Category Archives: Ryan Sayles

Entry 13 – You Only Hurt The Ones You Love

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“You know I loved her,” Luke said through teeth clenched so tight they’d dull after a few more sentences.
+++++He pushed the gun forward and Big Dan’s head tilted with it. Knocked down to his knees, wanting to squeeze a hand against where Luke’s pistol-whip a moment ago split his forehead above his eye like boxing cuts. Freshly thrown out of the Army during his first tour, he’d fallen into a sort of weekend league that Cornell, the bar owner, ran out of his joint’s basement afterhours. A lifetime ago.
+++++“You didn’t love her,” Big Dan said. “Carly was too young for you, and you’re too much of an asshole for her.”
+++++Luke laughed like Big Dan just offered him a box of chocolates to forget everything. Two decades of life under his belt. The nerve of Big Dan. “Too young for me? That’s a load of bullshit if I ever heard one. You had no right.”
+++++It must’ve been three AM. The cold from late fall was creeping in through Big Dan’s uninsulated walls. Being on the concrete floor didn’t help. Twenty years prior he bought this barn and converted it to his automobile shop, eked out a living fixing jalopies and tractors. Poured this floor himself. The cowshit and hay-mulched dirt that was here originally didn’t do well enough for his place of business, no matter how blue-collar it was.
+++++“Boy, I listen to you whine about pussy like you’re man enough to deal with it. You can’t even be man enough to deal with me without jumping me first.”
+++++“I’m gonna deal with you, all right.” Luke’s guts boiled but his stomach was cowering at the thought of pulling the trigger. Just a little squeeze he chanted in his head, commanding that one finger to pull.
+++++“Then do it, boy. Do one thing you said you was gonna do and finally, after all this time, you can make your dead mamma proud.” Big Dan said.
+++++“You don’t get to talk about Mom like that. Especially after Carly—”
+++++“Shut up and do it. No son of mine is gonna be the crybaby faggot you are. Not for his whole life. You shoot me and at least you’ll have something you can look back on and say that was the moment I became a man.”
+++++“First, you tell me why.” Luke said. He widened his stance, put both hands on the gun. He looked around the garage real quick, saw the good tarp was already missing. He’d never known his father to keep more than one good tarp at a time, and never knew his father to ever have a better reason for it other than he didn’t need two. I’ll find something else to wrap your fat body in, Daddy.
+++++“Why? I like pussy, that’s why.” Big Dan looked over his shoulder, regarded Luke through the corner of his eye. Henearly laughed. “Carly needed a man, son. A man. The only thing your trailer park princess had to look forward to was havin’ a baby at the same age her trailer park princess mother had her and then waitressing over at Buck’s highway diner. That’s her future. At least with me she got to be with King Shit on Turd Hill before her life became fifty years of forgotten daydreams while pouring coffee and counting change as her tips.”
+++++“Fuck you, old man.” Luke said, the urge to swing that Colt .45 across his dad’s skull shivering his spine. “Fuck you for everything you ever did.”
+++++Big Dan let that hate in his heart boil up. “Payback’s a bitch, son. Woman for woman.” He turned around on his knees and stared up at Luke, straight in the eye. Cold. “We’re even.”
+++++Luke swung. Big Dan’s eyebrow tore off enough to flap up against his forehead as he crumpled over. The concrete never felt so hard as when his cheek bone hit it. The weight of his body bore down and Big Dan knew he wasn’t going to be able to drown this one in whiskey, so he very much wanted to die just to get it over with.
+++++Luke didn’t notice he was crying as he walked over to his old man and kicked his ugly face. “You think that by sleeping with Carly we’re even? You think that?”
+++++“You killed your mamma. Took her from me. I took somethin’ of yours. You know me, son. I keep things simple. Even.” A little blood sprinkled out of Big Dan’s mouth with each word he said. Twisting the knife into his son. Could never forgive him. Never.
+++++“I didn’t mean for mamma to die,” Luke said. “I never meant for that—” He stopped dead in his tracks. It all sunk in like an axe chopping down. Luke was paralyzed. Even. Slowly, “Where is your good tarp?”
+++++“County dump.” Flat. Easy. More blood sprinkles.
+++++“Why?”
+++++“What else was I gonna wrap Carly’s body in?” Each word accented red as they came out his mouth. It was when Big Dan started laughing that the blood sprinkles started getting fatter, like thunderstorm raindrops. Multiplying. Drowning.
+++++Luke pulled the trigger just to stop it. Relief in silence. Big Dan took the round through his ribs, under his armpit. Thrust over. Trembled violently. All the air in his lungs blasted out, replaced by hollow point lead.
+++++“I was so young, daddy,” Luke said as he fell to his knees beside his father. He bawled like a broken child. “I didn’t mean for mamma to die… and you never stopped torturing me about it. Not once in my whole life. I was just playin’ a prank I saw on TV. She wasn’t supposed to— I’d do anything for her to come back…”
+++++Big Dan’s reply was lost on the same wind that took his soul to judgment. Luke waited, cried more. Dead inside. “You know I loved her,” he said before he put the gun in his own mouth.

Uncluttering

Author’s note:

I didn’t write this because I’m a horrible person, I wrote it because I’m not. This is a catharsis. It’s how I shed that film of gutter humanity. What follows is something I’ve seen in real life tweaked enough for me to feel comfortable calling it “fiction.” After I saw all of this, I was deeply bothered. As a human, as a husband, as a father. I was unsettled and ill, like someone else’s vomit was roiling in my stomach. This is how I excised that feeling before it became a cancer.

Sometimes I hate my job. Sometimes I hate people. “Sometimes” is becoming more and more. So I hold my children, tell them I love them, feel their little heart beats, listen to the air go in and out, laugh when they ask the absurd things children ask and I thank my wife for giving me all the gifts in my life that have ever truly mattered. Do the same. I’m not asking please. You do it.

***

She finally sat back from the edge of the tub, leaned against the toilet and caught her breath.
+++++“There,” she said in a huff. “Life is officially uncluttered.”
+++++Her arms burned. All the water on the floor soaked her through. Goosebumps. Her lower back burned from the odd angle of being on her knees leaning over the lip of the tub as long as she had. Pushed a drift of wet hair from her face with a huff. God, I need a cigarette.
+++++If this was what being twenty-three was like, to hell with it.
+++++Her shirt clung to her chest like her babies. She sneered and dug around on the sink counter for a smoke. Found one, carefully dried her hands before handling it. Pruned fingers make it hard to flick a lighter but she got a flame. Dragged deep. That burn coupled with the rawness of her throat—exertion, it’s a bitch—and she savored the pain.
+++++“This is where I’m at in life. This is my life,” she leaned back until her hair fell in sodden clumps along the toilet lip. “Fuck.”
+++++Stared down at her toes. The last thing she spent any real money on. French tips are all she wanted. One foot, twitching with a beaten flip flop on it. The other flip flop down the hall. Lost getting to the bathroom. Her ankle bracelet, a present from her prom date, snapped in half. The beads dotted the floor like confetti.

Her nails needed attention. Kim, her regular nail girl, had called three times to schedule an appointment. Have to call her back. Use the last of her EBT on that since she’d already bought this week’s carton.
+++++She’d taped a picture of David and her on the wall. Forget when she did it; one of those memories that meandered too far away in the fog of her burdened life. Next to that picture, another. Her and James.
+++++The David picture was four years old. She may have been pregnant in it. Cassie was three now, so the math worked. The James picture was nearer to now; maybe ten months ago. She was six months pregnant in that one. James junior was eighteen months.
+++++Cassie. Cassie equaled three years of broken sleep. Insatiable bouts of crying. Cassie was the worst. Sometimes Cassie would cry well into the night no matter how much she screamed at her. “Shut the fuck up already,” echoed up and down the apartment hall. And that bitch downstairs—the one that always eyeballed her when she’d come home late with whatever guy it was that night—would call the cops.
+++++She got tired of answering the door just to rub her hangover temples and lie. Listen to their radios squawk about other calls more important than her being exhausted.
+++++Three years of, “This is my life. Fuck.”
+++++And if David could get off his ass and send any of the child support he’d promised when he packed up and left them … She didn’t even care if he furnished the whole amount, but damn. Do something.
+++++“Bitch, I’m outta here.” His words, back when his little princess was the ripe age of four months. “You’re too fucking crazy with all your post-partum whatever. You gonna throw shit at me? I oughta call the fuckin’ cops! Crazy bitch.”

He never did call the police, and she was quite sure he had planned that speech since the day he signed the birth certificate. He was just looking for the right excuse to give it. She knew David was worthless. Hell, his own mother never spoke to him without using cuss words and screaming. No wonder his parenting skills were subpar. David hadn’t seen Cassie in five months.
+++++“But, if I had my way,” she said at the bar just last night, “I wouldn’t either. I mean, I love her and all, but I get so tired of her neediness. James junior is less clingy.”
+++++James senior was probably out getting high like he always did. “Baby,” he’d say with that high-pitched weed giggle all the pothead faggots on TV laughed with. That retarded hyena cackle. “Baby, I only get high on days that end in Y. Hee heeeeee heeeee … !”
+++++She only fucked him because she was lonely and he had good smoke. Now this. Now James junior. After that pregnancy test she decided to start embracing rubbers. Even on Medicaid the pill was too expensive. Budgeting it in around other necessities—which she defined as cigarettes and a little bit of cheap booze because, let’s face it, Friday night is Friday fuckin’ night—and even the miniscule amount she’d pay in for the pill got too steep. Let the guy absorb the cost and finance the protection.
+++++And what about her? She exhaled a frail ring of smoke up into the bathroom ceiling and started crying right there on the wet tile. Short-shorts, soaked T-shirt and that was about it. All the red marks on her arms. Her eyes swollen from the sobbing before now.
+++++What about her? Her whole life ahead of her and then BOOM. Knocked up by a lowlife. Her own mom just said, “Join the club,” and laughed at how her dad was out of prison for a total of fourteen months scattered across her entire life. Cocksucker was out just long enough to get another felony.
+++++Her friends went to college. Far away. Came home with stories of better parties that what she could get to. Something besides shooter games with well drinks. They started dropping top shelf brands and her stomach turned. Envy. Seething envy. Stories about something besides skunk weed. Imagine a dime bag with no stems or seeds. Holy crow, she wanted to go to college. Fuck the reading and studying. The social life … oh, the social life. Her stomach turned. Envy. Seething envy.
+++++She tried not to be bitter towards Cassie, but some nights it was hard. Cassie was the anchor that sunk it all. James junior got a pass just because he only added to an already existing problem. Him and his Cookie Monster shoes. Learned to walk in them.
+++++Her skin crawled with missed opportunities. Like mites scurrying along on six prickly legs, tearing up her flesh and nibbling here and there, each pinch of their jaws a reminder. A reminder of her forgotten life. She needed to unclutter.

No Johnny in a letterman’s jacket. No sports car. A curfew every night because her own mom refused to be a babysitter. “Get home and bath your own kid for bedtime. Let me tell ya something, Grandma doesn’t equal “new ma,” for Christ’s sakes.”
+++++David packing up, ignoring he made all the promises she’d ever want to hear. Never fulfilling a single one. She should’ve learned when she told him she was pregnant and he whispered, “I’m so excited, baby. I promise you’re gonna feel like a queen.”
+++++Queen? Nope. Does a queen have nothing but one damn flip flop and a smoldering cigarette in her wet hand? Sore muscles? An uncertain future? An obsessive, blinding drive to unclutter her life that really translates to un-fucking her life?
+++++Ash falls and sizzles in her palm. She jerks out of her reverie. All was still now. Finally quiet. She sees the pair of Cookie Monster shoes still sticking out of the tub water at an odd angle. On the other side one of Cassie’s legs crawled up the side, her toes intruding on the soap shelf. Snakes of her hair floating up from the bottom, playing in the luke warm water’s ripples.
+++++Two upside down lollipops. Easing her burden.
+++++She tries to stand, slips in all the spill. It was a hell of a fight down the hall. Lost her damn flip-flop in it getting back here. Yanked her ankle bracelet in half. Cassie nearly got away. She gets her pay-as-you-go cell phone off the counter. Dials 911.
+++++“They’ve drowned,” she says, and while she is numb and hollow and dazed and uncertain, she doesn’t feel any better about her life.

Douche

It didn’t bother Ben that Cheri was a cutter or that she had so recently gone to town on herself with what looked like a shaving razor.
+++++What bothered Ben was the girl had OD’d on his drugs, would probably croak from it, and his DNA was all over her. In her hair. Mouth. Her nude chest. Some other dank, moist places the TV show cops call ‘orifices’.
+++++“That’s a problem,” Ben says as he sits back, staring. The rise and fall of her chest so minuscule that it disappeared to the naked eye, like the ass-light of a firefly as it zips away at dusk. “Cheri?” he says, shaking her.
+++++All he succeeds in doing is jiggling her breasts as they dangle off to the sides of her rib cage. No response. What did paramedics do to check people for responsiveness? Smack them? Dig a knuckle into a collar bone? Something like that. Something a waking person couldn’t ignore.
+++++Ben looks up at the ceiling where, a floor above, the house party is in full swing. Coming down into the basement was good for privacy, but bad for sneaking out with a dead body. He couldn’t just leave. He bragged about going downstairs with her to too many people. They’d know.
+++++Dead body. That had such a negative ring to it. Especially with the state Cheri was in. Ben had always wanted to prove to himself he was a porn star and proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt by hosing Cheri’s slowly decelerating body with his juices. Good for self-assurance, bad for avoiding a wrongful death investigation.
+++++“Well,’ Ben says, peeling back one of her eyelids and watching as her pupil refuses to constrict with the wash of incoming light. “Maybe she’s not dead. Cheri? You dead? C’mon, honey. Walk for daddy. I’ll give you my buck knife as a reward. Somethin’ real to cut with.”
+++++Cheri doesn’t stir at his generous offer. “Hey. You need to wake up and get out of here. Go home and shower. Wash off my DNA so when you eventually do die-one day, not right now of course-I won’t be connected to it.”
+++++Still nothing. Ben snorts, rubs his face. Dread wells up, chokes. “Look, I don’t need Ty comin’ after me for this, so get up.”
+++++Ty, Cheri’s older brother, has a habit of coming after people. Stories abounded, always told in hushed whispers.
+++++So, the paramedic-pain-response-thing. Smacking. Bone-massaging. Whatever. Pain that someone alive can’t ignore. And the girl’s a cutter. Good pain resistance. She’s also OD’ing, so she has even better tolerance being high and all.
+++++Ben rubs out his cigarette on her shoulder. That should do it. But nothing.
+++++“Fuck me,” he says, already imagining Ty doing to him whatever it was he did to that Mexican kid. Whatever it was that landed Ty in prison to begin with. Now that Ty is out word is he’s already soured towards Cheri’s ex-boyfriend Matt. What did Matt do besides sleep with Cheri? Nothing.
+++++And now Ben has slept with Cheri, and to make it worse he provided the drugs she’s whacked out on. He’ll be discovered. Prison raped. Matt’s incomparably light sin will be forgotten.
+++++The paranoia might be the weed talking, but still. “Oh… fuck me.”
+++++Ben begins to fret, and fretting is not Ben’s strong point. “Time to get creative.” He reaches into his cigarette pack and pulls out the smoke he dipped in PCP. Sparks up. Before long, he gets creative.

***
“We’re going to take care of this like they do in the movies,” Ben says, squatting down outside the house’s basement window.
+++++He had managed to bust open the thing-the lock was too difficult to maneuver through in his current state-and drug Cheri out onto the lawn.
+++++She goes in his back seat, and he hammers down on the gas. Hoots out loud with relief, zips down the street and out the neighborhood. “The hard part is over…” a sigh of relief eeks out, mentally ticking off his incredible plan bullet point by bullet point.
+++++He leans back and sees the curve of her thigh as the street lights cut a shade of piss-yellow along her. “See, I told you you’d love my car.” He hits a gas station, gets a gallon of unleaded in a shiny new red plastic container.
+++++Gets over to a weathered, secluded parking lot in a bad neighborhood and hears the first peal of roaring thunder above. Ben looks up; his eyes still glass like marbles from smoking the PCP, waves a dismissive hand at the roiling storm cloud. “Don’t disapprove. She’s dead. It’ll be OK.”
+++++Ben laughs and drags Cheri’s corpse to a dumpster. He tries like hell to lift her up and toss her inside but she is much heavier when she’s not helping out. He lets her slump to the concrete. Her head bounces, makes a plopping sound. He checks her pockets, finds a Lotto ticket and 78 cents.
+++++Splashes the gasoline, lights her up. Runs. No ceremony, no nothing. He guns it onto the highway as fat, aggressive sheets of rain blind him.
+++++“Thank God that worked out.” Ben says, turning his windshield wipers on full-blast.

***
Ben comes to the next morning, tries to speak.
+++++“Mmaauuuaeuueooiiiammoooea,” is all he can say around the barrel of the gun rammed into his mouth.
+++++The first thing Ben sees is a feral quality haunting Ty’s eyes. Big brother, fresh out of the pen, found him. Only took five hours. Maybe. Ty leans over him, his weight on the revolver. Ben tastes vomit and gun oil. A single tear streaks down his face and all he can think are flashes of Cheri’s dead body and the looming notion of Ty prison-raping him all day and all night.
+++++“Dudes at the party said you was with Cheri.”
+++++Ben trembles as he tries to explain. Nothing works too well around the gun.
+++++“Weifhhebfovjeneycico-”
+++++“I am going to fucking kill you and your whole family, you worthless drug-addicted cocklicker.”
+++++“NDUUBHIUBIUGAYGTYAFTFVHZBUHAASCOO!” a deep breath. “WEBVEHYBRCFN GGHIUHAMOAWHIUH!”
+++++Ty pulls the gun out and whips Ben with it. Even as the bone of his eye socket cracks Ben is screaming, “I CAN EXPLAIN! I CAN EXPLAIN!”
+++++“You got to the count of three,” Ty says, tearing Ben from his bed by the collar and throwing him.
+++++Hands held up defensively, pissing his pants, Ben gets diarrhea of the mouth. “I ain’t gonna lie, bro! I thought maybe I could hook up with Cheri but before I could, she got a call! Swear!”
+++++“Who called?”
+++++“Ahhhh…” Ben’s brain misfired on several people he’d like to see dead but the only name that made sense came in a moment of clarity. “Matt!”
+++++“Matt? Her ex-boyfriend?”
+++++“Yeah! Cheri was surprised too!”
+++++“Cheri said Matt was out of town helping his grandmother. Said she had a bad stroke.”
+++++“Don’t know,” Ben says, instinctively covering his asshole with a cupped hand. He stares at Ty’s crotch, praying he’s hung like a Tootsie Roll. “He called, she blew me off. Never saw her after that. Swear.”
+++++“You’re a fuckin’ liar.” Ty says, raises the gun. “Matt’s not that type of dude.”
+++++“Bro, you don’t know Matt,” Ben says, holding up one hand as it blocks the gun from his field of vision. A mental defense mechanism; Ben can’t see the gun, so it must not be there. “He has this goodie-two-shoes act goin’ on, but that dude- Matt… he’s just not. Ty, swear. Swear!”
+++++Ty expends the mental energy and ponders this new development. During his own trial he heard the cops testify at length about Eye Witness Testimony. Something his defense lawyer said worked very well with the jury. At the time Ty thought it was bullshit, but here, now, well, he could see the power of it. The power of Eye Witness Testimony.
+++++“That mother fucker…” Ty says, gritting his teeth. “You know what he did? He fucking set her on fire in a parking lot. On fucking fire! She would have died if it didn’t start raining right after he did it. I mean seconds. Haven’t had a storm like that since three years ago.”
+++++“Oh…” Ben’s stomach drops. “She’s… alive?”
+++++“Yeah.” Ty heads for the door. “Next door to the parking lot was fire station. It was like he was trying to torture her! The only thing better would be if he did it on the hospital’s front fucking door!”
+++++“She’s alive?”
+++++“For now. Doctors said she inhaled a lot gases. Scorched her lungs pretty bad.”
+++++Ben’s sphincter was quaking. “Well, I hate to dime out Matt, but he called. Matt called. I never saw her. Swear.”
+++++Ty turns around in the doorway. “It’s cool. Sorry about the cut on your eye.”
+++++“Don’t mention it,” Ben says as his words trail Ty out the door. Ben slumps down, shakes bad. Smokes a joint.
+++++“Phew,” he hisses between puffs. “Crisis averted.”
+++++In his pocket, Cheri’s Lotto ticket. Scratches off, gets winning numbers. Ben smiles, goes to cash it just like nothing ever happened.