Devil Be Strong

She was my height. I mean a perfect hug going on here. My face was on her hair. I was happy. Her hands were on my back and she hugged me. We hugged a long time. I didn’t want to let go. I never wanted to, but I pulled my face to the side to see her. I could do what I wanted. I could kiss her. I could eat her pink pussy. Dad loved eating the pink pussy, that’s what he said, not to me, but I’d heard him talking to the traitors he thought were friends. He said one thing he hoped to do before he died was eat up on some black woman’s pussy. Dad used the N-word to describe that particular brand of pussy. That is not my style. I am an improvement over my dad.
+++++I doubt Dad ever did eat up on no black pussy. Is a black woman’s pussy pink? I think it’s a regular old black color if you ask me, or brown or something and everything and stuff. I can’t say for sure on it one way or the other, but I wasn’t thinking of it. I was lost in my hug. My new friend shook. She looked scared. I said was something wrong? She took her hand off my shoulder to put on her forehead, like she was checking her temperature.
+++++“You afraid of something or anything and stuff?” I said.
+++++She knew I could eat her pink pussy up. She knew I could bite her if I wanted, if I pleased, but is that me? I pulled her hand down off her forehead and run my hands through her long soft silky hair. I brought her hand up and kissed it. I winked at her and turned my back.
+++++I went to my fort, lit the candle, thought on that girl’s titties pressed against me on my chest and everything and stuff. I got to thinking she could visit me in the dark hours of night. I’d have to go back tomorrow and hide behind the same bush in case she came along again. I’d tell her all of what happened. I’d show her my fort. She could bring me bags of bread and meat scraps from the table. I didn’t ask her name. She looked to me like a Susan. She could’a been a Lisa or a Mary. In my mind I settled on Susan. I said to myself, Oh Susan.
+++++I knew I’d got injustice from that ugly bitch hag woman. Injustice is rampant in the world. I know somewhere a judge waits to tell me I’m guilty, that I need to be punished, but that judge knows what he can do. Only judge is Jesus, Dad said it, that in Jesus’s eyes all things are fine so long as you are honest with yourself.
+++++I did not want my candle to burn out so I blew it out. I sat in the dark light. It’s not all dark. I got a towel hanging down at the end of my little dirt hallway. It’s a pink towel. It was glowing some. It’s nice to look at, makes you feel soft inside, like furballs are hopping around inside your body. I got to thinking on Susan, how if she was here I’d take the towel down. She’d get back on it. I’d put it to her. If she visits me in the dark hours, that’s what we’ll do. I never tried to stick a baby in a woman, even though that ugly bitch hag woman accused me on it, and got the whole world on my ass for it.
+++++I got my left hand going, jamming it down on there. I dug a little hole in the dirt and shot it in and buried it. Makes you feel sick. You wouldn’t think that’s what babies was, that that’s what everybody is in there and stuff and everything, just grown big. I sometimes wonder if, say, there was a antlion down there, like if it ate a bit and carried it around and was pregnant, what kind of creature would come out, and what it would grow up to look like.
+++++God didn’t make us for no things like that to happen. I know. But if he did, think of all the strange halfdog people and halfchicken people. They’d be all over the place. It would be a much different world.
+++++I pulled the towel aside, crawled through it on down the hall up through the hole. When I leave my fort I take a different way out. I don’t want no tracks leading up to it to where people can find me. The sun had done dropped behind the trees and the shadows covered the ground in a lace pattern. I crunched through the leaves, and busted through the woods into the field around Jepson Lake. I seen the skinny black guy over there with his pole. I’d seen him before. I crossed over and said, “Still fishing?”
+++++Black guy cast his line.
+++++“I bet you got a bunch of fishes now,” I said, and leaned over his bucket. Sure enough, that bucket was filled. I said, “You could stick those fishes in a blender and make you a fish drink. You ever drink a nanner milkshake?”
+++++“What you want, white boy?” black guy said. He was real skinny, and the skin on his face was pressed close to his face bone. You could see the skull shape and his eyes looked dry.
+++++I said, “Nothing, you ole skinny thang.”
+++++“Why you keep coming over here looking at my fish?”
+++++“I don’t know.”
+++++“Shoot,” the man said.
+++++“I thought you might want to be my friend,” I said.
+++++“What? What kind of stuff you talking?”
+++++“Look,” I said, pulling my picture out my back pocket. I uncrumpled it for him.
+++++Black man looked at it. He looked my face over. He looked at the green water. He said, “Don’t got nothing to do with me.”
+++++“Thousand dollar reward,” I said.
+++++“I seed it.”
+++++“Ain’t you gonna turn me in?”
+++++“Maybe I will.”
+++++“Come on. Won’t you be my friend? That woman lied. I didn’t do none of what she said to her old ugly bitch hag self.”
+++++“Don’t surprise me.”
+++++“What’s your name?”
+++++The black one, ole Skinny, pulled one in. He pulled it off his hook and dropped it in his bucket. He looked me head to foot and said, “Get on,” and flicked his hand.
+++++I walked around the lake, cut over to the tracks and walked along the rail. When I got to Johnny’s the red Corvette was gone, so I threw me some rocks at his house. I was trying to hit Johnny’s chimney, but one rock slipped in my fingers to go hitting on a window. I knew Johnny would know who done it over he’d caught me throwing rocks at his house once before. Soon he saw that rock he’d come looking for me. I figured I’d best make it look like somebody broke in. A train was coming along, so I dropped off the tracks. The conductor saluted at me as he chugged by.
+++++Was a stack of cinder blocks to the side of Johnny’s house. I took one over to the window and tossed it through. I climbed in and found my rock, put it in my pocket. I’d never been in this room and everything and stuff before. It was Johnny’s bedroom, nice, with a water bed, a gun rack with rifles on it, and one them huge-ass TVs. Then I seen on the shelf how it was lined up with movies. On the movie boxes was pictures of naked ladies all and stuff. A lot of them was getting it in the ass where everybody knows babies can’t come out. I looked them over, but didn’t see none with no black women so I never did find out if they had the pink pussies or if they pussies was black or brown or some other funny color. I supposed they could be purple.
+++++There was a few blank movies. One had Terry’s name on it, so I pulled it out. I poked my head in the closet, opened the plastic trash sack in there and seen it to be filled with reefer. I put the Terry movie in the bag. I put some of those other movies in. I opened up the dresser drawers looking for money. All it was was clothes. The bottom dresser had some artificial wangers in it, and handcuffs, the keys poking out of the locks. I took one of those, put it in the bag. I thought if things came down to things I could use those handcuffs on Susan, like if Susan decided she didn’t like me or something, which I didn’t think would happen, but if it did.
+++++On the night table I seen a pistol. I took that. I went to the kitchen, got a six pack of Budweiser from the fridge, put it in the bag and crawled out the window like Santa Claus, that’s what I felt like with that big old bag, and headed up to the tracks.
+++++Up at Jepson Lake I seen Skinny still fishing. Don’t ask how I knew it, but I knew he had a mind to clear out when he seen me hauling that bag over the field his way. Here comes Santa Claus, I was thinking in my mind. Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, and I don’t know what the words say after that. But Skinny started reeling his line in, clickety click, clickety click, and I picked up the speed, understand? When I got up to him I said, “You want a beer?” Skinny shook his head like hell no I don’t want no beer, keep walking, but when he seen the beers I pulled out, one for him and one for me, with all them cold drips running down the stickers and the glass, he said he didn’t mind if he did. I give it over and he popped the top and cast back his line.
+++++I sat on the grass beside his bucket and looked for the moon on the water. I seen it in the sky, the moon, round, the color of a peach, but I could not find it on the water, no matter how hard I tried. The moon wasn’t high enough yet to be on the water, understand all here everything and stuff? I said, “You ever eat a antlion? Antlions is good eating, buddy. You might not think it, but you pop one in you mouth. You’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s the only thing I ever ate still alive.”
+++++“I guess you never ate no raw oyster,” Skinny said.
+++++“Shit, oysters ain’t alive. Oysters ain’t but big snot globs.”
+++++Skinny was looking down on me, looking at my bag and all and everything and stuff. He said, “You done robbed somebody.”
+++++“Johnny ain’t somebody. Johnny’s a man with no head. My daddy cut the heads out of all the pictures of us together and then put them back in the album. All Johnny’s got where his head is is white.”
+++++Skinny laughed.
+++++“I’m serious. Johnny is the major traitor. If not for Johnny, I can’t tell you how happy I would be.”
+++++“Robbing a man of his beer,” Skinny said, and sucked his teeth like Dad always did when something he didn’t like was on the radar. When Dad suspected Terry had eaten more than twelve chips, which is what we was allowed to eat, he sucked his teeth. Terry confessed that she had done ate fifteen, so he laid her over the arm of the cozy chair, pulled down her tights and smacked her in front of the folks all over at the house drinking beer and playing music that day. People said Damn, they’re only chips, but Dad said No, it’s the principle. “How many beers you got in there, white boy?” Skinny said.
+++++“Enough to drink. You want another?”
+++++“I just started on this one.”
+++++“You want some bread?”
+++++“Have some bread.”
+++++“Naw, man, I’m on my way out.”
+++++“No you ain’t,” I said. “Lincoln set the slaves free in nineteen thirteen. You can do anything you want. Have some bread, brother.”
+++++“I got to get this fish on back to the house,” Skinny said.
+++++“Don’t you want to be my friend? I need somebody to bring me food while I’m hiding out in my underground fort. I don’t think Susan is going to come through for me. I love her, but she has things to do, places to go, you know what I’m saying?”
+++++Skinny reeled his line in, clickety click. He ripped the worm off the hook and threw it in the grass, and he hooked the hook onto the ring of his pole. His junky-looking car was sitting over there. I poured the movies out on the ground and said, “Look at that.” I picked up the one with a darky fucking a white woman on it and handed it over.
+++++He took it and looked at it a second and said, “How much you want for it?”
+++++“Nothing. You can have it. I got one of my sister. Daddy said once he was dead, Johnny was to make Terry his sex slave. I didn’t believe it. Johnny’s my uncle.”
+++++“On your father’s side?”
+++++“No,” I said. I said, “You know what else Johnny did? He fucked my mother, right out here.”
+++++“Well,” Skinny said. “I don’t need to know that, do I?”
+++++“It could be in the very spot I’m sitting. No way to tell. Lots of people fucked my mother. Did you fuck my mother? It’s okay to admit it, I won’t hold it against you because we’re friends.”
+++++“I ain’t got time for this,” Skinny said, and took his pole and bucket of fish on up to the car. He was leaving, just like that, with not even saying thanks for the beer or goodbye or anything at all and stuff, so I ran up there. I just thought we could wrestle or something, but in the scuffle his bucket fell over and his fish took off to swimming over the grass. I said, “Oh, man, I’m sorry,” but he was looking at me like I had done something unforgivable, which was just a lot of bullshit. I was tired of that shit. It made me so mad and I thought about smacking him. I had him pinned down beneath me. I said, “You want me to hit you, bitch?” He shook his head no. I said, “I didn’t say you could leave. If you get up without that I say you can leave, I’m’a come over here and shoot your ass. I got a gun in that bag, you understand what I’m telling you and stuff?”
+++++Black guy nodded yes, and I got up off him and went to the bank of the lake and sat there looking at the pictures on the movies. My friend Skinny was making groany sounds back there,but then he shutup. I think he thought he might should best not to test my nerves.
+++++About then is when I noticed I was hungry, and had been for a long time. Instead of going for the bag of bread, I looked at those pictures on the movie boxes. When I finished looking at one box, I threw it on the water, and picked up another. It’s weird looking at the pink pussies and all when you’re hungry. It’s like a trick somebody plays on you, because you can’t eat a pink pussy in the regular eat way. To be hungry and looking at those women wide open with eyes looking at you makes you not yourself, makes you question who you even think you are, like you could be somebody else that you don’t even know who he is. I tried to think of Susan to distract myself, but all I saw was my sister laid over Dad’s cozy chair. I was in the couch that time, and she looked at me, but I just bit into my hamburger. One of the guys in the room held a potato chip down by Terry’s mouth, tempting her to eat it as Dad smacked her fifteen times, once for each potato chip she ate. That same night, after everybody left, Mama—or the whore, which I guess is what I’m supposed to call her—called the cops after dad beat her up for fucking Johnny. She didn’t even admit that she fucked Johnny, but Dad said he could smell him in their bed. He beat her up and the whore put that court order on him. He broke the court order the next month when he sat down in his chair and blew his heart into the cushion. Was terry who found him first after coming off the school bus.
+++++I threw Terry’s movie out there in the water where it floated with them other pink pussies opened to the sky. The moon I could see on the water now, like a eye floating there, and just then Skinny come to life. I guess he done got tired of waiting for me to say he could leave. He said, “I thank my elbow broke.”
+++++That was the last straw. If he was Terry he would’ve got another punishment coming. Terry wasn’t allowed to whimper. People coming to the house always were like why is Terry standing with her face to the wall? Dad was hard on Terry more than any of us because he didn’t want her to be a whore and a liar like he said our mother was. It’s just a thing I guess we’re scared of, and I don’t wanna be like my daddy neither.
+++++“You gots to quit this shit!” Skinny shouted, but I got the pistol. I got it out of the bag and hopped up there and by the look on Skinny’s face he thought his life was done. In his eyes I seen all the black pussy in the world flying off on wings. He said, “Please,” and I pulled the trigger. All it did was click. “Oh, thank the Lord!” he said, “Thank you Jesus,” and I helped him up and started telling him all about my sister and stuff and everything, how after dad left the world for greener pastures, Terry went up north into Georgia somewhere with some thirty-year-olds. She came back pregnant two months later and was in the house right now, fourteen years old and fat with could be anybody’s baby, what did he think on that?
+++++“Devil be strong,” Skinny said.
+++++“I know that’s right,” I said. “I think whenever I get mad it’s the Devil got in me. I need some glasses so I don’t get tricked by some ugly bitch hag woman when I thought it was a nice looking girl from the college. That woman lied about me, I’m telling you. I think you should turn me in so you can get that thousand dollar reward. I’d rather you get it than somebody else. Come on, have another beer, my friend.”
+++++Ole Skinny said he might as well, and we sat down on the bank together and looked out at the moon on the water. Its color had gone from orange to white. It was growing dark out, and we drank our beers and talked on stuff, just the best of friends you ever could think of. Skinny started telling me how he’d once been a pastor in the church. I had some real questions for him now, like what color is the inside of the black pussy, and does it really say in the bible that if a man kills himself he goes to Hell? Was that how much our daddy loved us? I had lots of questions, but I most to listened on his talk on Jesus while one by one, the pink pussy movies got filled with water and were swallowed by the lake.

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John Oliver Hodges
John Oliver Hodges is the author of Quizzleboon, a slipstream crime novel of knuckles, eyeballs, rednecks, hippies, and various other mean things. T’will be released the summer of 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. His other books are The Love Box, and War of the Crazies. You can check out some of John's online fiction here:
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