2. Church

Rural Junkyard

Continued from last week’s installment of Digging in the Dirt.


A rust-colored 1973 Chevy Nova was flattened underneath a smaller blue 1977 Honda Civic. Russ awkwardly climbed over them to get to the spot.

Just beyond a block building, in a muddy clearing backed by three trees, and surrounded by an evenly placed circle of rusted-out washing machines and dryers, was a small woman in white robes. The trees had several stained-glass windows hanging from them: one of St. Lucy, patron saint of eyes–she was holding a plate with two large eyeballs on it; two small rosette windows; an old Pepsi window sign; and a new one, someone’s interpretation of Dogs Playing Poker.

The woman’s back was to Russ. Her hands were stretched towards the sun, and as she looked up, a waterfall of black hair flowed down her back. Russ could just barely hear the chanting: “Vitemus omne noxium/ Purgemus omne pessimum…”

As he dismounted the Nova, the leg of his jeans got caught on the door lock. The door then creaked open, leaving him on his right foot, left leg extended atop a wide open car door. He hopped and gyrated, trying to free his leg, and the loud squeaking of the door was enough to distract the woman from her practice.

Smiling, she ran toward him, and dislodged his leg.

“What are you doin’ here?” She threw her arms around him, and he now saw that her white robe was actually a fitted sheet with a hole through it for her head.

“Hey Rosie,” he said, and he hugged her back, but stopped himself before an instinctive kiss on the cheek. Just then he noticed a metallic thunking sound, and a dryer with legs appeared to be teetering generally forward, toward the appliance circle.

“Oh, hey Russ, this is Coyote.” Coyote dropped the appliance in place, and the crashing noise echoed off the surrounding hills and dead cars. Rosie took a step back and put her arm around Coyote’s waist.

“Pleased to meet you,” Russ said, even though he wasn’t.

“Likewise,” replied Coyote.

“Why do they call you ‘Coyote’?” asked Russ.

“Because they don’t like me that much,” replied Coyote.

“Oh,” replied Russ, not sure what to do next. He looked around for something to save him. “I like the new stained glass,” he said brightly, pointing at the dog window.

“Oh, yeah?” replied Coyote. “I sell ’em. Got twelve more in the back of my car if you want one. I usually sell ’em in the casino parking lot, but I got in a fight with the guy selling black light dashboard hula dancers.”

“Uh, no thanks. I’m good.” If you knew Russ, you would have identified his smile as saying, “Please, if you have any mercy at all, stop talking to me.” But to regular people, it just looked like he was thinking about something mildly troubling but slightly amusing, like movies with talking animals. “Rosie, can we talk for a second?”

“Sure. Coyote, can you move one more washer? Russ here is gonna join us on Sunday, and he’ll need to have his own spot.”

“Yup,” Coyote said, and slumped off to the field where the large appliances were kept.

Russ wanted to ask why he needed his own washer, but instead he said, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“You’re still coming on Sunday, right? You have to. I’ve never conducted Latin Vespers before!”

“And I really admire you for starting your own church right here in your dad’s junkyard. You’re the holiest person I know in real life.”

“Aww. So, you’ll come, then?”

“Well, that’s the thing. My brother has something and I want to make sure it all goes ok.”

“Is he ok? Do you need anything?”

“He’s fine,” replied Russ. He put his hands in his pockets and stared at a cloud that looked a little like a rooster. He wondered if it had any significance before answering, “Him and some friends are going to rob a place, and I want to make sure he doesn’t get shot.”

“That sounds hard,” replied Rosie, who just then got distracted by a small ant hill. The information seemed to be processing through her head, like a computer with insufficient disk space. Finally she said, “That’s really too bad. I was really hoping to have you there for moral support.”

Russ considered her for a moment, and all the time they dated, and wondered how much of it she was actually there for. “You’ve got Coyote.”

“He’s Lutheran.”

“Ah.”

They both stood silently for a moment until the banging reminded them that Coyote was bringing the extra washer.

“Coyote! You can put that back! He ain’t comin’,” yelled Rosie.

“Oh. Shoot. Y’sure?”

“Another engagement,” yelled Russ. “MAYBE NEXT WEEK.”

Coyote sullenly turned around and started back down the small hill with his washing machine, at a slightly slower, drudging pace.

“You’ll do great,” said Russ, “I promise.”

“I hope you’re right,” Rosie exhaled. “I’ve got the whole Hiddlesburg Fireman’s Club darts team coming.” She began playing with her nails. “They’re wanting a special blessing for next Tuesday’s match. I don’t want to upset them.”

“I wish I could be here. I really do.”

They hugged and as Russ began to climb the cars to exit the rear part of the dump, it occurred to him that if he was going to protect his brother, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to piss off his ex-girlfriend’s new set of deities.

“Figures,” he thought. Just when he’d had a chance to tip the supernatural scales in his favor, it would be ruined because of a scheduling issue. Plus… he missed Rosie more than he wanted to admit.

Russ dismounted the car pile and checked his watch. He wondered where his brother Todd was, and if he was managing to stay out of trouble for a single afternoon.

Continued in part 3.


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