Back to The Beginning: Every Beauty is a Tragedy Waiting to Happen
Back to Part 10: Seeing the Beauty
The Final Chapter of the Tragic Beauty Anthology
The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that Kettles Johnson's plan to march down to the lake was the high end of madness. We were unarmed and about to confront a psychotic madman intent on dumping two bodies into the lake. Were Don and Candy even still alive? If they were, did he intend to dump their live bodies into a watery grave? Beyond that, isn't "watery grave" an overused concept? I did not know what to make of the plan. As far as I could see, Kettles didn't even have a plan.
"Stop being so introspective.
I have a plan.
Just be patient for Christsake."
Kettles and the grungy hitchhiker walked ahead while I slinked around behind them. I could see the stolen bread truck parked between two trees no more than a hundred feet away. There was no sign of Jerry, but there were what appeared to be two burlap bags writhing around on the ground behind the truck.
"Do you think that's Don and Candy in the bags?
Or do you think those are burlap bags which have magically come to life?"
Kettles turned around, crossed his arms and stared at me. He was about to say something rude and demeaning about my personage when the sound of a car coming down the road made him adjust his focus. We looked up at the road, although the hitchhiker just kept walking, and saw headlights pointing their light at us as the car came to a stop. We had company and I wasn't dressed for it.
I hoped our visitor would be Miles, but the car did not look like his. As my mind put two and two together my concern for Miles was growing. There were only two magically alive burlap bags sitting behind the bread truck. Kettles' mother had reported seeing Jerry load three burlap bags into the truck. Three of our associates were missing and Jerry was nowhere to be found. The most logical conclusion was that Jerry had dragged the third bag down to the lake and was in the process of sending it to a watery grave at this very instant in time.
"Holy panzer tank shit!
That is my beloved's VW Rabbit!
Jayne has come to pull our fat out of the fire.
Praise sweet baby James!"
What about Miles? I just could not get that thought out of my head, so I sat down on the ground and took my shoes off. I went back over the details of the story Kettles had told me while he rushed up to the road to greet Jayne. Three body filled sacks had been placed in the stolen bread truck. According to Kettles' mom, Jerry had forced a "colored boy" to drive the truck. Miles once told me he was of mixed heritage, his father being part Native American and part Jamaican. He never talked about his mother, but once bragged that his heritage enabled him to seduce and take home any woman in existence. He considered his heritage to be no more than three steps from immortality. Miles had to have been the one forced to drive the truck. I must have been the third burlap sack, although for whatever reason, Jerry had decided to dump me off in an abandoned mansion down near the coast. Okay, I felt better now. I put my shoes back on and stood up. To my left, Jayne was refusing to embrace Kettles, despite his most salient efforts. To my right, the hitchhiker was fishing through the back of the bread truck, pulling out loaves of freshly baked bread and shoving them into his pockets.
"This is totally out of hand," Jayne screamed as she stormed towards the bread truck. "I told that fucker he was going too far. I didn't pay him to land me in prison. I paid him to make sure I got my son back."
"Look, Jayne, sweetheart, we are trying to stop him.
We need your help."
"And you bastard! I paid you to make sure I kept a low profile while I got my degree. What the fuck have you done for me other than turn my life into a circus! I hate you, Kettles Johnson, I hate you!"
While Jayne and Kettles argued and the hitchhiker filled his pockets with bread, a notion entered my head. I was actually going to do something other than be a bystander. After taking a deep breath, I marched over to the two squirming burlap bags and opened them.
The first bag contained my good friend Don, who was struggling to catch his breath and seemed very weak. Candy was in the second bag, as I suspected, and she was barely conscious. After I freed them and helped them sit up, their backs propped by the rear bumper of the bread truck, I attempted to get Jayne and Kettles' attention. As I prepared to call out Kettles' name, a familiar object came careening towards my head. It was Jerry's Louisville Slugger, and this time I had enough sense to duck. The hitchhiker, who was hopping over to have a look at Candy's heaving breasts, took the blow from the bat for me. He doubled over, crashed to the ground and smiled for a moment before closing his eyes and taking a long, unexpected nap.
Jerry's shoulder wound was bleeding profusely, leaving dark red stains across most of his sleeveless t-shirt. He did not look like he was feeling very well and he lacked the bat speed to hit a solid fastball. He lifted the bat again, very slowly, and attempted another swing at my head. He couldn't quite manage it, and his swing had all the force of a gnat swinging a champagne bottle. I grabbed the bat in mid-air, yanked it away from Jerry, and watched cautiously as he staggered backwards, wincing in pain.
"Dude, you really need to go to the emergency room."
"No fucking way," grimaced Jerry as he slipped and fell to the ground, landing hard on his tailbone. "They have nurses there and nurses always look like angels to me. I can't do it, I like butterflies. Beauty is such a fleeting thing. It only exists in creatures that are in pain or some kind of transition."
Jerry was obviously disoriented, and from my current vantage point his wound was much worse than it had looked originally. It was turning black around the edges and when he used his arm to try to prop himself up, I caught a glimpse of exposed bone. His shirt was dripping with blood and the wound was still pumping it out. This was not a pretty sight, and yet there was beauty in Jerry's eyes. He looked up, smiled, and then passed on from this world. It was what he had always wanted, deep inside, and now no one could take it away from him. When he was young, bigger kids had stolen his toys and pushed him into the street in front of speeding cars. When he was a teenager his father filled his mouth with dirt and then proceeded to abuse the fact that Jerry's pants were around his ankles. His life had not been pretty and although his actions were not excused by his past, once the picture of this fragile human being came into focus behind the mask of snarling fierceness, Jerry became beautiful in my eyes.
Kettles Johnson put his arm around me as I watched the last stanza of Jerry's death. Then he pulled me away before I became too fascinated by what was now just an ordinary corpse. Jayne had her eyes closed and her head lowered. Her hands were clenched in fists and she kept repeating the same phrase over and over again. "I'll never see him again." I knew she wasn't talking about Jerry. She was talking about her boy. I felt myself becoming less confused by the world around me. Sometimes a dead guy can really point you in the right direction.
A month later, I was on the way to my modern European history class when I saw Jayne again. She had been out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. I started to raise my hand to wave a greeting, but as she walked past without any acknowledgment of my existence, I lowered my hand and continued on my way. It was probably for the best.