Unedited. Not sure where it’s going, but the characters are interesting, especially the narrator, Murker, who’s a vagabond or neo-gypsy.
Sheriff Henderson is rotund. He makes big chairs look small, makes walking look tough, turns breathing into music.
“Sit,” he says.
I sit. Sheriff looks disturbed, as if there’s an itch inside his body he can’t reach, and so he has to suffer through it.
“You’re around,” he says. “You’re everywhere.”
“I’ve got nowhere else to be.”
“But you see things,” he says. “You see everything.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“Can I get in trouble?”
“Can you what?”
“If we’re talking like we are now and I slip up and say something I shouldn’t have and that thing which I said happens to be illegal, can I get in trouble?”
Sheriff Henderson thinks. Whether he’s thinking about what I just said, I can’t tell. He, in general, appears confused.
“No,” he says. “No trouble.”
“Alright,” I say. “Go on, then.”
“You see everything.”
“I sure do.”
“You see the Tillers?”
“Tillers,” I say. “Tillers?”
“Roman Tiller and his wife and daughter. You see them?”
There arises in my chest that sharp tinge of anxiety, as if someone has pierced my heart with a fishing hook. If Sheriff Henderson knows about me and Miss Tiller, that means that Mr. Tiller must know as well, which means that I can no longer have the satisfaction of giving it to his daughter behind his back, and also that he will kill me, or try to.
“It’s no crime to have sexual relations with a woman,” I say. “Or with a man. Or with anything really. Sexual relations are the private business of those engaged in the relations.”
“What are you talking about,” Sheriff Henderson says, annoyed, beyond annoyed already, turning red. “Just focus on what I’m saying.”
“She’s older than eighteen,” I say. “She looks thirty. Especially naked.”
“Murker,” Sheriff Henderson says. “If you don’t shut up I’m going to slap you in the face.”
“You asked about the Tillers. I’m just answering your question.”
Sheriff Henderson reaches across the desk, slowly, calmly, as if he’s going to lift a piece of lint off my shirt, and he instead smacks me across the face with his meaty hand. It feels like getting hit with a brick.
“Will you listen now?” he says.
“I was listening. Now my left ear’s ringing and I’m less likely to be focused. And what gives you the right, anyway, to put your hands on another man? Is it because I’m poor? You—”
He smacks me again. It is time I learn to shut my mouth.
“The Tillers,” he says. “You notice anything…off about them?”
“Strange behavior? Any red flags that’d lead you to be suspicious of any of them?”
“Not particularly,” I say. “I usually see Mr. Tiller leave for work around nine, and I’m not sure when he returns, except that it must be before seven because that’s when I pass by their house again, going home, to my home, to the creek, and sometimes I’ll stop outside their house and look and see them eating dinner, and I’ll watch because it looks nice and peaceful and they have a pretty chandelier that hangs above their dining table.”
“Is Anita Tiller there, at dinner?”
“Sometimes,” I say. “Well, now that you mention it, she’s mostly not. But I assume she’s just in bed by then.”
“Do you see her leave in the morning?”
“I guess not.”
“You’ve never seen her leave in the morning?”
“Can’t say I remember, but it’s possible. In any case, she must go somewhere because she’s definitely not home during the day.”
Sheriff Henderson leans back. His chair screams as he relaxes into it. He takes an obnoxious sip out of his coffee mug, which I know contains more than coffee because I can smell it and I want some.
“What do you mean she’s not home during the day?”
I realize here that I’m wading into dangerous territory. The conversation is not even five minutes old and I’ve already slipped up. I know that Mrs. Tiller is not home during the day because during the day I make love to her daughter in various places throughout the house.
“She’s not home,” I say.
“How do you know that.”
“Because I’m in the house.”
“Am I in trouble?” Sheriff Henderson cocks back his hand. “Okay, look. I’m having an affair with Miss Tiller.”
“You’re having an affair with Anita Tiller?”
“No, Miss Tiller.”
Sheriff’s eyes widen. He takes a noxious sip. There is considerable activity in his mustache, drops of liquid, a bit of food maybe, certainly some movement.
“You’re having an affair,” he says, “with the daughter?”
“A sexual affair?”
“Extremely sexual, yes.”
“Are…Murker are you serious?”
“Yes. Look, you wanted the truth I’m giving you the truth.”
“The daughter,” sheriff says. “She’s fucking retarded.”
“Retarded? In what way.”
“That’s, no, that’s not true. Besides, she’s certainly not sexually retarded.”
“Murker,” sheriff says. He looks like he’s going to say something else, but then he says, “How long has this been going on?”
Sheriff shudders, but it also looks like a nod, so I continue.
“The sex started…well, a few weeks ago.”
“How did it start?”
“I’d just finished talking with Mr. Tiller, which didn’t go well because he always tells me I smell and that I’m an eyesore and that I should get a job—he does this everyday, pretty much—and then he drove off, and I stayed back admiring his house, just standing there, appreciating how nice it is. And then the door opens and Miss Tiller shouts out into the street that she needs help with something, and can I help her? She was wearing a bathrobe and a towel on her head that looked like a swirl of soft serve. So I said yes.”
“What’d she need help with?”
“Well, she led me to the backyard and she stayed inside because she said she was scared or something, and she sent me out there to check on the situation. She said ‘Around the corner, under the balcony,’ and what I found there was…well, it was a shattered pot, clay shards and clumps of soil everywhere, and also what could best be described as the mangled body of a dog, its head smashed to liquid, presumably by the pot.”
“That’s right. I assumed he was dead, but I didn’t check.”
“Smashed by the pot, you’re saying.”
“I went back inside and Miss Tiller was gone, so I called out for her and she said she was upstairs. I went upstairs and found her standing in the middle of her room, the soft serve towel removed from her head, a single pale breast sticking out of her robe. I said, ‘You’ve got a problem,’ and she went off about the dog, saying how she was trying to water her cactus on the balcony when a mosquito bit her and she freaked out and knocked over the plant just as the dog was walking under it. I thought, that’s great, but I was talking about your breast.”
“What’d you do with the dog?”
“Cleaned it up.”
“Put it in a trash bag and took it down to the creek.”
“And then what?”
“Miss Tiller thanked me and then asked if there was any way she could repay me, and me, being slightly excited because of her breast and all, which was still peeking out, mind you, said, almost jokingly, with no intention she would agree, ‘We could have sex and call it even,’ and she said, ‘okay.’”
“And then what?”
“You really want to hear this—okay, well, she removed her bathrobe and we—“
“The dog, Murker.”
“Oh, the dog. No I didn’t have sex with the dog.”
“I know, I’m not—You just threw it in the creek and that’s it?”
“Yeah. Figured something might eat it. A coyote or something. Although that might be cannibalistic. Although there are mountain lions—“
“When was this?”
“I told you, a few weeks ago.”
A car pulls up outside. I can hear its engine.
“Shit,” Sheriff says.
He uses ever muscle fiber in his body to move himself upright and out of the chair. The amount of inertia required, I can tell just by looking at him, is immense. He checks out the window, between the blinds, and then grabs his hat and begins putting on his jacket.
“I’ve got to go,” he says. “Listen to me, Murker. I’ve got an extremely important job for you to do, and it must done right now, as soon as possible, and kept secret. Do you understand?”
“Not really. You never mentioned what the job is.”
“The job,” Sheriff Henderson says, “is to go down to the creek and find that dog and bring it back here.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
“It’s crucial, Murker! Go find that dog and bring it back. Top secret mission. Important, important, important.”
“Top secret, huh? Like a detective.”
“Yes,” Sheriff says. “Like a detective, exactly.”
“Alright,” I say, “alright, alright. You paying me?”
“Oh yeah. I’m paying you a whole lot. And you get to be a part something huge and important. You get to help.”
“Alright,” I say. “I like the sound of that.”
Sheriff Henderson takes one more look out the window, says, “Shit,” out the side of his mouth, and then lumbers toward the door.
“Sheriff,” I say. He stops. “Can I have a gun?”
“A badge, then?”
“No. You’re supposed to be undercover.”
“Fine. A hat?”
Sheriff turns and leaves. I can hear and feel his footsteps until he’s out the door and then gone. Through the window I see him enter an old Buick with a lady who looks like a skeleton with blonde hair and red lipstick.
Before I leave his office I grab a badge, a loaded pistol, and a hat, all of which I find within a five foot radius of me.