wake Janice up and take her out of her beloved car seat would trigger another nuclear attack, and although mentally disabled and autistic, Janice was much larger and stronger for her age than she should be, and she was very capable of busting a lip or slapping hard enough for Sarah to get another black and blue eye! That was another small but very important fact nobody mentioned at the children’s hospital that disabled children often don’t control their muscles. Ergo, when Janice slapped you, it was full force with all the adrenaline her small body could muster up! That and the fact she would also have to attach the leash on Spook while fighting off the attack from Janice, for the dog would have to go with Janice or they would probably be thrown out of the shopping mall for public misbehavior!
My life just sucks, she thought. So she decided to leave them in the car because it would only take a couple of minutes at the most before she would be back, and with the doors locked and Spook in the back, although he was locked in his cage and could only bark, nobody would dare try to steal her daughter. So into the mall she went, and it really did only take a few minutes to get the ball she wanted for Janice. On her way out she saw her one and only friend Katrina, who was getting a small portion of ice cream at the Baskin-Robbins Café. Katrina seen her and called her over, and after small talk, Katrina bought Sarah an ice. Katrina started to wander slowly through the shopping mall and for some reason unknown, Sarah strolled along. The two ate their ice and talked, and it was as if Sarah suddenly had virtual horse blinders on. She was welling in the world of Katrina, who had more than enough money to do splurge shopping, go to the sauna, a fantastic marriage although she had no children yet, and all the other things Sarah was wanting for in her life.
They had already finished their ice and were just rambling slowly through the mall, looking in the store windows and chatting, when Katrina had asked how Janice was getting along. That was when Sarah suddenly came out of the enthralling entrancement of talking to Katrina and cried out; “Oh my god! How long have we been talking because Janice is sitting in the car in the parking lot?” As Sarah started to run towards the exit, Katrina called out for her ‘not to worry because it was only about thirty minutes!’ With that Katrina slowly walked along, not realizing the life threatening situation because she automatically assumed that Steven was waiting in the car with the Air Conditioning on. Had she known different, she would have yelled at her friend that she was going opposite to the direction she was heading when they had met at the Café!
Sarah bolted through the doors of the shopping mall and started running back and forth on the pavement, looking for the black Voyager because she couldn’t remember where she had parked it. Then she seen the automotive shop across from the parking lot and realized that she was on the opposite side of the mall! In her panic, and the shock of coming out of the super cooled shopping mall and running into a veritable wall of heat, she couldn’t think straight and instead of running back through the mall to the opposite side, she started to run around the building.
When she finally came around the last corner of the mall to the parking spaces where her black Voyager was parked, she was on the verge of collapsing from the heat and physical exertion. Then as she ran towards the Voyager, she became manic, for she seen that someone had broken the driver’s side window open and the door by Janice was hanging wide open. From the distance she saw that the baby seat was empty. (Later on she remembers clearly seeing the fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror.) She started to scream and ran even faster, and it was when the police officer walked around the Voyager to see what the screaming was about, that Sarah seen the ambulance through the windows of her car. Now she ran the last few yards in insane blindness and was screaming for Janice, till she made it to the open door where a Police officer then grabbed her by the arms and held her from going around to the other side.
Officer Bernie had already ran the plate number through registration and had all the information he needed, but he wasn’t prepared for what came next from a small woman which had grown up with two older brothers to fight with, as the sudden blast of pain shot up from his genitals into his chest, which of course made him immediately release his grip on the woman. As he went to his knees he had the idea of putting a bullet smack in the middle of the back of her head because he also had a daughter about the same age, and after seeing the poor child, he was already in a state of emotional turmoil. When he managed to get to his wobbly feet, he tried to hurry around to where the emergency medics were already fighting with the mother. They had tried their best to resuscitate her, but she was too long gone, and now they wanted to cover the child’s face before transporting her to the city morgue. When Sarah suddenly swung out and almost cold-cocked one of the Medics for not saving her daughters life, Officer Bernie lost control and blew a circuit. Grabbing Sarah by the back of the neck with one hand and twisting her arm with the other, he body slammed her face down onto the tarmac. With his knee placed in the middle of her back he still had to fight with her to get the handcuffs on, but as soon as they sat tight, he snatched her up off of the parking lot and almost broke her arm in the process. The two Medics were watching the Police officer in shock and had stopped what they were doing, until the bigger one of the two quietly commented that he hopes he kills her. She was still wailing like a banshee as they approached the police cruiser and it took all the control Officer Bernie could muster to do the proper thing and place his hand between her head and the roof of the cruiser as she was shoved into the back seat.
Suddenly he pulled his Glock out of its holster, pointed it straight at her face and screamed at her that if she didn’t shut the hell up he was going to kill her on the way to the station. She was immediately still and Bernie slammed the door hard enough to test the shock absorbers on the police cruiser. “Bitch!” Officer Bernie screamed loudly as he hopped into the driver’s seat and fired up the Chrysler Intruder.
As the cruiser pulled out of the shopping mall with its tires screaming and smoking like hell, the smaller of the Medics said that if something did happen to the mother on the way that he wouldn’t testify as to what he had just heard. The bigger one looked sadly down at the tiny body under the white sheet and said; “Me either man! But just between us, I seriously hope he does it!”
Officer Bernie radioed dispatch, said he was bringing in the mother of the child, then ordered the Voyager to be towed to the impound lot pending investigation and after throwing his mike up onto the dashboard, and it falling back onto the floorboard by the passengers seat, the two rode in silence to the headquarters.
The trial was quick and after only four days the jury, after hearing the cold facts and caught between hatred for the woman and tears of sorrow for the little girl, placed their verdict the only way they could, guilty of manslaughter. The District Attorney even had Katrina in the stand as a witness, saying she had no idea that the child was alone in the car while talking to Sarah. The residing judge stated that Sarah would be able to spend the next twenty years contemplating what she had done, and if he had had the power to do it, he would have reinstated the death penalty, especially for her. With the fall of his gavel they both walked out of the courtroom. He went leisurely to his wardrobe and she walked to the waiting van which took her to her new home, the women’s correctional facility.
And Steven? When he heard from the police who visited his house what had happened, he said that he naturally would take care of the funeral arrangements for his daughter. The officer had started to tell him the visiting hours of the county jail, but Steven had interrupted him, stating that it was something that he didn’t need to know!
The dispatcher of the police impounding lot handed the clipboard to his fellow worker and friend Jack, and said that the van was cleared from the District Attorney for Auctioning. Jack looked at the paperwork and said that it was at the back of the lot, but it had only been there for a little over three weeks. “Of course it was only a short time here!” his boss said. “Nobody even came to inspect the van because it was a cut and closed case of child murder! Hell, what was the stupid bitch thinking when she left the kid locked up in the car in weather like that?” Jack answered; “Yeah, it was a pretty horrible thing to do to that little girl!” “Anyways, with only a broken window the van at least has a good resale value!” Jack turned to go out and then asked; “But why did the husband sign off on it and simply give it to the state for auction?” The dispatcher shook his head and said; “According to the city hall information, he never came to see her, not once! They had to mail the release form to him and he mailed it back, signed, sealed, and delivered!” Then Jack shook his head and walked out onto the impounding lot, and started cursing the heat. They had had only a week of moderate weather in the 70’s where everybody could finally cool down a little and start to enjoy the summer, instead of hiding inside all day with the Air Conditioner on full blast. And then the next nearly unbearable heat wave had rolled around. Walking to the back of the lot, he didn’t even make it all the way to the van before he smelled it. He started looking around at what it could possibly be because he definitely smelled something dead and rotten, and not thinking about the van, he opened the back hatch.
Janice had at the very least been lucky in one sense, and that was in the fact that she had died while she was deep asleep, but their poor dog Spook on the other hand had woken up! And as he fought for life, the hot air burning in his lungs during his last death throes before finally succumbing to the baking heat inside of his cage, he had also emptied his bowels, smearing and throwing it all over the inside of his car cage. And his cage had become his coffin as he was still in the car when Jack, still looking around and attempting to figure out what had died and could possibly be stinking so damn bad, opened up the back hatch of the Voyager. Instantly, a veritable ocean of maggots had flowed out of the van, encompassing his feet and the tarmac around them. The dispatcher heard Jack’s loud cry outside and when he looked out the window of the ice cool office, the sight he seen made him quickly turn as he hurriedly grabbed the trashcan and brought it to his face while he started to gag.
Thank you for reading my story. If you enjoyed it, (or didn’t and would like to make me see my mistakes so that I can improve my writing), won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer, post a link on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Redit or Pin it, or any of the many other social media sites. Thank you! David Jensen – Author