DIGGING UP ARTHUR
(Strange to say, something much like this actually happened in my home county in East Texas. I got the basic idea for this from a newspaper story. We do grow weird characters here in the piney woods.)
Even after ten years, I still kill him again every night. There's no satisfaction in it, of course, because I know I'm dreaming. You'd think, having gotten away with it as slick as a whistle, that I'd let the thing drop, let him be, let him lie there in the cemetery in the woods and rot in peace.
I can't seem to do that. He died too fast. It wasn't slow and painful enough to fulfill the need that made me kill him to begin with. I wish I hadn't taken the gun with me at all. My bare hands would have had the pleasure of wringing his miserable life out of him, cutting off his breath, feeling him struggle and heave, watching him go black in the face ... I get excited when I think about it. Have to go out and walk around the block very quickly, while I cool down again.
I never had the urge to kill anyone else. Not ever. But after he married Linda ... my Linda ... I never wanted anything so much in my life as to kill Arthur, slowly, painfully, lingeringly ... there! My blood pressure is going up again. Have to watch that.
I go about my business just about the way anyone else does. Take my wife and children to church and to picnics and ball games. I'm no monster. I don't let that fixation get in the way of earning a living and helping out my neighbors. I even ran for the City Council last year, though I was pretty relieved when I was beaten in the runoff.
It's just about this time of year, late summer, with the grass drying in the fields and pears getting ripe on the trees, the heat wavering in a haze over everything, that I think of that last day of Arthur's life. It all came to a head, that day, though he didn't have the foggiest notion I had ever been upset with him at all, any more than anyone else had.
I walked up to him in the back woods behind his farmhouse. He thought I'd been out hunting rabbits, I suppose, because he didn't more than glance at the shotgun I carried.
I blew him away before he could finish saying hello. Everyone, including the deputies and the sheriff, thought somebody had been hunting in the woods and had killed him by accident and been afraid to own up to it. There was a big funeral, and I took Carrie and the baby, and we all looked mighty sad.
The dreams started a while later. I'd wake up out of a sound sleep, covered with sweat, seeing him dying. Not by the shotgun blast but in a lot of different ways, all of them slow. Carrie began to believe I was coming down with something and kept giving me vitamins.
There would be months and months when everything went along fine as silk. Then I'd get to thinking about Arthur. I'd go out there to Rosebud Cemetery, whenever Carrie took the kids to see her mother for a few days, and do nothing but drink, lying there on Arthur's grave, cursing him better and better the drunker I got.
The cemetery is so far out in the woods that nobody goes there except for a funeral or, from time to time, to put a plot in order. There's plenty of warning ... you can hear a car rattling over the washboard road for a mile or more before it gets there, so I never got caught. But after a while it got so that wasn't enough.
I went all over the area, when I could steal the time from my job, and tore down his advertising stickers for his real estate business that he ran along with his farm. Got every one in the county and most of those in the adjoining counties. That helped for a good long time, because it wasn't a thing you can get done in a year, or even in two.
I quit having the dreams as long as it lasted. But there came a time when I couldn't find a sign or a sticker or even a business card left anyplace. That's when the dreams started again.