Stories

Barnable Crimmas – G.P. DeSalvo

Last time I got real bored, like 3 days ago, I drew designs with them handfuls of pork lard in my bedroom carpet.  That shag looks marbley pretty with the lard swirlin; it smells like bacon.  The smell of bacon helps relax me.  Helps me sleep.  The lard makes my skin slicker soft.  Lard makes everything better… sept carpet I s’pose.  That’s another thing I’m always getting in trouble for.  Sometimes I draw on the paneling with Sharpie cause paneling’s freakin stupid.  

Plus I like Sharpie smell.  A lot.   I s’pose I’m sniffin it so much, mom says my breath is startin to smell like it.  Sniffin em makes me feel less agitated.  That stingey chemical smell like a new car er somethin.  Ye know?

That precious paneling.  I remember when she an dad got it.  Keep your damn hands off there, they’d say when they saw me slidin down the hall.  And mom started forcin me to wash my hands even more than she did to begin with cause I insist on touchin it.  Still do.  Tell you what: I showed em ALL how much I can touch IT when I want to.  Skully does the punishin, but mom finally has to clean it— cause I can’t do it right.  No matter how many knuckle sandwiches I get on the back of my skull with them dang ugly, yellow knuckles while I’m tryin to scrub.   Skully don’t do no scrubbin cause that’s women’s work.  But, mom can hardly clean anything bein she’s too tired an sad an slow from them pills.  An vokka.   I found a few plastic vokka bottles floatin in the toilet tank the other day, so I know she’s been puttin em back.  If Skully ends up having to do women’s work himself, he does stuff like knockin me down an puttin his cigarettes out on me.  He’s yellin his whole friggin life away— that’s how stupid he is.  I s’pose it all just makes me want to keep goin with my bullsquirt.  Not cause I want to get back at mom for pickin terrible men an hardly stickin up for me.  Not really.  It’s totally cause it tees Skully off.  It might be the only way I can kill him without gettin arrested.  Nowadays, seems like only time mom spends with me is when she’s tryin to clean up my messes or chasin me with the fly swatter.  Or she’s givin me a talking-to.  Like I said, she can’t hit me hard as she used to……… and thank goo’ness for that.  But, she uses fly swatters or just screetches my ears off with nasty names an boring bible quotes that I just think she makes up.  Skully an she watch MMA fighting or The Trinity Broadcast Network, so I think she’s pickin up stuff from that, honestly.  She ain’t ever read anythingEVER… let alone The Bible with all its old timey language!   She’s a drunk hillbilly so how much can she understand God’s words, really?  She can barely speak English.  I hope God feels sorry for her like I do.  She loves to stand over me an scream stories bout how kids my age used to have to work in coal-mines.  Bout how kids without souls- like me- used to go live in them sanitariums where they was treated a lot worse than I am round here.  Bout how troubled kids who’re thin, blonde an white like me are on the menu for old perverts an foreign indignitaries.  She screams at the wall all the things old Sodomites will do to a young body like mine while she’s tryin to scrub the Sharpie an the stove-paint off: they’ll chop off my head and do all kinda horrible acts with my neck an butthole.  I laugh.  Mom chases after me until all her breaths run out, which is bout two minutes and ten seconds, an then she’s coughin up the same green stuff we all do sept hers is more bloodier an blacker greener.  When she gives up by passin out, Skully’s left to do whatever she can’t finish whether it’s hollerin or leavin criss-crosses on my but-tocks with stension cords or fly swatters or whatnot.  He just grabs whatever he feels like.  They both tell me I can’t be trusted, that I can’t never do anything correct.  I s’pose they’re right, but I can’t help it.  To be honest, I don’t trust myself much to know the right things to do, either.  What seems right or fun’s most always wrong.  I s’pose it’s all on account of my head’s screwed crooked.  

Even when she was more ok, mom was never much with figgerin things out or usin her bare hands for doin much of anything but liftin a glass of vokka.   When she’s feelin real wobbly, she uses hot stuff to correct me proper: like a lit cigarette… her crimper… the stove top.  AIN’T NO SPARIN THE ROD IN THESE PARTS!  She puffs in her scratchy crackley voice.  She don’t even bother to crimp her hair no more, but she sure still gives them crimpers a workout.  She had to buy a couple after breakin em on me.  Those two smoke enough an have put enough cigarettes out on me that I could be a Honorary Ash Tray by now.  I want a boy scout medal for that, dang it!  Punishin ain’t never been her best thing- though she was pretty good if you ask me- so she mostly leaves the punishin to the men of the house.  After dad died, when I was five, it was a drunk named Fulmer.  Din’t seem like mom waited a week after the funeral an knucklehead Fulmer was sniffin round with his big, red pickle nose.  He lasted until I was 14 an croaked from a stroke.  For the last four years eight months twenty three days thirteen hours seventeen minutes an one second it’s been Mister Simplemutt, Skully.  The worst of the worst.  Since he talked her into marrying him one year eight months twenty three days thirteen hours seventeen minutes an eighteen seconds ago, right before the gas crapola started, he gets to punish me to his heart’s contents.  I cried for near 12 days from midnight to midnight zactly when they got married starting at the day before their wedding- so they wouldn’t even let me come.  They put me in Upham Hall hoping those doctors could shape me up.  After I come home, that’s when Skully was all spread out an takin over, so he really started to hate me an call me outta my name.  He was the man of the house now an, boy, he let me know it real clear.  That’s when I declared war inside.  Deep, deep inside.  I declared war on all of em.  

It was freakin war.  

The Bad One seemed to understand when I talked to him.  

But he never stepped in to help me.  

Not once.  

Since then, I bide my time.  I talk to my little pets— I keep my plans to myself and my pretend pets.  The Bad One is the one who talks to me the most.  The Bad One knows my most nastiest thoughts.  He changes shape.  But mostly he’s big, like a big bird, but not a fluffy yellow tweety bird one- a sissy bird.  No.  He’s bigger than a house sometimes an then he can fit through a key hole.  It’s almost like he can hear my brain tick-tokking… an he’s showing up more an more… I started calling him when the hours got too boring, times when I’m boxed up like the stinkinest present you never got.  First I thought Skully sent him here to guard me.  To keep me from bein free.  Now I know that ain’t true.  He tells me he used to be friends with Skully, but now he’s my friend.  Neither one of us has many friends I don’t think.  He introduced himself to me after all the rigs an workers got here, after Skully an mom tied their knots.  I guess I wasn’t tall enough or ma-toor enough to speak with him proper.  He ain’t a imaginary friend, if that’s what you’re thinkin.  He’s as real as them rigs or that monkey Skully or mom or the strips cross my window.  Alls I have to do is say his name an smear my bloody mouth on my palms an hold out my hands.  I can feel him peckin at em like a hungry crow pluckin that suet outta me.  He mostly doesn’t have edges, but he got wings.  I ask him to help me outta here.  I wait an wait, an he never does.  He makes promises he never keeps.  I’m startin to think he’s a trickster.  I’m startin to think he enjoys watchin me get my butt whooped.

Nowadays, when Skully comes for me, I wind him up so good his face gets to looking real red an stupid with veins an sags an purple bubbles popping under his skin; I pray to Jesus his heart attacks him.  Jesus don’t help, either.  Seems I gotta solve my own problems.  I can’t really do much, but I can sure make em mad.  I can do that really good.  I see Skully’s lookin more like the grave every day which is super fantastic.  I think them pills an his pipe habits are making him more pinker an veinier, closer to A BIG ONE.  Yeah… I caught him in the shed sucking on a glass pipe, his eyes rollin all over his head.  Mom don’t know about it— I’m sure of it.  Maybe one of these days, if I get under his skin real good, he’ll die correctin me.  Fall over mid-swing.  What a beauty-ful sight!  He’ll be out of all our miseries.  I’m shamed to say it, an Jesus please forgive me, but I’ll probably smile real big.  Lord help me, I won’t be able to stop.  It’s coming.  Just a matter of time.  I mean, it was just yesterday he let me out of the fridge from them carpet shenanigans.  But, honestly, I thought that was finally going to knock him pecker up.  He was wheezin like someone was chokin him while he was chokin me an mashin my body into the paneling I wrote my words on.  I almost laughed then, even with his hand round my throat, but he thumped me in my chest bone so hard it knocked the rest of my wind out an shot sparks through my arms an neck: smushed between him an that sick old paneling.  That stuff’s so cruddy an old, it cracked when my body hit it an I got splinters from stinker to thinker.  Freakin paneling!  Crummy, old, falling-apart farmhouse.

It’s easy to get bored round here.  This place… matter of fact this whole town… is one stinking turdful dump.  Our town has the most boringest, triflin-est, ugliest folks.  East side West side whatever.  I don’t care.  Sucky!  Booooring!

I’m willing to take my lumps.  Got plenty already.  I s’pose I should thank my real dad an Fulmer for preparin my hide for my future on a count of how stupid they say I am.  But, Skully, he’s a nasty so an so.  A lot more nastier than my dad an that other hump Fulmer put together.  He got plenty of nasty words, moves an looks.  To hell with him.  Please God forgive me for all these words an thoughts comin out of me like diarrhea.

‘Boy, you was made to kick the shit out of!’ He says with his stinkin yellow snagglepuss smile.  ‘That’s yer callin’ in life, Charlie Brown-Eye!’   That was my name when he wasn’t calling me Blue Beanie or just Beanie.  He never once called me Barnable or Barney.  But nobody round here, or anywhere else, calls me Barney.  Barnable neither.  People got different things they call me.  What’s it matter?

Skully’s knuckles are all scarred from coming up fighting everybody, an boy is he proud of that!  You can always hear him bragging real loud about that!  He’s always pointin out his hands to me.  He’s always blowin his rotten breath in my face.  For a guy what hates homos, he sure likes to get close to my face an talk bout homos.  Bout what homos do to each other, an ‘was I a homo or what?’  I s’pose I never thought about it.  Then he goes on an on bout how I ain’t his blood… he never lets me forget it.  He walks round everywhere lookin for a fight.  Sometimes, if he’s been in town, he comes home with a shiner an his nose even more uglier an outta place.  But, then he just spends a while round here buggin mom an me.  Cuffin us up an down whenever the drugs leaves his blood an he keeps swingin an swearin an sweatin until there’s another pipe or pill or tallboy or screen to keep his mouth, eyes an hands busy.  My mom and her husband got plenty of money for all their fun, while I got pork lard.  Them profits are rolling in to hear everyone tell it.  I ain’t seein it.

Round our property, we got six big rigs pumpin all the time suckin up that gas.  I s’pose, now, that’s how we earn our living.  Skully’s big idea, acourse.  Meanwhile, life just gets suckier an suckier.  It used to be better an more peaceful when we only grew fruit.  When dad was the man of the roost.  But, that was so long ago now I barely remember an only the terrible moments.  I was a real active little kid.  Breakin this, gettin into stuff.  But, it seems even them terrible moments wasn’t as bad as these ones now are.  I was a lot smaller an stupider then- an I’m still too skinny an ‘beyond-all-hope-stupid’ to hear my olders tell it.  They still treat me like a cottonpickin’ toddler.  I s’pose I deserve it, honestly.  I probably shoulda died right after I was born, like Skully says.  I was born pre-ma-toor with a collapsed lung, I was 4 pounds an 3 ounces.  I was in a incubator.

Them rigs, they make a racket, an our little end of town constantly stinks.  But, it’s not the gas what smells.  It’s the chemicals an diesel fuel.  Our neighbors blame us even though they heat their houses an whatnot by it.  Mayor Divets defends us because he an my dad were close, that was back when this was a real farm.  Now, Mayor Divets gets perks an what the gas men called options.  That’s what mom says, anyway.  Heck, the mayor don’t even live here; he lives 30 miles from town an has another mansion in Michigan somewheres.  I don’t even know what our neighbors are complainin about; heck, they don’t have fire shootin out their shower head sometimes like we do.  I’m serious… it burnt all the daggum hairs off my head an body, an I got second degree burns all over my pop tarts.  Ooops… I mean top parts.  It ain’t funny though, cause my face used to look a little more normal.  Maybe a old pervert might’ve wanted me before I burned up, but not now.  No way.  I don’t think my hair will ever grow right again; I look like a crummy, mangy mutt.  And still, the neighbors complain bout our rigs from where they’re settin in their living rooms.  I gotta say, come over to this side of the line an live here for four years eight months twenty three days thirteen hours twenty two minutes an 36 seconds with that butthole Skully, his snot covered mustache an his big ideas.  Then, you can complain.  Golllll-leeeee… these uppity folk ain’t thrown up all the time like we do when them ammonia fumes so nugget-thumpin’ strong.  Sometimes are worse than others.  Shoot.  Most times, I carry wads of plastic grocery bags round with me just in case.  Maybe they should write Endus Energy with their complaints or the daggone governor who opened all the lands up an told all these companies to suck away.  You know what, though?  The gas company an the governor don’t care a poot as long as them gasses keeps flowing in through their meter and out your chimmly like big ugly farts in the sky.  But, every day we all feel like butt-buttons here in mom’s house an it ain’t gettin better.  Oh, but that money’s comin in like they never seen says mom.  That’s why they got a new fridge to replace the one they put me in.  They can keep their cases of booze an whatnots in there an me in the other one, side by side.  I don’t ever see how them gas rigs is helping us at all- my situation ain’t improved one poot.  And we don’t live no better than we ever did, honestly.  Mom’s still wearing them old tube tops she had for years.  That rat Skully’s nose is always runnin.  Mom’s skin looks like it’s grown pink popcorn.  We’re always running to Dr. Smyler with some new rash or swelling, an we still eat mac and cheese and them microwave dinners all the time.  That Dr. Smyler’s another story.  Jeesh.

One thing, I s’pose, is this gas crap’s putting our little hole-in-the-bathroom-wall town back on the map.  I should be more prouder.

But, now I’m bored.  There’s no one around.  No gas guys.  No Skully.  Who knows where moms is.  Probably sleeping from nerve pill exhaustion.

I throw my bb gun over my shoulder, grab my burlap sack an climb up the flaky, sky-blue drainpipe using window sills an awnings like I’m King Kong or Spiderman.  My throat hurts- all I can smell is the chemicals used to force the gas outta the dirt.  Real strong.  I have to stop once an barf an I end up barfin all of the tuna casserole an Sunny D I ate for lunch.  Most of it lands on the awning- the one over mom an Skully’s room.  The rest of it, orange an brown, rolls down the siding.  Oh, jeez.  I can’t reach it to scoop it off… into the grass.  The rain will wash it all off.  When it rains again.  I hope it’s soon.  Man.  Jeesh.  I almost dropped my BB gun on that expensive mirror-ball, planter-thing they bought with all that gas money.

When I get on the roof, I’m shakin bad so I sit down quick; I look at the sky cause it calms me down right away.  All them slow colors fade in the ridges yonder; the sunset looks like new eggs squeezed open.   The birds have to scream to hear themselves over the snoop-piffin generators.  There’s these big ravens, big as me, an Skully told me to watch out or they’ll eat my eyes.  He says they can tell when someone’s slow an weak an afraid like me an they’ll attack me for the fun of it.  He tells me it’s the same with dogs an people, too.  He tells me I look like an easy target an that I’m definitely going to get attacked someday an that I better just pre-pare myself.  ‘Crows love ta rip outcher soft parts, like yer eyes an’ lips, first.’  That em-effer always has something crappy to say to me. ‘They’ll think at lil pecker a yers izza worm an RIP it right dafuck outchya!’ He jerked his arm like he was pulling a tough weed an opened his cracked, brown mouth.  Not like he wanted to say something or was smiling.  But he was showing all his yellow teeth an pushin out all his stank breath.  That breath burns up all the oxygen sometimes, it’s that awful an powerful.   ‘Skully, stop,’ says mom an Skully just flexes his swole hands at her an she shuts up.

So, I’m unloading my BB gun an I’m pegging them one two three.  Down they come.  I got a whole load of em.  This time, I’ll pick em off before those cottonfroggin fumes do.   Birds’re usually falling out the sky over our house anyways.  But these, they just got here an I feel lucky.  Mom says I was born under a unlucky star, which to my mind sounds a lot like the sun, way she describes it.  Skully always has to say something like, ‘Naw, he’s jest a retarted fuck.’  An mom, says, ‘Skully’ an looks at me an says, ‘He ain’t retarted.  He got ass burgers.’  Turns out, she’s right, but they ain’t like any kinda sandwiches you’d ever want.

So I’m out here killin daggum ravens.  Maybe The Bad One will show up an feel the pain I feel, like everything you know or ever loved is bein killed off.  Like maybe you never knew any love at all.  That’s really what it’d feel like.  I don’t know what else to do.  I want him to hurt.  But, he’s a ghost or a demon or something along them lines an they probably can’t be hurt.  What do I know?  Sorry ravens.  Sorry crows an freakin magpies with your gay little vests, but, not sorry.  Cause no one’s sorry for me.  I do kinda mean it.  I blame them anyways, cause after they came here, they ate up all the fruits in our 150 acre yard.  ‘Purdy Acres’ is what mom an dad used to call this place.  It used to be pretty; it ain’t now.  Like, AT ALL!  Not in the least little way.  Purdy Acres usedta sell apples, peaches, sometimes cherries an sometimes grapes.  We’d sell em to Safeline an Gooligan’s Natural Foods.  Then dad died.  And that’s when everything went down the crapper or maybe that’s when I was old enough to figger things out.  That’s when mom fell in love or something with Skully an Skully came an moved in an so did the goldarned birds.  Then he called the county people out here.  These fat, red men what looked like tomatoes in uniforms came to our house an surveyed the land, actin real excited, an they all talked using codes an strange words; I went an looked up the ones I could remember.  Skully an them talked mom into all these gas shenanigans.  Mom tells me we’re living big time now.  Compared to when we was fruit farming anyways.  I don’t see no difference.  If I’m being honest I have to say I miss them days.  An I even miss my mean, old dad.  My DAD dad- may he rest in pieces.  Shoot… the fruits, all them trees he planted, they don’t even grow that good anymore.  He was strict an din’t pay me no mind unless it was with a order or telling me bout myself with the back of his hand, but compared to Skully, he was like Mr. Rogers.  And that’s somethin.  My dad’s trees an vines been looking pretty sad an them fruits, what ones can bear the air, grow up all collapsed, dry an pockey marked; the orchard looks like a dream-killing field or a fruit insane insylum.

I shimmy down the spout ess-sited bout gathering up the murder I just murdered.  I know they’re the Lord’s creatures just like me but not just like me cause they got a lot smaller brains than I do, though my brains ain’t good.  Mom says I got a birdbrain an maybe she’s right.  Mom says birds an fish ain’t got souls.  You can tell by their eyes.  A screw stickin outta the drainpipe skins my calf an I cuss in my made-up curse language: God don’t want us swearin.   I got to keep a hold on that drainpipe, sky blue drainpipe, shimmy down.  ‘Shimmy own down’, like mom says.  She used to like to dance with me.  I loved her Soul Train videos.  She taught me that dancin starts in the hips an comes out through the coochie the arms and the feet.  That’s why only people in love should dance together, she’d say.  I think that was before mom lost her own soul.  Some people lose em long the way… others… like me… weren’t never born with one.

‘Don go teachin Blue Beanie t’be a queer, now.’  Skully says.  ‘He’s awready a retart.   He got et bad enough.’  Skully says with his wrinkled tattoos showing an his smells makin it hard for the rest of us to breathe.  His stink stays in the room like a brown stain in the air when he leaves.  I’ve timed it before an it’s lasted 16 hours 12 minutes an 28 seconds before you din’t smell it at all.  Not even a whiff.  It’s hard to tell cause this whole house is like a warehouse for his odors.

‘Shhhhhhhh.  He ain’t a homosexshul.  He’s a AYYYY-sexshul.  BIG differnse.’  I remember mom whisperin back to him, like I can’t hear her with her big loud smoker’s whisper.  ‘Dr. Phil uzz tawkin’ bout it last week.’

I don’t know what any of it means.  But, I don’t really think I wanna know.  The less I know about this world, the better is what moms always told me when dad was around.  That was a long time ago.  She don’t talk like that anymore.  She hardly talks at all sept to holler or complain an belly ache to Jesus.  Mostly she just makes sounds.

I hear the word ‘sex’ a lot on TV.  It has something to do with peckers an peaches, but that word… the word sex… only makes me think of chewing gum.  Juicy Fruit, my favorite.

Skully thinks I like boy’s privates.  What’s to like about that?  Mine ain’t nothin special.  I s’pose that’s why Skully makes fun of them.

I don’t ever think about other peoples’ privates sept when Skully brings it up (or something on TV or radio makes me).

Right now I got crows.  Crows, ravens an magpies are bad amens, I come to find out.  Least, that’s what mom says.  That- an no soul- makes it ok to kill em.  Least, that’s what I used to think.  Pop pop pop.  Down they go.  An down I go, down that drainpipe, to collect my prizes.  Their black bodies are scattered in the yellow weed grass like black holes in the globe.  Somes got white in em, like little white coats.  Thems the magies an there’s one still twitchin.  As I pick my foot up high to stomp its head, I freeze for some reason.  Maybe it’s cause I realize that I left my burlap sack on the roof.  But, as I stand here ready to do him in, I look into the eye facing me an I swear it says: Chickenshit!  Yer just like yer old man.  I look at it real hard, like if I had lasers in my eyes.  

‘You’re dead.’  

My voice sounds like a growl.  Plickshht is the sound of my foot flattening the skull an its jelly insides muffled in the grass- it’s a soft pop what sounds like quick fart in my insulated coveralls.  I feel like I just did something very bad an that makes me feel good.  I pick up the bird, its head looks like a puzzle put together wrong.  An, I pick up another one, by the feet, then another one an another one until I have all of em in a bundle an carry em to the side of the house: the side with my window.  I’ve never deserved a window they say an that’s the next thing they’re gonna do is fill in this window.  They put bars on it so I couldn’t climb out when they needed to lock me inside.  Skully said he put them strips there because sunlight or moonlight only encouraged me to act up.  But right now them crows are the problem I got.  I have to get them on the roof, one two three.  They land with a whoosh sound an I get most of em on the first try.  I got strong arms, an that’s how come I can shimmy up that drainpipe way I can.  I’m pitchin birds onto the roof one two three.  They don’t look graceful at all anymore sailin through the air.  That’s for sure.  All the grace musta been shot outta them.  The biggest one doesn’t quite make it an he hits the dirty siding leaving a nasty bloody splotch.  Flooomp.  It bounces when it lands; a few of its feathers land after it.  I gather it up an fling it again.  Flump!  Another splotch on the white boards.  A couple small feathers stuck in the goop.  Flump!  Flump!  Four splotches.  Holy crap!  I can’t get it right.  Again.  Floomp!  Flump!  Shhloosh!

‘WHUT TH’ HELL’RE YA DOIN’, BEANIE?’  Skully comes with his boiled face round the corner in his greasy coveralls an Mack Truck hat.  I hate it when he calls me that.  It sounds cute, but it ain’t cause he says that’s what my privates look like.  ‘HOLY CHRIST!  YA LITTLE SHIT!’  He puts his hands on his hips an eyeballs the bloody blots an the orange spit-up rolling down the siding, his eyes are rollin up bloodshot.   He clenches his teeth an kinda hisses at me, ‘Yer gonna haveta clean thet up.  Well… GO ON!  GO GET THET FUCKIN LADDER AN CLEAN THIS FUCKIN MESS UP!  WHAT’RE YE WAITIN’ FOR?’  There go them veins poppin outer his face.  ‘Ya little shit.  Ya fuckin’ retarted penguin!’  He reckons me to a penguin cause he says I waddle when I walk.  I practiced walkin different, but it ain’t never worked.  But, Skully, he’s got all them nasty names for me.  By now, I s’pose he’s called me everything you can think of, an some things ain’t Godly to think of at all.  ‘Ya little fuck!  Ya know whut happens next!  Go get them chains.’

‘THEM BIRDS’RE EATIN THE FREAKIN APPLES AND PEACHES!’  I scream.  I shouldn’ta screamed.  That’s only going to make it hurt more, last longer.  I almost cry thinking about how long I’m going to be on restriction this time.

‘Boah, ain no fruits left round here, sept you!  Now go an get them goddamned chains fore I stick one of them ravens where yer thumb usually is.’  He gives me the backhand what lands me in them dead shrubs by the porch.  I can taste his big knuckles loaded up with grime an somethin metal, probably my own blood.  My face is wet, I know that much.  But, I’m thankful cause hittin me seems to calm him down a few notches.  ‘Git ’em fore I give ya a serious thump.  Y’hear?’  His eyes glow bloody red an his hands don’t move- like old, rotten stumps.  ‘Ya know what happens now, ya little shit.’  He says again like I din’t hear it the first time an he paws my face before he slaps my privates so hard I double over.  He’s smilin an grittin his big yellow teeth what look like fangs when he pulls me up by the hair.  I feel some of it snap out my scalp an then it feels cool.  An sting-y, ouch-y.  ‘I’m gone be nice an give ya a choice ta-night.’  Oh boy.  ‘Top a the fridge or under th’porch?  Whut’s it gunna be, Marlun Perkuns?’  I have no idea what the butthole’s talkin about, but I make the choice he’s asking for.

‘Under the porch.’

‘Unner th’ porch, WHUT?‘  He blows air out when he says ‘what’ or ‘why’ or ‘when’ or other words that begin that way.  He pronounces some stuff real stupid.  He’s always talkin bout how worldly he is but he ain’t nothin but a nasty, druggy redneck what usedta be a soldier.  He was kicked out of the Navy because even Uncle Sam din’t like him.  If them oil dudes knew what he was really about, they’d probably pull those rigs right outta our yard and push him into one of them wells an fill it with concrete.  But, then again, probably not because there’s more money to be made sucking the earth’s blood so I’m sure everything’ll stay like this until every last drop of the blood’s gone.  People an their machines are vampires like that.

‘Under the porch, please, sir.’  I don’t feel like gettin whipped today.  I’m just gettin over bein in the fridge from the carpet an panel crimes.  Dang. 

‘Y’know whut?’ he says.  “I think you growed ta like sleepin’ in ‘et box or on ’em rocks.’

Nope.  Not really.  Not at all.   I look at the ground.  I wanna spit at the mowron.  That’s a word he likes to use a lot when he talks bout folks.  I’m not a bright bulb, or a sharp pencil, but at least I try to make sense.  I make sense to myself, anyways.  S’pose that’s all what really matters.

I know it ain’t Christ-like, but I really wish Skully’d die.  Like in a car wreck where there’s a sudden stop in traffic an he goes under the back of a truck in his Ford sedan an the top of his body’s scraped clean off.

Let me tell you, this was one of the things he does to me when I act a fool: he either makes me sleep on top or inside the fridge… where I can’t fall to sleep at all.  It weren’t the fridge in the kitchen, where civilized folk met an ate, either.  Where it’d be comfy.  No.  It was an old, broke fridge in the garage that ain’t plugged in.   Instead of taking it to the dump when it broke, they decided to make it a jail cell; it was something mom an Skully thought up an it was all for me.  They gave it to me the second Christmas they was together because I’d been… well… I guess I was pretty bad that year.  Skully’d drilled some holes in the side of it like you’d do with a firefly jar lid.   Only, I ain’t no fuggin firefly.  I think that turd-bucket thought’d be funny if he put some old cheese what smelled like dirty butt in there.  I din’t really start smellin it til a few hours in.  The insides stunk as it was but it grew worse an worse an worse until I threw up an cried an screamed an pooped an peed an barfed myself beet red.  Then I fell to sleep because I thrashed myself tired, I s’pose.  But they kept me in there for fifty hours, 47 minutes an 40 seconds; it felt like forever.  When they let me out, I was so cramped an weak I could barely walk for three days.  I guess mom felt bad after, so the next time I effed up, they made me stay on top of it rather than inside it where at least I could stretch my legs.  To keep me from crackin wise, he fixed me with a collar an hooked a dog chain up to one of them corkscrew things like you screw your dog into the yard with.  He used a drill, cause he’s clever like that an screwed the daggum thing into the biggest ceiling beam so’s I wouldn’t come loose.  He made me watch him do this.  He was standin on that ladder just beet-red an a cussin’ an his veins was bulgin an that breath fillin the garage.  I think he’d had himself a beer or two before it all.  When he broke one bit in the deal, I thought he was goin down.  But no.  No dice.  The first time they put me up there for two days (I could tell by the light comin through the blinds on the side garage door).  I tried not to, but when I fell asleep, I fell off the top an nearly hung myself tangled up in the chains.

No.  I din’t want any part of the refrigerator.

I wanted him to just fasten me under the back deck where at least there’s rocks an a patch of soft dirt I can curl up in.  So… when they first put me out… Skully put me under the front porch.  It din’t work so well an he ended up puttin me out back so’s folks couldn’t see me from the road.  I don’t remember, but, turns out I decided to ‘crack wise’ an make a scene by pokin my arms out through the wood strips and waving em round.  I din’t dare holler but that one time this poor lady tried to come an rescue me he filled her with his lies.  That so an so always knows better… he always knows what to say to throw everyone off who he really is… least he thinks so.  Took one more time with my wavin, some folks drivin by callin the sheriff.  Then I got the most time inside the fridge I ever had, yet.  That daggum Sheriff Kerns is in on this whole gas buddy business too.  Buncha fart-huffin rats.

One thing new is somebody’s been thrown all the animals that croak on our property under the back porch.  Probably Skully.  The cottonpickin wildlife chokes on the poison air, but it don’t affect the bugs.  Silverfish an spiders shimmy round their bodies an wiggle up in the porch boards.  I got to know all of em pretty good.  I even named some of em.  There’s even stuff I never seen before under there, too- some of em are so weird-shaped they could be aliens like I’ve seen on Alien one two er three.  I made friends with all them critters under the porch cause I was in trouble that much to get put under there for a week, sometimes.  And these things talk back at me in their own growl, howl, click an whistle languages.  I guess I don’t got many friends, but, I got friends under there.  Friends what smell bad but understand.  Skully hears me talkin to em an starts laughin, callin me outta my name.  I don’t talk back for the most part.  It don’t take anything for that fink to whup me.  I’m gettin bigger though.  It won’t be long before I’m bigger than him and maybe I can give him the K.O. and run clean outta here.  Run pretty far away.  Problem is, I just can’t gain any weight.  Not to match him, anyway.  I got to talkin with them regular an some of ‘em even have names.  The Bad One is their leader.

So, for now. I bring the chains round, tryin to talk myself into swingin em at him, smack him in his temple with them metal cuffs.  But- as nice as it is to think about- I know that’d only be the beginnin of my endin.  Even when my dad usedta beat me, I never felt like I was in danger of dyin.  Man oh man.  So, Skully grabs me by the scruff, pushes an pulls me over to the back porch where he throws me under, into the dirt, an cuffs my legs.  I’m all tore up.

Mom can’t stop the punishments- doesn’t seem like she really wants to.  She says that’s what bad boys, boys with slow thinkers, get.  I know I give her fits.  Always have with my fidgetin an gettin into stuff like drinkin the plant food or smokin her cigarettes or stealin candy an booze from Skully’s cabinet.  That muffinstuffer has a off-limits cabinet with all kinds of goodies he knows everybody else wants.  But, now, she’s shouting with her smoke gravelly voice that I shouldn’t be shootin up innocent birds an dirtyin up the siding.  ‘We gonna haveta have the whole side a the house pahr-warshed.”  She tells me I need to start listening.  All of this talkin as Skully’s clampin the leg irons on with a cigarette hangin out his hillbilly butthole mouth.  When he’s finished makin sure them chains is secure, he throws the bloody burlap sack of crows in my face an it knocks me over.  It feels like there’s a cinder block in there: I don’t remember it bein so heavy.  An hot.  They’re extra smooshed like he’d stomped on em real good before tossin em at me.  

‘There’s yer pillah, beanie.  Don’t say I never did you no favors.’  My bag smelled real weird, like metal an dead meat.  ‘Hope it makes ya dream bout yer poor dead daddy… dead like ese fuckin innocent crows.  Think bout how he’d be shamed of ye for bein’ sech a retart.’  He’s all slobbery, leanin under the porch an stinkin like a hellhound.  “Hope sum’n sinks inta thet rock head a yers.’  After Skully slides the trim back in place, moms face appears through the diamond gaps in the criss cross strips an says, ‘It’s up ter you, Barnie, not ter make Skully an me sad.”  She’s bent over with a cigarette in her hand and her blue eye makeup all smeary.  ‘What you see ain’t mad.  We ain’t mad.  We’s just sad.  When you make us sad, you gotter go to one a yer time-out places.’ 

I listened to em talkin in cuss words an stumblin up pn the porch til they went inside an slammed the door.  I could still hear em cussin, but I got to thinkin bout last year when Skully put me out for two weeks straight an din’t even set me loose in the daytime or for when the weather got bad.  I listened to em fight every day that time.  I think they was fightin over me, but I can’t say for sure.  I got so bored I tried to spit- or rub mud I made with my pee- on my ankles an slide my feet out, one two three, but they just got all bruised an swole.  My left ankle got more swole than the right an it made the cuff real tight.  I pulled an pulled an tugged but no dice.  Later, Doc Hudson looked at it cause it turned green an blue an mom told him I got my feet caught tween the gaps in our basement stairs.   I guess I tore a liggermint tryna squeeze my left foot through.  Then, because it got swole, my circularation was cut off.  Doc told mom I’m lucky I din’t lose my goldarn foot.  It sure enough’s still screwed up, though.  My legs an arms are screwed up from the cuffs all the time, anyways.  What’s it matter.  I think my bones are grown calluses.  I gotta go with the flow.  Skully’s been getting real creative ever since he moved in. 

But, right now, I’m bored an there ain’t anything round but dead critters.  After the sun goes down I start to get tired.  I think I’m dreamin or the security light’s playin tricks, but I catch em movin out the corner of my eye.  This wakes me up for real.  I see em aimin their rotten sockets my way, keepin watch over me.  I start talkin.  It’s like I don’t even know what I’m sayin, but this ain’t anything new.  ‘I don’t really wanna talk to the devil, but I s’pose I might need to an… well… I guess… it’s cause one of your demons is in my house.’  Where’s this stuff comin from, I think.  It’s all comin outta me real natural.  I s’pose that’s what happens when I get agitated.  It kinda scares me.  Part of me wants to stop.  I’m whisperin this so they can’t hear me in the house.  Knowin that creep Skully, he might be sittin on the porch, listenin for me to make a peep so he can come an thump my gourd again.  ‘Please take this demon back an sick him on someone more deservin than my mom an me.’  I’m real freakin’ tired but I’m still sayin this stuff an more out loud.  I stop when I see one of the critters jump out of the corner of my eye.  It scares the crap out of me.  I watch it to see if it moves again and I swear its paws are twitching; from being so tore up and rotten, it’s pretty hard to tell what it was when it was alive.  But, it looks like it was a coon.  There’s a clump of funky fur still stuck to its ribs and some patches around the gooey holes where the eyes used to be.  I put my head on the sack of birds and fall to sleep.  I can sleep anywhere.  I’m used to sleeping in all the crappiest places. 

Everything round me’s movin slow at first then fast like they’re animals on a carousel.   My eyelids wanna shut.  When I finally feel myself start to slip to sleep, I think I see a dark shape risin outta the vibrating dirt at the other end of the porch.  It makes a noise I recognize.  The Bad One.  ‘What have we done, Mr. Bad One?  What’s my mom done wrong… apart from bein weak an afraid?’  He stops.  I can see his body move in an out with his breathin.  ‘I love my mom, sir, don’t take me wrong.  But, she can’t stand on her own twos like she asks me to do all the time.’  I don’t mention how she’s always suckin on a bottle or a cigarette or how I’m startin to think maybe she brought these demons here because she might be one herself.  

A pain like I never felt in my eye wakes me up.  Feels like Skully’s runnin a screwdriver through it.  My mouth’s fulla somethin what tastes terrible.  He asks me how it feels to have somethin stronger than me hurtin me for fun.  I scream, I ALREADY KNOW HOW IT FEELS.  EVERYONE’S STRONGER THAN ME!  But it’s only in my head.  I’m makin some sorta noises, but they don’t sound like me an it ain’t English.  He pulls the tip of his beak from my eye socket and it makes this juicy noise an I’m tryna shout some more, but my mouth is full an my voice don’t wanna work.  I feel things tearin in my face, deep in my head.  The Bad One pulls his chest up an backs away.  He sucks the floppy cords attached to my eyeball into his mouth like spaghetti.  I see other creatures, in the light comin through the porch skirt, between the spaces under his raised wings.  The pieces an parts of all the other animals throwed under the porch gathered round the two of us.  Me under The Bad One: him on top of me.  I can’t move at all an it’s beginnin to feel real crampy.  The Bad One who’s been chewin on my eye like a piece of gum with a crunch an pop swallows with a loud ULP.  He puts his face next to mine, this time puttin my ear in his beak.  But, he don’t chomp down.  His tongue wiggles round inside it— his breath smells like burning rubber in a butcher shop.  He’s chewin on my ear, an I swear while he’s doin it he’s saying, ‘Here I am… for those in need of necessary lessons’.  It really tickles but I’m afraid to laugh, so I cry instead.  I don’t expect it when he takes his beak away from my ear without rippin it off.  My relief don’t last very long before he clamps my nose.  It’s sharp an it’s quick feelin like a scissors.  Chfff.  I feel a pinch, a tug an I see a spray that sends the pain out from the center of my face an into the dirt.  I still can’t make a sound more than a grunt.  I fall back an try to touch my face.  It’s sticky an I feel the flexible bones an tender mush where my nose was.   I keep hearing his name in my heartbeat, the one beating inside my ears.  The name like a thump thump thump at the screamin end of my nose where the tip usedta be.  The Bad One.  The Bad One.  He can rip me open now, for all I care.  I don’t give a crap anymore. There’s no more stuffin inside me… it’s all been punched to preserves.  After the purple spots disappear, if it’s more worser than usual, The Bad One starts announcing in my other ear.  I only seen him three times before this.  He’s meaner than any man: Skully er Fulmer er my R.I.P. dad.  Not to me, but I can tell if I cross the line again, he’s not gonna let it slide by takin a slice of me here an there.  You know how you get feelings bout folks sometimes?  Seein things about them they don’t want you to know?  I can see it all, like warnings before dirty movies.  The Bad One has all this red and brown floatin in the air when he’s whisperin.  I’ve seen him in the space between sleepin and wide awake.  He’s way bigger than my room… bigger than this cruddy house.  The Bad One.  

‘I know you don’t know any better,’ he says to me.  ‘Those folks of yours- the man in there- didn’t teach you proper respect for life.  How could you have any respect for us?  For me?  Know this, young Barnable, I’ve been your friend.’

‘I know Mr. Bad One.  I’m real sorry. I guess I started to think you don’t care bout what happens to me in this house.’

His eyes’re followin mine and readin me like a book, feels like.  

‘I’ve come back in the name of my dead… our dead.  To face my natural enemies.  From here onward, I shall be watching you very closely, young Barnable.  Know that from this time hence, they shall never harm you.  As you shall, in turn, never violate the vulnerable again. Do NOT do what your ignorant parents have taught you.  Forget all of that.  It’s important that you hear my words, young Barnable Crimmas!’  He asks me if he should have mercy on me when I din’t have any on his brothers an sisters.  I can only blink with my eyes full of tears.  He knows my answer.  He asks me why he should do me any favors—me a murderer.  An, he asks me what I’m gonna give him if he helps me fix my life.  

I promise I’ll never shoot no more crows… or any animal… ever again.  I’ll only eat cereal.  No more fried chicken or duck meat or ostrich or quail.  

I see a blur of eyes an feathers an I hear him sayin he doesn’t blame me.  His eyes lookin in mine, he can see way down inside me.  I feel it.  I’m innocent.  Fore long, he’s wrappin his wings round me an his breath is hotter than blazes.  The Bad One.  He says I don’t know any better, he can see I’m a retard.  He’s given me somethin to think about, somethin to remember him by.  When I figger out where I am, I remember I’m under the porch, but my head’s in the dirt an the sack I was usin for a pillow’s at my side- less full than before.  I’m still thinkin bout how I don’t feel innocent, not here in this dirt jail with the other dead prisoners.  The moon’s high in the sky with thin clouds passin over like wadded up curtain shears.  When my eyes adjust, I see black eyes twinkling, stealing whatever light’s still hanging around fast.  They’re wet and big as coasters.  They blink blink and then don’t for a long time.  We sit here figgering each other.  He’s on top of me wrappin me up in his fat bird body, his soft wings.  The Bad One’s a lot bigger than Skully an he’s hunkered over me, pressing into my body, pinnin me to the dirt.  He’s rockin me like a baby in a cradle.

 

*******

 

‘It’s hard ta admit, Lord, I’m beginnin ta fear his temper- thet man I’m with.  I thought it was gonner be a ferever thing… but, now, Lord… I jus cain’t say.  I know yer prolly mad at me, a wife should cleave her husband an all that, but he just ain’t nice, Lord.  Ye can see that, can’t ye?  He just ain’t nice.  He got me good tuhnight, tho.  Boy, did he.  A lotter it has ta do with how I’m raisin muh son.  The boy writin em nasty things onna carpet an th’panel was th’last straw et broke Skully’s back.

Tanight there’s lots goin on.  Guess there always is.  Thet’s life.  I mean, things ain’t been right fer a long while.  Even when Eldon uzz around, sorry ta say.  Thet’s whut I been tryna teach muh son.  I’m keepin dear Eldon’s huntin knife in th’bed frame, Lord.  I hope he’s a-restin in peace with ye, an that he can tell ye about what truly lives in muh heart cause I’m sure it ain’t obvious from muh damitched surfaces.   Please don judge me on this, but help me ta figger this all out before it’s too late.  Amen.’  

This is what I pray to th’Lord after I turn on the fan an turn out the light.  I don kneel cause Skully don’t want me kneelin anywhere sept in front of him.  I adjust th’knife in the frame cuz it’s slipped down outer reach.  I gotter be careful ta position it jus so.  Don’t wanna rouse any more suspeeshun then he got runnin round in his mind.  He’s a mean one.  I guess it don matter anyways…  Eldon uzz mean, too.  But, if you like manly men… an I DO… thet’s the chainse you take, I s’pose.  An Skully’s a man’s man if ever was one.  Never was much attracted ta them sensiteev types.

M’whole gottdamned body hurts so’s I can’t sleep.  But… it’s normal fer me.  I get maybe two ahrs most nights.  Then daytime hits an there’s people a-wantin this an at, an a-needin this an at an there’s bills an whutnots.  Some days m’head swims s’bad I can’t even bear ta get outer bed.  And then ere’s Skully ta top it all off.  He’s changin fer th’worst, but mos men do.  This whole gas deal’s already changed im.  I swear as th’Lord’s muh witness.  More time goes on, more I see it.  Been a complete cawksucker all month- nastier’n usual.  Yeah… he got me good tanight, I tell ya.  It’s makin me think some purty baaad things.  An I feel like I gotter getter plan tagether.  But, what plan’s at?  Whut th’hell m’I gonna do, ezzackly?

Ever night m’mind swirls like this til I fall asleep… if I fall asleep.  It’s all these crazy thoughts mixed with half thought out prayers.

I jus doze off when I hear a rufflin an feel a breeze, but I really think it’s the smell what wakes me cause I’m a light sleeper an m’nose is sensiteev.  Skully can’t hear nothin cuzza them pills or th’booze or whatever he’s on.  When m’eyes open an the thing’s hoverin over us, I’m thinkin I done oh deed an taken m’rightful place in hell next tuh th’light bringer.  A shaft a moonlight comin thru th’drapes shows me whut th’intruder looks like: he’s wearin a mask… gotter bird head… a blackbird.  Like a enormous magpie.  I close m’eyes an reach down slow ta grab Eldon’s knife: findin it an grippin it tight in m’hand.  Stealthful, I slide it up under th’covers an open m’eyes aginn.  It’s still there, bigger an blacker’n ever, with eyes that even the dark a the room can’t ex-cape, two holes floatin like snags in th’night sky— suckin it all in.  Takin me with it.  The reek of it is horrendulous.  I’m a-grippin th’handle a that huntin blade.  The beast is swellin, pulsatin, an I cain’t see the walls anymore.  I can hear the tipsa its wings scrapin gainst th’ceilin’.  Skully’s snorin an chokin on accounta his apnee, an th’thing shakes its head at im an lets out a earsplittin SQWAAAK!  

I raise up th’arm holdin the blade, an bring it down a few times stabbin th’bed.  Skully jumps, stops snorin like a prize hog fer a few seconds an turns onto his back an starts right back up.  

The creature, this apernition outta hell, stretches longways, blottin out th’moon.  I slice through th’air aginn an aginn with Eldon’s knife an it only grazes feathers.  The demon’s flappin its wings at me s’hard— an up— an its eyes’re pullin in at the same time— an it’s suckin th’air outer the room an blorin muh hair back at th’same time.  In all th’commotion it knocks the blade clean outta muh hand.  Damned thing smells like hot garbage it’s turnin m’stomach which is awreddy sensateev.  It lowers its black wet eyes to mine and screams at me s’loud that muh head rings an bells’re goin off inside.  I’m still sore f’om where Skully’d thumped me earlier… an woozy… but I try ta fight, scream, ta get up.  Now, nothin’s happenin.  M’body’s shudderin but I can’t move er breathe an the wings’re s’rroundin’ me, the feathers pokin m’eyes an gougin m’skin- the bones of th’wings slammin’ gainst m’temples.  Bam… Bam… Whack!  I can’t hardly remember m’name an th’smell’s gettin worse cause its takin over the room an we’s pinned under it to th’mattress.  I can feel millions a little slices— it’s cold like I’m gettin wet.  I’m bleedin an I know it.  M’heart’s fittin t’explode an I feel som’in’ pop in m’head.  The feathers’re jabbin m’eyes an ever’thing seems ta shrink b’fore I’m gone.  M’last real thought is that he’s come to collect me, the real Beelzuh-bub.  This is how he looks… like a giant blackbird with a white vest splattered in the blood a the wicked.  I failed ye, Lord.

 

Seems like no time later, m’body’s still on the bed, but I’m floatin high in th’corner a th’room watchin th’bird over us.  I cain’t see whut he’s doin but I hear the horrible rippin, the suckin an crunchin sounds an see th’dark stain spreadin cross th’sheets an carpet.  I can’t smell anything anymore.  Alls I know is I ain’t afraid now as I watch th’demon thrash around on toppa us from m’safe lil’ space near th’ceilin’.  I watch it all, somehow at peace an finally ok with muh fate, til I’m satisfied an float on away into darkness.

 

*******

 

As homicide detectives Dhalgren and Finnell approach the old farmhouse, EMS techs load a woman on a stretcher into a bus.  They’ve got her on oxygen and there’s a faraway look clouds her eyes.  

‘Hopefully she doesn’t croak before we can interview her.’ Dhalgren shoves his hands deep in his pants pockets.  

Human noise fills the morning air along with distinct chemical odor.  There’s a general feeling of confusion as they approach one of the nearby officers, an Officer Tinker.  The mush-mouthed officer runs down the broad stroke details of the scene: the facts as they’re known so far.  As he tries to make sense of Tinker’s report, Dhalgren’s eyes scan the exterior of the residence.  Nothing extraordinary or suspicious necessarily.  Just an old farmhouse in need of a coat of paint and new windows.  He notices a grate covering one of the side windows.  As Tinker wraps up the briefing Dhalgren gestures at Finnell to follow him to the window.  Standing at the southwest side of the house they stare at the metal strips forming a grid over the window, the edges are sharp and jagged.  The strips are of uneven width and each one’s fastened into the casing with a different sized screw.   Some Flat Head, some Pan Head, some Cap Hexagon Socket.

‘This isn’t meant to keep people out, but to keep someone in.’  

‘Captain Obvious.’  Sometimes Dhalgren simply tolerates Finnell.  Only barely.  

As they enter the master bedroom, the first thing that strikes them- amongst the congealing blood pools and pulled beef of the victim’s corpus- is the sheer quantity of large, black feathers scattered throughout, trapped in clumps of hair and chunks raw flesh.  A flurry of plumes clotted to the walls, snagged in the handles of the dresser, the seams of the window frame lent to the savagely surrealistic mise en scène.  A breeze through the open sash, obviously the point of entry for the perp, causes the sea of loose feathers to flutter in a natural counterpoint to the grimy, hotel-grade curtains.  A bloody hunting knife lay at the foot of the bed- a definite handprint on the handle.  The detectives keep their distance from the evidence until forensics arrives.

‘How’s it we always get here before those guys?’  Finnell tip-toes over, what looks to him, like a lung attached to a segment of violently stripped windpipe.  Or it might be a heart.  Most of it is pulp, beyond recognition.

‘This place is off the beaten path, man.  The creepers are gonna be extra late to this party.’ 

‘This doesn’t look like just a knife attack to me.’

‘Looks like a wild animal got in here.  A raptoral bird?  I mean, these feathers are big.’    Dhalgren pulls on a black nitrile glove he’s removed from his coat pocket and leans over picking one up by the quill.  

‘You’re gonna piss somebody off messing with the evidence.  I don’t want any part of it.’  Finnell backs away from Dhalgren as if he’s contaminated.  ‘Birds’re filthy.  Gimme the Hee Jee Bee Gees.”

‘Huh?’

‘I’m glad I didn’t eat breakfast.  This smell.  I hate birds.  Seriously, put that down.’ 

‘Can’t stand ‘em, myself.’  Dhalgren turns the eight-or-so-inch black feather in his fingers.  ‘Don’t think the creepers will get too bent if I grab one of the zillion feathers in here.  Seriously.’  He removes a large evidence bag from the same pocket as the glove and deposits the feather, seals it making sure to press the air out, folds and places it, neatly, in his overcoat’s exterior breast pocket.  ‘And don’t tell me what to do.  I’ve been on homicide longer than you.’  He’ll have to have this coat dry cleaned tomorrow, but, he needed to have that feather.    He’d later sterilize it in the microwave.  He peels off the gloves, being careful to turn them inside out as he does so.

‘It’s your ass.  What do I care?  I’m sorry to tell you what to do… who am I?’  Finnell’s sweating, greening in places he used to be alabaster.

‘Glad we understand each other.  I still don’t get what the Bee Gees have to do with anything, though.’

‘Huh?’  

Dhalgren’s dark eyes focus in the far corner- his broad lips tight, brow furrowed.  He points.  The victim’s head, which had been literally ripped from its body, lay puffed and enpurpled on the floor beneath the window, uneven strips of fat, muscle and tendon create a rubbery red fringe around the base of the neck.  The victim’s eyes appeared to have been deeply gouged from their sockets.  The adjacent flesh was ravaged, the face an unrecognizable pulp- the mouth nothing more than a yawning maw- the tongue truncated to a bloody hacked root embedded in a mashed rictus of tooth, bone and hamburger.

‘That old woman couldn’ta mustered the strength to do THIS…’

‘Adrenaline, man.  Adrenaline. Or a lot of pent up anger.  We’ve seen some spouses perpetrate some heinous shit when they’re sore about something.  The grunt said he was abusive.  Then there’s the boy.’

‘You’re assuming it’s the husband.’

‘It almost always is.’

‘I can’t even tell the sex of this body.’

‘It’s a male, I can tell by the skull.’

They edge around the periphery of the grisly still-life.  There’s a tacky framed poster of a Harley above the bed, the frame too ornate for what its contents.  

‘Beverly Hillbillies…’

‘Always a train wreck…’  Dahlgren voice is flat.  Pill bottles and empty rocks glasses.  Glass pipes and dirty, expensive clothes.  ‘Whenever I start to think my family is fucked up, I reference times like this and it puts it all in perspective.’

‘What a mess.  And this goddamned smell…’

‘We all smell like shit deep down…’

‘I think I need a mask.’

‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’

They proceed down the hallway, listening to muted officer banter and radios crackling through the dingy foil and felt papered walls.  The house is saturated in the heavy smell of human hair and cigarette smoke.  There are more sirens in the distance.  Outside the living room picture window, the detectives see another white van pull into the space where the ambulance sat twenty five minutes before.  It seems forensics has arrived ahead of schedule.

Finnell and Dhalgren enter the room on the other side of the master bedroom- the room with the grate over the window- and are immediately overwhelmed by the oppressive reek of rotten meat and human filth: dirty hair, excrement and unwashed bodies.

‘Oh, Jesus…’  Finnell cups his tie over his nose and mouth. ‘Seriously… I’m going to throw up if we don’t leave… for a minute.  Somebody’s got to have an extra mask, at least.’

‘Good luck getting anything out of the creepers.’

Dhalgren flips the switch next to the door casting a flickering yellow fluorescence over the dingy, paneled room.  Other than a few marker drawings thumb-tacked to them, the walls are bare faux woodgrain.  There are drawings of demons, zombie animals… monstrous birds ripping the heads off of men?  There’s a gamer console and controller, a small free standing plasma screen, an older-than-hell PC.

‘Wow… uhhhhh.’

‘Typical boy.’

‘A 24 year old boy?’

‘Huh… he looks a lot younger.’

‘That’s what malnourishment’ll do to a body.’  Dhalgren pulls up to one of the drawings.  ‘This is creepy.  It’s obvious he’s a little… er… short on supplies.’  Tugging at his ear, he’s focusing on one image in particular.  ‘Kid should be done with college and confined to a desk by now.  Should be doing spreadsheets… or loading a truck… not this shit.’

Still holding his tie over his face, Detective Finnell pulls the plastic, insulated drapes away from the window revealing the crude metal grid they’d examined earlier.  The dying light streams through creating a dim checkerboard pattern on the far wall.

‘Heya, Finnell.  Look at this.’

The detective turns his head toward his partner who’s studying the floor.  Finnell follows his Dhalgren’s gaze down and along the filthy shag.  As his eyes adjust, he makes out something written in the pile—- the words DIE DEVIL DIE DICK DIE DIE written repeatedly, darkly matted into the nap with some sort of binder.  Glue maybe?

‘Too oily.’ Says  Dhalgren.  He stoops to the nap, his knees crackle.  He pulls on another glove, runs his finger across the letters DIE DICK in a corner of the room and brings it closer to his nose.  He sniffs, gags, and pulls the glove off, placing it in another separate waste bag.  ‘Rancid bacon grease.  Some sort of nasty fat.’

‘Oh Lord.  Really?  That’s what that fucking smell is?’

‘It’s hard to sort out with this sort of carnage.  This kind of decomp.’

Dhalgren stands back up reorganizing his shirt and jacket, straightening himself.  His eyes keep coming back to the drawings.  One in particular.  ‘We got our work cut out for us, here, boy.’

 

*******

 

A 49 year old Montgomery County man has suffered gruesome, fatal injuries as the mystery surrounding his savage attack and death unfolds today with police uncovering a case of unimaginable abuse along with several severe major code violations on the family’s 150 acre property.

At this time it is unclear what transpired as his wife, 53, was found covered in blood and incoherent when police arrived on the scene.  “She kept saying a bunch of spooky stuff.  Mostly repeating words like, ‘Magpie’, ‘vengence is mine’, and ‘black demon’.  She wasn’t making much sense,” EMS technician Gale Nucklos stated.  ‘Birds seem to be a factor in this somehow, as there were tons of feathers at the crime scene.  Hopefully, when she’s more lucid, this will all make sense.’  Officer Brett Tinker told reporters that the owner of the house appeared to have a stroke and was unresponsive when medics arrived on the scene.  Information on her condition is currently unavailable, but she remains under close observation.

The woman’s 22 year old autistic son, who appeared underdeveloped for his age, was discovered filthy, stripped to his underclothes and shackled in dog chains under the porch.  The young man had been held captive for an undetermined period of time surrounded by piles of garbage and dead animals in various states of decomposition.  He presented to EMS techs with multiple contusions, dazed and malnourished.  He was immediately transported to Licking General Hospital where they listed him in critical condition.  Hospital officials will release him for evaluation to Upham Hall once he is medically cleared.

Authorities from the scene state an open window might have allowed a wild animal to enter the residence and attack the couple as they slept.  Forensic Pathologist Berverly Nazim told The Sharonville Shouter that initial findings are that, while the man’s injuries are mostly consistent with an animal attack, other evidence may suggest foul play cannot be ruled out at this time. Detectives are waiting to interview the two surviving family members, mother and son, until they have been upgraded to stable condition.  

Councilor for the area, Ivy Castle, who knows the family, is urging people, particularly the elderly, to keep their windows shut and locked at night.  Ms. Castle said: “It’s not good to know that there is something, or someone, out there that can do this kind of thing.”  Ms. Castle is acquainted with the family involved in the events and understands their need for privacy at this time while the details of this horrific tragedy are sorted out.  “We’re pretty shaken up in this quiet community- it’s upsetting to know that this happened.  If it’s a wild animal or a deranged psychopath it doesn’t make a difference.  We’re still on high alert.  We’re not used to this kind of thing here in Sharonville.”

 

Commentators on social media have posited theories that the invader could be a Golden Eagle, mountain lion or possibly a black bear. Investigations at the family’s home and adjacent wooded area are ongoing.  More on this story as it develops.