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“Marvin Mccullough! Shit! It’s good to see you. How long’s it been?”
“Hell, I caint ‘member Hank. I think we uz playin’ some county fair somewhere. ’bout like ‘is one ‘ere I ‘spose. How you been doing?”
“I’m okay. Been working. Giving lessons mostly. How about yourself?”
“Oh I been aright mostly.” Marvin dips his chin down, pushing his bottom lip out as if something deep and personal was trying to bust out of his mouth. But it doesn’t. He shrugs, his right hand out of sight, shoved into the back pocket of his dusty old Levis. “Mostly,” he repeats, then smiles. ”How ’bout your mom and ‘em. They doing good?”
“I guess you didn’t hear. Mom passed a few years ago.”
” ‘Mawful sorry to ‘ear ‘at Hank. Awful sorry.”
“Yeah. It was rough on Dad. But she went in her sleep, real peaceful. About all you can hope for in the end I think. Hell Marvin, she was eighty nine years old. She lived a good long life.”
“Well your Mama was one of the good’uns. How long ago ‘at happen?”
“Mama’s been gone about six years now.”
“Still grieve a little everyday don’t ye?”
“Yeah sir I do. Always miss your Mama I suppose.”
Marvin grins a little and looks down at his feet, dragging the toe of his boot through the dirt. He looks to his right where the midway is. Some ugly old geek is hawking cotton candy. Little children with dirty faces run up to him with their quarters and buy some. An old lady drops a scoop of peanuts into a kettle of boiling water and puts out a sign that says “5 cents a bag.” A line forms for the sideshow.
“You still playin’ that old fiddle?” Hank asks. “I need a fiddle player for my band. You certainly were the best damn fiddler I ever heard. Best fiddler this whole state ever heard for that matter.”
Marvin’s gaze lingers over the fair. A breeze blows past carrying a small cloud of dust and the smell of food.
“No I ain’t got that fiddle no more,” he says curtly. “Like not to talk ’bout it neither. No offense.” There’s dirt in his voice.
“Okay. Okay. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it,” Hank says. Then he chuckles, “It’s just, well, you used to guard it like it was your sister’s cherry is all. That’s why I…”
“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ‘BOUT THAT FUCKIN’ FIDDLE!” Marvin yells. A crowd of onlookers forms.
“Jesus Marvin.” Hanks says, his brow scrunched up in confusion. “We used to do good money playin’ around this whole damn state and it was all because of you! Then you up and quit out of nowhere one day with no explanation. I don’t see you for however many years, and you expect me not to ask if you still play? You expect me not to ask why I can’t ask?”
Marvin’s chin is jutting out and his left hand is pulled into a fist.
“What’s the matter?” Hank asks with a shrug, “Did the devil come collect?”
Marvin cocks Hank right across the bridge of his nose. Hank goes down hard with a bump to the ass because both hands are clutching the center of his face and blood is pouring out from under his palms. Marvin stomps away amid the gossiping crowd who do all they can to avoid his attention.
And as Marvin is storming away, Hank sees something very peculiar. Marvin’s right wrist is resting on the entrance of his back pocket. But there’s no bulge in the pocket where a hand would be. Instead, it just lays perfectly flat against Marvin’s body. And through his half closed eyes, watering up with the roaring pain in his nose, Hank sees something very peculiar indeed.
Marvin pulls his right arm away from his back pocket. He wipes his brow with a stump. There is only air where his bowing hand used to be.
Gerald Alaner woke up this morning and found two things: His back door wide open, and his eight year old autistic son completely gone. This type of thing wasn’t unheard of. Timothy was always sneaking out of the house. Many parents might have panicked and called the police. But not Gerald. He had been down that road, and the police were really no help. After the fourth time Timothy snuck out, a cop plainly said that the next time they would call CPS and take the kid away.
In their previous houses, Gerald installed locks and deadbolts in the right places. And that had taken care of the problem. Some nights he would awake to the gentle knocking sound of Timothy trying to open his dead bolted bedroom door, or the door to the garage. Gerald would yell, “TIM! GO BACK TO BED!” and that would be the end of it for that night.
But they were in yet another new house, the third since leaving their first house, and some of their stuff was still in boxes. Gerald hadn’t had the time or the money to make the new house as safe as the old one.
He grabbed a recent photo of Timothy and started hitting the streets. He showed the photo to anyone who would look, and even some people who wouldn’t. He accidentally bloodied the nose of a guy in a business suit when he shoved the picture in his face. A skater kid, with face pierced all to hell, took Gerald’s phone number and promised to call if he saw Timothy.
As the midday sun passed over head, the temperature rose sharply, and Gerald wiped sweat from his brow with an old bandanna. He stopped into a grocery store and bought a bottle of coke. He showed the picture to the clerk. The clerk recognized that picture.
“I kicked that little shit out of here few hours ago. He walked behind the counter while I was in the back and made a huge mess. Knocked cigarettes all over the place and smashed a bunch of ‘em open. Stole a bunch of stuff too. Ran out of here with his arms full of stuff.”
“What did he take?” Gerald asked.
The clerk detailed everything, A banana, a chicken, probably some cigarettes. Gerald paid him for the things Timothy took, and silently thanked the lord that the clerk hadn’t called the cops.
He left the grocery store and started looking again. More hours passed with no leads. The sun settled into a low angle in the west and the early autumn temperature dropped again. Gerald cursed himself for not bringing a jacket. The late afternoon sweat on his arms and back evaporated off and he rubbed his hands over his elbows and chest for a little warmth.
There was still one place left to check. Gerald didn’t really have any hope that Timothy would be there. But it he had to check it off the mental list. As he set off east, toward the darkening sky, he made the mental preparations. He knew time was not on his side anymore. If Timothy was not there, and Gerald had no reason to believe he would be, then he would call the police, and deal with the consequences.
The streetlights flickered on. A waxing moon took over a cloudless sky and the stars shone. Gerald was chilled in his shorts and t-shirt. It was like stepping back in time, crossing those streets and blocks. Even in his state of worry, certain old trees and cars popped out at him, and he marveled at how little could change in four years.
He rounded the corner onto Pinehurst Lane. The sidewalk looked worse. Some trees here were pushing roots through the concrete. And the people who lived here now weren’t keeping their yards clean. The old neighborhood was getting trashy.
“Part of why we left,” Gerald thought, before completing the thought, and reminding himself of the bigger reason they left.
He could see the old house up ahead. It was still empty, and the chain link fence around the yard was falling apart. The porch was covered in dead leaves and trash. The upstairs windows were still intact, but the kitchen window overlooking the yard was smashed. Thieves had ripped out the gutters. The grass was as tall as his thighs.
He undid the latch on the gate. He had to shove it open with both hands, as rust had worn the hinges and tall grass worked like a doorstop against him. He walked up the steps, and the wood bent under his weight. He shoved his hand through the hole where the doorknob for the front door used to be and stepped into his old house.
“Tim?” He asked gently, unsure of who could be in the house, not wanting a confrontation with some drug addict or homeless man. He noticed the old coat of arms was still hanging on the wall. But it was missing an arrow now.
He walked up stairs and looked in all the old rooms, opening each door oh so slowly, memories of their old life hitting him with each creaky floorboard and torn strip of wallpaper.
Gerald walked back downstairs and into the kitchen, broken glass crunching under his shoes. He was looking out and forward when he tried to open the door to the back yard. His nose ran into the screen as something stopped the door from opening completely.
Timothy was asleep on the old porch swing, which had been torn free from its ropes and dragged away from the other side of the porch. He was wearing khaki cargo shorts, hi top sneakers with no socks, and his Cow and Chicken pajama top. He was shivering in the cold.
Cigarettes were falling out of his shorts. The arrow from the coat of arms dangled out of his left hand. A banana down by his feet, and the chicken from the grocery store was propping up his head like a pillow.
“Tim!” Gerald shouted, shoving the door against the old porch swing, trying to rock him awake.
Timothy woke up and looked around. He saw his dad standing in the doorway, but made no real response. He stood up, and Gerald was able to shove the door open. He grabbed his son in a big hug. Timothy stood there, shivering, with his arms down at his side, looking past his dad’s shoulder at all the stuff laying on the porch.
“Come on,” Gerald said, “Let’s get the hell out of here and go home.”
And he took Timothy by the hand and tried to lead him out. But Tim fought him and pulled backward. He wrestled his wrist free from his father’s grip and slammed the back door open.
“Tim!” Gerald yelled, “Damnit it’s time go! Do you have any idea what you put me through today?”
Timothy gathered up all the things he’d collected that day, and grabbed one final thing, a length of the rope that had held the porch swing up in earlier days.
He carried these random objects in his arms with a sort of reverence, and fairly ran past his dad with them, out the front door.
Gerald sprinted after, desperately trying to avoid chasing his son by foot through this now dangerous neighborhood. But he didn’t have to.
Tim stopped at the electrical pole on the corner. Gerald recognized the look in his eyes and didn’t stop him. Whatever Tim had in his mind, it was the most important thing the world at that moment, and nothing would unseat that thought from his mind.
Gerald stood back and waited it out. Ten minutes later, Tim came walking back, his task completed. Everything had been tied up around the pole, And Tim had shoved the arrow through the chicken. There was even some money tied up there that Gerald hadn’t seen, and had no doubt come from the grocery store cash register.
Tim grabbed his father’s hand and led him up to the pole.
“It’s a warning,” Tim said.
“Warning?” Gerald asked, “Against what?”
“Stay out.” Tim said, and his breath steamed as the words left his mouth. Gerald felt a chill go through his body that had nothing to do with the temperature. He sensed eyes looking at them from all directions. That primal part of his brain left over from ancient times told him to run and run fast.
Timothy took his father’s hand, and looked at him straight in the eye, a sort of personal engagement that was rare for Tim to do.
“Go home?” Tim asked.
“Yeah buddy. Let’s go home.”
And they walked. Gerald’s fight or flight response told him to sprint. But Timothy had a death grip on his dad’s wrist. And the little boy would go no faster than a gentle stroll.
Those two blocks of abandoned houses seemed like football fields to Gerald, and the feeling of being watched never left. But then the bright lights of a main road appeared. And Timothy led his dad toward them.
When they crossed the street, and into the parking lot of a corner gas station, Timothy finally let go of his dad’s wrist.
Gerald fished a few quarters out of his pocket and dialed up a cab from the pay phone. They went inside to wait for it, and he bought a coke and some twinkies to share. He let Timothy have first dibs on the coke and twinkies. He looked at the window at the street they’d just come from and he could have sworn he saw a homeless man staggering down the street in a trench coat. He was trying to focus in on the image, when an empty glass bottle and plastic wrapper were shoved into his hand.
He looked down and Tim said, “Thanks.”
Gerald looked back out the window. A big yellow taxi was blocking his view of the street.
As he walked out to it, he took another peek around its roof, looking for that staggering homeless man, but whatever he had seen was gone.
They got in. He told the cabbie where to go. It wasn’t a long ride, and they rode it out in silence. Gerald stroked Timothy’s hair and kissed him on the forehead. Not a moment after they were both deep into a dreamless sleep. And they were only awoken by the gentle voice of the cab driver, telling them that they were here.
They were home.
Allan waited for his eyes to adjust. After twenty seconds, everything was still black. So he just kept them closed, because at some point, some asshole behind a piece of one way glass would turn on the lights and blind him.
AND LO AND BEHOLD! A light switch clicked and Allan felt twelve thousand lumen spotlights all over his face. The black behind his eyelids flashed away to bright orange. He should have put a hand over his face, but he didn’t. He’d been down this road a few times. Putting your hand over your face told the guys behind the glass something. It told them the surprise had worked.
“Why isn’t he putting his hand over his face?”
“I don’t know! Maybe they’ve developed a corneal implant for light sensitivity.”
“He still has his eyes closed, so perhaps it’s only behind the eyelid.”
“When we autopsy him later we’ll do a thorough dissection of the eyeball and eyelids.”
“I CAN HEAR YOU!” Allan yelled.
“Get your hand off the interc-” echoed through the chamber.
As far as bombs go, I wasn’t supposed to kill that many people. I wasn’t suppoed to destroy entire city blocks. I was what other bombs call “a message,” the type of bomb that puts someone on notice rather than kills them. Didn’t stop me though. I didn’t let my deficiencies hold me back. Where others said I couldn’t, I said forget that, I will. And I did. I killed a whole lot people.
“I saw someone breaking the law so I arrested them.”
That’s the way Green County Sheriff’s deputy Marcus Horna describes it. The incident he refers to happened last wednesday on highway 311 near the Ghor rd. intersection. Janice Behr was pulled on the shoulder because her tire blew out. Behr called 911 for assistance and Deputy Horna responded to the call.
As he approached the vehicle, Deputy Horna was caught on dashcam footage violating a department policy. Footage shows him walk out of his car with a cigarette clearly dangling from his left hand. Behr, who works for a BP station, had just delivered some plastic cans of gasoline to a local hardware store because of a special trade arrangement the two businesses share. Unknown to Behr, some gas had splashed out onto her back seat. Dashcam footage then shows Deputy Horna, with total disregard for Behr’s vehicle, flick his cigarette into the back seat of her car.
“It seemed managable and this is my only car,” is the excuse Behr offers for trying to put the fire out instead of leaving the car. Footage shows her lean into the back seat and begin smacking at the flames while Deputy Horna looks on. After some seconds, flames can be seen moving to the front seat, where Behr’s right arm catches fire. She then runs out of the vehicle in a panic, waving her arm around like something out of a movie.
But what happens next is the most surprising. Footage shows Deputy Horna rush over to Behr, where he grabs her by the neck and throws her to the ground. Behr believed that Horna was trying to put her out, which he did, but only because he was handcuffing her. Incredibly, Behr can be heard on camera wailing in agonizing pain while Horna drags her up by the very arm that was burning and pulls her back to his patrol car.
When asked to defend his actions Deputy Horna repeated his earlier statement, “I saw someone breaking the law so I arrested them.” When pressed for further comment he added, “The woman leaped out the car with her arm on fire and was whirling about like a maniac so I cuffed her and charged her. It is against the law to do that, you can’t run around with your arm in flames, so I charged her.”
And what was the charge?
“Illegal use of a firearm,” Horna says.
Deputy Horna is currently on paid administrative leave, but is expected to return this month because he is the only person with a key to the garage.
Today I opened my medicine cabinet and there was a head in there, just some random dude’s head, sitting between my Nyquil and my toothpaste. So I did what I always do when I see something like that, I said to myself, “Self, that can’t be real, there’s no way your medicine cabinet is deep enough to hold a head.” Lo and behold I was right. I closed my eyes and *POOF* the head was gone, my Nyquil was unmolested. Which was good, no head, but yes cough syrup. So I closed the cabinet and then my head was missing, right there in the reflection, no fucking head, just a stumpy bloody neck and air. But then I said to myself, “Self, if you didn’t have a head you couldn’t see that you don’t have a head.” And sure enough I was right. Because my head appeared out of nowhere and went back to it’s rightful place. There it was in the mirror, I mean, there I was in the mirror. I can’t really say I was anywhere without my head. Without your head your nowhere at all. Well, you’re fucked, but that’s beside the point, stop nitpicking.
Two idiots stood in a room. One said to the other “Punch me in the face.” And the other one did.
Now, the reason that one of them wanted to be punched in the face was that he was an idiot, as has already been previously mentioned. But I should be more specific. Saying that he wanted to be punched in the face because he’s an idiot is like saying that strippers strip because they have daddy issues. It’s true but there’s more to it than that. So this idiot, idiot number one as we’ll call him, wanted to be punched in the face because he wasn’t sure he was tough. And the only reason he wondered about it was that he had just watched Fight Club for the first time, and he agreed with Brad Pitt, how much could you know about yourself if you’ve never been punched in the face? Which is what he said to idiot number two right before this all went down. Of course, the real line is “How much could you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight.” Which would have allowed the idiot a multitude of ways to test himself, ways that didn’t involve standing still with his eyes closed while a fist collided with the cartilage in his nose.