SHAMAR ENGLISH - SHORT-STORIES
Shamar English is originally from Santa Barbara, California, but he lives in Douglasville, Georgia. He has an Associate of Arts Degree in film from Georgia State University. He is currently pursuing his Bachelor’s degree at Georgia State University. He has pieces published in literallystories2014, Better than Starbuck, the writing disorder, the mystic blue review, eskimopie.net, not your mother’s breast milk, Susan/The Journal, Litro Magazine, Terror House magazine, Bull & Cross, Stinkwaves magazine, and The Stay Project.
Ten-year-old Josh Carmichael comes from a loving family like the wholesome ones on television. He has happily married parents, Trish, and Jason, two siblings, Jessie, and Liam. They typically do everything together as a unit like breakfasts, dinners, trips, movies, cookouts, and board games.
Lately, Trish and Jason are aloof with one another. He is working a lot. She isn’t acting like her warm-hearted, doting, and proactive self. She just lies in bed all day. His sixteen-year-old older brother Liam is rebelling, skipping school, doing drugs, drinking, and leaving him and their eight-year-old little sister Jessie alone to fend for themselves.
The next morning surfaces and Jessie, Liam, and Josh are at the kitchen table eating cereal. The footsteps upstairs rappel into the kitchen then Trish emerges from her bedroom like a perfect storm, sprinting downstairs. She shouts, and her children flinch splattering milk. She flips the glass table over in the living room, it smashes into pieces, and they catapult out of their seats.
Josh is speechless. For the first time, he is seeing his mother in a bleak light like she is Dr. Jekyll as he cowers at a distance.
Jessie, Liam, and Josh use the kitchen table as a buffer. She has one hand planted firmly on it, and the other hand clutches a yellow broomstick with a black handle.
Trish screams to the top of her lungs, “I can’t do this anymore! “I should have walked away from you all when I had the chance. I wish you were all dead! You ruined my life.” It is a swift punch to their hearts.
Trish bangs the broom on the table consecutively like a gavel. She knocks the flower vase off the table along with the carton of milk and cereal bowls. The vase shatters into pieces, decorating the floor. “Stop mom, please. Stop,” the children say. Trish only does it harder and faster like she’s wielding an ax.
Trish suddenly ceases the banging and begins to chase them around the table. Trish halts and cries. She chases them again then halts and cries. Josh stares into her dreary hazel eyes. She looks at him with disgust. Josh’s heartbeat echoes in the room like an explosion.
It is noon. Jason is upstairs asleep. He worked a double last night. Liam sees an opening, flees upstairs. He leaves Jessie and Josh behind. Trish trails him, swinging the broom.
Jessie steadily wipes the tears from her woeful eyes. Josh tries his hardest to repress his tears. He listens attentively to the thumping and mom’s loud rambling. The noise finally quells after a few minutes. Jessie and Josh give the dust thirty seconds to clear and reluctantly head upstairs.
The two hear chatter in their parents’ bedroom. They creep down the hall to it. Josh spots the broom sticking out the ajar door. He gently pushes the door open.
Liam stands against the wall paralyzed, watching Jason console Trish as she bawls her red velvet eyes out. Jason just keeps holding on for his dear life. “I’m right here. I’m right here,” Jason says. The growing tension in the room is too thick to even cut with hydrochloric acid.
Trish shields her eyes from her family like they are mendacious creatures. She keeps her lips pursed in the car. They finally arrive and enter the hospital. Jason admits her. She walks past them with her lips still pursed. A nurse and orderlies escort her to the psych ward.
Josh’s eyes are drier than a roast. He takes slow, short breathes. Jessie screams, cries for her. Trish’s eyes remain forward. She keeps going, and the double doors swing shut behind her. Jason grabs his little girl, hugs her tight.
Later that week, Trish’s doctor informs the family that she is bipolar with a long history of depression. Jason is just as shocked as anyone. Trish did not ever speak a word about her history of depression.
Josh watches his dad wrestle with the surprising revelation, day in and day out. He puts on a brave façade for them. They try to visit Trish every day, but she always rebuffs them. A couple of weeks later, Jason is having dinner with the kids. The doorbell rings, he answers the door, and It is two officers. He clutches the door knob.
“Good evening, officers. How can I help you?” Jason says. “Excuse me, Mr. Carmichael. “We regret to inform you that your wife has committed suicide earlier this evening” one officer replies. Jason goes numbs. Jessie and Liam sob. Tears pour from Josh’s eyes like a leaky faucet.
It was a sparkling day in Crescent, Pennsylvania, the sun shined like a great ball of fire. Shadows encompassed a dilapidated house with blacked-out windows and chipped red paint. White sheets covered all the mirrors in the home. A woman with flushed cheeks, drowsy eyes, and frizzy hair sat against the wall like a log.
A tall man in a black suit with a loosened tie stood outside on her porch. He knocked demonstratively. “Jasmine?! Jasmine, open up!” The woman lifted her head up then lowered it. He looked underneath one of Jasmine’s flower pots and grabbed the spare key. He unlocked the door, opened it, and walked inside. “What are you doing here, Kevin? I broke up with you, so please go but leave the key and don’t ever come back.”
“I’m not going anywhere until you give me an explanation for the break-up and why are all the mirrors in your house either missing or concealed.”
Kevin folded his arms, “Jasmine, what is this?” Jasmine brushed her frizzy hair back and sighed. “Fine. My reflection isn’t my reflection. It’s my doppelganger and it’s trying to take my place here.”
Kevin averted his eyes from Jasmine, approached her telephone and picked it up, “Yeah, I’m calling the men in white coats.” Jasmine emphatically ripped the phone cord out of the wall. Kevin thought Jasmine was on drugs because this behavior was unlike her.
Jasmine dropped the phone cord on the floor. “I’m not crazy. And this is the reasons why I broke up with you because you’re the opposite of supportive and optimistic. You don’t know the meaning of unconditional love.” Kevin refused to accept her evaluation of him. He followed Jasmine into her bedroom. She then ran into the bathroom in her bedroom and closed the door in his face. Kevin spotted the large mirror, stopped, approached it, pulled off the sheet that covered the glass, and analyzed it. Kevin turned away from the mirror and his reflection scowled at him.
Kevin planted his eyes back on the mirror and trembled. He swung his arms around, but his reflection sneered at him as it pressed its fingers on the glass. Kevin’s reflection stuck its hands through the mirror, grabbed both sides of it, and pulled himself through the mirror. Kevin stumbled backwards into the wall.
Jasmine returned to the bedroom and the sheet covered the mirror, “Okay, time’s up. Leave.” Kevin grinned and pivoted to her. “Jasmine, I’m sorry. I believe you. I’m here to support you and I’m not going anywhere.” Jasmine frowned, “Really? Whatever.”
Kevin looked around and brushed off his shoulders. Jasmine peered at him. “I get covering the mirrors with sheets, but why did you black out all the windows?” Jasmine replied, “My reflection tried to come out one of them.”
Kevin listened and nodded, “Do you think you’re the only one with a doppelganger?” He circled Jasmine. “Well, if you have a doppelganger, I’m pretty sure that I have a doppelganger and everyone else in the world, don’t you think?” Jasmine’s heart pounded faster than a drummer.
“I mean, there’s a whole other world out there, with our doubles and you guys have things over here that we don’t have over there.”
Jasmine tilted her head. “You’re not Kevin.” He snatched the sheet off the mirror and Jasmine’s doppelganger stood in it, opened her eyes, and grinned. “No, but my name is Kevin.” Jasmine ran to the door, but Kevin restrained her as the doppelganger climbed out of the mirror. She rose to her feet, “You really thought you could keep me out forever.”
Jasmine struggled with Kevin, but he held her tighter. He dragged Jasmine in front of the mirror. “Why are you doing this to me?” She oscillated around Jasmine, “Because I can.” She pushed Jasmine in the mirror then shattered it.
Grandma offers me a piece of candy. Of course, I say yes. My parents don’t let me eat sugar. “Close your eyes and hold out your hand,” she said.
My eyes are sealed like a jar of pickles, “I wonder what kind of candy she’s going to give me. An Airhead? No. A Blow Pop? Nah. I know, licorice? Uh-uh. I got it, a Twix. Yeah, a Twix. I never had chocolate before but I want some so much. Grandma’s not as bad as I thought.”
I cheese harder than Lewis Skolnick. “Okay, now open your eyes, sweetheart” she said. Grandma has a grin the size of a melon. I look down at my hand and all I see is something round, white with red stripes in plastic. “I thought you were giving me a piece of candy, this is a peppermint. This isn’t candy. You’re a liar and I want to go home.”
Grandma’s grin evaporates like an aspirin in a glass of water. “First, watch your tone, young man. Second, it’s candy and good for you.”
I toss the peppermint to the floor. “Peppermints are not candy. They’re just not. Anyone who says they are needs a cat scan. I hate you and this is the last time you’ll ever see me.”
Grandma snickers grabbing the phone. “She called my parents. I made a mistake. I’m only seventeen. I just really wanted some chocolate. Now, I have to eat dinner at her house for two months starting tonight. And we’re having porridge. Next time, I’m just going to say thank you and eat the damn peppermint” he says.