by Mel Bosworth

Veronica pressed a wooden ruler to the porcelain, the enamel of the tub yellowed like old bone. She turned her head and mumbled something about �displacement� while Jared hobbled into the warm saltwater, his legs twisted and thin. The water level rose a half inch.

Veronica commented about Jared being too small for his age, and Mom interrupted with a story about the time she had chicken pox when she was a little girl. She sat on the toilet and cupped water onto the boy�s crooked back. She asked if it felt good.

Veronica sat cross-legged on the carpet. She looked up from the science book on her lap and trapped her bottom lip in the dark bite of a missing tooth. Jared had a shag of hair that climbed from the bald spot on the back of his head over the pointed crown. The damp shag bobbed in his eyes as he nodded and said something that only the three of them could understand.

Veronica asked if she was going to get chicken pox too, and Mom answered that she must be immune, otherwise she�d have gotten them already. Veronica flipped to the back of the science book while mouthing the word �immune.�

Jared spasmed in the tub. A frightful churning. Water tore off in sopping sheets that landed on Veronica�s book. She sucked a whistling breath to yell, but her mother�s body had become a mouth. It filled the room with a sound that only the three of them could hear.

Veronica wore a black dress on a gray Sunday in March. A black dress in a wall of black, an audience with blood roses. Mother stood, then fell back, supported by a collective palm that urged her toward the stage. With awkward steps, heels piercing the living earth before touching on the frost, Mother bent beside the hole and tipped the soil from her hand. Her silent sobs and shivers told tales that turned the audience to dust. But one man with hard hands kept on at Veronica�s side. Whispered words and heavy fingers that pinched her collarbone, �The boy was too small for his age.�

Veronica immersed. The warm water sealed her neck in a perfect yoke. Her dainty fingers drifted up and broke the surface like a slip from a dream. She stood somnambulant and the dress of water poured over narrow hips. She screamed.

Mother jabbed the butter knife into the lock, spreading the tumblers. Her body loud, she rushed in and snatched the girl from the tub. Nervous arms choked Mother�s shoulders and a worried chin stabbed her neck. Just beyond the spray of bathwater and tears, Veronica�s hand still clutched the wooden ruler, her thumbnail biting hard on the marking of a half inch. Mother stretched the mouth of her body and swallowed the child whole.

BIO: Mel Bosworth lives and breathes in Western Massachusetts. He believes everything deserves a name. And love. For contact information and more, please visit his website, eddiesocko.blogspot.com.