By Katrina Byrd
September 15th — the day Linda Carter would see freedom.
Seventy-five degrees, partly cloudy. Linda rushed down the walk, her purple robe gaping with every stride. The soles of her bunny slippers scrubbed against the pavement, the purple belt whose only purpose was to hold her robe together worked free of its loose knot and hung on either side of her round hips by the time she reached her driveway. “Damn,” she said under her breath when she noticed her newspaper was once again in the grass and not at the end of the driveway. “I’m gonna kill that little twerp.” Linda started out across the tall grass with her fists clenched.
She needed to cut the grass. That was one reason her neighbors didn’t like her. The other was because she simply didn’t belong in Cedar Hills, a ritzy subdivision for the rich and stupid. She inherited the house six months earlier when her mother died. She was grateful for the house and in some ways grateful for the death of her mother. Linda often felt a wave of guilt each time she thought of how much better her life was with the absence of her mother’s constant insults and daft ideas on how Linda should conduct her life.
“Lose weight,” her mother would always say. “No man wants a fat woman.”
Conveniently Linda’s obesity was never a problem when her mother needed help with something. Anyway, she was dead now and Linda had a wonderful life except for the neighbors, the paperboy, her job and…
Linda stopped suddenly. Under her left foot was a soft mound of…“Shit!” she said angrily. Her bunny slipper sunk rapidly into the brown aromatic ick. “I know who did this,” she growled, her fleshy pie face red and contorted in anger. Instantly a line from Dolly Parton’s song "Nine to Five" popped into her head. “…it will drive you crazy if you let it…”
“Well, I’m letting it,” Linda said angrily.
With one shoe on and one shoe off, Linda marched toward the shed at the back of her house. “I’m tired of being treated like dirt,” she mumbled as she went through the gate. It slammed behind her. Wood banging against wood. Pop! Pop! A noise loud enough to roust Simon, her black tom, who had taken to resting in the mum bed near the entrance into the back yard.
When Linda made it to the brick walk leading to the small 10x14 shed that her mother painted puce, she was barefoot. Her feet slid along the bricks until she reached her destination. Linda snatched the door open. Her eyes danced around the room until she saw what she was after. A red-handled shovel stood on the south wall between the pick axe and the sledge hammer. She snatched the shovel, tipping the sledge hammer and causing a domino affect. The sledge hammer went down knocking over the pick axe knocking over the weed eater knocking over…
By the time the can of white latex paint fell and turned the floor of the shed a bright white, Linda was on the driveway unconcerned with the mess. Today was her day of freedom. The day Linda Carter would grow a pair.
She stood over the huge pile. Her eyes fell to her poor, helpless bunny slipper, all of its pink hue now brown. Only the tiny ears poked through. With a grunt Linda jabbed the shovel underneath the pile and lifted up. It was fresh. It stank. Linda thought she’d vomit before she reached the neighbors’ front door. She didn’t. Two bumps on the wooden door. Thump! Thump! The lock clicked. The knob turned. Jackie Lewis’ slim frame stood behind the half-open door.
“Good morning,” Linda said sweetly, a smile on her lips, the red-handled shovel in her hand nearly chin level with Jackie.
“What…what…” Jackie’s voice trailed off as she realized what was at the end of the shovel. She took a step back. Linda took one forward. Jackie took another backwards, and Linda another forward.
“I’ve asked you not to allow your dog to do this in my yard.”
“I tried to… I didn’t have a pooper scooper …I…“
“No problem.” In one smooth motion, Linda flipped the blade of the shovel and with a little shake the pile slipped from the shovel and landed on Jackie’s white rug with a thud.
“My rug!” Jackie sank down to her knees with a small yip. Tears filled her dark brown eyes as they searched Linda’s harden face, seemingly asking why have you done this. No answer came forth, only the back of Linda’s purple robe and the red-handled shovel swinging merrily from her right hand.
Artwork: Purple Robe and Anemones by Henri Matisse.
Katrina Byrd is the author of One HOT Minute, a collection of flash fiction. She graduated Millsaps College with a B.A. in History. She has written several short plays that have been seen locally. Katrina served as the The Center Players’ Playwright in Residence for the 2010-2011 season. One of her short plays, Dinsmoor’s Last Stand, was written at the request of The Center Players Community Theatre. Dinsmoor’s Last Stand was performed at a ceremony hosted by the City of Ridgeland to commemorate Silas Dinsmoor, a Choctaw Indian Agent. Several of Katrina’s ten-minute plays have appeared in Fondren Theatre Workshop’s Ten-Minute Play Projects. Katrina has also received four Artist Mini-grants from the Mississippi Arts commission. Her last Artist Mini-grant helped to fund a staged reading of Death Rattle, a full-length play that was started at a writing workshop hosted by the SonEdna Foundation. Two of Katrina’s short stories were published in the 2010 issues of Black Magnolia Literary Magazine.
In addition to being a writer and playwright, Katrina is also an actress and performer. Some of her most memorable roles were Dutchess in the Center Players production of HATS! The Musical, Grandma in the Millsaps College production of Fabulation, and Mrs. Gluunfridget in the Fondren Theatre Workshop production of Legal Mumbo Jumbo written by Oppie Cooper.
To learn more about Katrina, please visit her blog.