Yellow Mama Archives II

Andrew Davie

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Zumpe, Lee Clark

The Treehouse

Andrew Davie

                                               


         
I should have been here for the funeral,” Jasper said. 

          It came out like a whisper like he was in confessional looking for absolution, but the sound echoed throughout the clearing, nonetheless. Jasper stopped, shut his eyes, and took a deep breath. They were almost to Ichabog.” He could wait until they were settled before broaching the subject again.

          Ichabog” was the name Ray finally settled on for the deer stand. He had originally wanted to call it The Suck,” Marine slang for bad conditions since the place got flooded frequently but went with something a little different in the end.

Jasper continued until he emerged from the path and into the clearing. 

          He enjoyed hunting, but he wouldnt have labeled himself a hunter; not like Ray. If they didnt get something by the end of the day, it would bother Ray. Jasper was just happy to crack a few beers and call it a win regardless. 

          Jasper took in the surroundings. The water had risen a few inches, but the giant willow tree was still there a few feet from the waters edge. Something behind the tree glinted in the sunlight. Unsure of what it was, Jasper took a couple of steps forward. It was a shovel buried in a fresh mound of dirt next to a hold. The thoughts didnt process, and confusion spread over Jaspers face. 

          Ray?” Jasper said and turned around. 

          Ray stood in the clearing twenty feet away with his rifle aimed directly at Jasper. 


                                                         
***

          Ray saw the bewildered look on Jaspers face. Jasper still hadnt gotten it. Ray wanted to put the rest of his plan into action, but somehow seeing the confusion in Jaspers face prevented him from doing so. He needed Jasper to understand. So, Ray would wait to pull the trigger until Jaspers eyes widened, and his mouth contorted, as it finally dawned on him.

          Everything had been planned meticulously; digging the hole, showing Jasper all of the things in his past, leaving out the hospital bills, and making sure Sarahs photo had been in plain view. Ray knew that if he put any more pressure on the trigger, the firing pin would ignite, and the bullet would leave the muzzle. It would hit Jasper in the stomach. The projectile might not kill him, but it would send him to the ground in a flood of pain.

          Jasper still looked puzzled, but by now, rage had threatened to overtake Ray. The muscles in Rays finger tightened by a fraction; almost at the breaking point. Thats when it finally happened. Jaspers face changed, but he was no longer looking at Ray. He stared over Rays shoulder toward the water. Jaspers face had gone white. Ray heard water splash behind him, and he turned his head. 

          An alligator was heading directly toward them. 

          Ray knew how fast they were in the water, but they were deceptively quick on land. They were territorial. However, this one kept moving. Both men took off for the tree. Jasper struggled, but made it up to one of the middle branches. Ray had tried to sling his rifle over his shoulder, but the strap got tangled, and he had to ditch it. He had an easier time climbing, and soon the alligator was too far away to strike. 

          Instead, once the animal had reached the base of the tree, it did a slow revolution before it walked back to the waters edge and slid effortlessly back into the murky depths.

 

                                                          ***

          Ray grabbed a cup from the cabinet, some green tea, and poured the water. He placed the cup on a tray along with some apple sauce and headed toward the stairs. Sarah had been home from the hospital for about a week, and Ray had waited on her night and day. He didnt mind. It was just nice to have her back, even if it pained him to see her this way.

          It had become too difficult for her to speak over the last few days. Jasper reached over and took her hand and held it gently in his own. He could feel the bones in her fingers trying to squeeze his. He placed his other hand under the pillow beneath her head and helped her to sit up. She sipped the tea, and he spooned some apple sauce into her mouth. Afterward, he picked up the book on the nightstand and began reading from where hed left off the previous day. When he saw her eyes begin to drift again, he closed the book without making a sound and exited the room. 

          Initially, the doctor told him that her prognosis looked hopeful, but things got worse exponentially. The only thing left to do was to make her as comfortable as possible. Ray placed the dishes in the sink. He watched the sunset for a moment out the kitchen window, grabbed a beer, and took a long pull of it. Then he cried. Not a lot; he didnt have much left, but some days he just got overwhelmed.

          He went back upstairs in another half an hour, administered her pills, and changed her bedpan. Finally, he tucked her in for the evening. When he was almost at the doorway, he heard her speak. Her voice was weak and strained. 

          Jasper.”

 

                                                          ***

          Do you want to play with those odds?” Ray asked without a hint of irony in his voice. 

          That bad?” Jasper asked. He hadnt thought his plan of making a run for it was far-fetched, but Rays response had given him doubts. The alligator had returned and was sunning itself in between the tree and the water. It was smaller than it first appeared to be, but it was still sizable at about five and a half to six feet. 

          This one’s aggressive. Alligators are territorial by nature. They mark off a spot and thats it. Theyll defend it to the death, but once youre out of their territory they leave you alone. They dont migrate unless theyre finding a separate place to die.”

          Jaspers eyes lit up with a faint glint of hope. 

          Even if that were true,” Ray continued, It might take days.” 

          Shit,” Jasper said. 

          This one is different,” Ray added. The respectful tone had caught Jasper off guard. 

          So, what do we do?” Jasper said. 

          Go for the rifle,” Ray said and shifted his position which revealed the handle of a knife on an ankle holster. 

          What about that?” Jasper said and pointed to the blade. 

          Do you want to try to stab an alligator?”

Jasper didnt say anything. 

          What do we do now?” Jasper said finally. 

          Im thinking,” Ray said. 

Jasper let his eyes drift back from the alligator. 

          Why?” Jasper said and jutted his chin toward the hole and shovel. 

          You should have been here before the funeral,” Ray said. 

          I already told you—” Jasper began to say. 

          What?” Ray said produced something from his pocket and threw it at Jasper. He caught it; a piece of balled up paper. He unfolded it. A photograph; worn and yellowed, but Jasper had remembered the day it was taken. Jasper was maybe ten, standing in the backyard with his twin younger siblings whod just joined them. 

          What could be more important than family?” Ray added. 

          Adopted family,” Jasper said. 

 

                                                          ***

          Ray couldn’t take it anymore.

          Even though she hadn’t seen him in over a year, forget about the fact she’d been sick, Sarah’s last words had been Jasper’s name. Ray was already up with the knife in his hand. Whether Jasper understood or not was irrelevant. Ray negotiated all of the branches like hed been living in the treetops his whole life. The knife disappeared between Jaspers ribs, and Jasper let out a groan as the wind had been knocked out of him. Ray held his brother for another moment and watched the light leave his eyes. Even though Jasper had been their only natural child, their parents had loved all of them. Before Ray could reflect on what had transpired, how things had soured, he glanced down at the alligator and let the body fall. 

          Here you go,” he said. 

          Ray could always return and fill the hole another time. 


Three Little Pigs

 

by Andrew Davie

 


         
Did it say Ice Cubes a pimp?” Asked Floyd who smirked.

          Angela stared at him. It wasnt a look of anger or confusion, but one of pity. Floyd was sitting in a chair in front of the mirror which served as the makeup station before showtime. Except for the head, he was already wearing his costume of the pig whod built his house out of bricks. When theyd been giving the costumes each had been tagged simply Pig 1, 2, and 3. However, Floyd had suggested they embrace the story. He had been an actor at one point and said it would help with his motivation if he could be the final pig from the story. Neither Delaney nor Byron cared, so they agreed. 

          Floyd’s blonde hair was disheveled since he hadnt showered that morning, and he continued to bear a wry smile on his face, which those who knew him either grew to love or hate. It wasnt difficult to figure out where Angela stood on the matter. 

          No, it didnt.” She said, dryly. 

          She hadnt known Floyd was referring to the song A Good Day,” by Ice Cube, who claims in the song that Ice Cube’s role as a procurer was the message depicted on the side of the Goodyear Blimp. It didnt matter to Floyd whether anyone ever got any of his references, and it had gotten him into trouble more than once. 

          The door to the trailer opened, Byron walked in, threw his backpack on the floor, and retrieved his costume from the wardrobe rack. 

          Sorry, fellas,” he said Physics is killing me.”

          No worries,” Floyd said and drank some more coffee. Just dont let Heather catch you again.” 

          Someone knocked on the door. 

          Come in,” Delaney said. 

The door opened. 

          You guys almost ready?” 

          Constantine stood in the doorway in his full big bad wolf outfit with the head already in place. Technically, an employee could get written up if they were visible outside out of costume, but Constantine never had to worry about that. 

          Well be there in ten,” Delaney said. 

          See you there.” 

          Constantine shut the door. Floyd had once compared the three of them to the lead characters from the film MASH; alcoholic surgeons during the Korean War who frequently broke the rules to stay sane during a crazy time. Floyd suggested Constantine would be the equivalent of Robert Duvalls character, Major Frank Burns, a religious zealot who had no sense of humor. While Constantine wasnt a religious zealot by any stretch, he did take his job at the park very seriously. He was the only one of the four of them who worked there without an ulterior motive. He truly enjoyed bringing smiles to the faces of children. When Constantine wasnt working at the park, or as a plumber, he was a volunteer sheriffs deputy. 

         
                                                         
***

 

          They only had to do five shows a day, but they also had to walk around the park and mingle with the guests for at least an hour. Constantine would never do less than two hours. Now, Floyd and Delaney sat in their street clothes at a picnic table near their trailer.        

          Both Floyd and Delaney had large sodas which Floyd had spiked with mini bottles of rum hed pilfered from one of the minibar supply carts. Floyd would occasionally get shifts working as a bellhop at one of the park resorts. No matter how many times Delaney said the hotel probably had surveillance going, Floyd would suggest it was just a fringe benefit, and if they saw fit to garnish his wages, so be it. Byron went home after the final show ended. Hed be up all night again wrestling with physics concepts that were just out of his grasp. 

          You know,” Floyd began, then stopped speaking and watched the golf cart pass their table. Behind the wheel was one of the park security guards making his weekly deposit. Next to him, on the passenger seat of the golf cart, was a strong box. 

          How much you think hes got in there?” Floyd said after the guard had left their immediate vicinity. 

          I dont know,” Delaney said. A few grand?” 

Thats what I was thinking,” Floyd said. I watched Heat the other night,” Floyd added. 

          No,” Delaney replied. 

          You dont even know what—”

          Fine; what were you going to say?” Floyd paused.

          How difficult would it be?” Floyd finally said. 

          Look,” Delaney began lets just forget it.”

          You think Fred Sanford is going to do something?” Floyd asked and pointed in the direction the guard had gone. 

          Were not robbing the park!” Delaney said through gritted teeth. Neither man spoke for a moment. 

          How much of your paycheck goes to your ex-wife?” Floyd said. His tone had softened but the words still had bite. Delaney took another drink and slid the cup in front of Floyd. 

          Hit me again,” Delaney said. He watched Floyd dump in another mini bottle. Delaney took the drink back, took a healthy slug, and spoke. 

          Too much.” 

          OK, so lets change that,” Floyd said. He sat up straighter in his chair recognizing he had begun to hook Delaney. 

          No one gets hurt,” Delaney said. 

          No one gets hurt. We wont even have loaded weapons.” Both men killed their drinks. 

          Let me come up with a plan tonight,” Floyd said, And well both tell Byron tomorrow after his project is finished.” 

          Sounds good.”


                                                         
***

 

          It took some convincing for Byron to agree, but like Delaney when Byron had been reminded about student loans he was game. Floyd said a few things were going for them. The first was the typical guards werent ex-commando special forces looking to recreate their glory days. Odds were they were counting down the minutes until they could retire on a pension. Not to mention, it was theme park cash they were transporting, not legal tender. The brass would know it was an inside job, but Floyd argued they wouldnt be able to prove anything unless one of them was caught. Hed be able to get some replica guns from a special effects friend. On the day in question, they would finish their final shift, leave the park, return and knock over the golf cart when it went to make the deposit. Floyd said it would take him about a week to put everything together. 

          They all agreed the following Friday would be the day. The days leading up to it flew by. Except for a few conversations about how they would launder the money, no one brought it up. Both Delaney and Byron already knew how they would spend their portions. Floyd seemed to be genuinely excited just to participate. 

          When Byron asked him why he was so gung ho on committing the heist, Floyd responded with The action is the juice.” He said it was from the film Heat, but the significance had been lost on both Delaney and Byron. 


                                                         
***


         
The morning of the caper there were no surprises. Angela hadnt stopped by since Floyd had asked about the message on the side of the blimp, but as usual, Constantine was at the door fifteen minutes before showtime. The guys indulged him as they usually did then waited until a minute before showtime before arriving on set. The performances went off without a hitch. In between shows, the three of them made sure to circulate through the park for their mandatory hour, while Constantine almost set another record. At the end of the final performance, the three of them returned to the trailer to drop off their costumes. 

          Floyd had already parked one of the laundry trucks from the resort in the parking lot nearby for their getaway. In the trailer, Floyd gave them their replica pistols. Even up close, they looked legitimate. Delaney checked the clip to make sure it was empty. 

          Relax,” Floyd said. I didnt even load it with blanks. We dont need it.”

           The three of them wore bandanas over their noses and mouths with the hoods of their sweatshirts pulled up high. Floyd waited until the coast was clear before they exited the trailer. The park was always eerie at this time of day. All of the rides had been shut down, all of the patrons and most of the staff had gone home. The occasional conversation would carry from the parking lot; people saying their goodbyes, but otherwise, there was nothing. All three men dealt with last-second jitters. However, Floyd had instructed them to think about how no one would get hurt, the money could easily be laundered through the park, and they wouldnt have to worry anymore about alimony or tuition. In another moment, they saw the golf cart approach. The guard behind the wheel was middle-aged, with white hair and a walrus-style mustache. Once, Floyd had remarked the guy looked like Wilford Brimley. This time, Delaney had gotten the reference, but Byron hadnt. 

          Floyd walked to the center of the road with his hand up, and Wilford slowed down. 

          Hep you with somethin'?” Wilford said. 

          Sorry,” Floyd said and pulled the weapon. He held it sideways at first showing the profile, so Wilford could get a good look at it. Delaney and Byron scrambled from their spots and joined Floyd. 

          What—” Wilford managed then slumped forward onto the horn. 

          The sound reverberated around the now empty park, and Wilford shot back into his seat. 

          Jesus Christ!” He yelled. 

          We need to call an ambulance!” Delaney said. 

          Why?” Floyd said. 

          Wilfords having a heart attack!” Delaney spat out angrily. Wilford looked at Delaney with a furrowed brow. 

          Whats your name?” Floyd said. 

          Jesse,” replied Wilford. 

          Jesse, are you having a heart attack?” 

          No. I get dizzy spells sometimes.”

          Now that weve gotten that out of the way, can we move it?” Floyd said to Delaney. 

          Part two of the plan was to leave the guard by the side of the road, take the golf cart back to the entrance where theyd stashed a dolly, and move the safe back into the truck. Theyd have all night to go to work on it following instructions from schematics Floyd had found on the internet. 

          Byron went to take Wilford/Jesse by the elbow and lead him from the cart when he was hit in the chest with a projectile; a rolled-up t-shirt. Both Floyd and Delaney looked down the stretch of road to see Constantine about fifty feet away, sprinting toward them, and holding a t-shirt gun. He still wore the lower half of his Big Bad Wolf costume, but the upper half was missing. 

          Forget this,” Delaney said and started to run.

          Constantine stopped, aimed the t-shirt gun, and fired again. The rolled-up shirt hit Delaney square in the back and knocked him to the ground. Constantine was only a few feet away now, and Floyd turned the weapon around so he held the barrel. When Constantine got within range, Floyd swung the piece like a hammer, but Constantine easily dodged it. He swung the t-shirt gun and hit Floyd in the chin. Floyds head snapped back and his legs gave way. He could taste the copper of blood flowing from his split lip. 

          Constantine stood over him and put a foot on his chest. Floyd slid his bandana down. 

          Figures,” Constantine said after he saw who it was. Constantine jutted with his chin toward one of the other fallen bodies. 

          Thatd be Byron?”

          And Delaney,” Floyd said. Constantine suddenly had a pained look on his face similar to a parent when theyre not mad; just disappointed. A siren grew louder in the distance. 

          Id stay down if I were you,” Constantine called out to the other two who had begun to stir. Constantine took his foot off of Floyds chest. 

          How you?” Floyd managed before a coughing fit. 

          I trained with the SEALs back in 93,” Constantine said. 

          The last thought Floyd had before he passed out was how similar the situation was to the ending of the film Heat.

Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect, Close to the Bone, Alien Buddha Press, and a memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.com/


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