Nadine Jernigan ain't nothing like her ma. Some folks claim they ain't even blood related, that her real mother went missing five days before Nadine's birth. Whiskey Pete's been planting rumors about how them Jernigans are some kind of clan of cannibals or something. You'd think, if they was cannibals, they would've eaten a newborn baby. Besides, everybod y knows Pete's about as full of shit as an ole out house.

Back in grade school, the Jernigan boys, Loody and Dew, put a snake in the coat closet. The preacher's little deaf girl got bit. She didn't die, but that's only cause her daddy kept an anti-venom kit by the pulpit. Ever since then, all sorts of wild stories have been conjured up about those Jernigans. Hell, they ain't even allowed to step foot in church. Now that's bad, when a family is banned from the house of the Lord.

It's a shame, though. Nadine has the best singing voice in these hills. She's pretty, too, got that long red hair and fair skin like a porcelain doll, she does. Like I said, she ain't nothing like her ma. First time I met Ma Jernigan, I thought she was a man. Still ain't convinced otherwise. I mean, how do we know for sure she gave birth to those kids? She's so fat, can't notbody tell if she's pregnant and she sure didn't give birth in no hospital. We ain't even got a hospital within two hundred miles and Dr. Kent claims he ain't never worked on none of them Jerningans, not even when Loody got his arm torn off by the tractor.

Sometimes, you can hear Nadine, singing on the cliff, her voice echoes through the valley and it makes ya want to rescue her from them lunatics. There's been quite a few fellas who claim they’re gonna steal her away, but just when they get up the nerve and make a plan, something terrible happens. It’s like a curse. One guy was attacked by an fox. Killed in his own backyard. Can you believe that? A small red fox. And that ain't even the worse one. There’ve been others. I thought about going after her myself, but shit like that makes a man think twice.

I keep dreaming about her, though. That long red hair, those beautiful green eyes, that voice. Sometimes, I swear she's singing to me. I mean, I think I hear her singing my name. I'm not even sure she knows my name. How could she? We've never met. I've just seen her, when she sits on that cliff. I know, it ain't right to spy on a person, but I had to see if all those stories about how beautiful she is were true. They're true all right.

One time, she saw me. I was startled by a copperhead and made a lot of noise, scram bling away from the damn thing. Nadine looked my direction and smiled, like she thought it was funny. I managed to scare the snake away, stomping about like I did, making a fool of myself.

I've been admiring Nadine for years, but only got the nerve to get that close once. No other woman has had this much power over me before. I'll be thirty-three this year and haven't found a wife. Down deep, I know it's cause my heart belongs to Nadine.

I set a trap on the cliff last month. Right where she normally sits, thinking I could catch her, but all I caught was an orange cat. It was a pretty little thing, big green eyes, but I turned it loose. Part of me wanted to bring it home, but a cat like that is probably somebody's pet and I figured it'd find its way. Cats always do. I ain't heard any new stories about men dying, trying to rescue Nadine, lately. They're just rumors anyway. Maybe I will get up the nerve to take Nadine away from them Jernigans. They must be holding her prisoner. Why else would she stay up there?

Hear that? That's Nadine singing. Let me get on up the hill, so as I can get a better listen.

Did you see that?

Damn, I think that was Loody, or maybe it was Dew. It was one of them boys all right.
Here he comes again. Duck down. He’s got two arms, must be Dew.

What in the world? Jesus! Ma Jernigan is half man. What do you call them things, succubus?

There’s Nadine. Why are they bowing down to her like that?

Christ! What’s she doing? Is she going to fuck every one of them? Why doesn’t she scream or fight back? She acts like she likes it. I always thought she was a prisoner, but…

Fuck! I think she heard us. Come on let’s get the hell out of here!

Shit! My leg! My leg is caught in a trap! Come back! Don’t leave me here! Help!

Nadine! No!

Nadine, For the love of God! No...

"Nadine and the Boys"
Copyright: © 2009 P. J. Ray
P.J. Ray is a musician from North Carolina with poetry and fiction in: elimae, Word Riot, and MicroHorror, among other small press zines.

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