What a morning. On any other day it would have been fun to call out of work and drive around with Jamie, but instead I was bleeding to death in my car and speeding off to nowhere with her about to go into shock next to me.
I wanted to drive out to a little deserted lot I knew of, where we could just talk for ten minutes. Ten minutes was all we needed to sort this whole thing out.
To think that all Dad had to say was that he didn’t want to hear about it again—no wonder we did such crazy stuff all the time and got away with it. What a joke. My parents were clueless, clueless about every damn thing.
The pain pounded in my head from Matt slamming me to the ground. He was no small guy, but I couldn’t believe he knocked me clear off the porch.
I needed to get Jamie out of there. It was not her fault that all of this was happening. She had plenty else on her mind. None of this should have been her problem at all.
When we were kids, Jamie and Matt and their parents used to visit us during the summer. A big part of me was glad when those two came to live with us. It was like we were kids again. Those were the best memories I had from growing up and I knew we could get them back—me and Jamie, at least.
I needed to tell Jamie about something else Matt had done. There were a couple of reasons I was unhappy with him, and his creepy night-spying was just the cherry on top of a pie that had been baking for a very long time.
When we got to the empty lot, I turned off the car and got out. I went around to the trunk and looked inside. I kept on almost believing that the present Matt had left me wouldn’t be there anymore, but of course it was. I scared myself now just thinking that I had ridden around with it for a good few days, trying to pretend like nothing was wrong.
There was a rifle in the trunk. It was mine but I had not put it there. Matt had gotten a hold of it, but that wasn’t all.
I walked over to Jamie’s side of the car. She stared up at me with her sad, pretty eyes. I stood back and pulled the door open. “Hey,” I said, “I got somethin’ you need to see.”
We walked around the car and she peered into the trunk with a mix of curiosity and fear, like peering into an open coffin. The trunk was empty, spotless, except for the gun sitting there polished clean with a note tied to it.
Jamie reached for the note and untied it, opened it, and read it to herself.
“Monster,” she whispered when she was done. She looked at me. “What the hell?”
I shrugged. “I found it is this way a few days ago. The rifle had three bullets in it. First thing I did was unload it, but I left the gun there ’cause I didn’t want him to think I knew about it, I don’t know, just in case.”
She stared at me for a second and blinked. “But…why didn’t you tell me? Wait, when did he do this?”
I shook my head and shrugged again. “A few nights ago. I mean, I really don’t know. I just…found it the other day. But you know, today settles it.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.” She talked quietly and looked around suddenly, over both shoulders. “Let’s just leave, altogether, and get out of here. Today, now.” The look on her face was dead serious.
I knew she meant it. I was ready, too. “Alright. Let’s do it. We should go back first, and get at least some of our stuff.”
“I don’t know.” She reached out and hugged me. I hugged her back. She held onto me for a long time.
We got back in the car and didn’t say much, but Jamie kept looking at me and trying to smile. I tried to smile back.
We were going to go somewhere, do something, but for how long? I didn’t want to start talking or even thinking about it just yet. I could give it until we got back on the road again and to a hotel, maybe. But we were doing this. Something real was happening.
As we drove, I looked around. It was still early. The road sprawled out in front of us, with snow and fields lining it forever. The sky was so blue, that cloudless blue that reminded me of fall, not spring. I could even smell burning leaves in the distance and had this sensation like winter was coming and not going.
We pulled onto the long driveway and I could see our property stretching across the horizon. There was our house, a barn and the trees to the east, and then a long field of brown and white that crawled out toward the west until there were hills and then endless sky.
As we bounced along the gravel road, my bleeding head throbbed with every jolt and bang of wheels over rocks. Jamie put her hand on my leg. We looked up at the house. It wasn’t our house anymore. I saw Matt and my parents standing on the porch, waiting and watching us.
There was something wrong about how they looked. Matt was still in his t-shirt, all covered in his own blood. His hair was a mess and he was pale like he was freezing his crazy ass off, just standing there on the porch like a total nut.
Jamie looked at me. “Do you think he knows we talked about him?” she asked.
I glanced over at her. “Of course he does.” She nodded and we looked back again. Matt was alone.
“Wait, where did Uncle Mike and Aunt Misty go?” she asked quietly.
“They were just there,” I said. We stared ahead, bumping along while Matt glared back at us, covered in blood. A lot of blood.
“Robbie, we should turn around now,” Jamie said quickly, leaning back into her seat.
“I know. We need clothes, though, right? And some cash, and our stuff?”
We pulled to a stop with Matt directly ahead, leaning unnaturally to one side, his dark eyes squinting in the muted sunlight.
I had a terrible feeling.
“Don’t leave me alone,” Jamie said quickly, grabbing my hand.
“I won’t,” I said, and wondered if we were really about to get out of this car, and what the hell would happen if we did.
"Dakota Morning," copyright 2018 Amelia Cotter (first published in Black Oak Presents: A Journal of Mid-American Culture, Winter 2010 Edition, 2010)