NOTE: This here’s a story about me and Jake, me being Dean, by the way. Miss A was kind enough to write all this down for me. Hope you enjoy it.
Jake was born ten pounds heavy with a full head of hair and handsome looks. Trouble is, he was also born powerful ornery, and he flat out would not take “No” for an answer.
Most folks in Hagerstown shook their heads at how it was that a couple of the easiest letters to put together and understand, Jake couldn’t fix himself to comprehend.
The simple folk, bless their hearts, they marveled at Jake’s ability to turn “No” into “Yes,” and on top of that, to turn “Yes” into a sentence-worth of words or more. They called it “looking on the bright side.”
But me and the other high-thinkers in town, we saw clear that Jake’s situation was a more complicated matter of universal equalization, of good and bad balancing each other out so’s everything ends up fair and square.
In Jake’s situation, his looks and pheromones got him the ladies and he looked to be on top. But him being wired so’s the word “no” got converted to its polar opposite is what ended up driving them away.
And it ultimately ended up being his undoing.
Jake’s body was found out in the woods behind Nadine Clark’s house looking like a piece of meat someone had tried to carve up with a trailer hitch, it was that bad of a job.
Now Nadine’s doing time for killing him because all logic pointed the way to her. But logic is a dumb bitch.
The courts said it was premeditated but I know Nadine hadn’t known Jake long enough to get that degree of irritated by his bad wiring. And it was powerful irritating, I can vouch for that.
One time at a family reunion, it took five of our cousins to pull me off Jake ‘cause he’d got me so vexed. He was sitting next to me at one of the picnic tables—with a girlfriend he’d recently stole off me, I might add—and I’d stopped chewing for just a moment to ponder a high-minded idea that’d popped into my head.
Jake leaned into me and I could tell he’d set his eyes onto my plate. “You gonna eat that?” he asked, but I ignored him due to the nature of my thoughts being far more important. Plus, I still had hold of my eating utensils and I figured that said it all.
Of course I should’ve known better, but at that point I’d left Jake to the part of my brain that works on autopilot, so to speak, and that part made an error in assuming Jake had growed up enough to leave a man alone when he could see plain he was pondering.
Jake just leaned into me harder and raised his voice louder. “I said: are you done with your steak?”
It ticked me off to have to abandon my high thoughts right prior to a breakthrough, but I had no choice. I put a bookmark in my thinking and locked my eyes dead on his. “No,” I said, definitive.
Well Jake, instead of “No,” he must’ve heard something like, “Why yes, Jake, I am done with it, and I sure would like for you to finish it off so’s it won’t go to waste,” ‘cause next thing I knew, he’d stabbed what was left of my steak with his fork and was commencing to drag it off my plate.
It bothered me sore to have to snatch his thief hand like a cobra striking a rat and to squeeze the bones in his wrist so hard they popped and his hand sprung open and released my steak. But Jake never was good at getting points unless they was enforced physical, and I saw clear nothing had changed in that department. In fact, if anything, on that particular day he was slower than usual at getting points because he cuffed me upside the head.
That left me no choice but to knock him clear of the picnic table bench and to jump on top of him and pound some everlovin’ sense into him. Unfortunately, I still had in hand the fork and steak I’d repo’d from him—this is what the cousins said, anyway—so ol’ Jake, he got some puncture wounds that festered dangerous ‘cause he didn’t care for them proper.
Long story short, he lived through it, but things between us went from bad to worse. He took that stole girlfriend and moved up to Fayetteville and didn’t show up at the next year’s reunion. Sorry as I was about it all, I at least could enjoy some peace in the girlfriend department for a change, until Nadine, that is, and that wasn’t my fault.
Just short of two years later, Jake came into town on surprise and must’ve seen me and Nadine walking down Main Street and into Rudy’s BBQ, ‘cause the next thing I knew, there was Jake blowing through the door all big-chested and raking his hair back, gettin’ a bead on us. And when he seen Nadine, his eyes bugged out and two steps later he was scooting his ass into our booth, right up next to Nadine of course.
Jake made small talk and acted like bygones were bygones, but when my eyes caught his, I saw clear that time hadn’t cured his hate. I knew Trouble had found me and Nadine, big as life, and she weren’t no help at all. She kept looking at Jake all through dinner like a shy school girl—which she hadn’t been in over fifteen years, I might add—and Trouble reared back and pounced hard just as soon as the dinner plates was cleared.
When I tried to settle up with the waitress, Nadine leaned soft and close to me and said, “Dean, honey, could we have coffees?”
I gave her a look that should have told her to hold that thought and let’s just get the hell out of here. But she only batted her eyes and smiled and Jake saw his chance and pounced. “Coffees all ‘round, Missy,” he said to waitress. Then when she showed back up again, Jake winked at Nadine and said to her, “Not that you could be any sweeter, Darlin’, but wouldn’t you like some desert to go with that coffee?”
Nadine blushed and said, “No,” which Jake must’ve turned into, “Oh yes I would, Jake, you handsome thing, you sure do know how to treat a lady,” or some such fool thing.
So Jake slapped his hand down on the table in front of Nadine and said to the waitress, “One chocolate éclair, right here, Missy.”
Causing a scene at a family reunion was one thing, but it weren’t right to do here, so I bit my tongue and bided my time. I sipped on my coffee and watched Nadine toy with her éclair until white cream spurted out the sides of her mouth.
“Oh, Darlin’!” Jake grinned and quick handed her a napkin. “Easy now.”
Nadine blushed and patted the cream off her chin, while I bit harder on my tongue until I tasted blood.
“Nadine!” I snapped, “Don’t you think you’ve had enough of that? I thought you was worried about gaining weight.”
Nadine had big, violet eyes and a pretty little face that was starting to look all the littler with the weight she’d put on her body lately. She was always telling me to help her eat less. And that was fine by me, ‘cause she was a strong gal, both of mind and muscle, and the last thing I needed was for her to put more weight behind those two forces.
“Don’t be so mean,” Jake said to me.
I scoffed. Any other day, he’d have told me not to be such a goddamned prick and I’d have told him to fuck off and I’d have ended up pounding him.
Jake sliced into me with a look, and real slow he slid his eyes off mine and onto Nadine’s. He patted her arm and said all sweet, “You go right on and enjoy the rest of that éclair, Darlin’, while I have a quick smoke outside with Dean-o here.”
I thought to myself, “Fine,” and I got up with the intent of taking him out back behind the dumpster and punching his lights out, then going back around and getting Nadine and getting gone.
Jake must’ve had a like kind of idea because he high-tailed it around back and stopped in front of the dumpster. He felt around for his smokes and came up empty, so I lit a couple and handed one to him.
We stood there on the stained and stinking asphalt and sucked on our smokes for a couple of seconds, then Jake got that squinty, far-off look. “Say, big brother,” he said to me, “Nadine looks a whole lot keener on me than she does on you, so how about you face facts and I take her off your hands?”
I thought to myself, “Not this time, you fucker,” and I locked my eyes onto his, just like at the reunion. “No,” I said, definitive. Then I thought to add, “Not only no, hell no!”
Right away I saw clear I’d said way too many no’s for Jake to deal with. He threw down his cigarette butt and looked at me with pure hate in his eyes while he was twisting it out. “Can’t hold onto a woman,” he said, shaking his head. “You must be one lousy fuck, Bro.”
That was it. I clocked him and he went down hard, backwards. I jumped on top of him and went for his throat, forced his head down to the sticky asphalt, pinned it there and put my cigarette out on his cheek.
Jake roared and threw me off with superhuman strength and I flew backward, hit the pavement and quick scrambled up and charged him again. I surprised him with one fist hard to his gut and on his way to doubling over I drove the other fist up the underside of his jaw. His head snapped back and he went over again and scrambled back up to return like.
Long story short, we went ‘round like that for quite some time ‘til we heard Nadine screaming like a wildcat.
It took us both by surprise and I quick rolled clear of Jake like when we was kids and I was trying to show Mama it weren’t me that started it. But Jake couldn’t do no wrong in Mama’s eyes and I’d be the one got beat to a pulp and slammed in the closet, shaking and sticky from crying and bleeding, while she hollered Mark 8:31 through the keyhole.
“Get up! Get your ass up!” Nadine screamed.
I sat in the stink and blood, shaking my head to clear it. I looked around and saw Jake had got to his feet and was tore up and bleeding and pacing and shaking the leftover violence out through his arms, blowing it out through his mouth. Then I looked at Nadine.
She looked direct at me and yelled, “You heard me, you sorry bastard!”
“Wait,” I said to her, “you’re not blaming me—”
“Damn straight I am,” she hollered. She was shaking mad.
I scrambled up to her level to see better what’d got into her, and I looked at her imperative. “Hold on now, Nadine, I was just defending myself.”
Nadine crossed her arms and glared at me. She was bristling with despising. I reached for her to try and soothe her, “C’mon now, Honeypie, can’t you see—”
She sidestepped my reach and went off on me like a Gatlin’ gun. “You’ve been picking fights the whole time we’ve been dating: that roadie at Billy Bob’s, that carnie at the state fair, that usher at the movies, and I could go on and on, the list is so long, and now your own brother! You’ve got a serious problem, Dean! And I’ve had enough of it! Good Bye!”
She whirled around, her bouncy brown hair taunting me as she walked to Jake and took him by the arm like an invalid. He smirked at me out the side of his mouth that hadn’t been banged up, and he let her “help” him across the street to his truck.
I picked up my pack of smokes from the dumpster runoff, wiped it on my pant leg, and shook one out and lit it. I drew the smoke hard into my sore insides, let it smoke out what love I had left for living while I watched Nadine and Jake like they was a movie.
I watched Nadine clear a place from all the junk on Jake’s passenger side and make him sit there. She shut the door gentle, then flounced around the front of the truck and hopped up into the driver’s seat.
She fired the truck up and glared at me as she gunned the engine by me, like she had things right where she wanted them. But I’d seen the ending of her and Jake’s movie already in my mind.
I seen Jake coming down Nadine’s stairs in the middle of the night. I seen him feel his way to the fridge to get a snack. I seen the ghost of a bloody boy jump him from behind and snuff him unconscious and drag him out into the woods. I watched in horror as the boy worked out some sick vengeance on him, beat him to a pulp with the awful bones of his past.
Then I seen Nadine run out of the house all disoriented and terrified. I watched her go frantically looking to where she heard all the screaming. And I cried for her as she found Jake, the last of life leaving his body with the rush of blood spreading over the decaying forest floor.
I yelled, “No!” when I seen her bend down and reach for the murder weapon. But she yanked it out of Jake, and she ran out of the woods with it, all wild-eyed and screaming, “Someone call 911!”
I turned away then, and got gone. There was nothing more I could do at that point. She’d sealed her fate. Ever’body knows a ghost don’t leave prints.
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