.closer [to god]

“We’re to burn it, break down the pieces, and sweep away the ashes.”

“Pardon?”

I gathered the tools from the truck, and glanced over my shoulder “Something you didn’t understand?”

“Wellsir, I understood that there was a dead horse were ‘sposed to be burying?”

Off in the distance were the cries of a hawk. A recording played over at the church every couple hours to keep the crows from swarming in. “We’re to the dispose of it. Most efficient way is to burn it.”

“The stable too?”

I set down the tools, gave the kid a quick once-over. “I don’t recognize you. Not from around here?”

“Nosir. The deputy hailed me up from the next town over, said he had work for a lad like me.”

“Didn’t strike you as suspicious that he had to get someone from a town over?”

“Work is work, is all. My family could use the money”

I didn’t say anything to the kid on the way to the stable. As we approached I took out my bandanna a fashioned a face mask from it. I poured the gas. The stench from the gas and the corpse was nauseating even through the mask.

The kid staggered after me. “We’re really not going to give the poor thing a burial? God’s creatures all deserve one.”

I was getting impatient. “This is a girl’s horse. She’s coming back tomorrow morning. This needs to be done by then.”

His eyes drooped a bit. “Shouldn’t we at least clear out anyone in the stable first?”

He wasn’t giving in. I resigned myself to a nearby log. “I guarantee there isn’t anyone in there.”

“Don’t hurt to check,” came the reply.

I took a stick of Chinese gum I had picked up on my last trip to the city, and slid it into my mouth. The biting aroma of it numbed my nostrils, and after some chewing its tough body made my jaw numb as well.

The kid stumbled out of the stable, scrambling out of the door. “What in God’s Earth happened in there?”

I spit my gum out and rolled my jaw. “A little bit of Hell.”

“P-Pardon?”

I sighed. “The girl who lives here liked to ride that horse around at night, clear her mind. According to the Sheriff, last night, as she was going out she heard the horse cry out. She rushed inside to find a naked man cobbled over in a pool of blood , the horse on its side kicking the air. Both of them had been castrated. The man stood up and threw himself at her, while making it quite clear that he had sown the horse’s dick where his used to be. The brother, hearing a scream, rushed into the stable and upon seeing horrible scene, complete with the man attempting to throttle his sister in her nightgown, shot both the horseman and horse on sight. You can imagine how well that went over with his sister, having the brains of the horseman—”

“Please stop using that word”

“—and her beloved horse splattered all over her. The girl’s at a hospital now, attempting to get over the trauma. As for the horseman, apparently he was a doctor who lapsed into being an alcoholic when his wife left him. She told him he fucked with as much passion as dead horse. Guess he thought if he was hung like one it wouldn’t have mattered. ”

After he was done puking, the kid shut his eyes tightly, clasped his hands together and kneeled down.

“Hey. Save your damn prayers.”

“At least let me—”

“Look, back in the city I was a cop. Saw lots of fucked up things. One thing I learned, after some shit like this, a family doesn’t need prayers, services, or condolences. What they need is to get far away from the place it happened, get it out of their minds, and never revisit those memories if it can be helped. Hell, in a small town like this, we let this place stand any longer and with all the nightmares it’s going to give the people here they might as well turn the church back into an asylum.”

The kid got up and helped me pour the gas. His hands shook the whole time. I struck a match and lit the place up. It burned for a solid hour, and afterward we took our axes and splintered the still hot remains. We took a break before sweeping the ash away. The kid checked his pockets, then glanced over. “You have a cigarette? I could use one or two right now.”

“No. Trust me, you don’t want to keep putting that filth in your body.” I slipped another stick of gum into my mouth and offered him one. He put it in his mouth and grimaced at me.

“I tastes like a leather boot.”

“Yeah.”

A final spark escaped the remains. Off in the distance, the cries of a hawk were heard from the church.

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