That Smell

A. I know the smell of my son’s sizzled balls.

B. The fuck you talkin bout.

A. We was just about clear of the big sliding doors into the afternoon when it happened. Both of us’d just clocked out, me from the old hangar and my boy from scrapin grills and servin up fries. Baking hot day just blastin off the blacktop. Sound of jets runnin up and down them lots. Jets taxiin, windin up and rampin down, taking folks where they’s goin all up and down the day. Something must of fell out my pocket. You know I can’t even remember what it was? Odd or end I swear don’t know.

B. What what was? What you fixin to tell?

A. The thing that fell out of my pocket on account of which my boy’s balls got sizzled.

B. Tell you what you better quit talkin crazy or

A. Or what? You just listen up and you tell me who you think is crazy. So whatever it was fell out and got us started down that road, fall it did, an anchor to pin us down and pull us back just as we crossed out the terminal and into the day. Then out of nowhere there’s a voice cryin stop. Cryin awhile before I even know it’s for us. You worked in the hangar before you thowed out your back so you remember. A day like that you step out and don’t hear a thing but all them jets, the song of the highway out by the perimeter, hell maybe a thought or two of you own. What you don’t hear is some high horse fuck goin on about some odd or end or tidbit fell out your pocket. But goin on is what he’s doin and by the time he runs us down he’s mad as a bee that’s raring to sting. Pick what up, I asked the gunman.

B. Gunman?

A. You heard that right. All he was. Pick what up? So he points down the unloading lane at somethin carried on a little swirl of wind. Like we was what? Well I don’t have to tell you. Like we was guilty of letting a little tuft of cotton drift off the plantation is what, and he was the foreman come to let us know what was what. Just some little drifting scrap. Soon as I see it I say I ain’t doing no fetching.

B. Word.

A. So mister high horse gunman says he’s got no choice but to write me up. For what I says – you don’t have nothin on me. He’s got this face. It goes all slack and smug and he says now that’s where you’re wrong. We got you every which way, dead to rights anyway you slice it. Why I bet I got you red-handed on more cameras than you know how to count up to. And so I say that may be officer, but if somethin fell out my pocket on its own you can’t write me up for it. That’s an accident, nothing more. It’s got you so worked up why don’t you pick it up yourself? Do us both a favor and do somethin needs doin. Which is when he gets in my face for real. Loses it. You never know with these guys, they just wind them up and let them off the lead with their fuses lit and ready to blow. Don’t know what the fuck will set them off. I guess them seein you a man and not a dog’ll do i. He says my ass it was an accident, boy. You were looking straight at me when you let it fly. It’s aggravated littering is what it was. So I say calm down officer, I’m sure we can sort this out. And he says I’m perfectly calm but it’s not me you need to be worrying about. Everyone knows Black Earth International’s a zero tolerance airport. If I don’t throw the book at you I could lose my job. Not that I wouldn’t anyway. So I said shit, you asked me they dialed that tolerance from zero to negative, the way the world is these days. But that’s just me. And he says that’s just me doing my job when I write you up on a vandal beef.

B. How much?

A. A thousand.

B. A what?

A. A thousand and not a cent less. He says were lucky to get off without a disorderly with the attitude we gave the law.

B. Majesty of the law.

A. You got that right. With a whipcracker to enforce it.

B. Well then what?

A. That’s just what I’m thinkin on. What happened next was in my boy’s mind. Like a stream that changes its course unseen, never mind the dark ocean it’s bound for, never mind what you’ll run into when you start rolling down your own natural way. When my boy opened his mouth everything was changed. I don’t know how to say it – like what was goin on went from being less than nothin to being everything there was and maybe no getting out alive. All on account of what snapped in my boy’s head, what clicked. The afternoon was the same red-gold-brown, the roar of jets no different, the cars singin down the highway the same.

B. So what did your boy say?

A. The hell you are is what he said. Bowed up on him too. For a second had him cowering. He said what you’re going to do is put away your little citation machine. You’re going to cut the high and mighty act. You’re going to get your hand off your pistol grip and then you’re going to leave us the hell alone. You’re going to learn how to be a man and not someone’s barking dog.

B. Sweet Jesus. Let me guess how that went over.

A. Next thing I know he has my boy on the ground and he’s grindin a knee into his spine. Grindin good and hard until he squeals for emrcy. Then he draws his gun on me, points it right in my face. He says don’t do nothing stupid. Get on your knees and put your hands on top of your head. That’s right. Not so hard was it. He cuffs my hands with one set and chains me to a car door with another. For your own good old man, is what he said. Now I’m not gonna lie and say my boy wasn’t comin for him like he meant to do him some harm. Why should I? Proud is what it should make me, and it does, ‘cept for that thing about what ocean you’re flowing out into and what all you got to bend your mind and body around to get there. I guess the gunman did him a mercy by drawin his Taser on the boy instead of the gun. Leastways that’s what they’ll say in court. Truth is – the truth was something different. The Taser was so the fun wouldn’t be over all at once. So he could have his way with him for just as long as he liked.

B. Oh man. You know you don’t got to go on.

A. Yes I do. I surely do. After he drug my boy up off the ground he starts by firing the pins into his belly. I see him collapse in front of me like a paper bag. Then he comes up on him and grinds his knee down again. Flips a switch somewhere on that infernal machine and goes to work. At first he’s just pokin around to see what’ll hurt the most. He finds it all right. I warrant I’ll take those screams with me to the grave. The gunman is fryin my boy in the groin when he looks up and says you better look on old man or I swear to God I’ll make it last longernit has to.

B. You don’t have to go on brother. Shit I don’t want you to.

A. Well I will just the same. All the sudden it’s like, I don’t know – it’s like the only things there are in the world is me chained to that car and my boy being tormented in front of me. And the awful chirp of the torture device. And the sound of the gunman laughing in triumph, just like it was a rape. No more jets, no more colors, no more heat, no more day. Just the space between me and my boy, miles of it, just the laughing and the click click click of the torture machine – and then the smell. Kerosene and blacktop and burning fabric, then all of it, I don’t know, exploded by the smell of my boy’s…

A. Oh sweet Jesus. God help us. Come now brother you just let on go. That’s the way, you just let it all come out now.

That Smell

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