His teeth were yellow, with random spots of brown. His breath stank of liquor, which kind I couldn’t tell. He held his shot gun in his right hand as he leaned against the door frame.
“Why wasn’t I lucky. Passing by, and seeing your lights on.”
The front door had a large window opening, but with no glass. I wondered why the window with no glass.
Had the glass been broken, but just never replaced? This was a sleepy town. Had Gran just never bothered?
“You must be her kin, from up north. You look so like her.”
His eyes trailed up and down me, as he licked his lips, revealing those teeth again. I wore my school girl outfit because of the heat. Even in October, when the leaves had fallen, the heat had somehow remained in this sleepy southern town.
“You must be the reason why she always left us in the dead of summer. She’d go away for a few months, and we all wondered what she was doing. Just slip away right before the fourth and come back right before the school started back up. No matter how anyone asked, how many times anyone asked, she’d never talk about her summers. And now I know why.”
My hands fidgeted, so I grasped them behind my back. A mistake; his eyes leered more on my chest. I didn’t know what to do, how I was to get out of this.
“Your Gran was a sweet woman. Pretty face, like yours. Easy smile. Your curly hair. I always wondered why her hair wasn’t nappy like that trash on the other side of the river. I suppose that was part of her appeal, part of why we all came to her. That, and her ass, and her breasts, two more qualities you seem to’ve inherited.”
He lightly pushed the door open.
“Why don’t you go get me the Playboy from 1965. It’ll be worn the most. It’s the one we all love. The one we all warm up to. Then again, maybe I’ll just try you without a warm up?”
I put my hands up against the door, stopping him, but not really. He had six inches on me and probably at least fifty pounds too.
“Please, you don’t want me. I’m horrible. I just lie there like a dead fish. I never know what to do with boys, and you’re a man. Please, just let me get you your magazine. I’m sure Gran would want you to have it. I’ll go get it for you.”
He eased up, allowing the door to close. I locked the bolt and the knob. But, with the window glass gone, it meant almost nothing.
“Just doing like I was taught at home, Sir. I’ll be right back.”
I rushed into the parlor, remembering the stacks of magazines. I didn’t recall seeing any Playboys, but Gran would never have let me see them, let me know about her life down here.
He strolled into the parlor just as I found them, his pale blue dress shirt now unbuttoned and hanging loosely on his arms. He held his shot gun in his right hand still. He wore a sweat stained white bra to hold up his on cleavage.
I knelt down, grabbed the stack of dirty magazines, stood, and took a step towards him.
“I didn’t know which one you wanted, so here they all are. You should have them. She’d want that.”
He sat his shot gun against the wall and accepted the pile. For a moment he stood there, eyeing me still. I could feel his stare like a cold worm inching up and down my body.
“Oh, your Gran. I missed her smell. The feel of her. Squeezing those thighs, pushing them open right before entering her. And now that I have her again…”
He stepped towards the coffee table in the middle of the room and bent over to set the stack down.
“Well, I’ll just have to call my boys up here so they can learn what it’s like to fuck a black bitch.”
I swung with all my might. I aimed for his head, with its sweat drenched hair, his bald spot as my target. When I connected, I heard the crunch of his skull, and saw the dent the rock vase had made. He fell to the ground, the magazines dropping about him.
He didn’t move. I didn’t know if he was dead. I stood over him, reared back, and swung again as hard as I could, making contact with his face. Another dent in his skull gave me comfort.
Dropping the vase, I immediately ran around and turned off all the lights in the house. Though as a child I feared the dark, I now worried more about what the light might invite in.
She had left me her home in her will, with instructions to sell the house and the land, and use the money for something joyous. I didn’t want to let it go, though, thinking I could at least spend some time remembering our summer here.
I was ten, about to start middle school. I remember dipping my toes in the Torrent, the rushing river that all the homes in the area buttressed up to. Gran didn’t have many neighbors, and none that were less than a mile away, but all the homes in her sleepy town rested in the woods that hugged the river.
She never wanted me to swim in the Torrent. The swift currents and dangerous undertow gave it its name. We would fish, and fight both the river as well as our prey. We would sit on her tiny pier and feel the Sun on our skin. But, more often than not, we’d laze on her porch sipping lemonade and talking. I’d talk to her about my parents, and boys, and maybe what I wanted to do when I grew up. And she’d listen.
Sometimes she’d tell me about her life as a girl, about my Mom growing up down here, knowing my Dad since he was four, and how Gran knew from the beginning they would be together.
But Gran would never talk about when Granddaddy died. She’d talked about meeting him, falling in love with him, buying this house and raising their girls, but never more.
I cherished my one summer in the south. But now, I would never be back.
A trickle of blood crept out of the man’s ear. A small pool had formed below his head. Gran’s Oriental rug soaked it all up. My eyes adjusted, I felt around for the man’s keys. Nothing. I didn’t bother looking through his wallet. I wanted nothing from him, nothing from this town.
I carefully wrapped the rug around the man and dragged him off the small pier, dumping him into the Torrent. Checking his truck, his keys dangled from the ignition.
Releasing the parking brake, I rolled the truck down the dirt path to the Torrent that Granddaddy had used to hitch his boat. As the truck eased into the Torrent, water quickly filled the cab. I’d left the driver window down, waiting until the compartment was full.
Pushing myself from the truck, the water was forceful, but no so strong as I felt. I swam back to Gran’s pier, lifted myself up, and turned. I saw no sign of the truck, no sign of the man.
I removed my clothes, letting them fall into the Torrent. My naked body bathed in the moonlight.
In the parlor, I gathered up the magazines and the rock vase. The memory of making the vase on my one vacation here came flooding back. Gran’s smile when she received it. Placing it on the mantel in the parlor. Putting the weeds I’d picked (and she’d called flowers) inside of them.
I dumped the magazines into the river. I rinsed off the blood from the vase in the cool water; it, along with the man’s shot gun, were coming with me. I threw on some clothes, and tossed my things into my car.
When the man had arrived, night had just finished creeping over the sky. Getting into my car, I rested the shot gun in the passenger seat, and the rock vase on the floor. I drove and drove and drove through the night heading north, heading back home.
My Gran was gone. The south would never see me again.
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