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by margot carmichael lester

Ola Mae had a death grip on the broom handle as she swept the porch. She pretended the broomstick was Rupert’s neck and she enjoyed feeling it so firm in her powerful grip. She knew if it were really Rupert’s neck between her hands, she’d feel his throat straining against the pressure. Her daddy’d told her that -- the time he’d nigh ‘bout strangled her mama in a drunken rage.

“Thank god yo’ Uncle Elijah came when he did,” her daddy’d said. “Or yo’ mama’d be dead.”

Ola Mae sighed, then swept a mass of dead mud daubers from underneath the glider. She hated those things – but not as much as she hated them cave crickets. Or, at this moment, Rupert.

Damn fool husband of hers had taken all their money down to the river last night and gambled it away. Every last cent. He was a good card player, but not a great one. Her daddy’d always told her, “Don’t play cards with people you don’t know.” She’d tried to impart that wisdom to Rupert – to no avail.

He went on down to the fish camp with all their money in a coffee can and lost it in four hands. All that money swept away like the dried leaves and bug carcasses and dirt she removed efficiently from the porch with crisp sweeps of the old broom.

She’d used that broom so much over the years that there were grooves in it. It fit her hands and her hands only now. She wondered if the grooves of Rupert’s trachea would feel that way, and squeezed a little harder to imagine it. She thought hard about finishing him off -- as her daddy might’ve done her mama had it not been for Uncle Elijah –- as she briskly removed a wasp’s nest from the corner above the glider.

Soon Mr. Richard would be home for his dinner and nap. He’d probably want to set a spell out here before going back to the courthouse for the afternoon session. She raised the broom to the louvered shutters, clearing out cobwebs and the odd sweat bee.

“Make it nice for Mr. Richard,” she thought. “Maybe then he won’t mind I ask him for an advance. A little something to keep some food on the table for my young’uns.”

She sighed again. She could just kill Rupert, but then what would she do, alone with three kids who’d lost their daddy to her hand, and likely her, too, though she’d be willing to bet that a jury of her peers would understand why she wrapped her fingers so tightly ‘round his neck till the very life squeezed outta him.

No, she wouldn’t kill Rupert. He was a good man, despite being a little foolish sometimes. No. She’d strangle this here broomstick instead. Sweep away the mess of other people’s lives and then ask Mr. Richard to help in sweeping up her own.


Margot’s a content strategist and freelance journalist. She consults with and/or writes for businesses large and small, and new and traditional media. She’s also the author of four books, including Be a Better Writer: Power Tools for Young Writers -- co-written with her husband, Steve Peha -- won the 2007 Independent Publishers Association gold medal for teen/young-adult nonfiction. She is currently working on two additional titles in the Better Writer Series, one for college students and another for corporate employees. A Southern belle and sex symbol for the intelligentsia, she was born, raised and still lives in Orange County, N.C.

more about margot carmichael lester


the english assignment
that ate the american econony
by margot carmichael lester
topic: writing
published: 11.30.05

by margot carmichael lester
topic: writing
published: 6.3.03


juli mccarthy
3.3.06 @ 7:12a

This is just great, Margot. You've made some wonderfully clear, clean characters just jump off the page here.

gordon churchill
3.15.06 @ 9:29p

Heh, heh...you said finish him off. ;-)
Awesome story of course.

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