The Wedding Bed
  The Marriage Bed
Fiction by Elaine Ford
  A Sense of Morality
  Wasps in a Bottle
  Rita Lafferty’s Lucky Summer
•  Birthing    
  Ship Street
  Nerve-Wrackin Christmas
  Original Brasses, Fine Patina
About the Author   |   Family-Based Historical Fiction  |  
November 2015 fiction issue 

Wasps in a Bottle

(Excerpted from the novel Monkey Bay)

Tucker looks out the window at Hannah’s little yellow Pinto parked by the alder thicket. The alders have catkins, like punctuation marks. She’s sitting at the table, working on the thick gray sleeve, her needles clacking one against the other.

“Let’s get in the car and go,” he says suddenly.

She looks up, the stitch halfway between the needles. “Go where?”

“Boston. Anywhere.”

She slips the stitch onto the needle and lays the knitting on the dull metal tabletop. “What are you saying, Tucker?”

“Not for a lark. For good.”

She’s tugging at a hank of her hair. Outside, herring gulls are yowling and squawking, but you can’t see them, because everything beyond the alder thicket is obscured by fog.

“What about my mother?”

“It’s insane, the way things are. Three wasps in a bottle.”

“She doesn’t know about us, I’m sure she doesn’t.”

Smoking a cigarette, he leans against the cold iron woodstove. He hasn’t bothered to light it because it’s fifty degrees out.

“What makes you so sure?” he says. “You don’t understand one thing about Marilla.”

“And who’s to blame for that? It wasn’t me left her.”

Ash drops onto the plywood floor. “We’d better not start talking about blame, Hannah.”

“We could stop,” she says after a while.

“That’s what I told you we couldn’t do. Remember, Hannah?”

“I don’t understand why.”

“Because you like it too much,” he says, coughing.

“And so do you.”

The filter sticks to his lip, and when he takes the butt out of his mouth to toss it into the stove he finds he’s torn the skin. He tastes blood on his tongue. “We have to get out of here,” he says. “Now. Today.”

“Shouldn’t we think it over?”

“Put your coat on and get in the car. I’ll be there in a minute.”

“We have to leave her a note, at least.”

“I’ll take care of it.”


“I said I’d take care of it.”

She abandons the knitting and walks to the mud room, unsteadily, as though she’d been awakened in the night by an emergency phone call. He opens the cellar door and hurries down the plank steps. Into a plastic shopping bag he packs six Mason jars full of weed, all he has left from last year’s crop. He extracts a roll of bills from their hiding place in a clay sewer pipe and stuffs the money into the rear pocket of his jeans.

When he shuts the door behind him he sees her sitting in the car, her uncombed hair on the collar of her schoolgirl coat, and he feels a wild sense of relief, like a cork bursting out of a popgun. He runs to the car, the plastic bag cradled against his pea coat.

“It won’t start,” she says dully, as he opens the door on the passenger side.


“The battery’s dead.”

“Shit,” he says. “The jumpers are in the truck.”

“We’ll have to wait until she comes back.”

“Are you nuts? Turn the ignition on and put her in second. I’ll push from behind, and when she gets going good down the drive, pop the clutch. Get it?” He drops the bag on the seat, hearing the jars clink into one another, and slams the door.

Damn the mud, anyway. The car’s a tinny enough little heap, but it takes nearly all his strength to shove it out of the bog it’s parked in and onto the driveway. Stones in the driveway have been scooped up by the snowplow and are lying exposed in the muck and gravel. No problem for the pickup, it sails right over them, but they scrape the underbelly of the Pinto as he shoulders it inch by inch through what seems like wet tar. He can feel the wad of bills pressing against his butt. He pauses for breath, and Hannah winds down her window.

“We’re never going to make it,” she says.

“Yes we are. Easy as pie, once we get her on the downward slope.”

“It’s too muddy to go fast enough.”

“She’ll go, take my word for it.”

“You’ll have a heart attack.”

“Shut up and steer!” he yells, leaning his shoulder against the car frame. The metal’s so thin he can almost feel it buckle.

The driveway rises gently as it moves away from the swampy spot near the alders—it seems like goddamn Mount Katahdin—but he knows there’s a sudden drop near the telephone pole about twenty yards ahead, and after that it’s downhill almost the whole way to Monkey Bay Road.

Moisture begins to trickle down the back of his neck. His sock’s working down into his boot and the leather’s rubbing up a blister, probably going to end up with blood poisoning, but he doesn’t want to stop and lose momentum. Overhead, somewhere in the fog, gulls are screeching.

When at last he reaches the top of the rise he takes a deep breath and gives the Pinto a tremendous running shove. He sees Hannah’s head wobble as the car hits a rock and veers off it, and then the car’s moving fast enough so he doesn’t have to push anymore.

He stands there, gripping the stitch in his side, watching the car wind down a curve and disappear into the fog. Pray to God she doesn’t stall it waiting for him at the bottom, he thinks, and then he hears a hollow thunk and knows they’re not even going to make it that far.

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  © Elaine Ford, 2015
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