The following is the first chapter of a novel my father began about fifteen years ago. He never finished it, and thanks to the way the Endless are, he never will — but at least it provides evidence that I come by my expository style naturally.
Reading it now, after all this time, I can’t help but feel that Joe Bob worked for the Discovery Institute.
BAMM!!! Then, again, BAAAAMMMMM!!
Then, one more time, hard, BAAAAAMMMMMMMMMM!
The echo pounded back and forth off the walls of the dingy little hotel room. And damn near made my ears bleed.
Finally, I’d done it. That asshole Joe Bob was downright dead. But it wasn’t over.
I smelled as much as heard the other one, off to my right. I didn’t think. I just dropped down on my right knee and swung the barrel over on a shape hunkered in the corner…. But — even in the evening shadow — I could see the body language didn’t say “ambush.” It was more like cowering.
I know. I shoulda just blown that other muther away, too. Those two lowlifes had given me every reason to blow them both straight into dogshit heaven.
There were four rounds left in my fist. And the sick hate boiling up in my gut — and the adrenaline rush — wanted to flat out kill the other one too.
But she just looked so damn pathetic.
So, I’d regret it later. That’s how it always seems to go.
She just moaned: “Ohhhh, shit! Ahhhhh… heeeey…. whyja havta do that fo’ … Whoa…. ”
Like I say. Pretty pathetic. Right?
I’ll grant you, that cheap little room was quite a sight. Impressive ugliness. Well, $12.50 a night doesn’t buy much to begin with. A 10-foot by 12-foot worn-carpet space with a saggy twin bed, a beyond-scuffy dresser and a dirty two-foot-wide window view of the brick across the street. And now…
Wet brains were splattered all over. Three .45 hollow points can do great damage to a piece of human trash, which is what Joe Bob Morgan was. And I’d had the wherewithal to make it headshots. Now there was not a recognizable head left on Mr. Billy Bob. There was a messy stump.
Still, I was surprised it even registered in that poor fried brain of hers.
You know the type: Poor White Stringy Trash. I’ve always figured long-term malnutrition was to blame. Well, genetics, too. Whatever… I’d never had to deal with her kind much before. Let alone care about them. And just now I didn’t have the time or patience to screw around with her. My problems came first. And my main problem right now was remembering where the hell I parked my car… ’cause I had to get gone away quick. Alabama cops earned their reputation. I respect that.
Problems, problems, problems.
If it’s not one thing…
So, where’d I put that sucker? Hard to miss, you’d think… an ’89 Ford. Light blue…. Oh, hell… I’d better pick up another ride. After all, man, I just blew away somebody, made an ugly mess… real noisy… too loud… “Justifiable” is gonna mean diddly to these hot-dog peckerwood cops. They’ll be on my ass before you know it.
So, I gotta get clear…
So, I’m already outta here. Down three flights, across the street. Walking real calmly a half-block to the parking garage. Then up to the — what was it? — second level? Third? Thoughts are pounding faster than my heart. I made it over here, but… I can’t shake something…
It’s her. What the hell is she doin’ here. Who in the world woulda figured she could even walk after doing all that stuff?
So just who the hell is she chasing after me like she needed more trouble. Like I’m amazed she can even stand up after all the booze and pills she’s been doing. Let alone chase after somebody. What’s that poor creature up to?
Who cares. I gotta get outta here.
Whoooo. There’s gonna be some seriously redneck, unforgiving cops here soon. At least I haven’t burned one of them. Not exactly.
Still, there’s a dead white man to be accounted for, so they’ll all be all over my pitiful butt, all for no good reason, I might add.
Joe Bob had every reason to get his head blown off. Fact of the business is that he probably shoulda died slower, much more painfully.
Yeah, upon reflection, I have to admit that it is all together too bad I didn’t have time to even up Joe Bob Morgan’s karma. If I’d had a few more thoughtful minutes to kill him I could have drug it out and helped him get beyond the cockroach stage in his next reincarnation.
As it was, in that little room where it all finally came down, I just wanted to get the slimeball’s hands off of my throat. And — because of what he did to Charlotte and her kids — I wanted to get him off of this earth as quickly as possible.
Still, I feel just a little bit guilty about taking another person’s life. Hey, I was raised with a certain amount of Christian charity.
Well, that goodwill only goes so far. A 25-cent slug would have finished Joe Bob’s lady friend, but I hadn’t done it, so I had to listen to it:
“Heeeey, cummom, babe … it doesn hafta be like this. Cummon, hey, mister….. Oh woooh…. ”
Enough, already. How can anybody be so fried and still function, more or less…
She did take out a moment to throw up. Inside the parking garage, after shuffling-stumbling up to the second level, she slumped down between a blue minivan and a red Ford pickup. Kinda crumpled up she was, leaned up on her right hand, her back against the van. And she just effortlessly puked. Smoothly. Matter-of-factly. Hardly missed a spaced-out beat.
The vomit was clear enough I could make out five little red capsules in it. Come on, man. Quit focusing on these fine little details. I know the world is a fascinating collection of intriguing images. Like that two-inch ding in the passenger door of the Ford. Or that bracelet.
I hadn’t noticed it before. But when she wiped her mouth, in a dreamy, druggy sort of automatic way, the low sun through the concrete columns caught a glint of silver. And I almost stopped to inspect this collection of metal on her left wrist.
Snap out of it. Get with it. And get outta here.
Like, man, get with it or the next detail you hear is gonna be sirens. Move it!
But the brain works in its own mysterious ways, seeing what it wants to. Slicing the avalanche of life into digestible details.
Like that cigarette butt still smoldering just past Mary Beth’s pool of puke. I decided to ask the driver of the van for a ride. Maybe a smoke, too.
Instead of trying to explain a bunch of stuff, I just held the .45 up on the bottom of the window and hoped for the best.
“What do you want?”
“Hey. Look. I have the gun. Just … just … ” I almost said “shut up” but instead fumbled for the more gentlemanly, “… drive.”
“Ooookaaay.” The key was already in the ignition and she turned the key over. It caught. And I caught Mary Beth by the collar of her blue jean jacket and hoisted her up. She was all of 105 limp pounds.
Her feet sort of moved along as I dragged her around the back of the van to the sliding passenger door, swung it open and heaved her inside. She landed roughly in a dazed heap behind the driver. She was feeling no pain. Later, if she got clearer of mind, I wanted to ask her about that bracelet.
I got in up front, slammed the door closed and introduced myself: “Hi, my name’s Bryce. I just killed the no-good son-in-law of this county’s sheriff.”
“Oh… so… what am I supposed to do? Pee in my pants?”
“No, that’s OK. Just drive. You know. R is for reverse. Just back out and drive.”
“Drive where? And what about her?” Mary Beth was still pretty much a crumpled lump, but she had to try to speak up for herself: “whhhhaaaat the fuuuuuccccc…. ooohhhhh…. ”
“Do you have anything to cover her up with?” I was thinking about somehow being able to sneak past the parking garage attendant. Maybe getting a few minutes head start on the sheriff’s people.
“See for yourself. You’re the big man in charge.” OK, perhaps her sarcasm was a bit heavy. I didn’t need it. And I was the one in charge, right? I had the .45-caliber semi-automatic with four rounds left. I didn’t need her attitude. Well, maybe I did. It was a bit refreshing.
And she had this … detail … this scar, about an eighth of an inch long over her right eye. A really deep green right eye.
Forget these friggin details, man, and get the heck gone!
Ah. You hear that? The ambulance. The police. SWAT teams. National Guard. SEAL teams. I’m ready to leave.
“Come on. Drive. Just drive. Take a right out of the garage. Then left at the light. Go.
“And you…” I reached back to shove Mary Beth into a semi-sitting pose. “Just be quiet.”
The attendant was a black man in his early sixties with a crippled hand. He gave us fifty cents change and urged us to drive carefully.