Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Hell Once And For All

Pickem Sneed’s mind felt claus­tro­pho­bic. The boy. The trees. Pruning to be done. Sheriff and police offi­cer’s ques­tions. Mable — a man has to pro­tect his wife and fam­i­ly, does­n’t he? That poor boy and his small strong hands. Like his grand­son, who’s job it is to deal with this now. But he does­n’t know. He’ll make the same mis­takes. And he’s got orchards to tend to, a fam­i­ly of his own and every­thing else. And frac­tur­ing what room remained in his mind for peace and rest were the dark lines of a pat­tern that formed a face. The face of a man that had­n’t aged in his mind these 20 years. Where was he yes­ter­day? Dead. Still dead. And the old man awoke.
Pickem had­n’t made it from his reclin­er in the liv­ing room to his bed last night. It hap­pened, but not often, so he was­n’t too con­fused when he woke up and did­n’t see Mabel’s face half buried in a pil­low next to his own. Instead, he saw his read­ing glass­es reflect­ing light com­ing through a liv­ing room win­dow. The first dim light of the day open­ing the orchard and falling to this house. His home. Under his read­ing glass­es, a copy of last week­end’s paper, but he had­n’t been read­ing that when he dozed off, he’d been fight­ing sleep as he read and re-read a para­graph of a true sto­ry about a man who tried to bring the Bible to China. Mabel said it was as good as The Good Earth. It was­n’t, but it passed the time.

He thinks he should call his son Kenny. He might be at the Fire Station, but he should try his house first. Kenny would know what’s going on. He would know what to do. And what to say if they asked about the oth­er boy, the one from before. But what about the man? And that fel­la in prison? Pickem clos­es his eyes and tries to take a breath, clear his mind, and break out of this bad dream. The morn­ing sun stretch­es across the car­pet­ing and up the arm of his chair, warm­ing his fin­gers. He can’t see a way out, trapped by things that nev­er should have hap­pened. Surely he must be dead already and all this some elab­o­rate trick of the dev­il to steer him to hell once and for all.