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Paul Spalding-Mulcock
Features Writer
@MulcockPaul
8:00 PM 6th January 2022
fiction

Just A Little Squeeze - An Avery Story

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Image by Tobias Hämmer
Image by Tobias Hämmer
Cold beer on a hot day, sluicing away futility by the mouthful. His fifth bottle soon found itself lazily tossed across the scrub surrounding the shack, bouncing off the crusted soil before rolling plaintively towards an abandoned engine block. Both objects now obsolete, their purpose leeched away by use.

A dust cloud in the shimmering distance fanned out across the desert like an earth bound contrail, heralding the arrival of unsolicited company. The approaching Chevrolet’s engine growled like a wounded lion as its tread-bare tyres munched the arid track leading to Billie’s front yard.

Clark hauled his denim-clad bulk out the stationary pick-up, spat his tobacco bolas out and broke wind. Billie nodded his head laconically and went in search of more beer. Greetings exchanged, the two men sat opposite each other on the decking doing poor service as the shack’s veranda, its boards bowed and broken like his grandpa’s spine. Billie had not meant the shovel’s blow to be fatal. The old man had shattered like rotten wood, dying hours later alone as the crimson sun set.

Clark sipped his beer and held Billie’s gaze. ‘You gotta get some god damned furniture that don’t make a man wish he was already dead. Reckon that scrub’s more hospitable to a man’s backside than this shit’. The usual pleasantries aside, it was time for Clark to get to the point. ‘We found her body out by Dillon’s place. Well, what the coyotes had left of it. Guess they like a free meal like the rest of us. Still enough left of her to be sure it was Ella-Lou’.

Billie took a slug of his beer, mulled over his options and shifted his muscular frame like a cobra preparing to strike. Clark saw the movement, his hand settling upon the Colt’s handle, fingers lacing around its reassuring heft. In Avery, the silences between spoken words said more than the utterances they presaged.

Clark looked up at the azure sky, its banality punctuated with the odd wisp of cirrus clouds, themselves attenuated by the afternoon sun’s relentless burning. Moisture gains a premium when you live in a dust bowl. Life was never far from becoming the dust it was condemned to join. ‘I’d wanted a little squeeze, ease a man’s burdens. Been a whilst since. Damn bitch flinched when all I was doin’ was being friendly. Ain’t like it was the first time I told her to quit with the tears. Girl made me feel like a rutting maverick with no reason to be interested. She knew it only got ugly when she forgot her place’.

Clark finished his Bud and stared contemplatively into the distance. ‘Only bit of Ella-Lou the coyotes didn’t get a bite of was the hole you put in her belly. You gunna tell me that ain’t so ?’ Clark’s fingers tightened on the gun’s butt. Court was in session and parole was not an option.

‘Waste of lead buddy. Should have snapped her neck and saved the cartridge. She’d have been better off with the load I had in mind’. Billie’s smile exposed a neglected graveyard of broken teeth stained brown by tobacco and disregard. His eyes drifted up to meet Clark’s.

The shot’s ephemeral violence left nothing in its wake except the flaccid body of Billie, sans half his skull. Clark holstered his gun and spat on the crumpled mess slouched next to him. His daughter would stay dead, her suffering undiminished.

‘Well amigo, you got your little squeeze’. Clark patted his gun and headed for the Chevvy, a dead man walking. There would be no legal consequences, this would be one shooting he’d leave out of Avery’s blood-soaked records…a Sheriff’s perk.

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