The staccato whomp of the helicopter made the spotlight bathing Ronald bounce. Blue and red police lights danced before his eyes. Some of the flashes revealed the silhouettes in officers' hands of guns, hammers cocked, the steel cyclopean eyes staring Ronald down from the dark. To his right, in the valley, city lights shimmered in the summer night, and for a moment he felt suspended between two starry skies. It calmed him.
Parked cars sat empty to both sides, doors akimbo. The other kids cleared out when the cops showed their iron. A fat one in uniform, face flush with excitement, demanded Ronald hug the ground. Ronald stayed behind the wheel, ignoring him. He was more annoyed than intimidated. It was all so dramatic.
Maggie was still in the passenger seat, mortified, her perfume wafting on the breeze. The indignity needled him. He worked so hard for this, to woo and win her affection. She was standoffish, uncertain of his intent. It was as honorable as any young man's, intoxicated by love. When she finally came around, her father rose up to forbid it, as fathers do. It transformed them, Romeo and Juliet given flesh, until her father, in a rage, sent her away.
Ronald believed she was lost to him. When he found her again, it took forever to summon enough nerve to take her out. Now, this disaster. She would never speak to him again. He wanted to leap on the fat cop, beat the tint out of his cheeks.
Cheeks. He looked at Maggie. Red lipstick smeared onto her so-soft cheek, a gaffe born of the police surprise, taunted him. He didn't want her to face them unkempt. He wanted to fix it for her, like cleaning a smudge with spit and the pad of a thumb, as his grandmother did for him some mornings, waiting for the bus.
For her dignity, to spare her the extended embarrassment of being caught here with him, he gave in. Such was his love. She deserved to be thought better than cheap, the kind of girl who would go park in public in the dead of night. He heeded their call to lay in the dirt. Even as they twisted his arms, and tightened the handcuffs until they pinched his flesh in their teeth, he was cooperative, limp.
As they pulled him to his feet, he shuddered to see them carry in the black rubber bag, zipper open like a hungry mouth. He kicked then, kicked and thrashed and screamed Maggie's name until they slammed him once more to the ground. He tasted earth for the third time in a day.
Monsters. Devils. They were going to put her down in the dark again.
About the author:
Doug Lane lives, plays, and writes in Salem, OR. He'd tell you to visit
www.douglasjlane.com, but the place is haunted.
Our cat Pickles held the thumb in her mouth, and I said, "What the fucking fuck?"
My man said, "That's Bobby Patterson's."
"How can you be so sure?"
He was right. Pickles was an indoor cat and though my man and I had our scars, neither of us was missing a thumb. We were sitting on the couch getting high when Pickles put the thumb down in front of my man, and damn if that cat didn't look like it was smiling.
The thumb was dry like a prune, had lint on it, but you could still tell it was a thumb because of the broken nail. Other girls might’ve been grossed out, but I saw worse. Like the time my stepdad got his eyeball knocked out into his beer cup and he still drank from it.
"I thought you sent that as proof of life. Did you not use enough stamps?" I giggled, but my man didn't think it was funny.
"Fuck you! I did send a thumb! His other one. I cut this one off first. Thing is, soon as I cut it off, it kind of flew out my hand and disappeared into thin air. I looked for it for hours. I fell asleep on the floor looking for it. It must have rolled behind something and now your fucking cat found it."
“Our cat,” I said.
The thing with Bobby Patterson happened months ago, before I finally hooked up with my man. I had to wait until his clingy old lady, Jenna, lit out. I moved in two weeks ago and brought my perfect little kitty with me.
"The cops was looking if Bobby was here,” my man said. “They’d found this thing, my ass would be in Pollunsky today. Fucking cat."
As I hit the bowl, I tried to recall what my man told me and what they said in the news. Bobby Patterson went missing, and my man was prime suspect number one because, frankly, he was sloppy, had been the last person seen with Bobby, called Bobby's parents from a phone booth outside a bar he (meaning my man) was known to frequent, thought Bobby's parents had money when they were just as poor as he was. In the end, he had to kill Bobby and get rid of the body. The cops never found Bobby and my man was never charged.
I exhaled and said, "They can get Bobby's DNA from that."
"Darling, the cops ain't coming back. I could turn that into a Christmas ornament and we'd be safe."
The idea of this made him laugh so hard he about peed.
"That’s gross. We’re not doing that," I said. "Not on my Christmas tree." I took Christmas seriously, and I didn’t like his joke at all.
I noticed he said, "we'd be safe," as if I had anything to do with it, as if I would do something as fucked up as kidnap a friend of mine for ransom.
"Just fucking with you. Who says you'll still be here come Christmas time anyways?" He laughed again, but that comment set me to crying, and to stop it my man hauled off and hit me, and we screamed at each other for a while, then we both cried about not having anyone else in the world, and then we ended up having sex on the couch in front on Pickles and the thumb.
When I woke up, Pickles was still there, and my man was getting back from somewhere without his pants on. The thumb was gone.
"Where is it?" I said, knowing he knew what I meant.
"I chucked it into the woods. Racoons'll get it."
“You go outside without your pants on?” I giggled at the idea.
“Ain’t nobody next door on either side,” my man said. “Fuckin’ relax.”
That night we were asleep when I felt Pickles on my chest. I didn’t want to wake up my man, so I peeked and saw Pickles had the thumb in his mouth again. He placed it gently on my chest where it threatened to roll into my mouth.
I tried to move without waking my man, but he’s a light sleeper.
“What the fuck?” he said, and he grabbed the thumb and kicked my cat and me off the bed.
“Shit. Shit. Shit,” he kept saying, and this time I followed him outside. He tossed the thumb into the grill and set it on fire.
“There,” he said.
“Did you leave the backdoor open? I don’t want Pickles going outside.”
“No. I did not fucking leave the goddam backdoor open. I… I tossed the thumb in the garbage and the fucking cat musta got in there. Fuck.”
I had a moment, just a moment, where I thought maybe I moved in with my man too soon.
But things went back to normal after that. I worked at Fiesta Mart, and my man did what he did, and we ate and got high on the daily. Every night I made sure the backdoor was closed because I didn’t want to lose Pickles. One time he got out and was gone ten days.
Come a Sunday afternoon I was too high to move, watching TV, and my man was in the kitchen. My man always loved to cook.
Pickles put something on the floor, right at my feet. It took a while to come into focus. This time it wasn’t a thumb. It was an ear, with an earring still in it.
Right away I knew. Jenna.
Good kitty, that Pickles, looking out for me.
I knew I had to leave. I was about to tell my man I was going shopping when he came in from the kitchen with a knife in his hand.
“What’s that?” he said, squinting to see, bouncing the knife in his hand. “I said, ‘What the fuck is that?’”
About the author:
Kate Show works as a freelance writer and editor, splitting her time between Toronto and Brooklyn. She edited the erotic poetry collection Shiny Avocado of Lust and its sequel, 50 Shades of Avocado. Her writing has appeared in Asinine Poetry, Poetry Toronto, Not One of Us, and far too many IMDB reviews.