At Ease with the Dead

At Ease with the Dead by Walter Satterthwait

Book: At Ease with the Dead by Walter Satterthwait Read Free Book Online
Authors: Walter Satterthwait
    For the first time in years, I wished that I still smoked cigarettes. “And when was this?” I asked him again.
    This time he answered. “Summer before I went to Philadelphia. ’Twenty-five. So anyway, I’m standin’ there in her doorway and she’s just lookin’ down her nose at me, the bitch. I’m sorry, Brian, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. ”
    It was a cruel impersonation: head back, voice nasal, the words precisely enunciated, sharp as razor blades.
    â€œSo I tell her, see, I tell her Bobby tole me the whole story, and if she don’t want the Doc to know, well then, she better get down off her high horse right quick. I tell her not to worry, she’s gonna like it just fine. She just stands there for a minute, thinkin’, and then she says, Come along. Bold as brass.”
    The clouds had passed from his eyes; they were bright, shining with an interior light. Between his lips, the gray tongue flicked quickly, once, twice.
    â€œSo we go upstairs to her room. She closes the door and turns to me and just stands there again. Queen of the May. So I reach out and I tear open the front of her dress. Buttons go flyin’ everwhere. Lie down , I tell her, and she does. And I pull down my pants and I get onto the bed and I give it to her. I mean to tell you, son, once she got wound up, she was an animal. An animal. And I made her beg for it. You like this ? I say. You want this ? I say.” He cackled, shook his head. “I made that bitch sing for her supper. Didn’t I though.”
    I suddenly found myself wanting, very badly, to ram a fist into the weathered old face.
    He was frowning now. “But then I get off her,” he said, “and pullup my pants, and the bitch goes and spoils it all. I look down at her and goddammit if she ain’t cryin ’. I say, what’s the matter with you? You got what you wanted. She pushes down her dress, covers herself up, and she just keeps cryin’. Real quiet-like, with her hand over her eyes. She says to me, Would you please go now. So I go. Who needs that whiny shit? But first I tell her that maybe I’ll be back, drill me some more of that nice sweet cooze.”
    â€œDid you?”
    â€œFuck no. Like I say, don’t need the whiny shit.” He shook his head sadly. “They get you ever’ time. One way or the other.”
    â€œSo this was this summer of Nineteen twenty-five?”
    He was looking off, toward the neat suburban homes. “I tole Bertie about it, though, and he tole me later he had some of it himself.”
    I needed to take a shower. Preferably with lye. “This was the summer of Nineteen twenty-five?” I asked him.
    He nodded without looking at me. “Summer of ’twenty-five.”
    I asked him, “Did you know anything about some remains that Lessing brought back from his last field trip?”
    Still looking thoughtfully off at the houses, he said. “I’ve had me a good life, son. Good food, good drink, heaps of good pussy. I don’t owe shit to nobody, man or woman. I got no one to worry about but myself, and I got no regrets a-tall.” He turned to me. “No regrets a-tall. I’ve had me a damn good life.”
    â€œDo you know anything about the remains Lessing brought back that summer? The body of an Indian?”
    Blinking, he frowned. “What? Indian? How the fuck I know about an Indian? I was in Philadelphia.”
    He looked off again at the houses.
    The local elementary school had just ended its day. A few tiny forms were walking down the sidewalk, arms swinging earnestly; others ran across green lawns with the jerky unself-conscious zeal of childhood. I could hear the thin distant sound of their cries and shouts and laughter.
    Brian DeFore sucked silently at his gums and watched them.
    I left him there.
    It was a place that had seen better days, but couldn’t remember exactly when.

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