Just a back-up

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
back-up

Submitted: December 10, 2011

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Submitted: December 10, 2011

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My grandfather told me stories. He was one of the old ones, elders, of the tribe. My people have always passed the stories down, grandfather's father told him the same as my father and on to me. He was old in my youth, older than any man I had seen, or would see for some time. He normally told me in firelight; the flames were larger then. I have seen the flames get smaller in my days, as they did for him. At some point, our flames all get too small tosee. But they donot die. Life, he liked to say, was an endless plain, littered with the smoldering ashes of countless failing fires; one day, even my own would be among them.

He carried in a deer skin around his neck the ashes from his grandfather's fire, as I carry his now, and perhaps one day my grandson willcarrymine. This I doubt. The old times aregone, they've moved on. The world of my youth died long ago. Our spirits became mascotsfor large companies and sports teams. The open lands are now covered in concrete and windmills. I remember that commercial years back, with the littering and the singletear. We have wept much more; the Mississippi flows with the tears of my people.'Everything must change,' he'd say, 'and one day, change will happen. It is then that we either will notbe, or we will be not us.' I say this now as I have come to understand his words. We are not the proud peopleweoncewere;our lands areoverrun, our streams dropletsthat can not be owned and yet can be sold. A tree can no more be owned than a person. Our world is like sweat in the rain, muddled in witheverything else that goes by the wayside as the wheels roll on.

My grandfather told me of the first white man he ever saw. He was still a boy, out checking fur traps with several others. He'd heard a clapping sound and followed it, came across awhite man with shiny fur, speaking a strange language he called the words from the swamp. He hadbeaten another boy's head open with arock, hence the clapping. The eldest boy of the group attacked the man, beat him badly. My grandfather said the white man was sick, skinny to the point of near death. He hadn't eaten or bathed in over a week. They tied his arms and legs, carried him back to the village. The elders and the Chief looked him over; they kept him bound. Didn't want to risk him killing anyone else while they decided what to do. The villagers all kept their distance, and believed the man was the Caddaja. The Chief had the man's armor removed and he was bathed in the swamp. He always said the smell coming from the white man had been horrible. The Speaker of the Spirits said he was in fact the Caddaja. He called for the elders to kill the evil that had come to their village.

The Chief was level headed and merciful. He saw a sick and broken man, nothing but skin and bone. He couldn't kill that man, he couldn't sentence such a man to death without him being allowed to heal. It was decided by them to wait for the man's health to return. The villagers wanted him dead, he had murdered a child. The elders said to wait, and wait they did. It took several weeks for the man to regain his strength, during which half the village died of disease he had brought. The Chief himself died, so did the Speaker of the Spirits and most of the elders. Everyone that still lived were weak, and the white man simply walked out of the village one day. My grandfather never saw him again. My grandfather never blamed the Chief for waiting, though the consequences nearly killed the tribe. So many mouths had been silenced. The tribe recovered, as people do after such things. My grandfather never trusted the white man. He saw them as inheritors, usurpers to his world, his way. And his world is long gone.

But our stories live on, and through them my people live on. A time will come when all these buildings will be gone, the streets taken back by the Earth, and even then we will live on. As long as there exists mouths to speak and ears to hear, we will always live on.

 

xxxxx

 

The Hot Cherry on Friday night as the sun went down was fine. The air was crisp, cold. A light wind from the north. The sun was gone. He flashed ID at the door,stepped to a bar covered in ponds. Spill-over and glass sweat. A foosball table in the back corner, punching machine next to the restrooms. College ball on the flat screen. He ordered a beer and sat. The stool had no cushion; he didn't expect any. He drank half the bottle in a single swallow. Thirsty, parched, a love for the drink. Need. The bar maid walked over, blonde, young and tattooed. She'd seen better days. Her body said screw me; her eyes, kill me. He wasn't inclined to do either. A former cutie, small pockets of freckles siding her nose. The left face slightly higher than the right. Wabi sabi, the beauty of imperfection.

'You look sad.' A statue beside him, carved and weathered. No sands of time at work, hard life, hard knocks.

'Just tired.' She sidled closer, a statue on wheels.The world moved on the squeaking castors of Hell. He knew what was to come. He readied to flash the ring.

'Anything I can do for ya?' The voice became more inviting. He took a drink.

'Another beer. Well shot of vodka.'

'Anything else, Hon?' He flashed the ring. She didn't back down. Fucking kids. Fucking bar girls. Believed only what they allowed themselves to see.

'Just the beer and shot. Just tired.' She finally walked away. He had little patience for chit chat. He was not a small-talker. He was an observer. And good at it. His company paid him well for this skill. He sacrificed multiple trips each month to keep his lifestyle. His wife loved the lifestyle as well. Nice house, nice car. Jeweled presents under afake pine tree. She was a kept woman, the zoo onlyhis cage. She was the sky at noon. The ocean in tide. Love was there, nothing else mattered.

Love had been there. Truth, the moon at midnight. Casting through dark. Never wanted. He emptied the bottle in time for the next. The bar maid came and went silently. Toeing eggshells. Good girl. He took his shot as though it may run away. The second beer was colder. His hands shook. He would need more. It was a night for steady nerves. For cool heads. It was a night for morality and righteousness. A night to drink, that was nothing new. He motioned the bar maid over. She ignored then declined approach. A girl behind the bar walked over, took the order, walked away. He waited.

'So what exactly you need all that for?' The voice of the man a few stools down. A drunk not yet drunk. Hair askew, poorfittedcap. The Drunk squinted in cigarette smoke. The Drunk had few teeth. The drinks were set before him, he ordered another for the Drunk. The Drunk smiled and ushered thanks. A firing squad of shots. Face flushed, stomach caught off-guard. He smiled, if it could be called such. The Drunk drank with him, persistent. 'Ya didn't answer.'

'Maybe I have a drinking problem.'

'Hell, drinking ain't never no problem. You believe that?'

"Maybe I do.'

"You maybe a lot of stuff, doncha? Maybe this, maybe that. So what maybe is why you maybe drinking so much? Huh?'

'Maybe I was on a work trip. Maybe I came back early cause of whatever. Maybe I found out my wife wasn't expecting me home yet. And maybe I came here to get drunk before I went back.'

'That's a lot of maybes.' The Drunk took his shot. 'Oh hey, my name's Jim. Just about everybody knows me here.' He didn't doubt the drunk's claim. 'So, she running aroun on ya?'

'Yeah. That's the way it looks.'

'Womens the worst things in the world. Nothing out there, not no lions or tigers or shit else that gonna hurtcha like a woman. I say ta hell with all of 'em. Never did no man no good no way. You know who never leaves ya?'

'Who would that be?' He asked. He didn't care. He knew he'd have to listen.He ordered two more shots. They were set before them

'To the booze. Alcohol never leaves, never stays out late. Never yells atcha. Always down to fuck ya good. Here's to it.' The Drunk said.

'Here's to it.' They drank. He tasted terrible things. He shook his head.

'What's your name, if I can ask?'

'John. John Diddums.'

'Diddums huh? That's a new one on me.'

'It's Welsh.'

'Welsh. You from Wales? My buddy Jonah used to live in Wales.' The joke fell dead between them. He ordered another round, same as before. The Drunk smiled.

'No, just the name.'

'So, whacha gonna do when you go back? Huh? Gonna take the old lady out? Shoot the bastard humping on her? Make her watch? You ought to, ya know. You gonna kill her?'

'Don't know yet.' A lie. Such a bold one. His mind had long been set. The nerves needed steadying. Just the nerves. A beer clock gave him thetime. Stop at a liquor store. He needed more. The bartender eyed him. He would quickly be cut off. He knew the look.

'You tryin ta fool me or yourself?'

'Probably a little of both.'

'Never lie ta yourself. Everybody else in this world is gonna lie to ya. Cept yourself, that is. You wanna do sumthin, do it. Come Hell er high water.Too many people trying to make everybody but themselves happy. What tha fuck? Bad nowadays ta be selfish. Now we gotta say we all independent. Selfish, independent, same damn thing ta me. Buncha semantic bull shit. All of it.' The Drunk received a look from the bartender. 'Boy, if ya got something in ya heart, ya know what to do. Shit, if ya got it in ya heart, it might well already been done. Just a thing waitin ta happen.'

'Is that so?'

'Sure as shit it is. Ya can trust me on that. Just a thing waitin ta happen.'

He pissed, paid out, waved to the Drunk,walked outside. The wind had picked up. It carried along in knowledge. In Hell, the lustful were blown about in a storm wind. No rest for the wicked, and wicked were they. The cold had set in. Hairs prickled. Slightly shaking. He shuddered and found the car. He waited for the engine to warm. Heater was useless otherwise. He pulled away after ten minutes.Liquor store was two blocks away, grabbed a cart when he entered. Three cases of cheap vodka. Two liter Sprite. A stand of roses by the counter. He smiled. The hard stuff for you, dozen roses for the wife. He purchased them as well. He was given looks. He wasn't carded.

The house was quiet, the car remained in the drive. He parked at the curb. Nolight on the ground floor. His bedroom windows lit upstairs. Theblinds were closed. He knew where to go first. The shed was in the backyard. The gate was silent, kept well oiled, as was the shed door. He found it in the corner, it's place. The weight made it concrete. No end here. This was but a start. He left the shed open, no reason to close up. The wind gusted. Would it stop him or push him forward. Did it care?

The kitchen door was unlocked, light music from upstairs. He drank from the bottle, winced, drank again. This was not sober work. This was sobering. The shower turned on. He smiled. Cleanliness and Godliness. Lamb's blood and sacrament. He finished the bottle, set it on the table. He had eaten there before. She had eaten with him. The stairs had carpet, green in light, black in darkness. Unbearable darkness. The music continued, louder by the step. He stopped outside the bedroom door, set the flowers on the carpet. No sense in their ruin. In his time, learning to open this door had become art. He was a master. A naked man slept with his back exposed on the bed. The Bastard never moved as he drug him into the hallway. Carpet burn woke the Bastard. An ax blow to the back. The blade stuck, he pulled it free. The Bastard raised his head, sucked in a breath. Pushed forward an arm. He smashed the Bastards face. The Bastard stopped moving.The water continued to run. Steam came under the bathroom door. He could wait.

He drank from a flask, set the ax aside. Had to be more hands on. Her wedding ring sat on a table. Discarded symbol, as she would be. He palmed it, slid it into the shirt pocket. He rested on the edge of the bed.She had no need. She had no want. The water cut off. He tensed. The door let out billows as it opened, her form a ghost. He sat, waited. She entered with a smile, a flash of recognition, a jaw drop. Veils fell to the ground, monsters left their closets. The blanket was gone. She tried to stammer questions. He struck. She was thin, brittle, a yoga student, an easy target. When his breath became short, he stopped. He did not recognize her. A bone stuck in a knuckle. Pink stains to wash away later. She mumbled in unconsciousness. Her teeth fell to the floor. He kissed the broken lips and lifted her weight onto the bed. A set of fuzz-covered handcuffs sat nearby. He used them. She didn't protest. A stun gun from the dresser. Top drawer. Body spasms, she did not wake. He pulled down his pants.

'This what you want?' He grabbed her hips,pushed forward and down. Blood began to seep. Uncharted territory. He hoped she liked it. He sensed Laviathan's pain. She barely moved as he worked. A pool formed around her head. Her face cried crimson. He finished, backed away, pulled his pants up. 'This what you want?' He hefted the ax, struck first in her thigh. Clarity returned to her. She attempted to scream. His fist closed her mouth. The ax came down again. Again. He left it in her skull. 'I have now become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' Placed the flowers at her feet. Unplugged the alarm clock. He ate a bowl of Cheerios, taking a farewell tour. Death threw the empty bowl into the fireplace. He packed a suitcase upstairs, stared at the body. She looked so good in red.He dragged the Bastard into the hall bathroom. Draped a washcloth over the back of the head. Death chewed his bottom lip, toed the body. A boy with a stick, picking at the dead. The Bastard twitched, flinched. An arm moved, a leg kicked. Death stomped on the washcloth. He wore heavy boots. The Bastard ended.

He changed clothes, left them piled as they fell. The carpet turned pink around them. Death washed his hands, face, in the sink. The bath tub was still draining. Good-bye bad plumbing. He closed the curtain. Stared at himself in the mirror. He slung thesuitcase on his shoulder, left the lights on. Clicked off the music. Eventually someone would come here. Someone would become worried. Missed appointments, unanswered phone calls. Death figured a week. He unplugged the landline, turned off her phone. Slapped her buttocks a final time. Walked from the house. The wind was gone. He moved the Bastard's car into the garage. Brought the trash cans from the curb. Nothing in the world around moved. No dog barks, insomniac neighbors. He set the suitcase in the trunk, stared at the house. Death went about his way.

Death headed downtown, found a car parked alone along an empty drag. He switched the plates. A breeze jostled small limbs. He drove to a motel, paid the night, took two showers. Firstcold, then hot. The stainsscrubbed from his hands. It remained around his fingernails. Death sat on the toilet, naked, drinking from a fresh bottle. He dripped on the floor. He didn't care. Death knew sleeping would be a chore. He didn't kid himself. No sense. He passed out on the toilet, dropped an empty bottle.

He had pried open the Hellmouth. To continue, he would need a map.

 

xxxxx

 

Death smiled, gazed at the store front. Such interesting times. Intelligent thugs in banker suits, brief cases, silk ties. Organized crime made home on Main Street. No one ever the wiser. His man was on the third floor. A red brick face, glass, steel inside. He hated elevators, took the stairs. He worked on cardio regularly. He was a drinker, but he was in shape. Death drank from a flask on the top landing, slid it into his back pocket. His door was at the end of the hall. Tile edged floor, corporate carpet job. He knocked four quick raps and answered the call to enter.

'My God, if it ain't a dead man. Ain't seen you in years, come on in here,' Caron stood behind the desk. Short and stocky, passing mid-thirties. They shook hands.

'You know me. I have to keep everybody on their toes. How have you been?' Death smiled again, He had straight teeth. Cabron's had long turned to gold.

'Great, main, great. Sit down, come on. What can I do for you good sir?'

'I need a few things.' Death pulled a paper from his pocket and flicked it onto the desk. Caron unfolded and read, head jerking as he opened his mouth.

'You and your shitty handwrittin. What's this one? What language is that?'

'English.It's short for Barry.'

'Ah, gotcha main. What all you need?'

'Current address, any logistics. Spouses, kids, the basic stuff. You know how I love dosiers.'

'Hell if I don't, main. You and your fuckinginformation. Problem is, you always did better with the shit than we did. Give me bout an hour and I got you. Anything else?'

'Yeah. They did some work for some dick-beaters over in the Carolinas.'

'Yeah, I know them guys. They got on our shit list a few years ago. Tried to run some iron through here without talking to us. Can't take a road and not pay the toll, main. They've been trying to get back on our good side ever since. Kissing some serious ass.'

'Good. I need them kept out of this. Their and my best interests areif they not get involved. Tell them you guys are closer tosquare if they let these folks fall by the wayside?'

'I don't see a problem with that. Let me get your shit, main. You look like you got some work to do.'

'Yeah, I suppose I do. Bout an hour?'

Bout. Go get some lunch or brunch or whatever. There's a good place down at the corner.'

You want anything?'

'Naw main, I'm good. Trying to watch my weight.'

'It'smuch more funto watch it rise.'

'Yeah, fuck you.'

'I'll be back.' Death left the office, took the stairs, stared down the street. He ate a plain ham and cheese at the corner. Potato chips on the side. The meal took half his wait. The restDeath kept in a stroll. A cold front had moved in. The air was as water. It hung about, sticky. Death hummed Rainy Day People to himself. He emptied the flask, licked his lips, refilled it at the car. Evenwiththe plates switched out the night before,he wouldfeel better with a new one. Several pulls on the bottle. He tossed the empty to the floorboard. Put more change in the meter. He stood outside the office door ten past an hour. Wiggle room. Death went inside.

'Any problems?' Death asked then sat. Caron smiled, waved a hand.

'Problems? Hell no, main, no problems. Nothing but good. I got everything you need. Couple these bastards really went underground. I mean real deep. Luckily, for me and you, there's a few folks here that we'd like dealt with. That is the reason right?'

'Yes sir. It indeed is the reason for the season.'

'Main, I don't want to know what they did toget on your shit list.'

'Good.' Death said. Caron laughed.

'So, you need anything else? We're footing the bill for ya.'

'I need a car.'

'Done. I can get it herein ten minutes.'

''I'd like a second in thecloset.' Caron laughed again. He missed this guy.

'When was the last time you were in there?'

'You know how long it's been. Is that a no?'

'Main, course you can. Just the idea of you wanting in there. Wanting in. You never had a problem getting your hands dirty, just not sticky.'

'People change.'

'Yeah. Yeah they do. Things have changed though.' Caron pulled open a drawer, set a key on the desk. 'First Lincoln Bank. Couple of streets over. Box 621. Get what you want.'

'Thank you sir.' Death slid the key over, rubbed it between fingers, put in his shirt pocket.

'Hold onto the key for now. It's not marked. Any preference on car color?' Caron asked. Death flipped through the manila folder.

'Black. It wont show dirt.'

'Let me see what I can do.' Caron said, picked up the phone and dialed. The conversation was Spanish. A jaunt was ahead for Death. The trails through Hell were severe. They melted and reformed. Hell was empty. Hell would be full. Caron set the phone in the cradle, turned, set a briefcase on the desk. 'You're gonna want this.' He opened the top, slid the folder in place, clicked it shut. Caron handed him a card. 'You need anything, let me know.'

'Will do. Thanks to you and yours.'

'Let me know when this gets resolved. You can buy me a beer.'

'No lime.'

'Get outta here.'

The car came in ten minutes as promised. Nice drive. The driver nodded, nervous, handed over the keys, scuttled away. Death watched him. He laughed to himself, slid behind the wheel. First was unloading trunk items into the new car. He kept an open case in the backseat. He drank, set the bottle on the passenger seat. Finished, he drove away. The bank was as expected. Tuesday morning. Light traffic. Walls and floor marble, gold edged. He bet it was all fake. Every seam, inlay, smile, dollar and counter-top. Wood grain, dark mahogany. Jenny sat behind. Jenny smiled.

'Hi, how can I help you?' Regular as a drive-thru clown. Printedas scripture, passed to the peons, engraved within HR purgatory.

'I need to get something from my safety box.' He flashed the key. She waved to a short, gray man. He came to assist.

'Boyd, this man needs to see his deposit box.'

'Oh, certainly.Just come back here with me. What was your name?' They walked toward the building's rear. Short and squat, fastidious and to the point.

'Joe Sheridan.' Death answered.

'Alrighty Mr. Sheridan, what number is yours?' Boyd asked, opening a vault door. Sterile, clean, a steel table along the center.

'621. My lucky number.'

'Seems an odd lucky number. Lets see . . . here we go. A big one.' Boyd placed his key in the lock, Death followed. He pulled the box out, set it on the table. Boyd waved a hand. 'If you need anything else, just let me know.'

'Thanks Boyd.' Death said. He opened the box top. Four handguns. Various ammunition. Ten grand in cash. He set the briefcase open beside the box. He pulled out two guns, three extra clips for each. A pair of silencers. The cash,a set of brass knuckles. He closed the case, put the box back, left the vault. Death waved at Boyd, a smile and wave returned. He sat in the car. He vomited onto the sidewalk. He took a drink and drove away. The puddle behind him grew. He stopped at a pharmacy. Supplies were needed. Asprin, Pediasure, a bag of cotton balls. Box of matches, metal waste basket, plastic gallon gas can. Isotoner rip-offs. Death asked for a pack of Pall Malls and a Bic at the register.

He smoked as he drove. Death crushed the butt under foot, entered Wal-Mart. Nearly gawked at the spectacle. The people, all fashions, ages, demographics. Employees slack-faced, tired at their stations. The tile was sticky. The air full of voices, parents chiding, babies screaming. The overhead music too loud, pages came as the voice of God. He asked the mountain man in sporting goods for an extra box of rounds. A roll of fishing line. Grabbed an assortment of make-up from the after Halloween bargain bin. Package of t-shirts, socks, boxers. Bottle of peroxide. Roll of black trash bags. Two pints of Blue Bell. A cheap Styrofoam cooler. He attempted to order a hamburger from the in-store McDonalds, the counter girl didn't speak English, he settled for chicken. He paid cash, small bills.

The bags went into the backseat with the rest. He emptied another liter of vodka leaving the parking lot. He drove by the house. No police lights out front, no movement from inside. No cars in thedrive.No discovery. He drank half a Pediasure, took a pull of booze. Headed to the interstate. He drove until he crossed the state line. Found a motel on an exit by a Cracker Barrel. Cheap room, he paid with a hundred, took the change. Pulled the car in front of the room, unloaded several plastic bags. Put the briefcase on the nightstand. He sat on the bed, flipping channels, drinking vodka chased with Pediasure. He ate a pint of ice cream, put the other in the freezer. Watched the news, nothing there. He pulled over the case, slicked it open, attached the silencers to the guns. He loaded both, chambered a round, took one into the bathroom. He showered, gun on the toilet tank. Dried off slowly with hardened towels, over starched, thrift store grade.

Death vomited into the toilet, stood, waited, and vomited again. He pulled out a trash bag, set it by the bed. He drank more Pediasure, put on a pair of boxers, took a gulp of alcohol. He put the gun under the pillow. Had togo see the Indian tomorrow. Death slept. He vomited three times during the night, each time into the bag beside the bed. The final time all bile.

 

xxxxx

 

He woke, drank, chased, showered again. He ate at Cracker Barrel. Breakfast food at noon. Scrambled eggs and thick bacon. Burnt buttered toast. No Coffee. He hated coffee. He drank tea. The glass stayed full. He bought an Andes mint at the register. Left a hundred on the table.

The Indian lived in a no-man's land. Thick pine forest, boggy swamp. After long rains, it took a boat to get out there. He parked at the end of the dirt drive.A thick carpet of needles. Aheavily dented Ford was there as well. The Indian's truck. Death had taken many rides on that bench seat. He'd known the Indian a long time. He always came here for palaver. Death started up the path, partially over-grown. His coat kept out the cold. He knew the Indian would have some fire water. His flask was newly filled. Death drank a quarter. He walked, smoking, tapping ash onto the brush. It had rained recently, lightly. The puddles remained, smaller than he'd seen them. He danced among them, skipping by and over. No burn ban here.

The swamp water was high but not over flowing.Death had seen this. Water to the waist, sometimes higher. Such was the way to the Indian's. The path, such as it was, ran along the water line. He hated the swamp. God only knew what was in there, hiding behind the cypress, beneath the water. The ground became mud. Death slopped forward.. He was almost there. He saw the house up ahead,built on six foot stilts,flat bottom boat tied beneath the porch. A dreamcatcher moved with the wind. Small bells tinkled and chimed. The Indian kept it well mantained.

'Who goes there?' The Indian was on the porch, rifle in hand.

'It's me.' Death said. Stopped at the end of the woodensteps. The Indian looked him over, smiled, waved an arm.

'Get up here. You hungry? I was just making me a snack.'

'I could probably eat. Getting more visitors out here?' Death motioned to the rifle. The Indian shook his head. His hair was long, gray.

'Every so often some kids get the idea to come out here. Mostly just some stupid ghost stories about me. I think they think I'm a warlock or something. I seem like a warlocvk to you?' The Indian set out two bowls. He stired a pot on the stove. It smelled of venison, spices.

'A warlock? I always thought you were. I know you got a caldron in the back.' Death sat at the table.

'Yeah, yeah. They like to come out here, dare each other to steal something from the porch. I think lately the target is the dreamcatcher. Especially since that movie came out.' The Indian setthe fullbowlson the table and sat. 'I called thestate policea few times. They just give me a run around. Seems to me it must not be illegal to steal from an Injun.'

'Come on now. Stealing from Indianscan't beagainst the law. Its not a crime, its a historical reinactment.' Death ate. The Indian laughed. Death drank from the flask, the Indian brought a bottle of whiskey from a cabinet. Two shot glasses. A bottle of Tums.

 

 


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