EXCERPT FROM RIVER OF BLOOD
Kelly was in the squad room as the arresting officers ushered Rocket to a holding cage. Their eyes met and they watched one another moving in opposing paths through the grid of desks, travelling lines destined to intersect again and again. Davies’ reputation had reached every corner of the department by now, notwithstanding Kelly’s task force. The Rocket’s comedic misadventures had found court in the Stygian confines of the basement where Kelly’s comrades couldn’t help but tug at his tail over the sheer volume of incidents. There had even been subtle hints that he might need to remedy the situation. The entanglement, which began when one of the arresting officers mentioned that The Rocket had finally pulled a doozy by assaulting both his wife and a cop, ended with Kelly calling Rocket a nigger and pointing a loaded Beretta between his eyes. A group of loose-tie cops spent several tense minutes watching one of Kelly’s cohorts talk him down and remove him from the room. Both the video and audio tapes associated with that particular room disappeared within an hour.
Abigail would have an argument with Kelly after her surprise lunch date with Sean. She gave her nephew a joking look of disapproval as she rubbed the departing shadows under his eyes, the fading wounds of his fight with the mullet. They talked about the fights and things at home, tempting Sean to recount his father’s assault on Rocket Davies. She asked without camouflage if Kelly had done anything to his mother or Sean or his sister. Sean lied to her. Although he hadn’t seen it happen, he thought his father might have hit or pushed his mother during an argument over Rocket. At the end of the lunch, Abigail unpacked her thoughts on violence, described alternatives for handling conflict, concluding that violence generally came from fear and ignorance. She then had to entertain a lengthy definition of ignorance in hopes of not confusing Sean on the nuance of the pejorative. Later that evening, she agonized over the intrusion and drank coffee all night by her kitchen window, remembering Ned hooked up to tubes and machines when she first met him. She fell in love with him the next day after listening to him embellish his life story. Both had followed convention, landing empty and lost, only to find one another at their lowest points. Their love seemed too natural to deny. She thought of the paths of peoples’ lives and the sheer chance of it all and as the first radiance of sunlight flowered the tops of the trees in her backyard, she heard her own voice compelling her to pray about Sean but the voice wasn’t actually hers, rather a comic impression of her husband, the one she used at social events and Sunday mornings. She chuckled at herself and started breakfast.
Abigail and Kelly had tolerated one another for years, their few clashes sparked by politics or Kelly’s pessimism. Ned endured long hours with the bedside lamps burning, his reading glasses at the end of his nose as Abigail expressed concerns for his brother’s parenting style or some remark he might have made during a dinner. Their conflicts often threatened the joy of Christmas dinners or birthday parties as Kelly failed to cap his sarcasm, challenging Abigail’s reserve. During drives home, Ned struggled to invent new metaphors for the defense mechanisms operated by every cop he had ever known while Abigail made it clear she understood but insisted a line of tolerance. Sunday morning, while doodling warplanes bombing stick figures on the side of a hill, Sean caught the vagaries of Ned’s sermon on Jesus and the Money Changers. Sean had wanted to sit with Abigail that morning but she stayed home sick with a cold. It was Naomi’s oldest son’s birthday and the entire family, except Abigail and Billy, who was out of town at a VA hospital, met at Naomi’s home for lunch after services. David, turning nineteen, was Naomi’s adopted child whose rebellious antics and punk rock lifestyle had stressed his mother and grandparents the most. Aside from private reprimands of Naomi’s parenting, Ned would sit lock-jawed on the boy’s insubordinations. David and Kelly hadn’t spent any meaningful time around one another due to Billy’s insistence that Kelly steer clear of him. Lunch was cold by the time Kelly arrived, irritated over the news of Ren Banyan’s recent demise. Minutes into the greetings, Kelly slapped David’s lip bloody after he overheard the kid make a disrespectful aside about Billy’s hip. David bolted through the backyard gate, crying and embarrassed, leaving the party in a belligerent argument that took hours to boil down. When Abigail heard the story, against Ned’s wishes, she phoned Kelly Tower. She accused him of losing his humanity. She called him a coward.
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Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.