Category Archives: Cheryl Anne Gardner

Dying In The Time

The old man sat there in his tatty armchair, raw knuckles gripping threadbare tight. After a few rounds fresh from the still, he’d gotten himself all fired up about the whole damned mess. “But that’s another story,” he said and then yelled, “No, woman!” He just wanted to think on things right then, so she just needed to shut her hole and go back in the kitchen.
+++++“Now where was I?” he asked through phlegmy lips and a smoke-rot smile. “Oh yeah. Forgive me, Mister. It’s tough to know anythin’ for certain, you see. Been too long dyin’ in the time,” and I might have been a Mister in that moment, but I knew what he meant. Lots of bloody chunks to sift through in that withered old hateful brain of his. You got to feel around in the slurry with your bare hands. Call me Mister, call me Lord of the Flies, call me whatever, I got a bit of the long road in me too – scorched earth, crossroads, sulphur under my fingernails — so he knew that I knew what he’d done . . .
+++++He’d seen that car.
+++++Maybe he’d seen it arrive. Maybe not. He said it was “Nobody’s business askin’.” But I wasn’t nobody, and I was asking.
+++++Next time he’d seen it, he said the weeds were already up around it. They grow fast this time of year. Choked that ole barn to rot and ruin in a few months, he said. So he’d seen that car, one of many I’d counted over the years. He’d seen it on his way to work and then again on his way home. “An ole Charger. Rusty bumpers. Paint was chipped up and sprayed over. Matte black. Out of state license plate, somethin’ with a bird on it,” he thought. “Scrap metal and curiosity, you know.” And I did know because I’d seen him when he’d seen it. I wanted to tell him that, scare him just a little for no good reason, but he interrupted me with a: Shut up woman! I’m tryin’ to talk here and an offer of hard cider. He said it would give her dumbass something to do. I wasn’t thirsty, so he said, “No? Suit yourself, then.”
+++++I would, suit myself. I’d pick my teeth with his shin bone once I got an answer to my question.
+++++Why? That was all I wanted to know, needed to know. Why he’d taken what wasn’t his to take, and he replied with a “Well, shit, who knows why. Things get done like that around here. People talk too much. Get it into their heads to go snoopin’ around. Then you got yourself a predicament to clean up, so you get an axe, an old sack, stuff the whole fuckin’ mess into it, and then roll it down a hill. The ravine over there is steep, the lonely road leadin’ up to it long, snarled, and weedy. Crabapples on the ground and nobody around. Nobody watchin’.”
+++++But I was watching, a harpoon in my bowtie, a smile on my face. Watching him get the lye, the shovel, the sixty-pound bags of cement. Watching him beg, and pray . . . and try to take something that didn’t belong to him. “You got to wait after you done it,” he said, and I agreed. “After a few weeks it’s easier to pull things apart, see. People get what they deserve, Mister. Shouldn’t a been out there poking around after dark in the first place.”
+++++That’s the old farm’s name. Been deserted for years. Nothing but rats and spooks in those fields now. But down in that ravine, it’s quiet. A quiet place for killing. Always has been. It’s got some shade from the trees, and you can’t hear anything accept the train a few miles away on the ridge come once or twice a day. They say sometimes, right after the train comes, that you can hear the voices, that the place is haunted by the dead folk, covered in blood, swaying from rope in the tops of the trees; “But I never heard nothin’ all the times I been down there doin’,” he said, and then he justified his confession with, “That water up in there is poison, done run red with crazy. They say that’s how it happened. The Cottonwood massacre, they call it, but I don’t know; the mash tastes fine to me.”
+++++Ole Cottonwood Farm . . .
+++++I remember that day, fondly, a hundred years gone now it seems. It’s my lot to remember. That place needed a whole lot of meddling, and the burning lasted weeks. You can still smell it on the air, taste the ash and the hate. The old man said he liked to sit up there a spell after he was done. Sometimes too long. But I know better than anyone that you’ve got to make sure what’s done stays done. He knew it too, said he keeps telling his wife that when she comes a hollering for him in the dark. Fucking kitchen witch, he called her. Said she’s just mad because he likes to keep a little something every time, something shiny or something wet and soft. “Things she don’t like lookin’ at none.” That’s what she says when she’s hollering, but I’ve been watching them for a while now. That old hag and I go way back; I know her better than he does. She’d boil the skin off a bat for a bit of broom grease, and she’s been watching him with those black beady eyes. She’s just mad because he doesn’t bring anything back for her. That’s why I’m here; that’s why she summoned me here.
+++++“But somethin’ ain’t nothin’, Mister. A bone, a lock of hair . . . it’s all just scraps,” he said leaning towards me through the stench of a righteous whisper, and again, I agreed. But a thief is a thief. A lie is a lie, and once I get done scraping the meat out of his skull with a spoon, he’ll get that Cottonwood belongs to me, and in my business, scraps . . .
+++++Is never just plain ole scraps.

Victoria’s Even Bigger Secret

Sometimes my cleavage gets in the way. I know I know. Sing me a sob story, but it’s true. I can’t always tell if my fly is undone, or if there’s toilet paper stuck to my shoe, and it takes a wish and a prayer to find a suitable seat on the train where you’re not rubbing against someone in an inappropriate manner. My boyfriend said, “The aftershocks rattled his brain” when we made love, and then I’d pass out cold, and he’d light an incense stick and let it burn between them cause he said the room smelled like flap sweat. I have hot ash scars on my chest to prove it. One of these days, I’m going to stick firecrackers in his ass-cheeks and light him up while he’s sleeping in the cheap motel room he always takes me to. No one will notice with all the gunshots ricocheting off the cars in the parking lot. He’s not really mean, my boyfriend, once you get to know him. He has a hearsay history of violence: spring rage chaos and polka dot blotter extremes. He’s a backdoor gangsta now, all cat claws and camp, dealing a marked deck to the strip-club counselors, waiting out their fortunes in the mirrored velvet. He said he was built to bounce heads on concrete. I believed him, even if no one else did.
+++++Once a month, he’d go through the motions: “Convict,” his parole officer would call him, to which “hard knocks,” he’d reply, and then, later, he’d curse my double Ds for knocking over his beer. If I had a ladder, I might climb it and hang myself by the nipples from the electrical wires adjacent to my fourth floor patio, hoping they and all the flabby skin attached to them would just rip right off. He said my tits were to blame for the fights and the bruises. Said I was just a tramp with a park side view and a short commute when all he had was a brick wall and an alley. All I know about views is that the paint’s chipping on the ceiling, and the palm trees behind the couch are fake, like those boxed potatoes he loves so much that would crust up in his beard for a week. It made his face rough, but he’d just yell over my chest and tell me to “shut up, hang on, and ride it out.”
+++++In the evenings, after he was through with me, I’d take a bath, but could never reach my legs to shave them, so I’d lie there, watching my breasts flap and swish around in the steamy water and wonder how much it would hurt if I just sliced them off.