Revelations, fiction by Tamara Linse

And the dev­il, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burn­ing sul­fur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tor­ment­ed day and night for ever and ever. Rev­e­la­tions 20:10


Dan, Killer, and I are in the Kum & Go snag­ging some break­fast before head­ing off to roustabout on the Shoshone oil field.  My name’s Jim­my, Jim­my Shalin­sky, but most peo­ple call me Clit.  I got the name because I’m good with the ladies.  You know, smooth.  Dan may have the looks, and Killer may have the size, but I got the talk.  I always was a lit­tle on the small side, wiry though. Tough, you know—but I can make it with the ladies.

Killer is putting togeth­er some nachos. He mounds the chips, ladles hot nacho cheese, and then uses the tongs to try to fish out some jalapenos, but he gets tired of it so he grabs them with his fin­gers and plops them on top.  Then he slurps his fin­gers.

Dan apprais­es the bowl and says, “I think you can fit some more on there.”

Killer looks at the bowl and then at Dan and grins.  “Fire in the hole,” Killer says.

I’ll show you fire in the hole,” Dan says, glanc­ing over at the fat lady with the gigan­tic tits behind the counter.

They always have been a pair.  They played foot­ball at Last Chance High School and took us to the Wyoming state finals in Divi­sion 4A.  Dan was the quar­ter­back, of course, and Killer was a line­man.  Dan real­ly knew how to moti­vate the team, so I heard—I was a cou­ple of years behind them—and Killer was just that, a killer on the line.  He broke both legs of this guy from Tor­ring­ton.  The peo­ple from Tor­ring­ton got all hot and both­ered because they said it was a dirty hit—he was nowhere near the ball, they said—but the ref didn’t see it, so, hey, it might as well not’ve hap­pened.

Dan’s still good look­ing, just like he was in high school.  Fit.  Blonde hair that makes him look like a surfer.  You wouldn’t think he was almost thir­ty.  I don’t know how he does it—his clothes are always neat and clean, even when we’re work­ing a rig.  Killer, though, has let him­self go.  He has this red beard that bush­es out above his con­sid­er­able gut, and he shaves his head but then wears one of the black Nazi hats with the gold braid on the brim and the eagle on the top.

I take my twen­ty-ounce cof­fee to the counter to pay.  The fat lady taps the reg­is­ter keys with her cocaine nails and says, “A lit­tle go juice?”  She’s got a ring on her fin­ger, and I won­der what ugly bas­tard would mar­ry her.

Yeah—I mean, no,” I say, push­ing my glass­es up my nose.  “What I mean is, I don’t need no go juice.  I’m all go.” I count out two dol­lar bills and flip them on the counter.

A runt like you?” Big Tits eyes me up and down.

Ain’t no cor­re­la­tion,” I say.  “Some guys got third legs, you know.”

She fin­gers coins out of the draw­er and drops them on the counter in front of me.  Two pen­nies roll off and away.

I don’t move to get them.

Lit­tle shits like you are all hat and no cat­tle,” she says, “and I’ve had more than my share of no cat­tle.”  She turns like she’s got some­thing to do.

I don’t know quite what to say, and just as I’m com­ing up with some­thing, Dan and Killer come up to the counter. In addi­tion to nachos, Killer’s got a sausage with mus­tard and cat­sup and a cup of cof­fee. Dan has a bot­tle of water.

Dan smiles at Big Tits as he lays a twen­ty on the counter for Killer’s food.  “The lady ain’t inter­est­ed in what you’re sell­ing, Clit.”

She would be if she knew what she’s miss­ing.”  I try to make it sound all hap­py, like an invi­ta­tion instead of the lame come­back it is.

Big Tits smiles at Dan.  “Ain’t you Dan McCoy?” she asks. He nods and slaps her with what I call his knock-em-dead, a smile that would make the aveng­ing angel him­self offer him Life­savers.  Then she launch­es into this long thing about her dad tak­ing her to all his foot­ball games.  “My dad was a huge fan,” she says.

That’s great,” Dan says.  “So, what’s your name?”

I’m Bet­sy, but every­one calls me Bet.”

That’s sure a pret­ty name, Bet.”

She smiles as she gives Dan his change.

Dan nods just a lit­tle as he glances at her hands—he’s thought of some­thing.  “You know what, Bet?  We’re hav­ing a par­ty lat­er, a keg­ger.  Want to come?”

First I’m hear­ing of it, but that don’t mean any­thing.

Her eyes widen and then nar­row.  She looks at Dan with­out say­ing any­thing.

Don’t be like that.  There’s a bunch of us—some peo­ple your age, too, I think.  What are you?  Twen­ty?”  Dan plays it well, as he always does.  She’s prob­a­bly at least twen­ty-two, and he doesn’t insult her by say­ing she’s eigh­teen because when you’re young you always want to be old­er, but she prob­a­bly just start­ing to want to be flat­tered as younger, so he runs it down the mid­dle.

Well, I’m mar­ried,” Big Tits says, hold­ing her left hand and splay­ing out her fin­gers to show her ring.  Then her fleshy shoul­ders pop up and down, but her eyes stay fixed on his face.

Killer’s stand­ing there.  He grunts and takes his food and goes out to the truck.

Dan leans for­ward with his elbows on the counter.  He low­ers his voice to a grow­ly whis­per.  “Well, pret­ty Bet, don’t you deserve a night out with the girls?”

Her smile tips up at the cor­ners.

Dan con­tin­ues, “You just tell your hus­band you need a night out.  What he don’t know, won’t hurt him.”

She shakes her head. “Tom—that’s my husband—ain’t too keen on me going out.”  She hes­i­tates and there’s silence as she con­sid­ers, but then her shoul­ders relax.  “But I have my ways to con­vince him.”  She leans for­ward too, her face cut­ting into the usu­al com­fort dis­tance between two peo­ple.

I won­der whether she’ll play the bitch card or she’ll have sex with her hus­band to put him in a good mood.  Then I get an image of those huge tits flop­ping up and down and up and down and my dick perks up.

Dan’s smile goes from daz­zling to fixed—he’s got­ten what he wants, and so he los­es inter­est in her.  “You tell your dad that Dan McCoy says hi,” he says as we turn to leave.

I get off at sev­en,” she says, her head cran­ing around the tall jerky jar.

Dan doesn’t reply.  We head out to the Dan’s brand new due­ly.  It’s fire-engine red with a shiny roll-bar and growl pipes.  In the gun rack, Dan keeps what he calls his fuck-stick—just hefty and long enough to fuck some bas­tard up—and a twen­ty-two semi-auto for hunt­ing coy­otes.

Sit­ting on the open tail­gate is Killer, and he’s got his hand out to a mag­pie perched on the side.  The bird’s black-and-white-tuxe­doed body pos­es then jerks as it eyes Killer and then pecks at his fin­gers.  Killer’s small pig eyes are round and open.  When he sees us, he pulls back his hand and his face clos­es in.  The bird launch­es into the air.  Killer push­es him­self off the tail­gate and grabs his nachos.

Looks like Adam’s in the gar­den,” Dan says as he walks past him.

Killer doesn’t say any­thing.  He walks around to my side.  As I’m climb­ing into the cab, he says, “Clit calls the bitch seat.” What he always says every time.

Bet­ter a bitch than a fuck­ing ass­hole.”  What I say every time.  Gay­boy, I add silent­ly.

Dan and Killer get in.  Dan starts the engine and the radio blares. It’s the news.  I reach to turn it down and Dan slaps my hand.  “Leave it.”  He shifts, backs out, and rods it onto the street while a woman with a deep monot­o­ne reports a one car rollover that killed a hus­band and wife from Col­orado and that the rig count is up.  Then the pro­gram switch­es to a slow-talk­ing cat­tle report.

I glance over at Killer and he’s look­ing past me at Dan.  Killer shakes his head.

Dan looks at Killer from the cor­ner of his eye and says, “They don’t report, uh, over­en­thu­si­as­tic sex.  Due to the sen­si­tive nature of the sub­ject.”  He flash­es a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.

Lucky for me,” Killer says.

Besides, it’s old news by now,” Dan says.

What’re you guys talk­ing about?” I say.

Mind your own,” Killer says in a deep voice.

So I do.

We’re in the sec­ond week of our two weeks on.  Twelve-hour days.  Most­ly we work our ass­es off mov­ing equip­ment and sup­plies, clean­ing up garbage and spills, painting—shit like that.  It stinks to high heav­en, and grit gets into my every crack and cran­ny.  If my fin­gers ain’t black from oil, they’re black from get­ting whacked.  Some­times it’s so hot you could fry an egg.  Some­times it snows so hard it’s all you can do to keep your balls from freez­ing.  Dan’s almost charmed his way from roustabout to rough­neck, and he’ll take Killer with him.  I’m hop­ing he takes me along too.

It’s before sev­en, so we’ve got time to make it from Last Chance to the pad before our shift starts.  The black­top skirts along the wide shal­low reach­es of the Big Sulfur—named for the hot­springs that feeds into it—and in and out of stands of cot­ton­woods and fields of sug­ar beets and alfal­fa.  This time of year, the vegetation’s turned from bright green to deep green, and soon it’ll be shad­ing to brown where it’s not irri­gat­ed.  Or every­where if we have the drought like last year.  Dan down­shifts and turns onto the grav­el coun­ty road.  We thread up a ravine and onto the dry sage­brush bench­es that line the riv­er val­ley.  The air changes.  You can feel it com­ing through Dan’s cracked window—what was cool and moist turns hot, pun­gent, and dusty.  The radio says it’ll get up to a hun­dred and three.  The patchy sage­brush is inter­spersed with sand dunes.  The drought’s killed off enough of the veg­e­ta­tion that the wind scoops sand out of one place and deposits it in anoth­er.  It’s like the earth’s try­ing reclaim the whole coun­try­side.

Maybe next year, they’ll hire us on as rough­necks,” I say with an eye toward Dan. “That way, I can buy my own trans­porta­tion, not have to hitch with you.”  Can’t hurt to give Dan a lit­tle more incen­tive.  What I real­ly want is to save up enough to get my mama into one of those pro­grams where they dry out.  It don’t work to have her in A.A.  She just gets tanked before she attends the meet­ings till they kick her out.

Skin­ny shit like you? No fuck­ing way,” Killer says as he push­es in the cig­a­rette lighter.  He pokes his fin­ger and thumb into his pack of cig­a­rettes and fish­es one out, zips the win­dow down, and when the lighter pops he press­es the glow­ing rings to the tip of his cig­a­rette and sucks in the air.  Then he sticks the lighter back into the ash­tray.

Don’t wor­ry about it,” Dan says.  “World’s going to end this year.”

What?” I say.

Yeah, those crack­pots are say­ing 2010’s the end of the world.”

I don’t like telling Dan he’s wrong, but I say, “That’s 2012.  The end of the Mayan cal­en­dar.”  My mama digs things like that, so I know.

Well, I’m say­ing it’s 2010.”  He lets out a burst of air.

I shrug.

We pop up over a hill, the grav­el crunch­ing under our tires, and two deer, does, stand broad­side in the mid­dle of the road.  Dan stamps down on the brakes and the truck slides to a halt. Bil­low­ing dust engulfs us from behind and veils the sun. The doe in front stum­bles for­ward and then high-steps off the grav­el.  Once she reach­es the bor­row ditch, she bounds across the unmown grass and leaps the barbed wire fence on Dan’s side of the truck.  The oth­er small­er doe con­tin­ues to stand broad­side look­ing at us, like she can’t quite fig­ure out what we are.

I glance at Dan and Killer.  Dan’s head is cocked to one side, but Killer’s eyes have opened up again and he’s lean­ing for­ward, his beard detached from his chest.  Dan turns off the radio.  Then he twists side­ways toward me, his arms reach­ing over my left shoul­der, and I lean for­ward to give him room.  He’s pulling the twen­ty-two out of the gun rack.

Hey, Killer,” Dan says, “ever had veni­son back­strap?”

Yeah,” is all Killer says. He ducks as Dan tips the rifle over our heads and points the muz­zle to the floor­boards.

What do you think?”

We’re going to be late,” Killer says.  I’m sure he knows how lame this sounds.

A clean kill, and we can be in and out in five min­utes,” Dan says. He lifts the rifle across my lap toward Killer.

We don’t need no back­strap.”

Ah, come on, Killer.”

Dan, we don’t need no veni­son.”

Sure we do.”

Well, if we need it so god­damn bad, you shoot it.” Killer’s face is turn­ing red.  He’s always had a quick tem­per.  I lean away from him toward Dan.

You’re the killer, Killer. What’s the mat­ter?  You chick­en­shit?”

I ain’t chick­en­shit.”

Bwock, bwock, bwo-ock,” Dan says.  Hold­ing the stock with his left hand, he reach­es past me with his right and slaps Killer on the chest with his palm.

He don’t want to shoot it,” I say.

Shut the fuck up,” Killer says to me.  He says to Dan, “You want me to fuck­ing poach a deer?”

Killer’s decid­ed to go all Gree­nie tree­hug­ger on us, Clit.  He’s a sen­si­tive new-age guy.”

Killer doesn’t say any­thing for a minute, and Dan doesn’t either, just leans for­ward hold­ing the gun and star­ing at Killer.

Eyes on the dash, Killer moves his head back and forth slight­ly. “Just give me the gun,” Killer says. Dan smiles, show­ing his teeth, and hands the gun to Killer.  Killer takes it, push­es open the door, steps to the hood, cham­bers a round, and leans for­ward, prop­ping the stock to his shoul­der and his elbows on the hood.

The big­ger doe is long gone, but the small­er doe is in the bor­row ditch bound­ing back and forth along the fence­line try­ing to get up the courage to jump.  Killer doesn’t wait for her to stop.  One report, then two more in quick suc­ces­sion.  The doe leaps like a rab­bit and then falls down onto her front knees and col­laps­es for­ward then onto her side, her head bent back over her shoul­der.

Dan pulls open the glove box and retrieves a big Buck knife.  He push­es open the door and gets out, glances both ways down the road, and then walks quick­ly over to the kick­ing doe.  I stay in the truck.  Killer doesn’t even glance Dan’s way.  He clears the car­tridge and uses his thumb to keep the next round from enter­ing the cham­ber.  He comes back to the cab.  He’s care­ful as he lifts the gun over my head and places it back in the rack.  He gets in and shuts the door.  Dan’s over at the ani­mal.  He doesn’t bleed her out or any­thing.  He just slices through the hide on the back, peels it away, and then cuts along the back­bone and ribs on each side to remove the back­strap, lay­ing the first one on the grass while he cuts the sec­ond.  He flips the knife shut, picks up the meat, and comes to the truck.  He opens an emp­ty gun­ny sack on the tail­gate and wraps up the meat and tucks it up next to the cab.  He wipes his hands on his jeans and then comes up and gets in the truck.

We’ll start a fire out at the pad,” he says.  “Roast them for lunch.”  He starts the truck, glances in his rearview, and then peels out, his bloody palm twirling the steer­ing wheel and his head bob­bing like he’s lis­ten­ing to his own inner music.  Killer just stares for­ward.

We spend the morn­ing clean­ing up the pad.  That’s our job for the day.  Our boss—his name is Rick but we call him Rick the Dick—told us to do what’s nec­es­sary.  He thinks the inspectors’ll be out next week.  We pick up the sand­wich wrap­pers and soda cans.  We slop paint over rusty met­al.  We dump emp­ty fifty-five gal­lon drums all into one big pile. We smooth out places where oil has spilled and cov­er them over with more dirt and sand from the reserve pile—they shouldn’t soak through till after the inspec­tors have come and gone.

Late in the morn­ing while Killer rolls drums and I slop paint, Dan gath­ers dead sage­brush limbs and some larg­er pieces of drift­wood washed by spring storms into the gul­ly that skirts the pad.  He starts a fire.  Then he con­tin­ues to work but stops every once in a while to pile wood on the fire, so that it all burns down to orange and white coals.  Around noon, he pours water over the back­straps and lays them over the bed of coals.  Soon the smell of cook­ing meat makes my stom­ach growl.

You bas­tards ready to eat?” Dan says.

Killer and I go over to the tail­gate where he’s cut­ting off chunks of meat.  We stand around and eat with our fin­gers.  It’s a bit grit­ty, but the char of the sage­brush adds to the fla­vor.  Killer seems to have for­got­ten where the meat came from, as he doesn’t even hes­i­tate.  Between the three of us, we pol­ish off both hunks.  Killer sits down on the tail­gate and licks his fin­gers.

This is the best veni­son I’ve ever had,” I say to no one in par­tic­u­lar.

Clit’s a veni­son vir­gin?” Dan says with a bug­gy look on his face.

I have to think for a minute.  Then I say, “No, I said it was the best, not the first.”

Yeah?  So Clit’s had veni­son, but has he had a woman?”

I’m think­ing not,” Killer says.

I have too,” I say.  It’s none of their fuck­ing busi­ness if I have or haven’t.

So Clit’s not only a vir­gin, but he’s a liar,” Dan says.

You guys are so full of shit,” I say.

Admit it,” Dan says and takes a step toward me.  “Come on, say ‘I’m a lying vir­gin.’  Come on, say it.”

I take a step back­wards.  Killer hops down from where he’s sit­ting on the tail­gate.

Say it, Clit,” Dan says. “‘I’m a lying vir­gin.’” He takes anoth­er step toward me and Killer walks up beside him.

There’s no way I’m going to say it.  No fuck­ing way.  But Dan’s gone squir­re­ly and Killer’s back­ing him up—they’re not going to stop until they make me say it.  I’ve seen it before—they’re like a cou­ple of wild dogs once they fix on some­thing.

I glance through the back win­dow at the rifle, but I can’t get to the front of the truck, jerk open the door, pull out the rifle, and jack a shell before they’re on me.  I glance around.

Say it,” Dan says.  “Say it.”  He and Killer are walk­ing for­ward and I’m step­ping back­wards.

You’re going to fuck­ing say it,” Dan says.

I turn and take off run­ning.  I don’t look back—I know they’re right behind me.  Killer’s enough out of shape I’m not wor­ried about him, but Dan’s got stick and the sta­mi­na to back it up.

Ahead of me I see the fire, and pok­ing up from it is a good-sized branch.  As I run past, I lean down and snag it and then take a quick jog right.  Then I spin and huck it hard as I can at Dan’s head.  Dan ducks side­ways and the branch sails past him.  I turn to run but then Dan’s on me.  I trip and land on my face and he’s on my back grab­bing for my arms.  It knocks the wind out of me and my glass­es go fly­ing, but I’m strug­gling to keep my arms free and push­ing against the ground, try­ing to get to my hands and knees.  He man­ages to wrench my left arm behind me and up to my shoul­der blade.  The pain shoots through it and into my shoul­der.  I try to twist side­ways to release the pres­sure, but his weight on my butt keeps me pinned.

You’re noth­ing but emp­ty talk, Jim­my,” Dan says, “and the only woman you’ve had is your drunk-ass moth­er.”

Fuck you,” I say and jerk hard as I can.

You’re a worth­less piece of shit.  I want you to say it. Say it, you fuck­head.”

I’m not going to say it.  There’s no way I’m going to say it.  If I say it, they’ll let me go, sure. Yes­ter­day, I would’ve.  But not today.  Today, my mama made me eggs for break­fast. She got her­self out of bed and made me eggs.  That ought to be worth some­thing.

My arm is released, and I think, okay, but then his grip wraps around my throat.  His hands are warm and moist and the pads of his fin­gers dig into the soft parts of my neck.  My adam's apple jams flat. I have to cough but I can’t. At first it’s like when you hold your breath. Not too bad.  I pull my arm from my back, try to push myself up. Dan’s weight’s in the mid­dle of my back, though, can’t do a pushup with that mon­key on my back. He rat­tles me, and my head snaps back and for­ward, back and for­ward. There, a smidgen of breath, but then he clamps down again. My lungs strain, try to pull in air.  My heart thumps, thumps, thumps.  Try to mus­cle it and then wild­ly squirm and push.  Almost.  He’s lean­ing for­ward and I knock him off bal­ance, my body halfway out from under.  But air, air, air.  Fwoop, the sens­es shut down.

Noth­ing.

You kill him?” It’s Killer’s voice com­ing from above and to the left.

My throat.  It hurts.  I cough.  I cough again.

There’s silence.

I push myself onto my back. My arms ache and my neck and my back where I twist­ed it.  I crack open my eyes but it’s so bright. I slam them shut and pull my arm over my face.

Killer:  “You fuck­ing lost it, man.” His voice is more urgent, high­er, than I’ve ever heard it.

Dan: “Shut up.” He’s to my right.

Killer: “I’ve nev­er seen you that pissed off.”

Dan: “Just shut the fuck up.”

Killer: “No, you real­ly lost it.  You were going to kill him.”

I feel Dan loom over me and I curl to pro­tect my stom­ach, but he doesn’t touch me and instead I hear the scuf­fle of dirt as Killer steps back.

You let that piss-ant get to you,” Killer says soft­ly.

Dan steps over me and I hear an oomph. I crack my eyes in time to see Killer on his ass in the dirt and Dan stand­ing over him.

This has nev­er hap­pened before.  Something’s been broke.  Killer’s always been the hands to Dan’s body.

From beyond us, there’s a dis­tinct whooomp!  I don’t know what it is.  I hear Dan say, “Shit,” and then after a bit he and then Killer walk over toward the sound.

I care­ful­ly stretch to see if I’ve bust­ed any­thing.  Don’t seem to.  I cau­tious­ly push myself up and teeter to my feet.  I don’t even look for my glasses—I can see how it is well enough with­out them.  I walk up behind Dan and Killer but keep my dis­tance.  Dan’s shoul­ders are back, his head cocked.  Killer’s off to one side and hun­kered a bit, his arm across his stom­ach.

They’re stand­ing in front of the pile of bar­rels, which is engulfed in flame.  The flames aren’t just orange. They flare up in patch­es of blue and then green.  They flick and weave.  We stand and watch, but the heat ris­es and soon we’re forced to take a step back.  The flames con­tin­ue to climb high­er, straighter now, more fran­tic, grasp­ing up to heav­en like the north­ern lights.

Then, a weird thing.  The bar­rels start to bulge.  The sides warp and round out­wards.  There’s a creak­ing, met­al stress.  I have a split sec­ond to think, get the fuck out of here, and then the whole thing explodes.  I see flames engulf Dan and Killer and then they’re on me.  I’m sur­round­ed by flames, I feel the pres­sure of their blast, but there’s noth­ing, no pain.  I mar­vel at this.  I back away, and still the flames cocoon me.  It feels like all the air’s been sucked away—I can’t breathe, I pull and pull but there’s no air, my shirt is burn­ing and my pants are burn­ing and the acrid odor of burned hair reach­es my nos­trils and some­thing else, like cooked veni­son, I glance down, my right hand is black but still in the shape of a hand, large pieces of skin hang from my left hand, I won­der what my face looks like, I should be in pain, but I don’t feel any­thing, I think, you know what, I’m going to die, yep, that’s it, it’s the end peo­ple don’t sur­vive some­thing like this wait that fire­man who lived but then nobody could look at him not just because his flesh was shape­less like a pota­to but because he car­ried him­self all stiff and twist­ed like the flames deformed his insides that house fire in Last Chance where the kid burned to death I’m wait­ing for the pain to come what hap­pened to his mama? no pain what does that mean? the flames sur­round me I’m the kid not the fire­man fall to knees we’re all gonna

Hav­ing grown up on a ranch, Tama­ra Linse appre­ci­ates indoor plumb­ing.  She lives in Wyoming, where she writes short sto­ries and nov­els. To sup­port her writ­ing habit, she also edits, free­lances, and occa­sion­al­ly teach­es.  Her web­site is http://​www​.tama​r​alinse​.com.


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