Friday, September 12, 2014

I smoke for the sound of it. That crackling sound when you take a solid drag. I listen for the sound. Sometimes it takes more than one cigarette to get it right. I don't care. However many it takes.
There was one time I was on the bus. I was a kid, fifteen maybe. I saw this kid outside. He was wearing one of those karate uniforms, and he was doing little moves for his mother. Right there outside the bus, on the sidewalk, he was putting on a show and she was taking pictures. Taking pictures. He was lost in it, in whatever that uniform made him feel. His mother was egging him on, come on show me, yeah that's the way, attaboy.  She changed angles and blocked out the sun and followed him around. She was a heavy set one. Looked she liked to be tied up.
 Anyways, then there was this kid who sat in front of me, a brown kid. He was skinny. Beside him sat a girl, seventeen or so. How was school, what's your name she asked him. She was on the phone, said I got him. Are you okay, she asked him. He nodded. Then he just looked out the window. Didn't say anything, just looked out there, at the world, the street, the trees. What did he see. What was he looking for. His neck was so skinny. He leaned his head against the window and looked out. She kept babbling on the phone. Perfume, blond hair. She was irritating. One of those girls has a great image of herself. Grows up to be a woman who has affairs.
 What was the kid seeing, what was he thinking. I remember his head bouncing against the window with the bus. He just kept looking out the window.
 Back then I used to think I was invincible. I couldn't imagine not being. What's the point of not being. You go on thinking you're invincible until you die, and then you don't change your mind, you just stop thinking. That's one of those things people only pretend to change their mind about. Anyone who thinks they're invincible as a kid still believes it in secret. Secretly they all think that. What's the point in not.
 I used to have a dreams where somebody tried to kill me and they couldn't.
 In one of them, it was me and my sisters sitting on a bench, and in front of us stood this monster. A giant werewolf. He was caught in a spiderweb, and he struggled to free himself, and we knew eventually he would. My sisters were scared, but I wasn't. I didn't know how I was going to defeat the monster, but I knew he couldn't defeat me. I just knew he couldn't. I wasn't afraid.
 Then there was one where I had a girlfriend. I had a motorcycle, and I'd take her on it to the beach, to the woods. She was a great girl, a dream of a girl. But her old man didn't like me. Just hated me. And I hated him. He tried everything. He tried to shoot me. He did shoot me. It was over an argument over dinner. It just went in and out and left no trace. The look he gave me. I didn't give him a look. To me it was normal. I just left. Then when she was riding with me on my motorcycle he tried to run me over. She was on the back, terrified. She had that look on her face, that look of disillusionment. I still remember that from the dream, her look. Like it would never be the same after this. This was it, the last straw. She held me so tight. He followed us and followed us, and then he did it, he hit us hard. I remember that we both went flying in the air. We left the bike and we just flew. I saw her land, she was done for. But I never landed. The angels picked me up before I could fall, they lifted me in the air and gently set me down. I looked down at her, at him. That idiotic look on his face. I will never forget that look on his face.

The secretaries, oh the secretaries. The ones I don't like already know the game when they come. That knowing look, like they'd been through it before. They expected something from me. What did they expect. Fuck them.
 The only people worth thinking about were the ones you could watch learning. You could see it. The real story came out, the real thing showed its face.
 First the eagerness. They were all eager. That's why you were hired, the eagerness, don't you know that? Well.
 Then the came the puzzle. This was the longest part, the hardest. If you were smart enough to be eager, but dumb enough to never put the pieces together, you'd last.
 At some point there is that look of realization. I watched for it, watched for the pain. They were something before, now they were different. The had a fantasy of themselves that was different front where they were going. The death of a fantasy. I felt their pain. I wonder if they knew I knew. Then you fire them. That's something very few know.
 We had one guy, Tim, who was an idiot. Just a real idiot. Certain things would never cross his mind.
 There was one time of me and him at the bar. He stood there, and he said, I don't know what to do. He said that. He had that look he got after we called him vice president, that idiot look. He decided to get black out drunk, like a college student, because he could not choose between his secretary and his wife. I patted him on the back, I know said. It's hard, I said. The idiot.
 His secretary was just like him, easily motivated. She was with me at the bar one night, and I laid it on thick with her. I told her what separates winners from losers, and why she had it. Real thick. What you do in that case is you lean in, and you whisper it. Like a secret. Like you're only telling her because you're drunk. I could feel a heat coming from her whenever we were in the same room, like a radiator, like a lily in the sun. I ignored the fuck out of her. I hardly said hello, hardly looked at her. The week after she was fucking the shit out of Tim.
 I had this fantasy in my head, of a secretary who wouldn't break. I would sit there and think about her. She'd know the game, but she wouldn't play it. You'd give her a look, and she'd look away before it got hot. She'd be graceful about it. You could take her to the bar, and she'd drink a virgin bloody marry, and she'd laugh about it. You'd laugh about it. You could be close to her, close to her smile. You'd know her scent, she'd know yours. But she was always look away before it got hot.
 No one like that ever showed up. How could I ask for so much.

 Hotels are a perfect thing. They will never go away. Every hotel is the same, whether they like it or not.
 There is a feeling of being in a hotel. It's something like a Hopper painting. When you get in, around five or six, and the light coming in is yellow and warm, and it's just you, just you and the bed with the patch of light on it, and you throw your things on the bed and look out the window. You always throw your things on the bed, and look out the window with your hands on the window sill.
 I told Tim to move into a hotel room. His wife wasn't having him, and so I said, just get a hotel room for a couple of weeks. It'll be good for you. He said hotels make him lonely. He said he didn't like the yellow wall paper, said he started to drink all day. He called his wife, called his secretary. His wife dumped him, the idiot. Guys named Tim are always idiots.
 The thing about a hotel room is that you always know what to expect. Sometimes you'll hear someone walking in the hallway. The sound will be muffled, like a whisper. Sometimes a cleaning lady will come in, but only if you don't leave a do not disturb sign. Can you believe it. A woman will come to clean your mess, unless you tell her not to. That's beautiful. Hotels are a beautiful thing.
 Looking out a hotel window, you feel good. You always feel good. A new perspective on the world. The world out there at an angle you hadn't looked at it, there for you to gawk at from the hotel room.

Hotels are a perfect thing. They will never go away. Every hotel the same, whether they like it or not.
A guy named Hopper made a painting of a woman in a hotel room. She's just sitting on the bed there, looking out the window. The light is hazy, the wallpaper is yellow, and there's that stillness, that newness. That's the feeling I love.
When I walk into a hotel room, I throw my things on the bed, and then I go to the window. You always throw your things on the bed

Sunday, September 7, 2014

There's a model who used to be a refugee. One day she was a fucking refugee, and the next day she was doing what models. I wonder what she would say if I asked her what it's like. I'd like her to say, well I just do things, you know. They ask me to do this or that, they pay me. That's what I know. There's no accounting for it. I don't know why I'm here and not there.

People wonder about me. When they meet me, they think, how. How did he do it. I know it, I know the look. They don't think I know. I want to tell them, you do things to get things. There's no accounting for it. I don't know why I'm here and not there. You don't either. You ask why I'm here, you don't ask why you're here. Don't ask. It doesn't matter. What would you do with the answer if I gave it to you. What would happen, if you figured it out. You do things to get things, that's what you do. There's no accounting.

When we first met she was nervous. I moved her into the house, the big house. Her little frame moving around in her little dresses. When the maid would walk down the hall at the same time as her, she wouldn't know what to do. She'd get out of the maid's way, she'd hug the wall.
 I liked to think of filthy things to say to her. Things that'd make her toes curl, make her look at me in that way. That's what I liked to do.
 Sometimes I'd find her staring at me. When you're laying in bed falling asleep, and you catch her staring at you, that's when you know. She would be laying there staring, and I'd turn to her, I'd ask her if she was mine. Then I'd ask her to prove it. Her lying there, skinny and dumb. Not dumb, just young, good. Honest. I could feel her will, it was very small back then. Like her hands. Small and feminine. Look, I'd say to her, I like you. You know that, you know that I like you, right? You're a great girl. Great Girl. But there's one thing I need you to do. I need you to promise that this time will be the best. Like I said, I like you and all, but you know. I've got to get off, that's all. You should be able to do it. What else is there for you to do. What else you got to think about. This is your life now, you have no other worry on the planet. And I was right, what else was there. I don't know how it changed. It was the kid. The kid gave her the idea, when she was still pregnant. I never wanted to have the damn kid. How could I be so weak.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What they called a church was a room added onto a small house and you could see into the kitchen from the front door. The young pastor the oldest son of the family that built it. In that morning's congregation sat two women whom he slept with and he stood in the doorway of the church and smoked and thought about the women. He lit his second cigarette on the first and turned his face to the firmament and filled his vision of it with pale smoke. He was a thinly mustached and impatient man who had to be talked out of absconding the town regularly. He looked out over the country that abided his ambitions and wondered if his first child would change him. Finally he placed a kerchief over his face and went inside.

In a back bedroom of the house, Joe cut the boot from the man's swollen and gangrenous foot. They had tried to pull it off, but the man's screaming was too much, and now Joe took a pair of iron shears to the thick hide

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What they called a church was an add on to a small house, and you can see the kitchen plainly from the front door of the church. The pastor of the church the oldest son of the family who built it. Two women whom he slept with were present that mornings congregation and he stood there in the doorway and smoked and thought about the women. He ashed the cigarette and shook his head at the firmament.

Joe and Richard had pulled the boot from the man who near emptied the church of its parishioners with the stench of his rotting foot, and the pastor observed the man's foot half consumed by maggots with a kerchief held to his face he pulled aside to smoke.
 You ever seen this?
 No, said Joe.
 The pastor pointed at the desintigrating flesh, his finger shaking, what, what is to be done here. We don't got no damn doctor.
 What's a doctor gonna do.
 The man lay there, his voice vulgar and hallucinatory

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I don't know what it was. I can't say he was willful, or even strong. He looked strong. But I knew enough of him to see him for the wavering, opportunistic, lucky idiot he was. It was his jaw. He had a very strong jaw, and it made him look like knew what he was doing. Like when he'd leave the bar with a girl, that look he'd have, as if he willed it to happen, but I knew she was pretending he was someone else, and he was pretending she was someone else, and he was just glad he could look good in someone's eyes. He was just lucky there was another fool there that night, that's all.

^^ When i512 joins a group of homeless looking guys because some of them are agents, describe them in this way, make it look like he was really in that group. He sells some drugs to them, but is small time.  He starts selling for one of their group and gets in. Write stupidity first of all, and distinguish agents through anecdotal

I don't know what it was. I can't say he was willful, or even strong. He looked strong. But I knew enough of him to see him for the wavering, opportunistic, lucky idiot he was. I think it was his jaw. He had a very strong jaw, and it made it look like knew what he was doing. Like when he'd leave the bar with a girl, that look he'd have, it was as if he willed it to happen, but I knew she was pretending he was someone else, and he was pretending she was someone else, and he was just glad he could look good in someone's eyes. He was just lucky there was another fool there that night.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There is something about the boy that sends a shiver down a spine if thought about for too long. In the actions of any man, there is a thread to be found that through sufficient observation unravels his reasoning, his motivations, the origin of his actions so to speak. So that, when he is not present, one can summon his voice in times of uncertainty, one can ask what would he do, or not do. But his will, as it occupied the minds of those who considered themselves his friends, though intoxicating, was unknowable. Its idiosyncrasies were strange and unfamiliar, and so friendship was only an illusion, and the people in his life were unwilling captives of their admiration, which was not replicated in anyone other than Joe.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Her smell, her hair there on the pillow. She looked at him like a cat. He felt her small will, her feminine will. He took her by the hair. You gonna get me off, girl? Well are yah? It's important that I get off. You're a nice person and all, and I like you. But you know.

When Johnny was a boy, the only time he ever told the truth was when he got a lie turned backwards on accident. You know the kind. Well, he never did stop, really. If you ever happen to be a stranger in one of the two bars in that town, and you per chance strike up a conversation with a mustachioed man drinking whiskey by himself, you're libel to be taken on a doozy of a trip.

Men who will die graveless.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

He stepped out from the land the stories of which he knew and into the land the stories of which he had only heard. He placed his hand in the stream and passed his hand over the rocks smooth and molded. Somewhere here __write some piece of southwest history that displays courage under fire__. What the land knew of human courage, of cowardice. What the land knew of man that he didn't know, what is it saw in him that he didn't see. A shiver resonated through him. He felt as if at the mercy of a stronger being, as if there were a will for him to navigate, as if being observed by a familiar and powerful thing. The feeling lasted for a minute and then left him,

He found Richard asleep by the fire. He poured the water from container to container until there was no soot to settle at the bottom and placed it over the dying fire to boil. He watched Richard. His strong jaw, his honest eyes. He wondered if there were anything within him he didn't know.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

___ as if ___ by some revolution of the heart

She turned away from the window and looked at Joe like some girl overcome by a revolution of the heart and buried her face in her hands and said, all the cows were dead. They were all dead, Joe, my God. All of them.

He breathed deeply and deliberately. He breathed like a diver before a descent.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Johnny had been known to mistreat women in ordinary ways. In endearing ways. He himself had even been known to lose in what people call the game of love, but it was not winning that was important to him, but to play the game at all times. He felt as a child at play, if you will, in all social interactions, and had the same notion of perpetual safety. And so the more horrible that the man pointing the gun at Johnny had no such notion of safety. The game the man with the gun played had come to an end, and now it was time to acknowledge its conclusion and to transfer the wagers lost, and so Johnny took the bullet in his chest, and the man took Johnny's ears.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

 I watch her every move, the way the light treats her skin, and the small harrowing journeys her voice takes me on.
 She talks to me about the writer Bruno Schlitz. We are visiting his childhood home, and she tells me that she is glad the old maze of apartments where his father went insane is still there, because they easily could not have been, and that it is exactly as she imagined.
 What she loves becomes what I love.
 I imagine for a second that she had never found the book of short stories as a young girl, and that her love of him was only the consequence of familiarity and that her assurances were trivial, and that which I witnessed on an overcast day in the downtown of a small country in eastern Europe is not an irreversible turn of the universe's notion of a destiny, but a trivial iteration of an algorithm, and this is the only way I could momentarily escape my curse, the only way I could ease the suffocation of my love.
 Then she told me that she was hungry and to light her cigarette.

She awoke me to tell me about her dream. She was a young girl and she was with an older girl she knew from the neighborhood. She met the girl as she walked back from the grain mill. The girl carried in her hands a basket of wheat just fresh from the mill and she began to say what a coward her father was. Then she said the girl took the basket of wheat and spilled it out into the road. She talked to me in her morning cigarette breath that I refused to believe she was not aware of and she asked me, why would she do that. Just throw away a basket of wheat.
 I don't know.
 She just threw it in the street. Why would she do that.
 I don't know. It's your dream.
 She laid her head on my chest and thought a while and then looked at me. I think I just remembered that her father abused her.
 Like in real life?
 No, in the dream.
 He abused her in the dream?
 No, I remembered that he abused her in the dream. I think she told me.
 I wanted to tell her to brush her teeth, but she would only roll her eyes at me, and then pretend to be pissed off the rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The old indian compacted his body and folded his arms against his chest like paws and looked up and said, the jaguar crawled. He spread his arms up and out and said, and the eagle flew. It flew over the tops of the trees and it saw everything. Everything. It saw the jaguar and the man and what was within the man. He pointed to the boy, and he saw what was within the heart of the man, and the man walked among the trees and asked the jaguar and the eagle if he could hunt for his people a pig, and the jaguar spoke, and said you may. When the man had found his pig with which to feed his people, the jaguar spoke again, he said you must not return to your people, for you have offended me. The man asked the jaguar how could he offend him, and the jaguar said, but you did not ask me what I wanted of you. And the man asked what he could give a jaguar that he did not have, and the jaguar said, you must kill your neighbor's neighbor. And the man asked why, and the jaguar said, because your people have taken too much. Because your people have taken too much and the debt is large. And the man said, I cannot kill my neighbor's neighbor, for they are a distant cousin of mine, and the jaguar said then I will take your child in the night. The old indian put his chest out and closed his eyes and sat with his legs crossed and said, so the man stood in the jungle and peered into his village and watched the children of his people at play. He stood in the jungle and he did not know what to do and he thought like this for a long time. He finally asked the jaguar, what did the last man do, and the jaguar said that the last man did what the jaguar asked him to do and his family was large and happy. The man put down the pig and he said that he did not want many sons, and that he could not kill his cousin, and so he left the pig there for the jaguar. And the jaguar took the pig from him and left the man there, but the man took frog from the river with him when he left. He took the frog's poison from it and he placed it at the end of an arrow and he came back to the jungle and he found the jaguar asleep beside the pig and then shot the jaguar with the poison arrow and the jaguar ran at the man to kill him, but he was slowed by the poison, and all the man's village was behind him. They ran the jaguar down and killed him and the eagle saw them, and now the eagle warns the jaguar of man's presence, and the man of the jaguar's, and man no longer kills his neighbor's neighbor. He hunts the jaguar when the jaguar threatens to take his child in the night, and that man, that first man who hunted the jaguar, he is our father and his family is this tribe. That is why we hunt and jaguar and why we do not kill our neighbor's neighbor.
The man lapsed by the world. The fantasies of who he was to become outpaced him and the memory of them lingered there in his past life which was the life of a man apart from the man he was. He stood there resigned in what violence he was capable of manifesting and he watched Joe and Joe watched him without watching. The game threatened to begin. It was a game wherein the consequence of losing was destruction and he saw that Joe was well versed in such play. He saw that Joe endeavored to pretend such a game was not imminent and he left Joe there and rode fast and watched his trail and hoped never to run into a man such as Joe again, and if he did, that he would know the man as a killer of killers.
The girl dressed as a boy, and played as a boy, and perhaps saw herself as a boy in the eyes of the strangers she approached in the street. Her ankles thin and hairless there under pants undersized or of a peculiar fashion. Her bindle strapped to her back with a belt. Her conversation was charming, and varied in subject, though not in intent, and in her rallies with herself between near misses she fantasized that the men she approached saw in her a young apprentice or a charming companion who could help to fulfill yearnings of a paternal nature. But the men, for all their graceful courtesy, entertained no such notions, or thought much of the girl at all.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

On the back of resumes, he writes the kind of novel that has an introduction. His cat is about to have babies, and he's decided that he's going insane because he sleeps too much.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

 She never cried, she only look on.
 The  spots of the shadow cat faint like the reflection of a jaguar in the blackest lake. It placed its dew claw on the girl's temple and the other paw on her shoulder and nuzzled its face in the warm flesh of her neck and took what meat there was to be pulled from the girl's bones. She never cried, she closed her eyes.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Walking among the old windmills,
I saw a young boy struggle against the wind
His coat was short, his legs were thin

I could not see his face behind his arms,
But in that storm I knew him then-
He did not cry, he did not frown

The windmills turned a faster pace,
The wind picked up as in a race
And lifted him, revealed his face

I caught his eye, and knew him then -
And made amends with him,
The boy I'd never see again

The night the windmills raced the wind
I saw a young boy struggling
His coat was short, his legs were thin.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Walking down the street and admiring the houses, one forgets the possibility of such ordinary tragedy as doctors losing their medical licenses, or promising young men sliding into cruel sleepy cowards.

Monday, January 27, 2014

 The girl among the legs of the other children coming back from the woods and the supple trunks of the river birch. The birch had made for good swinging and some of the older boys came back with calloused palms. She ran her hand along the bark and concluded that swinging from birches was a boy's business.

The actress had tired of struggling and she sagged in his arms. Her breathing, her black hair hanging like a mophead over her face. Joe brought her closer to him, and holding her tightly, he said directly into her ear that away from here, in that world, she was her own self. Yesterday you did not belong to anybody and tomorrow you are free again, but right now, right here, you belong to me. For this short time that we are together, you are mine. You have belonged to men before me, all of them temporary, and all of them inferior. You will belong to me to a further degree than you have ever belonged to anybody, or ever will. No man will ever bother to know your heart more than I will. Do you understand?
 Joe held her cross the middle with one hand and with the other he brought her dress to his teeth and pulled her underwear down over her ass. Her bare ass there on the river bank something bashful and tamed and pathetic. The actress broke from Joe and ran into the river. She stood knee deep in the water and turned to Joe. I'll drown myself, she said. She began to weep and dropped to her knees. She covered her face and swore, once again, that she would kill herself.
 Joe watched the actress there in the river. He dropped to one knee and waited for her. You're gonna need me to get you back to the camp, you know.
 She stopped crying. She dug her hands into the rocks at the river bottom and said into the river, need you. Need you? She stood with rocks in both hands and drove toward Joe there kneeling on the river bank and swung for his head, but her tripped her and swung her around underneath.
She finally looked up at him. She had stopped weeping and stayed crouched there in the river. I need, she asked.
 Yeah. You do.
 Joe watched her stand and, dress in hands, walk over to him and hit him. He tackles her, sees blood dripping from his head, he sees she is holding a rock from the bettom of the river. He comforts her

Friday, January 17, 2014

When the man with the mustache approached the shed, the lantern in the shed was put out and the sawing noise stopped. He raised the shotgun to where he knew the shed to be in the dark of the night and circled around to the front. By the moonlight he could see the door was ajar and he kept it between the barrels as he walked.
 The lantern set alight behind the door and the door pushed open. Behind the door, the small bald man Skrukrel holding the lantern. He said to the man with the mustache not to shoot, it was only him.
 Only you? The man with the mustache lowered the shotgun. He wore his pajamas and over the pajamas a heavy coat. He watched the bald man. He said: you coward. He raised the shotgun and centered it on the man. You violate me. Clandestine to me.
 No sir.
 You expect forgiveness. The man with the mustache had stopped, but presently his foot crept forward and he began to approach Skrunkrel. What forgiveness have you shown under such circumstances. They only send me cowards.
 Oh God. No sir, no no no. Skrunkrel blinded by the lantern. He brought his hand up to see the yellow glow of what could have been Joe's eyes over the man's shoulder. The quality of the glow something out of a sunset to him. He didn't know whether he was crazy or if Joe had after all not left him behind. He closed his eyes. He heard the man with the mustache order him on his knees. He set the lantern there beside him and knelt. Oh, God.
 The man with the mustache checked and rechecked the safety and stood there breathing loudly and deliberately. He regarded the bald man: you did place your life in my hands when you violated me. You are consented party to this.
 No sir. Oh God.
 Are you, or are you not a coward.
 No sir.
 Are you, or are you not a coward.
 Yes, sir, yes. I'm sorry. Oh God.
 The man with the mustache ceased to speak. The silence had made Skrunkrel cry and he asked why had him being a coward made him deserving of death. The man with the mustache said that only children are forgiven. The man stood directly in front of Skrunkrel with the shotgun in his hands and breathed like a diver before a decent. His breathing the only sound in the lonely night and Skrunkrel resigned to allow it to remain as such. He did not mean to think of her, but his aunt's face came to him. Her voice. His father, his step father. His mother. From some corner of his mind he had had no reason or desire to acquaint himself with came relief from what delusions had played puppet master to his creature. His body shivered in the newness of it. His posture loosened and he found his voice. He opened his eyes. The man's eyes wide, his nostrils flared. He breathed like a diver before a descent. Skrunkrel said almost laughingly, we only needed your saw. That's all. That's all we needed. He watched Joe's fingers curl around the hair atop the man's head and the bowie knife drawn across the man's neck. Joe sawed the man's neck down the to bone and stuck the knife in the ground. He grabbed the man's pajamas where a belt buckle would be from between his legs and turned him over. He held the man with the mustache upside down and shook him. His legs jerking stiffly and his blood draining in the grass, his neck flopping open like some wooden ventriloquist dummy. The pajamas tore and the man with the mustache was dropped to the ground, his pale figure resting on its stump and knees and his bare ass there like the back end of some pig bolted into stillness and his genitals hanging dark and ribald.
 Joe brought the bald man to the vise and placed the lantern on the table. He placed the saw where he had stopped and said to finish cutting the barrel. After you're done with the barrel find a metal file and take it to the end here. Make sure nothing is protruding. Be careful not to file the rifling.
 Joe placed his foot on the chest of the dead man and pried the shotgun from his hands. He checked the barrel and found more shells in the man's coat.
 Skrunkrel the painter jerking himself against the metal, alternately crying and laughing, the blood of another browned and viscous on his skin and the copper smell of it mixing with the night air into an ether that was surely a madness you can not hope to return from.
 Joe regarded the roofed back porch of the dead man's home. He shouldered the shotgun and placed the sole of his boot against the wood of the pillar. He unlaced his boots and left them there at the bottom of the pillar and climbed onto the porch roof. He crowded his fingers around his face and looked in the window. He pressed his ear against the glass and listened for a while. He wedged the knife under the window. Not much give. He chiseled away the wood of the window frame with the bowie knife until he could reach the latch.
 The smell of a house thoroughly lived in. Joe crouched in the bedroom of the man with the mustache. He listened to the creaking of the doors as they swung in the breeze of the opened window. He watched the hallway there through the opened door. The moonlight on the wall pulsing with the movement of the door of the adjacent bedroom.
 No bed in the next bedroom. The door swinging against the frame but the lock not catching. In the middle of the room a large wooden desk leaning on the corner missing a leg. Beside it an empty birdcage.
 The last bedroom locked. Joe pressed his ear against the door and then crouched and listened underneath the door. A blanket rustling but no sounds such as footsteps or breathing. Joe placed the end of the barrels between the door knob and the wall and cocked both barrels and stood there and listened. He let down both hammers and shouldered the shotgun.
 The kitchen table downstairs covered by glass jars and bottles of varying sizes and on the counter a box of lids and caps. Beside the box sections of circular copper pipe of varying diameters. The kitchen floor littered with tin cans half full of food hardened and rotten and in the sink blackened apple cores and potato peelings.
 He found a candle in the drawer, and on lighting it, became aware of the cat watching him from across the living room. The cat was large and its coat was tan and spotted and its ears were tufted. It squinted its eyes on his approach. It had mulled over his scent since he entered the window, and having deduced no threat, sat there like a statue of a bob cat as he illuminated it in candle light. Beside the table a copper still in a state of assembly or disassembly.
 Joe searched every drawer by candle light and finally found the key to the bedroom in the man's overalls in his closet.
 The girl raised herself on her elbows beneath the blanket. Joe placed the candle there beside the mattress, but she hid her face from the light, and he moved the candle and removed the blanket from her face. Her eyes a ghostly blue and her hair dread locked. She was of age to speak but she would not tell him her name or take her eyes from his when he stroked her face. Her stare neither frightened nor curious and her head wavering like a dandelion in the wind. The true stench of the girl's circumstances revealed only when Joe drew her blanket. The girl emaciated and clothed only in her underwear. She lay her head back down and stared at his boots or the floor. Her hand found the blanket and pulled it back over her.
 The pet bob cat trotted into the room and went to the girl. It squeezed her to the down of its chest. It rubbed its face and neck into her. It overpowered the girl, its purr resonating in the hollows of her body, in the air. It left the girl and came to Joe. It sniffed his hand and pulled itself along his leg. It leapt onto the window sill. It watched over the world out there that contained its exsanguined master, undisturbed as if forewarned of the night's events by some primitive wisdom, like some detached and privileged witness.
 Joe scruffed the cat and cracked its skull with the butt of his knife.