Bits – Lilliya Reid

        I was getting a beer after work at The Spur. I knew Tom was about to do last call and I didn’t want to go to the gas station to buy beer.  The cashier there has these hard eyes and last time I went he touched my hand when I was handing him cash.  I was trying to avoid seeing him after dark.   I fixed my eyes on the TV above the bar that was playing a baseball game.  I don’t know much  about baseball and I don’t care but it was something to look at.  
        I heard a deep voice talking with the bartender.  It was Jon Lindemann.  I had never been introduced.  Some of the girls knew him but he was more of a river guy, not like my friends who were mostly ranch hands, miners and servers.  He didn’t grow up around here but the word is that he will inherit a lot of property in Shields Valley.  
        My tired eyes were not focusing so I didn’t really register that I was looking at Jon.  He caught my nosy stare and stuck his tongue out at me.  I didn’t do anything back.  I wasn’t in the mood.  I drained the last bit of beer and he appeared behind me.  We talked about dogs.  He asked if I’d like to have dinner at his place. He is the most good looking guy in town for sure.

        That Sunday I drove down valley to see him.  He had texted and said he was gonna cook for me.  Right before I was leaving he texted and asked if I would walk his dog Bits with him first.  I parked at the fishing access.  He was standing on top of a small mound, breath circling him like a thick vapor.   I just got outta my car and joined him, standing below him.  He looked big, his jaw wider than I had noticed before.  He towered over me.  
        We started to walk in silence. I pointed out that the iced over river was studded with bits of mud like chocolate chips.  His meaty finger pointed out at the thick liquid part and said it looked like milk skin. Made me think of all our surroundings as desserts.  The dirt on the side of the ravine looked like a dirt cup from DairyQueen.  He kept talking about “tourist cunts.”  He said this town was filled up with them.  I sniggered about it to myself. He didn’t ask what was funny. 
        Bits was a small bird dog with a chestnut flecked coat.  We walked out on the nearby flat road.  Bits retrieved a partially frozen elk leg.  She proudly dragged it along the road next to us.  We didn’t talk about much of anything. Just kinda pointed out our surroundings.  The quiet echoed the words I repeated too many times in my head.  We got back to our cars.  Bits jumped on me, smearing her slimed up maw on my leggings.  The elk juices had melted all over her small face. 
        I followed him the fifteen minutes to his house.  We drove down a dirt road that went right by a creek, past the KOA. The house was a  beige double wide. It looked really out of place.  Most of the other houses around were a fancy new Western style.   I followed him inside. It looked like he had two bedrooms.  One of them was open, and I could see his unmade bed.  It had gray sheets.  I couldn’t see the other room.  The door was closed.  I wondered if he had a roommate.   
        He pulled a whole roast chicken out of the oven. 
        “I’m not much of a cook.  I always like chicken though.” He poured me a big glass of red wine. 
        “This is a pretty place.” I didn’t want him to know that I knew about all the land he stood to inherit. He smiled at me.  It was only the second time I had seen his teeth since we met up.  
        “I just rent here.  Gonna live on the land my aunt is leaving me but might have to just sell the whole fucking thing. Taxes will bite you in the ass.  Only rich city dickheads can afford to own land.” He pulled another chicken out of the oven.  Put it in front of me.  
        We each sat with a naked bird in front of us.  I picked off a piece of the breast and put it on my plate.  He inserted his pointer finger and thumb in his chicken and slid them along the breast bone.  The stiff meat fell off and he threw it at Bits.  It hit Bits in the face, bounced off and then she gobbled it off the floor.   The chicken’s asshole was overflowing with a creamy mauve custard that kinda looked like caulking or candle wax.  I stuck my finger in it, cringed, then stuck it in my mouth for some reason.   The meat was unsalted.  I tried to nibble the outer bits of the breast.  The middle was underdone.  
        “You don’t like it?” 
        “No, I do.  Just feel a bit nauseous tonight.”
        “Ya got yourself pregnant?” He broke out into a huge grin and laughed.  Little splinters of chicken breast were launched all over the room.  
        “The only guy I’ve been around is my horse.”  He didn’t respond, just continued to gnaw at the chicken.  He held up a wing.  Rotated it, nibbling off all of the sticky meat in between the joints.  I continued to drink my wine. The acidity cut through  the grease that had slicked my nostrils, throat, and skin.  Bits mewed like a cat.  He stuck his fingers in a leg and threw it at Bits.  I had to say something just in case.     
        “You know you’re not supposed to give dogs chicken bones. They splinter.” 
        “Nah, Bits is fine.  Pregnant ladies shouldn’t drink like you do.”  I had finished my third glass of wine way faster than he was drinking.  I slapped his arm.
        “You think you’re so funny, huh?” 
        “Yup, Miz.  Yes I do.”  He took the chicken off of my plate, turned it over and pried out the oyster and ate it.
        He got up and lifted both of the chickens from the table.  The sodden plates warped under the weight of the chicken.  He sat down. I was wishing he would wash his hands.  He drained the rest of his glass leaving big greasy finger prints on it.  We sat and looked each other.  Then he looked down at his fingers using the opposite nail of each hand to clean out the chicken meat that was embedded under the bigger nail crescents.  He looked up and then pulled me on top of him.  He was good looking, but the smell of chicken was so deep.  We went to his bed. Reggae from the college radio station was playing too loud.  His fingers went inside of me.  
        I pictured all the chicken going inside of me.  My vagina was a garbage disposal and a naked chicken with a soft dimpled neck was twirling around clockwise its little claws poking out like thorns. His fingers were thick and leathery.  The baseline in the reggae controlled my garbage disposal.  I squinted the thought away and tried to think about fucking. 
        “Hey Jon, turn off this stupid music.” 
        “No.” He tweaked my nipple. 
        “C’mon.  I can’t take you seriously with this shit in the background.”  He got up and shut off the radio. His penis stuck out of his boxers.  I couldn’t stop myself from giggling.  He didn’t laugh.  He looked annoyed and stood gazing around the room for a while.  He looked like he was coming up with some sorta idea. 
        “Hey, why don’t you go home. I don’t want to do this right now. Not with you. I thought it would be sexy but it’s not.”  I didn’t know what to do.  I just put on my clothing, grabbed my keys, and left.  
        “Fucking asshole.”  My coat got stuck in the car door. I tried to steady the wheel while I opened the door so I could get my jacket unstuck. The door let in a shock of cold air, I swerved a bit.   
        Back at my apartment in town, I changed my clothes, washed my hands, and walked to the bar to get a drink. It wasn’t busy in town.  It was a Tuesday in the late fall, a better time to get drinks ‘cause the tourists are gone.  I realized I hadn’t fed my horses in a couple of days. They’d be fine cause of the grass. I could get to them early in the morning before work.  Jessica was at the bar with Charlee and a few other girls from work.  Jessica and I hugged.  She was tipsy.  Jessica and I have been working at the same place for the past 8 years.  She’s like a sister. 
        “Girl, you deserve a frickin drink.”   Jessica’s mouth wasn’t the same on both sides. She looked like she was frowning on her left side.  
        “Let’s toast to Jessica future married woman.” 
        “Bitch! I’m not off the market until I get my real diamond.” Jessica got proposed to last week.  Her boyfriend works in the mine but he couldn’t afford a real diamond yet so he got her cubic zirconia.  
        She shoved a gin and tonic in my face. We started drinking gin and tonics when these Argentinian guys stayed at the hotel a couple of years ago. We drank with them every night at the bar.  They would buy us unlimited gin and tonics. We’d sneak and swim in the pool.  It was fun. 
        “Accidental girls night! Cheers!”  Jessica asked me how I was doing.  Her eyes were bright blue with red all around.  She had dark spider bangs that curled into her eyelashes.  
        “Girl you smell like crotch or something.” 
        “It’s chicken.  I went on a date with him.” 
        “Ohhhhh, he made you reek!! How was it?  He’s hot. I’d let him fuck my eyehole.”  She leaned into me.  I didn’t feel stable enough to hold up her weight. The weight caused my heel to twist in my shoe.  When she’s drinking she forgets that she’s fat. 
        “I dunno what went wrong. We had dinner and then we started to make out. Then said he had to stop.  I think he was sick.” 
        “I’ve heard he does weird stuff.  Don’t take it personally.  He’ll always be single.  I bet you 50 bucks he’ll be at the bar with his big ol’ jaw getting drunk until he dies.”   It occurred to me that I didn’t want any other girl to have him. I don’t know why.  I didn’t want other girls to be walking around sharing my experience, talking about it, and laughing about him.  
        I crashed at Jessica’s that night. In the morning, I showered and then ran barefoot, in my towel through the snow to get the work uniform I always kept in my car.  Jessica hitched a ride with me to the restaurant and we got there just in time to grab coffee before we had to learn the menu for the night, all the specials, and the wine pairings.  At family meal, we ate some Chile Relleno casserole that  Shawn had made.  Jessica and I passed whiskey under the table to get rid of our headaches.  I was busy the whole shift but still thinking about Jon over and over.  
         It was “Reeces Pieces,”  which is what Jessica called our break time because I said it was like we were kids having a recess at school. We smoked outside, I felt pissed off the whole time.  I started to think that I had said the wrong thing.  I remember being so sure last night that I had done nothing to deserve that kind of reaction.  I couldn’t remember what happened so clearly now.   I poured a glass of wine for an old lady with pitted skin.  She looked like my grandma.  She did the same worried thing,  pressing her fingers into her soft cheek.  So I treated her extra nice.  I pretended she was my future mother in law. 
        A few weeks later,  I was driving out to work.  I don’t usually work mornings, but I was covering Charlee’s breakfast shift.  I picked up the trash from Great Aunt Sue’s house, and threw it in the back of my pickup with rotten hay from the two horses that I kept in her field.  It was one of those dark mornings that felt like night time.  I had to be at work by 7 to set up the buffet.  I figured I could stop by the dump on my way there.  
        At the dump, there was a familiar truck.  I saw that there was no one in it. The keys were in the ignition.  I looked into the back of the cab and saw a small dog lying still on the seat.  I knew it was Bits. She looked limp and deflated.  My heart was beating so fast.  I scanned the dark dump to see if Jon was around.   I heard some voices, and could make out Jon’s shadow leaning into the window of another truck with its lights off.  I decided to ditch the dump.   
        After my breakfast shift was over, I drove back by the dump to drop off the trash.  I had a bad feeling and looked in a few of the dumpsters.  I got to the one that was closest to where Jon had been parked.   It was rimmed with maggots.  I saw a large flattened Coors box laying on top of everything.  I lifted it, I saw white and ginger speckled fur.  Poor Bits lay there.  Her small body was collapsed around her bones.  I imagined her soul had flown from the dumpster when I lifted the lid.   Why would Jon have just thrown her out?  She was a good girl.   I gave her body a pat and it left a mushed impression where my hand was.  I found an old t-shirt that my ex had left in the bed of my truck.  It was twisted up with grease and  gasoline.   I used it to cradle Bit’s body and lift it into the back of my truck.  I drove back to Aunt Sue’s, dug a hole and tipped Bits into it.  Seemed better than nothing.    
        That night I went to the bar.  I had to have one for Bits.  As I was about to leave, he walked in through the back.  It was busy that night, and people were dancing.  I watched him join some other fishing guides.   A few pretty drunk girls trotted up to him.  He entertained the blonde one for a bit.  Then he pulled away like he was a pop star.  He nursed a beer.  I realized I had just been standing by the door watching him.  
        I stopped by Jessica’s house.  We smoked on her porch.  She had a big glass bong she took long hungry rips from. Her doughy fists wrapped around the neck.   I liked the crispy bubbling.  
        “I think he’s a gay.” Jessica nodded her head. 
        “Yeah it’s possible but I do know girls who have actually fucked him.  He gave Annie an STD.”
        “I’d say he had a disease or something, but you know Annie.  She’s a big fat liar.  Remember when she was dating Wyatt and she cheated on him with his 14 year old brother.   She almost went to jail for statutory rape….and her red hair looks terrible. It’s like she tried to copy you. ”   We sat on this scratchy wool blanket.  It had bits of leaves stuck to it.  I picked them off and rolled them between my fingers.   
        A couple weeks later I met the girls for drinks at noon.  We wanted to have fun because we all had work off.   We sat in the window.  It was bright.  We drank bloody Mary’s.   I remember my mom used to make them with Vienna sausages.  The tomato juice stained Jessica’s teeth.  She looked pretty though.  I glanced out on Main Street.  I saw his truck with the Mexican blanket.   I rolled the cardboard coaster like a wheel on the table, keeping my eye half on the truck.  Soon, I saw him walk up with mirror sunglasses on.  I noticed a short, blonde girl walking behind him.  Her shiny hair bobbed up into the cab.   She must be that girl I saw talking to him at the bar a while ago.  I hadn’t seen a lot of blondes like that in town, and her’s looked natural.  
         Charlee had to leave.  She’s a nurse, but she picks up a few shifts at the Mountain Sage Hotel restaurant here and there. I used this chance to get up and have a smoke outside.  I leaned against the glass block wall.  I could see Jon and the blonde doing something in the truck.  He looked kind of irritated maybe.  He kept looking out the window in my direction.  Her hair was really shiny and kinda whipping back and forth.  Maybe he was looking at me.  I couldn’t tell because he had on those sun glasses.  Even if he was looking at me, it didn’t matter. 
The next week I had more drinks with the girls.  I had first met Jon on a Friday so I had a feeling he would be out.  We sat in the corner at a high table with stools.  Jessica came over with a tray of gin and tonics. She carried it high above her head like a diner waitress wiggling her hips.  We drank a lot. I can handle more drinks than Jessica and Charlee but I felt blurry.  I saw Jon walk in.  He chatted with his fishing buddies then settled down on a stool.  I wanted to tell him about Bits so I went over to him.  The music was loud.  He was on a stool but I still felt shorter than him.  I thought I knew what words I was gonna say but I forgot all of them.  I just talk-shouted. 
      “I buried your dog, mother fucker.”  I turned away to find the girls, and I felt his heavy hand close around mine.  He pulled me back over to him, and I fell-plopped down on the stool next to him.  It was warm like someone had just been sitting on it.  
        “How’d ya find her?”  I noticed his eyes were big and brown. They had little flecks of yellow in them. 
        “I was dropping off some stuff at the dump. She was lying in the dumpster.”  He held my wrist in a nice way.  
        “Thanks for doing that.”  His jaw shifted back and forth.  It looked like he had a marble in there. I thought it was funny that if he couldn’t bear to bury her, he would stick her in a dumpster.  He took his big hand and tucked some of my hair behind my ear.  I thought about his chicken fingers and I giggled,  I got my shit together and then said, 
        “Of course. No problem.”  He seemed less harsh. He might like me.  He looked at his hands and then got up and left.  
         Us girls walked back to my place.  I opened a bottle of red wine without even looking at the label.  I told them I was pretty sure that Jon was into me. He must just be nervous.  I felt slap happy.  They all agreed it was possible.  We decided to try and find out about the pretty blonde girl.  

        Jessica got promoted to bartender.  Sharon, who used to work bar, left town or something without telling anyone. She was trailer trash though and it was to be expected.  Jess was happy cause she’d been working at the resort on and off since she was sixteen. 
        We could go swimming after the hot springs pool was closed for the night. We took a dip the next night after our shift.  It pretty cold outside. The minute my bare feet  touched the frosty stone deck, they went numb.  Steam came off of the pool. I crossed my arms over my boobs and shuffled into the water.  The sudden heat made my feet buzz and sting.  Jessica took off all her clothes but she didn’t look naked because she had so many dark tattoos. Suddenly headlights  bounced across the steaming pool. We ducked under.  Charlee’s belly button piercing was flashing underwater.  I could only hold my breath for a few seconds.  I swallowed up some air and saw the headlights were gone.  
        We got out of the pool and toweled off with the scratchy locker room towels.  Charlee had a nursing shift early in the morning.  We got dressed in the pajamas we’d brought, and got in our cars and went home.  I had work again the next day.  
        It was really slow because it was a Monday.  Only people who stayed at the hotel were coming to eat.  On my break, I got in my truck to charge my phone. I got a few pings and the special “Little Big Town” ringtone I had set up with Charlee, went off:  “On the pontoon, makin’ waves and catching rays up on the roof.  Jumping off the back don’t act like you don’t want to.”   I answered. 
        “Girl, guess what? I found out who that blonde girl is.”  
        “Oh shit, how?”
        “She just  came in to the ER just for a dumb rash.  I looked at her clipboard. I’m not takin’ care of her, someone else is.  But her name is Joanne Wright.”  
        “I’m gonna stalk the shit outta her Facebook.” 
        “I can’t wait to hear the dirt.  LOL, I’m hiding in the bathroom.  I’ve gotta go hook drunks up to IV’s.” 
        I had five minutes left on my break.  I looked Joanne up real quick.  Her Facebook was all private but I saw another photo of her face, and she was real pretty.  Her teeth were really white and her hair was smooth.  She had on a silver necklace that had a pendant with two tiny interlocking rings.  It had diamonds in it for sure. She had blue eyes and a skinny face.  All her teeth were straight.  I felt like her opposite.  I was kinda glad she had a rash.  

        When I got off work, I went home, and made some toast.  I googled Joanne more and saw that she had gone to college in Georgia. Couldn’t find anything else about her.  All the Google images were of dead old ladies and lawyers.   I fell asleep watching television, and woke up when I heard hard knocking on my door.  I opened it up.  Charlee was standing there.  She looked upset.  She’s always been super sensitive.  
        “Oh, I’m so glad you’re okay. I’ve gotta talk to ya.” 
        “What’s up? Are you leaving Justin?” There was a long pause. I was irritated.  “Spit it out.”  
        “You know how I said that she came in with a rash?  When she went in to see the doctor, they freaked out.  She had this skin condition that you can only get if you’ve been in contact with decomposing bodies.  I got scared for you.” 
        “What?” Was she messing with me?  
        “Yeah, the doctor asked if she’d been in physical contact with anyone recently.  The girl is from out of town, and she doesn’t really have friends yet.  She’s been here for two weeks and  the only person she’d been in contact with was Jon Lindemann.  
        Dr. J called the police.  They went to Jon’s house.  He wouldn’t let them in, so they had to break down the door.  Right away, they found some really gross stuff in one of the bedrooms…and in the yard.” Charlee’s eyes were glassy.  I felt funny.  “They found women’s bodies, that had been decomposing.  They haven’t been able to identify them all yet.  The newest one, who’s face they could recognize, was that girl Sharon from work.”  
        Charlee left my house to go home and sleep.  It was my day off so I had nothing to do.  I was supposed to feed my horse but I felt too panicky to drive.  I went to the bar at noon and got a whiskey.  I didn’t know what the other girls looked like but I know Sharon was super thin and she slept with a lot of guys.  She was a big drinker. She was single.  She was trailer trash.  She worked at a bar.  I guess that’s why he chose her because no one would give a shit.
        The news was pretty silent and then a bunch of information came out.  By then, everyone in town knew everything they reported already.  They had identified all of the bodies and they were all local girls.  Charlee told me Joanne was fine.  Her rash was gone.  She had left town.  

        On Thursday night, I saw my high school friend, Nathan, at the bar.  He’s a Sheriff, down valley.  I asked him to tell me about what they had found.   I knew that their bodies had been rotting and they were dead.  I wanted to know the details so I told Nathan about me and Jon.  He started to get mushy because he’d had a few drinks.  His eyes got red and teary.  I think it made him mad and it made him look a lot older.  I wanted to know what had happened to Sharon.  I tried to get him to tell me and he wouldn’t.  I pretended I still liked Jon to piss him off.
        “Maybe he’s not that bad.  He seems really troubled. I feel sorta sad for him. ”  When I said this, I could see Nathan’s  pupils get tiny.  He wiped his upper lip. 
        “I didn’t want to tell you this, but you’re talking like a goddamn idiot.  That young lady, Sharon, her face had been beaten past the point of recognition.  Jerry and her dated for five years and he couldn’t even recognize her.   They had to look at her teeth.  She was sodomized, and raped.  You’re damn lucky he didn’t get to you.  Seems he only liked to kill girls from around here and  you’re as from around here as it gets.”  
        I felt all my blood rushing fast.  I knew he was trying to scare me.  He tapped his pointer finger on the bar.  
        “Just wait, they’re gonna find more when they get the order to excavate his aunt’s property in the Shields.  They found the Tremont girl who worked at Lucky Lil’s in a shed there.  He must have kept her for a while.  He had her hogtied but they said she was just skin and bones when she died. They think she may have starved to death.”
        That freaked me out so much. I tried to speak but it was all empty air in my mouth.  

        We went back to Nathan’s house.  His wife had taken the kids to see their grandma for the weekend.  I got on top of him and kissed him.  He kept kneading my thighs and pinched them ’til they hurt.   I started to rub him up and down.  He resisted at first, but then he gave in.  
        I undid Nathan’s pants and put him inside of me,  I kept going up and down.  I closed my eyes trying to recreate the time we had fucked after winter formal but every time he touched the ridges inside of me, I thought about how those girls bodies must have looked.  I mixed up that girl Sharon’s face with rotted flesh, maggots, black eyes, bruised thighs.  I mixed up the thighs with the chicken Jon was eating.  I thought about him biting down on girl fingers, spewing flecks of greasy meat.  
        Nathan woke me up early in the morning because his wife was gonna be back soon and I needed to get out.