Bending over to nail home a two-by-four and a pre-fab wall collapsed on my head. Hands yanked me out, screaming voices—mine one of’em—then a screaming siren.
I was okay, really okay, back on the job two days later, but the headaches came. Real killers. Left me woozy, punch drunk. Had a few belts before the MRI—who ain’t claustrophobic? Quack said I had fluid on the brain, the veins or ventricles clogged. Hell, I couldn’t remember. Memory gone. Sense of smell—A fucking +.
The pain upstairs: it shot, it stabbed, it throbbed, it stabbed. The pills: one for swelling, the other an opiate.
Fucking whoopee, my wife bitched. Called my liver a beer sponge.
Hey, sweetie-pie, them pills gobbled up the agony. Three. Four. Five at a time. No problema. When your head’s spinning, what’s the label say? Didn’t care. Numbness all the time. And fatigue. Lot’s of naps with the cats.
You need surgery, some doc said. The wife agreed. I got admitted, then I opted out.
You want a scalpel to the brain?
Off to the homestead in the hills—to a strange car in the driveway.
Trouble? Mossberg in the shed. I grabbed it, snuck into my own place. Opened the bedroom door.
A hairy grip on my wife’s back, her ass wiggling. Her head turned, terror in the eyes. Finally scared that old gal. The left barrel decapitated her. The lucky fellow sat up, covered in my better half’s lesser half. Jesus, just like in the war—you catch’em in the act and they still wanted mercy. This close, the shell chewed his cock to shreds.
Somethin’ moved out there, down the front yard, behind all that ledge and oak.
Coulda’ been critters.
Bring it on, motherfuckers.
I leaned into the porch, my legs weak. Wafting up from the slope, rank sweat, somebody farting.
God damn, I’m gonna wait till I see’em.
Nothing moved an iota.
Time froze in a haze...
See? Right there? I dropped off for a sec. Didn’t even know. Neither did them pigs on the hill.
Fog had settled to the contours of the property.
No. Wait. Gook cleared from the sight lines. Open fields of fire. Gulf War training. Two tours in Satan’s vacationland. Like the old foe, they was hiding, hunkered, impossible to see.
Go get the shotgun, man. Lock and load.
I leaned off the post, doing a happy dipso dance. Time for more pills. I gave’em a clear view of my back, but no metal splintered my spine. I shuffled inside, past the closed bedroom door. Wouldn’t look in there.
The Mossberg lay across the kitchen table. Breech open. Shells across the counter. Triple ought buck into my pocket. To the fridge for beer. Gotta wash down the pink ones and a few whities, too.
Back to the porch, stumbling on the step, the railing keeping me up. Head resting on the wooden pole. Vision blurred. Couldn’t see that other car in the driveway no more. Had it driven off?
A twig snapped loud as thunder, cleaving my head apart. Shotgun up. Find your target. Squeeze easy.
Oh, they’re clever. Nothing but foliage, crags.
Fall back. Better defensive position.
The bedroom window gave onto the front yard.
But now my wife was dressed, her lover boy gone.
I crouched by the window. My head inflamed to the skull. And I waited—waited near my wife’s head for them to storm the house.
Phil Beloin Jr. lives in Connecticut. His wife won't talk to him no more because she's his proofreader. She's even more terrified of her hubby's story, "Hardboiled Hell", on welltoldtales.com.