The Drunks

When we were nine Billy Jacobs told us that someone was living in the woods behind his house. He claimed a man with red hair would wave to him and disappear into the green like Bigfoot.

Five of us got together after school to find him. I brought along my kid brother Jared, who in those days was a nervous, neurotic child: a boy threatening to become a sulky teen, a loser-ish man. My dad told me to challenge him and make him uncomfortable; he said Jared would thank me one day.

We walked past the stream and the abandoned housing development and arrived in a big shaggy field. A man lay there with frizzy red hair, parted in the center, surrounded by trash and bottles. His face was scorched and lumpy with plump whiteheads that resembled useless, half-formed eyes. He grinned as we stood over him.

“You found me,” he slurred, the smell of vodka rising to our noses.

He sat up and reached into the grass. He pulled out a magazine and tore five pages from it, one for each of us.

My page was greasy and veiny with wrinkles. It showed a pale blond in a white room, pinning her genitals open with lurid red fingernails. It looked like she was trying to show us something hidden there. That part of her shined strangely, I remember. I wondered about that light a long time.

As we walked back, Jared stared at his page. I took it from him, crushed it, and threw it into the woods. “Don’t count on getting something for nothing,” I said. “Plus you’re too young.”

We went back a month later, twelve this time, all wanting a page.

The man and his things were gone.

 

When we were ten Jim Andrews died.

Jim was one of the twelve: a boy who never saw the redheaded man, but who heard about him and wanted to. Jim had a bad peanut allergy. On a sunny Tuesday in July he walked to a convenience store and bought a bag of Planters. He ate one several hours later and died in his bedroom.

We talked about Jim Andrews and the redheaded man. What if the redheaded man bought Jim the peanuts? Not literally, because everyone knew that Jim Andrews bought the peanuts. But what if the redheaded man took control of Jim’s brain, and made Jim buy the peanuts?

We walked into the woods.

Timmy Boners brought a baseball bat, and I made Jared carry my switchblade.

There was nothing there, just bits of trash from the previous summer.

 

When we were eleven Billy Jacobs told us he had seen three people standing at the edge of the woods. One was the redheaded man–or someone who from a distance resembled the redheaded man, a sicker, thinner incarnation of him. The three held big glass bottles as they waved to Billy. One let a cigarette fall from his mouth and the others shrieked with laughter. They stumbled away and were gone.

A few days earlier, Jared and I had watched a nature video we rented from the library. One of the scenes was of wolves chasing buffalo through deep snow.

A calf was near the rear of the herd. It fell behind and the wolves gathered around it. Two latched onto its thighs and a third clung to its back. The calf spun futilely and collapsed onto the snow.

After I told Jared what Billy had seen I said, “I want you to remember the video, the one with the wolves.”

“What about it?”

“Just have it in your mind.”

We got together some other kids, seven or eight, and we set out in a group on a Friday, just before dusk.

Dusk was pink, I remember, but by the time we passed the abandoned development, the light had darkened, turning blue and murky, as though we were standing upon the floor of a sea that had long ago been land. We reached the field and heard a dense collision of animal sounds, or pseudo-animal sounds, like humans imitating cats and birds and monkeys. We saw two or three people shuffling around like mental patients. Then someone pointed to the four men and one woman fornicating together in the brush. A bundle of limbs and heads that pulsed together like a single machine.

“Now,” I said, and the boy who brought the big hunting spotlight flooded the orgy in guilty white light. They paused and squinted, then slowly disentangled like a knot untying itself.

“What the crap is this!?” I shrieked as we walked toward them.

Some stumbled away. Most just lay panting in piles of trash. They had beards and bulbous imploded noses and leathery castaway tans and the whole group stank. The “woman” turned out to be a man wearing a wig. They stared at us with yellow, phlegmy eyes. I noticed the redheaded man; he was fully clothed and standing. We asked what they had been doing. They didn’t answer, and so we picked up beer bottles and broke them over their heads. My best friend Tony urinated on one guy. I pulled out my switchblade and spit in their faces.

One of the ugliest guys said, “Stop this bullcrap.” He tried to grab my arms but his greasy old hands couldn’t grip. I got a hold of his hair and sunk my knife into his right cheek. After that two of them ran. Jared and a few of my friends chased them.

The others were too sick or drunk or high to move. The guy with the hole in his cheek started making choking sounds. I grabbed his hair again and stabbed him in the neck. Another guy puked up yellow liquor. He was really disgusting; he had a big florid rash all over his chest. “Dang you’re nasty,” I said. One of my friends walked over and smacked him in the forehead with an aluminum baseball bat. Clonk. He fell back and lay in the grass, breathing loudly.

“Ahhrgh—” I heard someone groan.

Jared and two of the others came out of the dark. They were holding the redheaded man. There was a cut on Jared’s face.

“He get you?” I asked.

“Nah I had to tackle him.”

“Bring that freakin’ murderer over here.”

They sat him next to the others. One guy’s face was so dirty it seemed smeared in shoe polish. We cut open his eyes and sliced his cheeks till they looked like thousands of lips, if that makes any sense. We started to scalp him but that was too hard and we stopped. We found a pack of cigarettes but no one knew how to inhale the smoke, and so we stood around with ballooned out cheeks, which is pretty funny to think about now. We tried to break an empty wine bottle over the top of an old man’s head, but the bottle never broke and the top of his head just became flat. Jared made one guy fellate another guy.

“Suck his pecker,” he said. Then he stabbed one in the back and beat the other with a brick we found. Some of the stuff I can’t believe we did, it was just so disgusting. But kids have a different attitude about that type of thing. Anything gross is just funny to them.

I saved the redheaded man for last.

“Your skin really cleared up,” I told him.

He just stared at me.

“You know this is all your fault,” I said.

I raised a shard of thick glass and held it to his face.

“Why did you kill Jim Andrews?” I said.

Wah?”

I drew it along his forehead, opening it like a zipper. Blood ran in his eyes and he screamed.

“Why did you kill Jim Andrews?”

Waaahh?!”

“Last chance.” I put the glass to his neck. “Why did you kill Jim Andrews?”

I donnn wha I do—”

“Hasta la vista, baby.” Then I jabbed his neck two hundred times or four hundred times or maybe a thousand times. I remember getting pretty lost in it and not stopping until there was nothing more to jab.

 

None of us were ever arrested. The death of the men meant nothing. I have visited the spot since then and everything is gone, buried beneath the earth. Sometimes one of my old friends will message me on the internet. Seems like most of them are doing well.

 

Two years ago I was transferred to a coastal branch of the company I work for. It was described as a division staffed by lazy malcontents. You have an assertive managerial style, my superiors told me when I was selected; you get the most out of your people–we feel you’ll rise to this challenge. Production is up eighty-two percent and my future seems bright. One day, they say, everyone here will be beneath me.

After college Jared moved out west. I got a photograph from him last December. He and his family were standing before a huge black curtain. They looked clean and attractive in their matching white outfits. Jared wears the face of a good, strong father, a capable provider, nothing like the frightened boy he used to be.

“I’m impressed with the man you’ve become,” I said the last time we spoke.

He whispered something I couldn’t make out, and the phone connection went dead.

“Hello,” I said. “Hello . . . hello . . .”

I put down the receiver and stared at the waves breaking upon the sand behind my home. I felt wind on my face and I heard the ocean’s hum. I watched white moonlight flicker upon its dazzling surface. Some say it is coming closer. They claim the water is inching onto the land and that one day all of this will be under it.

No one I know believes them.

About BS Faulkner

BS Faulkner lives in Baltimore. His work has been featured in Metazen and Thought Catalog. He can also be found on Tumblr.

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