1. My Genesis
I don’t quite like the name “Immortal”. I don’t know if I can’t die. I just know I’m good at living. I mean, I’ve seen so called “Immortals” and I’ve seen said “Immortals” make the transition from immortal to mortal and from there to death. And seeing that they could become mortal, they were never immortal to begin with. They were, as I could be, good at living. And it works the other way too, doesn’t it, if I truly am immortal, I always was and therefore never could have been human, but I feel human. But that makes me ask myself what am I if not human and not immortal. One of the main symptoms of humanity is dying. Human get a hundred years tops and I’ve spent that and then some. But I do have every other symptom of humanity. I have every blessid and blasted symptom there is.
Even the delusion of the inevitable. I once believe that things, some things were impossible. Once believed that humankind would never escape from the earth’s atmosphere. I believed that you couldn’t contact Tokyo in mere seconds. I have seen many an impossible thing in my life and have accepted being an impossible thing.
I, as I said, was always immortal if I am immortal, but before I knew, I was as everyone else was and is. I had parents, Jonathan and Lola Dean; I had a brother, Jack. I had a wife, Jenny and had a divorce. I was normal for a time, than I just wasn’t all of a sudden. I can still remember the morning. June 2, 1948, it was a warm, Tuesday morning. Back then we were living in a small one-bedroom apartment with a restroom and bath, which we shared with the rest of the floor. It would have been unbearable, if it wasn’t for the way the sun hit it in the morning. It was an awe inspiring show that started every morning, first with subtle purples that broke apart the night air, followed gradually by simmering red and faint, gentle oranges and finally the room would flood from ceiling to floor with warm golden yellow.
Jenny and I had been married for about six months and every morning for those six months; I’d wake up about twenty minutes to half an hour before her. I’d wake up early just to watch her sleep. Just to watch her breathe, to watch her be. I had been with her for a while and was amazed to find myself overwhelmed by her. I was overwhelmed by the mere fact that she chose me, that she would care about someone like me. I’d was and probably will never be accused of being good looking, I got a dirty look to me, like I’m forever just getting out of the coal mines and ever since I was sixteen, I looked ten years older than I ought to. But I’m honest and a talker, but I never would have thought that all the talk in the world could get a girl like her.
A girl that could make you forget the world was going to end with one kiss, a girl with eyes like a full moon on a warm summer’s night. She was a little like a force of nature, all knowing, and all encompassing and she was as gentle as a breeze. She could calm the fires of hell with a word. But I did, I got her and I married her.
You see my brother and I got jobs at a car parts factory when my father died. I had to quit college to help our mother keep the family house. But one day, I got careless around an axial press and well; two slabs of metal don’t always play nicely with the hands that operate them. My entire arm was shaking and I almost blacked out from the pain, but I could still feel everything. That had to be a good sign. But as Jackie raced me to the hospital, screaming “You’ll be fine, Matt,” over the thunderous throbbing in my head, I slowly felt my hand and part of my forearm go numb. I peered down at my hand, it looked like a pile of wet, shredded meat and crushed bone, and then I prepared myself for what I knew I was going to hear. That they were going to amputate. That I was going to have to live life with one hand. But when I got to the emergency room and was seen by the doctor, he said he had seen worse in the war and that he’d be able to save it, but I’d have some pain for the rest of my life (he had no idea how true that was,) and the nurse assisting him was Jenny. She looked stunning although it was obvious that she was tired and grumpy.
She walked in, looking like she was about to clock the next person to talk to her and glistening with sweat. She gave a look at the doctor and then at me and I swear I completely forgot I had a damn hand. She had these big, powerfully brown eyes. That was the first time I saw her and the first time I was sure of anything. I was sure I’d marry her and I did. Every day I thought of her and every morning I got to fall back in love with her. But on that particular morning so long ago, I awoke, turned to her, brushed the silky brown hair from her face, peered into her contented face, and felt nothing.
I couldn’t quite explain it, but I felt static and cold. I felt complete indifference, I spend that day, not thinking of her, but thinking about the absence of my love for her and it doesn’t make sense now, but then I grew spiteful. I got this idea in my head that she must have done something that I was somehow picking up on. I wanted so badly to go back to a good morning and it killed me that I couldn’t. So I chose to numb what I couldn’t fix. I drank and I drank a lot. I drank her to tears, us into poverty, and right into the night that ended it all.
It was late, about one or two in the morning and I came home to chaos. Boxes and clothing were scattered over chairs and tables as Jenny and her two brother were flying about the house gathering her things and this isn’t me making an excuse but I was drunk and everyone was moving so fast tearing down our newly sprouted marriage and I just wanted answers, which no one wanted to give. So I grabbed Jenny by the wrist, refused to let go until she spoke to me and she looked at me with terribly wide eyes, and said in a trembling voice, “I’m leaving”. Let go of me.” Those words echoed in my head and I could tell that I was distant and foreign to her and I hated her for it. More than I hated anything, but just for a moment. But in that moment, I smacked her.
Now I never laid an unkind hand on her before that night but that simple contact of flesh against flesh made sure that she hated me as much as I did her in that moment. She walked out the door, leaving her two brothers to kick the crap out of me. She called the house the next morning to cement what I already assumed. She was leaving me and I give her nothing but venom, nothing but worst my mind could fathom. I, to this day, can’t explain my reasoning, but I needed her to hate me.
That day, I slept in late, skipped work and ignored Jackie’s urgings at my front door. I didn’t feel like being around people, but when the phone rang, I somehow knew to answer it.
“Matt?” Her voice was faint and strained, like she had been crying.
“Yeah, Jenny.” My finger trembled slightly as I tried to cool my nerve. “What do you want?”
“There’s going to be a lawyer…”
“You and your lawyer can go fuck yourselves.” I interrupted. My arm kept blocking the signals from my brain. It kept the phone pressed to my ear no matter how much I wanted it to slam the phone down. I was screaming inside, felt myself breathing smoke and fire. I felt tar bubble off my lips. I felt fangs.
“He’s going to come with some paper that you need to sign, Okay. Matt.”
“Well, you and who ever you’re fucking can burn it hell.” I wanted that to be that. I wanted to slam the phone down, sign the fuckiing paper, and be done with it, but the phone stayed pressed against my ear.
“Why do you think that? What happened to you?”
“I don’t know what it is about you, Jen. It wasn’t a look you gave me, or something you did or said. But something told me, you are a fucking whore and I have no need for you anymore.” I said in the coldest and most indifferent voice I could muster. My arm finally submitted. I laid the phone down on the cradle.
I only truly realize how different I was, when someone tried to kill me. It was 1952; I was penny-less and desperate. Years of drinking don’t come cheap. But I thought I had an out. A small time Loan shark named Tony. He had money and a couple guys on hand but he was still small time. I had a feeling in my gut that my luck was going to turn around. I had an odd sort of certainty that I could finally go back. So I go to him and ask for a grand
So I get on a bus to Vegas and as the New Mexican sun slowly sank, bathing the horizon in a heated red I thought to myself ‘Today I win.’ I watched the world speed past my window seat and I felt the sickness that had welled in my stomach wash away. I felt optimism, more than I had felt in a long time. I thought back to Tony, him sitting behind his over-sized desk, trying like hell to look powerful and intimidating, but in reality, he looked boyish. He was thin and lanky. His face was long and toned and betrayed no sign of whiskers. He eyed me thoughtfully, betraying noticeable detest at my moth-eaten suit in comparison to his stylish, black pin striped one. “Fine.” He said after a long pause. He reached into his breast pocket and pulled a key out and then reached down to a bottom drear. He slide it open and his hand re appeared with a neatly folded bundle of cash and a leather bound notebook. He opened the book and wrote ‘M. Dean – 1000.’ He looked up at me and said calmly “You’re in my book Matt. Don’t be stupid and forget that.”
The Bus crept to a stop and I speared no time before heading to the Casino with the brightest lights on the strip. The Good Heart, it oozed with red carpet, old women and recycled air. It felt alive and buzzing, every table looked open and welcoming, and the only problem in the world was in the choosing. I eventually settled on a petite blonde dealer at the Black Jack table and I was on a roll. A little money here on craps, a little money there on Poker and I got so much back, until I walked up to the Roulette table. I remember that I had bet it all on 15 black. The ball dropped on 18 red. I stood frozen to the spot for a long time, not speaking, not thinking, and barely breathing.
The dealer asked me to walk away from the table if I wasn’t betting. So I did and I found a new spot in front of a slot machine in between a muttering, possibly crazed eighty-year-old woman and a heavyset man with poor hygiene and respiratory problems and metaphorically speaking, it’d seem this is where all problems go to rest their bones. No one seemed to pay me any attention here, so it seemed the best place to think. So I was 1,000 dollars in debt to a Loan shark (plus the interest, which made it more like 1500 dollars), pretending to gamble so the waitresses would still give me free drinks and trying to resist the hypnotic glow of the neon and the excited babble of slot machines enough to contemplate how screwed I was.
Although, to my best efforts I tried to look like I was gambling and to my best belief, I thought I was biding my time until I could think of a way out of my predicament, in reality I was just patiently waiting to be shot in the gut by some stony faced stranger hired by Tony after he had found out that I couldn’t pay.
It didn’t take them that long to come for me though. I guess Tony knew I couldn’t pay before I did. They came, I ran, they caught me and wrenched me from the safety of prying eyes and into the back seat of their car.
2. There’s Monsters out there
I remember that car ride more than I remember anything else. I remember it was a Black Cadillac with leather seats. It smelt like new leather, straight off the cow’s ass. I guess the color suited the occasion; I liken that car ride to my funeral. Although I didn’t die, I was buried and I rested in a fashion. They both wore immaculate black suits, although the larger of the two seemed to be wedged uncomfortably into his. They never gave me their names. Assassins and hired killers seldom do. The bigger one never spoke. He didn’t quite need to. The fierce some nature of his size and face spoke volumes. He had a face, like stone. Hard like stone, big and round and stern. He never flinched, frowned, smiled or attempted any facial expression.
But the smaller one did speak and did show emotion and seemed more human. He had greasy black hair and the hint of age around his eyes and mouth. He moved his fingers through his hair almost mindlessly before he turned from the front seat to look at me; he chewed on his gums and then began to speak. He spoke with a dried out, irritated tone, like a sick person speaking his last words to unworthy ears.
“Can I ask you something?” He said, looking at me as if he actually wanted permission. But he didn’t wait for it.
“Do you believe in fate? Tony does. Twenty minutes. It took Tony twenty minutes to call us after meeting with you.”
I remember a big heavy something blocking my throat, stopping me from uttering a plea for more time or for mercy.
“I ask because Tony could have been wrong about you. You could have had the money ready and waiting and then we would’ve had to leave you be. Well, if we were dishonest men we could’ve killed you anyway and been $1000 richer.” He omitted a light chuckle. But assuming we’re honest men, Tony would have had to find a new candidate. You see, my friend and myself are not just killing a worthless, deadbeat drunk. We’re making a statement. We’re going to beat you, stab you, shoot you – Basically be heartless monsters tonight and Tony, who is waiting for us…” He said checking his watch “…will cut out your tongue, and you’ll be such an awful sight that the paper will refuse to print the gory details of you. You will make Tony into a monster. Someone no one will want to fuck over and at the same time you will mark him a man who can and will take care of his business.” He removed a cigar from his suit jacket and lit it, before taking a long drag on it. “We got a lot to accomplish it one night.”
They drove me out into the moonlit desert, where another car sat idling, and its headlights blazing a clear work area. The large one snatched me by the collar and wrenched me from the backseat of the Cadillac. It started from there. A sudden and overzealous kick to the ribs, which was immediately followed by the unmistakable sound of bones shattering. From there they smacked me around quite a bit. I’m pretty sure the bigger one had his heart set on me staying awake for the entire ordeal because he’d kept stopping to smack me awake. But they stayed true to their word. They beat and tortured me until the only sound I could make was the sound of gurgles as I struggled to breathe and finally the small one buried a shotgun shell into the depths of my chest. Let me tell you something, they say a broken heart is the worst pain you’ll ever feel, well I’d have to disagree with that.
While I was still retched blood and trying to hold my insides in, they dragged me into a shallow grave and the door to the other car finally opened and out came Tony. He looked rather sleek and elegant, oddly fair faced, as if he was going or had been at the opera. His blonde hair was neatly and handsomely styled, making him seem even younger than he might’ve been. But also, he looked cold. It almost seemed as if he floated to my side, like some prep school Grim Reaper. He knelt down and looked me in the eyes. They were cold as ice. As if, he wasn’t human but something else. Tony allowed his hand to hang in mid air awaiting something. The larger one snatched a bloodstained pocketknife from the desert floor and handed it to Tony. Tony then pushed down my lower lip and jaw, stuck two fingers and a thumb into my mouth, and grasped my tongue. I tried to bite and to kick but pain and fatigue sat heavy on my chest. But that wasn’t all. It wasn’t just the fear and pain and fatigue, it was the hopelessness. I knew and had accepted the fact that I was going to die. I let tears fall freely as I babbled incoherently.
Tony wrenched my tongue out a good three or four inches out of my head before he started to saw through it. As hot blood splashed on to my cheeks and down my nostrils, I lost my sight or my eyes just rolled into the back of my head (I couldn’t be sure) and the world became the taste of salt and metal and then that faded away into nothing but pain and pressure and then the pressure stopped and left me with only the horrible pain. I could feel them throw heaps of dirt on me, before leaving me to the cold. The worst of it was the cold. I remember how my body started to lose heat. I remember the cold as if I’m still in that grave. I would have welcomed death but death did not come. I at one point thought I was dead but I was actually just sleeping. I slept for what felt like days, weeks, and months. But I awoke again and coughed up a good amount of dirt and bit more out of every other orifice. When you feel the cool, calm silence of death creep over you, you experience true peace. An infinite peace without any concern or fear. I severely mourned that loss; I wanted that peace with all of my being, but knew it would only occur once. I rose from my grave and slid a finger across the unbroken flesh upon my chest. The wind kicked up dust and chilled my cheeks. The horizon was laced with rippling gold as the sun prepared to rise. It slowly soaked the air, the earth, the world with life and it breathed warm light into my chilled lungs. I wasn’t dead, I could breathe. I could see. I could think and I could hear the distant freeway and the town 20 miles away, the people in that town their heartbeats, their thoughts. The world was so noisy all of a sudden.
The acuteness of my hearing dulled quickly and muscles grew stronger. There was an energy that now flowed through my body, intensifying individual components. An electric sensation coursing through my veins. I remember the power I felt, the sheer greatness of my being. The knowledge of being something more. I knew I wasn’t quite human. I didn’t know what I was though. I have a closer idea now from the people I’ve encountered, the things I’ve seen. But I thought I was God then. I thought myself untouchable. I did things... regrettable things... truly regrettable things.
I felt at that time that humanity was fodder for my rage and desire. But these things could be one day mended or could it, or should it. If I undo my sins, I become guilty of no sin. I give myself the right to be good, whether or not I deserve it. I remember such horrible things, I remember the hatred, the rage and I remember the sand, and I remembered how the sand clung to my flesh and submitted to my weight. I smelt the clean but slightly salty air. I remember most of all the feeling of sand between my toes. One of my executioners had taken my shoes for whatever reason he wanted them. I walk through the desert, back to the city and from the city; I traveled back home to Red River, New Mexico. I knew only rage and vengeance. I knew only the pain of a shotgun shell in my chest and at the time that was all I needed to know.
I remember the night of my guilt’s origin. I remember standing outside of Tony’s two-story home, it was surprisingly domestic. I had assumed he’d surround himself completely with gaudy pieces of shit, but he had a fairly humble and respectable home, a sensible car, and even a well-groomed golden shepherd.
An overwhelming display of the American dream. The only clue towards his sinister nature was a black car parked across the street from his house. Inside sat my two executors and a third man I’ve never seen before. They puffed on cigars and joked with each. I stood far off in the shadows of a neighboring home, waiting for my opening with hot poison pumping through my veins and my damn veins screamed for action. They swelled and ached and ultimately forced me to give in.
I picked up a loose brick from the home’s walkway, marched to the passenger’s side of the car, and smashed the window. The larger of my two executors shrieked as the glass cut at his face and eyes. The shorter of them erupted out of the driver’s side banishing a small handgun. I waited for him to recognize my face. To see my living, livid eyes burning like all unholy hell. It took a few seconds but he did and his face went milk white. Something clicked in his mind and he ran, but before he could get too far, I hurled the brick with an ungodly strength and it hit with a terrible crack on the back of his head and he fell and didn’t get back up. The larger executor fell from the passenger seat, still liberating tiny bit of glass from his face as the man in the backseat sat uselessly, gazing stupidly at what just unfolded like it was an overly complex puzzle. With his eyes only partly open, the larger man attempted to rise to meet me, but I give him a quick and precise kick in between his shoulders, which didn’t knock him down but did slow his progress upward. And for a short time, the contest was my wrath pit against my bulk. I’d thrust my wicked heel into his crumbling ribs, hacking away until his collapsed, panting and coughing blood and there I silenced the aching of his body, by shoving my heel into his skull and he laid there like a beaten mountain on the verge of breaking into billions of tiny pebbles. And the third still sat there, blank faced, but I killed him the same, with the small one’s pistol.
Then there was the family. You’d imagine that such an act would be fiercely imprinted in the mind of the actor, every action every turn memorized and readily recalled, but I don’t remember or don’t want to remember some of those actions. But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the action of murder, you don’t forget that sort of thing. The first murder happened in the kitchen, I believe the wife. She screamed, fought, and made enough of a racket that the rest of the house was awake. I held her there poised and ready to snap her neck. I remember Tony was there, a small handgun shivering in his hands. He kept shouting threats of how he was going to castrate me, how he was going to burn down my home, how he was going to murder my family. Oh… that’s right. I had a conversation with him first. I knocked on his door and the Mrs. answered it. She wore a red nightgown under a silky white robe.
“Hello, I apologize for the late hour, Ma’am. Could I speak with Tony? It’s related to his business.”
She eyed me irritably and said “One moment.”
Moments later, I sat across from Tony, him looking sour faced. “I’m surprised you’re alive.”
“I’m surprised too.” I replied flatly. I rolled my tongue over a grain of sand still in my mouth I had been splitting them out for the past five hours.
“I suppose it was fair. I fuck you over, you fuck me over. You went a little over board but I get the reasoning.”
“And you get why I’m upset. I paid good money for you to be dead. Those boys don’t come cheap. But here you are, looking better than ever. How odd is that one.”
He then stood up and turned to face the ocean blue kitchen counter.
“You know how much I paid. I gave them both $750 a piece and told them to seat on it until I find a guy, you.” He said turning around and point at me. “That plus the grand you lost and the $500 in interest, you’ve turned what was a good plan into a very expensive mistake.”
“You have no clue how expensive it really is. I'm nowhere near done taking.”
“What? You want money or something?”
Tony then turned around again and opened a cabinet and before I could think, a bullet lodged itself into my head and I black out. I awoke a few moments later to see Tony’s wife hovering over me. She probably heard the gunshot and came to see what was going on. I snatched her by the throat and in a flash, I was behind her.
Then it’s us standing, us shouting. Him training his handgun’s sights on me. And me poised and ready to snap her neck like a twig.
Next, it’s her lying dead on the floor. His eyes, the big payoff, his eyes swelled with tears and you could tell without being under his skin that every nerve in his body had gone numb. You could tell without knowing him that she was everything to him. He dropped his gun and allowed me to kill him.
Next was the eldest son. He was no more than 16, but the way he fearlessly charged into the downstairs living area. “Mom!” He shouted in a panic and then he saw me and we stood there and nothing mattered. He looked at me with so much fear and rage and horror and confusion and everything must have melted into nothingness for him. I could felt his heart break. I could feel his blood boil and scream for vengeance. I could feel his muscle plan an attack independent of his mind. And I could see how far away his mind had gone; it couldn’t possibly make sense of what it just saw. He should have gotten some form of vengeance. I stole a quick glance at the handsome knife set displayed on the counter. Five polished ivory handles stood proudly upon an expertly curved wooden base.
Next I pocketed the fingers I had just taken from a confused sixteen-year-old. The owner lay spread-eagle on the floor, his insides flooding onto the expensive kitchen tiles. I could just hear the terrified breathing of a young girl. Her heart pounding like a jackhammer. I could taste her fear, almost hear her think ‘should I run or should I hide.' She must have decided to hide.
Next I had her by the neck. She was no more than thirteen and she had her mother’s features already. I remembered how I focused on her hair. The way it felt, like smooth silk after being run through water. I remember refocusing on her neck, the way it quivered and warmed my flesh. I remember feeling the faintest quiver in my loins and was relieved to feel disgusted with myself. I felt the disgust but the thought still lingered in my head. It sat there mocking me, screaming to the world that I was no better than Tony. I was not only no better, I was worse. I felt immense, immeasurable disgust and guilt and I desperately fought to kill the thought but there it stayed. It was in my head, my arms, my hands, it was in my groin and I kept screaming into the bowels of my mind “Let her go! Kill her! Just don’t, please don’t become that.” But I leave that thought there, in the icy black urgings of my guilty past.
And with longevity is the condition of living in the present. I with all honesty regret my past, but I move forward. But this is in contrast to my intention. My being wills me forward, whilst my intention wills me into the past. It causes severe tear inside of me. It gets to be unbearable. This constant separation between duty and desire, but all I can do is move forward, moving ever closer to my duty.
3. A New Companion
I hadn’t been here in so long. I could still smell it. The rusty metal aroma of blood, the saltwater misty scent of fear, the paint and cleaning agents couldn’t hide it from me. I stood in their kitchen and I fought off the memories of Tony and the look in his eyes, the terrible heartbreak and iced over indifference and hopelessness. So long ago, I came here, so long ago from her screaming and I still couldn’t bring myself to go up the carpeted steps to her room, where the ghost of that girl sat in waiting. Her eyes flooding with pleading, flooding with horror.
Tony Cappetairo’s home had been sold and re-sold, painted a rainbow of different colors, the tiles tore up, a new room added on, but it remembered me well and reacted accordingly. It shrank back and shuttered, like a helpless animal too tired to scream. I could feel it wanting to eject me from inside it. Wanting to vomit me out, like bad fish. I sat down on the carpeted floor. The house was empty, less warm, less healthy. The new owners would be moving in, in a week. I wondered if they knew the home’s history.
I tried to remember why I chose that day to re-visit the house, but I couldn’t come up with a reason better than it felt right. I had been doing that, learning to bide my time with feeling rather than logic. I’d move from town to town, from person to person, strictly listening to whims. They seemed to guide me well. They kept me away from trouble and away from prying eyes interested in a dead man. But it was odd that they would lead me to an empty home with such horrible memories embedded in its wall. I looked down at the blue-green carpet; it was a sort of amber-brown way back when. I liked that old brown carpet. I ran my fingers through its short hairs and started pulling up little strands of carpet fiber to distract myself. ‘What am I waiting for?’ I thought to myself, pulling up a more difficult piece.
“Do you believe in Fate?” The question hung in the air and expanded somehow; like it was the most important question I’d ever be asked, filling the room with its simplistic importance. The voice sounded familiar, for a moment I thought it might have been Jackie, but that was ridiculous. I twisted around to see him, the smaller man who ushered me into the miserable state of waiting. I never did get his name. He looked worn and dried, not quite old, but not quite alive.
“I asked you that a long time ago.” He said through cracked lips that reminded me of crumbling stones.
“50 years and two caved-in skulls ago” I said still seated. I thought to ask why was he still alive but I stopped myself. I’d think the same way as I, although it appeared that the years had been better to me. He lost his immaculate look and seemed to have gained an odd aura, like a fraying rope. A whole slowly falling away from itself.
“I suppose it was fair that you did what you did.” He said turning his head to reveal a crusted over crack on the back over his head. I crept back in disgust. His black hair was matted and clumped together with blood and dirt.
“I suppose, it wouldn’t be fair for me to seek revenge for this and I won’t if you let me die.”
I didn’t quite understand what he meant. He looked at me as if he was expecting me to do something, pull a rabbit out of my ass, maybe.
“I don’t understand.”
“You ever had a migraine for 50 years. Well, as one would imagine it leaves you with very little patience. I’m tired, I’m in pain and I with you to stop it.” He said venomously, his body shook in a subtle and foreboding way.
“I don’t know what I can do. I don’t…”
“ I am tired, I hurt all the damn time and I promise you this, if you don’t fix me, let me die, I will make you pray for the joys of the treatment you got in the desert.” He said this slowly, in an ‘I’m curling up to strike’ kind of way.
“I didn’t…” I started but he pulled a handsomely polished piece of sharp silver from his pocket and said with a tremor in his voice. “Choose your words carefully.”
I hopped to my feet and he must have taken that as a threatening gesture because he tackled me to the ground and started to stab me in the chest and neck. I raised my arm in defense, which got stabbed a couple times as well, before I blacked out.
I awake, uncertain of where I was but it couldn’t have been to long since I’d blacked out because I could still feel blood trickling down my shirtfront. I couldn’t see though, I for a moment thought I had gone blind. But I could just manage a small source of light, a short strip of faint yellow, and then there was the cold. It sank into my throat and lungs and stung them both. And it was chased by a dirty taste like old meat or expired milk.
“Hello?” I called out.
I tried to raise my numb arms only to find them restrained. Suddenly the faint yellow exploded into dazzling light, dulled only by a figure, wielding a foreboding hooked instrument. He entered and with a click, the room was flooded with light. The walls were gray and covered with frost. I couldn’t find what was causing the dirty smell but I figured it was once human and then I looked at him. He had a broken look in his eye, not broken as in beaten, but broken as in desperate, like an injured elk being circled by wolves more dangerous than ever. He looked like he was going to say something as he approached me but he opted to bash my face with the blunt end of the crowbar.
“Do it!” He yelled as he swung the metal. I could feel his expertise with each blow. Some people would just use their strong arm and swing away. The problem with that is you get tired and can hurt your wrist, then what good are you. But not him, he knew to swing just hard enough to hurt me and he knew where to hit. Across the shins, across the cheekbones, nowhere meaty, nowhere that’d keep me dazed for too long.
He had slammed the crowbar into my collarbone and left me to recover for the next dosage of his wrath, which came in the form of his glinting silver.
I expected him to stab wildly, like before, but he just stood there, almost making cuts, almost slashing, but always almost. He was searching for something and within moments, he found it. The crowbar had left large bruised areas around my face and body; he had apparently been looking for a spot that wasn’t black or purple. He had succeeded in finding it, on my left forearm and dipped the knife below my skin and kept pressing down into the meat of my arm. The blade made a slow and constant path into me. He started to twist the knife even slower than he pushed it in. The wound started to rip apart, spilling blood down on to the floor. I wanted to scream out, but only managed a gasping whimper like a beaten dog. He took his hand off the blade of the knife and it stood independent of him. He placed his hand back on the knife and started shaking it and finally pulled it out, only to plunge it back into my arm. He repeated this three or four more times on various parts of my body before he pulled the blade out for the last time. I closed my eyes and dropped my head, when I heard the sound of flint sparking and the wild rush of burning gas.
Fire, that was all that was on my mind. I forgot my burden for the hour or so that I had sat shackled to a chair and screaming in that Freezer as that sadistic son of a bitch melted off chunks of skin and fat from my shoulder.
“How far do you think I’ll have to go to leave some permanent damage?”
The hiss of the blowtorch was constantly muted by my screams, but beyond my bitter cries and the hissing were his screams. At this` time, I realized this was both sadism and masochism at the same time. Hell on both of us.
The air stank of flesh and smoke and clouded any hopes of clear thought. But I thought I could see the humanity in my personal monster, he for a mere second showed his guilt and need for hope and I understood that if he had not a choice, he’d put himself on the other end of the blowtorch, on the other end of those knives and crowbars.
“I’ve got something special for you. … Something real good… You’ll love this. I’ve always wanted to know what happens in the case of… um... Dismemberment no... . Um decap... No …oh! Amputation! Amputation! What’ll happen in case of amputation? Skin fibers weave back together; what if there’s nothing to weave back? Huh…huh….You’re still immortal… flesh still regenerates. Will I have two of you or does it have to be connected to the heart or... Maybe the brain.” He said with one of his fingers pressed to his head.
He eyed me as if he had just revealed a secret. He then marched away from me and disappeared behind a corner. The next thing I heard was the whine of a chainsaw. He reappeared and marched wide –eyed toward me. I pleaded with a hoarse and useless voice. The words dropped from my mouth and hit the floor, but I moved my mouth all the same. He hovered the rotating blade just above my left forearm. I couldn’t feel the torch, but I’d definitely feel this. He slowly pressed down. The blade tore my skin like paper, flinging particles of meat and blood all over the room, and within seconds he hit bone and the saw started to whine louder. I started to scream louder as well. I screamed out what was left in my lungs and it still wasn’t enough. I prayed for death or at least for the pain to overwhelm me. Neither happened.
But something did. I found my voice and shouted out. “I’ll do it!” My throat burned like I had swallowed acid.
‘What the hell was I saying?’ I couldn’t tell how I’d do it, or if it could be done, but his hope would restrain him. “I’ll do it.” He looked at me skeptical, but his eyes betrayed his doubt.
“You will. How?”
“I have to do it.”
“I have to kill you.”
His eyes widen in an understanding that I couldn’t fathom. If nature couldn’t kill hum how could I. He hurriedly undid my restraints, tenderly and gingerly handling my destroyed body, holding me like a baby ready to walk. I couldn’t quite stand, but I fought to pump adrenaline and dopamine into my veins. Once I did whatever I was to do, I'd have to try and make an escape. He then handed a silver knife with his hands shaking like it was over pumped with waiting and excitement. It felt cold and sure in my right hand.
His eyes welled with tears and his cheeks started to bloom with hot red hope. I spread my arms in a gesture like a hug, which he slowly entered. He held me tightly, squeezing and bruising bruised, broken and burnt areas and began to weep openly into my shoulder and I closed my eyes and tried to shoo away the terrible, electric ecstasy of the thrill of a ready kill, the want for a wanting victim. I felt the metal warm and rejoice in my hand and with a low breath, I plunged the blade into his lower back, hoping to hit his kidney. I think it hit.
He fell out of my arms to the ground. He gave me a look that disgusted me, a look that said “Thank you for killing me”. His eyes swelled with joy and gratitude .He knew he was going to die and was glad. He reached back and pulled the knife out and let his steaming inside flood out on to the frost-covered floor. His eyes fluttered and faded in and out of focus and he winced and his eyes welled up, but he never lost that look of gratitude.
I knew I had to leave but something told me it was wrong to let him die alone. So I dragged him out of the hell he’d created for us and into the hallway of a diner that seemed to be under remodeling. Its walls were half-painted powder blue. I let him rest there, propped up against the wall, for a while, so I could rest. I crouched down and closed my eyes. All I could think of was how every part of me hurt. Then how odd it felt, to have blood on my hand again. I had kept red off of it for so long. So long that I almost forgot that they could be stained.
I rubbed off what I could on my coat, hoping to undo what had happened. But then I calmed myself and tried to breathe and I did. I sucked in the back draft of the industrial freezer and thought about how good the breeze from the freezer felt. I closed my eyes to better enjoy the icy cold and to better allow the cold bless me with sleep.
I then woke with a start to see my bleeding companion, coughing up blood and hunched over on himself. Slowly laying himself on the ground. “Talk to me.” He said, resting his head on his bicep.
“About what?” I asked
I stared off into space trying to think through my aching nerves and Jenny’s face floated to the surface.
“I just recently found out that I have a son, who has kids of his own.”
“You’re a grandfather.”
“Yeah. I’d be about eighty-five.”
“You look good for your age.”
“Yeah,” I chuckled and then winced, inadvertently moving broken and bruised tissue. “My son, who I never met, was fifty-two when he died, heart failure. His name was Harry Bowland, but he had a son and two girls and my wife, my ex-wife died too. On her eighty-third birthday.”
I stopped to think of her. Back when she was young and the last time I saw her, with thousands of tubes running in and out of her nose and arms and every other place you could put a damn tube. “I thought I got rid of you’ She joked. I didn’t know exactly why she didn’t react in confusion or horror, but she didn’t. The last time we were in the same room was a long time ago at my divorce hearing. She just gave me this ‘I was waiting for you to come”
“I wanted to see her once more. I needed to know exactly what became of her.
I barely knew her though. She has restarted her life. She had had a new husband and a child. She has had a career, has had vacations, and has had the headaches of a teenager all without me. She has had an entire life happily without me.” I took my gaze away from the poor little bleeder across from me. I didn’t want to talk anymore, but I figured I’d want a kind voice if I ever died.
“You look so much like you did. But you look so sad. Why?’ She asked me. She placed her hand upon my cheek and she smiled at me. I had to say, she looked so different. Her skin sagged some and her fingers trembled upon my flesh. She was so old and I couldn’t help but…’ The word danced on the tip of my tongue, not quite ready to be spoken. ‘Envy her and … mourn her. But I found that no matter how old she got she could still break through my barriers and get to the real me. My eyes swelled with tears and I lost all strength and control. I buried my head in her bosom and cried.” A tear escaped the rim of my eye and rolled down my cheek.
“I missed you so much. I’m so sorry.’ It poured from me, like a waterfall and it both sting and rang sweet in my mouth, and there it was. So crystal clear I felt foolish that I hadn’t seen it before. I could love her. It had returned sometime in between her leaving and me entering the hospital room. I let the whole of 50 some odd years out with my tears and pleas for forgiveness. I held on to her and that moment and every single moment of our marriage so long ago.”
“It was amazing; we began to just talk. We spoke of the time we spent apart, of the time we spent together, of my experiences, of her family and that night she walked out.”
“You were gone long before I divorced you. I couldn’t do it anymore”
I found myself crying full out, not from pain and not from fear. I looked back at my new friend and he looked right into my eyes and he mouthed something I couldn't quite understand, before his eyes went blank.
4. Little did they Know
We cruised along a rain soaked highway, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Arizona. It had been wildly hot throughout the day and the sudden rain was at first, a welcomed surprise, dropping the heat by at least 25 percent. But as we drove through the rain and night fell, the continuous static of the rain left us sluggish. I had agreed to come along to relieve Chris of some of the driving responsibilities, a decision I was beginning to regret. In part, because of the endless stretches of in- activity and in part, because of the fact that I had never felt so foreign and out of place in my life. I had stupidly thrust myself into a sea of wavy brown hair and fiery hazel eyes. There was Chris, who was a year older than me and very well built. I always likened him to a machine, in that he didn’t like being unfocused or out of control. Then there was Mya, she was sixteen and almost took the plane trip with her parent. She apparently never expressed a want to go by either means of transportation. I couldn’t blame her, no one likes going to funerals. But apparently she chose the less immediate route. And lastly there was Vicky, who was twenty-two, my age.
But I also regretted it, mostly because of the fear of being found out. I had elected to spend 20 hour with the brother of the girl I was secretly dating. I had offered for the experience, for the doing of it. I thought, how great would it be to see the desert, the cracked sand, the endless and the reddish green horizon. To taste the unfettered air, and even better; to experience that with my best friend of ten years and the girl who had my heart, a cheap adventure. We were driving from North Beach, California to their grandmother’s funeral in Red river, New Mexico. It was about 20 hours one way and Vicky and Mya didn’t manage to make it pass the 7th hour and you couldn’t really blame them. Chris and I weren’t doing much better.
I sat in my seat, feeling half-dead and completely exhausted, my eyes fixed securely on the mock oak panel dash. Studying the thousands of ignored stains and tiny bits of garbage that commonly plague a college student’s car. Sometime around the 6th hour, I forgot where I ended and the old cracked leather of the seat began, around the eighth, I couldn’t muster the energy to care. I knew I had to take over the driving responsibilities soon but I couldn’t help but nod off. I blinked in and out of consciousness, hypnotized by the rhythmic cadence of the girl’s breathing and the falling rain. I wouldn’t make the night and I could see Chris pretending to be fully aware. His head would start to bob and he’d let the car drift ever so slightly but quickly correct the car’s path and at about the fourth near miss I raised my head and saw it. We arrived upon it like a divine beacon. A gaudy neon sign reading Moe’s Motel: Vacancies. It was a one-story cement building cloaked in lazily sprawling darkness. The motel had about eleven of twelve rooms and only one seemed to be occupied. I nudged Chris and said “Let’s stop, we’re two hours ahead of schedule,” He gave me a look like he would rather keep going, but knew he wouldn’t make it. He gave an irritated sigh and changed lanes, readying the sedan to pull into the parking lot.
After stirring Mya and Vicky, we made our way to the check in window. It’s light spilling out into the night, but somehow managing to leave the shadows perfectly undisturbed. The darks stayed dark and the yellow light from the check out window was loosing ground every moment. A dying pathway to a lonely window. I tapped on the bell and after a few moments of odd rustling we were met by this wild-eyed, wiry haired, old man sporting a dirty beat-up, old, cowboy hat with the initials TP embroidered in black thread off to the side. He eyed the four of us and then pulled out a large red register book to check us in. I couldn’t help but think of how he stank of bad food and good Bourbon and it looked like the aforementioned had found its way down his shirt. He thoughtfully gazed at Chris, who was serving a leaning post for both his sisters, and said “You boys have fun now.” with a tip of his hat that suggested “Good job, boys” and a toothy grin, revealing yellowed teeth and what looked like chewing tobacco, but could have been just about anything. Chris gave a look like he wanted to correct the motel man’s assumption, but opted to just take the room key, while shooting the man a dirty look like Chris had just lick an ashtray. The motel man returned the look by swirling his tongue under his lips in a ‘You got something to say?’ type of fashion.
Next, we were settling into the room. Vicky and Mya graciously took the bed, a clean enough queen size with a thin, dark blue blanket, while Chris took an armchair that I declined for fear of tetanus. It looked ratty and was wrapped up in duct tape and it looked old, (no, it was old in the 70’s, it was a dinosaur.) Someone, I assumed the old man, had stopped caring about presentation a long while back. The room was clean, but there was a strong indication that the previous occupants weren’t.
You’d look around and spot an orange tinge of old spilled blood against the white backdrop of the wall or you’d see a darkened corner that probably became a hilarious story of how someone couldn’t hold their bowels in some ratty motel in Arizona. I looked around and saw little scratches and scuffs scattered across the walls and ceiling from my make shift floor bed. I played with the idea of waking everyone up to add to the chaos of this room. I for some reason thought of the room as a traveler permanently cemented into the ground, but somehow it managed to get souvenirs from the people who pass through it. I decided against waking up Chris and the girls due to the nature of the trip. But I still wanted to offer something to this room. I grabbed a black Sharpie marker out from my bag and added five words to the inside wall of the closet: Rest in Peace Nana Dean.
I closed my eyes and tried to envision her. She appeared in my mind’s eye in the form of a photograph Vicky once shown to me. She was lively and radiant with a 12-year-old Vicky on her lap peering up adoringly. Then Vicky faded away into the brown background and Mrs. Dean grew older and more sickly looking and thousands of tube sprouted from her nose, mouth, and arm and a hospital bed grew beneath her. Its metal railings gave the ominous look of a cage around her shrinking form. She lay wrinkled, shriveled, and trembling like the last, lonely leave just barely hanging on to its tree. She peered from behind heavy lids toward someone out of sight. She mouthed an inaudible sentence and then smiled and then a man much younger than her appeared. He had tiny bits of gray in his hair and he carried himself like an older man, but he was clearly young. He removed his thin black overcoat and sat at the foot of her bed. The two then began to speak in a very familiar manner and then they gave each other a look. Their eyes locked in a warm and subtle manner. So subtle that I almost miss it, like the sun setting, but once I saw it, it almost blinded me, love. They both had love in their eyes, a very old and honest type that settled oddly in the bottom of my heart.
I laid myself down on the floor with my legs crossed and my hands serving as pillows. I stared up at a scuffmark that looked like an eye. I don’t know why I was fixated on that mark more than any other mark scattered across the ceilings and walls. But I studied every curve and nuance of it and committed it to memory and I lost myself in it, reading its curves and in its curves, I read myself. Its gentle curves told of how uneasy I felt about this whole situation, its jagged peak told of how alien I felt. It knew me well and threatened to expose me for who I was, Mark, a new spin on an old Judas and then I felt the tender brush of Vicky’s hand across my chest and the eerie but comforting feeling that you’re not laying alone. I turned my head to see that Vicky had woken and move to me while I was lost in my head.
“Did I wake you?” I whispered.
She looked at me with half opened eyes and said softly “No.” She then, laid her head on my shoulder and closer her eyes. I slowly ran my fingers through her silk hair and I closed my own.
Next morning, I awoke alone, which sent an antsy type of sickness through me, like you get when something doesn’t quite go right. But it was probably for the best that she returned to the bed. And within an hour or two, we were back on the road. Chris insisted I speed to make up time lost due to sleep, so we roared down the road, kicking up wind and dust. I could just see a trucker’s diner that claimed to have the world’s greatest pie. I made a mental note to stop there on the way back and put that claim to the test. I betrayed a slight chuckle when I thought to myself ‘I had the world’s best pie, but never the greatest.’ And then felt a small pang of guilt. I for some reason wanted to see the inside of that dust coated beauty. It was like a gut longing but still then, not quite a longing. It was hard to explain. It wasn’t exactly for pie, coffee or whatever they served as much as the place itself. That tiny diner stuck in my mind even after it was long out of sight, disappearing behind the horizon and leaving us no civilized quarter.
And there, in the long stretch of untamed nothingness; amidst my coveted cracked sand and stifling sunrays beating unmercifully on the car roof, it happened. The crash was in slow motion I think, or at least that’s how I remember it. The smooth ride leading up to a single solitary pop that echoed throughout the desert and sent the car hurdling into a ditch and out of the control of my useless hands. The wheel jerked violently out of my hands long before my brain got the message that something was wrong. The pop was quickly followed by curses and screams of confusion and terror as the sun-bathed desert shook wildly outside our windows. That then, was followed by dead silence, there probably was sound, breathing, the car settling, or even just ambient noise, but none of it registered in my ear. Chris broke the silence. He brought our worlds back on track with his concerned, brotherly “Is everyone alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine”, Vicky, said as she rubbed Mya’s back comfortingly. Mya had begun to tremble and cry at some point in the midst of the silence. Vicky’s hair was blocking any clear view of her face, I assumed purposefully.
The car fell silent again, with exception to Mya tears and it was a terrible quiet, something like the ‘I don’t know what to say’ quiet you hear when someone dies and the mourners are looking for solace. I could tell that Chris was uneasy. The cogs were turning in his head, trying to fix a problem bigger than him. He needed his sisters to be okay for him to be all right. He needed her to say something, anything, and his eyes searched her tears for the right solution. But Mya had to work through a mound of shock, a mound of reality. She could have died, she could die, and from the look on her face I could tell, that never occurred to her before. But through the shock, she managed a quick nod and a sheepish “I’m Okay”.
Chris reached over, wiped a tear from her eye, and brushed her cheek with his fingers. “Let’s get some air,” Chris announced with a little more calm in his voice, He popped open his door and stepped out. Vicky followed suit and then Mya and lastly myself. We stood there in the middle of nowhere with the wind whipping our cheeks and wondering what we’d do next.
5. Chris, Kelly, and Molly’s Diner
My mind whirled with frustration and fatigue. I knew Mark had nothing to do with the crash but my head wanted to blame someone and it didn’t seem very fulfilling to blame a faulty tire. Especially with that look baby Mye gave. It would make everything so much easier if I could just blame him and kick the shit out of him. I just wanted to make it better, but with all that shit piling on my head, I knew I’d have to face the fact that I was powerless.
I turned to my sisters and Mark and announced that I’d hike back toward this rinky-dink diner a couple miles back. I only noticed it because of its overly boastful sign claiming the world’s best pie. I figured I could borrow their phone to call a tow truck and hopefully the guy driving could take us to a train station or something.
“I’ll come with.” Mark offered.
“No. Stay here in case some Hill-Billie or something comes along.” I didn’t think anyone would mess with them or the car but I didn’t want him near me at this particular moment. I started; calling back, “I’ll be back soon”. And giving a hand wave and marched on until they were out of sight.
I walked along the side of this endless stretch of fucking road and desert, praying for shade or for that damn diner to come into view, neither of which came. It was about 2 or 3 miles back (which isn’t that bad in a normal situation,) but in 110-degree heat and with no water it’s just plainly put ‘hell’. So I was baking literally, (So damn hot, you can’t sweat. You could feel your skin cooking like bacon,) and feeling dizzy and hoping what I was feeling wasn’t heat stroke, when a cherry red hot-rod came ripping down the road. It swerved haphazardly on and off the road, fishtailing with each turn. I entertained the idea of flagging him down but thought better of it. It appeared that this guy wouldn’t have even seen me and part of me doubted that he valued his own life, the way he was driving. So I let him disappear off into the simmer horizon and I went on.
I was thinking how sickening fresh air felt in my stomach and regretted not taking water with me when Molly’s diner peeked into view. It was a handsome sight, standing alone amongst the blazing sun and golden desert and it shined, it was like a hundred watt light bulb it was so bright, just daring to take on the sun.
My legs found new vigor as I pumped them, racing to Molly’s entrance. I reached the entrance peered in through the window. The lights were off and the diner was vacant. I fell into dread thinking I had to walk back and wait, I thought that my body protested. I checked a blue and white business hours sign: Monday through Saturday- 9:00am- 2:30am. Sunday: 12:00 pm-11:30pm. They should be open I thought to myself. I tested the door and it open with a cheery ring. I stepped in and looked around. The floor was sprayed with broken glass and napkins and there was a stink in the air. Something like meat baking in the desert heat, it stank; something had gone bad over night. I called out, “Hello”. There was no answer.
“Hello.” I called out again.
And then, a thought floated into my head, a robbery. The place looked tore apart, in the corner of my eye I could see a half-eaten plate of steak and potatoes being feasted upon by ants. I looked over to the register, it was opened and empty. Fear rose in my throat as another thought floated into my head. The stink in the air could be human.
“Hello” I called again, my voice cracking a little.
Another thought floated into my head, find a phone and call the police. I walked up to the counter and stupidly hesitated at a sign reading ‘employee’s only.’ I walked pass and looked around for a phone as my insides urged me to run away. This side of the corner looked as bad as the other, shattered plates and cup littered the floor. But no sign of a phone or even a phone cord. I moved farther back into the kitchen where the stink grew and rested comfortably in my nostrils. It looked like a typically diner’s kitchen, big metal table in the center, sinks, pots, pans, burners and what probably was a freezer in the back. It reminded me of a summer job I had, working in a kitchen at a sub shop. I, for a second wondered if the guy that works here was put off on this kind of food as much as I was after working there for a long while and then wondered if he was still alive.
“Hello.” I called for no reason. I wanted to vomit but settled on letting whatever came to mind fall out of my mouth. I muttered nonsensical sentences ending in “Fucking phone” and “Should go.” And there, with the stink fueling the furnace of my fears, I heard the strangely familiar, yet foreign sound of a gun cocking. I heard it, a hundred times in movies, but it sounded so much louder and crisper in true life.
I turned slowly and calmly toward a shivering, petite little red head with puffy eyes. I could tell her hair was at one time well managed but now clung messily to the side of her face, held by sweat and tears. She’d been crying and she looked tired, shivering and swaying and keeping her bloodshot green eyes trained on me. I looked her imploringly in the eyes, pleading her to know I meant no harm and despite the gun aimed at me, I got the sense that she wasn’t looking for conflict, she was shaking like she just had the worst night of her life.
“I’m not looking to hurt anyone.” I said slowly. She must have taken that as somewhat hostile because she tightened her grip on the gun and a cold wave of fear shot through me. I didn’t think she wanted to shoot me, but her intentions wouldn’t mean much if something stupid happened.
“Listen, I’m not here to hurt anyone. My car got a flat and I need a phone, that’s all.” I said, trying to send the message of honesty with my eyes and it seemed to work because she lowered the gun, a bit. And with tremble fingers and a throbbing mass in my throat, I raised my own hand and slowly brought it to the gun. I hesitated for what seemed like hours, battling with myself trying to mutter the nerve to take a loaded gun for its owner. But I finally placed my hand on the pistol and slowly moved it into a safer direction, where it discharged into a meat-cutting table.
“Wasn’t that loud.” I tried to joke to relieve the tension and I offered a nervous but friendly to emphasize my harmlessness. She gave a quick sound that might have been a giggle and release the gun into my hand. It was lighter than I thought a gun might be and it was warm. I remember something from a movie about wet guns being useless and wondered if it was true, but realized that I only needed her to think that.
I walked over to a sink where some pans were left to soak and I dropped it in and announced “No more gun.” Without her gun, she stood curtained by the shadows with her thin arms wrapped around her chest and a thought floated into my head and now I had someone to ask.
“What happened here?”
6. What kind of name is ‘Texas Pete?'
The world was still and over-flowed with a harsh, ugly type of beauty, something like empty clutter and the unfamiliar to weathered eyes. This stretch of road was dirty and under managed. Thousands of people must have took it and left only bits of garbage, hamburger wrappers, soda cups, water bottles, spent cigarettes, Twinkie wrappers etc. But there’s something to be said about seeing something you’ve never seen before. I took it all in and my eyes rested upon a stray garbage bag, snared by a desert shrub and played upon by the wind. I laughed a little as I thought about how ridiculous it was to find litter this far from anywhere and anything, but quickly concealed it when Vicky raised her head to look at me.
Her and I were leaning against the baking back end of the downed car while Mya sat cross-legged on the side of the road seemingly sun bathing. I had asked her how she could stand the hot pavement and she returned “How could you stand the hot metal,” and no one thought to bring up the idea of sitting in the car.
I let my head droop down and I stared at the cracks and scuffs in my sneakers and the fraying strands of my jean pant legs and my mind flushed empty, but for one thought. The sentence “Tell me I should be here,” fell out of my mouth and I could feel the sun beat the back of my neck. I made a silent prayer for sweat.
“I need you here.” Vicky said in a voice only addressed to me. I felt her thigh just barely brush my own and her thin finger touch the back of my forearm. And for a moment, I wondered how oblivious Mya was to this exchange and then realized how little I cared.
I followed the path Mya’s eyes were fixed on, down the road; on a point she could no longer see. “We’re going to be so late.” Mya said. The statement hung in the air waiting for an answer, a contradiction, something.
“Should Chris be this long?” Mya asked.
“The diner was a little ways off and he’d probably have to wait there for a tow to come. You know, to lead them here.”
“We should have gone with him,” Mya said to the road.
“Nah, He’s fine. Any second now you’ll see a tow truck coming.” I said feeling a small pang of unease nerve. This all had gone very wrong and me lying only seemed to amplify that fact and we all fell silent again.
‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I thought to myself.
“He’ll be back, soon.” I said for wanting to say something.
“Actually I think you’re right. I think I hear a car.” Mya said, her eyes straining to focus on the distant horizon. She awkwardly stood and brushed gravel from her legs and jean shorts before squinting at a distance glinting something rolling toward us.
As the sun’s shine receded from the windshield, the vehicle revealed itself not to be a tow truck, but an old pick-up with sanded off paint. It looked like the type of truck, only meant to be driven at night, through back alleys and mud slicked dirt roads. It was never meant to be so apparent. But there it was and it seemed to be poised toward us. The pick –up slowed as it come into full view and stopped right beside Mya, who had retreated into the sand and closer to Vicky and I.
“Y’all okay?” The driver asked. The voice seemed familiar, so I peered into the shaded cabin to see his face. That old, motel man from last night. I could see he kept on some of the shadows that hung around his face last night.
“Yeah … I meant we had an accident, but no one’s hurt and my brother should be back with the tow truck any second now.” Mya said, almost like she thought she might be lying.
“Well, we’re a long ways away from anything and you don’t wanna be out here for long, end up getting heat sick. Tell me where your brother went to and I’ll take you to him.”
“He went to that diner place, but he should be back soon, so we’re okay.” Mya said, looking back at us.
“Yeah, he’s been gone for awhile, but he’ll soon be back.” I said, feeling stupid repeating the same argument.
“All I’m saying is, you don’t want to be out here, if you’re out here, baking in the sun, you’ll need an ambulance to go with your tow truck. I’m just trying to do you a favor.” He said and then leaned over the passenger seat and popped the door open.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you right where you got to go, scout’s honor.” The motel man said with two finger raised and a toothy grin. I found it hard to imagine this man as a Boy Scout, but when Mya looked back to Vicky and me for our answers, I gave a wearily head nod and Vicky push herself off the car and started toward the truck and I followed suit. As we all piled into the pick-up, (first me, sitting closest to the old man, then Vicky and then Mya,) Mya peered at the old man’s weathered cowboy hat and asked sheepishly “What does TP stand for?”
He grinned, revealing yellow teeth and black gums and said,” Texas Pete.”
“What kind of name is that?” Mya asked a little carelessly
“Don’t know, you’d have to ask the man the hat belonged to,”
7. The Incident at Molly’s Diner
The smell of burnt coffee and burgers wafted through the air as Molly’s voice screamed food orders over the static of the kitchen’s AM/FM radio. Molly muttered curses under her breath as she handed the dirty motel man his burger and fries and heard him mutter something about her breasts through the aura of cigarette smoke that so frequently surrounded him. She never liked him; she dealt with the worst of truckers, but couldn’t stand the way he stared at her. His eyes were like clawed hands gripping and tearing at her thin waist and her curvy hips. He had that lustful look that she’d get from men, but there was something more to it with him. He had the hints of something more predatory, like he was plotting something behind those black eyes of his and Molly tried her best to look unappealing to him, tried to look her age or maybe even older, tried to display her crows feet, her frown lines, her graying hairs. She was a tough woman, but would pride herself on maintaining her beauty and would at times use it as an asset, batting her eyes at venders to get them to lower their rates, keep truckers in line without ever raising her voice. But with that motel man, it seemed the same as a deer flaunting itself in front of a wolf. It seemed wiser to keep from his gaze, to look diseased and undesirable.
Kyle, in the kitchen was zipping around between the fries station, grill and industrial freezer. Bitterness and fatigue welled in him; he was three hours into his second shift, which he only agreed to as a favor to Molly and he was already regretting it. His back was soar and his mind was numb and he had burned himself twice so far. He was in the middle of flipping the burgers when a commotion arose in the seating area. There was an uproar of terror and screeching chairs, of crashing dishes and curse words and everything was finally muted by a single gun blast. The silence ringed in Kyle’s ears; it pounded like a drum and ached unbearably. Fear lodged itself in Kyle’s throat and started to choke him until his eyes welled with tears.
A single voice erupted through the pungent fear and silence and said “Okay, now that everyone’s calm, I’m going to need everyone belly down on the ground and to start emptying your pockets and I mean now, slow people will be shot in the head, just try me.” He said this with a conversational tone as if he were just suggesting an interesting activity. Kyle peered through the kitchen window to see the nine or so inhabitants of the diner descend to the feet of two brown haired men, both wielding shotguns, and a thin attractive redhead, holding a silver handgun.
It seemed that the younger of the two dark haired men had been the one who had spoken the order. He had a long face accented with an angular jaw line and a head full of messy brown curls, while his brother had more of a rounded, meaty face gently marked with wrinkles, implying that he was the older of the two, and peppered with brown stubble.
The elder brother started to collect the various wallets and purses offered to him by terrified diner patrons, while the younger brother led Kelly behind the counter. He then helped Molly back to her feet, looked her in the eyes and said “Now love, would you please be so kind as to open the register and hand the money inside to this tempting beauty here.” He gestured to Kelly and she blushed slightly. Molly popped the register open with a ding and started to empty it.
The younger brother turned to his brother and asked, “You got everyone, Luke?” Luke struggled not to drop anything as he juggled his gun, four wallets, three purses and a messy ball of cash. “Joe, I think someone’s holding out.” Luke said, almost dropping a cracked red leather purse embroidered with the initials “TS”.
Joe cocked his shotgun and said “Really? I’m pretty sure I said that slow people would be killed. So whose got over-laden pockets.”
He walked around the counter and into the crowd of shivering, fearful people, allowing the barrel of his gun to hover over people’s heads for moments at a time and make the statement “I own you,” and that statement was made well. It was all too clear that someone’s death would take less time and energy than to break a pencil. “Who’s going to die tonight?” Joe asked allowing the barrel to linger above the motel man’s head. He looked down upon the man, who had taken his scotch with him to the ground. “Did you get this gentleman, Luke?” Joe asked looking up to his brother. Luke craned his head for a better look of the man. “No, now that you mention it, I must have missed him.” Joe snatched the man by the collar and forced him to his feet.
“Sir, would you empty your pockets for me?” Joe said shoving the dirty motel man up against the large well-cleaned window of the diner.
The Motel man gave a deep, hoarse chuckle that seemed to knock some phlegm lose from his throat, “Boy Toy, You’ve got some bark, but I’m gonna need some bite before I can hand my wallet over.” Joe betrayed his guise of intimidation for a moment, showing rather a look of shock and surprise. He then collected himself and said loud and venomously “You think this is a game, that I won’t shoot you dead for a wallet! You don’t mean a thing to me!”
“Bark, Bark, little pup.” He said pulling a can of chewing tobacco out of his shirt pocket. He popped the cover off with his thumb and rest that arm on Joe’s shoulder. He then rested his other arm on the other shoulder to remove a bit of it. It was eerie how he lingered there, how they lingered there, staring at each other before the motel Man spoke up “If you’re wondering what I’m doing , I’m giving you no other choice. You better use that boom-stick.”
Joe’s fingers rippled on the handle of his gun as fear surged in him. He never wanted it to take this long. It was supposed to be quick and easy. They’d come in and fire the gun a couple times, grab the cash and go. Joe gritted his teeth, tightened his grip on his shotgun and said, “Let’s go.” He then back away from the Old man and turned to his two associates. “Come on, we’re going” He said heading toward the door.
“Joey boy, come on, stay. The fun’s just about to start.” The Motel Man said with a devil-fabricated grin stretched over his face.
Joe stopped in his track and stood very still for a moment before turning again to the motel man and swinging the shotgun like a baseball bat into his stomach. “You don’t get to use my name, you old fagot.” Joe roared.
“Finally, we see some life from my boy Joe.” The Motel Man said hunched over holding his gut.
“Shut up!” Joe roared as he brought down another blow across the old man’s back.
“Joey, that ain’t the way you’re supposed to use that thing.” The Old Man said in a grumbling gasp.
“Shut the Fuck Up,” Joe screeched. Joe shoved the barrel of the gun harshly into the side of the old man’s head. “Keep your mouth shut.” Joe said, with a heated shutter in his voice.
At this moment, the entire diner was saturated in a horrible silence that seeped down everyone’s throat and into their lungs. That silence washed over everything, plates and floors, the counter tops and windows and broken by the cheery ring of a bell as a pale, fair faced young man with long, blonde hair entered the diner, walked past Luke and took a seat at the counter. He brushed his hair from his face and raised a finger in the air and said, “Cup of Coffee, Please.”
Joe turned and looked at the fair-faced man irritably, trying to ooze with venom or will him to death. Joe was tired; he could feel it in his back, bones and mind. He could hardly bear it and it was made even worst by the growing number of on lookers. A growing number of people were looking up at him, at his face, memorizing it and when the pressure became too incredible to bear, Joe felt it burn away like wildfire through dry- underbrush, starting from his side, ripping through his kidney, up his spinal cord, wrapping around his ribs, through his muscles, up his chest, into his throat, into his brain and burning out his optic nerve as he saw the fair faced man snatch up the helpless Kelly from behind the counter and hold a knife to her throat.
Joe’s knees buckled under him and he went sailing into the counter top and then onto the floor. The Motel Man crouched down to retrieve his knife from Joe’s side and rose again with it and Joe’s Shotgun. Luke gave a deep-throated roar and tried for his gun, but managed only to drop it along with two purses and a couple of twenties. The old man gave an irritated look and lazily pointed the shotgun at Luke and pulled the trigger. Luke went lumbering into a booth.
The diner was silent again, apart from Kelly and the Fair faced man wrestling, her giving sheepish cries for help and useless commands to be released as the diners watched the two. Texas stepped over Joe’s dying body and toward Kelly. He snatched her gun out of her hand and pocketed it. He then turned. Cocked his gun and said with one hell of an excited smile “We’re gonna have fun tonight.”
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