A Burning Thing

On the outside, they call it lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Here in the Gutter, we call that a Wednesday night. Its also, coincidentally, how legends are born...

A Burning Thing by Mel Clayton

All of us think we have our Anna stories. I got Slice’s by a roaring fire in a dark bar. Deer antler chandlers. A large painting of red horses at the entrance. Either Wyoming or Montana. Slice leans back with a cigar and says, “She’d ride that fat hairy fuck every night.” He flicks ash onto the floor, takes a sip of whiskey. “From some shanty town. Tony was Angel’s driver at the time. Said Angel gave the family around two hundred bucks to take her off their hands but that was charity. He didn’t have to pay a cent and they knew it. She was gone either way.”

“What she look like?”

“Long dark hair. Petite. Big set of tits. Decent ass. Green incomparable eyes.”

“Incomparable?  Where’d you hear that word?”

“Read it on a bathroom wall. Only it was incomparable cock.”

“When did you meet her?” I’d heard other descriptions of Anna. Some said she was tall. Some said she was blonde. All scuttlebutt. I was hoping for something reliable.

“Oh I never saw Anna. I got most of my info from Diamond. Back when he could still talk right.”

“Hard to square details blinded by lust. Why’s he out to kill her?”

“You don’t know? Diamond, his job was to guard the bedroom door. Watch her undress. Check her for weapons. Watch her climb on top of Angel and grind away. Angel, he took a lot of Viagra so this would go on until he was bored. I don’t know what went through Diamond’s mind during the sexcapades, but I can probably guess. Tinker, from Philly, said he got it from Miguel who says Diamond confided to him that he fell for her. Felt sorry for her ’cause she was like a beautiful bird being plucked away, molested and beat. Forced to do humiliating things to arouse Angel.”

“Whole sympathy bit don’t sound like Diamond.”

“Yeah. He was different then. He got it in his mind to save her. Anna planted the seed. The night of the shootout in Juarez, the night Diamond gutted Angel, they fled through the dessert home free. That’s when she stabbed him in the throat and took off. Broke the bastard’s heart. But him gutting Angel put him in good with Herbert once he took over.”

Then there was Mint Jackson who told me about a time in Arizona when they found her apartment, convinced they had her. Only it was rigged with some kind of contraption where a bowling ball drops on a scale that bumps a switch that pulls a string that lights a match that ignites and burns a silver strip that burns a ball of paper that lights a fuse that sets off a line of sparklers. Fucker was so busy following the chain of events, he didn’t realize he’d been shot from the right by a mechanism with a string on the trigger until he was on the floor, bleeding all over the place. Some real Home Alone shit. Mickey says it’s all bullshit. That Mint and Diamond never came close to finding Anna. But Mickey calls bullshit on every story.

Three years later, I’m standing outside this soggy air conditioned neon nightmare in Florida, smoking a joint, thinking over the tall tales and asking myself the meaning of life; more specifically why I waste my time going state to state with a mute Mr. Potato head like Diamond Danny. Meanwhile he’s out buying pork rinds and pop. 

In Florida you expect to be chased back inside by mosquitos, or at the least humidity. Not by a murdered-out Camaro SS. It’s parked by the dumpsters. I notice it once I hear the engine race and the tires start squalling. Panic sets in about the time I realize the Camaro is gunning right for me, and like a cat caught in a rainstorm I don’t know which way to go, and race into the hotel room just as the car splinters the doorframe.

I’m sprinting for my gun in the closet when a woman yells, “Hey! Fuckface!”

I wouldn’t normally assume “fuckface” was in reference to myself, but I was pretty sure she meant me. She’s standing there, long lavender hair, holding a pump-action shotgun under what I’d call average tits at best. I put my hands up like they do in cop shows and there was an urge to say something, beg for my life maybe, but instead I slide to the floor, breathless mouth open, while she blows a hole in the mattress sending decades of bedbugs to dust.

She throws something onto the bed that burst into flames. She says, “Tell Danny I said Tag you’re it motherfucker.”

I stutter the words, “Who-who-who should I say is calling?”

She smiles. Says, “I’m going to like you.” Then blasts the television off the dresser, yells at a neighbor to mind her own fucking business and jumps back into the Camaro.

After I regain mobility, I fumble around in the closet for my gun. Smoke fills the room and within minutes the walls, my luggage, the curtains are all licked with flame. By the time I reach the door the sprinklers are on, the alarms blaring and the Camaro is peeling out of the driveway heading for the interstate. 

Danny pulls in and I’m standing in the middle of the parking lot, soaking wet, holding a gun. Smoke billowing out of our room. He slams on the brakes. Stares at me through mirrored sunglasses then starts pounding the steering wheel, the dash, the ceiling. Though I can’t hear him, I know he’s using what vocal capacity he has to scream profanities.

All I can think is what the boys will say when I tell them and how I think I’m in love. Mickey will say the whole thing is bullshit.

Mel Clayton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is a North Carolina native but has lived in Arizona and Texas. Her most recent story, “Hard Concession," is online now at Shotgun Honey. You can find more on her writings and links at www.melclayton.wordpress.com