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A Wild, Desolate Place

A character so cruel, so calculating that you'd think we'd find him

on Wall Street. No, he's here, bumping along in the Gutter. 

A Wild, Desolate Place by Benjamin Welton

The McClung house was an absolute shithole. That, of course, was to be expected. Morris McClung was not the type of man to live in palatial splendor. He made his money selling tax free cigarettes to his neighbors and cheating the government for welfare. Famously, Morris’s wife Fay had taken their eight year-old daughter out of a reading program because the kid was starting to show progress and was thus putting some of their monthly money into jeopardy.

I didn’t care about any of that. Of course it’s a shame when any white man sinks so low, but every pig makes his own sty and Morris had made an exceptionally filthy one. Still, I didn’t care one bit about Morris until he robbed one of my stores. The little bastard and his cousin, Seth Campbell (now deceased), had the nerve to just walk into one of my stores and clean the place of soda pop. They took forty cases of all types, then just sped off thinking that their cross-county haul made them the baddest bandits in all of Kentucky. They probably laughed to themselves about how easy it had been and how this little job was going to make them rich.

Well, they never planned on me. In fact, after my little conversation with Seth, it was revealed to me that the two backwoods bums didn’t even know that they had hit a protected store, let alone a store protected by me. Idiocy is truly an enemy you cannot shield yourself against.

After making off with my property, Morris and Seth sold the cases to three different stores in Owsley County - their home territory. It wasn’t hard to track down which stores, especially since one of them - Cobb Myers’s gas station - hadn’t sold any soda pop since the Vietnam War. I made sure old Cobb paid for his stupid decision to change so drastically over night.

It was through Cobb that I first found Seth. Seth lived in a double-wide near a creek. He had a fat, ugly wife that I thoroughly I enjoyed kicking. I let her live though, for God had already cursed her enough. Seth, on the other hand, got an itch to fight back. I shot him in both knees. Then, while he was screaming out his cousin’s name through all the pain, I took his own Black & Decker 12V drill and smashed his head open for him. I kept the drill and told the crying hippo to keep her jowls shut.

After disposing of Seth, I went home and showered. I made sure to burn the clothes that I had worn. I made myself a couple of eggs, kissed my wife, kissed my daughter, and then took a two hour nap. I wanted to be plenty sharp for Morris.

Well, it turns out that I didn’t need to be. After finding Morris’s shithole shanty, I realized that no lights were on. Morris, I figured, was probably too poor for electricity, so I grabbed the flashlight that I always keep in the glove compartment. I turned it on and off twice to make sure it worked, then I slipped it into my pocket.

I walked the few steps to Morris’s front door in complete darkness. I couldn’t see the hand that knocked on his door, and after waiting too long for a response, I awkwardly shouldered my way past the flimsy door.

The darkness inside of his place was even more devouring than Mother Nature’s. But, despite the blackness, I could tell it was thinly furnished. I could also tell that something was dead. I turned on my flashlight and started going room by room.

Fay McClung had died in her daughter’s room. The little girl was dead too, and her small body was curled up like a ball next to her mother’s much bigger spoon. A bottle of bleach was on its side in the corner.

Morris McClung had opted for a much more messy exit. I found him in the bathtub with his brains thrown everywhere. The still hot shotgun rested on the linoleum like an exhausted tiger. I picked it up and used it to pull back the shower curtain. There he was with half his head missing and most of his teeth gone. It was a tough scene to look at, especially since the blast had caused Morris’s eyes to protrude with wide awake attention. Instead of looking defiant, Morris’s big brown eyes looked like a garish parody of a Japanese cartoon.

I put the curtain back and walked outside. For the longest time I didn’t know what my next move was going to be. Obviously, Seth’s pig wife had squealed and told the McClungs that death was coming for them. They could have left; they plenty of time to do so. Maybe they weren’t the running kind, or maybe my legend had them too scared to run. After all, no one can run forever, and Kentucky isn’t big enough for hiding. This was to be their fate, no matter what.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to burn the place down. I got lighter fluid from the cab and I got a book of matches from my own jeans. I doused the curtains and the bed sheets, lit them, then walked outside to watch the show. I only allowed myself five minutes or so after the flames got going really good, then I made my way back home.

My wife and daughter were both fast asleep when I got there, so I gave them both a kiss and went to bed on the couch. Right before falling under, I thought about making biscuits and sausage gravy in the morning. 

The product of northern West Virginia's identity complex, Benjamin Welton has been a student in such far-flung places as Romania, The Czech Republic, Texas, and Vermont. Mr. Welton currently works as a freelance journalist and music critic who often dabbles in short fiction and poetry. His work his appeared in Vantage Point, Schlock!, Ravenous Monster, Crime Magazine, Aberration Labyrinth, and Seven Days. His first book - "Hands Dabbled in Blood" - is currently available from Thought Catalog. He lives in Burlington, Vermont.