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.