"JUM" — © 1987 - 1999 by Charles Dobie


Charles Dobie

First published Fall 1995 in Story Teller Magazine

We had all the lights turned on, the four of us, Jum and Sue and little Paul and me. We sat in the kitchen stuffing ourselves with popcorn, pretending that everything was normal, pretending there was no storm, that the house wasn't shaking, that the elm tree wasn't bending like it was about to snap, that thunder and lightning weren't exploding every two seconds. We pretended we weren't afraid. We pretended our parents were at home.

It had been after supper, just before dark, when the phone rang and Dad answered it, then told us Uncle Archie had finished fixing our canoe, so why didn't we drive over there, him and Jum and me, while Mom did the dishes, and we would be back before we even knew we had gone. Dad always talked like that. I once asked him how you could go somewhere and not know you had gone, and he laughed and said that was the funniest thing he ever heard. After that, I just kept quiet and tried not to get embarrassed.

I didn't care about the canoe, I wanted to watch TV. Jum said he had homework, but we all knew he didn't want to go because of Aunt Edna.

Aunt Edna always hugged and kissed Jum and mussed up his hair, and sometimes she grabbed his head in her hands and stared into his face like she was using mental telepathy to tell him something while she tried not to cry. He hated it even more than when we called him 'Jum'. I didn't blame him, especially after she showed us the photograph. After that he refused to go there at all; he said she was just too strange. But I guess you get kind of strange when really horrible things happen to you, like they did to Archie and Edna Ferguson.

They were like our grandparents, even though Edna was Dad's second or third cousin or something. I called her 'Aunt Edna' since before I can remember, and Mom used to say 'Enna' was the first word I ever spoke. They always made a big fuss over us, but poor Jum got it the worst because he looked just like their son Jake who drowned, only Jake had drowned years before -- if he had been alive then he would have been as old as Dad. Mom said Dad and Jake had been good friends; Dad was there when Jake drowned, but he didn't want to talk about it.

I remember when Aunt Edna showed us the photograph. It was in a thin gold frame, and when she took it down from her dresser, her hands shook as she held it for us to see. "This was taken just before our Jake left us", she said. Her voice shook like her hands. I felt my hair prickle, and Jum turned an ugly white, because the picture showed Archie and Edna with their three kids, and right in front with Archie's hand on his shoulder was Jum, only it wasn't Jum, it was Jake their son who would soon be drowned and whose body would never be found.


"JUM" — © 1987 - 1999 by Charles Dobie