It’s a town named after a flower where I cut a man’s hand half off with a hatchet—not your regular girl crime. There’s no school, no dentist, no names for half of the roads that anyone remembers. Just numbers on posts like they let the state sort it out after the elders died, the kids ran away, and the rest stopped making love altogether. The whole shebang is tucked up under an eight-lane highway, so there is a 7-11.
I can’t go back but I do, especially if I can get my uncle’s Geo Tracker for the weekend. The guy’s name is Clifford Thompson, but everyone calls him Sweetie, even men his own age. Sweetie from a flower town. Everyone thought he must have done something to me. He can’t work at the 7-11 anymore. He just sits on the front porch of the Banks’ farmhouse, now sectioned off into rooms for boarders, mostly old broken bachelors like Sweetie. Banks’ place used to be this scary white clapboard house with black shutters out all on its own in the middle of a field, but then the farm failed and the road got diverted so now it runs right in front of the house. Old men sit on the porch waiting for traffic to break up the view, but traffic never comes.
I could do that, spend my retirement on a porch, bearing witness to decay. Looks fun.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have done something truly horrible, don’t let that first moment of your own disbelief go to waste. You’re there, weapon in hand, and the blood wants to spread or the smoke wants to dance. That’s hang time. That’s your time. You’re going to prison, so go hog wild. Give it all a crazy spin so the people don’t have to remember whether they found all three fingers or not.
Me, I laid waste to a rack of pink wine. Loosened the blood, made it run a little faster. I watched Sweetie’s face scrunch up before he lost consciousness and fell to the wet floor.
Every time I go down there I drive by, and Sweetie can’t help but see me. His ruined hand is never in view; it’s always under a newspaper or a baseball cap. If he recognizes me, it doesn’t show. Either that or he is a serious badass. There’s usually another fellow with him on that porch, sitting on a K-mart plastic yard chair.
Now that guy, he gives me the proper eye. Only then do I remember that I’m sorry.
Laura Ellen Scott is the author of the novel Death Wishing, a comic fantasy set in post-Katrina New Orleans and Curio, a collection of 21 very short, creepy stories with illustrations by Mike Meginnis. She teaches fiction writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, and has completed a new novel called The Juliet.