Amy stared down at the 33 cent price sticker as it spun round and round on the top of the can in the can opener. It had been days since Mama's funeral, and all of the well wishers had stopped coming. The food they had brought with them was either gone, or molding in the many dishes and pots and pans now piled high in both sinks to crowd their way out onto the counter tops.
She teetered on the top step of the stepping stool she was standing on when the final nib of metal gave way, and startled she reached for the dropping can. Juice sloshed out of it to cover her little hands and drip down the label. If only he had been watching her. If only he had known how hungry she had become, or how quiet she had tried to be. He would never remember those things, but he would forever remember and regret what happened next.
Amy climbed up onto the counter so that she could reach a bowl at the back of the cupboard, but the juice from the corn on the counter made her foot slip. The corn fell from the counter with a clatter followed by a shriek and a thick thud. Earl burst into the room, crossing it in three panic ridden strides.
There, spilled out on the ugly linoleum floor in her pink footie pajamas, her golden curls half covering her cherubic and chubby little face, was little four year old Amy. His heart skipped a beat, his meaty hands wrapped round her upper arms and he gave her a few violent shakes. When she moaned, he pulled back his hand just as her eyes opened alarmingly wide, and he smacked her across that sweet, innocent, little terrified face.
He screamed at her as she cried, and then he shook her some more. And finally, he hugged her to him with crushing grief, and he had a good cry himself as he held her close. He rocked her beck and forth as he rubbed the back of that blanket soft, little pair of pajamas.
Earl blinked himself awake, one hand hugging the lip of the sink and counter, and the other dragging down his face to wipe away the unwelcome memory made waking dream.
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