Monday, October 17, 2011

Interlude Stories: Jamie Grefe


No more flings. It’s over. I loosen my tie and suck a Lucky through dust-filled lungs; lean in and breathe smoke over her body like a sacramental offering. Mutter a few words and watch her eyes study the ceiling in a limp stare, blood seeping from sliced-up skin. I curse the torn walls of this place, the hideaway, and scream a bit. I pocket the blood-stained scissors.

Sitting by the body, I crumple and swallow the note, let the ink drip down my throat, chasing it with spit. Kathleen, my lovely bird, look at you. My hands shake from this hot summer night. I pry the suitcase from her right hand. Ella will be proud of me.

The cigarette sticks to my lips. Visions of Ella and Kathleen send me shivering to the floor in a guilty lust. I hug the case and watch their two perfect faces blur, congeal, and melt into each other. The images morph from Kathleen’s sultry gaze to Ella's sweet smile. The scissors weigh my pocket down like a rock in a dead man’s mouth. But something is amiss and I know it is amiss, can feel it in the acidic ink. Kathleen’s left palm lies open. I read the message inscribed in blood, “She’s evil.”

Headlights from the driveway hit the wall behind me. Duck and stumble through the living room, fumble to the kitchen. My vision blots in bits of red. I hear the voices of men, men that are looking for me, looking for her. Car doors slam. They can probably smell me in the musky air. They sniff. I crouch and glimpse their large bodies, black suits and ties, firepower. Guns click and crack. Of course, I think, Kathleen’s hired hands. I have seen them in her office. She must have told them. I know this will not end pretty. Staring, I think of Ella waiting alone in the cabin. We are a mile apart from the first day of our new life.

When the front door is blown apart, I hear them holler and I disappear into the woods through the back door. I clutch the suitcase tight. A death-visit. Bullet serenades drill tiny holes into the house churning the wooden innards into a pierced lung. She had sent them to do me in. I did her in instead. It all works out in the end, I think. I run in strangled breath through the thick night. From a small hill hidden by tall trees I watch the fireworks, imagine her body engulfed by all those men, spoiled skin, holes, scissor slices. Kathleen, you set me up, I think. Waves of ‘she never really trusted me’ shoot me in the face. I’ll get over it. There’s too much money in the suitcase.

A muffled cellphone rings. There is a phone tucked in the inside pocket of my suitcoat. It is her phone. Lies. That would explain the lack of tears. Private Number. Connect and listen. Close breathing, empty shells skitter and clink through the speaker. A low drawl whispers in a foreign tongue. I hang up. The woods are still with the smell of death. I stomp the phone to bits even though I know it’ll do no good. They know where I am. They know I’m alive. I empty my pockets and review: map, keys and case.

I unfold and spread the map over the dirt and grass, use a match for fire to trace a way to where Ella waits. Her red-lipped kiss print marks the spot, one tiny star in the center of the lip-mark: our cabin. Yes, Ella will be there. I can still taste Kathleen’s dew on my fingers, in my nostrils. A soft moan like music echoes through the trees. A figure steps from behind a gaunt tree and leans her slender frame up against it. It is Kathleen and I freeze. Her red dress drips blood from the gash in her chest. There is a haze of smoke around her. I rub my eyes, but she is still standing there. A faint light emanates from her chest. The wound pulsates. I clench my teeth, stand and step slowly to her.

She wipes the blood from my face, while her green eyes chew kisses on my cheek. I can’t feel anything. I extend my arms to her. She is gone. I slap my own face. Nothing but the wind, I think. A bubbling pulse shoots through my skin in simmering ripples of pain. It feels like something is pushing out from my insides, something other than me, a part of Kathleen or a lingering trace of desire.

A wind picks up and I hold the map down with two stones. Light another match. Light another Lucky. I find the cabin on the map. It is a crude square amidst squiggles and trace my finger from the house to the wooden fence just over the hill that will lead me to the cabin with the kiss-marked lips. The phone rings again, a slur of voices are carried in by the tides of night and I think of the smell of her dress. Footsteps rustle in the distance. Too many ghosts out tonight, I think.

I fold the map and cram it into the suitcase, latch the case and run. There must be thousands in there all staring at me. Branches flick my face. For every wound, I think of Ella, I think of Kathleen. I hallucinate their bodies piercing the black woods around me. Kathleen runs through the field. She spreads herself in the grass. Solitary, Ella points to the fence, vanishes in the dark. Wild dogs with female voices sing from the horizon and I feel I blur into the blackened hallucinations of the night until I find the wooden fence that leads to the cabin. Thank you, ladies.

When I enter the cabin, fingers clutch my throat, maul my eyes and nose. The hands reek of gasoline. Someone is prodding my mouth with the muzzle of a cold gun, damp disinfected cloth, duct tape. Tied to the chair and through the puffed eyes of bruises, I think I see her in front of me - Ella, my glamorous angel and wife. Rough men surround me. Their faces are blurred phantoms in the low-light of the lamps and in the glaze of these fresh wounds. The head of a dead deer hangs above the fireplace. I shot, stuffed and mounted it two years ago. Now, it stares in revenge. The chair I am tied to is made of wood, bolted to the floor with nails. Ella, my angel wife, grins and pulls a Lucky from my shirt pocket.

The case is now handcuffed to a rough man’s thick wrist. Ella is talking with him, but I can’t understand what they are talking about. Other men pour gasoline over my head and body, douse the floor around the chair. The ceremony, I mumble through broken teeth, will begin shortly. The words just kinda pour out. Headlights flash white against the wall behind me for a second time this evening. Doors shut and I flinch, seal my eyes, blank out the world. Everything sounds too close.

Ella moves close and sits on my lap, wrapping her long scented legs around me. A touch of death from the poisoned ink wells up from within and I choke it back down. Innards constrict. She pecks my dirty skin with soft lips and I cough up wads of black saliva and blood. She whispers a litany of gorgeous sentiments and final words like revelations or bullets. The gears of my brain are growing rusty.

She says I never should have cheated in the first place and that this is where cheaters end up. She says that cheaters and liars don't gel, don’t mix. She says that Kathleen should have seen it coming, but the only thing Kathleen could say was how lovely it was that I could be a shared man. And then, the money. Ella and I had it all worked out, I think. She had placed the scissors in the hideaway’s kitchen cupboard. That part was a cinch. It was this part that throws me for a loop. There is another man, she says. A man with a scar the size of Texas steps from the shadows. He looks broken, but I think it is me who is broken. We have made plans, she says. Plans, I say. Plans, the Texan scar says.

Spatters of red, orange and green swirl around the periphery while spiraling images of what could have been sizzle in my mouth and I sigh out word after meaningless word. Ella’s face sits in the center of those spatters; the facade of my angel melts into a tangled, messy clump of deception.

She stands and Texas passes her a pair of blood-stained scissors, the pair they must have pulled from my pocket. I grunt and listen to the scissors snipping. I hear a car engine start up outside and the men are moving from the inside of the cabin to the outside. I see them through the picture window with its curtains of red. A trunk closes. A horn honks. I taste blue jazz and smoky blood, suck the dripping blood back up into my nose and deep into gasoline-soaked lungs.

Ella kneels before me. It happens slower than I would have liked, but then again, I don’t like any of this. A kind of dull pain compliments the whole process. My screams dissolve into the mist wafting from the river of blood that gushes from the sliced skin and bone of my gnarled legs.

I faint and awake to the silence and emptiness of the silent cabin and the mocking deer head fading in and out of clarity. I shot that thing, I think. By this time, the forgotten words of the poisoned note, that final and absolute adieu, have eaten through my insides and left me just another bloated and bloody veil on the face of the only woman that I ever truly loved. The blood surrounds me, a river of red like love. Ella, from the door, walks atop the red water like I always knew she could. She lights a lovely match. The flame is radiant.

BIO: Jamie Grefe lives and works in Beijing, China where he writes and teaches. His work is up at Mud Luscious, Pure Francis, Wonderfort, Danse Macabre and elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

Man. There's a psycho ward amusment park ride for ya!Don't leave your arms out of the car, they'll call you stumpy from then on. I always did like stories about fire eaters. Cool.

JG said...

Thank you for the comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the story.