Spite and Malice, fiction by CL Bledsoe

After Tom­my took the PCP, KT told him to calm down three times; each time, she made a point of stand­ing clos­er and clos­er to the shot­gun, the first, mov­ing across the room near it, the sec­ond, with her hand on the bar­rel, and final­ly, hold­ing it, point­ed dead at his gut. Each time, he laughed and called her a name her moth­er would’ve killed him for, but she hard­ly blinked. Final­ly, after the fourth time of him push­ing her down, rub­bing her face in the car­pet so her skin was seared red from the burn, she wait­ed till he went out­side to piss on his car tires, let him sit back on the couch, and asked as calm­ly as she could muster, if he was going to calm down.

Fuck you, bitch,” he mum­bled.

So she shot him with bird­shot. She tried to step back but didn’t want to go back so far it dis­persed beyond that hard gut of his. He looked down at his gut, dot­ted with red marks like a gar­den of red flow­ers, KT couldn’t help think­ing (she was a lit­tle stoned her­self) and just shook his head.

Damn,” he said, more laugh­ing than sur­prised.

Well I’m sor­ry,” she said. “But I told you.” She set her jaw and gave him angry eyes.

You can’t go shoot­ing a man in his own house,” he said.

I know,” she said. “But you brought it on your­self.”

He shook his head again and tried to rise to his feet. She put the gun down (well away from him) and helped him up and then helped him over to the phone. It took him a sec­ond to dial.

My bitch wife just shot me,” he said. She punched him in the arm. “Well hell, you did. Y’all need to send a ambu­lance pron­to.” He hand­ed it to her to give direc­tions and went back to the couch.

KT put her hand over the receiv­er. “Don’t go to sleep, Tom­my,” she said. She nudged him with her foot.

Well hell, let’s play cards till they get here,” he said. She hung up and dealt out two decks.  “You always cheat,” Tom­my grum­bled.

No,” KT said with a smile. “You just don’t know how to play worth a shit.”

The kids got back from school to find the house emp­ty. There was a note from KT that said she’d be out on bail in the morn­ing, so they made them­selves cere­al and watched TV like usu­al until Joey went to his job at Piz­za Hut. Chy­na usu­al­ly slept until he got home, and then went on her paper route, but this night Joey came in late, red-faced, hold­ing up a tick­et.

Tags,” he said. “Almost took the car.”

She read over the tick­et, which told her noth­ing use­ful, while Joey relat­ed the sto­ry of how he’d passed a cop on the way home, turned off on a side road when the cruis­er appeared behind him, but was ulti­mate­ly pulled over.

Cop want­ed to impound the K-car,” he said. “Cause we got no tags or insur­ance, but I con­vinced him to let me take it home.”

Good job,” Chy­na said, which made Joey smile.

What are we going to do? Ticket’s going to cost $400 plus we got to get tags and insur­ance,” Joey said.

Chy­na thought about it. “We’ve got to ask mom, I guess.”

 

KT came home the next morn­ing and found the kids wait­ing for her. She didn’t think to ask why they weren’t at school, and they didn’t tell her.

Where’s Tom­my?” Joey asked.

Hos­pi­tal.” KT explained the events of the day before while Chy­na scram­bled eggs for every­one. “They let me out, even though I’m a felon with pos­ses­sion of a firearm. They tried to get me on attempt­ed manslaugh­ter. If I want­ed to slaugh­ter some­body, he’d be slaugh­tered.”

Why’d they let you out?” Chy­na served the eggs on mis­matched plates. She gave the Christ­mas one to Joey since it was his favorite.

Cause I agreed to do a lit­tle some­thing for the City Pros­e­cu­tor,” KT said as Chy­na sat the only actu­al porce­lain plate they had in front of her.

KT cel­e­brat­ed her free­dom so hard that by the after­noon, she was in bed sleep­ing it off, which set Chy­na in a fury.

She gets lone­ly when Tommy’s gone,” Joey said, by way of apol­o­giz­ing for his moth­er.

Hell, he’s got it bet­ter than we do. He’s get­ting that good hos­pi­tal food, got a com­fy bed,” Chy­na said. “Prob­a­bly on mor­phine, know­ing him.”

We can’t pay the tick­et,” Joey said.

I know,” Chy­na said.

They sat on the couch lis­ten­ing to their moth­er snore in the oth­er room.

We have to go,” Chy­na said. She rock­et­ed to her feet.

They’ll know we’re not her,” Tom­my said.

Chy­na shrugged. “Who gives a shit?” She went back into the bed­room and shook KT until she regained some­thing approach­ing con­scious­ness.

Where’s the meet?” Chy­na asked. “Mom! Where’s the meet?” KT mum­bled some­thing incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Joey brought in a cup of water and offered it to Chy­na. They exchanged shrugs and dumped it on KT. She sput­tered and woke mum­bling curs­es.

Where’s the meet?” Chy­na asked.

I just need a minute,” KT said.

That’s okay, but where is it?” Chy­na asked.

House on Levesque. Pack­age.” She gave the address only after Chy­na shook her fierce­ly.

Then what?” Chy­na put her ear to KT’s mouth as the woman mum­bled some­thing. She went to KT’s purse and pulled out an enve­lope.

 

They pulled up to the house twen­ty min­utes lat­er. Chy­na ran up to the door and knocked while Joey stayed in the run­ning car.

You’re an hour late,” a voice said from behind the cracked door.

Sor­ry. Traf­fic,” Chy­na said.

Traf­fic? Shit,” the man said. “You got it for me?”

Chy­na gave him the bulky enve­lope from KT’s purse. “What’s this?” The man exam­ined it sus­pi­cious­ly.

Fuck if I know,” Chy­na said. “Give it up or I take it back.” She put her hand on the enve­lope and the man snatched it inside. The door slammed. She heard the sounds of him tear­ing the enve­lope open and then noth­ing. She banged on the door. “Come on!” It jerked open and anoth­er enve­lope slid out.

You tell him it was a plea­sure doing busi­ness,” the man said. Chy­na put her hand on the enve­lope and he snatched it back inside. She reared back and kicked the door hard so that it slammed into him. He yelped in pain, and she grabbed the new enve­lope and glared at him as he held his head.

Like­wise, I’m sure,” she said.

Back in the car, Chy­na hand­ed the enve­lope to Joey, who had it open before she could say word one.

What is it?” she asked.

Pic­tures.” He showed her. “That’s two guys,” he said.

There were sev­er­al pic­tures and a roll of neg­a­tives. There were dou­bles of some of the pic­tures.

Black­mail,” Joey said.

Good plan,” Chy­na said.

The drop off spot wasn’t far. They passed a police car on the way.

I think that’s the same one,” Joey said, turn­ing to watch it as they passed. “What’ll we do if he gets us?”

Give him a pic­ture,” Chy­na said.

 

She pulled over at anoth­er house on the way to the drop off.

How we going to remem­ber this one?” she said as she maneu­vered beside the mail­box.

Joey looked around. The house looked like all the oth­ers except there was a bush under the win­dow that sort of looked like a heart. “Love bush,” Joey said, point­ing. He rolled down his win­dow and opened the mail­box and stuck some of the pic­tures inside.

 

The drop off was at anoth­er house.

I want to go this time,” Joey said.

What if you get shot?” Chy­na asked.

It’s not shoot­ing I’m wor­ried about him doing to me.”

Chy­na laughed. “Suit your­self.” She turned the car off. They went up and knocked. A man opened the door. He looked tired, wor­ried, unshaven, which wasn’t unusu­al for the kids to see, but it seemed unusu­al on him. He ush­ered them inside and then stared out the peep­hole.

You couldn’t park on the street?” He asked.

Peo­ple like us get towed if we park on the street in neigh­bor­hoods like this,” Chy­na said.

He looked at her. “Young,” he said. “What’s your name?” She told him and he laughed. “Hon­ey, you were doomed. What was your mom­ma think­ing?”

I fig­ure she was think­ing of some­place far away from here,” Chy­na said.

He nod­ded thought­ful­ly. “So where is it?” Chy­na hand­ed him the pack­age. “You didn’t look inside it, did you?” He glanced in it and then stud­ied both of them.

No sir,” they both said.

Well, as I under­stand it, your com­pen­sa­tion has been tak­en care of already.” He paused as Joey cleared his throat and held up the tick­et. “What’s this?”

I need my car,” Joey said. “Can’t get to work with­out it.”

So pay the tick­et.” The prosecutor’s mouth curled into a sneer.

Can’t,” Joey said.

The pros­e­cu­tor shook his head.

Sir,” Chy­na said. “We don’t mean to impose on your hos­pi­tal­i­ty, but I believe you are a good man, a man who knows what it’s like to be judged and treat­ed unfair­ly. We just need help so that we can help our­selves. That’s all we’re ask­ing. Not a hand­out.”

I’m not a police­man. This is beyond my juris­dic­tion.”

Nice guy like you, I bet you have a lot of friends,” Chy­na said, smil­ing.

 

After­wards, they went to three mail­box­es before they found the right one.

Hell, he didn’t even search us,” Joey said.

Bet it was his first time,” Chy­na said.

With a girl,” Joey said, laugh­ing.

Chy­na stuck the pic­tures down between the seats of the car.

What are we going to do with them?”

Keep them,” Chy­na said. “Just in case.”

In case what? Couldn’t we get some mon­ey for them or some­thing?”

I don’t know,” Chy­na said. “Thing about mon­ey is it comes and goes. Come on, let’s stop at Son­ic and get some food while we think about it.”

Real­ly?” Joey’s eyes lit up like the child he used to be. It made Chy­na smile. The future was bright and full of tater tots.

CL Bled­soe is the author of the young adult nov­el Sun­light; three poet­ry col­lec­tions, _____(Want/Need)Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short sto­ry col­lec­tion called Nam­ing the Ani­mals. A poet­ry chap­book, Good­bye to Noise, is avail­able online at www​.righthand​point​ing​.com/​b​l​e​d​soe. Anoth­er, The Man Who Killed Him­self in My Bath­room, is avail­able at http://​ten​page​spress​.word​press​.com/​2​0​1​1​/​0​8​/​0​1​/​t​h​e​-​m​a​n​-​w​h​o​-​k​i​l​l​e​d​-​h​i​m​s​e​l​f​-​i​n​-​m​y​-​b​a​t​h​r​o​o​m​-​b​y​-​c​l​-​b​l​e​d​s​oe/. His sto­ry, "Leav­ing the Gar­den," was select­ed as a Notable Sto­ry of 2008 for Sto­ry South's Mil­lion Writer's Award. He’s been nom­i­nat­ed for the Push­cart Prize 5 times. He blogs at Mur­der Your Dar­lings, http://​clbled​soe​.blogspot​.com Bled­soe has writ­ten reviews for The Hollins Crit­ic, The Arkansas Review, Amer­i­can Book Review, Prick of the Spin­dle, The Pedestal Mag­a­zine, and else­where. Bled­soe lives with his wife and daugh­ter in Mary­land.

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