A new installment today and tomorrow, then, the madness with Sled concludes! Yesterday’s post of this story is here.
. – . – . – .
Sled held the photograph of Harry between his thumbs as he drove onto Bone Dust Road. He sensed nothing from the photo. There was an absence of energy in the face, almost a presence of silence.
Sled felt no remorse, grief, or anger over Harry’s death. That surprised even him. He felt sad for Harry’s rescue animals at home. They would expect him, day after day, feeling the stress of a changed routine, but never fully understanding.
He knew it would be different for his wife and daughter, but he didn’t feel sad for them. They knew he wasn’t coming home. Still, Harry’s death simplified their lives. No more staying up late, worrying if Harry came home on time or not. Now, his wife, Lane could rest. So could his daughter, Sara. Sara was young, and had time to adapt to Harry’s absence. That’s how Sled was wired, or mis-wired.
“Harry’s dead, so no worries for me either. I’m free from the guilt of not living up to his expectations. It’s stressful making a life in an insane asylum, knowing your flesh and blood thinks you can do better but won’t.”
Sled saw the trailer on the short ridge, and a smoking pit in the valley not far ahead. “I can kill for the fun of it again, without Harry being a wet blanket. I hate wet blankets. They’re wet.”
* * *
Sled backed up to the pit. He opened the rear of the garbage truck. “I bet there’s a fire extinguisher in this thing.” He reached under the seat. “I win!” He mimicked the sound of a siren as he coated the pit with layers of foam.
He closed his eyes and crossed his fingers. “I bet for a shovel.” Sled backed away from the pit with his eyes still closed, and bumped into the handle of a shovel on the truck. “I love my life. Man, my truck has everything. It’s Batman’s utility belt that eats garbage.”
He jumped into the pit and raked debris. Sled stirred debris and slathered hot spots with foam. He wanted to rescue most things Harryish. He wasn’t ambitious enough to think he’d get all of Harry. He would shovel the main parts into the garbage truck, break into a motel room, and hose off Harry’s bones in a shower, then maybe even take one of his own, if he had time.
He identified each load as he tossed them in the rear of the truck. “Something … something squishy … something crunchy … more somethings … bones … small skull … another … another … another … more bones … another small skull … something … something … something else … even more somethings …“
Then Sled’s shovel dug to Harry’s somethings. “Hello Harry. For the first time, you smell worse than I do.”
* * *
“I can kill him from here,” Gag said. He tracked the sanitation worker from the cracked front door of the trailer. He watched him get out of his truck, extinguish flames, then remove a shovel. “He’ll never know what hit him.”
“Negative. Don’t call needless attention to us.”
“Do you really want to kill a state employee?”
“Yes,” Gag said. “Bang.” Gag faked a recoil. “Problem solved.”
“Binder, he jumped in the pit. He’s digging through our pit. I don’t like this.”
“Remember, we’re only security. We know nothing. You and I are just as surprised to see what he finds as he is to find it. He’s just a clueless garbage man, out here all by himself. Harmless.”
“He’s not harmless. He’s armed with a shovel.”
“Here’s the difference between him and us: He looks at a shovel and sees a shovel. We look at a shovel and see a deadly weapon. He’s stupid, we’re not. We’re the professional killers here. Remember that. We’re in control.”
“Can we at least make pee run down his leg?”
“That we can do. Let’s go have some fun.”
* * *
“Hey y’all! How’s it hanging!” Sled looked up from the pit, shin-high in ashes.
“What brings you all the way out here,” Binder asked.
“Isn’t this a bit off your route?”
“Not today. It’s All-You-Can-Load Day. This morning’s event is clearly indicated on our website calendar. I bet you’ve never even checked out our site, have you?”
“Actually, no,” Gag said.
“Dang, I’m three for three today on betting. Vegas, here I come! Every other month with more than 30 days in it, the state selects one lucky state sanitation employee,” Sled pointed to himself, “and today, it’s all about me! I load as much as I can between now and noon.” Sled shoveled.
“They pay me $20 a pound. Boy howdy, could I sure use the moolah. Mom-in-law’s caught the cancer, and we’ve got a kid on the way.” Sled stopped shoveling. “Clarification. I don’t have a kid on the way with my mother-in-law. I knocked up her daughter, not her daughter’s mom.” Sled shoveled. “To the best of my knowledge,” he added.
“I hope she gets better, whoever she is.”
“Thanks. I’m afraid she doesn’t have long left. Last Tuesday, she threw up herself.”
“You mean, she threw up on herself?”
“I mean what I say. She threw up herself. Took me half the night to shove things back down. I had to shake her until private parts returned to mostly where they came up from. It was a long night.”
Binder looked for a place to take the conversation. Gag shrugged and pointed a finger to Binder. “I’m following your lead, remember,” Gag whispered.
“Congratulations,” Binder said. “So you’re here until noon?”
“Heck no. I’ve got another stop or two. The sooner I get this pit emptied, sooner I can move on down yonder way. I see some hefty coyote bones down here to pad my total take-home weight.”
“Well, we’re just security guards, and we don’t know anything about what’s in that pit, so —”
“Wait a minute, wait a minute!” Sled screamed from the pit. He threw up the shovel and caught it in mid-air. “Mother lode! Biggest coyote bones I’ve ever seen! Big as a man!”
Binder and Gag adjusted the grips on their rifles. Sled lifted Harry’s rib cage and shook away ashes and foam. “Dang thing’s still hot. Here you go somebody!” Sled gave it a double-armed overhead toss. Gag let go of his rifle just in time to grab the flying rib cage.
“Put the coyote rib cage in the passenger seat, my good man. Here are some things for you…” Sled flung up bones that had been part of Harry’s arms, hands, legs and feet. Binder put his rifle against his thigh and caught Harry’s bones in his arms like stacked wood.
“What are we doing,” Gag whispered.
“I don’t know,” Binder said, “but he’s dumber than we thought. If he thinks he’s found bones of a huge coyote. Who are we to argue?”
“Hey,” Binder yelled to the sanitation worker in the pit. “What do you do with these bones after the state weighs them?”
“They don’t,” Sled yelled back. “That’s the beauty of it. I’m the state’s only SSM.”
“Sanitation Scale Master. We don’t have the funding for two of me, so today, I bring in my catch, I weigh it, claim it for reimbursement, then dispose of it. Nobody else in the loop. How sweet is that? Nobody knows if I cheat or not. I do.”
“Could our lives get any better,” Binder whispered to Gag. “it’s like we’re dreaming.”
“A word of warning,” the voice from the pit spoke. “If you tell anybody about my big coyote find, so help me, I’ll come back here and kill you both, got it? I don’t want to, because, you seem like nice fellows, but for $20 per pound, I will.”
“Got it.” They answered from the passenger side of the truck and laughed.
“Gag, our fingerprints are all over these bones. We need this idiot’s prints on our rifles. It would be a slam-shut investigation.”
“I like it. We’d testify that he forced us at gunpoint to help.”
“We just need a way to make him to touch one of our rifles, so his fingerprints are all over them.”
“He’d have to climb out of the pit first. Nobody has ever done that yet.”
Sled planted the blade of the shovel into the bottom of the pit and jumped on the guard of the blade. He used his momentum to slither up the pole. Once he reached the rim of the pit, he swung himself out.
Sled picked up both rifles and dusted them off with his sleeve. Binder and Gag rounded the back of the truck to find Sled out of the pit with a rifle in each hand. One rifle was pointed at Binder’s gut, and the other at Gag’s. Sled had Harry’s vertebrae wrapped around his shoulders and neck, like a boa. Harry’s skull was between his feet.
Binder and Greg raised their arms at the same time. “Like I was saying,” Sled did his best fake John Wayne impression, “I don’t want to kill you two, but you leave me no choice, pilgrims.”
Binder and Gag stood with their arms raised, speechless. Sled walked toward them, slightly sideways, favoring a hip, like Duke. Then he laughed so hard that he choked on his saliva.
“Wow, that was so much fun,” Sled said. “Sometimes I kill myself. Wait, did you guys catch that? See, I’ve got your rifles, and I said, ‘sometimes I kill myself’. Get it? Sometimes I kill myself?”
Binder and Gag nodded and with fake grins, four hands still held high. “Maybe you had to be there,” Sled said.
“Oh, my bad.” Sled flipped the rifles around and grabbed the barrels. He held them out, one to Binder and the other to Gag. Sled held the guns so that the barrels pointed at his own chest. “Here are your guns, guys. Sorry. I was just playing around, you know, having fun.”
Binder and Gag looked at each other, this time with genuine grins. “That’s okay, you can just put them away for us,” Binder said. “Whatever,” Sled flipped them back again. He accidentally caught one of the rifles by the lever, and a shell ejected. “Crap! What did i just do?”
“Careful,” Gag said. “Careful.”
“I hate these things,” Sled said. “Give me an old stewed tomato lid any day of the week, and twice on weekends. Are you sure you don’t want them back?”
“Really? You might need them later tonight. It can get cold and lonely way out here in the desert.”
“We’re prepared for anything.”
“Whatever.” Sled said. “Your loss.” He laid the rifles in the dirt.
– . – . – . –