25 March 2015: “Last Rites” by Chad Klegseth

Grab the bull, sometimes you get the horns … Chad Klegseth makes his noir debut.


By Chad Klegseth

Dennis had dozed off, thinking about his daughter Rose, when one of the torpedoes tapped on his window lightly.

“He’s just about done. You want us to start to piling dirt on him?” The brown-haired one asked, his wide face soaked with sweat and breathing a little extra.

“No. Give me a minute with him, would you?” Dennis replied and got out of the Cadillac. They were in the middle of some farmer’s field, off the road a good ways. Dennis took a deep breath and stretched. The air was a little cool, but otherwise a perfect day. The sun was shining, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Too bad he had to waste it like this.

The other bruiser, some blonde kid, was still standing by the beaten body, laid out in the
field. He seemed confused, dancing a little in place like he didn’t know what to do. Theart_Last Rites two of them, Brown Hair and Blonde Hair, that’s how Dennis kept them apart in his head, had beaten some kid beyond recognition and the blonde one couldn’t seem to figure out what part to go after next, the two of them had done such a number to it all.

“Why don’t you hit the bricks for a minute. Cool off a little,” Dennis said as he walked up. The blonde looked at him for a second and started back. Dennis turned and watched him walk off, making sure he was out of earshot. A couple of big kids really, couldn’t have been any older then twenty-five. A couple of puppies with some paws that did real damage. Dennis couldn’t remember how he’d met up with them; maybe it was the service manager back at his used-car dealership that had made the introductions. Dennis gave them menial jobs around the sales lot and paid them a little extra when heads needed to be cracked.

They had picked up the young man Dennis was standing over, the one looking like he’d been in a plane crash. Found the little shit milling around the bus station, just like Carver told Dennis it would be. The two of them tossed him in their pickup and got to work, bringing the poor bastard out here and beating the holy hell out of him. Dennis had let them know he wanted a few words with the snot before they started shoveling dirt on him.

The boy wasn’t too old. Blood-matted hair just past the ears. Liked to wear an earring in his left ear by the looks of it, it had been ripped off some time during the rough-housing. Maybe five foot eight, average build. That’s about all Dennis could pick out from the body laying in front of him. Right forearm broken, twisting funny. The other arm was tucked up under the boy’s back. Both eyes swollen shut and the rest of the face a purple mess.

“Ain’t exactly how you planned on today going, is it, young man?” Dennis asked quietly as he knelt down. There was still a slight rise in the boy’s chest, a little bit of breath passing through.

“No sir, I can’t imagine you did,” Dennis continued, staring down at the beaten boy’s face. “Just thought you were going to come up here and cause me a bunch of trouble, torch some cars in my lot, then head back to Henderson and tell Carver what a good job you did.”

“Well, in case you were wondering, Carver told me all about him sending you up here to do some dirty business. Told me he hadn’t gotten his money yet and that I was all kinds of behind and that retribution needed to be taken. I calmed him down a bit, got someone to run up to Henderson with a couple of thousand and a car complimentary of my dealership, and he called right back. I apologized for the misunderstanding, and he laid out the plan you two had dreamt up together. Gave me the heads up you didn’t mean a shitting bit of nothing to him, and as I token of his appreciation I could have the pleasure of seeing to it that you don’t make it back home. Said you were planning on tearing up my lot with some homemade explosives. Going to cost me about what I owed him. Told me to be on the lookout for a kid matching your description at the bus station around two in the afternoon,” Dennis said, his stare never breaking, hoping the last words the kid would hear would be the harsh truth of the business they were both in. “And now here you are. Half-dead and about to buried alive, what’s still left of you, that is. Ain’t that a bitch, huh?”

The boy gasped a little breath, a real wet sigh and Dennis turned his head away for a moment. “Damn it, son. What the hell were you thinking? What got in your head? You going to work for a man like Carver? Shit, even a man like me ain’t going to take you anywhere good. Sure, we make a pretty penny, but at what price? How much of our souls are long gone, carried off by the wind, when we have to pull stunts like this. You think I like knowing you’re spending your last moments on God’s earth with me, telling you what a dumbass you are?” Dennis picked up a twig off the ground and broke it in two.

“I had a daughter that was probably your age. Your age when she died more like. Up state, going to college up in the capital. Was going home one night from somewhere and a drunk crossed the center line, took her head on. Tossed her through the windshield like a rag-doll. Her mama and I got the visit from a state trooper and the chaplain a couple of hours later. Rose was her name. Broke her mother’s heart and it still ain’t healed up yet. Still got Rose’s room the way it used to be, goes in there and cries more then she probably should.” Dennis looked up and took in the tree line, watched the branches sway in the late afternoon breeze.

“Sometimes I get to wondering how long this can go on, our way of handling situations like this. How long us old boys are going to be running around, still following the principles our daddies learnt back when men could get killed if they got caught running shine the wrong way. It can’t last forever, not with the way the world’s getting. Everybody’s too smart nowadays and nobody’s got the balls to keep their mouths shut anymore. Why in the hell would a young fellow like yourself want to hitch on to something that’s dying off?” Dennis asked, more to himself then to the boy.

“I ain’t saying anybody’s better than anybody, but at least with Rose you could have a proper burial and lay her to rest the right way. You, you dipshit, if you got a mama she ain’t ever going to know what happened to you. Maybe if somebody goes far enough with the plows they’ll find you, but I wouldn’t go betting on it. So, for now till your mama’s life ends, she’s going to sit and wonder everyday what happened to her little boy and where he went. It’s going to eat up her guts, all those scenarios running around in her head. All because of you trying to act like a gangster when this world’s got plenty of them.” Dennis turned and looked back at the bruisers, leaning against the pickups, probably getting restless to start digging a grave.

“If you can hear me, I want you to listen real good. I don’t know what happens when a man expires and all of that. But if somebody up there takes a good pity on you and decides you deserve another go-round, you take him up on it. And if you get lucky enough to come back, you do it different next time. Don’t let any fast money or easy pussy or any of that get you side-tracked. You make an honest living. Find yourself a good woman and settle down with her. Do that whole white-picket fence bullshit. Because let me tell you right now, son, as boring as all that sounds, it still beats ending up dead in a field.” Dennis finished and stood, looking down at the boy. Lord have mercy, Dennis whispered to himself as he turned and headed back to the Cadillac.

“Get him buried,” Dennis called out to Brown Hair and Blonde Hair as he stepped back to his car.


PulpwoodChad lives and works in northeast Iowa. You can follow him @chadklegseth.



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