The Devil in Her Eyes

"To what do we owe this-pleasure?" Valerie asked, waving a ladle at her brother-in-law as he entered the kitchen trailing a litter of children.

"Wife's sick," Herman said, "So I thought we'd spend the day here."

Valerie made a noncommittal tick-tock motion with her head, thinking: So honored you brought your five snot-nosed terrors over to our house, again.

Robert, her husband, read her mind; his brother, and the brood, could be a handful. A fistful, sometimes.

"We won't be any trouble," Herman joked, forming a cross with his fingers as though to ward off evil spirits, "I swear. Maybe we can go sledding?"

"Sledding, sledding, sledding," chanted the children.

"But first," Herman added, clapping his hands as he sat down at the table set for three, "Some pancakes."

"Pancakes," screamed the children, scrambling for seats.

Valerie glanced out the window at the backyard with its winter white slope and evergreen hedge. Watching the drifting Parmesan cheese God was sprinkling on the world, she reminded Herman, "You must catch them. Before the brier patch."

"Brier patch," echoed the children, banging forks and spoons and knives. One-it was impossible to tell them apart--yelled "brierwabbit."

"Princess," Robert called upstairs to their daughter, Claudia. "Breakfast--" he looked at the mayhem erupting "--And family--Is served."

Claudia waited until All Shook Up faded on the radio before darting downstairs to greet them. Kissing her uncle, she noticed he smelled sour--Like burp, she thought.

"Was that Elvis I heard?" he mock-rock sneered, flicking up his collar and running his fingers through his dark hair.

Claudia giggled.

Herman was the closest thing to Elvis she would ever see-the young, beautiful, hip-shock Elvis, not the Elvis of the now, not the 1977 Elvis. They loved The King, worshiped him, all except Robert, who thought Rock 'n Roll was the devil's music.

From Herman, she ran to her father for her ritual good morning kisses-one on each eyelid. "Keeps children--" peck "--safe from--" peck, "--Satan's stare," Robert said.

After breakfast, Valerie cleaned maple fingers and marmalade faces while Herman rummaged through the refrigerator for "Mother's Milk," his name for beer. The children's wriggling bodies were winter-proofed, and then Robert, Herman and their two six packs left the house.

"Wheeeeeeee," yelled the children, riding Ark-like-two by two, Hurrah-from the top of the hill down the steep, wide slope to the bottom. The brothers snatched whizzing children-Robert front, Herman back-seconds before their sleds smashed into the natural crash barrier, the hedge with thorns as long as witch fingers.

The sleds kept coming. One, two, three sleds. In between, while the children struggled uphill, laughing, keeling over, sliding, face-down fallen snow angels, the brothers drank beer. When Robert opened his second can, he noticed Herman, who was whistling Heartbreak Hotel, was on his fourth.

"Better slow down--"

"--Wheeeeeeee," the onslaught began again. One, two, three sleds. Six children. Front-Robert, back-Herman, front-Robert, back-Herman, front--

"--The King is dead--" Valerie cried from the porch.

Robert and Herman looked up at the voice. Then, following their established rhythm, Robert plucked Herman's child from the sled. Herman was supposed to grab Claudia before--

The sled shot into the bush.

A shriek sliced the air.

A single thorn tore through Claudia's eye, through her eyelid and iris; a bull's-eye.

Elvis was dead. The King was gone.

His death cost Claudia her right eye; Rock 'n Roll had let the devil look into her soul.

About the author:

Carla Gericke was born in South Africa and moved to the United States in 1995. She practiced law in both countries before recently turning to writing full-time. Her stories are forthcoming in several online and print publications. She is working on her first novel. Carla lives with her husband in Chinatown, New York City.