Author: Timothy Stillman PM
as nightmare sick scream as I can make itfrom the guts outRated: Fiction T - English - Mystery - Words: 4,169 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 01-27-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2311077
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Jigsaw and the Rodeside Attrction
I won't think of Marte now. I will never think of her again. Why should I? I've got Jigsaw and he's tugging on my arm and it's Florida in August and hot as hell, and he's screaming in that broken voice of his, pointing with his three places broken left arm at the huge red words on the side of a barn that say "Rodeside Attrction." And what I interpret as "please daddy please please" as I pull his two fingered hand from my arm, greasy and cold that hand feels, here in this old jalopy with the broken a.c. and the windows rolled down, the air not a breeze. We're sweating to beat the band. Every second of eternity is being slammed by that blazing sun that is just killing my eyes, the light hot and white hitting on all the chrome surfaces of the damned car, and Jigsaw puts his claw on my arm in a death grip, and I shout at him and want to hit him, but the plastic surgery has just been at him again, and knitted his face together one more time.
Helluva doctor. Hey man, it looks like his face is a jigsaw puzzle that's been all re-arranged and put back together by some idiot with fat fingers, pieces that don't fit, just slammed and hammered in there which ever way. God, why does he have me stop at these roadside attractions all the way from Arkansas to Florida. And here we go to another one. Thought those things were a thing of the past. Hell. They got them every mile or two. Dirty ugly places with chicken fence wire like barbed wire, and all those cages out behind the former gas stations of another era, now just got the freaky snakes and gophers and two headed whatevers, so why should Jigsaw, who's may I mention more than a little of a rodeside Attrction his own self want to see these things? God, it makes me sick looking at him. Combines and little boys were never meant to grow together, or slip their molecules through each other, with the boy coming out at the other end of the unharmed red Chalmers machine still soaked in a little boy blood but still rarin' to go.
Sure, kid, sure, we take this vacation, cause my mommy was a nut bag and every August we'd pile in the hot car with the sticky vinyl seats a lot like this one and make a rabid race to Florida where it's lots colder than Tennessee in winter, let me tell you, and she was on No Doz pills all the way white hot eyes like ping pong balls and we did this every stinking year of my childhood so we could get sick as dogs on the way there, under the unrelenting summer mesh tire sun that rode us so hard it hurt, so we could stay in a motel room and run out to the Pensacola beach and have our pictures taken, then back to the air conditioned room to collapse, and it was fun, fun fun.
So it's in my genes now to get back to that fun fun fun, and here is my broken son, Marte's broken son too, and he is crying little red tears and scrunched up in the corner of his seat and his face is against the hot vinyl backing and he's screaming over and over, and I can't think, I turn on the radio and get the late Mr. James Brown and he's screaming it's a man's world and it may be so for him but he didn't get stuck with a little panty waste broken apart kid who should be in a freak show for good and all, only that they don't have anymore, cause everybody's too freakin' sensitive, only they aren't too sensitive to refuse my son an education such as it would be in Prime Rib Ark. Because he disturbs the other kids, and it's not so, they laugh at him, he doesn't disturb them, he delights them cause they're not him.
And he claws me with those prehensile claws of his right on my right hand, scaring me and hurting me in his painful slicing, and I almost drive off the road and I shout curses at him and he says daddy don't hit me though it comes out more like daddyslsssskdskdkdkdkdkdkdp or some such, but I've grown to understand the little monster and I pull the car away before I hit a red dirt ditch and manage to get back on my side of this little two lane road of dust. I pull over to the side of the road. And I hold his broken face, forty stitches nose to me, and I feel his fetid breath as he feels mine, and I wish I was in a bar sucking the suds, and I say listen you little freak, you little worthless hairball, we are going to go to the damn roadside attraction, and you know what they will have? They'll have things, snakes and shit, that are not half as ugly and scary and contemptible as you, and you can rot in a cage with 'em, cause I'm going to leave you there and somebody can pay a dollar and see you with your red eye and your dead eye and your no hair and your spastic colon that comes through your stomach, and they can just do their business on you and won't you love that?
And the kid melts. He slides like horribly pale pearly candy, down my sticky summer shirt and his head starts bleeding between the eyebrow and the eye that is no longer there but is only a pale piece of flesh, so I feel sorry for the kid, okay? I feel sorry Marte and I were too late to catch him when he ran down the road cause Marte hit him and the combine was coming and it was blood splatter and flesh cut across and bones split like chicken bones under neath the thing of grinding screaming mechanical body eating metal and death, and by the time I got there, Marte was on her knees in the dirt and the dust of the road that led to the shanty farm home she had come from, and she's putting the parts of him together. She finds an ear over on the left, next to a large red rock, or part of one, and she finds a piece of hand or something next to it, and then on the underside of the combine, she's crawling and screaming like a mad thing, gathering up parts of what was once Paulie, and is now Jigsaw. And she's dripping in his gore and his blood and she's got his body, what's left of it all shredded and mutilated behind the combine, and she's laughing like a loon, which she would be for the rest of her days, and she's trying to stick a hand on or part of one, or trying to put a cyst bone of a leg back on somewhere and finding out how difficult it is to assemble a human body, to make it like a Mr. Potato Head in hopelessly complex terms, to reassemble what had become of her son. Lucky that farmer with the combine, and lucky the people who felt sorry for us all round the country, made the national news, flooded us with money for operation after operation, and if you don't look too closely, like from five miles away, he does not look like all over the shape Wayne Bobbit's penis was in when his wife sliced it off, and the cops had to search for it in a field and they did find it, it was reattached—
--And my son, yes, this is still my son, when do the bolts come out of his neck doctor?, when do the stitches stop tearing open when he moves even so slowly, what damage will he do to himself that could be fatal if he has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I'm not awake to see he does the proper things so his plumbing system won't break apart yet again? And my son is being wiped by the wet Kleenexes cause his head has split, just a bit this time, just a bit, it happens when he gets upset, and he is no longer flailing his broken in three places arm or the stub of his other arm, and I'm wiping the blood from his forehead and the blood tears from his eyes. The doctors said there was all this damage and the blood flow and the tear ducts, well they couldn't explain it to a dumbass working stiff like me, but whatever the reason, he cries blood. And Marte cries a lot too. I see her in the mad house, though they have a nicer name for these places now, and she's still trying to stitch her child together, only it's a doll and her needle is invisible, and she doesn't scream as much when Jigsaw, I forget his name used to be Paulie, more and more these days, and I show up, she asks questions that make no sense, and Jigsaw tells her of the new snakes he's captured out back of our home in the woods and they mangle their souls, mom and son, and there is the usual guilt trip on me, and then it's out the door for another six months or till Christmas or something. Her eyes haunt me. I had just beaten Paulie's butt for not shushing when we were having lemonade with Marte's parents on the lawn, and of course that was what made the spastic little run down the country road to his fate with the combine.
After I clean his face, I take a deep breath, everything is still, everything is hot and sticky beyond bearing, I gather my strength and pull his face up so I can see it, and think his half a pair of lips look like glans in the sun on a little light rain day when you might be young yourself and learn how to breathe again, which seems impossible now, in the hot hurt saw grass blaze hell world of August Florida in this hot car with this nightmare, I look at his face, still I flinch seeing it, and I say, okay Jigsaw, you just could have gotten us killed with that little stunt back there—Christ I think, why didn't you?—so we'll go to the damned roadside attraction and we'll see the snakes and they'll be like you, like all the other freak animals there, broken and old and dying and for people to pay for a quaint curiosity that will make them laugh or if grotesque enough make them sick, you want to visit you I guess, so here we go. And I ease him away from me, the curious cold and tender make him nervous but I'm doing the best I can. Home school via computer is the best I can do, and no Billy Bennett teaching him how to beat the odds in Vegas stuff either, real computer school teachers, and it costs a bundle, but thank god people still feel sorry for me, and I've got a half way decent job now. Net pleas also are of great help. Lots of guilt out there makes the loot pour in, from time to time, that is.
We pull into the drive, where two incredibly ancient gasoline stands are, Texaco and Esso logos on them, the logos browning and torn and wind and speckled and age blown like the pumps themselves. A guy all bald and fat comes with handkerchief mopping his sweaty red neck, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and baggy black shorts on fat legs, and sandals, comes slowly up to the car, every movement causing him pain, just another sucker, he is thinking, and he puts his head down to the passenger's open window just as Jigsaw looks up directly at him, causing the fat man to mutter MUDDER O GOD and half fall back, catching himself on one of those pumps, with his hand, before he lands on his big ass in the dead dust, and I brush away flies and gnats we've been fighting all the way here and all the way back, and I laugh and Jigsaw looks over at me, and I don't know what he's feeling, cause his skin is so tight, no to mention so many different shades, the burnt red and orange is my favorite, like a corrupted run over cyst, you can't tell, and the one eye is so squinted and hooked like on a fish hook, you can't tell that way either, which cuts down on my guilt a little, thank God for that, and I move painfully out of the car, the seat sucking on my bare legs and my shorts, and I lean over the top of the goddam its hot, pull hands away, stupid, and say hey Oddball you don't spell too well, but we'll forgive it, if you, my mouth cotton and hot and sticky as hell, can direct me to a cold beer, and let the kid see the roadside attraction, and he eager as hell to get away from my own roadside attraction, portable and moveable and with me always, points to the sign that says this way, as he nods to me and hurries to the inside of his stucco shack, hopefully he's got whole cases of beer in there, on ice, lots of ice I can bathe my face with.
So after fifteen minutes of helping Jig out of the car and getting his one leg situated underneath him, the real leg, and then strapping the prosthetic one to his meat orb on the other side, and his crutches under his arms, so he can swing pretty well on his own to the freaks and I say see lots of squirmy scaly snakes Paulie, give yourself good nightmares. And he hopped and walked and tumbled away, slow on slow. While I went inside for that beer. I was to think later on the trip back that Jig had always loved snakes, even before his accident, his murder by me, my good ex-wife was fond of saying then and now, the bigger and the more ferocious the better; he had loved them at zoos, liked to get them to lunge at him, liked to find them behind the house and carry them home, where Marte or I were oh god whee oh george get that damned thing out of here. He loved the squrimies the most. I believe. He loved snake movies. I never knew there were so many of them till Jigsaw, nee Paulie, came along, and then we got cable and there was the Discovery channel, and they did endless programs on slithery pythons, snakes that crushed you then ate you alive, close ups of water moccasins sinking their fangs into animal flesh or human flesh, monster huge massive long and fat heavy snakes that just waited for prey to drop in for a visit, snakes ugly and grotesque with diamond backs that crawled under your bed in Malaysia or somewhere and waited for you to go to unawares sleep so they would slither out from under the bed and gobble you up alive and you feeling every single painful horrifying morsel of moment of it, all this stuff, and Paulie nee Jigsaw sitting in front of the set, on the floor of it, him two inches from the screen and saying things like rad and cool and neat and all of that while Marte and I would just look at each other, disgusted, and wonder did we raise a goddam snake charmer or something? Is our real kid in India and hates snakes and wondering where did the baby mix up go wrong?
So of course, the fat guy was named Fats, though he said I could call him Pops, and his little room we sat it was indeed filled with two dented steel containers of beer on ice, so I soaked myself and looked at the triple chinned winner as he pulled back his Peters Built cap on his almost bald head, and listened to his stories of how he used to be able to make a go of this place before self serve and them goddam A-rabs fucked everything up, and they made this, the county, not the A-rabs a go by road, when they built the highway two miles over, and what the hell was I doing on it?, oh I laughed, swigging and belching, got lost, ha ha, and he run me over with rube jokes, so after I stopped being a whore for the beer, I said, hey, what attractions you got back there? He had been in a straight-backed wood chair, positioned on the back two legs, with his feet up on the desk, and he said whadjamean? As he plopped the chair back on four legs and looked at me pretty meanly, and I said, well, the kid, he wanted to see some snakes or something—and he said, that twisted thing a kid? I put the beer can, warming now, to my forehead again, and wiped away the sweat, well, ah, well, yeah…I was really insulted, not that he said it about Jigsaw, really, it was just, well, sure he was a kid, sure, he was scary looking and would be living with me till the day I dropped and he was totally worthless, but well, yeah, he was a kid, I mean he was 12 and he was small and he wore kid clothes..wish he wasn't mine, never liked him before he became a roadside attraction anyways, colicky as a baby, intractable and willful as he got older, I maybe thought it was good that he got into that fracas with the combine, good that he was dead, deadwood on us, our marriage had long since soured, and I had begun thinking maybe he was the cause, showed we weren't kids anymore, that we had to pretend to be adults, to work, make a life for him—responsibilities we definitely weren't ready for—but well hell yes he's a kid—how could anybody think otherwise—
And it reached something inside me, while the old duffer was trying to make amends, telling me there were just some freak animals back there and some garter snakes and some monitor lizards, the main attraction was the pet python he got from a traveling show some time ago, that he threw live mice to, cause that's how it ate, and he would make a show of it when there were some tourists around the pit dug back there for it, mice squeaking, he getting some of the braver marks to toss the mice to the python which would slither to them as the mice quivered, and would seize them in its mouth and break their bones and the mice would scream—here he stopped and then asked if I had ever heard mice scream—it's not a squeak like then, when they see this monster sliding over to them in all that long green sinewy glory, they let out an almighty scream—and then I heard it—I dropped the beer can, almost empty, what was left of the warm liquid, splashed my legs—I stood up like a shot-I had never heard a scream like that in my life—I had not been as chilled to the bone as when I saw Paulie being eaten alive it seemed by that monster python combine, and all the details of him laid apart behind it, and then all the years, and not through, not by a long shot, of him in the hospital, after this graft, these bone replacements, these amputations, his getting used to the constant pain that he still had but never talked about because he knew it upset me, and I ran out of the building to the sign that said THIS WAY, well Fatso spelled that sign right, and I rushed down the little gravel lap dog lane and there was the pit out under the scorching sun, and there was Jigsaw with little screaming white mice, in one hand and half the other hand he was tossing them down into the pit, I could hear the screaming—the bastard was right, they did sound like human screams, and Paulie was holding on to another mouse, the cage beside him on a table now empty, and Paulie, not Jigsaw, but dammit Paulie, nee Jigsaw, yes, that was how it had always been, how I realized later I had always thought of what he was and what he had become, and Paulie was crying tears of red, as I rushed to him, as he threw down with strength I didn't know he had, that last doomed terrified screaming white mouse…
I ran to him and I screamed as I rushed him and knocked him to the ground and he was so scared and quivering and his eye was weeping blood and his forehead as well and he was leaking pee all over me, and that old man had come out here in the midst of all that and was screaming get that screwy kid the hell out of here you fuck, I gotta buy new mice now you know how much they cost? You're going to pay for em and then you're gonna get the hell out of here—which I did and which we did—and then in the horribly hot car as we pulled away, Paulie, cured of love of snakes forever more no doubt, or so I hoped, cowered against the door as far as he could get on the passenger side, and he was holding his face in his hands and it hit me that he finally knew just what he had become, that he was mouse, that he was the enemy of snakes which he had previously loved, that he loved roadside attractions before and after the combine ate him, and they had turned on him, all of them, and they had pulled him from himself, and my hands tightened on the hot as hell steering wheel, as I pulled them back a little, and then had to grip the wheel again, Paulie nee Zigsaw or Zigsaw nee Paulie was saying something, the same something he had been screaming, as best he could, it had only come out as a whisper, try having only two half lips and no jaw bone on top of all the other indignities, and what he was Paulie screaming in Paulie words that only Paulie and I could understand, as he motioned his hand and half hand now tossing invisible mice to an invisible snake, as his mother used invisible scissors and invisible gauze to forever after stitch invisible Paulie's face and body back together, to complete her mad assembly of him on that chigger bit day when our nightmare started in earnest, there was Paulie throwing invisible mice to an invisible snake that stood for so much and for so many, god, especially me, and screaming, he was, "Love me love me love me love me love me…"And he kept on going like a sad mad SOS transmitter as the sun was sinking lower and lower and night was mercifully coming on, not a heat diminishment, but at least the sun didn't bake us, as we got closer and closer to Pensacola and that same damn motel my mother and I stayed at all those mad years ago that just keep getting madder, to escape the summer monstrousness of Tennessee, where do you possibly go in an on-purpose un-air conditioned car, but Florida, and before he lulled himself to sleep with his mantra, I looked over at him as he drifted, and thought, god, kid, it just gets worse after this, every day just gets worse, and I slammed the wheel noiselessly with my hand, so as not to wake him, why in hell didn't you die that day? Why?
You don't even look like a kid, like a human. I'm not even granted that. I turned on the lights. I drove.