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Silver moonlight, hard-edged shadows. Phillip's on his porch, weaving. Drunk. Trying to fit the freaking key in the lock. Can't find it. The lock is not there. The door is not there. The door is gone.
The porch floor drops. Tidal wave of adrenaline hits. Sickening. He still doesn't know what the fuck. The goddam door's not there? He stands looking into the darkness of his home. The wind blows, indigo shadows fall across his face. How did the door go away? Too fucking drunk, he thinks. I am too fucking drunk.
Toenails on hardwood. Two red gold embers gleam in the dark. It's Spook, the greyhound. Hey, Spook. He wobbles into his living room. Flips a light. Turns to look at the shattered splintered remains of the front door.
Now! The shock hits him like a wrecking ball that began its swing the minute he couldn't find the lock. Wham! And his legs go out from under him. Falls right down on the hardwood. Spook licking his face.
Motherfucker. Motherfucking sonofabitch! FuckfuckFUCKERFUCK. Been broken into, goddammit. Fucking asshole motherfucker. God damn fucking sonofabitch! Lying on the floor, drunk, legs too rubbery to get up. Spook licking his face, whimpering. Saying, I wanna eat, I wanna go for a walk.
Fuck you, Spook. Leave me alone a goddam minute. Phillips glad he didn't take any X, this'd be just too freaky fuckin weird on X. He got up. He got to the phone. He called 911. Assholes broke in, he shouted to the operator. Fuckers broke my door down!
Are you alone, sir? Is there anyone in the house?
And the floor dropped again. Head spun, whirly. Hadn't thought about this. Fucker might still be IN THE GODDAMN HOUSE!
Dunno, lemme check-
NO, Don't sir. Stay where you are. Let the police check. You stay right there, I am dispatching them now.
Phillips, holding the phone away from his face, walks over to the sink, pukes. Hard. Puke, upchuck, blowchow. Runs water to wash it down, runs water for the dispose-all. Runs water to wash his face. Turns to lean against the sink, the white spiral of the telephone cord stretching all the way across the room.
Sir? Go back out side the house; the police will be there in a minute.
Headlights in the driveway. They're here. Spook getting all worked up, standing on his hind legs. Like something great is getting ready to happen.
Cops get out of the cruiser in the middle of a conversation about the Cowboys. Squeaking leather duty belts. Couple of weightlifters. One of them, the blonde one, Kershaw, it said, stepped up, glancing down quickly at his notepad, You Mr. Phillips?
'S me. Phillips hoping they don't see how drunk he is. A blast of short wave, unintelligible, hits the air. Kershaw looks past him. Kershaw checking things out. Kershaw takes in the house.
Kershaw's partner, Bondurant, splits out behind the house. How long ya been home?
Nothing. Came home, the front door was gone. Little shock of panic flares up when he says this.
Kershaw slicing the moonlight/purple shadows with a yellow beam. Kershaw steps up the porch, into the house. Fuckin burglar better not fuck with Kershaw. Kershaw will clearly kick his ass. Kershaw will crush him like a roach.
Kershaw back in a moment. He's not in there. Let's see what he took. Presses a button on his collar mike, turns his head, mouths a bunch of procedural shit. Dispatcher blasts back.
Phillips freaking about the big box of dope cleaned and lying under the bed. About the stack of porn.
They walk around. Got the usual shit: TV, VCR, DVD, receiver, camera, jewelry, a watch. Cops ignored the porn. Didn't look under the bed, because they already had.
They wrote it all down. They gave him a number, an incident number. They said call if you think of anything else. They said they would be in touch. They said a fingerprint guy would be over soon, depending, probably in the morning, don't touch anything.
They said, Later man, and one more thing? Get ridda all that dope.
Phillips somehow felt relieved. Phillips alone in the house. Drunk. And the panic hit again, flattening him out. Like he was a cartoon getting run over by a steamroller.
Hit the phone. Dialing, fingers hammering the keypad. Monica. Monica with the tits. Monica, the pair of tits that Phillips used to date, until last weekend.
A voice. Monica! This is Steve. Silence. Phillips.
Hi, Steve. Wary. Just saying his name to her made her suspicious. What time is it?
Its late, I'm sorry, hoping she would buy the 'sorry' note in his voice. I've been broken into. And, I am freaking out. And I need you to come over with me.
Did you call the police?
Yeah, they've already been here.
Did they get anything?
All the usual shit.
Silence. She speaks. Well, I am not coming over there. You can come over here if you want. Sleep on the couch.
OK. Hoping he could sleep with the tits. Couple of monsters. Be right over. Gotta figure out what to do with my door, though, first.
Phillips in the garage, looking around, spots a sheet of plywood that used to hold the electric train when his kid was little, before the divorce. Sobering rapidly. Grabs a tape measure, goes back, measures the door, comes back, cuts the sheet, goes back, nails it up, gets the fuck outta there.
* * *
Three weeks later, everything is put back together. State Farm gave him a check for $5,449.27 to replace the stereo gear, the camera, and the other shit, the door fixed.
Phillips is lying in bed. Phillips stayed home and watched porn. Smoked dope. Got his freak on. Poor Spook, having to see that.
Moonlight playing in silver pools around the room. Spook scratching in the dark. A/C comes on, cranking loud. Its three o'clock in the morning, and still eighty-five outside. Phillips tosses to one side, then the other. Looking this way, then that. Looking out the window.
Looking out the window at the man standing there. FUCK! Phillips sits straight up, flops back down, the guy moves away. SHIT! Can he see me? Spook whimpering a little in the dark, scratching some more. Fucking fleas.
Adrenaline hits like one of those 'daisy cutter' bombs they used on the Taliban. Phillips says to himself, Be still, and he lay there. Being still.
Thoughts racing in a blurry loop. The phone. He crawls off the bed, past Spook. Over to the table on the other side of the room. Pats around for the phone. One of those cordless jobs, of course, not there. Fuck! He left it in the den when he was getting his freak on.
Cell phone. Crawls over to his clothes, pats around, finds it, flips it open, it gives the 'battery dead' beep. Goddammit! He tries punching numbers anyway. Nothing.
Phillips and Spook, lying on the floor of the bedroom. Some guy walking around outside. Trying to break in? Phillips stands up, slips on shorts. Flattens against a wall, does the old sneak down the wall, just like in the ten thousand cop/detective/crime shows/movies he's seen.
Sticking to deep shadow, down the hall, out to the living room. He stops short. Fucking guy is standing in the flowerbed right in front of the living room window, trying to see in. Phillips almost in tears for a GODDAMN PHONE.
He steps away.
In the shadows of his own house, whacked on heavy pot, Phillips shivers. No gun, no fucking phone that he can find, without having to walk all the way to the kitchen. The doorknob, brand new, rattles. A weight is applied to the door. The wood creaks. Toenails on wood.
Spook runs to the door, let's out the biggest, baddest bark Phillips has ever heard him give. Spook couldn't hurt a mouse. Asshole on the other side of the door doesn't know that. Is it the same guy from before? Come to think of it, what'd Spook do during the last break-in?
The front door action has stopped. Getting bold, Phillips walks to the kitchen, calls 911. They send Kershaw, different partner. They walk the house, inside and out with their huge flashlights. They find footprints in the flowerbed. They shrug. Nothing they can do. They give him cards. They tell him, Call if anything else happens.
Phillips back in bed. Sleep? Yeah, right.
He has the phone on the pillow beside him, where his wife's head used to be. In the old days. Spook whimpers in his sleep.
* * *
Phillips, the building contractor, looking at plans for the addition a queer orthodontist and his partner, the manager of a Banana Republic store, want to put on their house.
Phillips wears heavy black-framed glasses, has a salt and pepper pony tail, a silver loop in his left ear, an inky left shoulder. He remembers.
His ex-wife, Kelly, had tits to die for. Even more so than Monica. He met her at the Starck Club back in the 80s. X-ing. They used to sell the shit out of big plastic bags out on the dance floor.
He'd just dropped out of UTA, had his first superintendent job. Back in the blow and go days.
Went to a Grace Jones show, did some X, asked Kelly to dance. She spent the rest of the night rubbing those big jugs all up and down on him. Fuck and fuck and fuck and fuck.
He thought: if you liked doing drugs with and fucking a woman, she should be your wife. He thought: that way, the party will never stop.
They bought an old house, a Sears Craftsman from the 20s, over in Oak Cliff. They spent years on it. It was gorgeous. They had a kid. They called him Joaquin. They thought it was cool. Kelly had post-partum, bad. She gained twenty five pounds. The tits went. She gained thirty pounds.
Phillips couldn't come home anymore. Stayed late, late. Yeah, sorry honey, gotta work late, we're on a deadline. Head for the titty bar.
Phillips took out a secret Visa. Phillips smoked a lot of dope. A lot of X. Booze out the ass. Had a limit of 50K on the card. Took it to the bars, ran that puppy up, big time. God, the pussy. Un-fucking-believable. Stripper pussy. The best. Most of them are half-gay, so they like to do it with a girlfriend, and you can fuck 'em both.
Kelly gained forty pounds. Joaquin grew his hair long. Joaquin played with boxes hooked to a TV screen. Joaquin got fat. Kelly and Joaquin, a couple fat-asses. Phillips in the hole to Visa, fifty grand. Stripper pussy.
Phillips still loved her, his fat wife. He loved Joaquin. He loved hanging out in strip clubs, fucking strippers. The wheels were coming off. He couldn't pay the minimums on the Visa, opened a new card, took an advance, paid a couple months of minimums with it to the old card, and partied on.
Guy walked in the drafting room at the office one day, says You Steve Phillips?
Handed him an envelope, says You've been served. He walked out.
Divorce. He called her, she said Fuck you, asshole. I know what you've been doing. How dare you expose me to all that stripper shit?
All what stripper shit? He thought. I haven't fucked her in two years
When he got home, a Ryder truck was parked out front. Her Dad, there with his gimme cap on. Oh, shit! A crew of relatives and friends carrying shit out of the house. Her Dad threw Phillips a Don't Fuck With Me look.
Joaquin sitting on the porch. Tears running down his fat eleven year old cheeks. Spook sitting there watching the whole thing like nothing was fucking wrong. Stupid dog.
Phillips gave it a shot. Phillips did what he could. Phillips laid it on the line. Kelly, can we talk?
No, she said. Talk to my lawyer. She threw a card on the ground.
Phillips sat on the porch swing, watching the wheels come off his life. The whole thing took less than an hour. When she walked to the van, on her way back home to Mesquite with their son, she said, You can have your stupid dog.
Phillips sat on the porch swing stroking the stupid dog's head. He thought, I should have known better than to marry a woman with big tits from Mesquite. He thought, There goes my life.
The tears hit. Phillips lost a lot of water.
* * *
Phillips finished the plans for the queer doctor. Phillips wrapped it up. Put it on ice. He called Kelly. He told her about the burglar. He told her about the prowler. He told her not to send Joaquin until this whole thing cleared up. He hung up the phone.
He picked it up again. He called Pooter. Hey Pooter, you got any more o' that weed? Great, be right over.
Pooter hung out big time in Deep Ellum. He rode a Harley. Pooter lived large. Pooter thought he was hot shit. Pooter was a big gutted greasy guy with the usual shades/ponytail/ink/multiple piercings/leather. A real non-conformist. Pooter lived in the Cedars, across I-30 from Deep Ellum.
Phillips left the studio, headed over that way. Parked the F-150 outside the roll-up metal door. Honked. The door rolled up. He stepped into the weedy, sweaty smelling dimness. Pooter was up in the loft, fucking.
Hey, Pooter, it's me, Steve. Got my weed? Grunting, skirmishing, hassling, stuff being thrown around. Plastic bag sailing over the railing. Woman's voice, Ow, goddammit, Pooter, you're on my hair!
He yelled down, Put the dough there on the table. Phillips fished the dough, left it next to the plate of cold eggs and a disassembled motor. He rolled a joint. He rolled it tight. He rolled it fat.
This shit's real tar-ry, he yelled up to Pooter, who'd gotten back to banging his babe. He lit up, took a big hit.
* * *
Phillips left Pooter's loft. Phillips didn't want to go home. Home scared him. Shitless. No one there but Spook. Just an empty shell. They'd been gone for six years. Joaquin grown and skinny now.
Then, this shit with the burglar, the prowler. Were they the same guy?
Phillips fell by Club Dada. Nothing but the Dead cover band. Ouch! Get outta there, he never liked the Dead when they were the Dead, and living. So to speak.
Went to a poetry open mike at the coffee house. Fuck that. Bunch of nutjobs reading bullshit into a microphone, everyone waiting their turn, no on listening to the guy or the girl at the mike. A guy screaming Fuck you! at the priest who molested him. A girl with huge knockers in a red tube top, head shaved clean, her face littered with metal, singing some kind of fucked up bullshit to her dead drunken Dad. Or some shit. What the fuck?
Went out, smoked some more dope in the pick-up. Pounded a couple numbers on the cell. Voice mails, answering machines. Friday night, no one is fucking home. What was he thinking? He gave up. He made a plan. Fire up that DVD player, do some dope, bring on the porn.
Phillips headed west, down Elm, the old JFK parade route. Left on Houston, by the old school book building. Out over the Viaduct. When he was a kid, he had a nightmare where his mother threw him and his brother off it, into the stinking Trinity.
After mid-night. August moon. Adrenaline rising, as it had each night since the burglar, since the prowler(s?). Jittery. Not even Pooter's dope can keep it down. Pulls in the garage, crunches up the drive, in the back door, sees through the house, sees moonlight where the front door used to be. Used to be. Used to be.
A heavy stone drops in his gut. His nuts rise, fast. He almost faints. He's sober as a judge. He flips on lights. He looks around. They really fucked it up this time. Like there'd been a storm. All the same usual burglar shit gone.
Calls 911. Sees Spook, over by the door. Spook is lying on his side. Spook is working his jaws like he's trying to cough something up. Spook is foaming at the mouth. Spook is hyperventilating. Spook's been poisoned. Spook whimpers. Spook is dead.
Through tears, Phillips tells the operator what happened. They send Bondurant and some huge new black cop. Bigger than Kershaw and Bondurant put together.
They act bored. They act tired of this shit. They act like somehow its Phillips fault.
Fingerprint team shows up, twirling their little brushes. Everyone ignores Phillips, the dead greyhound. Doing their job. They don't give a shit. Not their problem. You live in a neighborhood like this, this is what you get. No offense, but this is all gang territory. You know that, doncha?
He knew where cops lived. He knew what they liked. They liked all-white cracker-jack neighborhoods, with the tiny little identical houses. Places like Wylie, Rowlett, Kaufman, and further out. Buncha paranoid motherfuckers, cops.
* * *
He couldn't do it himself. He couldn't deal with it at all. He called the vet. He had Spook taken away. He called State Farm. The guy whistled in the phone. Again? You got security around there?
He gave him the list. TV, DVD, VCR, receiver, digital camera. Some rings. Other shit. Padded this time. He needed cash. They sent him a check for $7,499.02. They sent him a letter of termination. They cut him loose. They set him free. Too many claims, too close together.
Fuck 'em. Phillips didn't care anymore. He had a plan. He had an idea. He knew the score. He got a gun.
More like a cannon. A .454 caliber pistol, long barrel revolver. It was a hogleg. It was heavy artillery. It was Thor's hammer. He enrolled in classes at the range. He went four nights a week. He fired a thousand rounds in a month. He got good, really good. He got better than he'd ever been at anything.
He loved the fucking thing. He loved it more than his GTO in high school. He loved it more than his stereo in college. It was like the first time he got laid. It was awesome, the way it felt, the way it smelled. The way it looked. It looked bad. It looked double fucking diabolical bad. It was a bad-ass motherfucker.
He showed it to Pooter. Pooter said, Man, get that sumbitch outta here before it blows this place up! Pooter said, Man, you're loaded for bear. Pooter said, Better look out with that thing, man! Someone's gonna get kilt!
* * *
Phillips couldn't sleep. Phillips couldn't work. Phillips couldn't do shit. He tried to hang out with Monica. He tried to touch her tits. She smacked him. She said, I told you that was over with. She said, You need to get your shit together. Get some help. We are just friends, and I don't let my friends touch my tits.
He showed her the gun. Her eyes flared. They opened wide. She looked at him. She said, Steve, are you crazy? Whadder you gonna do with that thing? Honey, that's not gonna fix anything!
She said, You feel sorry for yourself all the time. You've given up. You need to take Prozac.
Phillips just felt like he needed to touch her tits. He let it go. He sat in the office. He doodled on plans. He got nowhere. He only felt good at the range. He loved to feel that cannon discharge in his hand.
He stopped going out. He stopped calling his friends. Joaquin couldn't come over because he still wasn't safe. He went to the range. He fired his gun. He went to the magazine store. He bought gun mags. He read gun mags. He thought about guns. He cleaned his gun. He made it shiny. He made it perfect. He had a new lover. He loved his gun.
* * *
They did it again. He did it again. Who- the fuck-ever.
Phillips got home from work. The door was down, again. The alarm he put in was going off. It was daytime. The alarm was going off, but nobody came. There was nobody in the house. They grabbed the TV and they ran. They got his dope. They took his porn. He sat on the porch. He waited for the cops.
Neither Kershaw, nor Bondurant, nor the new black monster cop. Different shift. Swing shift. Couple of business-like young guys. Took a look around. Coulda given a shit. Went through the ritual. The inventory/the damage/the prints/the cards/the incident report. Big deal. Phillips was numb. But he had a plan.
This time he was on his own. No insurance. So he went and bought all used shit down on Jefferson. Pawn shop. Somebody else's stolen gear. Restocked the house. Left the boxes on the porch, so they could be seen. Bought new porn. Went to a titty bar. Went to one of those Asian jack off parlors. Got his courage up. Got that freak back.
Phillips sets up the house. Parks the car around the corner. Turns off all the lights. He puts on black clothes. He sits in the corner in the living room. Leaves the lights off all night. All night. And then around one, things start to happen.
Guy walks up in his front yard, smoking a cig. Phillips, sitting in the dark. Watching through the front window. Phillips smiles. Oh, yeah. Sweet Jesus. He lets the safety off the .454.
Guy flips his cig away. Guy flips his arm, something drops out of his sleeve. Pry bar. Stands there looking both ways. Walks up to the window, looks in, right at Phillips. Phillips sitting in shadow, dressed in black, can't be seen. Silver moonlight, black shadows around the room. Spook is gone. Don't worry, Spook, I'll get him for ya. Come on, prick, try it.
Footsteps along the perimeter of the house. He's taking his time. Phillips sees his head at another window, looking in. White guy, long hair, a beard. An earring glinting. Fucking asshole. Come and meet God, jack off. Footsteps out back now. Checking all the way around. He's being careful for such a dumb-ass.
This time, the back door cracks and groans on its hinges. Phillips' nut sack tightens. His nut sack tingles. A high-tension wire lights up from his asshole to his chest. Heartbeat pounding like a big block Chevy. He doesn't move a muscle. He becomes darkness. He becomes smoke. He becomes the last person the asshole at the back door will never see.
The door lets go with a bang. Silence. Nothing. Phillips gets a whiff of cigarette smoke. Enjoy your last smoke motherfucker. I am doing you a favor ending it this way. You don't have to die in a hospital bed, sucking on a hose. Still nothing. Will he say anything to him? He thought about it. Been thinking about it for a month. Since he bought the gun.
Will I say, Hey, motherfucker? Kiss your ass good-bye? Will I hold him at gunpoint like they do in the movies, and try to get him to talk? Will I shoot his leg, and then hold him for the cops? Or will I just smoke his motherfucking ass? Just kill his ass as soon as I see him?
These were the thoughts Phillips had, sitting there in the darkness. Waiting. Silence. Nothing. More smoke. Asshole is standing there at the back door, smoking. Waiting to see if someone or something is coming. If someone is home.
There. A footstep. And another. Guy is whistling Strawberry Fields. How old is the fucking guy? He's in the kitchen, going through the refrigerator. Phillips hears his beer bottles clinking, a top popping. Plastic wrap crackling. Making a GODDAMN SANDWICH I WILL KILL YOU GRAVEYARD DEAD, ASSHOLE! Go on; make your fucking sandwich so you don't have to die hungry.
Commotion in the kitchen settles. Drinking/munching/gurgling/swallowing sounds. A loud ass burp. Huge fart. The bottle is set down. He is mouthing the monster guitar riffs to Inna Gadda Da Vida. Baby boomer asshole.
Phillips sinks into his couch in the corner. Pulls his feet up, makes himself as small as possible. Heart revving, a Top Fueler at the line. Now he hears Inna Gadda Da Vida going off in his own head. Getting louder. Asshole is coming down the hall.
Asshole steps in the room, looks into the den, sees all the new gear glinting there in the dark, mumbles something. Drags on his cig, drops it on the floor, crushes it on the floor, remembers he can't leave it, they'll get evidence from it, bends over, picks it up, puts it in the pocket of his Levi's jacket.
Hey, Wait! I don't feel safe here!, 2004
acrylic on canvas
Phillips levels the .454, pulls the trigger, the asshole reacts to the sound and turns toward the mile long blast of blue orange muzzle flash, everything in slow mo, Phillips can almost see the bullet leaving the gun, then a thunderclap like Big Boy going off at Alamogordo. It is the brightest light, the loudest sound Phillips has ever heard.
The slug traveled through the asshole as through warm Jello. The slug widened when it hit. The slug destroyed the asshole's innards. The slug severed his spinal cord. The slug ended his life, in less than a second. He fell like a bag of wet sand. He went Thump! On the floor, falling awkwardly over his legs, his arms twisted underneath him.
Phillips heard blood drumming the floor from an artery. It didn't last too long. There wasn't much left to drum.
Phillips in the dark. Phillips well spent. Phillips feeling like he'd just jacked off after three hours of porn. Like fuck number two when he spent the night with Monica. He just wanted to sleep. He just wanted to curl up and sleeeee..
* * *
Phillips woke up feeling hung-over. His back hurt. His tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. He saw the asshole lying on the floor.
The asshole's arms and legs were blue in their tangle beneath him. A huge pool of jellied dark blood; a wide splatter on the wall. The slug passed through two more walls before falling spent in the yard.
Phillips is sick. Way sick. Sicker than he'd ever been. He closed his eyes, and there it was, playing on endless loop. The asshole bending to pick up the butt, standing, hearing the firing mechanism, the blue-orange muzzle blast, the explosion, the recoil. The life taken. He had taken a life. He had not considered this, how he would feel.
He called the cops. This is Steve Phillips, I'm at 306 N. Waverly, there was an intruder in my home last night, I shot him, I killed him, he's lying here, I must have passed out.
The dispatcher said, Are you all right, sir?
Yeah, I'm fine.
Lying. Big time lying.
We'll send someone out.
He hung up the phone. He tossed a towel over the asshole. He was uglier than a dead possum. He didn't recognize him, the asshole. About fifty, long hair going white and thin, scraggly beard. Jailhouse tats on the hands. Jeans, jean jacket, boots. Filthy.
The cops came. They looked around. They took his statement. He told them how it was, how he had to defend himself. He didn't come clean. He didn't say it was a trap. He let them think he was defending himself.
Coroner's office took the asshole away. They told him how to clean up the blood. They gave him the name of a crime scene clean up crew if he wanted it. They left him alone.
His case went before the Grand Jury. He was no billed. The investigator recommended no further action.
Phillips was in free fall. The smell of cordite, the muzzle flash, the roar of the gun. He closed his eyes any time day or night, they were there. The sound of the door giving way. Cigarette smoke. The asshole lying there. He couldn't function. He couldn't get going. He was fucked. It never occurred to him that the plan was wrong.
* * *
He drank more, smoked more dope, went to the Asian jack off parlor. Couldn't get it up. Did coke. Coke is bad, will eat you alive. It was eating Phillips alive. He did a gram a day. Carried a little glass pipe with him. Coke makes you numb. He wanted to be numb. He wanted to be nothing. He wanted to disappear. He wanted to kill the thing that hurt. The thing was himself. He gave it a shot.
Crack is easier than the coke. You buy a rock, toke up, and be on your way. And it hit like a ball bat. Numb. So fucking numb. You take the edge off with tequila shots. Crack/shots. Crack/shots. Hang at the Million Dollar. Smoke crack with the strippers. So whacked, he couldn't even think about fucking them. Couldn't in a million years. He was a broke dick crackhead.
Phillips felt like he had a broken artery in his gut. His gut hurt all the time. It made him want to cry, it hurt so bad. He would lie in bed and cry. Sometimes, he cried even when it didn't hurt. He just cried.
One day, he stayed home, and he toked crack all day. Crack/shots. Pulled the shades down. Weed to mellow, crack/shots. Coke-ethanol, a bitch's brew. He started to see shit. He saw Spook running around the room, chasing after horrible little rat monsters. Black, shiny things, with red eyes, and cork screw tails. Spook, good brave boy, Spook, you gonna keep that shit offa me, aren't ya Spook?
Then a bunch of 'em came outta nowhere and jumped his ass all at once, like those old movies where a guy falls in the Amazon and is covered by piranhas. They took all the meat offa old Spook while he stood there, turning into a skeleton.
His eyes. Spook's big, glittery, brown black eyes. Spook was looking right at him while it happened. Saying, Help me! Can't you help me?
No, Phillips couldn't. He was shrieking and sweating on the bed. He had the blanket pulled up around his neck. He made a poncho of the blanket. The room was filling with rat monsters. He passed out.
Phillips saw Joaquin. He was a baby. He was chalk white. He had black and blue mottles. He had ants in his eyes. Joaquin was a rotting dead baby. His blanket fell open. His insides were showing, crawling with white maggots.
Phillips puked on the bed. He couldn't get up. The monsters.
* * *
Some buddies threw him in Parkland. They put him in treatment. They cleaned him out. He got lucky. Sort of.
Everywhere he went, he told the same lie. My home was invaded. I shot the intruder. Everyone gave him the thumbs up. They thought he was great. Some kinda hero, like he was Audie Murphy or something. Good for you! they would say, with big, wondering smiles. Good for you, man! If everybody in this country'd buy a gun, and blow those sumbitches up, it'd be a lot safer a lot quicker.
He went to the office, tried to get his business back up and running. His savings were almost gone. He had missed payments on the house. Kelly, fucking Kelly, was calling. She wanted her 'child' support payments. The 'child' was seventeen. Seven hundred bucks a month, behind three months now. Where was he supposed to get that kinda dough?
He went to the addiction groups. He told his lie. He came home. He was a ghost walking this world, a visitor from another planet. He gave up his citizenship in the human race the night he committed.he committed.the night he committedmurder.
There. He said it. He said it to himself. And that was enough. He wouldn't need to say it to anyone else. Right? Right? Yeah, that's right. I don't need to.
He could still hide behind his lie. No one needed to know. Phillips decided to not be judgmental with himself. He did what he had to do. He knew, because the counselor at the addiction group had told him so. But he could not figure out how to lie to himself, and not know that he had killed someone.
He had hated. He had hated more than he had ever hated in his life. It had been a white hot, consuming hate. A blind hate. When it hit him, his guts chased around like a bag of weasels. He belonged to his hate. He wanted to kill. He did. And now, he lied. He was the biggest bag of shit in creation. He could not even be honest about the triumph of his hate. He was a chickenshit.
One night, he came home from group. He had a girl with him. He got out the gun. It was so beautiful. He got a thrill, just holding it. Your gun sure is big, she said.
He spun the chamber. He heard cracking wood, smelled cigarette smoke. He saw the asshole standing in the dark. He heard the gun go off, he heard the thump of the asshole's head hitting the floor. He heard the artery pumping its cargo. Panic hit like a brick wall crumbling over his shoulders.
He went pale. He started to sweat. He needed to puke.
He went in the bathroom. He blew chow. He looked at himself in the mirror. He saw the haggard, Lazarus face of the un-dead. His beard was ragged and shot with gray. His cheeks were hollow. His hairline receded back sharply. A forty-two year old worthless fuck. He was a no good, pathetic goddam liar. He was a lying piece of shit. He was a joke.
He held the muzzle of the .454 to his head. He spun the chamber. One round. His heart pounded up. He pulled the trigger. Nothing. He turned. He staggered out of the bathroom. For a few moments he felt clean. He fell on the bed. He passed out.
The girl sat beside him. Steve? Steve? he heard her saying. He couldn't move. OK. I just thought you might want to fuck. She got her things. She stood up. She left him alone. He slept.
* * *
An old blue Malibu left the curb just as Phillips pulled in the driveway the last several nights. Been six months since he shot the asshole. Phillips wondered. Phillips decided. Phillips made up his mind. He was going to find out the asshole's name.
Hello, Lt. Dotson, this is Steve Phillips. I'm the guy got no billed a while back on a home invasion shooting. Yeah, out in Oak Cliff. You guys declined to prosecute, by the way thanks again for that, and uh, anyway.
Dotson: What kin I do for ya, Mister Phillips?
Phillips: I wanna know the guy's name. hold the breath. Ticker chug-a-lugging in his chest.
Dotson: Hold on..(footsteps, random sounds, drawers opening and closing, phones ringing, voices) Let's see, uh. (pages turning) Yeah, here ya go. OK, you ready? He's some kinda Cajun, or maybe Canadian or something. Has a French soundin' name: F-as in Frank, R, A, N, C-as in can, O, I, S. B-as in 'boy', A, R, D-as in 'dog', A, M, U. Don't ask me how in hell you say it. What else?
Nothing. Thanks, Lieutenant.
Phillips called Pooter. Hey, Pooter, howzitgoin, man? Can't complain, either. No, don't want any dope, I'm clean. Hadda get clean, man, shit was eatin' my lunch. Say, listen, uh, you still know that guy that can hack government databases?
Yeah, sez Pooter. Why?
Never mind Pooter, I just wanna send him an email. Whaddya think he'd charge me to cross reference a name and a car?
Fuck if I know, call the sumbitch and find out.
* * *
Cost him $20. He found out that Francois Ferdinand Bardamu, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, DOB 6/21/51, owned a metallic blue 1975 Chevy Malibu. The plate number matched the one he saw by his house.
Phillips freaked. Phillips got chills. Phillips got the willies. Who the fuck was that pulling away from the curb? He decided to dig deep.
From the database, he got Bardamu's address. A trailer park out in Arcadia Park. That fit. Fucking trailer trash Cajun. He borrowed a car. He drove out there.
It was a junkyard with trailers in it. Hackberry trees grew willy-nilly. Pecan trees. And scattered underneath, post-industrial hell. Most of the cars he saw were dead. Naked kids played in the mud. Huge fat wives sat in tattered lawn chairs, smoking. They looked him over. They checked him out. They gave him the bean eye.
He saw the Malibu. It was up on blocks. There was a woman underneath. She had tools. She had grease. She was fat as the rest. There was a kid standing near her. He did something wrong. She dropped her wrench and smacked him in the face. He cried. He ran in the floppy screen door on the side of the trailer.
A teenage boy stood in the door. Phillips smelled pot. Phillips got a boner for pot. The kid followed him with a stoned, empty gaze.
Phillips had enough. He'd seen chez Bardamu. He kept on going. He got the hell out. He knew who it was. He knew what to look for.
* * *
Frankie Bardamu saw the Jap sedan roll past the trailer. His mom was trying to fix Pop's car. He'd just smoked a joint. The guy might as well have rolled through in a Klingon warship. What the fuck is he doin' out here? Frankie thought. Frankie got pissed. His rage cut right through the grass. Gonna need some more. He rolled another.
Fuckin' asshole has a lot of nerve. How a fuckin' pussy like that wound up being the one to kill my Pops ..
At least, he still had Phillip's TV and stereo shit. Pops hadn't fenced it yet. Pops broke his own rules, keeping that shit around. He liked it too much. It was good stuff. Rich guy stuff. He didn't wanna sell it. So he kept it.
Pops said the electronics came from a mother lode. Some guy owned a greyhound. Never was home. House full of shit. Good shit, too. RCA, Sony, like that. Porno DVD's.
Then greyhound boy killed Pops. Huh?! Some pussy lives by himself killed Pops? How'd that happen? But it happened. Killed him in the fucking house. Sonofabitch!
So, he started watching the guy. He kept Pop's car. Had a 327 four barrel. Pops put a stick shift in there a few years ago. A Doug Nash that he traded for with Goose. It hauled.
Frankie staked out the pussy's house. He staked it out a lot. He was there all the time. He wanted to get a good look at the fucker who killed his Pops.
Frankie had a plan.
* * *
Frankie wrote a note. It said:
if you doant no who I am than you are as stuepit as I knew youd be .. I will git you mutherfucker.
Frankie took the note to Phillips house one morning after he left for work. Frankie slipped it under the door. Frankie left. Frankie felt better. Frankie felt worse. When he got in the Malibu, he lit a joint.
* * *
Man, he left me a note! A threatening note. Phillips is on the phone to his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor. Wayne.
This is fucking with my serenity. Big time.
Wayne said, You call the cops?
Man, I have called the cops so many times.
Wayne said, Don't think about it man, just call the cops. Terroristic threats can get you picked up
Phillips lied. Hey Wayne, I've got someone at the door. I gotta go.
Call me later, said Wayne.
Phillips got in the car. Phillips couldn't stand it anymore. Phillips was going out there.
* * *
Phillips called Pooter and scored. He'd had enough of sobriety. He was being fucking stalked by a dead Cajun's family. Sobriety could wait.
He toked up. He toked up good. Smoked a whole rock. Got that freak on. God Almighty.
And, he packed heat. Big heat. The .454. This shit was gonna end. Now!
* * *
When Phillips pulled up at chez Bardamu, an ill combo of frying grease and dope smoke whacked his nose.
He went up the trailer's rickety staircase on a bright afternoon in North Texas fall. Hard blue sky. Yellow sun. Oily black crows in leafless trees. Muffled roar of the TV inside. He knocked. The widow Mme. Bardamu answered.
What? She said flinging the door open, like she knew who was coming. She froze. Her eyes got wide. She tried to slam it closed. Phillips got his foot in the door. It hit his shoe and it bounced back open again. She panicked. She screamed.
Frank-EEEEE!! Pandemonium hit. A blur out of the darkness inside. Dope smoke. The world turned sideways. Somehow, he knew he was falling. In slo-mo. It took forever to fall, to hit the ground. Something, someone on top of him. Blows raining down on him, but he felt no pain. He fought back.
He got control. He pulled a wrestling move from high school. He got the little fucker. He got on top. Frankie, is that your name?! Frankie? I wanna talk to youI'm the guy who. He heard the door slam. Mme. Bardamu waddling her bulk down the staircase. Hold on, Frankie, she says, I'm coming honey!
Phillips shifts around. She has a fucking pistol, the fat, greasy bitch. She is trying to get the safety off, but it won't move. She fucks with it some more. Frankie is twisting, screaming. Fuck you, motherfucker, I will kill you. I swear to god I will kill your punk ass, goddammit. Fuck you..
Phillip stands. Phillips does what he has to do. He has no choice. His life is in danger. Phillips reaches back with his right hand, to the hogleg sticking out of the belt. He draws/releases the safety with his thumb. Phillips throws down on Frankie, still screaming.
Phillips is cold calm, watching in DVD SloMo x 2. He has time enough for everything. Frankie's zit fucked face a twisted pasty slash of greased flesh, spilling insults, then, Blam! The .454 lets off a slug like the sun sending out a solar flare, a sound like supernovae colliding, the round entering under his right eye, his head exploding like a soft musk melon. Frankie flops down.
Problem One solved.
Problem Two is squealing like a pig on the killing floor, still fucking with the safety on her cheap-ass Saturday night special bullshit pawnshop pop gun. Phillips considers her a threat, too, and fires again while she stands there jacking with her gun, her big fat tits jiggling obscenely under the size 48XXL Cowboys T-shirt she wore as a single cover-all garment.
SloMo x 2 is still working, and he sees her fall like footage of an office building being pulled down, her legs buckling and twisting underneath the bulk of her fat torso. She twists and contorts, gutshot. The face looked like that of one forced to watch as a limb is removed. She laid on the ground, muttering something, her lips moving, her arms jerking as if to defend her from the invisible.
Phillips is so calm. It is all so clear, now. These people were out to kill him. And he knew to a moral certainty that the cops, Kershaw, Bondurant and the rest, could not have cared less. He had to defend himself.
The fat beast, Mme. Bardamu, stirred again, somehow, even with her gut blown open. Fuck it, thought Phillips. He stepped over, and let another round into her fat, filthy head, and she lay still. Then, he did the same to Frankie.
For finishers, Phillips loads another cylinder in the gun, empties it in the trailer. Inside, Frankie's little brother, Cody, takes a round crashing through his spine. He was hiding in the bathroom. He is dead.
Phillips looks around. Mid-day at the trailer park. As quiet and empty as the town in High Noon. Phillips stoned goofy out of his mind on crack, laughs. Laughs out loud. Fuck all you trailer trash!! He screams.
Phillips the mass murderer. Phillips the angel of revenge. The right hand of God.
He hears a siren, he sees flashing lights, he hears a voice. It is Evil incarnate. The voice says, PUT THE GUN DOWN, NOW, SIR!! PUT IT DOWN!
The world tilts sideways, he slides down it. He sits. He is covered in blue uniforms. He has a foot on his head. He is down. His hands tied together, his mouth full of dirt, he slides down into the ground, into the earth, the mud, the darkness.
* * *
My dearest Joaquin
Well, son. I fought the good fight. I am not sure that my lawyer did the best he could, but we'll see. I've got some of these Duch anti-death penalty lawyers looking at my case now, and they say I have a very good chance at commutation to life. They seem to think that the DA failed to prove I committed a capitol crime.
I guess I just don't see how no one could tell that these people meant me no good, and my life was in danger, when all I wanted was to talk to them. I am just glad that I was armed when I went out there, or I'd be shoving up daizies right now. So to speak.
So, rather than you and your mother greaving me at some funeral home, I sit now in a different kind of funeral home, where they prepare you for death, rather than for inturnment. I know this has been hard on you son, but now is my hour of need for family.
The Duch lawyers say that I could help them by getting affadavids of my character from different people. I want to ask you to help in this enterprise, as it may mean the saving of your Dad's life. I know you wouldn't want me strapped to a gernie and injected with god-knows-what.
So, I ask your help son, and I know that a good and smart young fallow such as yourself will be able to see things as they are-THE TRUTH- and will respond accordingly.
I will close now, and look forward to hearing from you.
Hasta la vista
* * *
Joaquin Phillips read the letter. He read it again. His heart gripped in his chest. He wept. He stopped weeping. He turned off the light in his room. He balled the paper up and tossed it in the corner. He lay on the bed. He thought about playing horse-y on his Dad's back. He thought about the train track and the plywood sheet. He thought about learning to bait hooks with minnows.
He lay in the dark. Through the curtains, the moon was a smeary, yellow smudge in a blue gray night sky. Headlights flashed across the room. He wept. There was no one out there.
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