It was Saturday night and there was this new zombie movie that was supposed to be a hoot. I didn't want to see it too bad, but Yo did. I just wanted to go out, and he had the car, so we hit the multiplex. The movie started at like 9:15. We did split a 40 on the drive over, and Yo might have had a couple before, but it's not true that we were all drunk and shit.
It was raining and thundering a little when we got out of the car; had to run for it. Inside there was a long line for the movie—all people in high school, pretty much. All the other movies had short lines because there wasn't anything else worth seeing. There were some kids from our school there but nobody who really mattered. It was noisy like usual, people talking in little groups, bullshitting around waiting for the screening room doors to open, and right in front of us happened to be these three stupid kids, like sixth graders. They were all excited, babbling, squealing when they laughed, mimicking voices from TV, jumping around and shit. Real irritating little homos.
Then these babes got in line behind us. There were three; two of them OK but a little skanky, but the other was this bad little blonde. She was like maybe fifteen, big eyes with that raccoon eye makeup, bare midriff with her jacket open even though it was a little cold out, low riders; made her look like a little slut. Which I like, of course. Who doesn't?
I caught her eye, I could tell. A lot of girls stare at me right off because I look good. Hey, I'm handsome, I admit it. Sounds like I'm bragging, but it's just true. People say it all the time. You know that old dead actor named James Dean? His movies suck, but he looks kind of like me, people say. He even makes expressions like me, facial expressions. My sister has a couple of his movies on DVD, and I can look in the mirror after seeing them and make the same faces. Yo, who's a homely-ass mutt, he tried to call me a 'pretty-boy' once. I mean, just once; he didn't say it again when I whacked him upside the head.
See, Yo—his real name was Josh, Josh Yoder—he was a big strong kid, he could kick anybody's ass, and he liked to, since that was about all he was good at, but I could always handle his shit. He wanted to be popular at school but for that he needed me more than I really needed him, never mind his dad's fucking Grand Am. I don't even like Grand Am's, but my folks didn't have a car at all.
Anyway, this little blonde, she was one to pretend she wasn't impressed, an act I was used to. It means they're real interested. She turned her head after our eyes met for a second, put her long blonde hair behind her ear, pouted and started talking and giggling in a cute squeaky voice to this one girl she was with. Cute and knew it; sure, they always know it. Knew I was watching her, too, primping and skipping around to show herself off, practically shaking her little butt at me.
Meanwhile, one of the dweeb kids in front of us, kid with these little rectangular glasses that are supposed to make you hip, was trying to impress his butt buddies by talking like that old vampire dude from the real old Dracula movies. He said like, "the soon-to-be-dead are among us here and now—there, and there and there, and there!" He turned around when he said that and pointed his finger at Yo. Bad mistake.
One of the other kids, the tallest one, almost as tall as me but scrawny, was grinning and laughing like it was a Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party, but when he turned and glanced at Yo and me, the looks on our faces, he clammed up and looked jittery. And he was the tall one, you know?
I mean, he didn't act that scared, but a little was enough, because it didn't take much for Yo to catch that scent of fear and go for it. Plus I wasn't inclined to discourage him right then, because these girls behind us were watching, you know. I'm not sure these little wussy boys had even noticed the girls; they didn't have dicks yet, if they ever would.
The third kid, the littlest guy, he had a black pixie haircut like the Beatles or some shit that his mom probably thought was cute on him. He looked like the wussiest one, but he was just smiling, watching his buddy with the glasses put on his show. The stupid kid who'd pointed, with the glasses, was still rattling on about vampires or some shit with this big grin on his face like he's Jay Leno.
"Kid's pretty funny, huh?" I said to Yo, but loud enough for the girls to hear. The girls snorted with amusement, or one of them did—the blonde, I hoped—and the wusses heard that and all three of them, even Jay Leno, got real still, like hamsters when a cat's in the room.
"Fuckin' smartass," said Yo in this deep voice he always put on when he was fucking with somebody. He put his second finger to his thumb and flicked Jay Leno on the back of the head, hard. Yo had these big fucking hands.
"Ow! Hey!" Jay Leno said, too loud, like a six-year-old would, rubbing his head where he'd been flicked. A girl behind us shrieked with glee, and somehow I knew that time it was the blonde, and a bunch of other people in the line heard it too, turned around to look and were cracking up. "Dat wuz smart," somebody said in a retard voice, and others were mimicking "Ow!" in a high-pitched homo voice just like the wussy kid.
The tall kid looked like he was going to start crying right there—fuckin' chickenshit—and the little pixie guy looked pretty worried too. They all there of them stayed quiet, like they were sad all of the sudden. There was a lot of chatter going otherwise, not because of Yo and this kid anymore, just the usual shooting the shit.
The doors opened finally, a relief to the wusses I'm sure, but this wasn't going to be the end of it.
We all filed in, past the slow-ass ticket-takers in their white shirts and black trou. A loud preview was showing as we walked into the showing room. Yo was headed for seats down front, but I put a hand on his shoulder and pointed to a spot where the wusses had just sat down. Yo nodded and grinned. He always looked like Goofy from Disney cartoons when he smiled like that, even in the weird light from the movie screen.
We sat, and before long I heard the same squeaky giggling as before from the seats in the row behind us. It was my little blonde and her buddies. I turned my head and rolled my eyes, letting my mouth hang open just a little. It was a look I'd practiced at home with this one James Dean movie. Me and the blonde exchanged glances again. She looked real excited now, but again, she tried to hide it, looked away and put on the fake pout. I kept watching, and after a couple seconds she looked right back at me, smiled real wide like she couldn't help it, but then went back to the pout and looked away.
Yo started to bring up his foot, to put it in the face of the scaredy-cat tall kid who was sitting in front of him, but I said, "Be cool, wait for the movie to start." He grinned and nodded.
The previews went on forever, and the movie finally started up. It was the usual thing, a little boring at first but pretty soon had some good zombie attacks with a lot of spurting blood and shit. The zombies in this movie were fast, and did these evil cackling laughs. I let it run on for a good while before I elbowed Yo to remind him of the wusses waiting to be fucked with. Had to elbow him a couple times, I guess he'd gotten wrapped up in the movie.
He nodded, raised his foot and put it over the back of the tall kid's seat into the side of his face, but fixed on the screen again when as a real rotted zombie chomped into a bonneted baby's skull, while everybody laughed and shrieked and shit. Yo was laughing too. He had a real deep retarded-sounding laugh.
"Hey, quit it!" said the tall kid, with a whine in his voice, pushing Yo's foot away. He put it right back, and the kid got up and moved to another seat, way at the far end of the aisle. Yo looked at me and grinned open-mouthed, bobbing his head in a silent laugh.
A bunch of people chortled, but Yo seemed to lose his amusement all the sudden. Zombies on the screen were now running down the aisles of a nursing home, carrying chain saws and decapitating old folks in wheel chairs, while more zombies came up behind them, catching the old wrinkled up white-haired heads and stringing them together by the hair as they ran, with the heads still screaming as the zombies strung them together. It was pretty cool.
Yo bent over to ask me right up in my ear, "You think heads could still scream like that?"
"Naw," I said, "only in movies."
"Not even for, like, a second?" I just shook my head no, 'cause I wanted to watch the movie myself at that point.
Yo laughed heartily again as a zombie attacked a fat black custodian carrying a vacuum cleaner, backing him into a corner, taking the cleaner away from him and beating his wide-eyed terrified face all bloody with the base of it. Then the zombie used the vacuum to suck the guy's face completely off, his eyeballs too, which came out of the sockets with a pop. Everybody in the theater went nuts over that. The zombie himself did this real insane laugh all through it. It was real funny how Yo's laugh sounded just like the zombie's laugh, only deeper, which got me and other people nearby to chuckling along.
After awhile though, the carnage onscreen all seemed about the same, and I wondered if the blonde girl was still thinking about me. I heard some murmuring, and turned around in my seat to see, to my dismay, that she and her girlfriends were talking to some guy sitting behind them. I turned back around, annoyed.
But then somebody tapped me on the shoulder. It was her. First time I got to look right in her face. She was really cute, close up even, and acted a little nervous. "Scuse me, would you like this popcorn?" She held up a large, half-empty tub of dry, unbuttered corn.
"Don-naaa," said one of her friends, as if surprised at her.
"You don't want it?" I said.
"No we don't want it," said the blonde. Donna.
I didn't want it either, but took it, of course, exchanging smiles with Donna. When I turned back around, I had an idea. "Want some?" I said to Yo.
"Yeah, great," he said, putting the container between his knees and digging a big handful out.
I leaned toward him. "Hey, Yo, we're neglecting the sideshow, man," I said.
"Wha' sho'?" he said, with his mouth full, munching.
"The wusses. Why are we letting them live?"
"Them." I pointed.
"I don't fuckin' care," he said.
"We could decorate them a little." I mimicked taking a piece of popcorn and tossing it unto the head of the Jay Leno kid, who was sitting in front of me. I noticed even as I did this that the pixie kid had gotten out of his seat, excused himself past a couple people and walked back up the aisle. Might have heard me talking and was going to tell on us, but might also just be going to the bathroom.
"Yeah, I guess. Popcorn's greasy anyway." At that, he started tossing the popcorn onto the kid's head. He frantically brushed it off, whimpering a little. A girl behind us squealed out a laugh, but another said, "It's not funny."
"Cool it for now, we might have a little snitch on our hands," I told Yo, but, amused by the wusses' reaction, he kept tossing.
A light went on at the side of my face, a flashlight. One of the ushers was pointing it, a big older guy. He spoke sternly, though in a low voice. "Excuse me, sir. You and your friend will have to leave. Right now."
"Why, we're not—"
"Right now, or we'll have the police here in two minutes. You've disrupted the show enough already. Out." The pixie was standing beside him, with a big snotty scowl on his face. Fuckin' snitch.
"I didn't do anything," said Yo.
"Ahhhh," I heard a girl say, "that's not fair." It was my little babe Donna.
"Good riddance," said another. That was that one friend of hers. Cunt.
"C'mon, let's split. Movie sucks anyway." I got up, and Yo groaned and got up after me, and we trudged up the aisle with the usher walking behind, none too fast so that it didn't look like we were intimidated. We chuckled a little, too, I did anyway. People we passed glanced at us warily, though the movie got loud just then, sounded like machine-gun fire. Yo stopped for a second and looked back at the screen. I could tell he was bummed. I think somebody in the audience said "asshole," up near the exit, but they probably meant the usher rather than us.
Once we got to the lobby, the guy with the flashlight stopped and stood with his arms folded watching us leave, like he was the sheriff running us out of town. A couple of the other ticket takers, girls, came up and joined him, glaring at us. I wondered which girl the fucking jerk was trying to impress. I was going to flip him off, didn't bother, just turned around and smirked at him as we reached the doors.
We went outside. There was a brisk wind, felt good after the rain. The puddles bobbed with light from the tall parking lot lamps. Made me want to do something, get some fucking kicks before the night was over. To see that Donna, talk to her, maybe get her in the car even. Hell, the night was young. I checked my watch, it was after 11. We were in there longer than it seemed, the movie would be almost over.
"Fuck, man, I wanted to see how the movie ended," said Yo.
"Yeah, me too," though I didn't really. "You wanna wait and see if those fuckin' wusses come out? It's about over."
"Yeah, let's do that. I'm pretty pissed off. Fuckin' seventeen dollars to see the movie." Actually, it was eight-fifty a ticket, but he'd paid my way 'cause I was broke. "You know what, man? This fuckin' pisses me off the more I think about it," he said.
"Little fuckin' wusses, man," I said. "Did you see that one who went and got the usher to throw us out? Looked like the mean guy from the Three Stooges. Ever see the Three Stooges?"
"I feel like kickin' somebody's butt, man," Yo said, lighting up a cigarette. "I'm serious. Watch the whole movie to almost the end and don't get to see it. People fuck with me they get fucked up, man. You know?"
"I know it," I said. This was just vintage Yo-man.
"After they come out an' shit, we'll go back to my place and get some more beer," he added. "My dad's got a bunch in the garage."
"That’d be cool. Hey look, here comes some people, must be over." I didn't see the wusses, or Donna, among all the kids coming out the entrance. I looked around the parking lot. "Let's get behind that pickup over there, if they see us they'll just run back inside."
We did so, and pretty soon the wusses came out among the crowd, the pixie, the tall one and the one with glasses, not looking very happy and walking fast. Maybe they figured we could be waiting. And there not far behind them was my little fox Donna and her two skanky friends.
The wusses were probably headed into the mall to get picked up by their mom, but as it happened they walked right by us. "Hey, buddy," said Yo in his menacing voice, stepping out. He was talking to the pixie, glaring at him.
"You guys better leave us alone," said the Jay Leno one, his voice getting high like with helium. They all looked scared, especially the tall one; he was shaking like a chihuahua.
"You didn't have to run and snitch like a little fuckin' girl," said Yo, as if he was seriously scolding the kid. "You could of just said 'quit throwin' popcorn on me,' and I would have."
"We don't want anything to do with you," said the pixie. His voice wasn't shaking, but you could see from his eyes he was about pissing his pants.
"It's not cool to be a fuckin' snitch, man." Yo grabbed the kid by the collar, put his foot behind his ankle, tripped him, and sat on him. "I don't like fuckin' snitches, man." He backhanded the kid across the face. I could see this was going to be bad. Yo was real pissed about the movie, I guess. These kids' parents might be there screaming any minute.
The kid, to my surprise, tried to punch him back. Yo grabbed the kid's wrists, turned his head and said "Didja see that? Tried to suckerpunch me!" People were gathering around the two of them and me, some glaring at us, some smiling because they liked to see a fight, like I usually did, but not now. Yo was getting all carried away.
"Let him up, Yo, we gotta go," I said. "Let's go."
To my surprise, Yo punched the kid in the middle of his face, pretty hard. You could hear a crunch, and the kid started to shriek. His nose looked squashed, there was blood coming out of it. He hit him again.
"Stop it! Stop it!" a girl standing by kept saying, like a tape loop. I started worrying somebody in the crowd might jump in to be a hero. I saw Donna then, in the back of the crowd, craning her neck to see.
"Jesus fuck, man, c'mon!" I grabbed at Yo's arm, and at that moment, the kid tried to punch him back again, a straight-up punch, missing his face and hitting him square in the throat. I guess he was strong for a little guy, or else hit Yo just right. I heard this loud snap.
Yo made a long weird bellow, rolled off the kid and curled up sideways on the asphalt. He put his hands around his throat and pumped his legs real hard, shuddering more and more, and the bellow turned into this awful snorting sound. He snorted faster and faster, couldn't seem to stop.
He looked up at me, his eyes begging, but there was nothing I could do. The snorting got more and more hoarse, 'til it was just a hiss. His face was getting dark, like bluish grey, you could see it changing real fast, just darker and darker. Girls in the crowd watching, maybe guys too, started to scream and cry.
The usher who'd thrown us out was there, talking on his cellphone, putting it flat on his shoulder as he yelled at the crowd to stay back. Then Yo, his face shiny and almost black even under the bright light of the lamps, made another sound, like he was gargling some mouthwash, only harsher. After a few more seconds, it ended.
He still seemed to stare back at me, and his tongue was sticking out of his mouth, bunched up real thick. I hate to say, but he looked even more like Goofy that way. I couldn't look at him anymore. I heard a faraway siren.
I don't know what was happening right after that, it's kind of a blur. There was some old fat guy with a chin beard and glasses yelling at me and crying. I don't know how I know this, but I'm pretty sure he was one of the wusses' dads, probably there to pick them up. I decided not to talk to him.
Somebody yanked me by the arm and led me to sit down in a car. I thought it was Yo's car, but once inside I heard this staticky talk from the dashboard, and thought, when did Yo get a shortwave radio? But it was a squad car. A cop was asking me some questions in a loud slow voice like he was talking to an idiot, but the questions didn't make too much sense. It was like a dream where slow, stupid stuff keeps happening and you get all frustrated.
The one thing I recall clearly was looking out the window and seeing Donna, a little distance away, talking to another cop. "We were there, he didn't do it, it was the other guy," I heard her say a couple times, while her girlfriend who didn't like me was pulling at her, saying "Donna, Donna, my God."
Maybe it was because my heart was going fast, but it was like what I was seeing before me was galloping, like a movie that's out-of-kilter, so that light from the lamps reflected in rain puddles kept jumping around real frantically in a pattern. It felt like I was getting hypnotized.
They left me alone for a minute, and as I sat quietly in the squad car, there was Donna again. Her friend was gone, and she was all blonde and pretty, standing a few feet away right under a light pole so the light shone down on her and brightened up her hair to almost white, just like an angel or something.
She cocked her head to one side, smiled real sweet and waved at me. Damned if I didn't wave back like everything was cool, automatically doing one of my James Dean faces. It's crazy, but I remember thinking that it was just fate, destiny, that this was supposed to happen, my days hanging with Yo were over, and now there'd be Donna. But what would I do for a car?
I was out of my head. It turned out it didn't matter, anyway, because I never did see Donna again.
Pete Risley is the author of the novel Rabid Child, published by New pulp Press in 2010. His short stories have appeared in Thrillers, Killers and Chillers, A Twist of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine. He lives in Columbus, OH.
Janice and I were just getting into bed when I remembered I still had Lenny’s body in my trunk. You’d think you wouldn’t forget something like that, but it had been a long day.
It was like one of those hourglass things where the sand falls from the top to the bottom. When Mr. Sharp put a bullet in Lenny’s head, the top was at least half full, maybe more. After that came a bunch of payment pickups, roughing up that Pakistani convenience store owner, getting groceries so Janice didn’t kick my ass and then a late dinner.
The last grains of sand were falling as I drained my third beer, hit the can and then climbed the stairs to the bedroom. I sat on the edge of the bed, about to pull my shoes off. That last grain of sand teetered on the brink, ready to slip through to the bottom as my head hit my pillow. That's when I remembered Lenny.
I laced my shoes up again and pushed myself up off the bed.
“Where you goin’?” Janice said.
“I just remembered some stuff I gotta do for Mr. Sharp,” I said. “Don’t bother waiting up.”
"Right," she said. "Mr. Sharp. Why don't you just call him Uncle Florian?"
"I don't want to get into that now. I gotta keep work and homelife separate, you know that."
She knew the drill, even though we had never talked about what exactly it is I do. I was her second husband, and was well into this before we even met. She chooses to look the other way and accepts that she doesn’t have to work.
I went out to the garage and keyed the trunk release. The lid popped up a couple inches. I’ll admit that I jumped back, thinking for a split second that Lenny was gonna come up out of there and tackle me. ’Course, if the guy could survive a slug in the brain, I guess he deserved to take a swing at me. Nothing moved, so I lifted the lid the rest of the way.
Lenny was wrapped in a canvas tarp that had been in my trunk; he looked like the big bag of softball bats I carried around when I was coaching Janice’s kid, back before he went to live with his dad. If those kids only knew what I did with those bats between practices.
I probably had enough gas to get to the station down the block, but I had coasted into the garage on fumes and didn’t want to risk getting stranded and having a cop show up to help me. Or worse, standing at a gas pump to fill up and have Mr. Sharp or one of the other guys drive by. That would lead to an inspection of my trunk and the very physical expression of the resulting disappointment.
You might think it was overkill, but Mr. Sharp was specific about some things. He’d had his attorney come into the copy shop that was our front to give what he called a “tactical seminar.” Basically, he told us what we could and couldn’t do if we ever got pinched.
This one had been Lenny’s fault, actually. He was with Phil, driving someplace to get rid of another body – we don’t make a habit of whackin’ guys, but sometimes people get out of line. Phil was speeding and he got pulled over. The cop asked if Phil knew why he had been stopped and Lenny leaned over and said, “It probably has something to do with that body in the trunk.” He was trying to be funny, figuring he’d have a good story to tell when they got back from the dump. As we learned later, he had instead given the cop probable cause, and because the cop had a hard-on for Phil – something about an old high school grudge over a girl, if I remember – that meant a search of the car, discovery of the body and 10 to 20 for Phil. Lenny somehow avoided doing time, and in hindsight, assuming you can reconsider from beyond the grave, he probably wished he’d been in prison instead of on the wrong side of Mr. Sharp’s Glock.
So, Mr. Sharp would not be happy if he found out I’d driven around all day and come home with Lenny’s body in my trunk. That left one option: I had to bury Lenny in the backyard.
It had started to rain, which I took as a good sign. Wet ground is easier to dig than rock-hard dry stuff, right? Wrong. I was in the darkest part of our yard, behind the detached garage in a little space bordered by thick bushes on two other sides. No one was likely to see me. My neighbor to the north, Bill, was a sheriff’s deputy in the next county over. He didn’t have jurisdiction over much of what we did, or even his own neighborhood, but I didn’t need him seeing me bury a body. I actually liked having him next door. Mr. Sharp never came to visit, and neither did any of the other guys. My home was my sanctuary.
Two spadefuls in, I realized the wet dirt was going to stick to the blade, essentially doubling the time it would take to dig a decent-sized hole. I rationalized that a half-decent hole was good enough, got about two feet down and threw Lenny in. The canvas came loose, leaving him sprawled there face up. I covered him with dirt, stomped it down good and then spread some leaves and wood chips over the space. The shadow of the garage keeps grass from growing back there, so I wasn't tearing up pristine lawn to bury the idiot.
It was after 3 when I got back in and later still by the time I’d showered, put on fresh boxers and a T-shirt and crawled into bed. Other than change the pitch of her snoring as she shifted to accommodate me, Janice didn’t acknowledge my return. So much the better. I felt halfway through the next day’s ration of hourglass sand, and needed to catch some sleep without answering questions.
When I came down later that morning, Janice was already gone. I had a bowl of cereal and stale coffee from the pot she’d left on the burner, and then called in. Carl told me Mr. Sharp needed a ride and that I should come in.
As I poured the rest of the foul coffee into the sink, I looked out and saw that the spot where I’d dug the night before was easy to see. I’d have to deal with that when I got back. Janice was a go-along to get-along kind of gal, but even she would wonder about a fresh hole in the lawn.
As I backed the car out, I heard a yelp and then a crunch. I got out and saw Toby, Janice’s old Labrador, wedged under my back tire. The old bag of bones must’ve been sleeping in the driveway, trying to grab some heat from the sun-baked pavement. He was deaf and half-blind, so he probably didn’t even notice that the car had started. I got in and pulled forward a couple of feet to get the wheel off of Toby's body.
I thought about loading him in the trunk, taking him someplace and then telling Janice that he must have run away, but the last thing I needed was a dead dog in the trunk when I picked up Mr. Sharp. Then I got an idea. I’d bury him with Lenny. Janice would still be sad and/or pissed, but at least it would explain the hole in the ground.
I called Carl and told him my car wouldn’t start. That would cause headaches, too, but I’d rather deal with that than the alternative. I steered a wheelbarrow out from the garage, loaded up Toby’s body and carted him around back. I dug up the hole, uncovering Lenny. I couldn’t stand to look at him in the daylight, so I quickly threw Toby in on top of him, and filled in the hole.
I hosed off the shovel, leaned it against the house to dry and went back inside to shower and change again. I called Carl back, and he told me to head to the copy shop to pick up Mr. Sharp. It was a pretty uneventful day, and knowing that my trunk was devoid of dead bodies – human, canine or otherwise – I was able to relax.
When I got home early that evening, Janice was standing at the sink, drinking a glass of lemonade and looking out the window into the backyard. Without turning, she asked, “What were you digging up last night?”
“What make you think I was digging anything up?”
“Do we have to play this game? You disappeared for two hours last night, and now there is a bare patch of dirt at the back of the yard.”
“OK, Columbo, so I was digging. But it was this morning. Last night I was just doing some stuff for Mr. Sharp, like I said.”
“What, you're suddenly a gardener?” she asked.
I told her about hitting Toby and burying his body out back.
“I knew you’d want to be a part of that, but you can’t just leave a dead dog lying around,” I said. “I figured you’d want him close, so I put him in the back yard. I thought we could go out there tonight with candles and say something about him. You know, like a service.”
I thought sure she’s slug me for killing her dog. Proving I know nothing about women, she instead grabbed me in a hug and said, “That’s sweet. You really did like him, didn’t you?”
That night, candles in hand, we stood next to the final resting place of Toby and Lenny. Janice nudged me, and I realized she wanted me to say something.
"Well, um, Toby, you were a great old dog," I said. I couldn't keep from thinking about Lenny. "And, ah, you made some dumb decisions, but I hope you're in a better place."
Janice scrunched her face in confusion and looked at me. I shrugged and raised my candle as if giving a toast. She said a few words about having had fun with Toby over the years, and then blew out her candle. I did likewise and we went inside.
The next couple of days were uneventful. Workwise, anyway. Janice and I actually got along better than we had in a while.If I’d known a dead dog could lead to some action in the sack, I would have run over him a long time ago.
I came home one evening that week to find my neighbor, Bill, sitting on a lawn chair on my deck, drinking a beer. Another bottle sat at his feet, a puddle of condensation showing he had been there a while.
“Hey, hope you don’t mind,” he said. “Thought I’d catch you.”
“No problem,” I said, taking the beer from his outstretched hand. I wiped the sweat off on my pants, twisted the cap off and took a drink. “So, what’s up?”
“I wanted to borrow your shovel,” he said, pointing to where it was still propped against the side of the house. “Sally's been wanting me to plant some hostas. She's at her mother's for a few days, so I thought I'd surprise her. I busted the handle on mine and haven't had the chance to get a new one."
“You putting them up by the house?”
“No, out in the back corner. I hate hostas, but I guess out there they'll be all right. Damn things spread so much, I’ll have hardly anything to mow back there in a couple of years.”
I took another sip of beer and then grabbed the shovel. As he reached out to take it, he gestured with his other hand to the spot in our yard where I had buried Lenny and Toby.
“Did you bury something? Looks like you’ve got a little burial mound out there or something. You finally do something with that bare patch and you make it more obvious?” he said, ribbing me about a sore subject.
He was right; there was a pronounced hump there, like a pitcher's mound. I knew the ground had been flat when I’d buried Toby. This wasn’t good.
“It’s Toby,” I said. “Hit him with the car a couple of days ago. Janice was pretty busted up about it.”
“Oh, wow. I guess I haven’t seen him around in a while. Well, did you just open a hole and throw him in? Probably bloated on you in this heat. If you want, I can help you dig him back up and put him deeper.”
“No!” All I could picture was him putting a spade into Lenny’s gut and me headed to prison. “I mean, you don’t have to do that. I’ll take care of it.”
“Well, I’d better leave your shovel then,” he said.
“OK,” I said, patting him on the back. "Thanks."
I thought I’d wait until dark, but Janice came home and immediately noticed the hump.
“What’s that,” she said when she got out of the car. “Why is the ground all raised up like that?”
I told her Toby had probably bloated and that I was going to wait until later in the evening to take care of it.
“Why would you wait until you can’t see? Just do it now. Dig him back up and see what you can do.”
“Because, I, um, I don't want you to have to see that," I said. "You need to remember Toby the way he was."
I looked up to see if she'd bought it, and was relieved to see that she had.
"I think I know how to fix this," I said. "Why don't you go inside?”
"Even better; I'm going shopping." She went and got her purse, got in her car and headed out.
I went to the garage to find what I had in mind. After a couple of minutes of digging around, I unearthed a ski pole. I pulled off the plastic tip and took it out into the yard. I held it high above my head like a sword and drove it as hard as I could down into the ground. It went in about an inch and the force of it hitting the dirt made my hands slip halfway down the shaft, scraping my palm on the handle. I pulled it out and tried again. I didn’t hit the same spot, so I ended up with another hole about an inch deep and sore hands.
Bill must have heard me, because he came around the corner of the garage and said, “Need any help?”
I figured that as long as Lenny was underground, I was safe. And, I could use the assistance. I came around the garage and explained the situation with Toby. I asked if he had any suggestions.
“Why don’t you just dig him up?” I expected it this time, and didn't protest too much when it came.
“No, I would imagine he’s pretty ripe by now. I’d rather keep him under there if I can,” I said.
Bill nodded. Then he rubbed his chin as if in thought.
“I know. Hold on a minute.” He went back to his place and into the garage. He came out a couple of minutes later with an old metal stake used to prop up overgrown tomato plants.
“Why don’t you try this? You probably only need to get one good hole in there, I mean, him,” he said. "But if you do, back up quick, 'cause that'll be one little stink volcano you've unleashed."
I took it. It was about four feet long. I looked at Bill with a raised eyebrow. He wagged his chin toward the hump. I grabbed the stake tightly, raised it, then plunged it down and pulled it back out. Nothing. I did it again, and still nothing. It slid pretty easily into the dirt, so I kept doing it. I didn’t notice it at first, but each time I thrust the skewer down, I shouted, “Ha!” like a tae kwon do master. I felt like I was hitting something, but I couldn’t be sure. I tried to step onto the dirt to get it to go down, but nothing happened.
The last time I stuck the pole in, I came out with a twenty dollar bill on the end.
“Whoa!” Bill said. “That’s never worked for me before. What do you have down there, a money well or something?”
I looked at it for a minute, then realized it must be Lenny’s. I probably stabbed through his pants pocket and speared the money. I tried to think fast.
“I, uh, buried Toby with it,” I said. “He, uh, he was supposed to get a new bowl that day… that’s where I was going, actually, when I hit him. So, I thought I’d drop the money in there as kind of a way to say I was sorry.”
Bill was looking at the bill. He pointed. “What’s that?”
It was a red stain on the underside: blood.
“Wow, I must have got him then, huh? Why don’t I just wash off your stake and get that back to you and--”
“I don’t remember Toby being that big,” he said. He pointed again, this time at the ground. “You were sticking that thing all over. You were over here when you started,” he said, pointing a few feet away from where we stood. “And you speared that money over here,” he said, pointing at our feet. “Did you chop him up before you buried him or something?”
I felt a line of sweat forming at my brow and on my upper lip. "What? Ha ha, no!" I couldn’t let this thing unravel. I pretended the cell phone in my pocket was vibrating, and pulled it out. I flipped it open. “Hello. What? OK, I’ll be right there.” I hung up and told Bill that Janice needed me to check something for her and that I had to go.
“Well, go ahead and keep the stake for now. I’m not sure I’m going to want that back.” He walked backward for a few steps, keeping his eye on me, then turned and walked slowly to his house.
I ran to the house and called Mr. Sharp. This was a desperation move, I knew, but I needed help. I might get iced myself, but he also might get me out of this and keep me out of jail.
He and Carl came out about 20 minutes later. I brought them into the kitchen to survey the situation. Mr. Sharp had questions.
“You carried Lenny around in your trunk all day?”
“You buried him in your own backyard, not in the place we had talked about?”
“You couldn’t even be bothered to dig a deep enough hole that he wouldn’t be found?
“I guess not.”
He furrowed his brow and looked down at me.
“I mean, yes. Er, no. I mean--”
He put up a hand to shush me. “Enough. You screwed up. You know that. And you have placed this problem at my feet.”
They walked out to survey the spot. Mr. Sharp walked in a slow circle around the grave, then tapped his wingtip on the raised mound of dirt at the center. He walked over to Carl and whispered something in his ear, then came up to me.
"Go get your shovel and dig all of this up. The only way to fix this is to start over."
"But my neighbor is—"
"Tommy, just do what I say."
So I went up to the house, grabbed the shovel, and came back to start digging. It took about an hour, Mr. Sharp standing next to the hole the entire time, for me to get it all dug out.
"Now, please remove the dog and Lenny and get in there to dig it out deeper."
"You want me in the hole?"
"Yes, Tommy. You need to go down farther. It's the only way."
I reluctantly jumped into the shallow hole and began digging it deeper. As shovelful after shovelful was moved from the bottom of the hole to the grass above, I began to shudder as if cold. This was beginning to look like a grave built for three, or at least two men and a dog. I began to whimper a little bit, trying to keep quiet.
At one point, Mr. Sharp told me to stop.
"I'm not going to cap my sister's kid, no matter how stupid you are, so quit blubbering," he said quietly. "Now climb out of there and put the dog and Lenny back in."
I scrambled out as quickly as possible and did as he instructed. Standing on the edge of the hole, I panicked, waiting to feel a gun barrel pressed to the back of my head.
I turned as I heard Carl return. Bill was with him.
"You wanted to see me?" he said to Mr. Sharp.
"Yes, Deputy, look at this," he said, pointing to the hole.
"Oh my God," Bill said. "Tommy, what is this?"
He knelt down and reached a hand out to Lenny when Carl came up behind, pressed a silenced pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. There was a soft "pop" and then Bill pitched forward and into the hole. Mr. Sharp nudged me and I fell down after him.
"Arrange their bodies with the dog on top," he said. I pulled Bill's body over so it was next to Lenny, then grabbed Toby and laid him over top of them.
I climbed out before Mr. Sharp got any ideas, and stood next to him. Carl, with Bill's tomato stake in his hand, jumped into the hole and jabbed it into Lenny, Bill and Toby.
"That'll keep 'em from bloating," he said, sounding like he was talking from experience. He then pulled out a knife and began hacking at Bill.
Mr. Sharp put his arm around my shoulder and steered me away from the hole.
"Stop doing dumb things, Tommy," he said.
"But what about my neighbor? The sheriff isn't just going to let one of his guys disappear."
"It will be taken care of," he said.
A week later, I was sitting on the porch with Janice. She was thumbing through the paper, reading bits and pieces to me while I drank a beer.
"Oh my God," she said. "Bill is dead!"
"What?" I said, "How did you know?"
"It says so right here," she said, pointing at the paper. "His hand washed up on the shore of Lake Bernard.'The sheriff's department would not confirm rumors that Deputy Vincent had run afoul of the Luchese crime family after a recent investigation.' Do you know any of those Luchese guys?"
"Me? No. They're the real deal, Jan. Cold-blooded."
"That's so sad. Bill was a good neighbor," she said.
I nodded in agreement.
"He would have been surprised that you finally did something back there," she said, nodding toward the patch behind the garage. "He always gave you such grief about that."
I had planted a honeysuckle on that spot. They're supposed to do well in the shade, and I knew its blood-red berries would add a nice splash of color to the yard.
"Well," I said. "Maybe Bill is somewhere where he can admire that bush."
"First the gardening, and now you're getting spiritual on me, too?" she said, punching me lightly in the arm. "The way that thing is growing, it's obvious you have a green thumb."
"Yeah," I said, draining my beer. "Something like that."
John Kenyon's stories have appeared in Pulp Modern, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, ATwist of Noir, Thuglit and elsewhere. He is the editor of Grift Magazine (griftmagazine.com), and writes the blog Things I'd Rather Be Doing (tirbd.com). He lives in Iowa.