The Spoils

by John Skewes

 

July 20th

I find Victor in the attic of the barn, sitting by the window holding a Raggedy Ann doll. I tell him, “Sorry.”

“For what?”

“For your, I mean your—”

“This?” Victor tosses the doll on the crate, stands up. “That don’t mean nothing to me,” he says.

“I—”

“You the press? Yeah? Go pick somebody else’s bones.”

 

July 21st

Victor hollers from the attic window. “Tell them fucking dogs shut up,” he says. “Or get’m inside. You again,” he says to me. “Two days in a row.”

I ask, “What’s going on with the dogs?”

“They done nothing but bark and dig for days, “ he says. “You putting that in your story, send it across your satellite link? Tell them I spend my days yelling at dogs from a barn window?”

“Why are you here?” I ask. “Give me that story—”

“Here where?”

“The attic of the barn.”

“Floor of the house gives me blisters,” Victor says. “And there is no medicine. Now go.”

 

August 2nd

“You shaved your head,” I say. “Cut yourself,” I tell him, pointing to his neck.

“Can’t find a story in the big city, so you come to the farm? Yeah I cut myself. Man cuts self. There’s your headline.”

Outside the attic window, off the front porch, the dogs yelp and argue, three of them now, shoveling dirt with their paws.

“What did I tell you about them dogs,” he yells.

Curses come back, a string of filth and madness.

“Just do it,” he yells.

 

August 6th

“What the hell are you doing? Fill the bucket, send the bucket. You again—”

“Who’s down there?”

“My wife. Jane’s down there.”

We wait for a tug on the rope, watch the dogs run across the field, then fight over and tear apart a rabbit.

“We’re like those fucking dogs,” Victor says. “I filled wells like this, planted bombs by the roadside. Hated people.”

Profanities come from the throat of the well. I turn the pulley to raise the bucket. Victor lights a smoke. In the field, one dog sits on a hip, watches the other dog eat.

 

August 7th

“Still no water?” I ask.

“If you come to see a miracle—”

“What happened to the house,” I ask.

“It burned, Mr. College-Educated, Captain Obvious reporter. Burned to the ground.”

“I never went to college,” I tell him. “Started taking pictures for the community news, then started writing features.”

“I went to school for diesel engines,” he says. “Two years and then I was making good money. Met Jane. We started fucking. Next thing you know we’re having a party by the lake. My brother broke his leg jumping off the roof. Mom screamed at Dad for feeling up a bridesmaid. Jane caught her dress on fire by the barbecue, put it out with beer. We were young and in love.”

“So what happened to the house?”

“Jane happened to the house,” he says, then calls down into the darkness. “Isn’t that right, Janey?”

I say, “The dogs are going crazy.”

Jane screams unintelligible words from the well.

The dogs are frantic, black earth flies from the pit they’ve made.

“Yeah,” Victor says, turning away from the well, turning away from Jane. “I’m gonna have to dig those people up and bury them proper.”

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