ZYGOTE IN MY COFFEE.COM
|***BIO*** M. Kendra O'Neal dabbles in several genres, and has stories at a couple of online zines such as Poor MoJo's Almanac. A sometime playwright, she has had a one-page play performed in Buffalo, New York and also in Rome, Italy.|
|© 2005 zygoteinmycoffee Ink.|
|From Laid To Lye|
|by M. Kendra O'Neal|
|Geese flew over the lake, honking their way to St. Augustine for the summer, a place Annette knew only from grainy pictures. Shit, flying like bullets, hit the water.
A white paper bag floated on the surface of the water.
A beaver scampered along the shore. He hesitated at the sight of Annette and nonplussed lowered his haunches and crapped near the shoreline.
Water lapped at the turd which should have begun to disinigrate, but instead seemed to inflate in greasy liquid. The water was brown, made muddy by the clay, loamy soil which covered the broken-down, unemployed portions of uninhabitable Wesson County.
Annette pushed the canoe into the water.
Big, giant turd clouds formed overhead.
Annette paddled past the Murphy property. Their dock was spotless. Mrs.
Murphy began each morning with the Warrior pose and ended by cleaning up bird poop. She wore a face mask and yellow rubber gloves, refusing to let crust touch her press-on nails.
Crows flew overhead, and shit fell into her hair. She continued to scrub her dock, obsessed with transforming gray slats into white. She didn't seem to hear the plop plop.
Annette waved to her; a useless gesture, but one she felt obligated to make even though the woman did not look in her direction. She paddled onward. Eventually Annette's arms began to tire, and blisters formed on her hands. She needed a manicure or something more, possibly a total makeover. Fat chance of that as pretty was thirty miles away, in Culver County.
Ugly waited on Annette instead at a small island four hundred feet out.
It was a manmade island, made from chunks of razed farmland and crushed rock, the few remnants of the flattened homes, submerged addresses of native families, pioneers on horses who once shat in Wesson's outhouses, cleaned bird crap from wrap-around porches. Their ancient crap surely still rose to the surface, staining clueless descendants on jet skis, at least thirty shades of brown.
Tourists from Atlanta complained of the loamy soil, barely tolerating their mud-stained bathing suits, but Wesson's ghosts knew their shit, and according to the old-timers, for all their faults, at least those bastards never tried to dress up the region's shortcomings as chocolate.
The lake, a body of water created to serve the dam and the region's need for electricity advertised for tourists in the surrounding counties, but the runoff from a thirty-year-old fiberglass plant, the stench of the paper plant and the overabundance of hog farms and chicken houses, their unwanted byproducts that leaked into rivers, creeks and streams feeding into the lake& "Perhaps," said Annette to the mayor at every other council meeting& "Perhaps the accumulated stench contradicts the brochures floating on the surface of the water, the brochures showing a car full of clean bikinis heading for the city limits of Wesson County."
Annette found brochures floating on the water, at least once a week. At the last council meeting, Mayor Wilkins finally admitted he'd wasted $100,000 on publicity.
She paddled toward the island, listening to the swish swish of the slow-moving water.
The water stunk, but no more than Annette herself. No deodorant on now, nor did she see the need to shower this morning. Her hair clumped in her hand, and she couldn't remember when she last stood under the shower nozzle. Her husband Brian had yet to comment on the new schedule.
Lightning flashed in the sky. Normally she would turn back, but a fire burning on the island jerked her head forward. She paddled even harder, oblivious to the cold rain soaking her clothes. She clenched her teeth, whispering the mantra: "Shit."
She had no gun. Drifters, drug dealers, and tattooed wild men were known to camp out on the island. Sometimes amorous couples, unafraid of fucking in the mud and shit brought their shiny new tents to the island.
The sheriff posted "No Trespassing" signs on the island, but few heeded the admonishment.
One hundred feet from the island, Annette spotted the two-man tent, its price tag still dangling. She felt of her pocket, listens to the receipt crackle in her pocket. Two separate salesmen had assured Annette that she could get her money back if she took the tent back within thirty days.
Her husband poked his head out of the tent and yelled to a bare-breasted woman squatting at the campfire to "bring some more of that beer, will you hon?" The woman's skin was tanned and coarse. Her hair, wet and stringy. Annette would not guess her age, but as lightning flashed overhead, it was clear that she had adapted to the feral environment.
She tilted her head away from the campfire as Annette's canoe reached the shore. Sitting on her haunches, the woman picked up a spatula warming at the edge of the fire. She pointed it toward Annette-- who had no weapon, only soap and assorted cleaning products.
If she could scrub the tent white, she would take it back. Annette had the receipt in her pocket. No matter what she had to do, she would take the damned tent back.
The woman rose to her feet, holding onto her spatula at her side as Annette pulled the canoe up on the sand. The spatula was hot from the coals. She aimed it like a gun at Annette, briefly turning away to look at the tent, a sun-worshiper's wrinkle splitting her down the middle as she listened to Brian's snore. Her face looked familiar. Annette may have remembered her grainy likeness from the local paper, a few months back, laid off from the plant after working there for 15 years-- or maybe not. The picture quality in The Wesson Chronicle was always poor, the lists of names always long as factories continually moved to Mexico, cutting labor in an effort to dodge paying out pensions. Most businesses ultimately withered and died in Wesson County.
A few months ago, Annette clucked her sympathies, sitting in her kitchen, looking across at Brian's worried face as he read the legal ads, noted the foreclosures of neighboring properties. A few months ago, the kitchen was white tiled and spotless.
Five weeks later, Brian didn't take the car into work. Neighbors, people at church whispered that he had gotten fired "for carousing during office hours." Brandy began to appear on the kitchen table, sometimes whiskey, always a chaser. Annette followed with dirty dishes stacked high in the sink. He didn't complain, didn't say, do much of anything until last weekend when the boat vanished from the dock. It took little effort to follow the beer cans floating on the water, a trail leading to the island.
Ah, memories& Nice, but nostalgia wasn't on today's to do list. She finally recognized the tattoo. The Whitaker girl, her parents were once on the line at the Auto plant, but with their hands now damaged from arthritis, they lived on disability, took an occasional odd job if it paid in cash, didn't screw up their benefits from the State. In contrast, their girl was a partier, never had managed to hold a job for longer than six months.
Annette grabbed her container of lye. Without a word, she went into the Warrior pose. She held the lye out in front of her, gazing at the skull and crossbones warning of a hazardous substance, one with the potential to do great damage to the skin, to tender orifices. If they didn't surrender the tent, she would have to scrub down to bone.
As the girl came closer, brandishing the spatula, Annette sloshed the lye in the direction of cracks and openings. In no time at all, she heard the plop plop, the scream of a dumb animal who didn't see it coming, finally saw Brian poke his head out of the tent. He seemed dismayed, slightly annoyed, but hardly surprised to see her.
She felt the need to say something to him. Something ponderous. A big, fat sentence with weight and heft; selected words that would plop plop onto his brain, gum up his reaction time, cause tears to fill his eyes as he begged for his sorry life. Words capable of sinking like a rock down towards his asshole heart.
Or she just might demonstrate that few stains come out easily, often at a great cost, but not so in Wesson County where there was so little to lose& only a few lousy, stinking shitheads.