Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

Archive for July, 2007

Brenlee Morning Snapshots

Monday, July 9th, 2007

When the first of the day shift arrives — a young vol­un­teer who fills in between six and eight a.m. — Mose leaves the fire­house in the morn­ing with­out a word. He dri­ves across town aim­ing for that bro­ken met­al wind­mill mark­ing the Currie prop­er­ty.

*

Across town, a cow­boy is punch­ing Andy Currie in the face. Officer Hernandez is grab­bing the cow­boy and escort­ing him out­side.

*

Dennis Plaster is dress­ing for work, gulp­ing down cof­fee with his girl­friend Joanne, ‘dis­cussing’ their mon­ey sit­u­a­tion and the like­li­hood of get­ting out of town next week­end. They had reserved a small house at Sea Ranch. Their prospects of hav­ing a relax­ing time at the beach look bleak. This dead boy in the Sneed’s orchard had changed every­thing. This could go on for weeks, even if he is just a part-timer. And he may need the extra hours if any of his land­scap­ing clients decide to leave Brenlee because of the inci­dent.

*

On anoth­er Brenlee street, Andrea Lawson is cry­ing for Gabriel as she dri­ves to work. Today she can’t turn on the radio. Her ears and mind are already too full with thoughts of the mur­dered boy. One of her stu­dents. One of her suc­cess­es. One of her rea­sons for hope in a life too beau­ti­ful to feel so very lone­ly.

*

Vice Principal Schmidt arrived in her office before sun­rise and sits there now with a small sty­ro­foam cup of decaf cof­fee, an eight ounce car­ton of orange juice, and a bis­cuit from the cafe­te­ria. She picked up her food and left the school break­fast pro­gram in an unusu­al silence. A few of the unem­ployed par­ents linger with their own and the oth­er kids, try­ing to encour­age them and allay fears that are only real to the lit­tle ones because all of the adults seem so pre­oc­cu­pied with mak­ing them feel safe. Mrs. Schmidt takes a bot­tle of gener­ic anti-anx­i­ety med­i­cine from the top draw­er of her desk. The pills make her stom­ach uneasy and every­one around her seem com­i­cal and small. She takes three with her orange juice.

*

William Loof sits suck­ing on his joint at the canal bank, self-med­icat­ing before hit­ting the road for some answers.

*

Tamra has gone numb lis­ten­ing to Chad Hoban yell on his way out the door, late for his job as the county’s most inept sherrif’s deputy. In the silence after his depar­ture, her numb­ness thaws as she cal­cu­lates just how quick­ly she can pack her things, write a note, and move out for good. She won­ders whether William will still be in bed when she arrives. How nice it would be to retreat into his warm sleepy silence, so calm and secure as his deeply naive good­ness of char­ac­ter floats obliv­i­ous­ly to the sur­face this morn­ing. Her thin smile reroutes the tears falling down her cheeks.

*

The same dog who sniffed and barked out­side of Hernandez’s place the night before, wakes to the sound of boots scrap­ing across the cement stairs of that same apart­ment build­ing. He smells the man com­ing down — chew­ing tobac­co, sweat, a cloy­ing sweet­ness that usu­al­ly belongs to the woman upstairs, leather, cof­fee, whiskey, and some­thing that could only be dust and peach fuzz. The dog doesn’t cow­er, but doesn’t come imme­di­ate­ly for­ward either. He stands with a path clear behind him. It doesn’t pay to be cor­nered by this man if his mood is foul. A piece of a ham­burg­er drops down the stairs and lands in front of him, he watch­es the man who has stopped on the bot­tom of the stairs. As the dog takes the left­over meal, the man pets his head and neck gen­tly.

The man speaks soft­ly to the dog, “We’re in the shit, you and me. Ain’t we?” The dog hard­ly rec­og­nizes the man’s voice it is so changed from the last time he heard it. Low and soft. But this is the same man, the one he shouldn’t trust, but must if he is to have any break­fast. The man walks to his truck. The dog knows bet­ter than to fol­low.

*

Ken Sneed throws a scrap to that old stray dog and gets into his truck and dri­ves home after spend­ing the night with Mrs. Evans who lives in the apart­ment over that Mexican cop. She is noth­ing to him, but he will always pay her way. Her way is cheap­er than his wife’s and she’s a bet­ter sort. More able to care for her­self. He looks at his cell phone. His wife didn’t even miss him last night. Not even one call from the house. Two from Sherri, Trot’s (his eldest) wife. She’s a hand full. Should nev­er have… Ah well, she’s kin now. One way or the oth­er. No word from Andy. Asshole. Somethin’s gonna have to get done. Maybe that Mexican cop. Did what I could to keep him paid good enough so he wouldn’t get into bor­row­ing from the bank but… mon­ey talks. Goddamned Andy.

*

And deep in the ancient shad­ows of a wal­nut orchard just beyond the city line, in the low flood plain of the small riv­er to the north of town, shad­ed and dark through­out the bright­est summer’s day, the only sounds are a woman who tru­ly knows the art of weep­ing. She learned from her grand­moth­er, moth­er, aunts, and old­er sis­ters to mourn so pow­er­ful­ly it com­pels dead souls to leave on that dark jour­ney into the next world rather than stay and lis­ten. This woman will not have her son linger in the place of his mur­der. She will mourn him into a bet­ter place, even if he refus­es to go. His spir­it appeared to her last night to con­sole her and she weeps all the more for his depar­ture.

No espec­tro. No espec­tro,” she mum­bles.

Her liv­ing sons and hus­band can do noth­ing but take turns griev­ing with her — they, all of them strong day labor­ers, lack her endurance and pow­er in this. They feed her water and broth. Her hus­band sips instant cof­fee in the kitchen, unable to help her and cer­tain that the police will bring a final ruin on him and his fam­i­ly, send­ing them back to a coun­try where he has noth­ing, not even this lev­el of pain and grief.

*

The sky tries and fails to heave up the kind of per­fect blue clar­i­ty that would make any ghost believe it still lived, but instead a brown-grey sta­t­ic shrouds the great val­ley. Mose Brenlee dri­ves his pick up truck through the orchard and parks a few rows away from the Currie house. He loads his shot­gun and brings it, a roll of bail­ing wire, sil­ver duct tape, and two fire extin­guish­ers with him to the house, where he waits in the dark. The let­ter to his fam­i­ly is in the back pock­et of his jeans.

The Currie house smells of an old woman knit­ting dusty yarn over sweet milk choco­late while read­ing the TV Guide. He nev­er knew until now that the TV Guide had its own smell. Old Mrs. Currie, long dead, must be watch­ing him now. Quietly, sud­den­ly feel­ing the bone deep tired he’s ignored for years, he tells her, “You know why I’m here. It’s what’s got­ta be done. I don’t wan­ta do it just here, but I will.” And Mose Brenlee, an angry, right­eous man pre­pared to levy jus­tice upon the evil of oth­ers and the evil in him­self, dozes off in Mrs. Currie’s rock­er. He does not dream and will not wake until he hears the sound of a man’s foot on the wood­en porch some hours lat­er.