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.