Posted on: April 14, 2015
They found the body in late March, and from there I suppose it was just a matter of time. Regardless of what you think of cops, it wasn’t too hard to put two and two together. Lily and I disappearing like we did. Even then, without foresight, there was a sort of irony to our adventure. A narcissism, I suppose -- to think we’d get away with it. Such a product of our times. Oh well. Guess everyone is.
Wish I could claim some sort of thematic importance to Durhams Corner, but honestly, it was just where the road ended. A candle that’s got no more wax to burn. No rhyme or reason in such a place.
In a way it makes sense for this story to begin where it ended. Like a snake that eats its tail. The circumstances that led us there seemed almost incidental, so incidental, in fact, that it must have been destiny all along. To this day, I can’t imagine these particular series of events unfolding in any way other than the way they did. I suppose that’s life though, isn’t it? Sometimes I think fate is as indiscriminate and omniscient as God, and then other times I fool myself into thinking they are the same thing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself now.
We did what we did out of love. We did it out of survival. We did it because my father once told me that a woman is to be respected at all costs. We did it because we were young and didn’t know no better.
We always said we never meant to kill those folks. Nobody could ever understand such a sentiment; couldn’t reconcile the action to the consequence. But it was a true statement. We never meant to kill them. Not any of them.
They say everything happens for a reason. Better to talk from the beginning.
Lily Miller. Lord, that girl lit a fire under me. Sitting in the back of Scott Reynold’s truck like that. She was small. Small hips. Small breasts. I’m not a tall man, but we fit together. She felt like the right answer. She had freckles and I had none. She had light brown hair and mine was dark. She had hazel eyes above those few freckles and mine were blue. Are blue. I saw her in the parking lot, and then later that night, I remember, I saw her again out at the bonfire. Few of us carved out a spot in the night, and she was there. Drinking beer. Rubbing bare legs to stay warm. Fine and at home in a lawn chair. And I was staring at her, across the fire, waiting to match eyes and when we did, well, it was like hearing the best song, loud, your face naked to the passing winds of an open car window, telephone poles flitting by.
This was before the realizations of her situation came clear into view. It started as passion, and before it sunk into desperation for the both of us, well, we made sure we fell in love before that happened. Fell in love before we started to need each other. We wanted a solid base, like we were building a house. And sometimes we would talk about building that house on a few acres, far away from her daddy. And the graves of my folks, sitting there like domino fossils in the ground, waiting to be unearthed by some far-off civilization; far away from them.
We should have high-tailed it out of Dodge that first night. We’d already done enough by then. But we didn’t. We parked to do some thinking and while we were thinking the whole wide world blew up.
It was cold that night. I don’t remember the day of the week or nothing like that, only that it was chilly as all hell. I had on my Dad’s old navy-blue mechanic’s jacket. Had his name on it -- Eli. He had blue eyes too, just like me. We were parked in Lily’s car, north off Waterloo Road, listening to the radio whispers of Tulsa. Dark night. Lights of town a few miles west, bouncing off the clouds, making that green glow.
At the time we didn’t know nothing about Macalester Freeman. Nothing about the accident up the road, about the bus that slipped on black ice, went sideways into a ditch, or how that bus was from the state penitentiary and carried in its confines a man such as Freeman. Capable of such violence.
Speaking of that violence, it’s in there, isn’t it? In your gut. In your blood. Maybe I didn’t use to think, but now I do, that it’s born in there. Right along with your fingers. Right along with your lungs.
He came up on us with a rock to bust the window. Went for the driver’s side because he knew someone got to be in that seat, and he was right. It was Lily. The window popped and shattered, and before I could reach he’d pulled her out of the seat. She was screaming and I could hear him beating on her. It sounded like she’d got the hiccups, and in those first moments there were only those sounds as I rounded the corner of the car. Meat packing sounds.
What happened next I’ll never be sure of. I remember seeing his shadow from the light of the moon, and I went for it, and I tackled it. The beast still had on handcuffs, and I remember he ended up on top of me, and he bashed down with his fists balled together, and I remember the metal scraping my throat. There was something wet on my face. Blood or spit. Probably both. He was bigger than me, I remember, but he was handcuffed and I was stronger. I could feel that strength. My strength. I remember getting on top of him and choking him with my left hand while my right crawled like a spider across the red dirt of the road, and I remember the feeling of that rock in my right hand, and I remember the instinctual way it rose up above my head, and I remember the way it went down. Meat packing sounds again. Wet splashing up into my eyes, nose, and mouth. Certainly blood this time. I remember how when I finally made full contact I pinpointed the spot and hit it again and again in the darkness. I can’t remember stopping.
After it was done I went to her and she was bloodied and pulpy. She was having trouble breathing and I cradled her in my arms. Neither of us spoke. We looked to the sky. Listened to the far off rumblings of the highway.
I dragged the body off the road to the ditch that ran perpendicular. Through the ditch I was blocked by a barbed wire fence, but I hopped it in the darkness, tearing the navy blue jacket, and dragged Freeman underneath by his feet. A seclusion of trees offered itself not far from the road, and I left him there and made my way back to the car. Lily was in the front seat, fingering her cell phone nervously. I told her that we needed the police and a hospital, but she shook her head. That road led nowhere. Not after her daddy and what happened in that goddamned trailer.
I opened the door to the passenger side and the overhead light blinked to life and I could see the bruised eye and bloodied nose of her, puffed lips and sniffs like allergies.There was a blanket in the back seat and we slept there, huddled together. Coyotes howled through the busted window and I blinked awake all night, until the pink glow of dawn showed, pregnant with life.
Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Anna Westbury
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