by Jamie Grefe
Illustration by Daniela Attard
Secrets are whispered behind barns. That’s what barns are for. Benny knows this, and Ginger’s lips, when they touch his ear, feel too good to turn down.
Something about the benefits of using a pitchfork–chains in the shed, the ones stained black with oil, and the real things that men do.
They gather at the hunting blind. Ginger baby-sips peach Schnapps with Merv and Tom. Benny’s hands are black from oil, from dirt.
It has already been decided. A skeleton key, red twine knotted around the loop, is pushed into his hand. They tell him where it is, how to do it right. Benny just nods, swigs Schnapps, and then the other boys leave only him and Ginger alone, just as he wants it.
She pushes her legs together. He pulls her jeans past white thighs, lets them bunch at the knees, slides in the hot fold like pressing into pudding. He shivers, shudders in the black heat.
Ginger leads him to that spot, away from the blind, past the ravine, where the wooden fence stretches for miles. There’s a door out there that opens into a hole–a tunnel to the other side, she says. That’s where they kiss.
Two nights later, as decided, Benny finds the cabin. The skeleton key fits. She’s in the middle of the room, those chains–asleep.
He takes the wet clump of ripped blanket out of her mouth, pulls a chair, and sits in front of her. The moonlight makes everything smell blue. For the longest time, he watches the girl not move and waits.
She’s bawling, screaming something, chair tipped over and he pulls her upright, sits back down in front of her. Lucy Lambert. Here you are. Benny’s eyes move from her to the pitchfork on the box-spring in the corner.
She bites hard when Benny runs dirt-smeared fingers across her lips. First, stroke hair, flick earlobes, pinch nose, press in on eyes–explore–those lips, he thinks, wonders what’s inside–wonders what it would take to open them up and find out.
She’s crying from all the blood, stops when Benny slams the pitchfork handle down on her head. The first thump feels like pulling teeth from a dead deer, feels too good. The crack is sharp and with each connection of wood to skin, he’s colder, turned on, same as that night in the blind with Ginger. He keeps it up until the sound shifts to a dull muffle and then, to silence.
Benny unravels the chain, cuts the rope from her body and makes two separate piles: rope, chain. He leans the pitchfork against the wall, places Lucy on the bed. She looks nice with arms at her side. Benny stares into the mushy open field of her face, wishes that he could tell Ginger how much he adores her and that if she ever leaves him, how much it’ll hurt.
He can hear the voices of Tom and Merv and Ginger. They are outside, close to the cabin. They want to see if he actually did it with her.
He’ll show them. That’s what boys do.
He has to pound something good into Tom and Merv’s skulls before they stop crying and whimpering and rolling around on the floor. He waits for the pool to still. His Ginger sits outside on the porch. She says nothing.
When Benny drags the half-conscious bodies of Tom and Merv out of the house, Ginger’s already walking through the woods. Their chains rattle with each step taken like bugs, like unspoken prayers.
The pick-up is a rusty blue Chevy. She passes Benny the bottle of Schnapps, tells him to finish it and they drive fast down back roads. The gravel is a rushing river that carries them in deep to the clearing in the woods by the fence. They walk with the chained boys the rest of the way to the door.
“This door,” whispers Benny, “leads to the other side of the world.”
Ginger leans in close to Merv’s shuddering face and speaks slow into his mangled ear.
“Our own personal rabbit hole.”
“Pop you out somewhere real.”
Ginger passes Benny the pitchfork, that whisper behind the barn, and he stabs their bodies like hay. This was his promise to her. She’s already wrenching the door open and when it does come loose, the bottom edge slides over the wet grass with a ripping sound that follows Benny back to the Chevy, back to the cool air from cranked down windows, thinking about that rabbit hole, how their bodies fell and fell and the other side of Lucy’s lips.
But that rip of his shut eyed revelry shifts to a face full of glass and the explosion of his own skin opening to the light. She struck a tree. The upper half of Ginger has taken flight through the windshield, those legs just sitting there on the seat, all drenched and shivering.
He crawls from the mangled cab to the ditch, slips down into its gully, tries to stretch out in the bed of wet grass. Benny’s body is not there, just his head looking into black. He waits, he feels himself approaching the other side. Orange light from the crashed pick-up blends with blues, whites and, reds. He angles his head on chunk of severed torso, looks up and dreams of rabbits and Ginger and kisses and hay, but already some blank figure, an old man or ghost, just a blur, a tall shape, is holding that pitchfork in the air, yelling something, and he can almost hear Lucy’s chains rattle over the whirring sirens, Ginger’s breath, and rough hands fisting clumps of hair, beginning to drag him down the rabbit hole into darkness.
Jamie Grefe writes fiction, poetry, and essays. His work appears or is forthcoming in elimae, New Dead Families, Mud Luscious Online Quarterly and elsewhere. To read more of his work, please visit http://shreddedmaps.tumblr.com
Daniella Attard – aka ‘iella’ is a ’89 kid, typically at the back of the class doodling, not paying any attention. Often seen smearing paint on walls, iella is dependent on caffeine and runs on lack of sleep.