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.