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Excerpts

From The Creepy Girl Story

Down in the cellar, gathering steel wool and rags, filling a bucket with water, not too hot, not too cold, the father does not see that Mr. Watson’s new men, Larry and Bill, are not doing what they are being paid to do. Larry is not digging out dirt to make holes for the new shrubs Bill has been bringing round back from the truck. Larry has jammed the shovel into the dirt, Bill has pushed the shrub over, and they have walked over to look through the sliding glass door at the daughter.

The daughter, she smiles. She pulls her new blouse over her head and shakes her curls once she is free of it. Her fingers unsnap the front of her new bra. She moves the thin straps over her shoulders, down her arms and off her wrists. She shakes her newly-grown titties.

Larry lets his hair out of its ponytail. He runs his fingers through, smoothing the sides, pulling it tighter and tying it back up again with the rubber band he’s been holding in his mouth.

The daughter lifts her skirt and looks down at her lacy panties. A hand slides underneath, and her fingers pull at the hair there.

Bill goes down on one knee. He keeps his chin up, his eyes on the daughter.

She opens her mouth. She turns her back to them.

Bill fishes out the fresh pack of cigs he’s been keeping between his sock and his skin. He slaps the bottom of the pack against the palm of his hand.

The daughter bends slowly low. Her skirt goes slowly higher. She reaches back and puts her hands up underneath her skirt. Her panties are coming down. At her knees, she keeps them. She looks at Bill and Larry, their upside down faces slack and worn.

The sound of the cellar doors being opened from within.

Larry and Bill look away from the daughter to see the cellar doors, the left and the right, opened and placed flat against the brick of the patio. The father’s head is surely soon to be rising.

The daughter turns around and presses her body against the sliding glass door.

Larry and Bill walk back to where they had been working. Larry picks up the shovel, which has fallen over. Bill squats by the shrub, takes out his knife and cuts the burlap bag from around the roots. Larry shovels in, throws the dirt, shovels in. Bill re-adjusts himself.

The daughter moves back and looks at the faint mists some of her has left on the glass, slowly fading away.

***

From The Underneath Bridges Story

IF IT had been me and I had wanted to stay local for the paper and all, the last place I think I would have chosen was the cars-only, one-car-at-a-time, horn-as-you-come, red wooden bridge that has the roof on it and the railings that are thick-wide for kids’ sneaker-feet when the kids climb up against local law, as they always do, their standing in their cut-from-jeans shorts, arms stretching for the hands-steadying hold on the sidebars that hold up the roof, looking down to what there isn’t to jump into—rock on rocks, most of which are the size that could fill the craters on the moon, and weeds growing from out from between the rocks and up along the shore, where sure there is grass, but not much, and less so flowers, not having much water I guess to grow on, since the river is more of a stream than a river, and it was clear blood that day of water when she had to go and jump off that bridge, MaCreek’s Bridge, as it is known around town.

About her choosing that bridge, I cannot help but think—and maybe I am biased, but meet me the person who is not—that she really wanted to use some other bridge, her being born and raised here and therefore having to know the word about on MaCreek’s Bridge, it being the only damn-near-haunted bridge in the whole county, recorded in the papers as such, people from the West coming to stand on it and leaving not believing, like most of our own kids, until the day after something like her happens or until the hunters come home early, not with rifles in their hands or with meat strung over their shoulders, but with their dogs in their hands and their rifles empty on their backs, their faces full-bruise-swollen from the fights they had had with each other after they had taken turns holding down each other’s dogs for the bullet-square-shoot to the forehead that each master had to give to his loving dog, because the bitch had ripped from her master’s hold on the collar, or on even the whole dog sometimes, and gone barking-wild down in the direction of MaCreek’s Bridge, where coming up through the trees was a glare-blowing, sting-leaf light that Pastor Whisser says is the Devil assuming God’s holy-hallelujah form, and that the hunters say you do not want to turn your eyes away from, although you get the closest feeling you have ever want to have of not being able to see, and when the dogs do come back, in the haze of cotton which you are left seeing, they are what else but blind dogs come back, walking mainly with their weight on their front paws, their hind legs paralyzed straight up from behind their joints, as if the dogs were circus dogs taught to do a one-dog wheelbarrow, and the hunters, although they try to bend their dogs’ legs back underneath their bodies, can do nothing of the sort, except to make their dogs worse sometimes, by cracking a joint open, and to send them where the hunters say—with mouths open and chew-laughing laughs—that if they had a choice of sending their dogs or of sending their wives, they would have sent their wives, since we all know a woman is easy to come by, but a hunt dog with a nose comes once in a life.

***

The Dialogue Story

“SHE WAS always the one.”

“Better her than me.”

“She had everything.”

“She had tits.”

“She was Beetsa.”

“That was such a stupid name.”

“She had the best pool.”

“Ever.”

“Ever.”

“Ever. She wrote poetry.”

“We should go swimming right now.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, but why won’t they tell us where she is?”

“Same reason they didn’t put her in the paper.”

“Phillies won, what d’you know?”

“Why don’t they want us to know? We were her best friends.”

“Friends-since-we-were-kids friends.”

“As-good-as-it-gets friends.”

“We should get the papers again.”

“We should go back to her place and try to talk to her parents again.”

“We should light some candles and send her soul to heaven.”

“Why don’t we just go play some miniature golf, forget about this?”

“Why don’t we fuck?”

“Beesta’s dead, and you want to fuck?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, we’ll do that later.”

“We should’ve done it in the confessional.”

“You wanted to get my panties down around my knees.”

“I want to say what the priest would have said.”

“Say it.”

“ ‘Into Your hands Father of mercies, we command our sister

Beetsa Anne in the sure and certain hope that together with all who

have died in Christ she will rise with Him on the last day.’ ”

“He wouldn’t have said Beetsa.”

“No, he would have said her real name.”

“No matter, we’ve missed it.”

“We haven’t missed it.”

“It’s been over a week. Even I know we’ve missed it.”

“You’re right. She’s already rotting.”

“I can smell her already.”

“That’s you.”

“Maybe they didn’t put her in the ground. Maybe they burned her.”

“Yeah, we could smoke her up.”

“She’d like that.”

“She would.”

“Maybe they put her in one of those drawers. We could just open her up

and have our moment with her.”

“Jesus, if you don’t care about this, I have way better shit to be doing than

driving around and looking for... This is bullshit.”

“ ‘Upside Down and Wayward. I lost myself again she said. I checked the

cupboard and the car.’ ”

“That’s not how it went.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“I’m starting to think that she’s not even dead. That it’s just another one of

her jokes.”

“No, she is.”

“You want to scalp some seats for the game later?”

“Who closed her eyes?”

“Whoever found her.”

“Her mother? Her father? Her retard brother?”

“No, whoever dragged her out of the pool.”

“I can’t believe, in the pool, right?”

“That’s what Anthony Sammertino said.”

“Officer Sammertino.”

“He said he wasn’t all that surprised: she was zero for two, with the wrists

to prove it.”

“Remember how she used to wear those rubber bands on the cuffs of her

long-sleeve shirts so we couldn’t tell?”

“I remember.”

“She’d play with them all the time.”

“I think we should just go drive over there and go up to the door and

demand answers.”

“Go then.”

“We’ve got a right to know where she is.”

“Aw Christ, are we actually going there?”

“What Birdy wants, Birdy gets. You know what the priest said?”

“He never heard of her.”

“And that she’d already be in the ground unless they shipped her to

another state.”

“Well, they didn’t do that.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because you’re like a pair of jeans, Gene.”

“Maybe you should take up miniature golf.”

“I should. I could play with your putter.”

“Someone’s home. The window’s open.”

“I’d call the police.”

“You probably would.”

“Look, maybe if I go say to her parents I left something here, and I need to

get it back because I borrowed it from someone, and she needs it back.”

“You’re brilliant!”

“You come up with something then.”

“All right. Let’s jump the wall and go skinny dipping.”

“Let’s fuck.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, we’ll do that later.

“Lighting candles, it’s faster if you give it the Virgin.”

“Give it to her good.”

“You know, when you think about it, she had everything.”

“She had an ass.”

“She wrote lyrics.”

“You know what I really miss is her ass. I mean, she had a nice

personality too.”

“She was Beetsa.”

“That was such a beautiful name.”

“She had the best pool toys.”

“Ever.”

“Ever. I get the water wings.”

“We should go floating right now.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah. But she went first. But then she was first in

everything.”

***

Related Links

Janet's story "Scenes from a Funeral" is included in the latest issue (#57) of GARGOYLE MAGAZINE.

Read Janet's stories as published in The Brooklyn Rail:

THE CREEPY GIRL

THE UNIMPRESSIVE STORY