Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Poor News Badly Delivered Pt. 1

He stands where they found the body the day before. He turns slow­ly around, look­ing through the heavy fruit­ed orchard, down the nar­row dirt access road the killer almost cer­tain­ly drove. He stops. What? Something there. Across the road in a tree. A reflec­tion of met­al up in limb. Not high up. Perhaps at the lev­el of his chest. He walks toward it with great care not to lose track of it as the light changes with his move­ment.

A few steps away, he real­izes he has expec­ta­tions of this object unfound­ed in oberser­va­tion or expe­ri­ence. He thinks it must be an old can of some kind. Maybe a cof­fee can con­tain­ing rusty nails or trac­tor parts, left there in the dusk of some late day’s work who knows how long ago. It must be some frag­ment of farmer’s apara­tus or sim­ply a piece of trash lift­ed out of the dirt and for­got­ten. Why would any­thing else feel like bad news poor­ly deliv­ered?

He is next to the tree now, look­ing down at the limb in ques­tion. It is an old can. It is not an old can. It is trash. It is not trash. Not a trac­tor part, tool, or any­thing that belongs here. It is in its intend­ed place as all things like always are. It is a met­al cross tacked to the peach tree limb, made of pieces of alu­minum beer cans, cut and care­ful­ly riv­et­ed togeth­er. The bark of the tree grips it tight­ly and it is plain that it is noth­ing new. Nothing for Gabriel. It is not beau­ti­ful, but for some­one, it is clear­ly the most impor­tant thing for miles. Hernandez bends to look more close­ly at the met­al, seek­ing what? Words. Another sym­bol inside or on to make this give this grand sym­bol some sim­ple con­text. Something was there once, but not now.

It’s for the boy.” The offi­cer turns to see old Mr. Sneed watch­ing him from the access road. From twen­ty feet away, he can see the elder­ly man shak­ing and blink­ing too much to be well.

I didn’t-”

The oth­er one. You know about the oth­er one?”

A lit­tle.”

Found him here too.”

Here?”

Right there. That’s his tree. Moved the road…” He waves his hands in an attempt to indi­cate rough­ly a shift of the access road in his direc­tion. “Whole damned road. Used to be that cross was low down on that tree, but it grew. Ya’ see, it’s old­er than the oth­ers. Not much fruit, but it pro­duces. Sure it does.”

Mr. Sneed, I’d like to ask you about that boy.”

Sure ya’ would.” And the old farmer turns and walks toward his home. Hernandez fol­lows, sur­prised each time the man steps and doesn’t dead-leaf crum­ple to the dirt.