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Heidi Heimler
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An Occurrence on Oliver Street

 

by Heidi Heimler

 

 

I’m trying real hard not to smile, on account of you’re not supposed to smile for a mug shot. But it ain’t easy, because truth be told, I feel pretty darn good.

 

I had no idea what killing a man would be like. I figured maybe I’d get sick, watching his brains spill out of his head, teeth hitting the wall and blood splattering everywhere. Instead, I watched his guts bust out of his belly, because that’s where the bullets went.

 

What can I say? I ain’t that good with a gun.

 

I didn’t want to look away. It’s like having sex for the first time. You’re real scared and you think it’s gonna be awful. And for a minute, it is. But then, something happens and you feel better than you’ve ever felt in your whole life. That’s what watching Billy die was like for me.

 

You might call me insane; I probably wouldn’t take issue. But don’t go feeling sorry for him, because he deserved every one of those bullets. See, Billie told my momma he’d take care of me. He said he loved me. We were married in a little church up on the hill. My poppa gave him what money he had, just enough to buy us a little place on Oliver Street.

 

Things were good for a while. But then Billy lost his job down on the docks. Instead of looking for work, he took to drinking. He sat on the sofa and sucked down liquor like it was mother’s milk.

 

           So I got a job cleaning rich folks’ houses. One day I went to work at the Smiths’, but they had a fire during the night and there wasn’t nothing for me to clean. So I came home early and found Billy on the couch, ass up in the air, pants down at his ankles, pumping away on some woman. I stood there without saying a word and waited for him to scrunch up his face like he does just before he squirts. When he was good and done, he looked up and saw me.

          “Shit,” he said, between breaths. “What in hell are you doing home?”

 

The woman wriggled out from under my husband and started looking for her panties. Me, I walked into the bedroom and got Billy’s gun. When I came back into the room, the woman was gone, and Billy stood by the door, a bit wobbly on his feet, drunk as usual. I held up the gun and pointed it at him. We stared at each other for a moment, and then I shot him. Yup, just like that. I watched his guts spill out, and I watched him die. It took a while, even with all his innards blown out.

 

           I figure the neighbors must’ve heard the gun go off, because the cops showed up quicker’n milk turns sour in the July heat.

 

And now I’m getting my picture taken, and I’m trying not to smile. 

 

 

 

aboutthatnight.jpg
Art by Mike Kerins

About that Night

 

by Heidi Heimler

 

 

I wake to the hum of neon lights and the drip of an IV machine. A man who reeks of tobacco towers above me, peering through hooded eyes. “I’m Sergeant Taylor,” he says. “Tell me about the accident.”

 

Inside my addled mind, a movie starring Johnny and me begins to play. I’m leaning on the hood of his beat-up Toyota. His hands cup my face; his tongue meets mine. We’re carefree. Invincible. Untouchable. Drunk.

 

Cut to scene two: the car veers off the road, jumps onto the sidewalk, compresses against a brick wall like the bellows of an accordion. A metal scream escapes into the night. Sirens pierce the stillness that follows.

 

Confusion dominates scene three. Faces and colors flit in and out, a kaleidoscope of discordant fragments. I grope for Johnny’s hand as if it were a remote, his thumb a rewind button.

 

“You okay?” I whisper.

 

“We have to get outta here,” he says.

 

A pair of wayward undead, we climb out of the wreckage and trudge toward the curb. Just before we get there, Johnny collapses. I kneel down beside him and cradle his head. Then darkness descends upon me, too. 

 

Sergeant Taylor’s gravel voice jars me from my reverie. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“Where’s Johnny?” I whisper.

 

His words slice through me. “Your boyfriend’s car hit a man.”

 

Another image rips through my consciousness: a rail-thin figure, his head slumped forward, fills the space between the car and the wall. Blood drips from his lips and pools in his long grey beard.

 

“Johnny’s got a concussion,” Sergeant Taylor says. “Can’t recall a thing.” He moves closer, looming like a thunderhead. “Tell me what you know.”

 

Tainted by drink and censored by fear, my memories lie on the cutting-room floor, disarrayed, discarded. The more I try to make sense of them, the more scrambled they become. I say nothing.

 

I get probation; they send Johnny away.

 

The years muddy my fractured recollections. Time relegates them to the snap-and-seal storage bins in the back of my brain. I’ve got a husband now, and a belly swollen with life. I don’t look back.

 

But the fetus doesn’t bring joy, only nightmares. Jagged shards of memory spill out of the bins, cutting my mind till it bleeds.

 

“Pregnancy will do that,” the doctor says. When I stop eating, he gives me supplements and the name of a good shrink.

 

We comb through daddy issues, dissect fears of heights and strangers, and place my sex life under a microscope. I give it my all, but talk yields nothing, so the shrink suggests hypnosis. The next time we meet, he greets me with the rhythmic tick of a metronome, defies me to keep my lids from falling. In spite of myself, I submerge into a world where past and present collide, sharing a single stage.

 

I see us, Johnny and me, stumbling out of the bar, propping each other up, tripping, giggling. When we get to his car, he fumbles for the keys. “No,” I say, “let me.” And he does. He lets me drive.

 

I drove Johnny’s car that night. He didn’t kill anyone. I did.

 

You have to tell, the fetus screams, you have to make it right.

 

Pretending to be an old high school pal, I call Johnny’s mother. “Sorry to bother you, Mrs. B. Can you tell me how to reach him?”

 

Her silence stretches for miles. “Johnny’s dead,” she finally says. “Been three years since he hung himself. They said he killed a man. He couldn’t bear it.”

 

Her words echo long after I’ve hung up.

 

When my baby is born, I name him Johnny. 

 

 

 

Heidi Heimler is a psychologist with an alter ego that's fond of putting pen to paper. Her work has appeared in both online and print publications, including Liquid Imagination, Postcard Shorts, The Short Humour Site, Verdad Magazine, Mississippi Crow, Full of Crow, Primalzine, Yellow Mama, The Scarlet Sound, Apollo's Lyre, and upcoming in The Linnet's Wings.

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