Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Issue #34 -- August, 2012

THE TIES THAT BIND
by Chris Leek

By the time I was eighteen, my old man was a two time loser. Just one more bar fight away from a permanent six by eight room down at Carson City. He’d only got out of there in January, paroled six months early from a five stretch. That was a pretty easy ride considering he’d left a guy shitting through a tube, all over some $20 whore from Elko.

It was too much for my mom; just the thought of him back in our house sent her off the deep end. I come back from work, banging the snow off my boots and found her sitting buff naked on the cold kitchen floor, rocking back and forth, just sort of hugging herself. On the table was a letter from the parole board saying how they were letting good old Brad Fisher out early on account of him being a reformed character and all.

Soon as she got her senses back she took off for family in Mesquite. I didn’t blame her one bit. I was young back then but I remember well enough the bruises he’d put on her. It got so some days her face looked like banana that had gone over. If I had any sense I would’ve gone with her, but sense was hard to come by when I was around Jaycee Morris.

***

The day Lester Smith pulled on his pants for the last time was as fine and warm as any that spring. It was past noon on Saturday I was working out back on my truck while my old man was sleeping Friday night off in the house. He’d been home three or four months by then and so far we’d rubbed along okay, mostly by keeping clear of each other.

“Hey Pete.”

I looked up and saw Jaycee walking toward me across the meadow, her bare feet caked in drying mud from the creek. She was wearing nothing but Daisy Duke cut offs and a little white t-shirt she’d tied in a knot so as it showed off her tits. I swear she was like a vision sent from heaven.

Jaycee lived across the drift in a two room tar paper shack with her Grandma and a party of scrawny chickens. She was bare seventeen years old and had these huge blue eyes that were too big for her face, dirty blonde hair that never saw a brush and chipped pink nail polish on her fingers and toes. She was no more than skinny white trash but to me she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I would have walked through fire for Jaycee and she knew it.

“Did you fix your truck yet?” she asked, sliding up next to me and peeping under the hood.

“I almost got it,” I said, although that beater was never more than 20 or so miles away from another breakdown.

“Give me $10 Petey?” She asked knowing I got it ’cause I’d been paid.

“For what? I gave you $5 just last night.”

“If you give me $10 you can take me to the drive-in tonight and I’ll do that thing with my mouth,” she said, twisting her hair around a finger and looking up at me with those enormous eyes. She played me like a god damn slot machine and knew exactly how hard to yank the handle to make me to pay out.

***

It was getting on for dark when I finally coaxed that tapped out engine back into life. Jaycee had spent the afternoon lying off in the long grass, bumming my cigarettes and picking the dirt from under her nails with a twig. I had some ideas about what we could do when I joined her in the grass but as the motor spluttered and caught she jumped up, and climbed in the truck.

“C’mon Pete let’s go, or we’ll miss the start of the movie.”

By the time we got to the Motor-Vu the place was full to bursting. It was the first night of the new Rocky movie; I don’t remember which one but they were all much the same. I had to go park way over in back. The warp in the old plywood screen meant that from here it would be like watching through the bottom of a milk bottle. I found a spot, killed the motor and pulled the speaker in, hooking it on the window.

“Petey will you go get me a soda?”

“Hell Jaycee, the movie’s starting.”

“Aw go on, pleaseee, I’m real thirsty.” Those eyes again, I had already lost.

I hiked across the lot and stood in line at the concession stand, watching the action playing above me on the screen. Stallone was hitting some black guy and getting punched back, every blow sounded like a steel hammer pounding on a box girder.

I bought a big chug of soda and went to find chemical Eric. He was at his usual pitch behind the john and I managed to score a couple of bennies from him for two bucks a piece. I swallowed them both down with a gulp of coke before walking back through the endless rows of cars and trucks. You could see the folks inside, lit by the dim glow of the 7W bulbs hung on the speaker poles. Slices of life played out in those little capsules of light; people eating, talking, kissing and fooling around. It was like walking past the row of TV sets in old Hobson’s electrical store.

When I got to my truck there was a guy in bib overalls leaning in my window. Jaycee’s tongue was busy counting up his fillings. She saw me coming and pulled back, the guy turned around, squaring up to me.

I could feel the bennies kicking in, my blood pumping round me like it was in a real hurry and my dick stood out from my pants so as you could’ve hung a bucket from it.

“What the fuck are you lookin’ at dickweed?” he said.

He’s big as a horse but kinda dumb looking with a flat face that seemed like it might have some rooms available for rent behind it. I ain’t much of a fighter but I ain’t a coward neither so I fronted him out.

“You got your hands on my girl and my truck, either one’ll be enough to get you trouble.”

“Yeah, well fuck you, she don’t see it that way, do y’ darlin’?” he said all smug like.
Jaycee just sat there not saying nothing, looking at us and grinning like a cat that’s got the cream.

“Fuck you back asshole,” I said, dropping the coke and balling up my fists.

He swung at me then, like a rusty gate. Maybe it was the speed running through me but everything from there on happened like it was in slow motion.

I ducked his haymaker real easy and drove a fist into his gut; he folded over with a sound like steam escaping.

“Get him Pete, hurt him, hurt him bad,” Jaycee screamed out the window.

So I let fly with a big uppercut that caught him flush on the jaw and broke my little finger, but I didn’t feel it ’till later. He let out a groan and went down against the door. All around us headlights were snapping on and I heard people shouting. I got the crazy idea that they stopped showing Stallone and it was my fight playing on the big screen.

I don’t know if it was Jaycee yelling me on, but I did something I ain’t proud of then and laid my boot to his head. Blood splattered up the truck and his face skewed sideways with a horrible cracking noise.

“Jesus Petey, you done near killed him,” Jaycee said peering down out of the window, still grinning.

***

The pickup tore up rubber and spat out gravel as we slewed away from the drive in. I drove that pile of junk like it was a Pontiac Grand Prix and I was Richard Petty on the flag lap of the 500.

“Does your hand hurt much?” Jaycee asked as we hammered up the highway touching on 70.

“Some.” I said looking at my swollen knuckles and the new kink to my little finger.

“Am I really your girl Pete?”

“You know you are Jaycee, I just wish you’d act like it now and again.”

“You think they’ll call the cops?”

“Yeah… maybe, hell I don’t know.”

“Don’t be mad Petey,” she said and slid across the seat cozying up to me.

I put my arm around her bony shoulders, the cops didn’t matter then.

“We should go away you and me, just leave, maybe go and stay in Mesquite with my mom.” I said.

“What do I want to go to Mesquite for, I like it here.”

“Maybe it’ll be better, you know someplace else.”

“What if it’s not?”

I couldn’t think of an answer to that, it was hard to think straight when Jaycee had her hand in my shorts.

***

The pickup wheezed as we bounced up the rutted track to my place. It wasn’t even midnight but my old man’s rusted-out Ford was there so I sent Jaycee packing for home with a squeeze of her ass.

“I meant what I said ‘bout us going away,” I said.

She stood on tip toe and kissed me, biting my lip so hard I could taste blood.

“See ya’ tomorrow Rocky,” she said and ran off around back giggling.

I followed her and went in the back door hoping to avoid my dad. Usually on a weekend he would come back from the State with a mean skin full looking for someone to take it out on, either that or he would get all melancholy for my mom and start in crying about how it weren’t fair. I soon learned it was best not to be home on a Saturday night. I wet a towel under the kitchen faucet and wrapped it around my bust hand.

“That you boy?” he called from the front room.

He was sat on the ruined couch, the stuffing poking out from the cushion behind his head made it look like his hair had gone mad. I could see right off something was wrong, he was drunk but beneath it he was scared too. I ain’t ever seen that in him before.

“I got trouble,” he said looking at the floor

“Bad?” I asked him knowing there weren’t any other kind in our house.

“Reckon so, I need you to do something for me and I need your truck.”

“What for, I just got it running?”

“Follow me.”

He took me out front and opened the trunk of his Ford. I noticed his hands shaking as he fumbled with the latch

“Is that Lester Smith?” I asked peering at the crumpled body among the rusty tools and empty beer cans. He was hard to make out with his neck all twisted around like that but I could still read Lester’s Bait & Ammo sewed on his shirt pocket.

“Yep, I guess it is,” my dad said, rubbing his chin.

“How… What… Is he dead?”

“It weren’t my fault, hell you know I liked Lester.”

“Then why the fuck is he in the trunk?”

“It was just damn crazy. I was coming back from the State, I guess I had a drink or two but I was alright. I come around the corner by the bait shop and there’s Lester stood in the road. He’s got a bottle in one hand and his dick in the other; hollering at the moon like a banshee and taking a fuckin’ wiz in the middle of the street, before I knew it I’d flipped him clean over the roof... Like I said it weren’t my fault.”

“Then if it was an accident, why didn’t you call an ambulance or something?”

“I dunno, I got out and seen he’s all mashed up and I guess I just panicked.”

“Shit.” Was all I could think to say.

We stood there both of us just staring at Lester and him staring back without seeing us through his one bloodshot eye, the other one wasn’t there anymore.

“You know what the law thinks of me; they’ll try and stick me with murder this time for sure.”

“Then what the hell do we do?”

“I figured I’ll take Lester out to the hot springs ; the holes in the ground up there go real deep. I’ll need your truck though, the Ford’s about had it, besides there’s bits of him stuck all over the front. It'll need you to go burn it out.”

There was nothing to say, blood was blood and he was mine, no matter what I might think about it. I went and dragged an old tarp out from under the porch and together we lifted Lester out of the trunk and dumped him on it. His head was nearly on backwards and he was already starting to stink up. I could feel myself getting sick and forced it away. The old man rolled him up and we carried him to the bed of my pickup.

“You get in a fight boy?” he asked, noticing the towel around my hand.

“Yeah, but it weren’t nothing,” I said, thinking the cops might be asking me about something other than Lester Smith in the morning.

“Over that Morris girl I’ll bet, I knew her father, they ain’t a good family.”

Somehow he forgot we were carrying a stiff in a tarp and imagined ours was a whole heap better.

We heaved Lester up and he landed in the bed of the truck with a dull thud.

“Take the Ford out in the desert and make sure you torch it good, if anyone asks just tell them it got stolen.”

“Okay, assuming they believe someone’s desperate enough to steal that piece of shit what then?”

“I ain’t going to be around for a while, I guess maybe for good, so you gotta look to yourself from now on boy.” He said and held out his hand to me. I ain’t ever shaken my old man’s hand before and I don’t suppose I ever will again.

***

It was getting light as I walked back through the scrub, a smear of dirty smoke stained the pink dawn sky behind me as the Ford burned down to its rubbers out past the drift.

I walked past Jaycee’s house, startling some chickens that went flapping across the door yard. I thought about her curled up inside all naked under her blanket. I wished I could stay, wished she would come away with me.

I wished it could be different.

Chris Leek lives mostly in Cambridge, England, and occasionally in Henderson, Nevada. He writes mainly for the hell of it and perhaps also for the good of his soul. His work has been widely published on the web, recent examples can be found at The Molotov Cocktail, Near To The Knuckle and In Between Altered States. More can be found here: http://nevadaroadkill.blogspot.com/

9 comments:

  1. That was a damn good read, Chris.

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    1. Hey thanks Thomas, coming from you that means a lot.

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  2. Replies
    1. Many thanks Paul, much appreciated.

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  4. Pretty woman sure do screw ya up sometimes. Characters that breathe and live ring my bell. This story rang it so hard I'll bet you could hear it a block away. People, scene and mood are all perfect. Thaks, Chris. That's one helluva ride.

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    1. Thanks AJ, I'm really glad you dug it.

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  5. Amazing story, mate; beautiful writing - poetic and profound.

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    1. Hey, thanks man, as always I really appreciate you taking the time read my stuff.

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