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Crazy Wild

Jett Sage

This page copyright © 2005 Olympia Press.

ONE

DIXIE DINER

WHERE ALL THE RIGHT AND THE SMART FOLKS EAT

OPEN 24 HOURS

The Ferrari screeched off the pavement and slid to a stop in front of the diner. Baby Doll turned back the mirror and drew a lipstick across her mouth—a mouth that was already swollen with red coloring. Then she slipped the lipstick back in its jeweled silhouette case and-with the fingers of one hand splayed before her face like a Fire-and-Ice nail polish ad-she slicked her eyebrows with a little spit. Odin held the door open for her. She slid her short-shorts across the leather seat and turned on the ball of her buttocks, swinging her long brown legs out of the car to stand beside him. He slammed the door, walking into the diner. She was right behind him.

“I don't mind you following in my footsteps, baby,” he said. “Just let me get out of them first, will you?”

“I'm sorry—” She stepped on, his heels again.

“Christ.”

The diner was empty. A waitress tip-tapped out from a room in back on high heels. She was a plain girl, almost homely and too young to work alone at night. They sat down at a table near the glass door of the place and she tiptapped over with a menu. A sign above an old Crosley TV set in the corner said the kitchen closed at 10 P.M. weekdays and 12 P.M. Saturdays. But she told them that there were a few things like coffee and cold-cuts she could fix behind the counter. Then she tip-tapped away with their order.

Odin looked out the window. A cat jumped down on the tin roof of a sorry and ill-balanced shed between the diner and a cypress tree. The torn brown body of a mouse was clutched in its jaws as it trotted onto the far end of the roof and stood black and slope-spined on the edge, studying the emptiness below. Then it sat on its fat haunches and stared with phosphorescent jungle eyes at the small, yellow square of light that fell on the shed from the diner's open window. Its head swung up and the two glowing points of eyes stared at Odin. It hissed at him—ears laid back flat against its head—the dead body still in its jaws, sticking out from each side, and stretching its mouth in a deadly be-whiskered smile. Then, slowly lowering its forequarters, it laid down on the corrugated roof, letting claws curve out over soft pads, its tail whipping sinuously but gently. After a while it got up and trotted a few feet back along the edge of the tin roof, until it reached a corner where it crouched, then leaped to the ground and disappeared.

“Don't leave me,” said Baby Doll.

He looked at her. “What?”

“Sign,” she said, pretty-smiling, “right behind you. Says 'Not responsible for ladies left over thirty seconds.'”

He glanced over his shoulder at the sign.

“What makes you think I want to be responsible for you?”

“Oh, because—” she said.

“Because what, lille ven?”

“Why do you call me that?”

“What?”

“'Li'l ven'-what you just said.”

“Because I don't know your name, baby.”

“What does it mean?”

“Means 'friend'.”

“You're my friend?”

“Sure.”

“I'm your friend, too.”

“How old're you?” he asked. “Twelve?”

“Maybe.”

“Got any folks?”

“No.”

“Go to school?”

“Shee-it,” she said.

“What do you do? Spend all your time in motels with old men?...”

“I want to be a Princess,” she said.

“That's going to be your occupation?”

“Yes.”

Her honey-colored hair was brushed back, high off her neck in a pony tail that was secured with a rubber band. Freckles crossed her nose. There was about her an insidious charm, a fey grace and the air of a baby femme du monde. He went into the lavatory. He glanced in the mirror. The golden stubble of beard on his face looked almost like grain stalks in wet black soil after a long rain. So dark had the hot sun of Florida summer burned his skin that his blond hair was brilliant in contrast to it and it was skin so dark that the metallic blue and bloodshot white of his eyes actually looked grotesque against it. The light from a single bulb screwed into the wall beside the mirror splintered on the stiletto's razor-sharp blade when he raised it and scraped the stubble from his chin and jaw. A few deadly-fast strokes trimmed his heavy sideburns and cut the long female-soft hair over his ears, almost man-short. The red silk shoulders and front of his sports shirt now gleamed with gold bristles, and he brushed them off over the bowl, before he slid the stiletto back in his boot and shoved the dirty-picture and name-scratched door that swung open silently into the diner.

Baby Doll was not alone.

She was still sitting at the table with a glass of ice water in front of her. But a two-hundred-pound truck driver whose end did not justify his jeans was leaning on the table. Outside the diner a big diesel tractor and thirty-four-foot aluminum trailer was parked under the cypress tree. On the side of the trailer a sign painted in black and yellow letters said EXPLOSIVES.

The truck driver shifted his fat behind. “You got nice little titties, honey. I bet you can...”

She struck his hand off. “Go 'way,” she cried. “Lea' me alone, can't you!”

He laughed and grabbed her arm. “Now, honey chile, that ain't no way to speak to Big Daddy—”

“'Lo,” said Odin.

“—Well, well, well.” The big man turned. “If it ain't the hot bird in the Fart that couldn't hold his water for a place to pass us back there on the road a piece. Well, well—” He stopped. The waitress was standing at the counter, grasping herself by the elbows and hugging herself as though she was cold. Beside her, swung halfway around on a stool, sat a small, wasted and almost Sinatra-thin man who was sipping coffee from a steaming cup out of which a spoon stuck in his eye. He had a creased, cheeselike face and hair that was slicked over a bald spot on his head. He said something to the other trucker as he set his cup down in his saucer. But it was so thick with Tennessee that Odin missed it completely.

“Yeah, I knowed of a cocksucker like that,” the big man said. “Once you lets—What?”

Odin shoved his way past him and sat down opposite Baby Doll. The red print of a thumb-the only mark anywhere on her arm—was fading slowly. There came the clink of a spoon against a saucer and the truck driver with the bald spot on his head made a heavy, ugly, old man's belch. A jet whined across the sky and far away a whippoorwill shrieked, then ceased and in a while, from farther still, shrieked again. A sparrow swept down on the shed outside the window, landing in the square of light that reflected in the tin roof. It strutted around rustling its feathers, chirping as though it alone had found the sun there in the darkness and roaring silence of night. Over on the counter a swarm of random and blue-shiny flies buzzed around an apple pie, some hairy bodies even crawling in the V cut— resembling not flies as much as field raisins.

The big trucker leaned on the table again and leered at Baby Doll. “That's a real flippin' ponytail you got there, honey,” he said. He reached over and fondled her hair while she, appealing to Odin with frightened eyes, sat still and endured the hand that moved slowly down her neck to squeeze her shoulder. A tiny insect fluttered about a wet and shapeless patch of sweat on the woman-broad seat of the truck driver's jeans.

Odin stretched his left foot forward, with heel on the floor, studying the bright tan shine on the tip of his boot.

“Move your fat ass out of my face,” he said flatly, but with unmistakable intent.

“Don't sound me, boy,” the other said. “Don't say nothin' to me. 'Cause ef you do, I'll jest natch'ally be fo'ced to pick up that chair you're sittin' on and throw it and you both from amazin' grace into a floatin' opportunity.”

Then he turned back to Baby Doll, towering over her while she sat and stared surprised at Odin who was stolidly silent. He (the truck driver) grabbed her ponytail and twisted it in his fingers, pulling her face up to his. “No! No!” she said, trying to throw her head aside.

“You little beauty,” he murmured. “I'd like your kind of...” Then he leaned over her, his face bending to hers, his hot, harsh whisky breath on her closed eyes. A tear squeezed out from under an eyelid and filtered through the long, fawn-colored lashes that were curled up on her cheeks like baby fingers. It slid down her snub nose and clung to the corner of her lips—lips that were wet and soft across her mouth. The big mouth was almost on hers when Odin picked up a fork and, raising it over his head, drove it deep into the red splay-fingered hand that rested on the table between him and the girl. It took the hand just above the knuckles, spitting it to the table, the prongs passing completely and precisely through its center.

The big man screamed and his body sprang up stiff and quivering as though a spring had exploded and sent a steel rod up his rear, through his spine. He did not scream again. He was rigid with pain and the hand jerked and twitched on the table as if it was not even connected to his arm. He turned and seized the fork handle. He screamed. He tore at it and pulled the fork out of the table, then drew the prongs slowly, gently, painfully, up through the flesh that now had the look of freshly ground hamburger meat. Small gleaming white splinters of bone came up with a bent prong and dark blood gushed from the wound. Then the fork came out completely and he threw it across the room and collapsed.

The man at the counter slammed his cup down and came off his stool with a hoarse shout. But Odin sat in a half-crouch and he reached his hand backward and took up his chair. He swung it in a wide arc and let it fly. It smashed across the man's face and he fell down on one knee and kept pushing his hair back over the bald spot on his head. The whole rotten, termite-weakened chair crumbled and fell apart, clattering on the red floor tiles. Odin caught the man by the two heavy tufts of hair on his temples and dragged him erect. He flat-handed him across the face... crack, crack... crack, crack, crack. The steady splitting sounds echoed in the diner, sharp like pistol shots, while blood smeared between mouth and palm. The man's head hung down, making guttural distorted noises that were gruesome to hear, and Odin twisted the tufts of hair with strong fingers until the head went back with a snap. He dragged his hands across the beaked nose (while the man mumbled for him to stop) and then drew back his heavy fist, slamming it into the nose as hard as he could, breaking it with a sodden smack of bone on bone. The man slid to the floor, blood running down his shirt, his eyes closed, unconscious.

Again there was that roaring silence of flies buzzing in the pie on the counter and the bird's chirping as it strutted around in the yellow square of window-shaped light that lay outside the diner, on the shed's tin roof. From the big truck driver, lying face-down at Baby Doll's feet, there came a tremendous fart.

“Speak to me, sweet lips,” Odin muttered and wiped his hands on a napkin.

From out on the shed there came the sound of a bird startled into flight and a buckling thud as a cat leaped from the cypress tree and landed on the tin roof, running its claw-ends down the sloping surface in wiggling lines, struggling furiously to get a footing on the wavy silver-white metal, as it slid backwards toward the roof's edge. It was a sound that touched the nerves in a man's spine, like chalk scratching on a blackboard. Then came a thin, well-fading cry as the cat fell tail-first to the ground.

“You—” the waitress began and ceased, unable to go on.

“Um?” Odin looked at her.

“You—” she began again. “You—”

He turned to Baby Doll. “You all right, pussy?”

She nodded her head quickly.

“Want something to eat?”

She shook her head. Her face turned white under dark tan.

“C'mon,” he said. “Let's go.”

There was a sign at the side of the highway that said,

“You Are Now Entering Fern Park. Pop. 407,”

then a blur of buildings and another sign, almost front to back with the first:

“You Are Now Leaving Fern Park. Pop. 407.”

Trees flashed by them-ahead a melon-shaped Ford was moving down the highway-and the RPM on the big tachometer climbed as the Ferrari's speedometer shot up to 120 m.p.h., then held at a steady 130, not rising or falling an inch. They roared along the dark highway mile after mile, their headlights glowing from tiny white points to great whirling circles in the rear window of the car in front. Then they floated up behind the Ford, the r.p.m.'s dropping and their motor growling angrily as they slowed down to seventy miles an hour.

The Ford had a long antenna on its rear fender but it was a nothing car compared to the Ferrari. So Odin swung to the left and pulled ahead, drawing up fast and then past to cut in front with a rush of speed. He glanced in his mirror. The other driver's face was only a white-green blur bathed in dash lights. A siren screamed and a red signal flashed on the roof of the car. It tried to match wheels with the Ferrari, but the blue dots of taillights on the big F quickly grew smaller and dimmer in the distance, as it stretched out and flew low, with pipes blatting back over the pavement. A slow-moving manure truck was climbing a hill with a clashing of bearings and the Ferrari came up fast behind, giving it the horn. The green-smelling wind now carried the thick, hot odor of cows back at them. The bed of the truck was heaped high with a dark pile that glowed softly at the edge, shimmering a little with heat, and droppings spilled out on the highway—leaving a smoking brown trail behind it. Under the Ferrari the soft matter slushed around the tires, but the hard stuff was mashed into a wake of flat cakes. The long, bull-nosed hood of the car moved slightly to the left. Odin looked up the rushing strip of asphalt that stretched over the moonlit hill. Then he pressed down on the accelerator and his scarred right hand went far over on the wheel. They swung to the other lane and roared ahead on the dim ribbon of road, the wind whistling around them as they whipped by the no-passing signs and started past the manure truck. Then another truck, a huge iron and steel monster, came suddenly over the top of the hill from the other side. The diesel smoke hung motionless in the air above the cab and, for a moment, it stood at the summit—immobile, silent and towering against the last stars of night, with a thin shimmer of exhaust rising from its stack.

Then suddenly the big truck meshed gears and nosed down the grade with a high-pitched laboring of the engine. The Ferrari was moving past the slow-paced manure truck and there was only a split-second in which to make a decision because the big rig bearing down upon them could not brake that twenty-ton inertia on the roll or pull over without jackknifing in a ditch-like depression that ran alongside the highway. To push the brake pedal down hard enough to lock their wheels and try to drop back into their own lane behind the slower-moving manure truck would be suicidal. But to pull ahead at over? hundred miles an hour and try to cut back in front of the truck was like racing into the arms of the old man in the cowl with the hourglass and the scythe riding on his shoulder. “An eee-seee riii-der— STRUCK this turd to-day-eee!” he sang and shoved the gas pedal to the floor. He swung his wheel sharply to the right, and they shot past the steaming radiator cap on the nose of the manure truck, rocking crazily—cutting back in front of it with a wild burst of speed, rolling into their own lane just in time to avoid a head-on collision. The big trailer truck was a blur of metal hurtling past. The air exploded in a thunderclap as the backwash struck the Ferrari a terrific blow on the side.

“... Fidel es un animal!” a voice screamed on the radio.

There was the sharp roaring crack of a forty-five-caliber revolver and a solid chunk as a bullet hit soft flesh. No scream came, just a gasp and a faint rustling sound as if someone had grabbed a microphone, hung on, and then slid slowly to the floor. Then a shout: “Caramba!” The radio screeched; squawked. Silence. An orchestra played the Cuban danzon.

Odin crossed himself.

Two dirty white mules flicked their stubby tails, dropping occasional soft patches of hot brown onto the pavement as they walked along, intent on their own important business.

“Shit shit here and shit shit there, shit here shit there, everywhere shit shit!” he sang.

Baby Doll stared at him. “What?”

“Never mind. You're too young and cute to understand,” he said. Beyond the mule wagon the road was empty. They drove past a billboard showing a ten-foot-tall kid in trapdoor pj's with feet on them. The kid had a twelve-foot-tall rubber tire over his shoulder and carried a lit candle in his hand Underneath the sign there was the legend,

“TIME TO RE-TIRE... GET A FISK...”

Odin yawned and rubbed his eye.

TWO

A Jaguar XK-E coupe sounded the traditional ta-ta-ta-ta, turn turn, at the edge of the field, and a sling-shot roadster let out a WOW wow wow wow... as it roared past with a dragster in hot pursuit. “Piss like a cow, fuck like a duck, Mama wants a dick in the asshole!”

Odin looked at the two girls on the hood of his Ferrari; they crossed their legs. He looked at Baby Doll; she picked her nose. He looked at Daddy-O. “Look, Pops,” he said. “If you're not just a rattler, we'll race you....”

Daddy-O flushed slightly. “Rattler?”

“Big talker.”

“Oh.” Daddy-O took out a bankroll. A spade cat moved an arm through the air and grinned. “Stick'm?” he said. A gravity knife dropped into his hand from his sleeve. With a flick of his wrist a six-inch blade came leaping out of the handle. “Stick'm?” Odin shook his head without taking his eyes off Daddy-O. On the field a Corvette Sting Ray made a fade test: accelerating to one hundred miles per hour in a few seconds, then skidding to a stop and accelerating again. A souped-up Studebaker Avanti drove up to la linea and stopped next to a Porsche two-liter Carrera.

“Five hundred dollars,” said Daddy-O. “I can beat any freebie on this track.”

Odin watched a dog sniff around the Porsche and raise a leg against it. The driver cursed and got out. He took a flying kick at the dog and fell flat on his ass. The dog ran on a few feet—then stopped to watch him. The driver jumped up and ran after it, throwing rocks and gesturing his arms savagely. The dog took off across the field, howling.

“I knew a guy who drove under a stud horse in a Jaguar,” said Daddy-O. “You shoulda seen what happened to him.”

“Rained, huh?” said the spade.

“No. He gave birth to a half-Jaguar and half-horse. When it ran out of gas, he could ride it to a garage.”

The starter came over to them. She was a beautiful bitch who wore her white hair long over her ears, brushed back with Command. Her skin was pale and under the white brows her eyes, although actually colorless, appeared pink because blood vessels were visible in her retinas.

“You run off from a standing start,” she said. “O.K.?”

Odin nodded and put on a blue fiber-body crash helmet.

“Winner takes all,” said Daddy-O. Then: “He-y...” He grinned at the albino. “Do me a favor, willya, chick?”

“Sure,” she said.

He gestured. “Spit on me.”

“Whaaaaaa ...?”

“Spit on me!” He gestured again.

The girl looked at Odin and shrugged her shoulders. Then she threw her head back and spat squarely in Daddy-O's face. Strings of saliva ran down his cheeks.

“Thanks,” he said. “Thanks ever so much.”

“What'd you want me to do that for?”

“What for?” Daddy-O exclaimed in surprise. “You're an albino, ain't you? You bring good luck!”

The girl looked at Odin again. He shrugged and slid into the Ferrari, buckling on his shoulder harness and safety belt.

“Here they come!” someone shouted excitedly.

A deep rumble of exhausts rent the air as the other cars came up to the line. Pimples poured his Rag-Top into the narrow space between the Ferrari and Daddy-O's AC-Cobra. The Cowboy drove his Deuce up along the other side of the Ferrari and two freebies put their sports coupes on the outside positions, bracketing and holding the line-up like a pair of matching book ends.

“Watch out for that Uncle Daniel,” the albino told Odin, jerking a thumb toward Daddy-O's AC-Cobra. “It don't look like nothin' but it's got one of them big Ford V-8's inside.”

“Um,” Odin gave her a knowing smile. “Sure, chick, but quit coming on like that. Don't you think I've been around?”

The albino winked.

Baby Doll came across the field from the woods, running heavily but fast. She stuck her head through the Ferrari's window and pulled his face up, her fingers under the jawbones at either side of his throat. Then she kissed him, not quickly and not softly—but slowly and roughly, as a lover would. His throat worked hard and steady, drinking in the sweetness and dew from her lips. His hands moved around her neck and down her back to where his fingers found her buttocks, though there was not much to find. He cupped each little mound, making a crevice in the back of her shorts.

“All right, you freebies. La linea!”

The albino walked into the glare of headlights, drawing an enormous shadow along the ground. READY. She raised her hands over her head and stood with legs wide apart, giving the starter's signal. Flame throwers exploded, roars and growls echoed and re-echoed across the meadow, then faded to throb with waiting power. AIM. Toes stabbed the gas pedals, restlessly gunning the motors. FIRE! She jumped into the air like a cheerleader and the line of cars leaped forward with head-snapping jerks, the dust form their spinning wheels tossing and whirling in clouds around her.

The sixth car, the Ferrari, let the others get off the starting line before it growled after their bouncing taillights. Odin knew that Pimples and the Cowboy had expected to sandwich him between them. Up ahead the two cars slammed into each other with a dull thud of metal against metal: like garbage cans—or two palms smacking together, expecting to smash a fly. Through the showers of dirt and gravel Odin saw the Deuce and Rag-Top sideswipe again and spurt swiftly down the field. One of the coupes tried to cut off Daddy-O's Cobra but he spun his wheel sharply to the left and burned rubber—ramming furiously across the ruts in the field. A second later he poured on the power and the white Cobra sputtered and roared, outrunning the coupe. Behind Daddy-O and the freebie Odin got into a dogfight with Pimples and the Cowboy. Jockeying for positions the three cars boomed down the straight when suddenly the Ferrari put all its horses to work and shot between them—its speedometer inching past 115, past 120, hit 140, then 145. A minute later the Cowboy crashed into a coupe and went flying over the hood, screaming-his Deuce skidding around, spinning sideways, then rolling across the field like a toy, coming to a stop upside-down, its wheels turning. The coupe balanced on two wheels for a time-its tires smoking as the driver pumped his brakes. Then it bounced back on all fours and went howling after the pack. Ahead of the Ferrari Daddy-O was having a battle royal with the Rag-Top driven by Pimples. In a dead heat with one coupe, and hot on the tail of another, the Cobra rolled back and forth across the field, trying to find a place to pass. At the end of the track the cars slowed down, hitting their brakes for the ditch-turn and the long race home.

This was when Odin made his move.

Spotting an opening he shoved the Ferrari alongside the Cobra and between the coupes, heading straight for the ditch at a hundred and fifty. Then suddenly his foot jumped off the accelerator and hit his brakes. Straining against the safety harness he spun the big white steering wheel to the right, slamming his foot back on the gas pedal. The front wheels skidded around—sending spray upon spray of gravel banging against the underside of the car. A row of furrows gouged into the ditch as the rear end skidded sideways and around in a wild U-turn. Digging gravel his wheels tore into the dirt and leaped forward. There was a sudden wail of hot tires behind him, and then the ditch exploded. A rock churned up by another car struck his window, running a spider-web across the glass. A second explosion followed and a great ball of solid red flame reflected in his rear-view mirror. One of the freebies had crashed-like a bomb exploding. Suddenly a bolt of lightning hit his eyes and the Rag-Top's blazing headlights careened toward him. For a moment he was blinded; then his vision returned. He cut to port sharply, his tires squealing as he raced by the car with his speedometer needle on the peg: too fast to see anything, except a blur of Pimples' face. The Rag-Top had become sick near the edge of the ditch-a slimy black wake of oil spread across the track. He fought his wheel and went into a spin: ending up backward near the trees at the side of the field. Shifting quickly into low he stepped on the gas and made a hairpin turn as a charging car—the Cobra slid slowly onto its side in the oil slick and big Daddy-O flew low, scraping along in a shower of sparks and flames.

Then, jumping the Ferrari into high, he looked down the straight. Over the ditch a gigantic ball of smoke rose into the sky. He shot by the Rag-Top's oil vomit and raced past the coupe where one of the freebies lay on one elbow, staring with empty eye sockets towards la linea. The coupe's gas tank had exploded and cremated the boy on the spot.

With its pipes blatting powerfully across the battlefield the Ferrari went into a turn and swung around the Deuce that lay like a dead horse with all four legs in the air-one front wheel slowly spinning. Sliding up to la linea with a squeal of brakes, and rear wheels dragging, he skidded to a stop six inches in front of the albino.

Everybody was drunk and yelling around. A covey of Fords and MG-Midgets were already starting to pull out. Odin unbuckled his shoulder harness and belt, removed his crash helmet and went over to the albino who sat on the nerf-bar of a 'sixty-five Chevy. The albino reached into her tight dungarees and produced the pot—fifteen hundred dollars.

“Winner takes all,” she said. “Maybe I can help you spend it?...”

“No thanks,” he said.

“I live in Kissimmee, just down the road a ways,” she shouted as the cars whanged past. “'Stop by for the rodeo, why don't you?”

“Some other time,” he said.

The dust and the noise rose thick and heavy. He went back to the idling Ferrari and sat under the steering wheel, shifting into low. Then he swung the car about and raced down to the ditch. The crackling of burning oil and an occasional whuff-ff or plopp-pp when flames found a new pool of gasoline were the only sounds. The number two coupe was a mass of seared and twisted steel, half submerged in the slick, oil-smeared water. Black smoke rose from the wreck and the rubber smell was overpowering. Odin cursed and was out and walking toward the ditch when two freebies brought up their buddy. The boy resembled a mammy singer—all black except around the eyes and mouth. Then his charred smoking clothes came into view over the ditch edge, and in the brief second he stood against the flames and great dirty cloud of smoke, someone giggled and the others, seeing him stand there like a comic firecrackered cat-thing in a Tom-and-Jerry movie cartoon, began to giggle also. And when he took a goosestep and fell flat on his face the crowd roared with laughter. A Looney Tune. Odin started to laugh too, although he knew the boy was hurt bad. The boy thrashed furiously on the ground and his penis erected through his torn pants as he suddenly let out a bubbling scream of pain. One of his fellow freebies called for a first-aid kit and a battered metal box with a red cross on its lid was relayed through the eager hands of the gang, as if it were the elixir of life itself.

The man with the first-aid kit dropped down on one knee beside the Burn and opened the metal box. He looked inside. It was half empty with junk-flat tubes of nothing, rusty razor blades, strips of soiled bandage, a roll without adhesive, empty bottles, bits of blackish cotton and a six-inch screwdriver. In a corner he found a partly squeezed out green-and-white tube, and he unscrewed the cap and let a ribbon of light yellow ointment curl and loop across his fingers. Then he gently rubbed it on the Burn's cheek and the horny black skin slipped away, sticking to his fingers, exposing sickly white bone, slick raw flesh and small drops of red-streaked suppuration that ran down the burnt face. For a stupefied second the man sat with his hand still out. Then he jerked it back and tried to snap the sticky black flesh from his fingers. But it would not come loose. “OhmiGod, the sonofabitch is fallin' apart on me!” he said. He got up stumbling, snapping his fingers, cursing with that stupefied expression, saying, “OhmiGod!... OhmiGod!” He stopped, picked up a stick and scraped the foul black slime out from between his fingers. Then vomiting, he flung it and the stick both in the ditch. Behind him the Burn clawed at the ground and moaned. “Oh, Jesus. Oh, God. Oh, Christ,” then, “Help me, sweet Jesus. Ooooh! Jesus, help me. Kill me. Kill me. Kill me. Oh, oh! Jesus, oh, Jesus, stop it. Stop it! Let me go. Oh, God, wonderful wonderful God, let me... oh, Jesus, oh, Jesus, don't! Oh oh oh don't! Somebody, kill me, oh, Jesus, shoot me. KILL MEEEEEE—” And then he died.

The night was very quiet. Odin looked down at the Burn. He felt nothing. “Banzai,” someone said softly. “Banzai, you motherfucker. May you live ten thousand years!” He did not look at the Burn again. He walked on past him and followed the skid marks on the ground. They were easy to read. The weird flames played across their shadows, burning them into the earth at the edge of the ditch. They spelled Kamikaze. Like a Japanese pilot making a suicide attack with his plane the driver of the coupe had made a dive at the AC, striking it amidships, attempting to ram it into the water. But the smaller car bounced off and accelerated away from trouble—so it was the coupe that plowed into the ditch and met its doom in the “Divine Wind”— Kamikaze. The AC had continued on a wavering course along the edge and Odin followed the wheel ruts.

In the eerie light, about twenty-five yards from the burning coupe, he saw the AC balance motionless in the mud: rear wheels up in the air, nose buried in the dark water of the ditch. Daddy-O was sitting with his chest wrapped around the metal-rimmed steering wheel, his head wedged hat-deep in a jagged windshield hole. The engine had been driven back through the frame of the car, making a fatal spear of the steering column, the red shaft passing completely through him. It stood out from his back, naked and pointing at the starlit sky, encircled by the white-red splinters of shattered spine bones. A frothy river of hot blood rolled along his back, soaking his shirt, running down and away from his ribs to clot in the cold channel water. Two hyena-like creatures were hunched over the body. One was a husky boy with a harelip and hair cropped so close that it was only black fuzz on the bullet shape of his skull. The other was Pimples. They stood waist-high in the red water, and they were working on the dead man's mouth. The Harelip had his thumbs sunk to the knuckles in the talcum-powdered cheeks, forcing the mouth open while Pimples knocked the gold teeth loose with a ballpeen hammer and pulled them out, one by one, with a pair of pliers.

An owl hooted nearby and from farther down the ditch came the booming and grunting of frogs. Somewhere, far away, a calf blatted.

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  • 5. consulter ce document à titre purement personnel en n'impliquant aucune société ou organisme d'État.
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