Tuesday, 29 November 2011
MOTHER'S LOVE by Chad Rohrbacher
It's great to have Chad back with this top notch, hard-boiled tale...
Mom always said I would amount to something.
I amounted to exactly 6 ft,168 pounds and 3 ounces not including clothes. When Willie cut off my digitus mínimus mánus, or commonly referred to as pinky finger, I might have amounted to less, but indiscernibly so. A person really never considers the beauty of a pinky until he no longer possesses it.
Willie was my wife’s brother who earned his nickname, Slacker, by selling dope and living off the girls he fucked. He fucked a lot of girls and lived pretty well. He amounted to about 6’4, 248 pounds of unadulterated muscle.
Willie was not a nice guy. Cheryl, my wife, said so herself. She said it was the “juice”, but I thought there was more to it. His shocking blue eyes were a little closer together than the average person making him somehow predatory. He could enter a house and you’d never know. Scared us a few times like that. We’d be eating our mashed potatoes or whatever and he’d be standing in the doorway just staring at us like he was an entomologist watching the eating habits of some damn beetles. When we’d notice him and jump, he’d laugh and give Cheryl a hug, his huge paws draped over her shoulders.
Mom, Cheryl’s mom, was the only real mom I ever had. When I was 17, my father killed my mother then put a bullet under his chin with the family’s .38. I found the mess. It was awful. While one detective said she thought it was homicide, all the others assumed murder suicide. Case closed. I asked them why and they said, “shit happens, kid”. After that I was in counselling for about a year; that is, until the counsellor unexpectedly ran off with some newspaper editor from Reidsville.
I started dating Cheryl in high school and her mom took pity on me and saved me from the foster care system. I was able to finish high school, and Cheryl and I were married right after. I took three years of pre-med at the local state college. Cheryl waited tables at Crawford’s Racks and Ribs where the girls wore pasties while serving cheap beer and bar b-queue to fat townies. I didn’t like her working there, but the money was putting me through school so I couldn’t bitch too much.
Mom said I’d be a doctor from the day I met her. Mom believed in me. She said a psychic in Harrison Village told her in no uncertain terms that her daughter would marry someone special. One of the only reasons mom said yes to the marriage was because I agreed I was going to be that man in the prophecy. If I lived through this, I’d have to find that psychic and give her a piece of my mind.
I’ll admit it, when Willie took my thumb with his gardening snips, I almost passed out. I know he tried to get between the metacarpus and the palm, and I appreciated that, but it was just too hard to get in there with the thick blades. He put his massive frame down on the handles, his forearm muscles straining, and the snap of bone made my stomach lurch. It was the sound of it more than anything.
I was probably down about, what, 10 grams. If not, blood loss would definitely put me there. What a mess.
A couple of hours before I found myself tied up in mom’s basement, a guy up at Crawford’s told Cheryl he’d seen me with some “hot little thing wearing a state T-shirt and painted on jeans”. Willie had me downstairs within about 30 minutes.
“I’m telling you, Willie, I mean, shit, look at me, I didn’t have any hot little thing. Ever.”
Willie was pulling a piece of my flesh that got caught in the snips when he suddenly stopped what he was working on and cocked his head like a dog hearing a door knob rattle. “Ever?” he asked.
“Your sister, I mean, that, that goes without saying. She’s always been really hot.”
Willie was wearing a black mesh wife beater that showed off his sculpted frame, dark jeans, and Wolverine work boots, which made no sense since he didn’t work. Through the mesh I could see his freshly shaven pectorals and wondered just what kind of man actually did that.
“Come on, man, I didn’t do anything with some other woman. I wouldn’t. Let’s go find the bastard that said this and get it straightened out.”
Willie wasn’t in the mood to talk, that was clear. He bent down and reached under a worn workbench that hadn’t been used since their father died 4 years ago.
Willie slid a 40-pound bag of fertilizer to the front of the bench and opened it up. A stench like an overflowing factory farm filled the room. Willie reached both hands as if he was a chef, and then he seemed to clasp something inside and hauled it out. He wiped specks of fertilizer off the top of the package, and then set a kilo of coke on the workbench. Turning on the radio, Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition” emanated from the miniature speakers.
Willie fished a pocketknife from his pocket then carefully cut a hole in the wrapping. Quickly he produced a gold plated metal straw from his other pocket, dipped it in the powder, and inhaled deeply. There was a half cough, a sniff, and an exuberant “yes”. I could see his neck vein pulsing as he leaned his head back letting whatever was still in his nose drain down the back off his throat.
“Willie, buddy,” I begged, “even if I did cheat, which I didn’t, why all this? It’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”
Willie opened a rusted toolbox from on top of the bench, grabbed something, and turned toward me.
“You took her years, her money, and more important my sister’s trust. Fuck, Oliver, you took my mama’s trust. How do you imagine the scales of justice would weigh that? A finger? A thumb? Maybe a hand?”
A human hand weighs about 300 grams, give or take. Trust is hard to measure. I knew for a long time scales of justice were not always balanced. That’s when I noticed he had a hatchet in his grip. It was something you would use for kindling or cutting small branches. It was something that could easily go through a man’s wrist. It was something I really didn’t want to see.
“You’re crazy,” I groaned trying to wiggle out of my bindings. Willie strode toward me, a gleam in his eye. A gleam I have recognized in my own at times. I was terrified. He raised his hand above his head, striking a pose that reminded me of the Indians in the old westerns right before they killed the poor settlers.
“Sit still,” he said, “you don’t want me to miss and take half of your forearm.”
At that moment we heard a women’s commanding voice declare that Willie should drop his weapon. When I opened my eyes, Willie had already turned and was rushing toward the stairs.
Two loud pops didn’t stop him as he lurched forward. A third seemed to stun him and his body jerked back like he was zipped with a jolt of electricity. A fourth caused the hatchet to fall to the floor with a thud and a gasp of air leave his lips. He dropped to his knees, and then sprawled forward onto his face.
In front of him at the bottom of the steps was a beautiful woman, all 5’8 and 120 pounds of her. Her chest was heaving, and sweat dappled her forehead. She took her State T-shirt sleeve and wiped her face. Her hands were shaking.
“I’ve never been so glad to see you, Detective.” Hicks has been on me for years. She doesn’t leave me alone with her theories and bullshit. Even caught up with me earlier today on campus. Completely ruined my morning bagel.
“Looks like I owe you an apology.”
Detective Hicks kicked the hatchet away, and then checked Willie for a pulse. She holstered her weapon. She fumbled with my bindings for a while before getting me free. She smelled like Lilacs. Probably a Lilac scented deodorant; it worked great.
“I’ve been telling you,” I grimaced holding my bloody hand, “I had nothing to do with my parents’ deaths or the counsellor’s disappearance.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“You said you owed me an apology.”
“We knew he was dealing,” she said looking at Willie’s body on the floor, his blood pooling on the concrete.
“We just could never get anything on him; but this, we never guessed this.”
“Clearly,” I said looking for my digits hoping that a doctor would be able to sew them back on. “There’s coke over there.” I jutted my chin toward the workbench. My hand was throbbing.
“Why you, Oliver? Why’d he come after you?”
“Could I get an ambulance? Christ?”
Hicks called in for a bus while I tried not to pass out.
“My guess Hicks, I’m just throwing out ideas here, he was an overprotective big brother. He never liked me, I mean, I practically invaded his house when I was 17, and married his sister, all while his mom went on me about being a doctor in the family. But you know the thing that really set him off?”
I heard sirens in the distance that was good because my adrenaline was dropping and the pain was hitting.
“Someone told him I met this ‘hot thing’ today.”
Her face blanched. “I, I was…”
“I know, trying to get under my skin. See if I would lose my cool, even though I didn’t have anything to lose my cool over. Ah, fuck you very much Detective.”
She looked at Willie’s body, then at my bloody hand.
“I guess I deserve that. For what it’s worth I am truly sorry.”
For some reason, I really felt bad for Hicks. She looked so vulnerable, so innocent. Strangely it was the first time I ever hoped she’d find the counsellor, all 5’11, 176 pounds of her out in the woods just beyond Harrison Village.
Chad Rohrbacher has had stories published at Powder Burn Flash, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Pulp Engine. He blogs here: http://rohrbacher.com/