Continued from The Violent Acts of Poets, Part I.
Lily Miller’s daddy was a trashman who blew up his trailer. He was inside when it went kaboom, and there were bits of him scattered around his trailer’s acre lot. The little pieces looked like confetti. Lee Miller was his name, and he ended up nothing more than bits of candy from a busted pinata. RIP, Lee Miller.
To supplement his trash income, he cooked. Chicken cutlets. Microwave dinners from the blue box. Spaghetti O’s. Eventually, meth. He wore a goalie mask when he did it, white with holes like Jason Voorhees, and wrapped a wet towel around his nose and mouth. I told him he was missing the point, and he cackled and drank his High Life. He fancied himself a king when he opened a High Life, and there was no getting him to listen to nothing.
Lily hadn’t been round him much growing up, her mother knew better than that. But my pops, Eli, and him grew up together in Kingfisher. I remember them sitting on upturned painter’s buckets, smoking menthols, and passing a bottle of Jim Beam some nights. This was before my father died. He was an alright man, Lee Miller. Some folks are only what they are, and he was one of those. Nothing wrong with being what you are, my father used to say.
It was after Lee Miller’s trailer exploded that our troubles began in earnest. Dead men pay no debts, unfortunately, and it’s up to the living to keep on surviving.
I let Lily sleep in the back seat when the morning came, even though it was cold. I just covered her a bit more under the blanket and kissed her forehead. Her bruises were dark getting darker. Like the night had bumped into her and rubbed off some of its neverending black, and now she was branded.
By the time I got to the convict Mcalester Freeman it was clear that I had killed him the night before. I didn’t know his name until later of course, but even nameless he couldn’t get much in the way of sympathy from me. His face was grey and blue like a Lacy dog’s coat. The whites of his stuck eyes saturated yellow.
I broke some mesquite branches, and with bloody hands covered him up best I could. There was a chill, and it stuck to the back of my neck while I plowed the earth with my fingers. It struck me that I had gone nearly twenty years of life without killing a soul. And now, two of em’ in the less than forty-eight hours. Goddamn.
When I’d done all I could do with the body, I began to pray over it. But I couldn’t concentrate right, gave it up halfway through, and went to wake Lily who was sleeping soft and kind.
We went as far as we could until the gas hand ticked like a broken clock against empty. Lily and I goaded the fumes and pushed ourselves forward in the cab hoping for a few more rolls of the wheels. We succeeded and stalled out in gas station ruins. There was a broken car half-eaten up with rust and a sign on the store window advertising antiques.
I told Lily to get the revolver from the glove compartment, and she did, and she weighed it in her palm. She held it careful as an egg, said it was cold and heavy. Then she said, we ain’t got nothing. We got bruises, I told her. Bruises, health, and our gun. There’s money in antiques, she said before opening the door and unfolding herself, stepping outside holding the gun under the blanket wrapped around her.
I asked her what she was doing and she came around the car to me and stuck the revolver in the back of her jeans. She took off the blanket and draped it around me before kissing me and telling me that she loved me no matter what. No matter if the cops found us and burned us both. I told her that nobody would be burning nobody, but she didn’t say nothing and just looked back at the antiques store. Before she opened the door and I heard that bell ring, the one that sometimes comes with opening doors, she reached behind her and grabbed the gun.
When she came out she wasn’t hurrying, only carrying a brown paper grocery sack like she was bringing her lunch. I asked her what happened and she said that she had a big sack of money, that’s what happened. I asked her for the gun and she handed it over. It was still cold and heavy.
She pulled keys from her pocket and dangled them. The proprietor has an old truck out back, she said, so we went around and I saw the crimson truck the color of rust with white-walled wheels. The white-walls belonged to an earlier time. Maybe one where meth trailers didn’t blow up, where thugs didn’t threaten young girls for the sins of their fathers, where boys didn’t have to turn to men so soon, and where the laws of God and man rode side by side like brothers, instead of fighting like wild cats, twisting and bumping and snarling at one another.
We drove dead north keeping off the interstate as much as we could. I knew the cops wouldn’t figure it was us until they found Lily’s car with the license plates. I asked her if the cashier was gonna be calling the cops and she shook her head. She was driving and didn’t look over at me. Why not? I asked. It ain’t a problem, baby, she said. She was chewing bubble gum, wearing cutoff jean shorts. The frays, the little cotton tendrils, pressed up against her thigh, reminded me of jellyfish all washed up on shore with something dead about them. I don’t know why, but she made me think of the ocean sometimes, and I imagined us walking barefoot like everyone else along the rim of the sea.
It got dark somewhere in Nebraska and I took over driving. Lily fell asleep snoring with her legs across my lap, and the bracelet on her wrist tapped against the window like drunken code. A town blinked away in the distance, each light a firefly caught in the whirling purple clouds of the central shelf. A storm’s coming, I said to no one. Soon we dipped into a valley and the lights disappeared.
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal