Fiction Andrew Dwyer — December 24, 2012 14:12 — 2 Comments
Pistols Rifles Shotguns and Shovels – Andrew Dwyer
Two brothers were outside a bank. They were going to rob it. But they weren’t prepared. There was no instructional handbook on robbing a bank.
There should be a handbook, Floyd had said. They’re making books now.
You don’t read, Turner had said back. Books are for people who can read.
We’re not prepared.
It’s a bank, Turner said. We’re taking the money inside. It’s not our money.
My pistol is loaded, Floyd said. Six shots. Maybe you won’t miss a toe.
You’re a regular outlaw.
You’ll miss a toe.
Take an odd one. I won’t miss it.
I’ll take an odd one. Toes are overrated. I’ll take one odd toe.
The two brothers had a sister. She had a small child. The man who helped make that child left after the child’s one-year birth date. The little boy turned one year and the father packed his suitcase. He packed his suitcase and said, the boy is a year in the world. I packed my suitcase. Then the brothers left to rob a bank for her.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
The two brothers made it inside the bank. The teller had his hands in the air. He was quiet and didn’t take his eyes of Turner who rested the pistol on the bridge of the teller’s nose. The teller had a strong nose that wouldn’t fall. And the pistol barrel was tired. It rested its tired steel on the bridge of a quiet bank teller.
The other pistol had the bullet shinning down in the black of the barrel. The bank manager had the pleasure of watching it twinkle like a star. Twinkle twinkle little star. He had sung that to his daughter the night before. Now he watched the little lead star twinkle for him. It wasn’t a famous star. Just a little lead star. A twinkle star.
Twinkle twinkle little star, the bank teller had lulled to his daughter. How I wonder what you are.
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveler in the dark.
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
How I wonder what you are.
A woman was in the bank when the brothers made it inside. She wouldn’t leave. They waited. But the brothers decided to proceed under her observation. Turner kept a pistol in each hand. One was on the teller and the other was on the manager. Their hands were up. The woman observed it happen. She did not comment. She felt it was not her place to comment. Though she did feel the two brothers were not doing a good thing.
Turner watched the woman. His pistols were occupied. And he watched the woman and the woman observed. She did not have her hands up. She was a deaf woman. The bank teller and manager couldn’t tell the brothers. Two pistols advised them it was better not to speak.
It was a small bank. The deaf woman was the fourth customer by noon.
Get your hands up, turner said again to her. Your hands.
The light at noon made the dust fly all over. She stood in the dust. Holding her bag. She breathed the dust in and pushed it out in the light.
Floyd was in the safe. He took the keys from the manager. The manager didn’t mind. The pistol advised the decision. After the pistols advisory the manager seemed pleased to hand over his iron keys. The lead twinkled in the dark of the pistol barrel. His daughter would want him to sing a lullaby again that night.
Your hands lady, Turner said. Flirty lady. Filthy lady.
But there was no pistol to court her. She looked to see how Floyd was making out in the safe. Turner moved the pistol off the tellers nose and relocated it in front of the deaf woman in the dust.
She’s deaf, the teller said.
The pistol rested back on the bridge of the teller’s nose. It was tired again. And the bridge of the teller’s nose was a perfect place for it to rest. The deaf woman wouldn’t move again. The pistol was deaf too. The woman signed the sign for deaf. And the pistol understood. It was a wise pistol and it signed the sign for death. She wouldn’t move again. She didn’t have to say it. Or sign it. The expression on her face was enough to believe the cleverest liar. She no longer existed.
The Bridge Of A Bank Tellers Nose
The brothers tied the three up and locked them behind the iron doors of the vault. Floyd carried the money in a case. He kept the iron keys that matched the iron door. The teller, the manager and the woman were tied up together on the ground. The woman spoke but it was deaf speak. Floyd lent his ear and gave her the wary eye.
What did she say? He asked. The woman’s a witch.
You’re too jumpy.
It was a curse. She’s a witch.
Nerves are talking.
She spoke cursed speak.
You’re too jumpy. You’ll get the anxiety again.
I’ve never met a witch, Floyd said. I’d rather not kill one.
Floyd unlocked the iron door. Turner woke his pistol from sleeping in its holster and laid it right back down on the bridge of the bank teller’s nose. He pulled the hammer. Now the pistol was really awake. It was annoyed but it was wide awake. Like a sleepy cat thrown in a tub. Wide-eyed and full of water.
This woman a witch? Turner asked the teller.
She’s deaf, the teller managed to say.
I heard her speak, Floyd said. She’s a witch.
She’s deaf, the teller said.
She’s a deaf witch, Floyd said and studied the woman’s eyes as close as he comforted. We’re cursed.
She a deaf witch? Turner asked the teller.
My brother lied. But I wouldn’t lie.
No, he agreed.
You’re not lying, Teller.
No, he shook his head and cried.
But you’re lying.
He wouldn’t lie, the teller said. I said he wouldn’t lie.
Because he’s my brother.
He wouldn’t lie.
Turner knocked down the teller with his pistol and broke the bridge of his nose. The bridge collapsed. All the people fell off into the red sea. Floyd locked the iron door to the vault again. The three were tied together now on the ground.
She’s a witch, the bank manager said. You rob a cursed bank.
It’s a bank, turner said. Witches live in stories.
She’s a witch.
A tough banker, Floyd said. You were smart to keep quiet. Saved his own nose.
It’s not wise to rob a witch, the bank manager said.
You should be smart to save your nose.
Untie me. Leave me locked inside but untie me please.
He wants to be fair, Floyd said. But he wears a perfect nose. A wife will miss his perfect nose.
The witch spoke, the manager said. You heard her.
To curse us, Turner said.
You leave me tied her.
But you’re not cursed like us.
Don’t leave me.
No. We’ll take you along then.
Don’t leave me tied to her, the bank manager wept. Just don’t leave me next to her.
Sleeping In Poison
The bank manager howled in fright as the brothers left the bank. He was tied to a deaf woman and the teller in the vault. The brothers left the bank with the money in a case and went to the first saloon they found. They bought three bottles of whiskey and rode to the next town.
They got drunk on the trail and Floyd accidentally shot his horse in the shoulder. The horse kicked and asked him to step off. Floyd stepped off and they never saw the horse again.
It’s that witch’s curse, Floyd said and mounted Turner’s horse.
She cursed me deep.
Your horse was upset with you.
My fingers broke. Hand me the bottle.
Your horse took the bottle.
We have another.
Your horse took two bottles, Turner said. To drink them. You rode a drunk horse.
We have one more.
Turner took the last bottle out of a satchel. He pulled the cork with his mouth and took a healthy swig. Floyd kept the bottle close to him as they rode. He held it. The horse left him. But he wouldn’t shoot the bottle.
But before they rode Turner asked Floyd a favor. Floyd was looking out into the desert-looking plains. He was thinking of his horse. They were separate. It was a decent horse. But it was truly a drunk horse. It took two bottles of whiskey and a bullet off into the plains.
What? Floyd asked.
When I’m dead you’ll listen.
I’m drunk. I listen better than anyone when I’m drunk.
Sometimes I wish you were too drunk.
You said it.
But you’re too drunk.
You said it.
I said to keep my gravestone clean.
You’ll have a gravestone. But a buried one has character.
Keep it clean. If only to keep it clean when I’m gone.
I’ll be ashes when I’m gone.
Just remember. Now be ready.
To burry you.
Sober your hands. Keep the bottle close.
I got it.
Don’t drop our last.
Maybe I’ll walk, Floyd snapped. Maybe I’ll put one in your back before I walk.
You shot the horse, Turner replied. That was enough.
Floyd could not reply to the kick of a heel in the horse’s side. He held the bottle close. His mouth was intimate in it. Sleeping in poison. He kept it close and they rode with a case of money into the melting sun like a fairytale.
The brothers had a sister named Clara. When the father of her child left after the child was a year in the world he left a note and a box with vials in it. He placed the box on the kitchen table and penned a short note. The note read,
He was pleased with the note. Then he went into the safe where Clara’s brothers kept money and took every dollar. He left nothing in the safe. He took every dollar and went off into the world to make a new living again. He made many livings. He made children too. He made many livings and when the children were a year in the world her packed his suitcase and penned a note. The note would read,
Clara went to feed the child goat’s milk. The child was sleeping. Then Clara wept and mother’s keeper consoled her. They shared a walk. Clara tottered around house. The air was dry on her lips. Mother’s helper walked with her. In her veins. Helping her veins walk. Her veins felt like cotton. And she walked hand in hand with herself.
We’re okay, she said and thought. This is good.
There’s help, Clara said.
I feel better now.
You should feel better. We were given mother’s helper.
I feel better.
He didn’t have to do it. But he gave it to us.
I am better. I don’t know why you don’t think I’m better.
You said you’re better.
I am better.
Well. You’d be better other ways too.
No. I’m better now. I’m better now and this is the way it is for me.
This is the way it is for me now.
The horse came to a campsite. It was bleeding from a hole in its side. The trail of blood shined like a phosphorescent stream. The men around the fire bore shadows that played with the shapes of their faces.
The men took a few shadows from the fire and made a face. They went to the horse and found a bullet hole and two bottles of whiskey.
Vultures got it, one said.
Men did this, the other said.
You’ll see, the one said. When they come.
Take a rest.
They’ll come. You’ll see.
Take a long rest.
Vultures are everywhere. They’ll come. I’ll rest but they’ll come when I rest.
The men tried to take the whiskey but the horse bit the arm of the one man and he screamed. A third man hollered laughter. The one man hopped around and screamed that his arm was bit by the devil. They all hollered laughter. The horse didn’t laugh. It was frightened. It snuck a snort of whiskey while the men changed the shape of their faces to hollering faces and howled laughter. The horse snorted whiskey.
It’s a dead horse, the one man said.
Ho ho, the other laughed. Ho ho.
Yes a dead horse, the one said and drew his rifle. Never seen a dead horse look so tall.
Ho ho, a third laughed. Ho ho.
Ho ho, a fourth laughed.
Goodbye dead horse, the one said. It’s been good to know you.
Ho ho, a fifth laughed somewhere away.
The rifle went off. Smoke and gunpowder filled the air around the campsite. And when the rifle went off the shadows of their faces went away momentarily in the light and that was more frightening for the horse than a bullet that was now making a new home in its head. Their shadows went away with the flash of the rifle. They had faces. But they were haunted faces.
The men took more shadows from the fire and played with the shape. They changed the shape to the shape of a horse when it sees them in the light.
Brains On The Menu
The horse wasn’t dead. It lay on its side with a bullet occupied in its mind. It was a zombie bullet. It liked being a zombie. Brains for breakfast. The new home was certainly filled with a lot of brains. Brains for dinner. Brains for lunch and brunch. But it had much to do. The new home was certainly filled with a lot of brains. It had much to arrange.
Brains for a midnight special.
The men drank the whiskey and made a toast to their good fortune. The horse lay there and listened. A bullet decorated its mind. One eye saw a permanent night sky and tiny flashes of haunted faces burnt in the sky. Gunpowder taste. A flash of haunted faces burnt in the sky.
Brains for break time.
The men went to sleep. They said goodnight to the fire and left it dimming. It dimmed down. The fire didn’t have a face. It only held the faces of haunted men. A coat rack for shadows of faces off haunted men. Shadows used for shapes of faces of haunted men.
When the sheriff of a town heard of the robbery he rose from his desk and grabbed his gun. He checked to see if the bullets were still in the chamber. He called in the deputy.
Read the telegram, the sheriff said.
There was a bank robbed, the deputy confessed.
Read it aloud, the sheriff said. Read it aloud so I can hear it.
I’ll read it.
The last Deputy read my telegrams. A deputy should read the sheriff’s telegrams.
I’ll read it.
Read it now. Nice and loud to me now.
Deputy read the telegram. He read it aloud. The sheriff listened as a third sonata rowed in the waters of his listening. Music in the sound of Deputy’s voice. Music within music of a Deputy voice. Sing Deputy. Sing.
Now, the sheriff said. Tell me who. Your voice knows who. Tell me who.
They’re in hiding.
Yes. Your voice knows who.
We’ll find them.
The sheriff said, you’re a lousy deputy.
I wish you’d trust me.
Deputies are supposed to be lousy. That’s why you’re deputy.
To help you.
No. To keep me working. You keep me working.
The sheriff closed the door to his office. The sheriff and deputy were going to have a talk. He gave the deputy a seat. They were going to have the type of talk that required a door to be closed and a seat to be given.
The sheriff and deputy.
Bullets were still in the gun too. They were there when checked. And he checked.
Door closed. And a seat was given.
Mothers Helper 2
The father of Clara’s child returned but Clara refused his return. Then mother’s helper consoled her. She told the father to wait outside while she spoke with mother’s helper. Mother’s helper consoled her. She was fond of mother’s helper. It helped her be a mother. Two mothers are not always better than one. But all mothers combined are better than two.
The father of Clara’s Child unpacked his suitcase. One mother is not always better than two. And one father is not always better than one mother. But two fathers shouldn’t have one mother.
All mothers combined are better than two.
Mothers Little Helper
Clara watched the father of her child break the vials of mother’s helper. All the mothers in the world spilled out onto the floor. They went in the cracks. He smashed them. The mothers of the world splashed beneath his heel. Clara felt the death of a mother dying. Her mother died a clear liquid death beneath the father of her child’s heel.
And the heel came down.
All the mothers in the world were better than none. But one father of a child is not always better than a clear liquid mother in a vial.
Mothers’ little helper.
I’ll get more for you, he said. If you want more.
And the heel came down.
I’ll get you more if you decide.
There’s one more. But you had your taste.
I won’t want it.
I’ll keep it with me. When you decide you can have it.
To use on me.
I’ll keep it. When you need it you can have it.
I’ll want it, she said. And you have it when I want it.
The money was stolen, he said. I’ll take it away. Whoever has it would go to jail.
My feet feel numb.
It would be simple.
You could touch my feet and I wouldn’t feel it.
You sit. You think. But we’re not alone.
I was left alone.
We’re not alone, he said. There’s a way. I’ll have the money. You should know I’ll get the money.
A clear liquid dripped out of a broken vial. Clara witnessed the liquid bead on the wood floor. She watched. It made a bead and eventually it soaked in.
A Strap On Pants
Deputy rode out to Clara’s home. He knocked on the door and there was no answer. It was a long ride. He wasn’t told by the sheriff to come out. But he came. And he was tired from riding. It was a long ride and he knocked on the door but no one answered. He knocked on the door again. But there was no answer. And he thought.
Someone better answer this door, he thought. Someone better answer soon.
Someone soon, he thought. I’m tired. Someone better answer this door soon.
The father of Clara’s child came out on the porch. Deputy was resting his feet on the railing and smoking. The father of Clara’s child worked the strap of his pants.
My pants never fit right, he said to Deputy. I’ll never find the right pants.
You came back.
Roll me a cigarette?
You’re back. I’ll need an order now that you’re back.
Won’t you roll me a cigarette?
No. Now take this order.
In a minute.
I was waiting, Deputy said and put out his cigarette out on the porch. You don’t have a minute.
Roll me a cigarette.
Roll me two.
Deputy rolled him a cigarette. He wasn’t happy to roll it. But he rolled it and lost some tobacco in the wind. It was chilling. A cigarette would be warm inside the body. The father of Clara’s child played with the strap of his pants.
She inside? Deputy asked.
Don’t be so in love with her, the father of Clara’s child said and played with the strap of his pants.
But she’s in there.
Court her. Go on in. She’s in there.
Some tobacco went away in the wind.
The sheriff walked into a utility store off a path in the woods and asked the clerk the advantages and disadvantages between two types of shovels. One was a spade shovel and the other was a square one. But the clerk didn’t know he was a sheriff.
That one’s for digging, the clerk said. That one for shoveling.
Are you digging?
I see. This one for digging.
The spade’s four and a quarter. Gold’s got them up.
Gold drives them crazy. I sell. You crazy for gold?
I’ll take two.
The sheriff paid with a ten-dollar bill and told him to keep it pinned clean on the wall. No change. He asked the clerk if he could wrap the spades like a present. The clerk asked if they were for a gift and the sheriff said no.
No wrap, the clerk said.
Oh well of it. Know anyone looking for work?
Plenty people working around here.
Maybe two. Two would be enough.
Plenty working. We’re working here.
It’s a working town. But give me a day.
Just two. No more.
Give me a day. Stop back tomorrow and you’ll have an answer.
Obliged. Spades will do fine.
Gold’s got you men crazy. I stick to selling. It’s the shine. That bright gold gets you men crazy for it.
The sheriff walked up the road with two shovels slung over his shoulder. He went up a path to a small cabin set at the edge of the woods. It looked like the woods were swallowing the cabin. Like the woods were eating it and the cabin would be gone soon. Swallowed up in the belly of the woods.
Floyd came around the side of the house.
Wrong place timer, Floyd said.
I’m not lost.
Some ears you got. Those are some old ears you’re wearing.
Floyd rested his hand on his holster. Thumb kissed the hammer of his pistol.
No harm, the sheriff said. No harm.
Now you’re here timer.
You got an Indian?
Turner listened inside the cabin.
I don’t shoot Indians, Floyd said. But I’m a cursed man.
He’s a friend of mine. I’m looking for an Indian.
No Indians here.
He’s short. About this high. Wears white mans clothes.
To hell with your Indian.
No No. This Indian’s a straight Indian.
Last chance timer, Floyd said. But now you’re here. Not sure if you’ll be going.
I’ve lost my Indian, the sheriff said and turned away. My Indian’s gone.
And he turned away and went down back down the path. Floyd watched him walk on the road. Two shovels slung over the man’s shoulder. Floyd looked behind inside.
The woods were swallowing the cabin. Turner was somewhere inside it.
The Lost Indian
The sheriff got back to the room he rented and threw the shovels down. It was getting to be night. He offered the new spades to the floor while the light of day broke. It was getting dark and the path would just be clear enough. He dropped the spades and slung his shotgun over his shoulder and took to the road again.
The sheriff went back up the road towards the cabin. Shotgun slung over his shoulder. Two spades on the floor of a room. The End.
The answer isn't poetry, but rather language
- Richard Kenney