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Fiction #195
(published October 7, 2004)
A Grisly Start
(with Musical Accompaniment)
by Brian Willems

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Russ spun around confronted by a man who looked as if molten lead had been poured over his skull, melting all his facial features together, like hot wax dripping down a candle, his chin ran into his shoulder. The man raised a chipped iron butcher's knife that Russ grabbed. Seemingly of its own volition, the heavy blade swung Russ' arm far behind his head and then sprang forward, back down on the man, collapsing his putty skull down into itself, splitting both bone and flesh.

Russ made it home and into bed. His Aunt came up the stairs and into his bedroom.

"Russ, you in here?"

Russ moaned into his pillow.

Russ' Aunt sat down on the edge of the bed and stroked his head. "You wanna tell Auntie about it, baby?" She leaned in closer, brushing stiff black hair away from his right ear. "You wanna tell me what happened?"

Russ turned towards the wall, making room for his Aunt to scoot in a bit on the single bed. "I was out."

Russ' Aunt turned her attention to his left ear. "I heard you come in, baby. What happened out there?" Russ curled up as far as he could so his knees and forehead touched the corkboard-covered wall. "You know how important it is for you to tell me."

"I was out," Russ stiffened, "at Mr. Christianson's."

Russ sighed and flipped back over. He occupied the last year anyone can be said to flip over without any loss of dignity: 12. He arched his back and sighed, "I was at Mr. Christianson's."

Russ' Aunt accommodated his change of position. "Just tell me, Russ."

"He made me dive with him. Down there at The Ledge."

"What ledge?"

"About 20 yards out from shore. There's this real sudden drop and he calls it 'The Ledge,'" Russ' Aunt's face tightened. "He's got this He-Man contest down there."


"Yeah. You see," Russ sat up a bit, "he's dropped these big sandstone blocks down to the lake bottom and you have to dive down and lift'em up onto the ledge. See who does it first. Two at a time. It's so murky down there and brown, but you can see a bit. And once Mr. Christianson dropped a stone on Luke's foot but of course it didn't hurt or anything since everything gets all slowed down underwater."

Russ leaned back against the brown plywood headboard. His Aunt had turned 38 two months back and had dyed her hair red and gotten a perm and she was wearing a nightgown of thick cotton with faded daisies. Russ' bedspread featured every NFL team's name and helmet spread out like in Dots and Boxes. Russ' Aunt clapped her hands together once. "Russ?" Russ looked down at his Aunt's hands, taking his. "You didn't go to Mr. Christianson's today, did you?"

Russ jerked his Aunt's hands up and down. "No, I guess not."

"There's no ledge, or He-Man contest, am I right on that?"

"I guess."

"Where'd you get that story from?"

"I don't know."





"Then where from, sweetie?"

"I said no!"

Russ turned over again to face the wall but as he was also leaning up on the headboard his body folded over into a pinched-in-the-middle bean-bag boomerang.

Russ' Aunt came up the stairs, into Russ' bedroom.

"Russ baby, I've got some brownies here."

Russ straightened himself out into the drafty chink between the bed and wall. Russ' Aunt set the brownie tray down on his desk next to the bed. She knocked over a tin can with halved wood clothespins glued around the outside used as a pencil holder. "Oh," she said to the mess and set it right. Then she sat down on the bed, stood up again, straightened her nightgown, and sat back down on the bed.

"Baby, where'd you go today? You know it's getting late. I should call your Aunt Cheryl. You know that, honey." She checked her wristwatch, took a brownie from the tray, rested her back against the backboard, crossed her legs and bit the brownie in half.

Russ spoke down into the chink between the wall and bed. "I went out to the fish house to help Denny clean the fish. He was out past Star Point, where there's that great small-mouth crib. He got a whole bunch of'em."

"Russ." Russ's Aunt re-crossed her legs.

"And he got a northern too. It was so long and silvery. When he cut the head off it kept flopping around. Why do they do that Auntie, keep flopping around?"

"Why didn't you ask Denny? He was there, wasn't he?"

"Yeah, well he was busy cleaning fish."

"Russ. You didn't clean any fish, did you?'

"Please, Auntie. I was just helping Denny clean the fish."

"Now tell me where you were, baby. Let's get this over with. There was no Mr. Christianson and no Denny today, was there?"


"Just turn over a bit and show me your face." Russ arched his back closer to his Aunt but didn't turn over any. "Don't you want a brownie?" Russ' nod rubbed against the corkboard and Russ's Aunt took a brownie from the plate and handed it to him over his back. He took it with his right hand and took a bite.


Russ swallowed. "I killed a man today, Auntie."

Russ's Aunt didn't move. Russ took another bite and said with his mouth full, "He was so big. I can't believe that I actually did it. He had this huge knife and came running up to me. He almost hit me before I could even see him. He was much faster than you said." Russ' Aunt put her left hand in the left front pocket of her nightgown and drew out a sewing needle. "His face was all yucky like in the movies. Like he'd been in a blast or something." Russ's Aunt pricked her right index finger. "And the knife he had was all old and heavy. Heavier than it looked and it just sort of took over everything. I didn't even really have to do anything. It just came down all by itself." Russ turned over, reached both hands behind his head to fluff up his pillow, and propped himself up. "His face was kinda melted into his neck. A neckface. It was so gross. I could barely look at it." Russ' Aunt leaned over Russ and drew a plus sign on his forehead in her dark blood. "And he split in half! I never expected that. In half! have you ever seen anything like that, Auntie?"

Russ' Aunt smiled. "I never thought you'd make it baby." She leaned over and kissed the top of his head. Then she picked up the phone on the desk and called Russ' Aunt Cheryl to make all the necessary arrangements.

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