This is a short-short in a setting I plan on returning to, taking place in an unnamed city on the east coast in the early part of the Reagan administration.
Please be forewarned that it contains a bit of violent content.
Jane woke up, naked under a gray and black camo blanket, the sunrise in her eyes through a tiny round window in the side of their little trailer.
Her first thought was of the baked potatoes they’d eaten the night before, and the four which remained, wrapped in foil in their fridge.
They had propane from a big canister outside, but no electric. A microwave would have brought the potatoes back to life, but their oven would dry them before they were heated through.
She crawled out of bed, onto the brown carpet with little yellow flowers. There was a T-shirt she didn’t think she’d seen before, gray with KOBK scribbled on the front in marker, which meant it was her boyfriend’s and big enough to act as a dress. Kill or be killed was something he liked to say, but it didn’t exactly describe his way of life.
She slipped on the T-shirt, slid back the accordion door, and he was sitting at the small table where they’d eaten those potatoes the night before. The head of an axe was in his hand, the kind that weighed thirty pounds and could cut through plate steel. The fiberglass handle leaned against the stove. He slowly swiped at the blade with a sheet of 800 sandpaper, but it was already polished like a mirror.
“Did I wake you?” he asked. His tone was friendly, but his face was blank. It made her think of her sister, and then another corpse.
He’d knelt over a body, in a dark alley downtown. She’d been hunting him for weeks, hoping to talk to him, and hoping he would help her. But helping wasn’t his way, and he only killed when he felt like it.
In that alley he knelt over a corpse, blood covering his hands and white shirt sleeves up to the elbows, red and pink scattered on the asphalt from the black pit in the dead man’s stomach.
“What are you doing?” she asked, and he looked up at her, his face covered by a screen, like a wedding veil or a bee-keepers mask.
“I was looking in his stomach,” he said.
“I’m Jane,” she said.
She later learned he’d killed his name first, but at the time his silence had seemed rude.
“…Why are you looking in his stomach?” she asked.
“I was, but I can’t find anything,” he said. “I tried the brain first- not his brain, but I thought…. You know how, when you do something bad, it hurts…. I was wondering if there’s something wrong, in the stomach…. Not criminality, but… evil, you know?”
“…Yeah,” she said.
He wasn’t what she’d expected, but he was deadly, and for a few moments she’d thought she could use him.
She was back in the trailer again, clearing her thoughts with a shake of her head.
His dead eyes were still staring at her. “You okay, Jane?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, and leaning around the axe blade she kissed his cheek. “Hash and eggs?” she asked.
“That sounds swell,” he said.