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Twist: Chapter 18

11/19/13

  03:17:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 3371 words  
Categories: Twist

Twist: Chapter 18

A memory flooded back to me, a rain just like this one, soaking through me, as I dug the hole for our dog. I remembered looking around me, wishing Hanah was here. But she wasn't.

So I dug, in silence, crying as the rain pummeled me. A harsh word would have felled me in that moment- I would have welcomed the excuse to crumple into nothingness.

Instead I had to kneel down, and unwrap Leroy from the blanket. I remember my Bible stories enough that I worried he was still alive, in some kind of doggy coma. I checked him for a pulse, checked far longer than was rational or probably even sane, and began to sob. I held his fur to my face and cried against him, my tears and snot and the rain slicked his coat against his little body.

?It's okay,? I heard her say behind me, and I felt her hand on my shoulder. ?To let him go.? My lips trembled as I set him gingerly into the hole, then I pushed dirt a handful at a time over him. It reminded me of every time I bathed him, and had to dry him off with a towel so he wouldn't catch cold, or smoothing out a place in the blankets for him to sleep next to us at night. It was soothing, being able to take that kind of care for him, one last time.

But as the memory faded, I recognized what I hadn't then. The voice, beside me in the rain the day I buried him, it wasn?t Hanah's. It was Gram's. And suddenly she was beside me again. ?You knew?? I said.

?And you needed to,? she said, but there was something else in her expression.

?But why didn't you just tell me??

?You needed to see it yourself,? she lied. ?Do you really think you'd just accept what you were told by your imaginary friend??

?You aren't imaginary, though, are you?? She didn't answer. ?But what does it mean?? I asked.

?It means Leroy's dead,? she said.

?And Hanah??

?I didn't see her in the hole. Did you??

I didn?t understand why she was being combative. ?Did I do this to him?? I asked.

?That sort of depends on the contours of the question, doesn't it?? she asked.

I narrowed my eyes, but I knew better than to think I was going to get her to make any kind of sense. ?Why was Leroy so determined to dig here?? I asked, and made sure she knew it wasn't rhetorical. I wasn't for a second insane enough to believe that past Leroy was digging where now Leroy was buried. It didn't make any sense. Unless Gram had lied to me. If there'd been another dead body there, that might explain his fascination.

?Don't you know?? she asked. But she swallowed, nervously. ?You dug the hole.?

?And you know I've had trouble remembering.? I sighed. A corpse wasn't the only possible reason. Dogs dug- it might have even been where their name came from. But he was certainly very... motivated to dig in that one spot.

The clouds in the sky were turning the whole world prematurely dark. I heard noises, that sounded like animals. I jerked my head toward them, and saw movements between the slats in the fence. Then the boards shook, and I saw movement in the leaves of the overgrown kiwi tree. Something was coming, fast.

I didn't wait for it- I bolted for the back door, never turning to look, never stopping to ask if it might be a cat, or a squirrel. It wasn't- I knew it wasn't. I slammed the back door behind myself and braces against it, prepared to have to keep pressure on it to keep the thing from shoving its way inside. But the push never came. I glanced through the window, and could see most of the back yard. There was nothing there, nothing but the mud-covered hole where I buried my poor, dead dog, soaking up the rain.

I realized I was dripping mud all over the floor, and stripped bare. I hated losing another set of clothes, but I knew there was no redeeming them without a wash, and I wasn?t willing to carry them through the house still dripping with mud, so I left them on the front porch- wary of the thing in the back yard.

I could feel eyes on me, and something absorbing sound where I couldn?t see it. I couldn?t remember locking the back door. God, was that thing inside with me? I slammed the door, and tried to bolt it in that same motion as I turned. I yelped, surprised to see my grandmother there.

?This is awkward,? she told me, trying to avert her eyes from my mud-slathered nudity.

?Now you know how I?ve felt this entire time,? I said.

?No,? she said, ?about the dog. I didn?t realize it was him back there. I thought.? She bit her lip. ?I thought you could finally understand me. That I could finally be honest with you.? Her lip quavered. She was nearly in tears.

?You can be,? I told her. ?I want you to be.?

She swallowed. ?I thought Hanah was back there under the bamboo.?

I furrowed my brow at her. ?I don't know why that would make me understand you,? I said, but I wasn?t sure that was completely honest, either.

She knew it, too. But she continued, anyway. ?The night Jim left us,? she started.

?The night he beat you,? I corrected her.

?Yes. You would know,? she said. ?But you ought to remember all of it- you were there.?

?All of it?? I asked.

?You dragged in my shotgun. You couldn?t even lift the barrel off the floor. I was crying, covered in a porridge of blood, snot and tears, and I?m still not sure which of the two of us was more pitiful. And Jim laughed. Laughed and laughed and laughed. But then, through the fog of booze and the haze of his rage, you got him thinking. Sure, you were just a little boy, too small to even hold the gun, let alone aim it. But you wouldn?t always be. It was a challenge, to Jim?s authority. And unless he wanted to go the way of Oedipus' dad, he needed to nip it in the bud.?

I went to cover my mouth, but in my shaking touched my cheek, instead. ?He backhanded you, broke your cheek.? She paused, sobbing uncontrollably. I didn?t have it in me to hold back from comforting her, even if doing it was admitting that I nuttier than I wanted to be. She cried to my shoulder for minutes. I felt the warmth of it, and the fresh moisture. I was getting worse, wasn?t I?

She forced herself to stop crying, though her face protested, and her lips trembled. ?He hit you. In the stomach,? she touched my abdomen, and I let her, without even pretending to suck in my gut. ?You were so small as a boy, so tiny and fragile. That one punch broke several ribs, and made it difficult for you to breathe. But he didn?t stop. I didn?t know if he ever would. But I begged him. Pleaded. Still he hit you.?

?In those moments, I pictured hold you, dead, in my arms, the life drained away into a puddle beneath you, and I crawled across that floor to the gun. I tried to tell him to stop, but I couldn't get enough air into my own unpunctured lung, couldn't stop shaking enough to form the words. So I shot him.?

?You were catatonic. You didn't react to him hitting the floor- other than to flinch, as if the noise was him hitting you again. Then you looked at me, and you tried to limp to me, but you couldn?t stand anymore, so you fell. You pulled yourself across the floor to me, and up into my arms. We held each other. And you cried and you cried until you fell asleep in my lap.?

?I knew I should have called the police, and turned myself in. There probably was enough evidence that I wouldn?t be convicted, but even that chance was too much to risk. I wasn?t going to let you end up in a foster home. I knew Alan wouldn?t take you- I knew that without even having to ask. No. Jim needed to disappear. So I was going to disappear him.?

?First, I laid you in bed. I sponged the blood from your nose off your lip, and thanked God you were asleep. Then I dragged Jim to the bathroom in the hall, cursing every time I hadn?t cut the fat off his steak, every time I fetched him another beer. I don?t know where I found the strength even to drag him- other than that I knew I had to, for you.?

?I got him into the tub, and closed the shower curtain. Then I cleaned up all the blood on your floor, and in the hall. My dad never would take me hunting. It wasn?t ladylike. So it was Jim who taught me how to field dress my first kill. He was a prick about it, too. He didn?t get to snark at me, this time.? She paused, maybe waiting for something from me. But I was paralyzed by the horror of it, and she took my silence for permission to proceed.

?I couldn?t hoist him up, so I had to do it with him laying, splayed, in the tub. I opened up his carotid artery, his wrists and the femoral artery, going down the leg. I wasn?t going to have time to let him bleed all the way out, but it meant less blood in the way while I dressed the carcass.?

?I put a bucket between his legs, and split him from groin to sternum- just the tip of my knife, to keep from piercing his stomach. A portion of his intestines spilled out, and into the bucket- though they required a little shoveling to get them all inside. Several other organs I pulled out by hand, and stuffed into the bucket. I had to sever the supporting tissue to get out his liver and kidneys.?

?Since he was in the tub, and I wasn?t planning on eating any of the meat, I didn?t take any extra care with the intestines or bladder while I cut them loose. Jim was an old-fashioned kind of drunk so it wasn?t the first time I had to clean up his piss and shit. I cored out his genitals and rectum, and that got the bucket most of the way to full. Then I used a saw on his sternum, and made enough of a hole to get at his heart, and lungs, and set the bucket to the side.?

?I thought I?d cry, when I reached his hands, that I?d think about every time he touched me, every time he held me. But the only thoughts that came were the times he hit me, slapped me, and the one time he put his fingers around my throat. I saw his hands on you, and I didn?t hesitate, didn?t feel an ounce of remorse.?

?I didn?t want to have to sever the elbow; it was an extra step, a few minutes longer I?d be at the gristly task, risking getting caught. But I pulled on his arm, distended his shoulder as far as it would go- I wasn?t getting it out of the socket with the forearm still attached.?

?So I made an incision at the joint of the elbow of his right arm. Then I moved the knife around the joint with the flat of the blade, sawing through the ligaments as carefully as I could. Without a surgeon?s training and tools, it isn?t possible to cleanly cut off a forearm like that- you just have to cut away as much connecting tissue as you can, and then pull.?

?With the forearm severed, I got some more mobility out of the upper arm. That let me get my knife into the socket- under the ball. Jim dislocated his right shoulder in high school, so there was little more give to it, too. I scrapped the knife around in a circle inside the joint, until I got it all the way back around. Tearing his arm from the socket was harder than pulling off his forearm, but it came loose, and I dropped it on the other end of the tub.?

?His left arm took more work. I?d learned enough from severing the right that I left the forearm intact; it was harder going, especially since this shoulder didn?t give as far to let me get the knife inside. But eventually, the arm came loose, and I dropped it in the pile.?

?I thought maybe I?d learnt enough from his arms that I could forego removing the leg below the knee. I tried propping him against the shower wall and the faucet, to get the angle right on his right leg. I got about a quarter of the way through before I realized it was too difficult going, and while I was cutting up the meat in his thigh and his pelvis, the leg wasn?t getting any looser.?

?So I moved back down to his knee. It was easiest to slide the blade back in behind his leg, opposite the cap. I worked the knife between the two bones, and hollowed the space out, before cutting the rest of the way around. His knee was already loose, so it wasn?t hard to slide it out of the way and cut beneath it.?

?It pulled off, with a pop that reminded me of pulling a head off a Barbie doll. Then I went back to his hip and the leg joint. And what I learned after another minute?s worth of jabbing the knife into the socket, was it was too deep, too buried. It wasn?t as easy to get at as a deer?s. So I used Jim?s hacksaw to sheer away some of the skin and bone, and give myself more room to work. Then it was about as hard as the shoulders to cut loose. But when I dropped it onto the pile, the sound reminded me how much heavier his leg was.?

?I was panting by then, when I looked at his other leg. His legs were heavy enough, that with all the maneuvering getting the leg off the torso took, it was less work cutting the shin loose, first. So I did that. Then I cut his left leg from his hip. I figured maybe I had enough of him cut up that I could carry him. I set the bucket full of organs inside the shower beside the torso, and closed the curtain.?

?Then I stacked his limbs in my arms, like firewood, and managed to get the bathroom door shut behind me. I was surprised I managed to keep them all balanced as I carried them through the house, then outside. I buried them, far back on the property, way past the fence.?

?I was tired, after that. A beating like the one he gave me, then emotional smashing from shooting him, hadn?t left much in my tank. But cutting a body up like that took stamina, and I was fading fast.?

?But I was almost done. I had two trips, the torso and organs. I thought maybe if I could get his torso onto my shoulder I could manage him, in a fireman?s carry. But he was slicked from blood and God knows what other fluids. And even without limbs or organs, he was still a heavy bastard. I didn?t get him up more than a few inches before I had to lay him back down in the tub. I used my knife to sever the ligaments and loosen the connective tissue around his neck. Then I had to climb inside the tub with him, plant a foot in front and behind his body. I steadied one hand on his jaw- that sharp jaw being perhaps the thing that made me fall in love with Jim- and the other on the back of his skull. I twisted. It took a good four, five jerks, before the neck snapped. I must not have got everything cut, because it still took a lot of pulling to get the head off his shoulders. I set it on top of the bucket- no sense taking an extra trip if I didn?t need to.?

?I closed the curtain, then the door behind me. I buried the torso just past the fence; I didn?t have the strength left to carry it any farther.?

?When I got back, I didn?t think I could lift the bucket. I thought about leaving them there, just locking the door and resting. But I knew it was going to attract insects, and stink. So I procrastinated- did the other thing I knew I needed to before I could rest. I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed that floor- mopped up every spare fleck of viscera, skin or bone, and mopped with some lemon-scented cleaner.?

?And when there wasn?t a thing else to be done, I picked up the bucket of entrails, and turned for the door. I swung myself to get the door closing behind me. But Jim?s head, sitting on top of that bucket of organs, rolled. It smacked against the open seat lid, knocked off the rim, and plopped down into the toilet. Jim had left the damn seat up. One last little shit thing he could do.?

?The bucket was heavy, and slicked with blood. My arms were tired. And my hands, feet and the floor were slippery from the cleaning. I knew that if I stopped to pick up Jim?s head, I was going to end up spilling myself and Jim?s guts all over the floor, and needing to clean it all over again- if I didn?t manage to brain myself on the edge of the tub. So I left it, resolving to just dump the guts where the coyotes could get them and come running back.?

?And I did, but? you got up, to go to the bathroom. I got inside in time to hear you scream, and you screamed and screamed and I thought- I thought the horror of what had happened had finally gotten through to you. I got there just in time to catch you as you fell, unconscious all over again. I always thanked God that you lost so much of that night- and cursed myself that the one part you kept hold of tight was because of me.?

?Gram,? I said. ?It wasn?t your fault.?

?On some level, it sort of has to be. I married an abuser. I tolerated it for too long. I understand that Jim was a? horror visited on both of us. But I prolonged it.?

?No,? I said, my voice ragged. ?You saved me from it.?

She wiped tears from her eyes. ?Sweet of you to say, though I doubt I?ll ever believe it. But that spot, where you buried Leroy was where I dumped the entrails. We had more issues with coyotes and wild dogs in those days. They didn?t last until the morning when I woke up.?

?God,? I whispered. ?And nobody called the cops??

?Don?t you remember what this place was like then? That was twenty years ago. We didn?t live on the edge of a suburb - this was the sticks. There wasn?t another house for a quarter mile- and in those days, you fired a gun and your neighbors assumed you had good reason- likely the coyotes. I?m sorry I never told you. I just knew? I knew there was no way I could, without you looking at me- the way you are, now, actually.?

?Sorry.?

?It?s not your fault. And God damn me for letting you think otherwise- even for an instant.?

?It?s okay, Gram,? I said.

?No, Harvey, it?s not. It never was. And I?m not optimistic it ever could be.?

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