Momma BearJune 14, 2018
We’re all criminals. Whether it’s running a red light or a petty little revenge that crosses an invisible line of the law you never knew existed. Once you realize that, it’s easy to cross the big lines because your conscience is full up with all the little shit. I guess that’s my way of saying I killed the son of a bitch and I don’t feel bad for it one bit.
See, Dave Spence introduced me to Mike at that beer joint off of the Old Dallas Highway where it crosses the loop, back before Runt got lung cancer and had to shut it down. I knew Dave on and off for years, and he said he had a buddy in town and why don’t I let him introduce me. So I says that’s all right and Dave waved him over. Now, I didn’t think much of it at the time, cause of the way people are always introducing me to one person or another, but I guess Dave was what you would have called a “known associate” if you was looking at Old Mike’s rap sheet. Dave even said they had done some time together out toward Huntsville, but there wasn’t nothing odd about that since nearly everybody in Runt’s had done put their time in one way or the other. Well we sat around shooting the shit and Old Mike was getting flirty, but I told him I had a man and a kid and wasn’t looking to pick up any strays. Well he just laughed and laughed at that, and said I’d come around.
Around ten o’clock the boys were getting rowdy and I was getting fed up with all the pinching and grabbing when all I wanted was to do a little two-step, so I went to pay up but Runt said I was taken care of, so I headed on back home. Nothing out of the ordinary, and I would have forgotten about Old Mike if he hadn’t showed up to my door.
I guess it was a couple of weeks, maybe a month later. I was at the trailer running the vacuum, so I had the stereo cranked way up to listen to my tunes over that old Sears vacuum I had, so I guess I hadn’t heard him pounding on the door. Or at least he said he was pounding, like I said I couldn’t hear anything. But I was running the vacuum and I bent down to pick up something or other off the floor and when I looked up there he was, standing in the front door with his hands on his hips just smiling at me. Damn near jumped out of my skin, so I hollered at him and told him to get the hell out of my house, except I wasn’t so nice with the words, and he stepped out and closed the door behind him and went and sat in the little rocking chair I had out on the porch. Well I watched him through the blinds for a little while, just sitting there looking out at the street like he didn’t belong anywhere else in the world, just as easy as can be. I thought about calling the cops, but didn’t want to cause any trouble. So then I thought about calling up Dave Spence and asking him just what the hell his friend thought he was doing and how he got my address in the first place, but Old Mike was out there not bothering anybody and looking just as gentle and peaceful as could be, so I went to run the vacuum a little more and when I was finished he was still out there, sitting quiet and looking out at the street. I had some beer in the fridge from when Rabbit was in town, so I pulled one off the six pack and brought it out to Mike and sat down next to him, and I guess that’s how Mike and me became an item.
Wasn’t too long before I told Rabbit that we was through and Mike moved in. I guess I come around just like he said, but it was easy to come around cause he was just so gentle and quiet that it wasn’t like having him around no way. You’d think you were alone and next thing you know there he’d be, just sitting in a chair with that little smile on his face you could see out from under his beard a little. He got along with Missy pretty good. She’s little, just started Kindergarten, and she likes men so I didn’t figure that was going to be an issue. It’s nice when kids are easy-going and aren’t always under foot trying to hide in your shirttails.
Mike didn’t have much of a taste for work so he was always around. Not that he was lazy, cause he wasn’t. I’d go to work and I’d come home and the house would be cleaned up and he was pretty handy so he started fixing things that needed fixing, which was something I was always on Rabbit about but he was always so tired when he come off a job that he never got around to it. See, Rabbit owned an eighteen wheeler, well the rig anyway, the people he towed for owned the trailers, which was how people started calling him Rabbit on account of the fact that he was so quick back and forth from one coast to the other. But since he owned his own rig he’d have to take the runs as he got them so he was going back and forth pretty regular, two, three, four weeks at a time and then he’d come back just exhausted and sleep for two or three days, spend a little time with us, and off he’d go again. That ain’t no life for anybody to lead, no matter how nice a truck you got, and I think it just got too much for me so when Mike showed up I didn’t mind that he was always around because I’d already been with a man who worked too hard and I didn’t want none of that again.
So he was fixing things up and they were getting nice and he’d have his beer of the evening, sitting out there on the porch just watching the sky go dark and it was real nice for the both of us, just sitting out there together. You don’t meet a lot of quiet men these days, and when you do you have to wonder what the hell is wrong with them, but there wasn’t anything wrong with Mike. He took care of us, me and Missy, and that meant a helluva lot.
Come about November, Mike had been living there with us for three or four months and we got everything real cozy when Missy come up sick. When she was real little, I’m talking about before she could walk, she was always sickly with ear infections or stomach bugs and she was in and out of the hospital a few times, but since then she hadn’t had much trouble so it was real unexpected. She come down with Scarlet Fever, which hardly anybody gets nowadays the doctor said, and I had to take off a week or two of work cause she just wasn’t getting any better and I was starting to get worried, but finally she got better bit by bit to where I could leave her with Mike and go back off to work. But that put us behind coming into Christmas, so Mike went and took a construction job putting up sheet rock at the new McDonald’s they’re putting in off the interstate. It was good work and he liked being around the guys cause he didn’t see much of anybody anymore, which always seemed just fine for him but I didn’t begrudge him spending some time out of the house cause he’d go out and blow off some steam and come back and just appreciate the hell out of what he had at home, so it was nice for us too.
Well it come up to the last day of school before Christmas break and they’re getting off early, so I take off and drive up to the elementary school to pick Missy up and they tell me her daddy done picked her up. I didn’t think anything about it cause Mike would go pick her up most days anyway, so I just drove on home and that’s when I saw Mike’s truck wasn’t in the drive. It was Rabbit’s rig and I just thought oh hell.
I pull into the drive real quiet. We got a gravel drive, so that’s easier said than done. So I cut the engine and pull the keys so the door won’t start beeping at me and I get out of the car and leave the door open and walk up to the back door, where there really ain’t windows to peek out of. I keep my keys in my purse so they don’t rattle around too much until I’m ready to open the door and I open it real quiet and leave it open. The back door opens into the laundry room, which we built onto the trailer I don’t know how long ago, and the laundry room opens into the hallway between my bedroom at the back and the kitchen in the middle.
My room was empty but I could hear Missy’s TV on from down the hall and I just kept thinking oh lord you do anything to my girl. Well I tiptoed on down the hallway, avoiding all the little spots I know groan when you step on them, and I kept my hand in my purse so the keys wouldn’t rattle. I peeked my head into Missy’s door, which was open, and there they were.
Rabbit was sitting there on the bed, his shirt was off and he was real tan like he would get after driving those east-west trips when you’re always driving into the sun. He looked up at me and smiled. Missy was on the floor just watching her TV as happy as can be, and she looked up at me and said, “Hi, Mommy.”
So I look at Rabbit and I say, in just my sweetest voice cause I don’t want Missy to get scared, “What in the hell are you doing here?” Just as nice as can be, like he was just an old friend dropping in as a surprise.
He said something like, “I just wanted to see my girls for the holidays,” and something about it being lonely to be away from your family, and I could see something in his eyes that was just crazier than hell. Who knows how long he’d been making his runs, going without sleep, but speed freaks can get the eyes like he had, like you were putting too much power through a lightbulb and it was burning brighter than it ought to and you just know there’s something gonna break before long. That’s what he was doing back before we met. He’d do runs that ought to take three or four days in one or two, popping those west coast turnarounds the whole way, but I told him after we got together he’d have to cut that shit out cause I didn’t like the way it made him, like a live wire ready to jump and bite you.
So I tell him, real nice like, that he might wanna leave before Mike gets home and he tells me, no, he’d really like to meet Mike. He said it in a way that you know it’s going to be trouble, that he’d really like to meet him, like he has something in mind for when he does. I’m trying to keep my cool, cause I don’t wanna scare Missy, and I’m kicking myself for letting her be so nice to people that she’d let Rabbit come and take her home and now here we are in this position. Well, I tell him he’s gonna leave one way or the other and he stops smiling and his eyes get kinda dark and he says he’s not going anywhere.
That’s when he pulled out the blade. He always kept an automatic knife in his truck, cause he said you never knew who was out there at those rest stops and you could hide away a knife in your boot if you got stopped, but hiding a gun was something else. He’d show me how you’d hit the button and the blade would spring out, and that’s what he did, sitting right there on Missy’s bed. He hit the button and the blade come out with a little click almost like magic and his left hand went out and grabbed her arm and he was just smiling, but not a nice smile, like a hungry smile.
I didn’t think about it, but I put two hollow points in his chest, right on the left side close to where the heart is supposed to be. He’d bought me the gun off one of his trucking buddies and I generally kept it in my bedroom, under my side of the bed, but since that guy out at the technical college had been killing those young girls I’d started carrying it in my purse, just in case. I must have been holding it the whole time, all the way down the hall, when I thought I was holding onto my keys cause when that knife came out I just raised that purse in my right hand and squeezed and that purse just come all apart until there wasn’t anything left but the gun.
You could see the surprise on his face, cause that was the last thing he was expecting. He let go of Missy right quick and she came up and over to me and grabbed me around the waist. Rabbit was leaned up against the wall and I held the gun on him and the life just sort of drained out of him. He slid down the wall, like he was getting heavier and heavier, and his head finally rolled off to the side until he was looking down at Missy’s dinosaur sheets and that’s when I knew he was dead.
I told Missy to go get the phone and call the police and I could hear her crying from my bedroom while she was talking to y’all and I just sat down there on the floor, right about where Missy had been watching TV and watched him and tried to feel something but I didn’t feel anything at all. I don’t know how long I’d been carrying that gun in my purse, which was illegal in the first place, and I knew it was, but when that guy started killing those girls, and there were those carjackings downtown out by where I work, and I said I wasn’t going to let nobody come and drag me outta my car, especially if Missy was with me, and the more I carried it the more nothing happened. I built myself up for something to happen anyway. I probably thought about it every day. Maybe that’s why I didn’t think nothing about it. I’d played that scenario in my head so many times, pulling the trigger on somebody, that it was like I’d already done it hundred times.
After that y’all showed up and handcuffed me and took me in, with the gun as evidence, and all that, and honestly I just couldn’t be less concerned about the whole thing. Which isn’t what I ought to be saying, I know, but I got no reason to lie. I just lay in there and think about being on that porch with Missy and Mike and watching the sun go down all quiet like and with a clear conscience.