The Secret Griefs of Wild, Unknown Men (19)

19.
The Boy from the Old World was about 30 years old before he’d hit puberty. Some of his childhood friends were already dead. Most from one war or another. He’d have to thank his uncle for that. His new found hormones had ignited a furnace that seemed to rest a few inches below his navel. He’d always had a potent fondness for women, but this new feeling was a world apart. He began to understand the devil’s frustrations with unrequited love and his father’s appreciation for working women, which developed a few years after the death of his mother, who was now in hell, where no mother belongs.
This mixture of infatuation and longing seemed to collide headfirst with dense confusion and sudden bursts of violence that both scared and excited him. The first few years were filled with under-the-table deals with prostitutes, who would accompany him to a local barn or in the back rooms of bars where he was recognized as “the old boy” who was certainly old enough to drink, even if his liver was still too small to take it.
“That boy’s got the Devil in him,” they’d say, “and don’t try burnin’ him, cause it don’t work. Just get him a drink, and make sure all those damn animals he keeps with him stay outside, ‘specially that shitty little red ‘coon!”
Reputations are quite easily born in small towns, which seemed to be the only kind he’d travel to with his dozen animal friends, all of whom he shared souls with.
About 10 years into his transition to manhood, he met a woman preacher, which was a new and unusual thing for him. She would stand in bus stations and general store parking lots, forcefully intoning to the passers by, eerie chants on simple religious concepts. The boy would sit and listen as if he were absorbing a fairy tale being told by a grade school teacher. He often loved listening to preachers, because he knew they were wrong about God, but sometimes they were way off about everything. He’d once heard the tale of a Hittite named Boaz who had hit a giant fish between the eyes with a rock wrapped in a paper towel, the result of which provided Jesus with enough fish to feed a thousand flood victims for 40 days and 40 nights. And on the 40th day, God created rainbows to be a symbol and constant reminder that race mixing and homosexuality would lead straight to Hell. This had been one of the boy’s favorite sermons because of the fervor the old preacher mustered to describe the slaying of the fish:
“…And that giant devil of a cod fish, or whatevah’, splashed about with the hatred of a billion demons! And Boaz worried that tha wawtuh would soak through and BREAK his papuh towel! Ohhhh, but church! Church!! Our God is a good God, for those paper towels became TUHWICE-UH as ABSORBANT!”
“Preach Preachuh!!”
“I said-uh TWICE! As absorbent. And Boaz slung his mighty stone with the power of God hangin’ over his shoulduh’s and let that heavenly rock LOOSE!! And do you know what happened then, Church!?”
“Tell it, Preachuh!”
“That stone smacked that fish in between the eyes so hard that he IMMEDIATELY, turned retarded, had four hard attacks and died until he was DEAD-UH!!”
“Praise the Lord!!”
“Which goes to show, church. Gettin’ stoned only leads to retardation and deathification!!”
“Halleleujah!!”
Yep. That was a good one.
This Woman Preacher, however, was different. She spoke with unyielding clarity and conviction, and even her message was different. She didn’t bother with books or stories.
She simply said, “Be vigilant. Watch your neighbors, for you are their keepers. Say your prayers and prepare for judgement, for the Devil is among you.”
This was the first of two things that made the boy uneasy. Did she know? A lot of people did, but none took it so seriously. She spoke as if she not only knew about this Devil, but as if she actually knew what it meant to be a devil. Her short, curt sermons seemed to have an empathy to them, yet an absoluteness that cut to his core, implying that she knew everything about this devil, save what he looked like, though her eyes would linger every time they connected with his, which, as it were, was the cause of the second thing that they boy felt uneasy about when it came to this Woman Preacher.
He’d been attracted to women for a long time now, but there was something in this Woman Preacher that pulled at his loins with herculean strength. When her eyes would lock with his, he could feel his chest curl up like an armadillo, his breath would drop all the way to his navel and something like the sound of a bear’s growl would vibrate through his nethers. What made it worse was seeing it happen to her as well. He could see the tiny pockets of sweat form on her forehead, her posture grow rigid under her dress, her beautiful heart-shaped bosom heave up and down as the two locked eyes, bathed in endless twilight as if this were part of an absolute truth that the universe would let them do nothing about. And for an endless collection of seconds, their mutual lust for each other would silence the Lady Preacher, until she became aware of the Earth passing her by. And with a pinch of the wrist, she’d inhale and continue,
“Be vigilant, ladies and gentlemen. Raise your children under the watchful eye of God, and be mindful of your surroundings, for this devil is among you.”
Then, she’d disappear into the crowd, and her presence would disappear along with her, as if she’d never existed. But she did. And soon, the boy began to see her more and more; not just preaching, mind you, but watching from behind corners, or in post offices, or staring from a stool at a luncheonette while pretending to care about food that she obviously wasn’t eating. No, this Lady Preacher seemed to have no use for food.
It was on a cool night in September when he’d awaken to her standing over him as he slept. There were no words between the two of them; no sounds at all. They stripped off all of their clothes in silence. His heart seemed to have fists of its own, beating mercilessly at his chest, while the Lady Preacher, clothed only in starlight, straddled his wiry frame and proceeded to dance upon the monolith that stood between his thighs in a way that he wasn’t sure gravity would allow. But his mind wasn’t present enough to comprehend this. She had him, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t plan. He couldn’t speak. And he didn’t want to. All desires outside of this woman preacher had disappeared. He had been completely consumed by every aspect of her. And somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that something very bad was about to happen.
The next morning, a young farmer on his way home from choir practice noticed a small dead squirrel laying on the sidewalk.
“Aw hell,” the man hummed, “God rest that poor little soul.”
A few feet later, he encountered two dead cardinals of a gorgeous read hue.
“Aw hell,” the young farmer hummed, “God rest their poor little souls.”
It was odd, he thought. For them to be so close to each other, there must’ve been a hell of a fight between the three. As he checked the sky for rain clouds, he found himself tripping over a dead gator, which laid a few feet away from two dead dear.
“Well I’ll be goddamned!” he chimed, “We have a circus this weekend?”
The sight of such large animals needlessly killed struck him as eerie. Then, he noticed the trail of blood leading into the woods. He followed the trail (exactly what his Mother had warned him against when teaching him what to do in case he’d ever stumbled upon a blood trail), discovering a new animal every yard or so. Something was obviously amiss… afoot… which one?
The farmer mumbled an old hymnal to himself as he stepped over carcass after carcass. The light in the sky seemed to be fading without the help of clouds or natural Earth rotations. After passing a warthog, a gang of odd looking frogs, and what looked like an albino python, the farmer emerged into a clearing, a camp, the borders of which were lined with dead crows. The sight was too surreal for reality. And in the middle of it all was a hawk, laying splayed out over an early teenaged boy who held a bloody, red raccoon in his arms. He walked over to the boy, bending over the corpse.
“Goddamn it, son,” he muttered, pulling a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. This kid was definitely dead. His animals were, too. As he began to turn to find the police, he heard a low mumble come from the ground beneath him.
“What’s that?”
He turned back to the boy, who seemed to stir, barely, as a lone crow cawed in the distance.
“You alive!? Impossible!”
The Man eased in closer, as the boy’s right hand began to stir.
“Don’t you move, I’m gonna call the hospital! Don’t you worry!”
The boy began to cry softly, as his left arm clutched the little red ‘coon closer to his chest. Then, as if noticing them for the first time, the farmer took in the carnage around him.
“You kill all these animals?” he asked, turning his head to the crows. When he’d turned his head back to the boy, he noticed something quite peculiar. The boy’s right arm had found its way deep into the man’s chest. And there was a light, a voice, a darkness and then…
The following afternoon, the Man woke up to the smell of fatty bacon and spice-less eggs with no recollection of his life before today.
“Hey there, you’re up!” The Boy from the Old World smiled.
“Yep,” The Man replied. “What happened last night?”
“Not much” The boy smirked, “You tried to kill yourself by jumpin’ into the river. I saved you”.
“Well, aren’t you just a fuckin’ prince?” The Man remarked.
“To some,” the boy replied staring at his food. “You feelin’ alright?”
Sure, the man thought, but why not shut the hell up about it until after breakfast?
And while this was the truth, he figured he’d lie a little just to smooth it over. This boy did save his life, after all.
 “Sure” the man replied, “buy why not shut the hell up about it until we’ve had breakfast?”
The Boy from the Old World stared in silence before erupting into laughter.
“Funny,” the man said, “I meant to lie about that.”
He frowned, wondering why he would ever care to lie in the first place as he slid his sharp, black bowler hat over his greasy hair.
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