Terry Jackson has terrible spelling. Pisses Alex Thomas off. She started a list last week of all the misspelled stock orders Mrs. Jackson has filed: thirty six items in eight days. Most nights, Alex goes home and tells her husband all about the dumb fucks in this podunk town, though not in such colorful language. Alex is well practiced in manners and passive aggression. On my advice, Mrs. Jackson just corrected Alex's use of who/whom. Alex'll be the third murderer in town history.
Bill Warner lives five doors down with a paralyzed son. His granddaughter died on Main Street. Drunk driver. Every Sunday Bill Sr. walks the highway in a safety vest, picking garbage off the road and tending the memorial. I don't let him sleep at night knowing the drunken bastard got four DWI's before his truck smashed Bill Jr. childless and into a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Bill Sr.'ll be the second murderer in town history.
Kyle Daniels aged out of foster care. Soon as he graduated, he found himself out on his own, working over seventy hours a week at the Burger Palace to afford his apartment by the church. Six nights a week, he climbs into bed at midnight and wakes up at six. Goes to work, comes home to shower, volunteers with foster kids. Every Sunday, church bells wake him up early on his one day off. He used to like the sound until I introduced him to a little boy molested by the pastor. He'll be the first murderer in town history.
Adele Stevenson sits on her front porch every morning reading the newspaper. Back in her forties, she went door to door asking for funds to beautify the town. Planted flowers all down Main Street, cleaned up the park, became a member of church groups and the school board. Got a hip replacement when she was seventy two and retired. She still thinks this is the best little place to raise a family. At church, just next door, Adele is everyone's friend, confidant, and honorary grandmother. She is the linchpin.
She'll be the first to die.
It's funny how everyone thinks small towns are so dull. None of the rampant violent crime of the cities, full of sweet little hicks who just want everyone to get along. I tell you, isolated little backwaters are where shit is really preparing to blow. Everyone's packed in tight as sardines and they stink just as bad with all the resentment they repress to survive in close quarters. By rights, they would all leave if they could, but most can't. Thing is, it's people like Ms. Stevenson who add a little potpourri and sweet-talking to cover up the odor. Little linchpins delaying the rot, keeping the can from bursting putrid fish guts out into the world.
But that's the problem with linchpins: take one out, and the whole town transforms into the cesspool it was always meant to be.
I've seen it thousands of times over. Caused it a few less times than that. Quietly added my own little touches of angst into the locals, wound them all up, got them just to the edge... From there, just remove their support system and watch the fun.
I can tell you exactly how it will play out.
Kyle Daniels hasn't slept in three days. He sees himself in that little boy, and when the church bells rang yesterday morning, it drove him over the edge.
Adele is on her porch, reading the Journal. She has no idea Kyle bought a gun yesterday. He's got the church in his sights right now, but he's never held a weapon before. Can't hit the broad side of a barn. Or church, as it happens to be.
The first three shots will miss. Two will find Adele Stevenson. Kyle will take out the pastor, go into hiding, and find out about the second victim. He'll turn himself in and be the first to say, "I just snapped." The first one never understands.
Bill Warner? He loved those flowers on Main Street, and the woman who planted them was the only one who could brighten his day. I say one week before he walks into the bar with a baseball bat and smashes everything to pieces. When the owner tries to stop him, Bill Sr. will beat them into a coma. He'll be tackled to the ground, arrested, and the second to say, "I just snapped." He won't understand either.
As for Alex Thomas, she's a beautiful challenge. Religious. Confident. Has her husband for added support when Adele can't cheer her up on Sundays. I like her, enough that I'm going to take the vacant preacher position for a while. Guide Mr. Thomas to Terry Jackson's eager arms.
Don't usually like all the footwork on holy ground; burns like the fucking sun. But I've had plenty of practice in my time and Alex is worth it. Genius IQ, loyal to a fault. Volunteer firefighter. I give it three months before Main Street is a smoldering ruin.
And the best part? She'll understand exactly what's going on, and no one will believe her. The whole town will be in Hell, and she won't have to say 'I just snapped'. When all is said and done, Alex Thomas will say, "The devil made me do it."
Note: This was written for the Review Game Forum's June Writing Challenge Contest. This month's prompt was "Nothing ever happens in this dirty hick town/ The bar is always closed and now the hookers all are gone/ Now church is entertainment and Prozac is the drug/ Going out of my mind, start to changing things around/ I've got gallons of blood/ Can't remember where it's from/ Just clippings on the wall/ I guess it's stuff that I've done", from 'Red' by Combichrist. Tell me what you thought, check out the other entries, and vote for your favorite piece.