The Unseen Heard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Pigs plan to mutiny against a farmer. A farmer plans to assassinate a senator. It’s a story of revolution and finding meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. A story of being seen, yet unheard.

 

 

 

 

 

Mud: the substance of community. No matter how filthy, it is, nonetheless, homogenous and familiar.

And it was loved in the pigpen.

As the cider sky stretched above them, Farmer Elod’s hogs spent the dog-day morning rolling in mud. Cool brown on hot pink. Hot pink on cool brown. To the east—beyond the pigpen’s wire mesh fence—chickens clucked; to the west, an apple tree stood. All else beyond the dirt road entrance was unimportant.

Most of the pigs relaxed under the wooden roof of the lean-to shed. But two hogs, Mr. Tinklebottom and Chitilina, lazed in the crescent shadow of a tractor tire in the middle of the pen. With their heads in shadow and bodies in sun, they faced each other, snouts nearly touching.

“Poor Suey Sue Mary Sue,” Chitilina oinked.

“She’ll be okay,” Mr. Tinklebottom grunted. “She’s strong.”

“Oh absolutely, like, I know she’s not weak or anything, and actually she’s the strongest sow I know, and that isn’t me giving her high-trot hooves out of pity or—and I know it’s been days, and she’s fine now...oh why am I ranting?”

Mr. Tinklebottom looked over his right shoulder at the apple tree beyond the fence. His stomach groaned. “I’d cork my snout for a good apple right about now,” he grunted.

“She always had a thing against Hammi?” Chitilina oinked. “You ever noticed that?”

“I’m sure every-pig has, though it’s none of our business.”

“No no, of course not. I wasn’t implying...” Chitilina paused, then continued. “Do you think I’d be a good mom? As good as Suey would’ve been if she...nevermind.”

“Hm? What did you say?”

Before Chitilina could repeat herself, Farmer Elod—a tall, hunched-over stick of a middle-aged Meskwaki—limped with a cane out of his saltbox home perched on a small hill.

The pigs swarmed the fence, begging to be driven off the farm in that cage with wheels, to visit the rumored paradise where old friends, family, and children roamed—Umperkimp.

“Choose us! Choose us!” Chitilina squealed.

“Choose me! Choose me!” Mr. Tinklebottom squealed.

~

Elod Adams Thorne remembered Marcia telling him, years ago, “The sun never sets before you get dirt under your nails.”

Her nails were clean, long only on the left, always ready to pluck Chopin or Segovia on her father’s classical guitar. From when they met up until their son Tommy turned two, she had always play-teased Elod about his three-fingered chicken claw of a left hand—a product of teen boozing and an illegally sold grenade. Or, after she ate weed edibles, she’d poke fun at his name: Elod the Hillbilly Injun, she’d call him. The lighthearted jabs they traded helped him feel young, especially since they were shared with a woman ten years his junior. It returned him to a time before everybody became over-polite. He had no desire to connect to his roots, nor did he aspire to some greater purpose. Marcia, Tommy, and the farm were all he needed.

Then, at the age of three, Tommy was diagnosed with CLN2 Batten Disease. He developed seizures. He gradually lost the ability to walk and speak, which soon kept him to a wheelchair and a feeding tube. Elod blamed himself and Marcia for passing on their rotten genes to Tommy. The teases became insults. The insults became fights. When a fight led to her cheating, it led to him stalking and threatening her.

Now it was the one-year anniversary of her restraining order against him, a week before Tommy’s twelfth birthday. Elod had ceased all contact with her, hoping his silence would earn him the right to see Tommy one more time. Yet when he called her mother, who relayed the message to Marcia, the mother replied, “She don’t want to see you. Ever.”

And that was that. Now it was just him and the farm he owned on Meadow Road.

A Cessna flew 10,000 or so feet above him, itching his curiosity to take up flying lessons before he quelled the idea. Limping to the pigpen, he took out and chewed a stick of gum. The O of cool mint wind he sucked in, as well as the pain in his bum-leg were the only sensations he allowed himself to feel to their fullest extent. Loathing numbed him to the rest of earth.

K-tak k-tak, stomped his bum-leg.

“I know it hurts Sherriff,” Elod groaned to the leg. “A little further. You can do it.”

The pigs squealed and barged in frenzy the second Elod got to them. It amazed him how eager the pigs were to ride in his truck. He never needed to lure or force them in. Nor would they try to escape. Elod Thorne guessed it was something in the air, but he didn’t complain.

After gathering five pigs into his truck’s vented trailer, he drove off to the livestock auction. The grenade shrapnel inside his knuckles pricked cold needles into his nerves as he reached in his shirt pocket for his cigarette pack. Didn’t have the nerve to smoke or toss them out like he had promised he’d do. Marcia had always said he could never make up his damn mind.

A few seconds passed, then he tucked it back in his shirt pocket and flipped to 109.5 FM—“Turco In the Morning” played:

“...and if Royce Masterwood gets re-elected senator, New Jersey will turn into a Liberal cesspool! I’m talking higher taxes for middle income Americans, gun control laws, legalizing the murder of babies. He actually—and this is true—he actually proposed to abolish capital punishment to the Senate back in 2017 and lower the maximum sentencing to 30 years. Now whether or not you agree with the death penalty is a separate issue, but thinking this Kumbaya garbage would work...”

A blue sedan damn near sideswiped him as he entered the ramp onto I-78. He smashed the heel of his hand against the horn.

~

Salmon—penetrate the creek in defiance of thine enemies! Squirrels—bury thy nuts for the brutal winter! Sparrows—chirp thine orgasms of victory! Hurrah! Hurrah for life!

And on and on Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff wee-wee-weed in his mind as he marched through the shadowy forest. He envisioned a world dominated by animals, where every footstep and mating call didn’t come with the fear of being killed or enslaved by people. He was convinced such a paradise could exist, but the animals needed a leader to yank them out of the depths of eternal suffering and inspire bravery. He knew it had to be a pig. He knew it had to be him!

With head held high, the hog pressed on until darkness and silence surrendered to brightness and noise.

His eyes adjusted to the sunlight. Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff saw himself standing on a hilltop, and at the bottom stretched a four-lane highway wider than the horizon. Diesel smoke clouded the traffic screaming past him—the more he smelt it, the more he wanted to puke.

Sir Kingsley had no clue where he needed to go. Nonetheless his instincts told him crossing the highway was the only path available. A shiver crawled from hoof to head. Before slipping into panic, he looked to the afternoon sky and told himself:

Your name is Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff.

Your name is revolution.

Your name is power.

Your name is empathy.

And long after your glorious death, your name shall never be forgotten.

You.

Shall.

Cross.

With one dignified step, Sir Kingsley began a glorious march down the hill. Then he tripped on a branch sticking out from the mud. Then he continued said glorious march by tumbling and faceplanting until the guardrail at the bottom broke his fall. He arrived.

Cars sped by in blurs, as if materializing out of the air. The countlessness and randomness of their appearance turned Huffanapuff’s stomach: one misstep, an explosive pain, death. Would the agony continue if he died? Would it worsen? If he died, then would he be as significant as the dirt he stood on, as if he never existed at all? Questions questions questions, they never seemed to end.

There’s only so much you can control. So since you have no choice, trust in whatever may happen.

Sir Kingsley waited until a large enough gap grew between him and the cars. The moment it did, he charged to the other side, fast enough to blur his hoofs and sledgehammer his heart. Tires screeched. Horns blared. As he ran, he closed his eyes, bracing for the moment he turned to roadkill.

But that moment never came.

Sir Kingsley opened his eyes. The colors of life struck him so brilliantly that tears poured. He made it. The pig held his head high.

He felt unstoppable.

~

It was the fifth time Sir Kingsley had to stop to catch his breath.

He had walked for what felt like hours, sunbeaten, leg-aching, cottonmouthed, daunted by the sky because—like his mission—it felt too huge. Yet the pain of slogging along the dirt road drove him; it reminded him of the suffering he never wanted to go back to, so he slogged slogged slogged down the path—until finally, like an island surrounded by sea, a farm faded into view.

It was...

Small.

Tiny.

Petite.

Miniscule.

Not that Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff asked for much, but he expected something with a little more...girth to it.

I suppose greatness must start small.

He entered the farm. The livestock milled about with not a human in sight. The saltbox’s unlit windows looked like the eyes of a crippled, aging master. To his left, an apple tree. To his right...

Comrades!

No time to waste.

“Brethren and sistren!” Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff squealed. “I, Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff, bear foreboding fate regarding thine and mine families of swine! I hath witnessed the slaughter of shoat and old. I hath swam the blood rivers that creep the valley of the shadow of death! I hath suffered Odyssean leagues tormented by the wails of comrades lost. Nay, at that moment, did I believe I would escape with my life. Yet here I stand with iron hoof, committed to break thee from the bonds of the bourgeoisie!”

The pigs stood shoulder to shoulder, staring vacantly at their new visitor.

“Uh, who are you?” some-pig oinked.

Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff—after his hooves struggled, scratched, slipped, swiveled, and swung for vertical footing on the wooden fence—unlatched the gate with his snout and headbutted it open. He raised his chin and smirked.

“Free now art thou from the shackles certain doom hath woven,” Huffanapuff snorted. He then pointed a hoof to the sky, posing like a general leading his troops to battle. “Now ye newly begotten children of the Swine-Bovine-Equine-Ovine-Caprine-Canine-Feline-And-All-Other-Ines-Not-Hitherto-Mentioned-Liberation-Militia, let us redeem the freedoms denied by the harvester-demons!”

Silence.

More silence.

Then more silence.

Like a little silence sandwich.

For the love of mud won’t some-pig talk? Mr. Tinklebottom thought.

Thankfully, some-pig did.

“Excuse me.”

Relieved sighs washed over the pigpen.

The hog who spoke strutted her way through the crowd. Chitilina’s eyes were stuck on her as she walked up to Sir Kingsley. It was Suey Sue Mary Sue.

“And to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to?” Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff oinked.

“Let’s stuff the formalities,” Suey Sue sueyed. “We’ve humored you long enough. It’s about time you leave.”

“Whatever did I—”

“Don’t interrupt me. Please. If you want to know the why, I’ll give you two. First, this story, or whatever you want to call it, is hogwash. Do you think you can scare us into whatever foolishness you’re up to?

“I would hardly qualify it as—”

“Second, even if your little fiction is true, why would we listen to some-pig named Huff­-ana-puff?”

The pigs murmured to one another. Hearing the “Huff” and “puff” emphasized in Sir Kingsley’s name shot shivers and goosebumps through the pigs. They remembered the gruesome legend passed down from generation to generation: Huff...puff...blow your house down. Not by the hairs on their chinny chin chin did they want to let Huffanapuff in.

Sir Kingsley saw and had expected the apprehension on the pigs’ faces. The folktale Suey Sue had been referring to had been told on his own farm. But before he could explain his moniker, the sound of a truck came in from a distance.

“Farmer Elod’s back!” a pig oinked.

“No!” The Sir squealed. Without permission, he squeezed himself into the pigflesh mass and shut the gate, pulling back the bottom plank with his mouth.

“The opportunity hath slipped from our hooves,” he oinked. “But fear not. Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff shall liberate his siblings, even if it means his death!”

The pigpen gave Sir Kingsley a wide berth.

~

Elod Thorne, coughing and doubled over, got out of his truck and slammed closed the door of his “no good cunting piece a whore-shit!” vehicle. Torn up on the dashboard and all over the front seat were the bills of sale for his five pigs:

$30.

$25.

$39.

$28.

$15.

Didn’t even break one-fifty, hardly a dent on his mortgage payment.

The shrapnel in his three-fingered hand pricked needles in his knuckles, a side-effect of heat and sweat. If only I could shoot the sun dead.

His cough worsened, choking pins into his throat and tears out of his eyes. Sheriff was yelping a pain so mighty sore that it seemed to go up his side and choke his heart. Elod reached for the cigarettes in his shirt pocket.

One more. I’m on my way to die anyhow.

Just as he put one in his mouth, he noticed the pigs circling around one of their own. He put the cigarette back. He limped toward the pen, peering at the spectacle who stared back at him with its beady eyes.

“Sheriff,” he said. “That ain’t my fucking pig.”

He racked his brain on how it got in. Combing his fingers through his sweat-matted hair, his mind flipped through countless laws and constitutional rights half-remembered from days when he’d recite them in the back of a police cruiser. Given the day he had, he settled on one that would conclude this business the way he liked: Finders keepers.

Seeing the gate open, Elod relatched the hook and limped back to his house.

~

Moonlight reclined under a blanket of clouds while fireflies were carried by a cool wind like dreams lost to time. Tree leaves hushed the night to sleep. The stars: a cure to all worries and all memory of them. Absolute oneness. For that brief moment, the pigpen forgot about their intruder.

“RISE!!! Ignite thy Stakhanovite stamina and awaken from thy slumber!”

Sir Kingsley stood on the tractor tire in the middle of the pigpen. He looked down at all the hogs who groaned for peace and quiet.

“Friends, Suidae, swineherd,” Huffanapuff oinked. “Thine ears—give them to me! Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff preaches to ye tonight—”

“For the love of...will you please shut up?” some-pig grunted.

“Wha...who was that? Nay will I shut up you vulgarian, whoever you are. Nay! Nay! Nay I say!”

A youngling asked her mother why the pig pretended to be a horse.

“Leave us alone,” Suey Sue Mary Sue squealed. “I swear you’re worse than Hammi.” She turned to the others, oinking, “Ignore him. He’s not worth the attention.”

One by one pigs closed their eyes and clogged their ears with mud.

“Please,” Sir Kingsley oinked. “I implore you.”

His awareness and embarrassment of his failure stopped him. Drained, he lowered his eyes and hung his head, ready to surrender. Ready for the swift hack of a meat cleaver. Then he remembered the slaughter from only days ago. Family and friends hanging dead and upside down by the hooks piercing their hooves. Machine and man spilling so much blood it stung his eyes. The emotions and history he and his comrades lived through were just fodder for their murderers, a thing to be forgotten, and that fact arose within Sir Kingsley a hate so immense he felt he could scorch the world with it. The wolves were real, and much eviler than any late-night fable could depict.

And he remembered the riot, and though none of his comrades had said so during the chaos, he knew they laid down their lives for him so that he could escape and spread the word: That the paradise waiting for them was a lie.

Brimming with renewed energy, Sir Kingsley raised his head and began his speech:

“He who speaketh to thee today abhors narcissism with all being, nor art his disposition biased towards egotistical (albeit impressive) poses. Nay, he instead comes to warn of the slaughter the farmers impose upon us.”

A few pigs awoke from their feigned sleep.

“Yes comrades, Sir Kingsley has been victim of such devastation. The myriad clubs and shockers scandalously brutalized out all courage as us hogs left the truck and entered the loading dock. Only a minor few (yours truly chief among them) demonstrated incredible valor, ready to confirm their part in the battle for liberty, ready to offer an example of unprecedented self-sacrifice and to wrench from man’s claws those who could not defend themselves. Alas, only he escaped.”

“Absurd,” Suey Sue grunted, shoving her way through the crowd. “Farmer Elod would never do something so heinous. We have food, a roof over our head. mud to roll around in year-round. Then, at the end of it all, he takes us to Umperkimp—if you knew the wonderful time my sweet Lincolnburger is having there right now, waiting for me and the family we’ll have, you’d feel like such an ass.”

Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff sighed. Looking to the stars, he chose his next words carefully:

“I am sorry Sue, but this Umperkimp of yours is a wolf in sheep’s wool.”

“Stop it,” Suey Sue squealed. “All this talk of torture and torment? Have you no morals...no conscious? You’re, you’re sick!”

Mr. Tinklebottom noticed Chitilina’s captivation with Sir Kingsley. He tried emulating the speaker’s poses, but he felt like an imposter.

“Hope has fooled me as much as you Sue,” Sir Kingsley oinked. “To this day, one nightmare where I am devoured by a mouth of infinite teeth haunts me. But when I remember the slaughterhouse, I remember it was never a dream to begin with. Rather, it was a truth colder than fear itself. These farmers, these harvester-demons, they exist purely to huff, puff, and blow our lives down! That is why my name is my name. If they want to huff and puff, so shall I! Huff! Puff! Huff! Puff!”

Tears welled up in Suey Sue Mary Sue’s eyes. “You’re twisted. How dare you say such things when my Lincolnburger is...is...” She swayed and buckled on her hooves. Her face went blank, as if she witnessed a horror not meant for her eyes. Then her breathing got heavy. When pigs began crowding around her and asking if she was okay, she charged at Huffanapuff.

“I’ll kill you!” she screamed.

Before she could reach him, a sharp pain in her stomach floored and coiled her into a weeping ball. As she rolled in the mud, crying, as the pigpen surrounded her, Sir Kingsley oinked:

“This pain, this anguish, this is why we must fight. This is why I do not fear slaughter. This is why I do not fear the fury of our miserable tyrants. This is why we will no longer ask why. 

~

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

With his folding knife, Elod Adams Thorne carved and recarved the Second Amendment across the wood of his M1A Springfield rifle, gradually thickening and deepening the letters after each pass. Turco in the Morning blared from the kitchen, ranting on about Royce Masterwood’s plot to hand the country over to big oil lobbyists. 

The Notice of Default letter lay on the hardwood floor dark with age. Its legalese gazed up at him with demand for payment. Twenty-plus years of sweat and tears I put into this farm and they’re going to take it from me, he thought. All while they laugh and party in some Manhattan penthouse. To them I’m just some no-name, “uneducated” hillbilly from the sticks.

If he died in the cold wet earth, nobody would care. The world would move on. No statues. No parades. He would be as insignificant as the dirt. He told himself he couldn’t go out like that, not when he was robbed of so much.

One more act, he told himself. One more. A deed that would brand his name even in the stars.

“...In two weeks, Royce Masterwood is going to speak at Union High School. When he does, go and voice your displeasure. Tell that bribe-taking piece of filth that we will not tolerate his abuse of power.”

Elod stroked his fingers along the length of his rifle, feeling the mantra he carved upon it. He heard the words repeat themselves like rain in a storm.

~

Afternoon. Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff stood on the tractor tire. He lectured the pigpen about “The Three Little Pigs” fable—phrases like “abstentious to excessive indolence” and “floccinaucinihilipilification of boughs as building material” poured from his mouth like water from a cup. The only ones who paid no mind to The Sir were Mr. Tinklebottom and Suey Sue. They both lay on their backs, upside down, watching the apple tree; it seemed at any moment an apple would break off its stem and fall to a sky ceilinged by mud.

Mr. Tinklebottom broke from tree-watching and scanned the crowd, spotting Chitilina among them. As he looked, he asked Suey Sue, “When do you think he’ll go, that high trotter Huff-puff or whatever his name is?”

Suey Sue sighed.

“Sue.”

“Hm?”

“Are you okay?”

Suey wiggled and nestled into the mud, as if trying to sink and be totally covered in it. “Are you?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” Mr. Tinklebottom oinked. “Chitilina and I had never mated.”

“Good. I could barely sleep hearing Huffanapuff and her go at it.”

Mr. Tinklebottom groaned.

“Did you say something?” Suey Sue asked.

“No.” Mr. Tinklebottom returned his attention to the tree. The redness of the apples brought a question to his mind. “You don’t think it’s true, about Umperkimp?”

“Please,” Suey Sue sueyed. “That story stinks like dairy air from a derrière. Besides, other matters concern me.”

“Like?”

“It’s so silly. I put up a brick front—stoic, strong—but the house of me is made of straw. Believe me, I try to separate my whole identity from Lincolnburger, but I continue to feel some need to have a litter with him. Some legacy. Lincolnburger and I…oh sweet mud, how can any-pig expect a broken body to birth another? And Hammi, that high-trotting tramp. When Farmer Elod chose Lincolnburger and her to go to Umperkimp that day—together...! Is it wrong to be scared? I know how Hammi looks at him. The things she repeats behind my back. She thinks the sun shines solely for her.”

Mr. Tinklebottom’s again looked at Chitilina looking up to The Sir. His magnetic confidence. His speech. He was a leader who figured everything out. He had things worth getting to know.

All Mr. Tinklebottom had were the same old days.

~

One final drag and puff, clouds like dragonsmoke, his third Pall Mall of the day. The cold bit his eyes. Empty baked bean cans sat on buckets in front of the tool shed. Kneeling at a tree stump fifty yards away, Elod steadied the scope of his Springfield dead-center at the cans.

He pictured Senator Masterwood’s “cocksucking” brains leaving his skull like confetti. Elod breathed deep and easy, letting his mind float. The tip of his finger felt the love bite of metal as he pulled the trigger.

Dead as a Kennedy.

The senator’s speech at Union High School was in one week.

Two days ago, when he had been in the kitchen microwaving a TV dinner, Marcia called him back.  He was surprised. She was crying. Not wanting to ruin what was sure to be the last they spoke, he let her talk first.

“Tommy’s dead. Thought I should let you know.”

The disconnected tone followed.

If Elod had the energy he would’ve screamed, so instead he fell back on the counter and slid to the floor. The piss-yellow tile felt like ice. He thought of snow.

Tommy was two when the nor’easter had hit. Elod usually hated winter, but seeing the joy on the kid’s face brought joy to him. They played outside in front of the house, stomping around, making snowmen and throwing snowballs. The animals stayed bundled in their coops and stables. Marcia, slightly stoned after finishing a joint, hung back under the front porch roof. She sat on a stool and fingerpicked a song on the guitar. Something slow, optimistic, peaceful. Eventually, Elod lost sight the house through the blizzard, but he still heard the song behind him. Then he lost sight of Tommy, but he still heard his voice squeaking to the left of him. Elod could’ve went blind and he’d be happy, as long as those two sounds remained.

But that was the past.

He aimed his sights at another can. He fired. Another clean shot. The shrapnel in his chicken claw hand began poking needles against the inside of his skin.

~

Midnight. Rumors of escape at dusk bounced around the pigpen. However, when it came to Sir Kingsley’s attention, he denied it. “Soon comrades, but contain thy anger,” he oinked as he stood on the tractor tire. “The gift worse wasted than patience is none.”

“Why?” Chitilina squealed. “I mean, we’ll do whatever you say, but why wait? You said yourself the world outside of the walls of the humans was the paradise of paradises. What do we lose by leaving now?”

“We need to organize our strategy. Our attack must be calculated.”

“But we’ve been planning for days now,” another pig oinked. “We can do this!”

No, The Sir thought. I’m not ready. I need more time. What if I fail? What if I lead us to death before my message is heard? I’m shaking. Can they see it? Everything I worked for will be lost in the mud. I’m shaking. Can they see it?

Seeing the pigs look up to him, bunched together, they reminded him of teeth. And they were going to slaughter him the moment they saw his courage break. To fight and fail and be forgotten, or to quit now and be known as a fraud? The Sir agonized over the question. He needed time to think.

And so, he stalled by beginning another speech. About bravery. About tactics. About things he less and less believed he had.  

As The Sir oinked his message to the crowd, Mr. Tinklebottom lay in the corner of the fence, rehearsing a speech of his own in his head, repeating the words and cadence until it was perfect. Mr. Tinklebottom imagined himself with the confidence of Sir Kingsley. He imagined himself exposing The Sir’s lies, engaging in an epic debate with him, winning the crowd over bit by bit until finally, they exiled that pompous hog from the pen for good. If Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff could do it, he figured he could too.

“Enough!” Mr. Tinklebottom squealed. He stood up and locked eyes with his adversary.

The entire pigpen gazed at him. From up on the tire, Sir Kingsley looked like a judge ready to hear the defendant make his case. All the world seemed silent to Mr. Tinklebottom. As he opened his mouth to speak, he became acutely aware of every microscopic detail of what was happening—how his hooves pressed into the mud, the judgment on Chitilina’s face, the surrender on Suey Sue’s, the frowns, the eyes, the snouts, the mouths the stars in the purple-black sky, the broken pauses in his breathing, the tightness of his heart, the burning up of his skin, his sudden urge to piss. Mr. Tinklebottom’s vision withered to dust.

So ashamed that he couldn’t stand to hear himself think, he retreated to the corner of the pigpen. He stared at the small apple orchard. No-pig went over to comfort him.

Sir Kingsley resumed his speech.

Suddenly, the sound of a car engine came in from the dirt road entrance was.

~

Willow Graham cut the ignition on the Benz. She turned her Phillies cap backwards. She found it funny, three high school students in the middle of Nowhere, New Jersey with a Kalashnikov rifle in the trunk. It would be juicy gossip for the tabloids if a cop suddenly showed up and arrested them: Little Miss Scarface: Actress Melissa Graham’s Daughter Nabbed for DUI, Conspiracy, and Gun Possession! They’ll write the story to make it sound like they were about to rob some poor guy’s farm, when in reality she pulled in a random driveway just so Xi could take a quick leak. She wasn’t even that drunk.

“Alright dude,” Willow said to the kid laying in the backseat. “Make it fast.”

“Are you sure we should be here?” Parhelion asked. She unintentionally breathed fog onto the passenger-side window.

Groaning, Xi slowly raised his head from the backseat. “Where are we?”

“You said you had to piss,” Willow said. “So chop chop. I don’t have all day.”

Xi left the car, stumbled to the pigpen, unzipped his fly and commenced urination. As he did so, he invented a story to tell his older brother. Two girls: a short blonde with killer tits and a shy brunette. Should I say five minutes or ten? Bah, he’ll never believe me.”

“Now I know,” Willow said. “Three beers is what it takes to get him drunk. What a lightweight.”

“I’m glad we took him along,” Parhelion said. “He always looks so depressed in class.”

“Don’t know why you invited the creep. He always keeps looking at my chest.”

“Have you talked to him about it?”

“I have! And he still keeps looking!”

Parhelion laughed. “Thanks for taking us shooting. I needed to clear my head.”

“Don’t mention it Flowergirl. Your first time wasn’t so scary, right? Not after I taught you two the ropes.”

“It’s still a little nerve-wracking.”

“Tell you what, I wish we were shooting at Frank instead of trees.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Fuck him. He cheats on you, brags about it, and gets my sympathy? That idiot’s lucky I don’t put him in a hospital bed.”

“Let’s talk about something else,” Parhelion said. “Please?”

Willow sighed. “Fine.”

“So...how’d you find that place? I’m surprised no one heard us back there.”

“Drive around enough and you’re bound to reach a neck of the woods no one goes to. And it’s not like the nanny’s gonna snitch whenever I take the gun with me.”

“That makes sense.”

Willow spun her cap forward. She bounced her leg, resisting the urge to roll down the window and shout at Xi to piss faster. The windows of the saltbox house were dark. Perhaps they were asleep, she thought.

“Want a beer?” Willow asked.

“Oh, no thanks,” Parhelion said.

“Come on. You’re the only stone sober one out of all of us. A beer’s not gonna taint your...” Then with a posh British accent. “...delicate, pianist sensibilities child.”

Parhelion laughed. “No no, I really shouldn’t.”

“Too late. I’m popping the trunk.”

As they got out of the car, Xi was shaking out the last couple of drips. He eyeballed the pigs who were eyeballing him. One of them stood up on a tractor tire while the others gathered around like a crowd. The scene had a creepy humor to it, and for some reason, it made him laugh uncontrollably.

“Keep it down,” Willow hissed. “And put that disgusting thing away.”

Willow took out the cooler and picked out two cans of PBR for Parhelion and herself. Reluctantly, she took one.

“Yo Xi,” Willow whispered. “Get over here. We’re about to make a toast.”

Xi stumbled over and grabbed a Dogfish. They raised their cans.

“Oh gods of booze, hear our prayer,” Willow started. “We thank you for ridding our friend of the douche-sandwich known as Frank, and we ask you to protect her from the many, many pricks that pollute this proud nation. Cheers and amen.”

“Cheers and amen,” Xi and Parhelion said.

They each took a sip. Parhelion coughed up some of hers. Willow laughed while rubbing her back. “There there. It’s good for you.”

While the girls were distracted, Xi caught a glimpse of the Kalashnikov underneath the cooler. Right then he came up with a hilarious idea. He dug into the trunk, pushed the cooler out of the way, and pulled out the rifle. “Say hello to my little friend.”

The girls looked at Xi, and immediately recoiled in surprise. “Hey put that fucking thing away,” Willow hissed.

Making mock gun noises, Xi swung the firearm around indiscriminately. The girls ducked and ran from wherever the barrel was pointing. Parhelion began to cry, hiding her face behind her beer can.

“You fuck wit me, you fucking wit the best!” More mock gun noises.

“Knock that shit off! This isn’t funny.”

“I want to go home.”

Xi stumbled toward the pigpen. One handing the rifle, he pointed it at the pigs and screamed. “The world is mine you fucking cockroaches.” More mock gun noises.

“Keep it down!”

Xi laughed. “Relax. I’m only just joshing—”

BANG!!

~

Fire engulfed the trees. Smoke clouded the sky. Elod had no clue how he ended up here. A faceless man covered head to foot in third degree burns stood before him. An aura of futility pervaded the scene. In Elod’s right hand was a bottle of Jack. Despite no leakage or having been opened, the booze slowly drained away. The emptier the bottle was, the sicker Elod felt. A Nausea invaded his mind and body to the point where he became a puppet to It.

In his left hand, with all five fingers, was an M67 grenade.

“Go ahead Chicken Claw,” his faceless friend said. “Create destruction.”

The pin and safety handle popped off the explosive without his touching them. The longer he held the grenade, the hotter it burned his hand. He wanted to throw it, but Nausea squeezed his hand tighter. Tighter and tighter the emptier and emptier.

“Don’t kill me again Sheriff,” the faceless friend said. “Throw the damn thing.”

Elod tried to puke but couldn’t. Instead the Nausea took the violent strength of his attempt and channeled it into squeezing the grenade even tighter. Arteries and veins protruded from under the skin.

“I said throw it.”

The bottle was nearly empty. The fire swelled to towers, yet that was a background sensation compared to the searing heat in his left hand. Elod tried to speak but the Nausea clenched his mouth.

“Feel guilty yet?”

The bottle emptied.

BANG!!

Elod woke up, unsure where he was. His nose stung from dust, mold, week-old armpit sweat, and put-out cigarettes. His rheum-crusted eyes saw the peeling wallpaper. As he got out of bed, his bone-tired feet touched the stained carpet. 4:13 said the broken clock above his bed.

He heard voices outside.

Elod stood up and limped to the window. Under the moonlight, he saw the teens, the gun, and the puddle of blood expanding from a pig’s head.

“What the?”

The kids cowered into the Benz, then floored it in reverse out of the farm.

“Hey. Hey get your asses back here!”

In nothing but his underwear, he grabbed his M1A and ran downstairs to the porch. He aimed. Before the car disappeared, he fired. He heard glass explode.

“You won’t forget my name you fucks,” Elod said. “I guaran-damn-tee it. You won’t forget me!”

He made a break to the truck parked in front of his house, tossing the rifle in the passenger seat. He started the ignition then floored it out of there.

~

The pigpen circled Sir Kingsley Huffanapuff’s corpse. His voice whimpered until it withered to nothing. His eyes glassed over. And the faint tremors soon too faded.

“What just happened?”

“I don’t know.”

 “Is he dead?”

“What do we do?”

“Nothing,” some-pig oinked.

All eyes went to Mr. Tinklebottom. Mr. Tinklebottom, with his head held high, looking at the apple tree that rocked in the wind, continued. “We can’t do anything. There’s no use saving him.”

“But there’s something that we can do,” Chitilina squealed. “We’ve got to save him. We can’t just forget about him.”

“We have no choice. Trust me, we’ll forget about him. Eventually. Trust me”

The pigs lowered their heads, looking at the mud, where they were once so happy before.

~

They sped down the road. Only car-lights lit up the dark. They passed houses, dodged drivers. The faster they went, the faster their hearts pounded. The fuel gauge sat on E.

“Shit shit shit shit shit.” Willow whiteknuckle-gripped the steering wheel, panting, bouncing her leg, sweating, sobbing. “We’re going to get you to a hospital Xi. Hang in there.”

“I wanna go home,” Parhelion cried. She tried not to look in the backseat, but, by accident, she caught a glimpse of him in the rearview mirror, weeping and holding his right shoulder. Blood soaked his polo shirt while a Kalashnikov laid on his torso. Dizziness, chills, shivers, chest pain, and nausea overwhelmed her. It took her back to when she played piano with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age twelve—so much pressure. I’m going to die. 

“Keep pressure on it,” Willow shouted. “Parry, for Christ’s sake call the police.”

“I’m sorry. I-I don’t know what to do.”

“It’ll be okay. Get out your phone and I’ll tell you what to do.”

As she coached Parhelion through the call, Willow half-considered parking on the road shoulder and, with all three crouched below the window-line, waiting with gun in hand to shoot the psycho. The tabloid thoughts returned:

BREAKING: Melissa Graham’s Daughter Murdered!

BREAKING: Melissa Graham’s Daughter Arrested for Homicide!

BREAKING! BREAKING! BREAKING!

Just as they crossed a bridge, the truck chasing them hit a deep pothole and fishtailed into a telephone pole, causing the driver to crash through the windshield and fall into the creek.

The three teens decided to hightail it and disappear, leaving their chaser to die. He was probably a nobody anyway.

~

The pain came and went. Elod wondered how many people would worry or even think about him. He couldn’t come up with a single name. But he accepted it. Eventually life, the world, the universe, it’ll all have to die and be forgotten. It wasn’t a new idea but laying in the ditch put the perspective in the front of his mind. In the end, life was just like the mud under his body—homogenous and familiar.

As the creek water washed over Elod, he thought of the snow. He thought of Marcia playing Andres Segovia. He thought of little Tommy. He was glad to have them while he did.

 

END

 

 

 


Submitted: September 02, 2020

© Copyright 2022 Marquise Williams. All rights reserved.

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