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Helen Whittaker and Brian Eugenio Herrera

Whittaker R Image

Helen Whittaker
Created using Brian Eugenio Herrera’s story (below) as inspiration

November 23, 1942
By Brian Eugenio Herrera

The blackness of the baby’s hair was as charred grass, laying in unruly clumps against the knobby curve of his still soft skull. The woman basted the newborn’s body in butter, her knowing fingers kneading the fat into the rubbery crevices of his tininess. Then she swaddled him, wrapping him tightly in a slightly dampened dishtowel, before resting the entirety of the baby bundle – itself no not much larger than a good size sweet potato – inside the blue box. The box had, until moments before, protected the woman’s nicest shoes from the dusty dry chill of the tiny house. A wood cookstove had been burning all day, cooking that day’s pot of beans as well as an unending series of kettles, tubs and pans of boiling water. The bread chamber above the range maintained the day’s residual heat, not so hot as to burn with a single touch but enough to blister skin left thoughtlessly to rest. The baby’s glistening skin appeared almost purple next to the bright, light blue of the cardboard shoebox. The woman delicately placed the box and its most precious contents on a flat porcelain plate. She then put the plate, the box and the newborn boy into the oven’s breadchamber. The woman’s sparkling black eyes glistened. She already knew this child.  Her first grandchild.  She had felt his soul deep in her heart for months. Yet now she wondered if she would ever feel his gaze reach hers.

It was time to pray.

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Whittaker Herrera I

Helen Whittaker
Inspiration piece provided to Brian Eugenio Herrera

Waiting to Meet Miss Kay
By Brian Eugenio Herrera

“You just stand right there, Jules.  I’ll see if Miss Kay’s ready to receive visitors.”

“Miss Kay?”

“My mother.”

Lurleen handed me the biggest of her canvas shopping bags, still sopping from the rain.

“Hold this.  But don’t put it down.  The floor in here’s so dirty.”

A large metal door slammed behind Lurleen as she entered into what I presumed was the main house, leaving me – standing as instructed – in what appeared to be a converted garage.

Along the wall next to the door stood four coffin-like freezers – one standing, three reclining – each padlocked shut.  Behind me, toward the street where I had left my poor car, a cinderblock wall closed what had probably once been the garage door.   On it hung at least two dozen power tools.  I could guess the use of only about half, saws and drills mostly.  Each appliance rested on meticulously placed hooks that reached out six inches or so from the brick.  From where I was standing, maybe eight paces away, the tools looked to be hovering – an exotic flock of weird metal birds, with bright rubber limbs and shiny sharp beaks, waiting.  And floating high above my head, well beyond my reach was astonishing accumulation of colorful sticks, each with delicate metal rings along their varied lengths, some as long as twelve or thirteen feet, others as short as three or four.  Fishing rods, I figured, scores of them creating an uneven lattice along the garage’s low ceiling.

An unctuous, vaguely chemical smell infused the dusty garage and came, it seemed, from the workbench that ran the length of the space, all the way from the cinderblock aviary to the deadly deep freezes.  Cans of paint and wood stain crowded the shelves that ran beneath the plywood work surface, which stood a few inches higher than a usual counter top.  Custom-built, clearly, for a tallish man – one accustomed to ducking through doorways, whose long arms could easily retrieve a fishing rod from the ceiling stash.  Such arms could also easily reach the necessities housed in the cubbies that created the workbench’s rear wall and which extended from the top of the workbench near to the garage’s ceiling.  Scanning from left to right, I could see more than a hundred lidless storage boxes filled with everything a handy man might need.  Gloves and staple-guns and metal bristle brushes, jars of screws and tubes of glue and measuring tapes.  Even a spare doorknob, still in its package.  And, like most everything else in this garage, carefully stowed but seemingly untouched, perhaps for years.

Little wonder.  With the height of the workbench and the placement of the cubbies at the far edge of the plywood workbench, each of these necessary treasures was well beyond my grasp.  I’m not short and even I’d have to climb a stepladder, and maybe even crawl onto the workbench itself to get at anything tucked into those cubbies.  But for the tall man who built this garage world for himself?  Everything was an easy grab.  No problem.  Worked for him.  That much was clear.

“Miss Kay says come on in!”

Lurleen’s voice seemed harsher than just a minute or so ago and, as I turned to her, I was surprised to see that she was much younger than I first thought when I stopped pulled over to offer her a ride through the rain.  Early forties, probably, definitely not more than ten years older than me.   And certainly not the distressed old lady I thought I saw when the afternoon thunderstorm dumped itself all over her and everything else in town.

“Aren’t you going to come in and meet Miss Kay?”

“I’m not sure I’m dry.”

“Oh Miss Kay won’t care.  She’s wet too.  She likes to drink in the afternoon, you know.”

My damp clothes felt suddenly stiff as I moved toward the doorway where Lurleen was standing.

“This is quite a workshop.  Your father’s?”

“Nah.  It was Harmon’s.  He was always out here.”

“Was?”

“Been dead for twelve, fifteen, twenty years – I don’t know.  Massive heart thing.  No one’s touched anything but the freezers in here since.  Oh, that Harmon.  He was so easy to spook.  I put those tikis on his precious work shelf just a few days before he kicked it.  Put one of my special curses on them, too.  So I like to think I’m at least partially responsible.”

Lurleen eyed me for a moment, then winked.

“Come on, slowpoke.  Miss Kay’s waiting and my ice cream’s melting.”

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Note: All of the art, writing, and music on this site belongs to the person who created it. Copying or republishing anything you see here without express and written permission from the author or artist is strictly prohibited.

One comment

  1. A lot of power in both of these — these duets sync up nicely too.
    Definitely, not for the faint-hearted. (Some days I am faint-hearted.) I wonder what happens next. (And next.)



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