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Excerpt from:

The Crane Operator and the Farrier



It was their third date, so he thought he’d let her know something interesting about himself, a fact of his life. He told her that his mom’s side of the family were all Nazis. Descendants of Nazis, anyway, no longer practicing Nazis, and not reconstituted Neo-Nazis or anything, but still hateful, the women especially.

They were driving up the river to see the house where a couple of teenage kids had been murdered over the summer. It was winter now. Snowmobile tracks laid a north/south passage on the frozen river. “So are you a Nazi?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “Crane operator. Remember?”

They were still trying to figure out one another’s sense of humor. She bit at the inside of her mouth, then reached across her body so she could use her right hand to pull her 20 ounce bottle of Coke Zero from the cup holder in the center console, where his Coke Zero also rested (they were on sale at the Speedway, two for the price of one). She’d asked him for a Diet Coke but Diet Coke was not included in the offer. A fingernail clippers also rested in the console, and a little plastic box full of cinnamon-flavored toothpicks, and a small library card with a hole punched in it, the kind designed for key rings, though he didn’t like stuff other than keys dangling from his key ring. He kept some Magnum condoms out of view in the storage part of the console.

“There it is,” he said. The house didn’t emanate any particularly evil vibes. It was in the rambler style, L-shaped, probably built in the early 1970s. Worked-over tan brick, reddish siding, some asphalt shingles that looked rather new. A black cat walked across the top of a towable log splitter alongside the garage, both tires flat—ok, kind of creepy. A wheelchair ramp from the driveway to the front door appeared to be carpeted, but there was a dusting of snow from the night before, making it hard to be sure. Someone had been into feeding birds, and watching them, presumably. The front yard had one of those oak trees that doesn’t lose its leaves in the winter. The leaves were all brittle and like, fuck you. Absolutely nothing of wind; a perfect riverside stillness. Maybe an eagle, maybe a hawk, maybe just a crow.

“Tell me how you think it happened,” she said.

“Probably like what they said on the news.” He drank from his own Coke Zero. It was turning warm and tasted like dead batteries. “Those drug addict kids broke in to steal his TV or whatever and he rolled in on his wheelchair with his shotgun, then bam.”

“Do you think that’s what really happened?”

“Sure. Why not.”

“It would take a lot of work for a guy without any legs to quickly get himself out of bed and into his wheelchair, grab a shotgun, then go out into the living room to blow away a couple of teenagers.” She’d put her Coke Zero back in the cup holder, and moved her hand down into her crotch, where she used her fingers like a spatula to rub at her pussy through her denim jeans. “Tell me how you think it happened.” She changed her rubbing motion from up and down to side-to-side, although there wasn’t much room to do so, she had very broad thighs. “Walk me through it.”

So he did; he gave his account of the double murder on the river. He theorized, without any evidence, that the kids had tried to break in the two nights preceding the actual break-in but were scared off by their own nerves or the motion lights installed on the garage, or both. Maybe a car had driven by, the old lady down the street who always came back late from the casino in Hinckley. The homeowner, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, who’d lost both his legs in the conflict, had been awakened each night they’d tried but failed to gain illegal entry to his home, and so on the third night he prepared himself for the possibility that his property would finally be breached, and sat in his living room with his Remington hunting shotgun across his lap, an ambush, effectively.

She closed her eyes and hung her mouth open. Her lips were eroded, all cracking apart. “What was he wearing?” she asked while she undid the top button of her jeans and slipped her hand down her pants. She seemed to be taking hold of herself as opposed to just touching herself. The man was excited, but not hard; he was also a little bit frightened, and embarrassed. Her skin was really white; it looked bleached. It tenderly bulged out the top of her jeans.

“Oh, just some red underwear and a grey, threadbare tshirt.”

She moaned hoarsely. She was a hoarse kind of person. He asked her on their first date if she’d ever smoked cigs and she’d said sure, here and there. “What did he say before he shot them?”

“He said, you kids picked the wrong house.”

“And then he shot them,” she said, nearly out of breath from pleasuring herself or whatever it was she was doing.

“Yep. Shot them both.”

“Ohhh,” she gushed. She’d turned her face toward him, though her eyes were still closed. “Where did he shoot them?”

“Well, in the living room.”

“No,” she said. “I mean where on their bodies did they receive the wounds that would turn out to be fatal.”

“The girl he shot in the face and the boy he shot in the chest.”

“Ohhh,” she said, so loud that the man looked out his window to see if anyone was around who might have heard, anyone who may have been inclined to bust up their date out of a basic respect for the dead. They were somewhere that wasn’t quite the suburbs and not quite a small town, just houses up and down the river with lots of space between them, gravel drives  lined with bushy pines, something like the country. “Was the girl pretty?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Sure she was pretty.” Then she squeezed her knees together and came, hard it seemed, like she was in pain almost, like she was shedding some old part of herself that was good and didn’t want to be forgotten. The windows of his truck had all fogged up on the inside. They couldn’t see the house. They couldn’t see the cat on the log splitter. They couldn’t see anything but the effect of their breath on the thin glass that kept them safe and warm.

With her finger she traced a heart on the passenger-side window. Then stuck an arrow through it. “Let’s get some egg rolls from somewhere,” she said.

He wiped his hand across his own window, removing the fog. An elderly couple strolled by, all bundled up in matching camouflage jackets and matching neon green hats, walking, it seemed, as fast as they possibly could, as if trying to stay ahead of death.



Jake Lancaster is a writer living in Minneapolis. 

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