The boy cried in his car, and furiously scribbled a note in his ragged spiral-bound notebook. The tears ran down his face and splattered on the steering wheel, on his hands, and even on the blue-lined notebook in which he was writing.
Sitting next to him in the car was a little girl.
The boy in the Levi jacket had not seen the little girl slide into the car through the closed passenger side door. He was not aware that she was watching him—he could not hear her humming a nursery rhyme under her breath, or see her kicking the dashboard with her feet clad in black felt shoes.
The boy could not see the girl, because the little girl was dead. And had been for more than a hundred and fifty years.
The girl’s name was Mattie. And the boy scribbling the note was named Justin. The year was 2008, and the fates of these two were just beginning to intertwine. Neither of them knew it, but the fate of the man in the house where they were parked was intertwined with them as well. They could not see him—sitting on the floor, with his face in his hands, just on the other side of the door.
None of the three knew that the great hand of destiny had them all firmly in its grip and was drawing them all together.
Mattie looked at Justin and rose to her knees on the seat. She drew her face close to the living boy, and thought he was beautiful—so young, and so strong.
“Don’t cry, mister,” she said, sounding more like she was talking to a pet than a stranger. “I hate it when boys cry. You don’t want to be crying when you meet God!”
Justin suddenly cursed and tore up the note he was writing, threw the pieces out the window, and started writing a new one. He kept having to wipe his eyes, and Mattie could see that his tears were already staining the new sheet of paper.
“God told me I could pick an angel for myself.” she said. “My very first one! I thought you were beautiful when I saw you. Do you want to be my angel?”
The boy stopped writing and turned his wet face directly toward Mattie. She wanted to believe that he was actually looking at her, but she knew he was looking through her and at the little house on J Street. She turned briefly to see where he was looking, but nothing about the house seemed out of the ordinary. The leaves of the cottonwood tree in the yard had just begun to turn in the cool fall air, and the sunlight filtered through, bathing the front porch and the lawn in a shimmering play of yellow and orange light.
“I can help you meet God,” Mattie said, turning back and touching the boy’s cheek. “I was lost and lonely before I meet him. But then he spoke to me, and I’m not lonely anymore. He told me I’m important. That all his angels are important. Do you want to be an angel, mister?”
The boy turned away and wiped his nose on the sleeve of his Levi jacket. Then started writing again.
“I’d like to love you,” Mattie said, rocking back and forth in the seat. “But I have to hate you first. That’s just the way it works. You don’t mind, do you? If I hate you first? I’ll love you when you’re dead. I promise!”
Mattie knew all about death, and about the persistence of life.
For years she had been frequenting the places of the dead and the dying. She loved to watch the autopsies in the hospital, and the embalming in the funeral parlors. She adored lingering in emergency rooms and hospices, waiting to catch those last moments when a soul fled its body. She had dined upon murderers as they were executed and feasted upon the last breaths of the suicidal. Only death brought her relief from the anger and bitterness that was consuming her—but it was also hard to be at the right place at the right time to drink her fill.
The only way to control death, God had taught her, was to be its source.
She stayed in the car as she watched the beautiful boy—the boy whom she must hate in order to love—walk up to the porch, and drop his folded note into the mailbox. When he came back to the car, he was moving from grief to anger, and that new emotion was delicious to Mattie.
As the boy drove, she put her hands on him. He felt like stone and he did not know she was there. But the waves of anger and fury radiating off him bathed her in a joy that she only found in these rare moments, before she used the Fourth Gift.
“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, Richard Pratt!” the boy suddenly screamed, pounding his fists on the steering wheel.
“Shhhh….” the little girl said. “Quiet, mister…” And slowly, she climbed closer to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, stroking his cheek, and feeling the boy’s tears fall through her own flesh now like hot knives.
She stuck out her tongue and slowly licked the boy’s cheek, as if she could actually taste the tears that clung there. But there was no life in that cheek, no salt in those tears. That was fine with Mattie. She had never really wanted to be touched, anyway. What she had was much better. God had seen fit to grant her the Fourth Gift, and that was far more valuable. She had learned to wield her hatred as a doctor would wield a scalpel. To focus it, and to use it to slice into the body of her host.
“I’m going to hate you now, Mister,” Mattie said, a leering grin slowly spreading across her face. “I have to. It’s how you’ll meet God.”
Mattie drew even closer to Justin. Like a desperate lover, she wrapped her arms and legs about him, even as he drove and wept. And she called forth her hatred, as if she was drawing a bucket of darkness from a well.
In her mind, she heard the voice of God.
Yes, that is good. He is ripe for you. You are ready for him. You know what to do.
With her delicate little fingers, she stroked the boy’s right hand on the steering wheel. Lightly at first, and then more firmly. She felt the car racing and weaving, the tires squealing as Justin took each turn. The buildings were flying by, faster now. She recognized the street. They were hurtling down Foothill Drive, at an insane speed, and the boy had to keep wiping his eyes so that he could see the road. But his tears were not abating, and she knew he was ready. She sensed that moment of vulnerability in him.
She wielded the scalpel of her hate.
She focused it with all her might, and with a final rush of ecstasy that fired every cell of her ethereal body, she felt the boy’s mind open to her like a flower. She chose the red and raw path, and focused her loathing—and entered Justin so quickly that in a flash, she was looking through his eyes as they hurtled down the highway. It was exquisite, and she squealed with glee.
As she always did, Mattie found the sense of being in a living body to be intoxicating. She had never driven a car before, but this boy had, and his body knew how. She knew she could drive with him this way for hours. But her hatred and her loathing were overwhelming, and she just wanted to send him to God. She just wanted to watch him die.
They were merging onto I-80 now and heading toward Parley’s Canyon.
As they passed the ravine at the base of the canyon, she screeched in delight, and wrenched the wheel to the right. She felt the car jolt as it struck and passed through the guardrail. Then, at the last second before the impact, she withdrew from the boy, and savored the look of terror on his face, as the car plunged down the sheer face of the red canyon.
You’ll be mine, handsome boy! God will give me my angel!
Just before impact, she turned to Justin—hovering in the air next to him, as the car tumbled forward and down. She heard the boy scream in horror and saw him raise his arms to cover his face. She saw the boulder hurtling toward them and anticipated her own sweet pain of being reset again—a pain which she loved so much.
If God kept his word, he would return this one to her. He had promised that he would. But if not, she would have many more. In this moment, the thrill of the kill suddenly seemed more important than this, or any angel. She was God’s assassin now, and she would kill and kill and kill until it was time for the Cleansing.
His will be done.
As the car hit the rock and she felt her ghostly body shatter, Mattie felt more alive than at any time since the bandit slit her throat in the cabin.
The Last Handful of Clover is a supernatural thriller by Wess Mongo Jolley. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying this story, please consider supporting the author on Patreon.
For more information (including maps of the story’s world and a contact form) visit the author’s website.
To read previous chapters of this book, go to the Table of Contents page.
If you’re interested in listening to the book, rather than reading it, the audiobook is available at the Patreon link above, and also as a podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Anchor, and all other podcast platforms. Visit the podcast page for more details.
Copyright 2021, Wess Mongo Jolley. All rights reserved.