Excited Delirium Book: Chapter 25 (MOMYS IV)
Author’s Note: The following is Chapter 25 of the my online book “Excited Delirium”. Please post comments. Please tell your friends about this story. If you’ve missed a chapter, please click here for Chapter 1 (Prelude) or here for the full index.
The Econoline van that the Harken family owns should have been taken off the road years ago. However, this family had made exceptional use of it over the last decade and there were no plans to put it to rest any time soon.
It was a light beige colour, and the rust and holes make it look like a kodachrome negative of a block of old Swiss cheese. The nose of the van was short and the headlight cover on the driver’s side was cracked. Over the last year, enough water had seeped into the small cavity, ending the light’s life prematurely. Of course, it wasn’t an issue because Heather Harken never drove at night. Her constant chores kept her in.
The smell of carbon dioxide wasn’t too bad today, but Heather had left the window open to circulate the air as she drove the fifteen kilometre stretch from their homestead to the centre of town, which was where the main shopping was done.
Because of the regular rush of cold air, all she heard was the wind whistling and the sound of chattering teeth around her. She too was numb, but she’d been numb for years. In a different way.
As she drove, Heather glanced into the rear view mirror.
Heather had 7 of her 10 kids with her. Two of them, Jeremy and Joseph, were in home-school with a friend of the family. Their eldest boy, Matthew Jr., just turned 16, and was an American soldier and fighting evil in the deserts of Iraq. He was able to purchase a fake ID from a local recruiter who was desperate to meet his monthly quota for number of new registrants.
The rest of them stay with her because Matthew Sr. refuses to let them go to school until they’re at least twelve years old. Despite the controlling aspect of home-school, he was still reluctant to let any of them learn more than they had to, out of a fear that they would also learn how to leave the farm.
Two of the children sit up front, cuddled together to keep each other warm. They are two of her daughters, Grace and Faith. Grace is almost twelve and was Heather’s eldest child, second to Matthew Jr. Faith was her youngest, at nine months and lay cradled in Grace’s arms. Grace was far too young to have to act like a mother, but Heather had few options.
Another, Peter, her second youngest, lay in a make-shift cradle on the floor board between the passenger and driver’s seats. He was too young to be out of her watch and she wished she could buy a proper child seat for him, but there was a lot of things she wished for these days.
Peter and Faith still reminded her of the pain of childbirth. With Peter, she had to do her second Caesarean, mainly because her birth canal and uterus were so heavily damaged from the previous eight children. Despite her doctor suggesting that the family quit producing children, Matthew insisted that they continue to add to God’s Army. At the time, there was no argument from anyone.
However, when Faith was born, the doctor forced a uterectomy on her while she lay unconscious, mainly because having any more children would kill her, but also because of excessive internal bleeding and scarring from having had too many children.
Even though his efforts saved her from dying while reproducing, his snap decision forever changed Heather’s sense of womanhood. It also earned him the cold reproach of many of the town’s inhabitants for interfering with family affairs.
The other five children sat on two old couches facing each other in the back of the raw, paneled van. These were the kind of couches that you might find in a university fraternity house. One wooden arm broken and exposed, like the limb of a young child that’s just fallen out of tree, arm shattered and the skeleton beneath poking absurdly through the victim’s skin. They reeked like a frat house too, stale with human waste, over-use and miscellaneous food droppings.
The five children in back huddled together to keep warm, knowing that if their mother rolled up the window, they’d risk being suffocated by the lack of clean air. Their raw knuckles and red cheeks poked through various hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs or scarves and sweaters donated by the local Salvation Army. Even they didn’t have the heart to charge the Harken family for clothing.
Heather yelled out “what flavour of Ben & Jerry’s are we going to get today?”
All of the kids responded as a small choir, shouting their different favourites. It was a game they played to keep their spirits up. It didn’t occur to Heather how cruel it might be, but it distracted everyone from the cold and kept her mind off the dreadful situation she was in.
The children in the back started to tease and provoke each other. They were happy and had forgotten the cold. She loved it when they stopped worrying about what she worried about. That kind of darkness should not be experienced by any child, any where.
Today was grocery day. The Harken family was almost self-sufficient, as they grew enough vegetables and livestock to take care of their small army, but they always needed more to feed this small army of rapacious, piranha-like appetites.
This was a normal trip for Heather, if you call jugging sixteen to twenty hands at any given moment, and more importantly, controlling the attitude of ten children – some of them infants – as you try to get about town and manage your life in a seemingly normal way.
Nobody ever commented on the absurdity of the situation, because everyone was part of this odd society of breeding to excess. The MOMYS were an important element in The Master’s Plan, or at least the plan of the Univists. In fact, the competition to be one of the most fertile garnered the attention of senior townspeople, including the Mayor himself.
Heather stopped to get this week’s basics and tried to park the Econoline in a spot that allowed her to see the vehicle when she was inside. She hated these moments, because she couldn’t stand the idea of parting with at least half of her children, if only so that she could pick up a slab of meat and smell it without having to worry about several of them running off to the candy or chip section, opening bags and causing her unimaginable embarrassment.
Lord knew that if she ever did have problems making ends meet as she went into the local Mega-Mart, she’d have to find some other way to get the cash. She wouldn’t dare ask her husband for it.
In fact, Heather Harken was probably one of the most efficient, effective and frugal shoppers that existed in the U.S., partly out of fear, but also because she has been given so little to start with. She stretched more pennies than teenagers that live beside a railway track. Whenever she arrived, produce managers pushed their two-day-old bread to the front, carted around the dark brown bananas and the packaged, nearly rotten peppers, knowing full well that they’d foist them off on her and her tight little budget.
But how else do you feed a family of twelve, without resorting to crime?
The reality was that the corporate world hates people like Heather because they don’t buy high margin items. Heather restrains herself from impulse items and people like her never “treat themselves” with crap like candy, chocolates and other seemingly decadent items. Today, she splurged on a small bag of jelly beans that cost $2.50, a treat she hoped to share with everyone after dinner.
The reality was that this was what the corporate world has to look forward to as more and more Americans, Canadians and other people in the world cease to buy on a level of luxury and only seek to buy on a level of necessity.
They might shop at the Mega-Mart today, but soon they won’t be able to afford that.
Heather rushed through the Mega-Mart, picking up the basics that her family needed and returned to the van as quickly as she could. Taking her time was not a luxury, for many reasons: kids left alone in a van are hell enough to deal with, but she always worried about the law and what other people might say if they witnessed five or six youth left alone in a sad, beaten van.
When she checked out, she loaded up the kids that she brought into the store with supplies like toilet paper, diapers (a luxury that she splurged on) and various soaps for washing. She also had a lot of groceries, mainly because it was the middle of winter and their yield from the farm was limited over this time of year. Items like some fresh onions, tomatoes and broccoli hardly seemed an extravagant expense for some Americans, but increasingly, they are.
Once the van was loaded, she made a motion to climb into the seat and paused because Grace put a little origami flower there, made from a gas receipt. Heather picked it up, smiled at her daughter and mouthed “I love you” to her.
Her next stop was the Salvation Army. Many of the clothes that she got last time were not keeping up, but then it was hard to make anything last with this many kids. They change, they grow, clothes wear down, or simply get too small, although she rarely saw this because each set of clothing touched at least five sets of skin.
Again, Heather grabbed four of her kids, leaving the other six to watch over the food and supplies. When she got back, she was horrified by what she saw: within twenty minutes, they’d gotten into all of the groceries, including the small package of jelly beans.
A rainbow-mosaic of candy lay wasted on the floor as the children tossed them back and forth, trying to get them into each other’s mouths, while some of the others were less kind and were throwing them as hard as they could at their other brothers and sisters.
The vegetables and fruits also lay wasted on the van floor, ruddy from the salt and slush that had accumulated on the surface, mixed in with dish soap and laundry detergent.
She reeled back and then stormed to the back door of the van. Ripping the doors open, she leapt into the vehicle and started to slap the ones that were closest to her. All of them instantly stopped what they were doing and started to weep. The raw emotion of the moment only provoked her and she slapped them all again, feeling the anger course through her, into her hands and onto their face.
She stopped. Closed her eyes. She drew in a deep breath.
A low grumble came from her nose as she exhaled.
With her eyes still closed, Heather said, “You’ll all pay for this through extra work this week. You all know what happens when your father gets upset about these things.”
She was greeted with complete silence, the look of terror on their faces that showed they clearly understood their mistake.
Heather climbed into the front seat and drove back to the Mega-Mart.
When she parked, she spoke to the windshield, afraid that if she looked at any of her startled kids, she’d cease to be strong and would start to cry in front of them. “If any of you so much as moves while I’m in the Mega-Mart, I will leave you here to walk home in the cold by yourselves. Do you understand?”
“Yes momma,” in unison from nine of her children. Faith of course, couldn’t speak yet.
Inside the store, she quickly collected the main items that she needed, hoping that she’d be able to dilute the wasted budget over several weeks.
When she returned to the cash, the clerk teased her, but only slightly.
“Back again, I see.”
“Yes,” said Heather, as she tried not to show any emotion.
“Doubling up on some of your sundries?” the clerk asked.
“The kids tore through some things, but I’ll be OK. Just getting what I need,” she said, distracted as she filtered through her change purse to get what she needed.
“Building God’s Army ain’t easy, ain’t it?” offered the clerk, half joking, half serious.
“No. No it’s not. But when Rapture comes, God will know we’ve done our share.” There was a slight hint of ‘you just wait’ to her voice as she organized her bags and put them in the cart with her youngest children.
“Yeah … share of fucking,” said the clerk under his breath while she walked away, but still loud enough that it struck her like an NRA-approved shot-gun blast.
(Note: “Excited Delirium” is a work of fiction. Any person, place or thing depicted in this work of fiction is also a work of fiction. Any relation of these subjects or characters to real locations, people or things are an unintentional coincidence.)
Excited Delirium by Liam Young is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at www.exciteddelirium.ca.