Today’s post comes from Cathy MacKenzie. The prompt this time is to use the first line of a nursery rhyme or story as the first line. (Some of you may recognize Jimmy from the Grimes family!)
(Watch for her next book of short stories, out soon!)
Bad, Bad Jimmy
by Cathy MacKenzie
“Little Jack Horner sat in the corner…” The rhyme reverberated around six-year-old Jimmy.
Fascinated, the child stared at the corner. The wall bent unnecessarily, for why did the wall have to crease into two walls? He imagined how Jack Horner felt staring at a similar crimp. What was it with parents making kids face a corner? What could be more boring? But he figured that was probably the reason for the punishment—to make kids more bored than they already were. And he was bored. Too bored.
When Jimmy was bored, he got into mischief. He almost felt it was his duty to do so. What else did he have to do? His toys were boring. His room was boring. And, of course, what was he made of? Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails. No wonder he was bad. His parents continually chastising and nagging as if he were a grizzled, henpecked husband didn’t help his frame of mind.
Silently, he mouthed stories while pictures flashed before him: three profane pigs blowing down houses, three brainsick bears stealing porridge, a goosey girl dressed in red whose granny was eaten by a big bad wolf. The horror stories confused him. He was a kid, for Christ’s sake! Why did everyone read crazy tales to him? Why was his bookshelf filled with monsters and demons and why did things go bump in the night? And Christmas and Easter—what was it with green elves and obese bearded men and rabbits pretending to be santas doling out coloured eggs? He shuddered and folded his arms in an attempt to quell the tremors. His shivers grew bigger and bigger until he felt he’d explode. He imagined body parts and guts splattering around the room. His mother would kill him if he dirtied the furniture, although his father would care only about his new recliner. Jimmy snickered. None of that would matter to him, not if he burst like an overblown water balloon. He’d be dead—unless he came back to haunt the living.
Jimmy gave up thinking of situations that would never come to pass. He squirmed so he could look around. His parents were gone. Probably up in the bedroom, he thought. Doing what? He didn’t want to dwell on that. He quit breathing while he listened. Silence. Dare he get up?
Yes, he could. When he heard his parents return, he could sneak back to his punishment place. He snickered. It was so easy to fool his mother and father, especially his mother. He relished in doing so. As often as he could.
When Jimmy snuck into the kitchen, his stomach growled. “I’m hungry,” he mumbled. Mean mother doesn’t feed me. After glancing at the clock, he spied the pie on the table. The crust, evenly browned and mounded high over an abundance of fresh fruit, lured him closer.
Little Jack Horner…
Glad to be away from the corner, though standing before a forbidden pie, Jimmy snickered again. He knew full well it wasn’t full of plums. Who would make a plum pie? Not his mother, that’s for sure. Who’d eat a plum pie? Not him; not his father. Stupid, silly nursery rhyme.
He stuck out his thumb. Hmmm, he thought. Should I? No, who would do such an airheaded thing? Besides which, his mother would kill him if he helped himself to an uncut pie. But that luscious fruit that lay beneath the crust! Sweet, syrupy, succulent. He needed a taste.
Soundlessly, he opened the cutlery drawer and withdrew a sharp knife and fork. He listened. Nothing. Salivating, he moved toward the pie. His tongue swished around the inside of his mouth, searching and seeking sweetness. Saliva drooled from his lips. Just one bite. But how did one take a bite of pie without leaving damning evidence?
Jimmy pulled out a chair and kneeled on it. He inserted the knife between the glass pie pan and the bottom crust, slightly lifting the crimped edge. Carefully, he dug the fork into the back of the crust. Jimmy ignored his drool dropping on the pie, concentrating instead on not breaking the top crust.
Almost there, he thought, as the fork entered the fruity goodness. What kind? What kind? His stomach emitted a huge growl. Apple? Blueberry? At that moment, the crimped edging broke apart and the top crust cracked as if someone walked across a semi-frozen pond. Purple juice seeped through the furrow.
Jimmy’s stomach sank, his hunger pangs forgotten. The room swirled.
“Jimmy!” A voice bellowed.
Startled, the boy turned around to see his mother looming from the doorway. He stared at her for a second before turning back to the pie. The damage was already done. He’d be punished no matter what happened next. He jabbed the fork into the middle of the pie and pulled out a hunk of delectable goodness. Half of it dropped on top of the crust, the other half managed to complete the journey to his mouth.
“Get back to the corner,” his mother shrieked. “Bad, bad boy!”
Jimmy dropped the fork and screamed, “But I want pie.”
Facing the corner again, Jimmy sucked the traces of blueberry syrup from his fingers. Words reverberated around him: “What a good boy am I!”
The Spot Writers—our members.
Catherine A. MacKenzie
(website in progress)