Hell Bent

02/15/23

There’s just no stopping some people.

That’s what my daddy used to say. If someone had their heart set on doing someone else harm, well, according to Alvin Flynn, it would happen. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. As I sat in the front seat of my ‘92 Chevy Cavalier, gun resting in my lap, I wondered if that would prove to be true.

When Ike handed me the .45, serial number filed off, freshly oiled and wrapped in a dishrag, he’d told me good luck and went on his merry way. Now, the gun filled the car with that metallic, penny scent and taste that you can’t get rid of after you get a bloody nose, or someone punches you in the mouth.

The lean-to was about fifty yards down a gravel road that I didn’t dare drive up. Just visible from the road. I knew that the sonofabitch was there, sitting in his own filth. Jackie’d told me that she’d left him there, needle still stuck between his toes.

“Where’d you get the drugs?” I asked.

“George’s always holding.”

Of course, he was. I’d known George was trouble ever since he picked her up for senior prom two years ago. Since then, I’d seen exactly what that piece of shit had done to my daughter. She’d stood in front of me, paper thin, eyes bulging out of their sockets, hair falling out. She was itching as much for another fix as for my help. She’d get it, alright. She’d never have to deal with George Sawyer another day of her life.

“Does he have a weapon?”

Jackie shook her head. “What are you planning to do?”

“I don’t know yet.” 

The door of the Cavalier thumped loudly, and I stuffed the gun into the waistband of my pants. I loosened my tie and started to throw it through the open window but thought better of it. It may come in handy if George woke up.

There was no one around, hadn’t been for miles. That’s how they chose this place, I guessed. Still, I moved swiftly up the drive, as swiftly as I could in my loafers, and before too long several rocks had worked their way into my shoe. To me, each one of them bore George’s face, and when I came back to the car, I’d empty the rocks out of my shoes the same way I was about to excise George Sawyer from my life, from Jackie’s.

The door stood ajar, and I leaned into it, thankful that I wouldn’t have to leave any fingerprints. The door thumped against something as I slipped inside. First one foot, then the other. I looked down, and there was George, lying on the dirty floor, arm reaching toward freedom, vomit covering the floor under him.

I nudged him with the toe of my shoe, hand firmly grasping the .45 on my waist. He let out a long, low moan and fought to push himself up, but the weight of my foot between his shoulder blades kept him on the floor.

“You back, baby?”

The .45 slid out so easily, but what shocked me the most in that moment was the weight of the gun. Seconds ago it had seemed light, ready for its purpose. As it hovered in the air between me and George Sawyer, it begged to be set down, tucked away, forgotten.

In the end, I won. The burning stench came first. Then the sight of his skull open and oozing. Then the wetness on my face. I slid my tie out of my pocket, wiped my face clean, and went home.

Later, I threw the cloth at the bottom of the fire pit in our backyard, just another piece of kindling as I set wood carefully on top of it. The fire started without much work. It’d been a dry season. Once I got it going, I called Jessica out, and she brought two beers with her.

For a long time we sat in silence, watching the flames.

“Is it done?” she asked.

I took a long pull of the beer before answering.

“Yes,” I said, our little girl asleep inside.

~ fin ~

DougSchlesser

Doug Schlesser is a writer, teacher, and traveler that lives outside Chicago. An alumnus of the Curtis Brown Creative writing school, “Hell Bent” is his first publication. Follow him on Instagram @schlesswrites and Twitter @DougSchlesser where he shares his journey to finish and find a home for his first novel.