“A little anisette, please…” Part ll

(Continued from “A little anisette, please…”)

The glowing wafer of moon slipped thinly into the chalice of the hills.

“I am not worthy to receive you…” the long forgotten words clattered across his memory like a broken strand of pearls. “…but only say the words….” He was startled to hear himself speaking aloud and bit his lips too late. The sweeping sound of her breathing was gone-leaving a silent void. He inhaled deeply as if to smell whether he had awakened her.

She was on her side so when he looked down he saw only her right eye glowing back at him. Her lips, always full, seemed swollen. He bent to them and kissed her. Gently. Dryly. She returned his kiss over her shoulder then, like a cat, pushed her haunches still wrapped in sheets back into him.

“You are definitely not worthy”, she said huskily-her voice full of sleep.

“Of anything.”

“Release my legs”, she told him.

“I don’t want to hurt you now…” he said quietly. Last night was last night. This was a new day.

“Release my legs”.

The knots melted in his fingers. A lifetime on the lake, sailing, boating and fishing made ropes and knots his superpower. Before she could imagine how she was bound, she was free. Still on her side she pulled her right knee up then, when he uncovered her, lifted her top leg toward the ceiling, opening and still pushing backward. From another woman this would have been an invitation. From her, it was a summons.

Hard since he’d walked into the room he held back and grasped her ankle, then slid his hand down the muscles of her leg-pausing to outline the panther on her thigh. It rippled across her quad and roared up the inside of her thigh directing with white teeth and a blood-red tongue where he should go next.

“Do you want your hands?” he asked.

“No”. She kept them, still bound, clutched at her throat like a child curling her loose hair around her long slim fingers.

He settled on his side poking like a blind dog against her still bruised bottom cheeks. She rolled slightly and pushed backward further. Even in the dim, dawn light she glistened as he slid inside-never surprised by how wet she was. She gasped, taking him all at once as he grunted-forcing himself all the way inside with a loud slap of flesh.

She answered his grunt and caught the wave of his thrusts, digging backward as he pushed forward. They quickened the pace and he held her leg high gripping the firm muscles and feeling the quiver coming from up top. She probably would have preferred to hold her leg up herself just with the core strength she never tired of yakking about but he just wanted a fucking handle. He grabbed her ass and kneaded.

Whatever didn’t work between them, this surely did. This always did. He listened for the breathing again; this time the quick gasping that signaled….here it came. As the bed creaked and rolled, he pushed-pushed-pushed thrust-thrust-quickening his pace-slapslapslap skin on skin until her gasping became a moan then a bark then a cry as she slammed her leg down like a guillotine holding him in place as he, with a last firm jam spewed his shuddering heat deep into her.

As they deflated, dissipated, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close as if wanting to contact as much of her skin as possible. He slid out of her and rested until he heard the telltale whispering of her wheezing. He allowed himself to be lulled to the edge of darkness before he roused and pulled gently away.

Without touching her he leaned over and untied the ropes on her wrists but she reacted not at all, lying as if in prayer. He retrieved the knife and put it on the bed stand then, reluctant to leave, kissed her shoulder, her back and ran is tongue along the salt of her hip. When he felt himself begin to swell, he rose and pulled the sheet up to her neck leaving her exactly as he’d found her. He left the door ajar.

Later with the morning sun high over the ridge she, still damp from the shower and clear-eyed as a child, joined him at the kitchen table. The silk robe parted as she gingerly sat affording him an easy view of her small, firm breasts. “Good Morning Glory”, he said mocking. She gifted him a half smile.

“I trust you welcomed the sun”, she said seeing that the sweat from his sunrise workout was already dried on his shirt.

“Someone had to do it” he said pushing away from the table. “Coffee?”

“Christ, yes.”

“Cream?”

“A little anisette, please.” He took the clear liquor from the sideboard and poured thickly closing his eyes to the sweet licorice scent filling the room. He placed the cup before her and kissed her on the top of her head and slid his hand inside her robe. “Always nice to have the girls for coffee”.

“Will you join me for sword later?” she asked ignoring his hand.

“Technical or Kumite?”

“I want to fight.”

He stepped back and regarded her carefully. She was talking into her coffee giving him nothing.

“Wood”, he said firmly. Their steel tournament swords weren’t razor sharp but carried enough of an edge to do damage. He would only fight her using the wooden swords. They had a way to make that interesting.

“Fine”, she said looking up. Her eyes had a sparkle rather than a gleam. Which was good. “Eleven?”

“Eleven it is”, he said. “Now drink your coffee.”

She blew on it and sipped.

“There’s someone here…”

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(Continued from Back to the Hollow)

“Looks like you found me”, she said.

“I think you knew where I was the moment I stepped off my porch.”

“You think I followed you?”

“No-I think you led me here…”

Bent and exposed over the log as he was, he was talking to the leaves and dirt between his hands. Lifting his head high enough to see over his shoulder wasn’t in the cards. He looked for her feet and found them behind him.

“Led you here?” she laughed a young girl’s laugh. “I’ve done everything I could to chase you away. To caution you away…” the log moved as she sat on it facing away from him…”but here you keep winding up.” She slapped him lightly on this upturned rump for emphasis. “What are we going to do with you?”

He felt a presence larger that the girl beside him but he scoured the upside down woods behind himself and could see nothing. But he registered that he usually didn’t see her either.

“What’s your name”, he asked on impulse.

“Tabitha”, she answered easily as if waiting for the query.

“Take me back with you.”

“Back? Where?”

“Where you live. Into the other woods. Through the keyhole.”

“Hah! There is no keyhole anymore.”

“Of course there is, you just moved it is all-or hid it. There’s always a way in.”

She went silent for a moment and he felt her fingers drumming on his butt as she mulled. She shifted into him slightly-he could feel a warmth against his hip.

“Daniel, Daniel….After we whipped you I was sure you wouldn’t be back. I branded you-left my mark” he felt her fingertip touch the tiny handprint on his cheek, “You came back. We came to your house, to whip you and actually do more…” She poked this time at his tight anus which twitched “and you came back….Makes us wonder if you’re coming back for more…”

“It’s not that I’m looking for more of that…”

“Mr. No again.” She slapped him harder on his ass. He yelped in surprise more than pain.  “You’re denying what you want even while chasing it.”

“No. I want something different. This life out here is shot for me. I’ve lived out here for close to thirty years and it’s been no bargain, let me tell you.”

“I bet. You’ve already lived in the dark almost a decade longer than I did…”

“I’ve had enough of it.”

“Everything you’ve gotten before you’ll get more of back there-you realize that.” As if for emphasis she dragged her finger across his asshole again and down between his legs. “That won’t be all, you understand, but there will be that…”

“What do I have to do?” he asked, undeterred.

“Accept it. Accept yourself. Back here you have to say what you mean. What you want, you say. Get it? Back here you have to be who you are.”

They sat in silence her hand resting on the small of his back where he folded over.

“Are you going to whip me now?” he asked.

“I never whipped you…well maybe a few strokes. You wiggled so sweetly…”

“Are you going to fuck me? “

“What would I fuck you with Mr. No? Huh? You doubt that I’m a girl through and through.”

“No.”

“You can get up you know.”

“What?”

“Nothing’s holding you. They’ve all gone off.”

He pushed off the ground and sure enough lifted himself off of the log. Hearing for the first time birds and a soft breeze whispering through the branches he pushed off the log and stood to stretch.

“Now look at this,” Tabitha said from her seat before him. He didn’t need to look; his hard-on stood straight out as if seeking the girl’s face. She took it in hand and pulled him close.

“There is a lot I can give you back here Daniel…as long as you ask for it.”

He asked for nothing right now, just let his head loll back as she gently touched her tongue to the head of his cock…

“You won’t be over quick this time, I hope…”

It had been almost four years since a woman had taken him like this. Even had he remembered it clearly it wouldn’t matter. This was different. Her mouth was beyond warm. Beyond soft. It was melting marshmallow falling off a campfire stick and wrapping itself around him.

He held her head gently and pulled her into him pushing himself deeper into her mouth. Moaning quietly he felt a growing weakness in his legs.

Veronica Palmer had run ahead of her boyfriend. He was a gym athlete-great on the treadmill but the contours of running, or even walking, trails left him in the dust. He had stopped in the clearing below where she had taken off up the hill. He was about to follow when he heard-then saw-her running back down.

“Let’s go!” she said grabbing him by the arm as she passed.

“What? Why?”

“There’s someone here.”

“So?”

“A guy. He’s…masturbating.”

“You sure?”

“Am I….?” She pulled at his arm again. “He’s standing bare-ass, pants at his ankles pulling on his dick. Is that masturbating?”

“Shit. You want me to go say something to him?”

He had finally begun to yield to her pulling when a sound of clicking filled the air. Quietly at first but louder as it seemed to get closer. “Keep moving”, she said. It sounded like sticks or switches clattering together but there was no breeze-nothing was moving.

“Come on”, she hissed as he slowed to listen-to try to get a handle on the noise. Cicadas? As the sound seemed to blanket over them she felt something tingle deep inside of her. As if a seam was rubbing her down there. “Come oooon”, she pulled him by the arm and was just breaking into a jog when-

“Ouch!” She jumped and grabbed the left cheek of her ass.

“What?”

“I got stung…or something. Come on!”

He watched her run in panic for a moment then felt a searing burn across his own ass. He yelped and jumped grabbing his behind.

“Bees!” he yelled, for what else could it have been? “Bees!”

She was faster than he but he did his best to catch up. He hated the fucking woods.

 

Back to the Hollow

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(Continued from “Venus and Mars Are Alright Tonight…”)

He had been a decent tracker as a boy. Could follow a wounded deer across both hollows and up all the creeks if need be. Wouldn’t even need to be wounded. The old men counted on him for this service as their eyesight went and they got more generally decrepit. It wasn’t hard for someone who knew the signs-who could tell when a leaf was standing on edge because something had trod along its stem and lifted it, rather than just spun that way onto the earth. Or when an old acorn had been kicked on top of a newly fallen leaf. That kind of tracking he could manage.

This kind, following someone that seemed to have no weight that seemed to float along on a cushion of air was something different. Any sign that he saw on the ground was wishful thinking. He let his eyes wander up into the scarlet red branches of the pin oaks for all the good then were doing on the ground. He started to get the feeling that the trail wouldn’t lead him anywhere. Which didn’t matter. He wasn’t following at all. He was being directed. Pulled.

Truth though, for what he was doing, he didn’t need tracking or trails. He knew where he was heading. He cut off the main trail early and crossed a patch that would have been impassable two months before. The winnowing of fall had begun in earnest and new paths appeared where there had been thick brush.

Not far along he noticed the silence that roared in and flooded the valley pushing in on his eardrums like water at the bottom of a deep pool. His breathing slowed and nothing moved but for a single tiny leaf at the top of a stripped maple twitching singularly in a disquieting way. He was about to step over a fallen tree when he felt…something in front of him blocking his way. He had a sense of her-but couldn’t feel anything until his lips pressed against his teeth. He opened his mouth and accepted the unseen kiss.

“I knew you would taste sweet”, she said spectrally coming together slowly before him.

“You could have tried it last night”.

“It wasn’t my place or time…”

Maybe this wasn’t either, because she slipped in and out of focus and substance. She seemed there, then she dissipated and he could see the woods through her, then she was gone-having shifted out of the way. He felt a push between his shoulder blades, gentle at first, then stronger-a pressure that pushed him down toward the log as his belt was loosened. He put his hands out to stop himself or grab at his pants but they were useless-pulled away from him as he was lowered firmly over the fallen tree.

He lay over the log breathing deeply and relaxing as best he could focusing on the blanket of leaves between his hands on the ground. He was conscious of the cool sunshine bathing his exposed ass and dripping between his cheeks and flowing over his balls. He wasn’t going to fight. He would be whipped, he might be fucked, but he wasn’t going to fight it.

“Where are you headed Daniel?”

“How do you know my name?”

She didn’t even acknowledge his question. “Where are you going back here?”

“I was looking for you…”

“Looks like you found me.”

 

Vodka and Melatonin- III

(Continued from Vodka and Melatonin-Part II)

“Are you up?” came her voice again-from far away.

“Huh? What…?” he asked confused.

He grabbed the hard seat of the chair feeling it beginning to shake beneath him. Or was it him shaking? He couldn’t be sure but was suddenly fearful of toppling over and have the clamps tear at his nut sack in the most gruesome way. He held onto the seat as if on a pitching ship.

“Hey!” she yelled shrilly as she banged the bed with her hip. “Are you not up yet?”

He started awake in his own bedroom, the morning sun bathing the room in a golden glow.

“I’m up for Chrissakes!”

“It’s about time!” his wife Pamela cried exasperated already. She was a blur of multi-colored spandex, nylon and grim determination. Jim rolled quickly onto his side away from her to try to hide his tent pole erection. Nothing pissed Pamela off more than him having a hard-on that she had nothing to do with.

“Remember”, she said “I have a 9 a.m. training with Silvio-but I want to get there early for the treadmill. Get a head start on my steps for the day. Then after the training I’m doing a weight set with Carla and will probably hang around for Michele’s Zumba class. I hate that shit but it will be a good cool-down and I haven’t seen Michele for awhile….”

Jim noted that this was the same word for work itinerary she had ticked off to him the night before. He knew she wasn’t informing him of anything-rather just stating her commitment for the universe to hear. He felt his hard-on deflating during her litany. The more she talked the quicker he deflated.  He could almost hear the high pitched whine of air squeezing out of a pricked balloon.

“…so I won’t be home until noon which will give you enough time to get that goddam motorcycle out of my side of the garage…”

“Indian”, he mumbled into the pillow.

“What?”

“1958 Indian”, he said for probably the hundredth time trying in vain to impress her with the bike’s vintage.

“Not. Giving. A. Shit. It’s a pile of pieces right now and I need to get my car inside. You have enough projects-finish that little car…”

“Karmann Ghia.”

“What?”

“It’s a 72 Kharmen Gia Cabriolet.”

He felt her eyes boring into the back of his head. “You have till noon to get that piece of shit motorcycle gone.”

“Have a nice workout” he mumbled after she had strode off and couldn’t hear him. He lay still until he heard the front door slam. Then her car door. Then the motor started and he heard the crunch on the gravel drive. Not until it went silent and he knew she was out on the road did he throw back the covers and sit up.

Sighing, he stood and looked down to where his once proud cock had swung like a broad sword to see it hanging low in defeat-like a flag with no breeze.

“Coward” he grumbled at it.

He picked his phone off the nightstand and entered the unlock code-which he changed every two days or so just because it drove her nuts.

He tapped a quick text: “U up?”

It quickly bounced back: “Yep. Coffee.”

“Alone?” he tapped?

“Yep.”

He scrolled down his quick dial list to where she was hidden near the bottom and tapped her name. She picked up on the second ring.

“Mornin’ Glory”, she said huskily.

“Hey-where’s Kimmy?”

“Charleston for a couple of days. Left yesterday.”

He was silent for a moment because he couldn’t remember if he’d said “Huh”-which was probably called for right then. Instead he said, “I dreamed about you last night?”

“Was it hot?” she asked.

“It was…complicated”, he said absently rubbing his balls where he still felt the dream-clamp.

“Complicated huh? You can’t manage complicated…”

“You were naked…”

“Getting better…”

“…and you had a little, flat ass.”

“Oh-it was a complete fantasy then!”

“Like I said, complicated.”

She laughed teasingly and he pulled his hand away from his pecker which, hearing her voice, seemed to awaken enough to lift its head and start sniffing around.

“Can you store the Indian for a while? Gotta get it out of here.”

“Told you she wasn’t going to let you keep it”

“Just for awhile.”

“She gone?”

“Till noon.”

“Give me half an hour”, she said and hung up.

He put the phone back and stretched, digging his knuckles into the small of his back.

“Venus and Mars Are Alright Tonight…”

(Continued from A Halloween Tail…)

He drifted off to the twinkling array of stars splashed across the moonless night above the ridge. The heavy November comforter made for a pleasant weight pressing him gently down into sleepy submission. Tomorrow he would definitely look for his old star chart to see if those three in a row were Orion’s belt or just a dipper handle. Tomorrow. He’d forget of course…it…really…didn’t…matter…as he drifted into dreamless sleep.

When he next cracked open one eye the room was still dark. The stars had scattered as Venus, this month’s morning beacon, had broken above the tree line. She gazed down upon him indifferently; offering neither warmth nor consolation, just a herald of night turning into eventual morning. But still, he found the company somehow comforting in its implacable permanence.

He had almost let his eyelid slide shut when he knew-didn’t feel, but knew-he wasn’t alone in the room. It wasn’t a sound, it wasn’t a smell; it was just that feeling that alerts a solitary person when someone enters his orbit.

He opened his other eye and lifted his head scanning the room until he saw her sitting on the rickety old wooden chair against the far wall away from the windows. She wasn’t moving and-as far as he could see-not breathing. Say what you will about Venus, but she doesn’t throw much light and in that corner of the room the shadows were ground ink.

“Good Morning, Mr. No”, she said, her voice both raspy and young-like a child with a cold. “Because it is morning, after all. The sun just doesn’t know it yet.” There was a general tittering around the bed and the rustling of what sounded like dead leaves on the hardwood though there were no leaves in his room. He cut his eyes to the sounds but saw nothing.

The ever creaky old chair made no sound as she rose and approached the foot of the bed. She appeared small and petite in the gloaming with bright yellow hair this time-as much as he could see of course-because on top of her head was his hat-which he hadn’t seen since that day at the ruins.

“Do you still wear my brand, Mr. No?” she asked. The rustling around his bed swelled and he could almost feel a breeze, or more correctly, many small breezes swirling from all directions.

“Brand?” he asked. Or thought. He wasn’t sure he had spoken. “What brand?”

The tittering got louder as if he were being laughed at and the breezes coalesced into caresses then touches then finally grabs that he couldn’t resist. He struggled against unseen hands pulling and pressing until, with a wrench and a yank, he was flipped onto his stomach. The cool air of the unheated bedroom prickled at his bare skin. The tittering laughter rose again.

He felt the bed shift as she crawled up onto it. “There it is…” she said as he felt her finger trace the outline of the tiny handprint on his ass. “This binds you to me, Mr. No. You realize that don’t you? You wear my mark.”

“Look. I…What do you want?” this time he knew he was talking. He just wasn’t sure what he was saying. He couldn’t move beyond a wriggle. Forces that he could not see pulled his legs apart. She laughed and the bed shifted again.

“No-don’t”, he cried fearing another whipping.

She moved behind him-closing between his legs until he felt her presence on the insides of his thighs.

“No whipping for you tonight, Mr. No”, she said as if reading his mind.

He felt her tiny, cold hands spread his cheeks and her body lean closer.

“No! Don’t do that…Please don’t do that…” he cried.

Her hand slipped between his legs and gripped his hardening cock. “See? Again you say ‘NO’ but this says something else.”

Something touched his asshole and his body jolted fully awake. His wail was cut short by another unseen piece of fabric jammed into his mouth. Was she wearing that scarf again? he wondered-then could only grunt as something pressed-hard, cold and large-against his anus. He cried out soundlessly feeling himself opening wide as he was slowly penetrated. He yelped helplessly as the forces holding him ratcheted tighter and heavier.

He awoke with a start, his trip-hammering heart pounding in his ears. Pink clouds were scudding across the perfect blue sky but he couldn’t see them with his face in the pillows as he vigorously humped his mattress to the screeching disapproval of the old box springs. Coming to consciousness, he quickly rolled onto his side to stop the action and looked down at his engorged cock waving like a mast on a stormy sea.

He put the palm of his hand on the thick head as if he would tamp it down as a child might a jack-in-the-box. Nope, that wasn’t helping and by the pulsing feel of the thing he had caught it not a moment too soon. Remembering, he reached tentatively back to feel his backside-then gently, between his cheeks. Nope. Nothing. What a fucking dream! He sat up carefully. His hard-on, ignored, began to collapse in on itself like a pocket telescope.

He stood and shivered then looked around for his clothes. Then he saw it and froze but not from the cold. His hat was hanging on the back of the chair. He picked it up and caught a whiff of leaves and woods and-for a moment- something sickeningly sweet and rotten. Like old fruit or meat left in the sun. Regardless, he put it onto his head and without adjustment, it fit perfectly.

There, naked but for his hat, he looked out the window at the path that left the yard and wound east where it would eventually meet up with the trail that led to the ruins-then up into the hollow. It’s a walk he would be taking later today, you better bet.

The Weight

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It was everybody’s bad luck that Danny had started drinking at noon that day. His regular shift was 11 a.m. to 6:00. He would open for the oldsters who needed a shot and a beer between Mass and Sunday dinner then manage his regulars through two football games, turning it over to Nick for the evening and late night. Nick was away this weekend, though, so the day was his. Clean through till 2:00.

They called Benny Pace, Hats, even though he had only one-a tortured fedora that was as sweat-stained as his rolled up trousers were piss-stained. A yellowed white shirt completed his motley ensemble; a shabby connection in his mind to when he was a snappy dresser.

His sons, Elmer and Frank inherited his gambling territory but it wasn’t much anymore. They ran poker machines and illegal pinball always scrambling one step ahead of the law. They carried the air of two “connected guys” but weren’t really. Big fish in a very small pond-but it was their pond.

Two guys at the bar that night had caught sight of the roll of cash Benny was holding. The regulars were used to it-always picked up bills that he’d let flutter to the floor and put them back in front of him. “Did you see that old guy’s wad?” one of them had asked him. Danny didn’t know him-short and wiry. Dark-with a pinched face. “He was lucky at the track yesterday. When Benny hits, everyone hits.” Danny chuckled and tapped his knuckles on the bar in front of the two signaling that their next drink was on the house.

Had he been a little less drunk he might have caught the gist of the conversation. He might have caught their eyes as they were casing the old man and felt what was happening. But he didn’t. The next morning, when he heard about old Benny being beaten and robbed he knew who did it and also knew that nobody could ever know how he knew. This place that he’d inherited from his uncle was a safe place. People came in here to be protected from “out there”. Danny had let the outside in.

But today, in the light of day, drinking coffee instead of Canadian Club he was not thinking about making something right. Some things can’t be made right. Some things just have to be worn.

If old Benny ever got out of the hospital-was ever back in here drinking wine from the jug that nobody else touched-whistling at the girls and babbling in his ridiculous way he would always have to look at him and know that the shit that he got plunged into was on him.

When sunlight slashed through the bar he knew even before squinting at their silhouettes that it was Elmer and Frank. Elmer was Danny’s age, short and round. Frank, older and smaller, did all the talking.

“Sorry about your Dad. How’s he doing?”

“Looks like he’ll make it. Fucked him up pretty good though.”

“Damn shame…” said Danny.

“They were in here? They guys did this?”

“There was more than one?” Danny asked.

“Looks like two. Cops got one. The other…” he shrugged.

“There was a lot of people in here last night Frank. Don’t know…I probably saw them. Hell, I probably served them. I’m sorry.”

“For what? You didn’t do nothin’.”

“Still….”

“No, that’s the motherfucker gonna be sorry. They won’t hold him till the old man can ID him, and he can’t see now so….”

“Shit…”

“He’s getting out this afternoon. We know where he lives. He’ll wished he stayed in jail.”

Danny rubbed at the faux woodgrain on the bar. And rubbed. His eyes were somewhere in the middle distance. And rubbed. Just as Elmer gave his brother his “what-the-fuck?” face, Danny spoke.

“Don’t do nothing. It will be too obvious.”

“What?”

“It will be obvious.”

The Pace brothers looked at one another, then back to Danny. Elmer stuck out his hand. “You know we’re not going to forget this.” Which is why he was doing it. He wouldn’t forget it either.

“I just wish there was something I coulda done.”

“These animals. There’s nothing you could do.”

“Go someplace tonight. Be seen and don’t worry about it.”

Danny had taken out the street light next to the apartments where the guy was staying. Just a few blocks up-not far. Hell, if he was standing up on the roof right now, Danny could see the house he grew up in. This was his alley, his bar and the street above, his street. Deep truth be known, he didn’t even like Benny or his sons-two entitled fucks who never worked a day. But this wasn’t about them at all. Not at this point.

He skulked behind the dumpster and pulled the bandana up to his eyes when the scuffling tread came up the asphalt. He recognized him even in the shadows. Stupid bastard didn’t know enough to stay away.

He gripped the bat tightly and strode up behind. The guy never knew what hit him. Danny tried to be surgical-no need to go overboard. Kidneys to bend him backward-stomach so he’d fold. The most obvious joints and bones next-bust the knee cap, ankle, stomp the hand and teeth for good measure. Left him writhing and moaning. Slipped between two buildings and out to the main street. The bat down the sewer. Done and done.

The next morning he was reading the paper when Kevin Bannon, his most regular of regulars came in for his first beer to wash down his first aspirins.

“You hear about that guy? The one robbed old Benny?”

“No. What?”

“Dead.”

“Dead?”

Somebody put a beatin’ on him. Ruptured his spleen or his kidney…something. Bled out. Right up the alley there.”

“Benny’s sons maybe? Elmer and Frank?”

“Naw, they were at the casino all night playing blackjack and winning like fucks. Everybody saw them.”

A single droplet of sweat trailed from Danny’s collar, down his spine and spread at his belt line. “Well. Fuck him”, he said. “They should give whoever did it a medal.”

“Absolutely!” Kevin agreed.

Danny popped his knuckles on the bar. Beer was on him.

The Swing

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“Why’d they have to kill the swing?”

“It wasn’t ‘they’. He did it.”

“You don’t know that”, Candy told him though she was pretty sure it was true.

“Ruined it for all of us. Fucker! Like it’s our fault his daughter’s a spaz. “

“Come on Driscoll”, Candy said. “Don’t talk about her like that…not now.”

He kicked the gravel on the path-chastened-but still pissed. “It’s not like she’s dead.”

Shannon Twist had started coming around early in the summer. Coming into her sophomore year, this was her time to find her high-school group; the clique that would ease her move into the big building up on the hill. She knew-they all knew without being told-how the layers in the township were stratified. She didn’t have sports-that would have run her with one of a couple of groups. She didn’t play an instrument nor was she particularly cute-she knew she wasn’t. And she didn’t have a big house with a pool that would she could bring kids over to. There was not even a picnic table outside the trailer she shared with her father.

She had spent a month or two on the sidelines of this scuzzy coterie of juniors and seniors-flitting about just outside the orbits of Driscoll and Larry and the rest of the motley planets. She tried to fit in the same way that many girls in the valley did: by holding out the promise of-if not actually granting-sexual favors of one kind or another.

That day was like every other that long summer. Meet at the field, throw some Frisbee, maybe play a little hoops, then head to the river and get high. Not to the town’s park-which had its own beach-but a mile downstream literally across the tracks where the red dog and ballast from the railroad bed made for a sharp and slippery climb down to Stoner Cove-which is what they called the place. It was the perfect hard-to-get-to shitty kind of place where they could do what they wanted. Their crowning achievement for the summer had been the rope swing.

It was too high and swung over too much rocky shoreline to have been permitted anywhere near the town’s beach. Even a town council as brain dead as the one they had would have deemed it too dangerous. For the townies, anyway. But here-in Stoner Cove-nobody really paid attention. In fact, nobody would say it out loud, but the whole crew of them could break their necks for all anyone cared.

Driscoll, like most days, had been the first one off the swing. Slight and limber, he scampered up the tree wearing nothing but cut-offs and sneakers and pulled in the guide rope that tethered the thick, knotted barge line. Then, standing on the main limb, just before jumping into space a full fifteen feet above the rocks, he unfastened his belt.

“Oh boy-here it comes…”

It was his signature move. Beltless, his ratty blonde hair trailing behind, his oversized shorts would slide down his legs just at the highest point of the swing revealing his skinny ass to the approving whoops and hollers of everyone gathered. This time they slid all the way off to flutter into the water as he turned to take another pass this time his cock-not quite erect but not soft either-flapping in the breeze.

Larry turned away and lit a joint that he had taken out of a crumpled cigarette box that was secreted in the crook of an old sycamore. He mumbled something about seeing more of Driscoll’s balls that he did his own and the kids around him tittered waiting for the doobie to come their way.

Larry’s brother was the sergeant of arms or something with a local motorcycle club. What they used to call a gang. What his rank meant in the hierarchy of the club no one knew but in this world it meant he was a bad motherfucker not to be trifled with but who dealt in truly hellacious weed which Larry seemed to have unlimited access to. This access made Larry-even with his many and severe social inadequacies-a much sought after friend. He ignored all entreaties and chose to live at the bottom with his mates, perhaps knowing that if he didn’t have a brother or the drugs, this would have been the only group he could have hung with.

Shannon was beside him and got the joint first after him. Her constant presence at Larry’s side was a recent occurrence and one that he didn’t seem to be discouraging-or really noticing. Maybe she saw something beyond the menacing size and glowering countenance but probably not. Maybe she just judged his formidable shadow to be a safe haven. And if it took a hand job or something else even to keep her place there, she was probably up for it.

They were all surprised when she giggled and, handing off the joint, ran on tip toes over to the tree. She hadn’t been on the swing all summer and really had only been in the river once or twice. But there she was, cutoffs, halter top and bare feet, climbing the tree tentatively and carefully. Driscoll was out of the water by now yelling encouragement and taking too freaking long to put his shorts back on.

She was in trouble from the moment she grasped the rope out on the main branch. She laughed loudly playing at bravado but Larry could see in the way she hunched and wouldn’t stand up straight and how she was gripping that rope like she would never let it go-that she was frightened. Too frightened. “Hey”, he yelled up to her stepping toward the tree. “Don’t jump…Come on back down.”

She didn’t even look his way as she stepped off, squeezing the rope to her in a death grip. Below, his shorts at his knees now, Driscoll hooted following her flight. “Let go!” he yelled when she paused in the air-at the height of the swing. But he knew immediately that was too high for her and she swung back in. Then back out, then back again-the swing shortening each time. Larry moved toward the tree where he could grab the guide rope and pull her back in, when she let go. Or slipped off.

Whichever, she fell flat onto her back into a foot of water in the rocky shallows. Driscoll, letting his shorts fall again, was the first to reach her. She was unconscious, her face lying just below the surface bubbling from her nose. He reached under her arms and dragged her up onto the shore.

“Careful moving her”, Larry yelled seeing the trail of blood on the muddy rocks from where she came out of the water. Her top had come undone in the fall and her young breasts, tiny and white as oyster shells, rose and fell with her breathing-seemingly mesmerizing the naked boy hovering above her.

Larry-not given to physicality as his size and demeanor usually sufficed-grabbed Driscoll by the arm and yanked him away from the girl. “Would you get your fucking pants on”, he growled then yelled for a towel. He covered Shannon as Driscoll quickly retrieved his shorts.

It wasn’t easy for the EMS team to get down over the hill with the litter and the backboard but they managed after rigging a pulley to a signal pole next to the tracks. Most of the kids had scattered before the ambulance and the police made their ways down the rail bed. Larry, used to cops hassling his family, stood calmly staring at the water smoking a Newport that he had cadged from the ambulance driver.

They had almost pulled the litter to the top of the path when a rusty green pickup slid to a stop along the tracks. Larry, Driscoll and the few others left there looked up to see Shannon’s dad half running-half sliding down the hill to meet the litter coming up. His movements were frantic until he saw his daughter and came up short-digging his feet into the sliding stones to take her hand and follow back up.

As the EMT’s loaded his daughter into the ambulance he stood at the top of the hill and glared down at the kids left there. Having come straight from the tipple, his eyes burned inside two white scallops etched in the coal dust by his safety goggles. He settled his stare on the biggest and most adult looking of the crew.

Larry met his raging glare with his own baleful dead eyes, neither pushing nor backing away. He didn’t feel any fear but would remember a tingle of anticipation across his chest and shoulders. Shannon’s father recoiled slightly from what he saw in the boy’s face and broke the stare to jump into the ambulance, a deep chill settling in his chest.

“Maybe the cops did it”, Candy said nodding at the crime scene tape at the top of the hill. The main over-hanging branch of the tree had been sawed off and felled into the river. “She coulda died.”

“She didn’t”, Driscoll said flatly.

Larry reached into his pocket and pulled out one of a half dozen thick joints that were stuffed into the cigarette pack. He fired up as they gathered around.

“Is anyone going to the hospital?” Candy asked anyone. No one answered.

The thin mist that had been falling since they arrived increased to a drizzle. They closed ranks as if to protect themselves from the rain and smoked in silence.

© Tommy Ranalli- 2016

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