The Pull

Posted: January 23, 2015 in Short Stories
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The Pull

By Joshua Malone

Originally Published in SAGA Magazine 2013 Spring Volume

            The three of them congregated in the tiny main room of the home, if you could even call it that. The house was more like a small cottage, or even a shack. It had obviously once been a nice place to live, most of the other houses on the street. Nice wood floors and actually a pretty intricate fire place mantle. But now it was falling apart. A think sheet of metal covered a gaping hole in the roof, and most of the top portion of the chimney had since crumbled away. There were only three rooms- the bathroom, the bedroom, and the main room. The latter served as kitchen, dining room, and lounging room all in one. The once nice wood flooring was beginning to rot away in certain spots, giving way every now and again. But such was the fate of every house in this portion of Queens. People living here couldn’t afford the upkeep needed, nor could they afford to move anywhere else. So they just stayed, and continued hating their lives.

Connor, the oldest at thirteen years old, stood facing his brother Jeffery who was sitting in a chair. Jeffery was ten years old.  Their sister Clementine was the youngest at eight, and she stood by Connor’s side. In the chair Jeffery sat, fidgeting and clutching his jaw with tears rolling down his face. For the last week he had complained of a toothache. Their mother had examined him, and found a small hole in one of his back teeth. She promised that she’d bring home enough money by the end of the week to pay for a trip to the dentist… like she often promised bringing home enough money for things. But she wasn’t here right now, in the middle of the day. She was at work, or at least trying to find work. The three of them were left at home, and while typically they may be out enjoying the nice Saturday off of school they had this current problem at hand.

When he had gotten up, Jeffery had went into the main room and sitting on the table was four pieces of tack bread for breakfast that mom had made for them, as was often the case. One for each of them, and one for mom later on in case she couldn’t get any other food to bring home. Instead of waiting for his siblings to get up with him, Jeff went to work on his piece right away. As he ate it though, and chewed the hard dough, he suddenly felt a crack in his mouth followed by a searing pain.

That was what Connor had woken up to.  Jeffery crying in pain. His tooth, the one with the hole in it, had cracked almost straight through.  And for the first hour they had no clue what to do. Clementine suggested a trip to the dentist, and Connor explained that they didn’t have the money. Clem thought that maybe the dentist would be in a helping mood today, and said that they should try anyway. Connor had smiled at her, but just ended up shaking his head. Nobody was ever in a giving mood. Not anymore. Connor debated going out and looking for mom, but he decided against that. They needed the money. Which left it all on him.

Connor stood before his brother with a stone face. Jeffery was sobbing, and hunched over. On the ground was a giant wet spot where Jeffery had spat a thimble of gin out. Connor had gotten it from mom’s “hidden” bottle that she only took out not more than once a week. He figured maybe it would help, but once it had hit the tooth Jeff just howled and let the liquid pour out of his mouth, making a mess.

“Clem,” Connor began in a hushed tone as he lowered himself down to one knee and looking at her. “You love Jeffery right?” She just nodded her head. “Well, when I say so I want you to show him how much you love him by giving in a big hug and not letting go until I say so. Okay?” She nodded her head again. “Make sure you wrap around his arms, okay?” She had a confused look, but nodded a third time. Conner got back up and faced his brother again. As he did he reached into his back pocket. Jeffery looked up and saw his older brother grasping for something behind his back. “Clem, give him the hug” Connor said calmly.

Clementine trotted forward and wrapped her arms around her brother and squeezed him. Jeffery, caught off guard looked down at his sister. Then he heard two loud footsteps, and as he looked up Connor was already behind him, putting his hand on Jeffery’s forehead and tilting it backwards.

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