THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM A SHORT STORY I’M WORKING ON, TENTATIVELY TITLED “THE KING OF BOONE COUNTY”
At the base of the pine trees is where he found her. She had her face stuffed into the snow and one arm nearly cracked in half. A large gash in her side created a half-circle of red blood. Otherwise, the snow was clean. The day was new. The air was unimaginably pure.
THIS SCENE DESCRIBES HOW WAYLON USED TO PIMP GIRLS IN BOONE COUNTY
He built his reputation by preying on the minds of all the delicate and predictable men who worked the business district.
There was something missing behind their eyes. A desperation emanated from them. They wanted freedom. They wanted what Waylon had an abundance of. This was the thrust of his pitch, which he adjusted slightly for each potential john.
If I wanted to, Waylon would say to them, I could get in my truck right now and drive in whatever direction my heart desires and end up in a place I’ve never been to. And I can start a life there until it suits me no longer. And then I can pick up and move again. But you can’t do that, can you?
I don’t want to do that, the john would say.
But you can’t, Waylon would say. That’s the point. It doesn’t matter whether you want to. You no longer have control over your life. There are things that you simply cannot do.
Do you know how big the universe is? Waylon would ask, out of the blue.
There’s one galaxy for every grain of sand on earth, Waylon would say. In a universe that enormous, do you think it’s fair to put limitations on what you are able to do?
Of course, it was not fair. But what were they supposed to do? They were not the first people to suffer these injustices. Their fathers had suffered. Their grandfathers had suffered. This was just the result of the choices they were conditioned to make.
Think of a fire, Waylon would say. Do you think a fire cares where it burns? No. It destroys at its leisure.
But, a john would interject, A fire can only burn on land. It can’t burn puddles or rivers or lakes or oceans.
Like hell, Waylon would say. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Three hundred million gallons of spillage in an ocean vaster than a continent, and I swear I saw the whole thing burn, right up to the horizon.
Listen, Waylon would say.
And then he’d predict these men’s lives, within an inch of reality, to the point where they’d be frightened, not at his prediction, but at the ugliness and harshness of a life belonging to them, laid bare for the first time. He’d watch them squirm as his words bit into their necks.
He’d watch them squirm as his words bit into their necks.
How do I fix it? the johns would ask, not outright, but with a subtle implication, the folding of the hands just so, a loosening of a button or a tie. They would silently beg. And Waylon would answer.
He would be gentle with his answer. There were things he could not say to these johns. He could not tell them to throw everything away and start over. To the contrary, he’d tell them to stay put.
You can’t just abandon everything, Waylon would say. I understand that. And that’s not what I’m offering. What I am offering is a sort of medicine that makes all your hurts disappear. Whenever you want it, it’s there. The truth is these girls are artists. They know what they’re doing. So if you feel a connection with them–which you will–know that it’s not false. They care. It’s built into them to care. That’s why they’re chosen in the first place. And if you’re afraid of getting caught, or if you think your guilt will eat you alive, know that these things happen only when you’re not dealing with professionals.
Leaning in with a practiced elocution, Waylon would say: I’m a professional in everything I do.
This is what separated Waylon from his competitors. He gave you his number. If you called him, as his johns often did, at four in the morning, burning with a ceaseless guilt, the King of Boone County would soothe you with his voice, placing one expert word in front of the other, as if crafted for your individual crisis.
He was honest. If he felt you’d had enough he would tell you.
But there was one time, just once, when Waylon suffocated his instincts. The money was too good. He dropped his girl off at a house about a half-mile off the highway, on a street that got moderate traffic and was shaded by pine trees that’d been there for near two hundred years.
He dropped her off.
I’ll be here in the morning, he’d said. Eight sharp.
He came back the next day.
The snow at the edges of the road had started to melt. As the wind came through the thick patch of pine trees, he breathed deeply.
At the base of the pine trees is where he found her. She had her face stuffed into the snow and one arm nearly cracked in half. A large gash in her side created a half-circle of red. Otherwise, the snow was clean. The day was new. The air was unimaginably pure.
He knelt down beside her and said nothing. Three or four cars passed him on the road.
He wrapped her in a blanket and lifted her into his trunk.
He drove three miles to the nearest gas station, where he bought a cup of fresh coffee and used the remaining change to make a call.
I need your help, Waylon said.
Rascal was there within an hour.