by Adam Trodd
They used to be Ma, Pa, Albert, Freddie, Little Joseph, and Lottie. When I say the names out loud, I can see their faces before I burned them along with the house; a funeral pyre like no other. I let the animals go. The mare was so stupid, or faithful, that she haunted the place for days; her rubbery muzzle twitching and recoiling at the smell of death where the scorch marks met the yard. Now that she’s gone though, I miss her, but I wouldn’t have known what to do with her, not with Pa and the boys dead.
I take them for walks sometimes through the fields. Dry twine through their eye sockets for ease of toting. Their hollowed-out sounds knock and echo in the valley and I fancy the leafless trees sympathize, like people standing along the edge of a funeral procession. I put them resting in the frost-stiff furrows of the turnip fields. They look at home there among the tall winter-killed weeds. Once I left them until the ice formed spirals on their smutty brows and it upset me so I gathered them up and hugged them warm again. In spring, I’ll let the meltwater run over them in the creek and I’ll pretend like I’m Ma washing Lottie’s hair, emptying the pitcher and chasing the suds off her twisting red tresses.
The days are insufferably long but I know all that’s left for me as far as a life’s purpose goes is to wait for the fellas that did it. The only signs of it happening were shouting and hollering, at least that’s according to Jessop on the neighboring farm. Said he might’ve heard more than two sets of hooves too but can’t be sure. When the hollering turned to screams and wails that wafted down the hill to his place and chilled his bones solid, he says he fetched his gun and went striding up to see what was to be done.
When I met him on the road, he had just come out the front door and he begged me not to go in. He was whiter than cotton. He had lost command of his stomach and his legs soon followed so he didn’t have the strength to stop me entering the house. He brings me supper now in the evenings, but he can’t coax me from my camp in the wood.
So, I hang the skulls of my murdered kin on forked sticks and I face the twilight. It was my name that was cut into their cheeks and foreheads before they did them all in, so I know those fellas will be back for what they couldn’t get the first time. I thought I’d kept my gift well-hidden through the years, but I guess I was wrong, and when they find me and try to purge it I’ll open a hell on them that’ll make murder look like a fuckin’ tea party.