Wednesday, March 19, 2014

it isn't only crocodiles that cry, part 2: date with doreen

original story by horace p sternwall

originally appeared in the may-june 1945 through the jan-feb 1946 issues of throat grabbing tales

adapted for the 21st-century by chuck leary and roger "peg leg" wilson

illustrated by konrad kraus

part two of thirteen

for part one, click here

the fernwoods only had one umbrella between them and they could hardly fit under it themselves.

and they couldn't afford a cab so i just got wet as i followed them to mcdonalds.

as i got soaked i started to think about this doreen person that i had just agreed to kill.

despite all my tough talk i had never actually killed anybody before. at least not that i could remember.

of course i had seen and done things too terrible to be described and my brain and my memories were all a jungle of cacaphonousity and chaos that might or might not be true.

but i could not go into a police station anywhere in the universe and say "i killed mister x or miss y on a rainy night in june in 1959 and i buried the knife with my fingerprints and their dna on it in the basement of the house at 53 st charles st".

no, i couldn't do that.

and now i was about to meet doreen.

whoever or whatever she was.

and doreen was about to meet me.

if everything went according to plan i would be the last person doreen would ever meet.

already i was feeling sentimental about her.

who are you, doreen, lost in the antediluvian night?

are you a good person or a bad person? if you associated with the fernwoods, probably a bad person. but you never know, do you?

are you young or old, fat or thin, beautiful or not so beautiful, respectable or not so respectable?

do you sing in the choir on sunday, give blow jobs in parking lots on monday?

do you spell your name with two "r"s or one? "een" or "ine"? for the fernwoods are not the sort to put things in writing.

my reveries were cut short by our arrival at mcdonalds.

the rain had not let up.

i grabbed some napkins to try to dry myself off a little, and followed mr fernwood to a table by the window. mrs fernwood shook the rain off the umbrella and folded it up and went to place the order.

i love mcdonalds! it's my favorite place. sitting in mcdonalds is my favorite thing in the world. (walking through the aisles in wal-mart or costco might be second). love, sex, drugs, booze, smashing the face of your enemy and drinking his blood - these are fleeting pleasures by comparison.

i love the atmosphere - the warmth, the salt, the sugar, fat, chemicals, whatever they use.

it's the closest a human can come to just lying in the mud like an alligator.

seated across from mister fernwood i was able to look into his eyes as i had not back in the office. it was not a pretty sight.

but i didn't care. bring on the fries!

i grabbed at them when mrs fernwood arrived with the tray. but she slapped my hand away as soon as she put the tray down.

"down, boy, down!" she took her wet coat off and hung it on the back of her chair. she settled in over the tray with its two double quarter pounders with cheese, two chocolate chip frappes and two packets of fries.

"no curly fries, sorry," she announced. she took a big bite of one of the double quarter pounders.

"but i still get some regular ones, right?"

mrs fernwood couldn't answer with her mouth full.

mr fernwood pushed one of the packs of fries toward me. "i ain't that hungry. go ahead, you can have all mine."

i grabbed them before he could change his mind.

mrs fernwood looked at mr fernwood with bulging eyes, but by the time she swallowed her mouthful i had the fries in a death grip.

mrs fernwood shrugged. "you're spoiling him, " was all she finally said to mr fernwood. she gave me her best glare.

i bit into my fourth fry. already the salt and grease were reviving my body. i started thinking about my date with doreen again.

i looked around. despite the rain, the place was almost empty. it was late.

"tell me about doreen." i tried to slow down, savor each fry.

mrs fernwood looked around herself before answering. "we'll give you her address. that's all you need. the less you know the better. but you understand that."

"you got a picture of her?"

"hell no. are we amateurs? you think we carry incriminating evidence around with us?"

"well, can you tell me a little what she looks like?"

mrs fernwood looked at mr fernwood. "do you hear that, he wants to know what doreen looks like! ha, ha! why, you think she's some kind of hot babe? you think she's going to cure you of being a faggot?"

"i think it would help if i had some idea of what she looks like so i don't make a mistake, that's all."

"i suppose that makes sense," mr fernwood conceded. he took another bite of his double quarter pounder.

"great, so what does she look like? is she black, white? fat, thin, old, young, short, tall?"

mr fernwood finished swallowing his bite. " she's as white as we are. she's neither old nor young." he took another bite.

"she's fat," mrs fernwood said, after looking around the room again.

i looked at her. the fries were making me thirsty. i wondered if the person at the counter would give me a cup of water if i asked for one.

"fatter than me even," mrs fernwood added.

"is she your sister?" i asked her.

"no. and she don't look nothing like me."

"she's short," mr fernwood added.

"so she's miss five by five," i said.

mrs fernwood laughed. "more like miss four by ten."

i wondered if doreen was so fat it would be hard to stick a knife into her. or if her fat would protect her if i hit her with a car. i had never wondered about such things before. "so - um - she probably doesn't have a very happy life."

"how the fuck do we know if she has a happy life," mrs fernwood answered me. "she's happy enough to go around saying bad things about us, that's all you have to know."

"here." mr fernwood took a pen out of his pocket. he wrote something on a napkin and handed it to me. "here's her address."

"i think that concludes our business tonight," said mrs fernwood.

i looked at the napkin without really registering what was on it. "so when i'm all done where will i see you? to get my eight dollars." i didn't want to tell them to come to my office because i might be thrown out of it by then.

neither of them answered right away. "should we meet here? in a week?" i asked.

"no," said mr fernwood. "let's meet at wendy's. the wendy's over on main street. one week from tonight." he thought for a few seconds. "around eleven o'clock."

"that's if you do what you are supposed to do," added mrs fernwood.

i didn't like wendy's as much as mcdonalds but i wasn't going to argue. "is there only one wendy's on main street?"

"the one on main and 63rd," said mrs fernwood, as if it was the stupidest question she ever heard.

i had finished the packet of fries. i stood up. "all right then."

i went up to the counter. there was a girl, or woman, behind it, leaning on it. she could have been fifteen years old, or fifty-five. i couldn't tell what nationality she was, or if she had a nationality.

i asked her if i could have a cup of water. she looked at me and didn't answer. finally she shoved herself up and went to get the water.

she had the saddest eyes i had ever seen.

but i had not yet seen doreen.

maybe her eyes would be even sadder.

part 3

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