Monday, July 25, 2011

FICTION: SHARKY By Anthony Buchanan

I’ve always feared spontaneous combustion. That seems like the worst way to go for sure. I mean you can’t even see that shit coming. The word “spontaneous” is the key to understanding that. I’ve had a relentless fear of spiders since I was four. My psychiatrist says this is because I woke up with a giant one, the body I swear was as big as my thumb nail, making its way into my mouth. But I’m not so sure that’s the reason. I hypothesize it’s because spiders are harbingers of death. But that’s just a guess. The worst of my fears, however, seems to be tight spaces and I learned that about two weeks ago.

“Now the paralysis should end in about…humm…ten or so minutes.” The man with the glasses said as he stared down at me lying there, helpless. “And it’s at that point when you should start to be afraid. Because those snakes down at your boots won’t want to be all stomped on.” He pointed down to my feet where two snakes coiled their way around my lifeless legs. Lucky for me I’m not afraid of snakes. I gave him a smile to say I got him, and he gave me a wink to say “Screw you.” Glasses let the last bit of cedar fall into place before he hammered it tight. At this point, buried alive became a close third on the list of worst ways to die. Second was still bursting into flames, and the new number one was bursting into flames while buried alive.

Glasses was a little off in his assessment, and the drugs he injected into my leg started wearing off in half his estimated time. Being a bit pissed off, and determined to not die with serpents having sex with my legs, I quickly killed them both. The heel of my boot and a good amount of thrashing did the snakes in faster than I would have hoped, since these things were supposed to be a symbol of power. But hey I’ll take any break at this point.

Now I was alone. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but at least I’d die in peace. I closed my eyes, took deep, long breaths, and found my own little area of Zen. I remembered him, the man with the glasses, but from where. He looked like an old middle school teacher I had, but I knew that couldn’t be him. Besides the immense coincidence, this teacher, Mr. Hatcher, had moved to Tibet after a midlife crisis and a scandal with a fourteen year old girl. With that ruled out, I could proceed in my ponderings to pass the hours before air had all run itself dry from the cubby. Now, somewhere in all this wondering and thinking about things long done and gone my eyes began to grow heavier and I struggled to breath at a respectable pace. Sleep was okay I thought. Sleep would get me ready for my escape.

“Tim!” A pick slammed itself against the wood of the casket and almost made it through. Both sounds came in quick succession. I don’t know what one woke me up. “Tim!” The voice cried out again. This time when the pick fell, it when right on through the boards, and stopped just a caterpillar head before giving me a hole dead center in my chest.

Wiping my head I said, “O.K. that’s good you hit the box!” Unfortunately all my axe wielder of a girlfriend heard was, “ouh, thugh ou it he ox.”

Casey is one smart girl, and her intelligence shouldn’t be based off this one moment. For one, this was the first time she had ever dug a whole bigger than the ones that fit her petunias. But just for stories sake I’ll tell you, she hammered down one more time with the pick. When Casey yelled, “Tim, I’m coming honey, I swear I won’t let you die like this!” I knew the dirt and the dark was covering my tomb just enough so that she wouldn’t notice that she broke ground. Luckily this shot was right at face level, and like a goalie on a penalty kick, I chose a side and prayed for gold.

When the pick came all the way through she let out a yelp and pulled it out of its hole with a quick swing. She bent down slowly, hesitant to look at the puncture she just made. “Timmy?…” She peered closer.

I popped my head into the hole and screamed as loud as I could. And she returned with a scream of her own, jumped into the air, and turned right side over, so all I saw out of my little peep hole was two legs fly into the black of the night. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Oh you little shit head.” Gulping for air Casey sat on top of my casket laughing and holding her beating heart. “My heart’s beating like the little drummer boy. I should leave you in there.”

I could tell she really was scared because she never curses, so I tried to get out pushing the wood myself as she sat getting her wits back. I had my torso out, and was sitting, when I took a break. She gave me a look like I should apologize, so I did and then she helped me the rest of the way out of the box.

We sat for a good long while outside on the grass of this field, right next to the pile of dirt Casey had trudged through. Her face was smeared with mud and her makeup had started to run from her crying, but even with it she still glowed. She glowed even more when she handed me a beer out of the back of her Ford Ranger before getting one for herself. She sat down again on the grass, this time closer to me. She rested her head against my chest and said, “Do we know who it was this time?”

I gave a shrug and she looked unhappy and took a sip of her beer. “But, it’s ok.” I placed my finger on her chin and gently turned her head towards me. Those big green eyes stared me down. I was defenseless. “Right?” I slid my thumb up her chin and under her bottom lip. As I spoke I mimed my words on her mouth, “Yes, everything is wonderful my love. You are such a handsome and glorious man. I would dig a thousand…”

Before I finished, she stopped my (or her) rant by covering my lips with hers. She pulled back and lay again against me. “You are so funny.”

I told her it got her to kiss me so I had no regrets. We sat for a while like that, looking at the stars and occasionally sipping at the bottles. We weren’t in a hurry to get out of the area like most people would have been. You see this is just part of our life. Our own little slice of Heaven here in Bullhead, South Dakota. Casey and I are private investigators in a town that some people don’t consider eventful. But they’d be idiots. We see it firsthand. All the scum and mess comes pilled in little paper trays on my desk. And every couple weeks or so I’m stuffed in a coffin, or a barrel and thrown down the river, or hung upside down by my ankles naked, or turned into a Swiss cake roll in a carpet and thrown down a flight of stairs. I take it all in stride. As the breeze picked up and carried the scent of lilac through our lungs we just hope tomorrow’s better. This is a life, this is our life.

“Maybe it’s because I was just buried with snakes, or maybe it was the pick axe almost hitting me in the face, but I have to say tonight is one of the most beautiful nights I’ve seen in a long time.” I meant it, as I looked out at the radiant reds of the sun coming up under the horizon. I felt it in my bones as the warmth of day, and of Casey’s head pressed against my chest, funneled through me. You’ve got to just breathe it all in sometimes.

Casey pulled her head off my chest and looked at me curiously. “Wait,” she said, “There where snakes in there?”

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