Little Jimmy Tambora loved his mother. He really, really loved her. At the age of ten and a half (“and three days!”), Jimmy’s world was contained by his mother’s loving arms, her long, soft hair, and her gentle voice. She was everything to him, especially since the day his father had wandered out to run errands in town and never came home.
Oh, among all the happy days in Jimmy’s tiny life, this was a streak of darkness. Jimmy had wanted to go look for his dad, but his mother had cried so hard that Jimmy stayed at home with her for days, talking to her, helping her make the dinner, cleaning up after the animals in the barn. Jimmy’s dad never did come back, and his mother never did say why it was his dad was gone. Maybe she just didn’t know. Maybe nobody would ever know. It was the saddest time in Jimmy’s life, and he wanted to make sure that never happened to his mother again. She would never be sad again. It was a promise.
“Jimmy! Come on in, I’ve got supper on the table!”
It was Jimmy’s mother, calling from the deck of the house. She could see for miles every which way from that porch, because the house was on a little hill. It was the only hill on their land; the rest was flat. Flat and peaceful. The fireflies dotted the early evening as Jimmy scurried home.
“Gosh, Mom, what’re we having?”
“It’s a surprise, darling. Now wash up before you sit at the table. I don’t want a grubby little thing sitting beside me.”
Jimmy giggled. His mother always had a wonderful way of saying the most ordinary things in a funny way. She never told jokes, but the way she talked, it made him smile. Jimmy would always love his mother. Always.
But when he got to the table, there was no food.
“Is something wrong, Ma?”
“I’ve got a special treat tonight, and I didn’t want to give it away,” said Jimmy’s mother, with a twinkle in her eye. Jimmy sat stock still at his wooden chair. All the finest silverware was out, and the breakable dishes that they only used when they ate with guests. His little forehead began to perspire with excitement.
Jimmy’s mother brought out a huge steaming pot and set it directly in front of Jimmy’s place setting. The pot was so tall he couldn’t even see inside. He sniffed and the aroma of fresh chicken broth came to his nostrils. Boy oh boy, Jimmy thought excitedly, I bet my mom has cooked up the biggest best dinner she’s ever done. I just wonder what it could be.
“Ma, where is the serving spoon?”
“Just a moment, my little Jim-Jim.”
He could see his mother’s shadow in the next room. It looked like she was working hard at something.
“Do you need my help, Ma?”
“No, Jimmy. You just wait out there for me, and then we’ll begin.”
Jimmy then heard strange noises, noises that sounded like grating and ripping. But it didn’t sound like normal food preparation noises. No, these were much bigger in some way. When his mother came back into the dining room, he saw why.
Jimmy’s mother was a hideous monster. Her long mandibles jutted out from a blood-red head; her body was slick and hard like a beetle. Instead of her warm arms, the arms that had held Jimmy in his infancy, she had spiky green arms – four of them, two on each side. She made a noise like a cicada, except deeper. Jimmy wasn’t sure if the voice made his chair shake or if it was his racing heart.
“What did you do with my mother?”
“Ha ha ha ha ha! I AM your mother, silly boy,” she said, waving her silken antennae around the room. “I can’t tell you how good it feels to not have to wear that wretched costume anymore. I am free of this charade of a life. It is time to dine.”
“You cooked Pa?”
Jimmy tried to crane his neck but still couldn’t see inside the steaming pot.
“No, puny one, your father was clever and he got away before I could devour him. But you,” she said, her eyes now beady and black, “you are a stupid boy. You will pay the price of being stupid and trusting. I’m going to eat you, Jimmy.”
And she did.