In BURNT on February 4, 2010 at 8:03 am


The loons are laughing it up.  They’ve got an old projector running off a car battery, throwing a black and white flick at a sheet hung up in the trees.  It’s “Tarzan” and the heroine is drowning in a flickering mass of crazy apes.

And here comes the hoots.  “Give it to the monkey man, baby!”  and “Animal love forever!” and, somehow, “Have a nice day, LBJ!”

It doesn’t matter what you say, funny or not, this crowd is high and everything gets a laugh.  The triumph of equality, I guess.

I’ve been waiting for a long time, but even groovy guys have gotta shit sooner or later.  This one finally makes his move to the woods.  I follow.  I have the photo of my wife in my hand and it trembles.  Once I show it to him, he has to die.

His reactions follow a familiar pattern — the jokes, the lame protestations, a pathetic attempt at bravado.  The sharp cry of pain when I break his arm is nothing new.  But he surprises me with his expression when he sees the knife – he knows he’s going to die.

So I show him the photo.

The second surprise.  “I seen her!  Saratoga, man, I seen her with Mackey.  They call him Doctor Mackey.  The Magic Man.  In Saratoga!”

My grip loosens on his throat.  This is new.  The guy is cooperating and he has some real information.  A sudden flood of doubt about the sanctity of my mission.  Questions of ethics, they crowd my mind…

He shakes loose and gets one, two, three steps before my resolve returns.


I drop him and I go to work with the knife.  It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t easy, but I keep in mind that this guy willfully shrugged off any meaningful masculinity years ago.

I’m just making it manifest.

The Story So Far

  1. You’ve got my attention — big time! Anxious for the next.

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