Twenty Eight

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

Hurricane winds pale next to the tempests of human nature. Based on true events.


by Luke Rounda

There was an old man on the route that liked to joke with Zach about cigarettes. From his easy chair: “I’m going to need about… four hundred cigarettes from you this week, bud.”

Two cartons of Luckies with their fat red pop art nuke buttons, two pounds hamburger, onions and peppers and beans, a fifth of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, and potatoes and carrots and celery and corn laid out on the counter, the old man started the stew and chatted him up before Zach could leave. More jokes. Advice. Wisdom. Stuff that didn’t matter. His kitchen windows sucked the curtains toward the October air while he assembled the stew. Onion and spice smell competing with simmering meat smell, a little kitchen voodoo, the scent of the Quarter.

It was a big pot. There had to be one or two around the same size back at the apartment.

It was dark before he finished the route and headed back. Darkened trees in the park across Rampart Street hissed with the evening breeze. The shop lights cast a dull glow out onto the street. Zach entered and made for the stairs, stamping through the shop with its peachskin-colored walls covered in wooden masks with long, melting faces, black souvenir t-shirts and cloth dolls that wore sewing needles and rainbow stripes. The door sucked shut into its frame.

Upstairs, he unlocked the door to their apartment, stepped inside, and bolted the door behind him. After checking to see that the thermostat was still dialed back, he found Addie’s cooking pots in the usual place, in the built-in drawer under the oven door. The water from the tap was so cold he could feel its breath. Zach set the pots on the burners to boil, cranked the oven to “broil.” Through the kitchen and down the hall, their bedroom lay darkened.

Addie was there on the bed, facing away, her mop of dirty blond hair spilling out over her shoulders and spine.

Zach drew in a breath. Scooping her up into his arms, he toed the door aside on his way to the bathroom. Naked legs slung over his forearm hung down to his waist, flailing limply in midair, like a kid’s might while sitting in a chair too high for her feet to touch the ground.

He could smell himself inside her from the night before. That stale protein stench, like a high school chemistry lab, or his old ’toon’s bunker in the desert.

They stood over the bathtub. Cradled in his arms, her skin looked even paler white than before. The curves of her hips flowed up around a flat stomach poured from pure buttermilk, livid, crisscrossed with winnowing brown lines. Her breasts looked bigger, smashed together between his chest and arm. Swollen, swooping line of cleavage right under his nose.

The cops liked Addie’s tits. The flashes of them they saw, anyway. Maybe it wasn’t fair to other parts of the Quarter, but it kept the cars rolling up and down Zach and Addie’s street. Their street. Mucused with sodden trash blown in by the hurricane, where they’d cook around a bucket full of burning driftwood, bartering booze for bottled water from anyone else who had been too stubborn to leave, the street really had no appeal bigger than Addie’s tits at that point. Cops liked them better than looters, for sure. They loved to look. If it cheated anyone, well, that someone could have gotten into the Mardi Gras spirit like Adriane. She and Zach provided the liquor, after all.

He dropped Addie into the tub. Her skull bounced against the far edge before sinking to rest at an odd angle on her shoulder, exposing the elementary school turkey-shaped bruise on her neck.

Dark eyes stared ahead.

She looked real peaceful. It was kind of the look she’d have when writing her poetry, or her journal, nattering to herself about nothing. That neutral look, with one side of her face grinning and the other pulled down like a frown. Not the angry look, like when she told him she was serious about wanting to kick him out of the place.

Zach cleared his throat and scratched the back of his neck, pulling her legs to position her spine flush against the cold, grayed trough of the tub. Her head lolled back, wisps of dark blond hair sticking up, matted against the porcelain and curling around the drain.

He lifted the closer leg and slid the knife around and over her thigh where it met the hipbone, like peeling a piece of fruit. The blood was dark, thick. Didn’t really flow—more like ooze, stiff, into the porcelain, slow, almost not liquid at all.

Once he’d carved out a nice channel, he swung his right leg into the tub, his tailbone on the tub’s edge, shoe against her hip, and set the handsaw against the incision line. With his free hand, he held the leg firm against the side of the tub. Saw teeth bit in, back and forth, back and forth. Knuckles over a zydeco washboard. Skin sank under the metal and her thigh accordioned open to the sound of teeth grinding. Under the weight of the saw, bone crunched and warped, and with a sharp twist, the last sliver snapped. It came free.

He flipped her over and severed the other leg. Her arms were easier. They weren’t nearly as thick. Underneath, the blood stained the dirty ceramic a dark, oily burgundy. Zach reached over and kicked the bathtub knob up with the butt of his hand. Cold water streamed from the faucet onto the back of Addie’s head, drawing blond tendrils down into the muck. Grabbing her by the midsection, he set her aside in the back of the tub, rinsing the ends of her limbs under the water. The grease pinwheeled down the drain.

When the blood finished, he shut off the water and dragged her back up to the front of the tub by the hair. Her nipples traced lines through the red film. Wet twist of her hair braided around his left hand and pulled out of the way, he etched another channel in the back of her neck with the paring knife, a half-circle spanning down towards the tub floor on either side. The handsaw floated down towards the drain with the last of the rushing water. Zach picked it up, setting it against the incision.

Back and forth. Metallic clink of saw teeth biting into porcelain, musty semen stench assaulting his nostrils. So strong now.

Lifting himself away from his position straddling the edge of the tub, Zach stood, tossing the tools aside onto the chipped tiled floor. He peeled off his charcoal “ARMY” shirt, kneading it around his hands and arms, then pitched it into the other room.

He could smell it before he could see it: the pot had boiled over. Burned water drizzled down the side of the oven to the floor. He sloshed over to the sink and added more water to what was left bubbling in the pot, then replaced it on the burner. The head fit snugly inside.

Hanging half out the window, the air conditioner clattered, banged, and froze the apartment. Without his shirt, his skin raised into gooseflesh, thin black hairs standing at attention.

After chopping a few carrots and onions, it started to smell like the old man’s kitchen. The only thing missing was the Luckies, he decided. He imagined a breadcrumb trail of burns winding its way up the back of his arm. One burn for one yearful of failure.

He picked up the phone. Dial tone flatlined in his ear.

Somewhere on Bourbon, surrounded by the black prison tines of French lampposts and mortar brick, curly-cues of window neon beckoned the drunks and the diners. He wouldn’t be tending bar tonight, he told the owner.

He was going to need about twenty-eight cigarettes this week.

Submitted: August 29, 2008

© Copyright 2022 LukeRounda. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



wow its wonderful i cant wait for more its fatastic, if you have time please read my new story and please leave a comment please ....please....

Fri, August 29th, 2008 9:35am


Thank you but why is it fantastic? Also this is a standalone, one-off piece. There isn't a second part to it coming.

Fri, August 29th, 2008 11:05am


Quite amazing, i'm not what is going on but it is still very interesting.

Sat, August 30th, 2008 8:18am


I see your a fan of Gibson, did you read Accelerando by Stross yet?

Sat, August 30th, 2008 8:19am

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