Scrawny old Bill Jackson worked twenty years as janitor at the mine. He swept the lunchroom, washed and waxed the office floors, operated the snowplough and weed whacked the grass. He liked to see things clean. After the mine closed, he spent most of his time driving up and down the highway and side-roads picking up cans and bottles. “Without me, the garbage would just pile-up” he told anyone who’d listen. He hauled discarded tires, old couches, rotten mattresses into the back of his pickup and drove them to the landfill.
Part One: A murderer I cared for
There was a young boy once who has read a lot – not for any romantic reason, other than his father being unavailable, and his mother being overly available. He spent most of his Saturdays in Chapter Zero (local second-hand bookstore and library) – not for any romantic reason, other than his father being unavailable. He would have spent most of his Sundays there too, but he stayed home instead – not for any romantic reason, other than his mother being overly available.
You tap left but the phone doesn’t register. Touchscreen gloves aren’t so touchy after all. Instead, the story slides onto the next one, the one on the right, which glowed orange and black like hot molten metal. There’s a silhouette of a kangaroo.
On our third date we did some petting. She said she didn’t mind my nose that drooped like burnt wax and was porous with puss. She coiled her hands into my chest hair which was whitening with the withering days. I couldn’t afford to pay her much, hence she only gave half-assed blowies. Out of pity she called this encounter a date. She knew I was dying, and I knew I needed to put that pity where my pennies weren’t.
As he emerged from the subway, George shaded his eyes, blinking into the morning sun. At the top of the steps he paused, glancing around the island platform. It was busy and the benches all seemed taken. A little further on he found a space between a middle-aged woman and a gnarled old man. It wasn’t hard to see why the space was free, but George’s head was spinning and he had to sit down. He nodded as the man’s yellowy grey eyes met his for an instant. The man folded his newspaper to make space before hunching his shoulders and continuing to read.
The groaning and gibbering column of mourners stood over the small, still warm cat. All wept and shook save three. The old man, leaning slightly harder on his left side, looked only at the boy, his daughter’s son. The boy was silent also, though wore the look of the savaged. The third to keep from buckling to the emotion of the scene was the vet who had administered the barbiturates.
A wall of angry clouds threatened the morning light. William Watson hoisted the last suitcase and slammed the trunk.
“Hurry! It’s almost here!” he hollered. “We need to stay ahead of it!”
He adjusted the rearview mirror, smiled confidently at the kids, and wheeled the sedan off the apron of the driveway.
“Here we go!”
The conversation had gone all the way around the corner and came back to death, or getting there, Prince having the floor and saying, “I had a friend just north of Boston.” That’s how he started, a simple opener, the way he does it, with natural pauses built in and a pass at saying he was familiar with Elizabeth Bishop’s poems. Hell, we knew that from similar discussions.
He was a peaceful baby with a face like Buddha who grew into a sensitive toddler: enormous eyes that took in everything and missed nothing. When he fell he cried, but he always recovered after the usual spell of tears.
What a precious child, we thought. Life will be hard on him.
‘The yung stag stood there wi blud on his muzzle. Prostrated before him wis the defeated challenger. They didnae fight for the right to a wuman, nor the right tae land but fae the sake of fighting’s sake. A hatred bore within both stag’s hearts exploded that misty mornin. For one had been taught to hate the other and the other tae hate the first. In truth the stags both looked the same and lived the same lives. Yet one lay deed and the other munched on his flesh. The ecstasy of hate well realised pumped thru the yung stag’s veins. He felt strong and mighty and the monarch of that moment. Whit did his violence gain besides this fleeting high? Fuck all. He sustained a wound to his left shooder and part of his earlier impressive crown was snapped aff and jammed in the deed stag’s neck. Blood soaked his soft brown coat and he looked altogether minging. The meat of the deed stag was tough and manky. The yung stag was close tae boaking so he left the quiet scene of quiet violence.’