Leon Finds Watermelon
by Joseph Rodgers
Leon drives fast, ever since he got his first car he has driven fast. He is driving right now, his car disturbs the still night, the roar of his engine drowns out bird songs as it passes. His high beams cut through the darkness like twin blades crafted from light, illuminating the country roads of Canary City. He takes a hard right on the corner of Heritage Ln. and drives further into the undeveloped country.
From behind heavily tinted aviator sunglasses Leon watches the landscape change around him, signs of human development becoming more and more sparse. There are trees on either side of him lined up like soldiers, their bare bodies jutting into the sky like brown phalluses. The December air howls against his car and creeps into his open windows, he embraces the chill it suits his mood.
Leon is distant, physically and emotionally, his sunglasses are his shield against the world. He feels safe wearing his sunglasses, he feels like Milton's beautiful and misunderstood Lucifer fallen from heaven. He is severely depressed, but that does not stop him from romanticizing himself, instead it encourages him. He perpetually indulges himself by feeling tragic.
Leon is a young man who could have the whole world, he is handsome with curly black hair and high cheek bones, he is intelligent, but he is not ambitious. Besides there is something holding him back, all of those years he spent eating acid and shrooms trying so hard to pry his third eye open, trying so hard to find a spiritual world that compliments the physical one. He should have known, his father had died in a Institute, a funny farm if you will. Yet some things once seen cannot be unseen, and that thing is sitting in his passenger seat.
The thing, a greasy smudge of a being that oozes negativety and inhumanity is Leon's shadow. Leon calls him John, a foul creature that smells of stale cigarettes, sweat, impotent sex, and desperation. No one else can see John, just Leon, initially Leon had tried to reason John away as the lingering effects of an acid trip gone awry, but John was here to stay. Leon has been living with his shadow for years, and his shadow does everything he can to make Leon hurt.
Leon shifts the car into fifth gear and coaxes his car to eighty, he looks out of his dirty windshield into the clean country night. He can tell that like a newborn baby that the night is trying to cry, he watches is struggle and fail to take it's first few gasps of life. Overhead the waxing moon, the vixen mourns over the stillborn night, Leon can feel its silent sobs resonate throughout his being. Taking his eyes off of the road for a brief moment he looks over at his passenger, John. John is smiling, his smile seems to split his face, his teeth are yellow and decaying.
John lets out a contended sigh, it sounds like a death rattle and smells like fresh earth. "My brother," he says, "Tonight is indeed a beautiful night."
In Leon's opinion there is nothing beautiful about this night, but of course John would think it's beautiful. John is the patron saint of miscarried nights and wasted life. Leon doesn't feel like making conversation, he grunts in reply to John's statement. The grunt is indcative of nothing. Sitting in Leon's lap is a pack of menthol cigarettes, he picks up the pack and opens it. He brings the pack to his face and grabs a cigarette with his teeth.
"Let me help you with that." John says, he fishes around in the pocket of his shorts and procures a lighter from it. Leon watches from the corner of his eye as John flicks the lighter to life and brings the flame to Leon's cigarette.
Leon doesn't bother thanking John instead he slows down his car downshifting to handle a tight turn. Thoughts dance in Leon's head like a funeral march, they are all lonely thoughts. One thought that keeps bringing itself to the forefront of his mind is a love affair he had with an older woman when he was younger. He can't take his thoughts off of the green eyed cougar who had stolen his heart and then broken it.
Then an epiphany.
'I'm still young,' he reasons to himself, 'I should look for love, something stable.'
"Now, now, now," John admonishes him, " Don't think that way brother, what you need is sex. Sex! And lot's of it."
John licks his lips, it is a predatory action similar to that of a hungry wolf, "Let's turn around, drive to a club in Ybor, and score you some ass!" John says, he speaks fast his words rising into a crescendo of excitement.
"I don't feel like it." Leon says. He takes a drag of his cigarette and puffs the smoke out of his open window. John pouts in the passenger seat, but Leon ignores him. Driving in silence Leon is driving to nowhere, he fantasizes about driving off of the end of the earth into Oblivion. He is so far out into nowhere that he is sure that he must be close to the edge of the world.
Leon thinks this way because he is lonely, the last few days he has kept himself locked in his apartment. They were days of sof agony, days of emptying the bottle and darker pleasures, days of cocaine and hardcore pornography.
Leon finishes his cigarette and flicks the butt out of the window, as he does so he sees something in the other lane of the road. His curiousty takes over and he pulls a reckless u-turn doing a one hundred-eighty degree fishtail in the middle of the road. His car swings out of control for a moment in a way that he fears that he might drive off of the road, he stomps on the brake barely managing to arrest his momentum.
With his heart hammering in his chest Leon puts the car in neutral and pulls up the parking break, he grabs another cigarette this time lighting it himself instead of allowing John to do so. Now illuminated in his lights is the object that caught his attention, upon the poorly paved road is a single despondant box. Leon studies the box, it has six square faces all of which seem to droop in surrender. The poor condition of the box leads Leon to infer that it had been crushed out of shape by oncoming traffic.
"What are you doing?" John asks.
"I want to see what is in that box." Leon says.
"No you don't." John says, "I already know what is in that box, and it is no good."
"Yes I do." Leon says. And the argument is over before it even starts.
Leon steps out of his car, leaving the engine running. His boots make contact with the pavement and he begins to walk to the box. John gets out of the car also and follows him.
When Leon arrives at the box he sees that it is soaked at the bottom.
"Come on you saw it, now let's go to a club or something." John says, making a feeble attempt to persuade Leon away from his decided course of action.
Leon ignores him, and with a shaking hand opens up the top of the box. When he opens the box Leon's nostrils are assaulted with a vile smell, the smell is more vile than the acrid stench wafting from John.
With his sunglasses on all that Leon can see in the box is an amorphous stinking blob, he pushes his sunglasses up and lets them rest on the top of his head. His vision now clear Leon can see what's inside of the box, he immediately wishes that he couldn't. In a mess of fur, bodily fluids, and crushed desperate looking faces is what was once a litter of kittens. Every single one of them dead, their tiny bodies crushed riddled with the gleaming white bones emerging from compact fractures. None of them had even lived long enough to open their eyes.
Leon drops his egocentric depression for a moment and feels something pure and raw. Something devastating and beautiful, Leon feels real sorrow.
A single tear rolls down his cheek, the tear drips off of his chin and into the pool of blood that the inert bodies of the baby cats are lying in. Leon wonders how someone could have cruelly tossed these kittens to die in traffic. He mourns their loss, he thinks about how if they were still alive how he would take them home.
He picks up the body of a gray and white kitten out of the box, it is round and furry. A gasp of gas escapes from it, and blood leaks from its mouth as it is picked up.
"I would have called you Watermelon, little Watermelon." Leon says, his voice is choked with melancholy.
"Come on brother, that's enough." John says placing a dirty hand on Leon's shoulder. "Put the kitten back, and let's go home for a drink."
Leon tenderly places the body back in the box and walks back to his car. He is sobbing now. It is with tear blurred eyes that he puts the parking brake down and kicks the car into first.
He then drives home, back to his small house where he can live his days in soft agony and drown in the bottle.