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Elliott Andreopoulos

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prestige.jpg
Art by Brian Beardsley 2010

Prestige Breeding

Elliot Andreopoulos

 

          I was a traveling knife salesman, not the best job, but heck of a lot better than cleaning bathrooms.  You start selling to your family and slowly expand your customer base through a referral program.  Whether or not you make a sale, you must get at least three referrals per appointment.  After a month on the job, my network extended across the state.  Abraham and Rebecca Robinson were referred to me by a wealthy man who purchased 3000 dollars worth of knives that netted me a 500 dollar commission.  I set up an appointment, hoping the Robinsons had similar purchasing habits.

          Their house was on the outskirts of town and severely dilapidated, not what I expected.  I was certain I was not going to make a sale, but was trained to never judge a household.  I knocked on the door and Abraham answered.  He was in his late 50’s, wore tattered overalls, had an elongated beard and was missing almost all of his teeth.  I nearly vomited after smelling the rancid odor of the house.  I was escorted into the kitchen where Rebecca was cooking a roast.  I set down my briefcase and they sat at the table to hear my presentation.  I went through my usual spiel; elaborating on the greatness of the knives, demonstrating how smoothly they cut and comparing them to their current knives.  They seemed intrigued. 

          “How well can they cut through bones?” Abraham asked.

          “Whenever I eat chicken they tear the bones apart,” I lied.

          “I’m going to see for myself,” Rebecca said and brought a hunk of meat from the refrigerator.

          “What kind of meat you got there?” I asked.

          “Human,” Abraham said casually, with no indication of joking or hiding this illegal activity.

          “What is it really?  You can’t eat human!”

          “We’re no different than any other animal,” Abraham argued.

          “These knives are tremendous.  We got to get a set!” Rebecca added after easily slicing the hunk in half.

          The term awkward silence does not do justice to how uncomfortable the next minute was.  I could not talk or move as they stared at me peculiarly, like they were waiting for something.    “Where do you get human meat from?” I asked to break the silence. 

          “Come with me!”  Abraham got to his feet and I had no choice but to follow.

          We went down a set of narrow stairs and the horrendous stench intensified to the point where I could not breathe.  We did not speak.  I wished I carried one of my knives for protection.  I wanted to run, but was too fearful to.  Abraham unlocked a steel door and took the shotgun that was on the floor inside with him. 

          There were ten coops and each contained approximately ten naked human-like creatures.  Their features were distorted from the countless generations of inbreeding and their mannerisms were animalistic, showing no indication they possessed the capabilities of a civilized human.  I was not getting out alive because I knew too immense of a secret.  A creature broke out of its coop and tackled me to the filthy ground.  It attempted to rip my clothes off as its drool dripped onto my face.  Abraham stabbed it in the back with a stake, spewing blood all over me.  It struggled to stand with the stake still inside its back and tried to attack me once more, but collapsed to the ground and died.   

          “This is hundreds of years of breeding!” Abraham proudly gloated.

          “Why are you showing me this?” I asked.

          “Why not?  You can stay for dinner, Rebecca can do mighty fine things with human.”

          “You’re going to kill me!  Stop playing games and get it over with!”

          He stared at me with a face of confusion.  “Why would I kill you?”

          I realized he believed he was doing nothing wrong, convinced he was breeding mindless creatures like cattle.  I had two options; escape or play along.  I played along. 

           “Can I pick one out for dinner?” I asked.

          “By all means!  I suggest you choose a young boy because their meat is the tenderest!”

          He trustingly handed me the shotgun and I pretended to search for one to slay.  I had to kill him even though he had no intention of harming me.  I pulled the trigger and his brains exploded throughout the room.  I was instantaneously drenched in blood and tasted its saltiness in my mouth.  I waited for Rebecca to come running down in a panic, but she never heard the blast.

          I stared at the helpless creatures in pity and opened the gate to one of the coops.  They did not move, conditioned not to trust any action of a civilized human.  I went inside and every inhabitant gang tackled me to pebbly ground.  They subdued and repeatedly beat me until my body was covered in bruises.  I tried fighting back by pistol whipping them, but a creature confiscated the shotgun from me.  After a swift punch to the stomach, blood churned into my throat and I vomited it onto them.   A shot blasted into the pack.  The creatures scattered off me, moaning in agony with the embedded pellets fissuring their skin.  I struggled to my feet and tore the pellets out of my body as blood squirted out like a faucet.  I crumpled to the floor with the pain increasing exponentially. 

          I lifted my face up and looked into the confused eyes of the creature holding the gun.  It muttered something unintelligible and pulled the trigger, shooting into a coop in the opposite direction.  The recoil knocked it to the ground.  Using every ounce of strength in my body, I lunged at him.  After wrestling for a minute I was able to pry its fingers off the gun.  I struggled to my feet and it attacked me.  I smashed its face with the butt of the gun, knocking out its corroding teeth and breaking its nose.  I wanted to shoot it, but could not destroy ignorance.  I escaped out of the coop and ran to the entrance.  The creatures in the other coops were ballistic, shaking the unhinging fences that housed them.  I slammed the steel door closed and locked it. 

          I quietly limped up the stairs, blood from my wounds dripped to the floor.  I spied on Rebecca through the crack in the door.  She was basting and buttering her roast, setting out an extra plate because she expected I was going to eat with them.  I pitied her, but knew what I had to do.  When she was gazing into the refrigerator I blew a hole through her chest.  She fell onto the shelves and crashed to the ground spilling food all over her.  I felt sick to my stomach because of my illogical and cowardly actions.  I murdered them solely because they had taboo eating habits, seemed like decent people.  I was the monster.  

          I was going to leave immediately, but decided to sample the fresh roast that came out of the oven.  The meat was tough, but had a unique flavor that I still crave today.  I ended up eating two plates worth next to a dead body and with blood crusted onto my skin. 

          I left the house.  I never sold a knife again or was questioned about their murders.  Sometimes I wonder if they even happened.      

 

 

rutina.jpg
Art by Sean O'Keefe 2011

For Rutina

 

Elliot Andreopoulos

 

          Mac Redding sat in a diner waiting for Otto Feldman. Their meeting was going to be awkward, but necessary to clear the air. 

Mac’s eyes scoured the area, giving the appearance he was waiting for a date. He had to tell Otto the truth; he just didn’t know if he was ready to hear it.

  The cops had swarmed him nearly fourteen years to the day. His lawyer told him to confess to avoid the death penalty, but he refused because it was a necessity to maintain his innocence. The prosecutor accused that he met seven- year-old Rutina Feldman, struck up a conversation, and invited her into his car.  Afterwards, he took her into the woods and murdered her. He had no alibi and was not given a chance, the jury reaching a verdict within a couple of hours.    

He was freed when a man by name of Ross Urie confessed to the murder right before his execution. He said articles of interest were in a storage facility near the crime scene. When the police raided it, they found the missing headband Rutina was wearing on the day she was murdered. Mac was a free man.

***

          Mac was ready to leave when Otto Feldman entered the diner. He noticed Mac and sat across from him in the booth. They exchanged sad smiles. Both were nervous.  Mac couldn’t muster the courage to say what was trapped inside him.  Otto took off his glasses and put them in his pocket. He was sweating a tremendous amount.

“Sorry I’m late.”

“It’s not a problem, just happy you made it.” 

“I’m sorry for the things I called you, for all the years you spent in prison, for everything.  I can’t imagine what you went through. You were hated, cursed, all while you were innocent.”

“I survived,” Mac said. “But please, don’t believe I harbor any ill feelings towards you. You wanted justice and I was the scapegoat. Bad luck really, that’s all it is.”

An attractive woman with a rotund behind walked past them and they both looked.

“Hey, you’re married! You’re not allowed to do that,” Mac joked.

“Cathy and I split a couple of months ago.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“I was watching Rutina that day. She never forgave me and I don’t really blame her.”

“She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“I still think about her all time.”

“You’d be doing her an injustice if you didn’t.”

Otto held in the tears that wanted to burst out, a talent he’d mastered. Mac drank the remainder of his coffee because he didn’t know what else to do. The waiter took their orders and quickly left.

“Did you go to Urie’s execution?” Mac asked. It wasn’t the best question, but something to take up the silence.

 “No.”

“Would you’ve gone to mine?”

“Yes.” The tears Otto was holding in exploded down his face. He slammed his head on the table and Mac went to console him. “I miss my daughter.  I miss my wife. That bastard destroyed everything. I don’t understand how someone can be so disconnected from the suffering he causes!”

“I’m so sorry.”

“I want to get out of here. This was a bad idea.”

Mac took a twenty dollar bill and put it on the table.

They stood outside the diner. Mac was fearful to leave Otto alone because Otto was a suicide risk.

Otto started heading in the direction of his car, but Mac pulled him back.

“I can’t let you go home in this condition. We should do something to get your mind off Rutina. Maybe we can hit up Chubbie’s Tavern. I haven’t had a beer since my incarceration; maybe some booze will lighten you up.”

“I just want to go home,” Otto said. “I’m sorry you were falsely imprisoned, honestly, I am. But I just get these bad vibes around you. When I see you, I can’t help but imagine you killing Rutina.”

“I don’t think that’s fair, but I guess I respect it.”

“I appreciate your understanding.”

“All I ask is that you not hurt yourself,” Mac said.

“I won’t.”

“Hey Otto,” Mac said and paused, on the verge of saying what was plaguing him.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

They shook hands, neither knowing in less than an hour they’d both be dead

***


          Otto drove his Oldsmobile, crying. Memories of Rutina bombarded his thoughts like machine gun-fire. He wanted to be with her, but she would never come back. Once he’d finally put her behind him, Ross Urie confessed and reopened the wound. Seeing Mac just dowsed it with salt and commenced his mental deterioration.

With life no longer worth living, Otto floored the gas pedal. He stuck his head out the window, causing the car to swerve throughout the road like a drunk.

 Police lights shined into his peripheries, but he didn’t stop for them. He lost control and smashed into an oak tree. 

He was ejected through the windshield.

His bloody, mangled body now lay peacefully against the splintered tree that had caused his demise. A smile appeared on his face because he was with Rutina again.

***

          Mac sat at the bar, knowing he should have told Otto the truth. It would have complicated everything, but at least freed the secret Mac kept locked up.

He ordered a pitcher of Schlitz.  Despite the less than desirable taste, he got it down in less than two minutes. Vomit crept into his throat, but he used all the might in his esophagus to churn it back down.

          The bartender laughed at him.  “Do you want a refill? You drank that like a beast.”

          “Haven’t drank in fourteen years, it tasted so good when it touched my lips.”  The room was already spinning with Mac’s tolerance next to nothing. “Get me another pitcher, but not Schlitz. I want premium.”

          The bartender laughed and filled a pitcher with Guinness.

Mac stumbled to the bathroom and urinated in the sink. Vomit exploded out of his mouth and landed all over the bathroom.

He went back to the bar, sat back in his seat. Instead of pouring stout into his cup, he drank directly from the pitcher.

          “Easy there, cowboy,” the bartender warned. 

          “I wanted to tell someone something, but I’m coward.”

“Was what you had to say hurtful?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“So maybe it’s for the better.”

“Maybe it’s better for the other person, but not for me. You can’t just tell someone that you murdered and raped a little girl.”

“If you want to make jokes like that, you can get the hell out of my bar! My niece was murdered five years ago and I’ve never been the same since. So shut your mouth!”

“But I was cleared!  Some other man admitted to the crime.”

The bartender’s eyes opened wide. “Oh, you’re Mac Redding! I recognize you from the newspaper!”

“But I killed her.,” Mac said. “Ross Urie was stalking Rutina when I kidnapped her. He followed me into the woods and watched me do it. After I abandoned the crime scene, he raided it and took mementos for himself.”

The bartender just looked at him.

Mac went on. “When he was caught and sentenced to death for another crime, he confessed to Rutina’s murder because he had nothing to lose and the authorities believed him, thus setting me free to prowl the streets.”

The bartender took the beer away from Mac. “I think you’ve had enough today, Mr. Redding, you’re talking funny.”

“I ate lunch with her father today and wanted to tell him so badly, but I couldn’t do it. He was crying and I consoled him with the hands I killed his daughter with.”

 The bartender reached below the bar and pulled out his shotgun.  “If you don’t shut the hell up, I’ll pull the trigger, so help me God!” 

“I killed her!” Mac said. “It feels so good to tell the truth after lying for so long!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a picture of the Feldman family. “I took this from Rutina’s purse and made her look at it as I killed her.”

 “Tell me you’re lying.”

  “I’m not.”

The bartender pulled the trigger and blew off Mac Redding’s head.

The patrons were drenched in Mac Redding’s blood, in total shock at the randomness of the murder.

“No child killer goes into my bar and comes out alive,” the bartender said and held his hands out in surrender.

Joe, a regular, made a citizen’s arrest as blood and brains dripped from his body.

 

Elliot Andreopoulos is considering forming a Buddy Holly coverband, though it probably won't come to fruition.  He is a huge fan of Tim O'Brien, Annie Proulx and Oscar Hijuelos.

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