Ghost Wedding

24 Dec

stupidity 3

(Previously)

At night a burning star arced across the black sky to the north. Past the mountains. They were in what was once a back yard. Cinder block walls around the pool still half intact. Everything up high was gone but in the dips between the hills buildings still stood. Air mostly still and cold but once in a while a shrieking hot wind would spin the dead leaves, send them clattering against the concrete. It carried burned magazines. Excel printouts, emails marked HIGH IMPORTANCE. The pages spiraled around and hissed against the walls in the dark.

She’d been nervous about having a fire but there were still fires everywhere. The pool had a black sun cover; the water was clean and warm. They’d washed up and he’d looked away while she was naked. Checked the rashes on his arms. So far they hadn’t been sick. The star rose up fast and something else bright fell off it and twirled in a spiral; plummeted down somewhere to the east. They’re still launching, he said.

Why?

I don’t know, maybe the system just takes over.

Will they hit here again?

Maybe.

Can we eat something?

They had Activia. The fortune cookies. Half a case of Slim Jims and some Sunkist cans they’d found in the greasy black rubble of a Shell station. The charred cardboard Slim Jim case still had part of a sentence that ended: BRO CODE. He handed her three Original Flavors. Thought the words “Snap Into It” but didn’t say it. The pool furniture was burned so they sat Indian style on the concrete around the crackling palette wood. Flames so hot the nails were glowing. I can’t get the plastic off, she said.

Here– they make these fucking things–

The crenellated end of the Slim Jim plastic had a cut stamped in where you were supposed to tear it open. It had never worked once. He’d been eating slim Jims for 35 years. He bit the ends off and handed the sticks back to her. Spitting out the plastic he could taste the grain the cattle ate. Salt warm around his tongue like the ocean. Oh my God it’s good, she said.

I know right?

She laughed. I hated these things before.

They’re a guy thing.

I wish we had a whole truck full of them now.

These might be the last ones there will ever be.

What he meant was the last time the cattle would hear their brothers screaming as they died. The last time a 20 year old out of Honduras would walk out bleary eyed at sunrise after unpaid overtime. Five bucks an hour under whirling razor blades that made him deaf, hacking at bloody tendons twelve hours a night. Steam from boiling meat vats a mile wide burning his eyes, some convict up the line talking shit about stabbing him over a Spades game. Coming out at sunrise just as his wife left for her own shit job, swimming in reek down to his bones but used to it. The last machine that rolled the collected suffering of these living beings into a stiff brown stick that that made your breath stink. Popularized as a gas station impulse buy by Macho Man Randy Savage barking ART THOU BORED at children suffering existential ennui. Co-branded with the Tabasco line of sauces as part of a brand elevation campaign, along with Tabasco’s line of short sleeved button down shirts embodying the keyword zesty. XXXL the best seller– and you couldn’t even open the fucking package– he looked up and she was crying.

My mom is dead, she said.

I’m sorry–

My mama

I’m so sorry–

She took care of me when– when I got hurt. She held my hand when he left me. I was 29 years old– she held my hand like a little girl– my dad

I’m sorry.

They’re all gone, my sister, oh my God, my sister…

Suddenly he remembered his mother’s hair and he was crying too. I’m alone, I’m alone, she was saying, and he reached over his camo compound bow and razor tipped feral hog arrows and held on to her palm and she let him. They cried for a long time.When they were done, she said Chad, too. That fucking asshole.

What happened.

He left me, she said. He left me because I said to quit his job.

What did he do.

He was gonna be rich, she said. He was gonna be rich and I didn’t care. He worked for a bank. He did acquisitions.

An M & A guy, he said.

She look annoyed. Yes–he was. He talked people into selling their companies. He had a guy who was, like, a metallurgist. What he was working on was big. Chad took him on trips. They went to Vietnam– I think he cheated on me. We went skiing together. He was a genius. He made a new alloy, it was going to make bridges that didn’t collapse. The way you made it, something about the process– there was less pollution.

Oh wow, he said.

Chad was going to sell it to Gillette. They found out it made razor blades go dull faster. I told him to quit and he didn’t want to leave before the deal. And he said you don’t understand. If I don’t do it will be someone else. If we leave I’ll be a nobody. He meant like me. Like you– but I don’t want him to be dead.

She paused. What about you.

I had a mother. My dad was dead– it’s embarrassing–

Tell me.

I was alone already. I was sad before this. What I had to lose I lost already. I was a fucking failure.

Don’t say that–

I lived alone with my cat and a dog killed him. And I fucking had to apologize to my neighbors for abusing the dog after. My therapist told me. I do want them to be dead. I should have crucified that dog. I was trying to be a better person. It was a fucking mistake.

Did you have anything you loved?

I wrote, as a hobby. I wrote stories.

Were they published?

He laughed. Only interest I got was a rich guy who wanted me to write his OKCupid profile.

Did you?

Yeah. He met his wife from it. She was beautiful. An M & A guy.

Did you like what you wrote?

Good question.

She was quiet for a second. Tell me a story, she said.

He thought. Realized he had one. But when he looked up there was a man climbing over the wall with a gun in his hand.

**********

He was standing with a hog arrow drawn back. The bow’s pull was smooth. It would add, he thought, at least +1 to attack and damage rolls. The man wore little glasses, had a salt and pepper beard. Bluejeans. Improbably he wore a polo shirt with Tabasco bottles on it. They were dancing with golf balls. The man was raising his revolver.

DON’T DO IT MAN, he said. He lined up the razor arrow tip with a hot sauce bottle. What do you want.

You guys have food, the man said. His eyes dipped to Marcy.

We can’t help you man.

I don’t mean any harm.

The fuck you don’t. Get the fuck out of here.

I just want to talk man. Please– but he kept looking at Marcy. Kept looking.

Are you fucking kidding me? You’re not taking her. Get out.

You got one shot with that bow man, I got six. I just want to talk.

He let go. His aim was off but the man started to scream. It turned into a sound like hot liquid pouring in a paper cup. His gun arm was limp and his other was flailing at the arrow shaft, planted in the top of his chest, to the left. Up to the fletching. Behind him on the cinder blocks a fat blood splatter. The arrowhead had pierced bone flesh and sinew, as advertised. The gun was on the ground. The man sat down. Just staring ahead.

You shouldn’t have come here man.

The man just stared and gurgled.

Marcy can you bring the bag.

What?

Can you please bring me the bag with the medicine, he said.

The man was half conscious as he unscrewed the arrowhead and pulled the shaft back out through hot blood. His eyes rolled back as he felt it. Marcy brought the bag. Listen to me he said. LISTEN– he grabbed the man’s chin. Waited for his eyes. Held up the jar of Fish Mox Forte Tropical Aquarium Amoxicillin. Shook out a handful of caps and dropped them in the Tabasco shirt pocket. TAKE THESE. TAKE THESE EVERY DAY.

He put down an Evian and an Activia. If I see you again I’ll kill you, he said.

**********

They moved the tent to a back yard up the block. Agreed to sleep in shifts. The car might have been safer but it was easier to spot. He offered her the sleeping bag. It took a long while for him to calm down.

You were great today, she said. Thank you.

We have to get to Angeles Crest, he said. Away from people. Can’t trust anybody.

I know, she said. Are you OK?

One thing is bothering me.

What?

Tabasco branding with golf. Affluent males over 40 don’t– didn’t– drive household condiments.

It boosts casual fine dining use, she said. The guy goes to Applebee’s and asks for Tabasco.

Oh shit, you’re right.

We don’t have to think about that stuff anymore, she said.

Thank God.

What was the story you were going to tell me.

Well it’s not mine, he said. But I read this thing in the New Yorker. About this old Chinese woman in Brooklyn who got scammed out of her life savings. This woman had a son who was sick. These people, other Chinese people, came up up saying they knew a witch doctor. They said her son was in grave danger. He was suffering under a curse.

Go on.

To get rid of the curse the witch doctor had to take all the woman’s possessions and bless them. So she gave him all her cash and fine China and you know the rest. These women don’t call the cops because they feel too stupid. But what got me was the curse. It was from a ghost. The ghost wanted the son for a husband.

Holy shit.

Yeah. The son had a ghost attached to him. And this is common. Ghosts who die alone just wander in this netherworld, latching onto people. Chewing at their souls. Because the ghosts are lonely. Back in the old days, when this happened, they’d have a ghost wedding.

Really?

Yeah. You married a girl ghost to a boy ghost and they could be together in the afterlife. They’d be happy. But in modern times, the Cultural Revolution, they tried to wipe the traditions out. People forgot how to help the ghosts. So these angry, lonely, doomed ghosts just wander around lost. Fucking things up forever.

She rolled over a little. Leaned close to him. He could feel her breath on his neck as she got close. You know what, she said.

Yes?

I’m hungry again.

You want a fortune cookie?

Yeah.

He unscrewed the jar and handed her one. Took one for himself. Opened the clear plastic pouch and broke the cookie. Put half in his mouth, warm and crisp and sweet. Squinted at the little white paper. Pink letters. It said the greatest danger could be your stupidity.

10 Responses to “Ghost Wedding”

  1. Thom Lynch December 24, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    Nice! Love the nuances, particularly the ones about advertising (it was a nice reminder that they were coworkers). Definitely excited to find out what happens next. Do you have this whole thing like storyboarded out?

    PS is this a typo? ” Spitting out the plastic he could tasted the grain the cattle ate. ”

    On Sun, Dec 24, 2017 at 4:25 PM, delicioustacos wrote:

    > delicioustacos posted: ” At night a burning star arced across the black > sky to the north. Past the mountains. They were in what was once a back > yard. Cinder block walls around the pool still half intact. Everything up > high was gone but in the dips between the hills buildings st” >

  2. Anony-fucking-mous December 25, 2017 at 1:58 am #

    This one felt comfortable, almost homey. I liked it, but more important, it didn’t make me hate anything while still fitting your writing style.

    Thank you for sharing with us, despite us being ungrateful curds and cock-smoking yes men with no in-between.

    Merry Christmas.

  3. de selby December 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    Someone should send this to kim jong un. Maybe then he’d sack up and start popping off nukes. I think I’d rather live in a dunebuggy mad max hellscape than get a job and cum in goofy bitches from tinder until I’m shriveled and ugly.

  4. Remoboth January 1, 2018 at 7:47 am #

    This series is shaping up wonderfully so far.

    Your strength seems to lie in avoiding tired tropes of an immediate apocalypse that focus on the usual material struggles.

    You focus on and capture the self-doubt, self-hatred and desperation normal people would feel in this scenario.

    Culturally we’ve already collapsed. In these stories the rest of the systems we depend on finally catch up. You illustrate how simultaneously mundane & horrifying this realization truly is.

  5. Wilbur January 2, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    Jesus Christ DT. That’s good. Sorry that’s all I got.

    There will come soft rains.

    Waste of amoxicillin though.

  6. Watching It Burn January 8, 2018 at 5:41 pm #

    Thanks for writing. I just love this it made my day. The world is less shitty with your stories man.

  7. Small Wonders January 25, 2018 at 9:58 am #

    Hope you’re doing OK!

  8. Somebody January 27, 2018 at 7:01 pm #

    Seems like you’ve resolved to break with the completist, OCD tendencies and finally let a month slip by on the sidebar. Or are you just so let down by the stark absence of life in the comments lately that you figure we aren’t worth risking your scheme to milk a living in L.A. then geoarbitrage your way over to rural Montana for (a gay af fantasy tbh), and you’re gradually distancing yourself from the DeliciousTacos brand so as to keep T.P.T.B. in the dark about the crass hijinks of your civilian life? Not that you had us fooled that this is anything but a front to lure okc skanks to your casting couch of an apartment.

    But if it’s the former, then I’m proud of you.

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  1. Sticky: Finally, Some Good News | delicioustacos - December 24, 2017

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