Meet Duff Chapter 2
His fingers flipped pages back to front. That shiny black book wasn’t a Bible after all. Disappointedly, most pages were blank, except one. The first page had one sentence; “Do what’s wrong, play the ancient song.” He could still hear the melody in his mind’s ear, but he didn’t remember enough of it to hum it–that song in the hills.
The book spoke to Morty loud and clear–straight to the point. That spiteful sentence sent coldness up his spine. It was like those words were spoken by an entity living within it. It became a loud talking book. It was meant for his eyes, silently screaming at him. But, he didn’t think he did anything wrong. At least, nothing he could recollect. He set the book down. THUMP!
Moments later, a loud squawking crow lands on the store’s front porch. There it was; a big black bird flapping its wings, happily hopping around in a circle repeating, “Morty! Morty! Morty! Do what’s wrong, play the ancient song!”
What! A Tap Dancing Bird that speaks! It mocks me! It knows my name?
Then, it turned its head. “NEVERMORE, MORTY!”
The bird pooped one big mound flying off to the hills leaving a few of its feathers still gliding, sailing, floating down in air. Morty flicked on the front porch light and grabbed a roll of paper towels to wipe it up before some sue crazy customer fell on his ass.
He swore to God he heard that dirty bird cackling a laugh all the way up to the hills. He had a BB rifle perched against the door. He didn’t think fast enough to blast the bird in the ass.
Sam, the ex-Marine walks out of darkness with a haircut like a shoe brush. He sees him on his hands and knees smearing it into a much bigger mess. He laughs, looking down as he stands on the porch.
“You get all the Shitty Jobs, huh, Shooter! It looks like you could screw up a wet dream, SON!“
“I guess so, Sam. That’s ME, screwing up a wet dream! Hey, get a load of this; a Crow landed, squawked my name, did a tap dance, took a crap, and then flew away laughing at me!”
“Maybe, that BIRD needs one good pellet in his ASS!”
“You got that right Homeboy! I forgot about the BB gun by the door.”
“A RIFLE should be locked and loaded at all times, SON.”
“I recon so.”
He paused. “Sam, did you just call me Shooter?”
He didn’t answer.
He tried a different question. “Hey Sam, the bird said, ‘Do what’s wrong, play the ancient song.’ What do you think that means?”
No one knows if he hears too good. When you survive to a certain age, it may be that you don’t remember what you heard moment to moment. It may be you don’t want to hear. Sam smiled and walked in the store.
He goes over to the pinball machine in the corner. He plays until he gets his dose. He lives anonymously in the back of the store. He survives on his Pension and Social Security. He has no strings to tie him down. He drinks and smokes like there’s no tomorrow. He’s got Cancer. He takes the Marijuana he needs in the back. He doesn’t talk about if it helps or not.
Minutes later, a short stranger bops up the stairs. Morty looked up at him saying HELLO. He realized this guy was not a kid. He didn’t know there were three foot grown men in town. He was small enough to be a doll sitting in a girl’s doll house chair.
He walks in the store gathering up what he needs. He puts it all on the counter top. Sam looks straight across to eye level of someone of average height. He then corrects in a split second, looking down with a half smile as he continues playing.
Pam handles the purchase taking his money bagging it all up. The stranger walks out with full paper bag under one arm. He looks like an ant carrying a juicy prize Caterpillar.
He walks down the stairs to the driveway and across the street.
Morty watched him walk up the trail while as he cleaned the mess up. He stood up walking back inside.
“Pam, I didn’t know there was a Midget in town!“
“He’s a Dwarf, Morty. Dwarves are shorter.“
“She’s right,” Sam says.
Pam knows stuff like that.
“What did he buy?”
She laughs. “Beef Jerky, Candy Bars, and Energy Drinks–crap that stunts your growth!“
“Ha! Very funny! Aren’t we supposed to be politically correct these days?”
“Not if you live in a small politically incorrect town,” she said smiling.
Sam looks at Pam.
Morty dries tears of laughter.
He walked to the front porch. He looked up to the Dwarf standing at the top of the trail. The short man waves, then enters the bushes. Morty stood staring. The music played again. A lantern popped out waving back and forth.
“Look! See that lantern?”
Sam covered his head and fell to the floor at the noise.
Morty and Pam looked down at him laying on the floor looking up.
There was a huge explosion that wasn’t more than a mile away. All the windows rocked, the walls shuddered, and the front door chattered opening and closing a bunch of times. They knew exactly what the BANG was. About ten more flies flew in.
The noise echoed throughout the valley. It was another Meth lab in some pusher’s garage or spare bedroom. Bloody body parts are raining down red hamburger. The neighborhood will puke. The children will scream murder when they see bloody meat falling. You could look down and see people looking around trying to figure out what the explosion was and where it originated. They soon saw flames. Scavenging crows were picking meat up wherever it landed in the trees.
There are slightly different sounding sirens. One being John’s cop car, a fire truck, and ambulance. You can see the red and yellow flames growing taller in the distance. You could see them bringing out blue body bags. You could see them shooing off the dogs, crows, and cats trying to eat the human meat.
Morty and Pam looked at the smoldering flames and red embers floating high in the air. They could hear the water hoses spraying and see billows of steam rising like clouds as fiery flames were quickly snuffed. Morty got the garden hose and sprayed the tree and roof, just in case embers floated down.
Drug lords never get thrown in jail. They always hire the high profile lawyers who get them off the hook on a technicality. All they get is a slap on the hand, not even community service. Laws don’t stop these guys. They make too much money. Too many officials are paid off. That makes them above the law.
Sam rattles the old game table like a shaky earthquake. Balls go where he wants. His twelve-pack dribbles condensate down the game glass. Water puddles on the right bottom corner. It leaks dribbling down inside, making the glass fog up. Bright multicolored lights flash. The Jiggle jiggle, clunk clunk, click click of the flappers play out.
The last rusty ball rolls down. It slams the bottom slot like a turd swirling down a hungry gulping toilet. Sam looks up like he thinks he won some sort of prize. But, there is no prize.
He walks over to the refer tearing a tall can out of the pack as swift as a Karate Chop. He pops it open gulping, slurping, walking. No, Pinball Sam won’t let out a long beer belch or trumpet style fart. Not his style; unlike Lazy John, who has no couth and pride worth having.
He gets to the check-out counter asking for a carton of non-filter cigarettes. Morty reaches behind to get them. Morty bags it all up. A skull with a knife stuck in it is tattooed on the old warrior’s arm. He lights up the last non-filter cigarette out of his pack from his shirt pocket throwing the crumpled pack to Morty to throw away. The smoldering fag immediately stuck to his dry bottom lip like glue. He puts his bag of goods under his arm. He sucks on a beer like a baby binky.
“What do you think about that MIDGET, Sam?”
“I guess we’ll let him LIVE.”
“Maybe, he’ll let you LIVE, Sam.”
Sam grabs the honor system pencil hanging by a string next to the cash register. He jots down his items adding them on the trailer rent tab.
“You know, he walked up to the hills up there across the street.”
“What do you think he’s doing up there?”
“He probably has HIS reasons.”
“Fill in the blank.”
“There’s a little girl up there, too.”
“Maybe, she’s his kid.”
“Got to get going. See you tomorrow, SON.”
He walks to the door.
“Do you think he’s dangerous?”
“Could be Running from the LAW–homeless. Hey, I don’t give a FUCK. I just play Pinball.”
“Take care, Sam!”
Morty shakes his head.
Pam has been sitting there watching TV, quietly.
“See you tomorrow, Pam!”
Sam nods his shoe brush head to both of them as he exits. He pushes through the screen door. He’s goanna drink and chain smoke. “Bam!” The shock goes up Morty’s spine from pimply ass hairs to last surviving gray strands on top his shiny dome. Fucking damned door! The eye twitches and twitches.
Sam is eighty something, a man of his time. A lifer hard ass like him is good if something God awful were to break loose. He’d throw his coat in a puddle for a lady to walk on in the rain. You knew he’d be in the middle of it with you when the chips were down. He’d come out swinging knowing what to do next. He’d wake to sounds roaming in the darkness that had no damned business being there. You knew he’d stand shoulder to shoulder with you to the bloody end of it.
It wouldn’t make a shit bit of difference what “It” was. Rest assured, he’d have a gun or a knife handy hidden somewhere closely accessible to the tips of his knotty leathery fingers. In a split second, that weapon of vigilante justice would be in the face of an Alien, Burglar, Terrorist, or window peeking Pervert.
His ten foot shiny rounded aluminum trailer sits on permanent blocks behind the store. Once in a while, you hear screams. It’s not the neighbor’s dog howling at the moon. When you’ve been in a place of violent death, the Devil owns your rotten ass. No soap, no matter how strong washes that kind of past Blood off. When you kill someone, Hell’s Demons follow you straight to death. There is no Salvation. You can’t Pray enough. You are found where you hide. You are never forgiven. You never forgive yourself.