Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Mose Brenlee’s Missive – 2

Besides the ghosts, and this is the second thing I have to tell you, I’ve kept a lot of secrets about Brenlee and the people here. Everyone who lives here very long has to keep secrets. I guess out of fear, mostly. Fear of losing what you have. Fear of having to move away and start over. Maybe even for me, fear of never seeing the ghosts again. Well, fear for themselves keeps a lot of people quiet and basic human decency keeps the rest of them quiet because what they know might ruin other people’s lives. Almost definitely would ruin lives.

The biggest secrets I know, the ones I can’t keep inside anymore, have to do with the boys murdered here. The one they found earlier today and the one they found 20 years ago. Both of them pretty much in the same place. Out in the Sneed’s orchard.

You all know I don’t care for Kenny Sneed. We grew up together, more or less, and never did get on together. He had to win at everything and be seen winning at everything and never cared how he won. Anything to do that might have taken his work but wouldn’t amount to his gain, he avoided. Never supported the department. Hardly even came to the pancake breakfasts and teased the people who did volunteer and give us money. I don’t know if you kids remember the time I came home bruised and bloody and didn’t get out of bed for two days. You were pretty little. Kenny went to the hospital. It was only his pride that kept him from pressing charges or suing me into the poor house – either of those things would have meant admitting that I beat him. I’m only as proud of it as a man is proud of killing an animal that eats his stock. Maybe that sounds pretty prideful, but it’s not like a hunter with a trophy. It’s something that had no alternative. It wasted time and brought neither the animal, pest that it was, or the rancher, not a man who makes money from his gun, any real good.

All that to say that I was only so proud of kicking Kenny’s ass. He had it coming, but I wish I didn’t have to have done it at all. You see, he wouldn’t let men working for him, volunteers for the department, have time off for the control burns or training or, even one time – the time that pushed me over the edge, time to answer an emergency call. He started taking away their beepers and walkies while they were at work in his almond huller. As soon as I heard about that and knew it was him at the source, I went to him. We beat each other nearly senseless, but I walked away and he didn’t. I made him call the department for an ambulance and made sure it was the men who worked for him who arrived first. The whole department watched him get hauled away and everyone did their jobs in spite of him. Everyone except Andy Currie, that is. Anyway, Kenny never gave me or the department any trouble again.

None of that’s a secret though. Maybe from you two kids because you were so young, but not generally. No, the secrets in Brenlee run deeper. There’s ones people guess at, like that boy, Boone, who went to prison for killing that boy 20 years ago being innocent. Of course, anyone who remembers that, knows he’s innocent after the boy they found this morning, but not many people said anything at the time or much later. Then there’s secrets nobody even wants to guess the truth about, like the one that follows the truth about the Boone boy; if he didn’t murder that boy 20 years ago, who did? And why’s nobody saying anything? And the answer to that last is fear. People are afraid of knowing the truth, because the person behind it, isn’t just like you or me. That person, a person who would kill a child and leave it like that to be found, butchered and bled out, that person is from Brenlee walking among us and our ghosts, poisoning our town. Too many of us know who that person is and none of us has said a word – but keeping that secret changed my life… maybe Phyllis you’d say, it ruined it.