Git Up and Git EvenFebruary 25, 2015
The light was going out of Teddy’s eyes. His breathing slowed and his heartbeat began to fade. The water stain on the ceiling right above him, the one that looked a lot like a young Elvis Presley complete with microphone stand, started to blur as his vision failed. The bullet had torn a huge hole in Teddy’s stomach, leaving a pool of white hot pain in its wake.
In the quiet of his mind, as his body closed up shop, one department at a time, Teddy heard his momma’s voice. It was a whisper, raspy from a steady stream of whiskey and Camels.
“Come on Teddy. You ain’t gonna let that son of a bitch git away with this are you? He killed me and now he done put you down like an old dog. You can’t let him walk, you’re all we got Teddy, our only chance. Come on boy git up! Git up and git even!”
Teddy opened his eyes. Water stain Elvis clutched the microphone, thrusting his hips sharply to one side. The chorus to “Mystery Train” echoed through Teddy’s head until the paramedics showed up. As they carried him away on the stretcher, he swore he saw water stain Elvis wink at him through the hazy plastic of the oxygen mask.
It was a solid month before Teddy could take a shit without screaming, a month, and that was with the painkillers. The doctors said they had to remove fifteen inches of damaged intestines, and that there would be some discomfort. Teddy didn’t know exactly what that meant, but he knew it felt like passing hot razor blades for the first few weeks. Now with the morphine, he could manage. When it was time to go home, they wheeled him out to the curb and a fat blonde nurse with a smoker’s cough stayed with him until his cousin Sandra showed up in her old Ford pickup.
They rode the entire trip back from Atlanta to Wheeler County in silence. Sandra tried to make conversation, but Teddy just stared out the window humming under his breath. When they got back to Glenwood, Sandra dropped him off on a dusty stretch of road just outside an old kudzu covered trailer. “It ain’t right Teddy.” She said leaning over the steering wheel. “You shouldn’t go back in there so soon. The place’s been taped off, and the police done a number on it cause of the shootin.”
Teddy eased out of the truck holding his stomach. “Appreciate the ride cuz, but I’ll be fine.” He waved her off, and stood in the driveway until the Ford’s taillights faded behind a cloud of dust. The truth was, he didn’t mind coming back home. Teddy’s momma owned the place outright along with the five surrounding acres and now it was his. It was all he had in the world. He broke the police tape on the front door and limped across the rotted threshold. He opened a window to let out some of the stagnate air, grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat down on the dusty old couch. Teddy looked up at water stain Elvis. He was still there, mid-thrust, hanging on the microphone stand like it was all that kept him from falling over. Teddy popped two morphine tablets and washed them down with the Pabst. That beer and a pack of smokes were the last things his momma bought before she died. Images from that night flashed through his head like somebody changing channels on a TV set. He remembered momma being drunk and screaming. He remembered Harold pulling the pistol, and the gun shots.
After a while, the morphine kicked in, coating Teddy in its golden glow. He got up and pushed the coffee table into the corner and carefully lay down on the blood stained carpet. He tucked his arm behind his head, and sipped his beer while staring up at the ceiling.
The outline of water stain Elvis’s pompadour started to wiggle, and Teddy smiled. The king rotated and snapped his pelvis in his signature move. Teddy could hear “Jail House Rock” floating through the trailer’s musty air.
“I know, I’ll probably go to prison, but I have to kill him. Momma asked me to.” Teddy said out loud.
Elvis swung the mic stand over to the other hand and rocked back on his heels. Teddy heard the music change, and “It’s Now or Never” began to bounce off the cheap paneling.
“You’re right. This is my only chance to git him. But how?”
Water stain Elvis ran his hand over his pompadour and extended his arm, pointing a finger. The music changed again, this time “We’re Comin in Loaded” filled the little trailer. Teddy followed the pointing finger to the old rusty refrigerator humming in the kitchen. Teddy pulled himself up and hobbled over to it. He yanked the fridge out onto the peeling linoleum and reached around to the back. His hand found a revolver taped to the coils. It must have been his father’s. One of the only things he left behind when the police came for him all those years ago. Teddy flipped the cylinder open, it was loaded. The lyrics to “A Little Less Conversation” entered Teddy’s ears and he grinned. Water stain Elvis was right; a little more action was just what he needed.
Teddy jammed the old pickup into gear and tore out of Sandra’s place in a spray of gravel. She had stopped by the trailer to check on him and invite him over for dinner. He had agreed, but before they could eat, he grabbed the keys and slipped out.
It wasn’t hard to find Harold. He was sitting in his patrol car off route twelve. Everybody knew he parked out there to catch a nap when things were slow. Teddy stashed the rusty Ford in the tree line down the hill and cut through the hip deep grass, coming in on Harold’s blind side. He crept up and hit the sheriff with the butt of the revolver, knocking him out before the old man could even flinch. Teddy pulled the Ford alongside the patrol car and lifted the old cop up into the bed of the truck. He could feel his stitches breaking free inside, and before he could climb into the cab, he had to drop to his knees and vomit blood.
Harold opened his eyes and saw Teddy sitting on the couch in front of him. Teddy looked bad, dark circles ringed his eyes and he had dried blood at the corners of his mouth. He was looking up at a dark stain on the ceiling and talking to himself.
“Teddy, now listen son. You need to untie me right now and we can talk about this.”
Teddy jumped to his feet revealing a dark crimson patch growing on the bottom of his white tee shirt. “No time left for talkin sheriff. You killed momma, you tried to kill me. Now it’s your turn.”
Large beads of sweat rolled down the sheriff’s face as he struggled with the duct tape around his wrists. “Listen boy, I don’t know if you been snortin some of that shit your mother was cookin in the back room, but you know I didn’t kill her. We went through all this at the hospital. You were right there when she pulled that pistol and shot you and then herself. She was completely out of her head. I had to shut her down Teddy. She was poisonin half the county with that shit she was makin.”
Teddy waved the revolver in the sheriff’s face and paced back and forth. “Don’t you bullshit me Harold! You had it in for momma since day one. She told me you’d come around someday and try to take her away.”
Teddy reached over behind the couch and lifted up a five gallon container of gasoline. He shot a wink to the stain on the ceiling as he poured the gas on the carpet around both of their feet.
“Teddy, you’ve been through a lot boy, livin here in this filth, breathin in all those chemicals every day. Let me go and we can get you some help. You don’t want to do this Teddy. Listen to me boy!”
Teddy dropped the gas can and pulled a match from his pocket. He lit it and watched the flame crawl up the wood toward his fingers. Teddy looked up at the ceiling as he let the match fall. He laughed as water stain Elvis pivoted around the microphone stand and the lyrics to “Burning Love” drifted up over the rising flames.