07 Nov A Little Bit Country
“A Little Bit Country”Written by Drew Stepek Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 32 minutes
I walked into that office an’ wiped some dirt an’ sweat off a my head with my arm. The office was as white as a laundry mat with one desk an’ two chairs in front of it. A fat man in glasses with a pencil behind his ear stood up an’ started clapping his flabby ol’ hands. He was sweatin’ an’ his fat face was all red. I was sweatin’, too so I din’t pay it no bother. He had long hair pulled back in a ponytail like a girl an’ one a them funny beards. I think people called ‘em Van Dykes.
“There he is,” he shouted ‘cross that room.
I stopped dead in my tracks. It was the first voice I had heard since… I can’t even remember nothin’. Since I’d been there. That’s for damn sure.
“Well?” the fat man badgered me. “Are you going to close the fucking door and come in? Were you born in a barn?”
I looked back outside the office as I gripped on to that door handle. There was nothin’ but black behind me. I sniffed my nose an’ cracked my ol’ neck.
“Jesus Christ, son,” he hollered. “We have a lot to get to.”
I jiggled at the handle a bit an’ then closed it, as I was told. “Where am I?” I asked him.
“Come on over here and take a seat.” He pointed at one of them chairs in front a his desk. “We have a lot to get through before I can send you out.”
I shuffled my dirty, bare feet over toward him. “Send me out where?” I asked him. “Am I goin’ somewhere?”
He pointed at the chair on the left in front a his desk. “You’ve been brought up to the big leagues, son. Didn’t anyone brief you?” He picked up his phone an’ pushed a flashin’ button. “Phillips!” he howled. “What the fuck is going on?” He waited a sec an’ then rolled them bulgy eyes a his. “Didn’t anyone educate number—” He shuffled his hands ‘round the stacks a papers on his desk an’ pulled out a folder. He opened it an’ dragged his finger down that page. “Number two, two, five, dash, six, one, six, two, three, two, two, eight, five, nine, seven, two, three, five, one, niner? I got him in my office now looking at me like he doesn’t know where he is.” He covered that phone with his hand. “Fucking processing. Heads are gonna roll, that’s for sure.” He pointed to that left seat again. “Why don’t you take a seat while I get your paperwork all situated.”
“I’m just fine standin’ right here,” I tol’ him.
He waved me away like a bumblebee and took his hand off a that phone. “What do you mean he hasn’t been processed yet? Did he at least get his orientation?” He covered up that phone again an’ asked, “Did you have your orientation yet?”
I din’t remember getting no orientation, so I said, “I don’t know.”
He slapped himself on the forehead. “Okay, Phillips. He don’t know. Ask Thompson what I should do.” He pointed pulled the phone away from his ear an’ pointed to it. “Hold music. It’s just the worst.” He rocked back in that chair a his an’ put his arms behind his fat ol’ head. His armpits were drenched like he just got sprayed with a garden hose. He pulled that phone back to his ear an’ listened. He let out a big gust of wind an’ pulled out that pencil from behind his ear. He started writing stuff on that folder. “Okay,” he said. “Okay. Wait. What?” He snapped the pencil in half. “What do you mean I have to do it? I’m his handler. He should already be prepped and ready to go. Goddammit, Phillips! He’s supposed to go out today.” He started beatin’ that phone against his head. Not hard like. I think he was makin’ a point. “Do you really expect me to believe that the processing department is short-staffed? We’re in fucking Hell. There are zillions of people down here.” He waited a second an’ listened to Phillips. “Oh, don’t worry, The IT will hear about this.” He put his hand over that phone an’ looked at me. “Can you believe this guy?” Then, he pulled it right back to that face a his. “Fuck me? Fuck you, Phillips.” He slammed that phone back onto its butt. He put his hands over his sweaty, lady haircut an’ started laughing like a mental patient.
“Excuse me, mister?” I tried to get his attention. “What in the heck am I doin’ here?”
He peaked out behind them hands an’ took a deep breath. Then, he opened up that folder. “Come on over here and take a seat.” He pointed at that left chair.
I limped on over. Seemed like I had been walkin’ forever an’ my legs hurt. I pulled that chair out from his desk. “I haven’t sat down in a long time, mister.”
He picked up some glasses an’ went back to the folder. “Hmmmm. It’s not like sitting is something you have to learn how to do.” He looked up at me. “Just jokes, son.” Then, he looked back down at that there folder again. “Yep! Looks like you’ve been walking for a long time.” He took them glasses off. “How long do you think you’ve been down there?”
I brushed off the seat on that chair. “I don’t know. Seems like forever.”
He smiled at me. “You don’t need to tell me. I’ve been there. Thing is that there is no time in Hell. It’s just… here.”
I bent down ta take that seat an’ then fell right onto my ass. That chair wasn’t even there at all.
He shot outta his seat an’ shouted, “BAM! That never gets old.”
“You tryin’ to hoodwink me, mister?” I looked behind me ta see who pulled it away before I tried ta sit in it. No one was there. The chair wasn’t even there no more.
He started screaming an’ laughing an’ pounding his fists on the desk. “So classic. So classic.”
I rubbed on my legs an’ my butt. They sure did hurt. “Where did that chair go? Why in the hell would you y’all do that to me?”
He stopped laughing for a second an’ then looked behind him like I wasn’t talkin’ to him at all. Then, he turned back to me an’ looked at me like he didn’t know whether to check his watch or scratch his ass. “Y’all?” He turned around again. “I’m the only one here.” He took his seat an’ then went back to that folder. “Oh. Here we go.” He thumped on that folder with his finger. “You’re from the American South. Duh.”
I got back to my feet an’ brushed off the backs a my legs. “I guess so. Don’t ‘member much.”
He snapped his fingers an’ that chair came right back up behind me like some kind a magic trick. “No one remembers much about being up there.” He pointed at that white ceiling. “Take your seat, please, son.”
I stepped up toward him. “Mister. I got a mind to—”
“Just sit down. I got my laugh for the day.”
I grabbed the chair by its arms an’ lowered myself onto the seat. It din’t get swallered up into thin air this time ‘round.
He threw the folder back on the desk. “Well, you don’t have a name on here other than number two, two, five, dash, six, one, six, two, three, two, two, eight, five, nine, seven, two, three, five, one, nine.”
I was listenin’ to him best I could but I was thinkin’ more about how good it felt good ta sit down. Seemed like I had really been walkin’ ‘round in them hot, ol’ caverns forever. “You’re the first person I spoke to since I been here.”
He looked at me like I was a squirrel in rat trap an’ pointed a new pencil at me. “I’m gonna call you Country.”
I started liking at my dry hands with my tongue. “Why you wanna call me that?”
He started making fun a the way I talked. “Well, you’re a lil’ bit country… bein’ a southern gentleman an’ all. Besides, I don’t want to have to read off that long number every time I want to call you something.”
“I think I want to go back to them caverns now, mister,” I tol’ him.
He put his elbows down on the desk an’ looked at me straight. “No, I don’t think you do.”
My hands were covered in callouses like I got chicken pox from a baseball mitt. I tried to lick at them, best I could. “And why is that?”
“Jesus,” he yelled and then pushed me some lotion on the corner of his desk. “Licking your hands is only going to make them worse.”
I squirted a lil’ bit of lotion out of the jar an’ then smelled it. “This ain’t hot sauce or nothin’, is it?”
“Hot sauce? Hilarious.” He grabbed the bottle and squeezed a lil’ bit onto his hands an’ then lathered ‘em up. “That is a good idea, though. I need to remember that one.” He stood up. “You want something to drink, Country?”
“Better not be no hot sauce,” I warned him.
He walked over to a water cooler in the corner that wasn’t there a second before. “What is your obsession with hot sauce?” He poured out some water into a lil’ cup an’ brought it back to me.
I grabbed the cup an’ sucked it down. I couldn’t even remember the last time that I had water. I handed it back to him. “Can I have me a lil’ more?”
He chuckled. “You bet, Country.” He walked back to the water cooler an’ refilled that cup. “You know. You’re real lucky. In all my time of working as a handler down here, I’ve never seen anyone make it to agent status so quickly. The IT must have seen something special in you.”
“The IT?” I asked.
“Yeah. The IT. Trust me.” He mosied back to me with my second cup a water. “I’m just a lowly handler and I had to suck The IT’s dick and eat The IT’s pussy for what seemed like forever.”
“You ain’t making no sense.” I took the cup an’ licked at the rim like a bullfrog catchin’ a fly before I drank it down. It was the best darn water I ever did have.
“The IT is what people up there call the Devil,” he giggled. “Satan? Lord of the Underworld? Mephistopheles?”
“Let me get this straight, mister. The Devil is some kind a lady?”
“Didn’t you just hear me say that it had a dick, Country? Keep up. You ever heard of a lady with a dick?”
I crunched up the paper cup over my head an’ tried my damnedest to squeeze every darn drop of water out of it. “You also said that The IT had a vagina.”
“The IT has both,” he started yappin’. “I don’t know what the fuck I was sucking and eating. You don’t ask The IT questions. The bottom line is that I did my time and I got this job. Now, as of today, I work for you.”
“Well, I never heard ‘bout nothin’ like that about dicks an’ vaginas an’ all. I also never even met this IT thing.” I unfolded the cup an’ put it down on his desk. I wanted more water but I did’t want to seem like I was given him no disrespect. “What are we gonna be doin’? Shovelin’ pig shit or somethin’?
He sat down behind his desk and started gigglin’. “No, Country. We won’t be shoveling pig shit.” He pulled open a drawer behind that desk a his an’ then dropped a bunch a books an’ folders in front a me. “As of today, you are an agent. You will be sent out into the field to manipulate the forces of Heaven. Your purpose… our purpose… it to breakdown the followers of God one at a time.”
“Do what now?” I picked up one a them books an’ flipped through the pages.
He smirked an’ put out his hand to shake mine. “Name’s Sonny Hooper. You can call me Hoop. I will be your coach and your handler.”
I looked up from that book, licked my hand an’ shook his.
“You do know how to read, don’t you?” he asked me.
* * * * * *
“I assume you slept well,” Mr. Hooper asked me. He walked over an’ handed me a big ol’ bottle a water.
I pulled some crust off the inside a my nose an’ sucked that water down. It refilled by itself. “Well, I’ll be.” I figured it was some kind a magic or somethin’. “It sure was nice to sleep in a bed but that fan wasn’t really workin’ real well.”
“Country!” he dug them flabby hands a his into a bag a potato chips. “You’re in Hell! Do you know how hard it is to get fans down here at all?” He waved me over to a new door that appeared behind his desk, over by that water cooler.
I followed him. “I remember one summer. All them hardware stores in my town were outta fans.”
“That must have been like Hell. It said in your file that you’re from Tupelo, Mississippi. The home of The King.”
Like he just turned on a lightbulb in a closet, I ‘membered the king. I ‘membered Elvis. I liked music.
He put out his hand an’ let me enter that new room before him.
I looked inside. It was all white with some kind a computer doohickey an’ some other type of trough that looked to be hooked up to the computer doohickey. “There ain’t no tricks in here is there? Like that chair?”
He put up his arms and the flab jiggled in his short-sleeved shirt. “We don’t have time for tricks, Country.”
I walked into that room.
He pointed to the computer doohickey. “That is the machine that will take you back to the earth realm.”
I scuffled over to the trough an’ bent down to smell it. It wasn’t a trough like the tin ones I used to fill on my daddy’s farm. At least I din’t think so. “I’m gettin’ out?” I licked at them hands a mine. “I get to leave?”
He put his hand over his face. “Oh, God, no. You just get to go on a… hmmm… vacation.” He walked over ta that computer doohickey an’ pushed a coupla buttons on a typewriter that light up like a Lite Brite toy. “Did you read any of the books or assignments that I gave you yesterday?”
I walked over to him an’ looked at the window glass TV screen on top a that computer doohickey. “It was too dark ta read.” I touched that window screen.
He swatted my hand away like it was a fly on a hot dog. “Don’t touch that, Country. Are you telling me that you don’t know how this works?”
I was gettin’ a lil’ tired a his tone. “I said it was dark.”
He smacked himself on the head. “Fuck, that’s right. You can’t read.”
“I can read,” I yelled at him. “I think.”
“Look. It’s not that hard. I’ve sent several agents into the field without understanding the ins and outs of the equipment.” He handed me a lil’ June bug lookin’ thing. “Put this over your ear.”
I turned that critter over and’ hundreds an’ thousands a legs jiggled around. I din’t much like that bug. “It’s not gonna bite me, is it?”
“Bite you? No! It’s an earpiece so I can communicate with you.” He pointed at a microphone comin’ outta that Lite Brite typewriter in front a the computer doohickey. “I talk into that and you hear me in your ear. I will be watching you from this.” He pointed at that window glass TV. “That way I can monitor what you’re doing. We can’t have you breaking any of the treaty agreements with the guys upstairs.” He pointed to that ceiling.
I put the bug in my ear. It clamped over the top an’ the bottom. I feft all thousands a them legs prick into my skin. “You mean God?”
“God. Jesus. Angels and shit. The other team. Let me make this simple.” He pointed to that white trough. “You will be in here.” Then, he walked over to that computer doohickey. “I will be watching you from here. You will be doing what I say and playing for our team. It’s like football.”
“I like football, I think.” I scratched at my ear. That June bug was locked on there pretty tight. It was makin’ me wanna sneeze for some reason. “What position am I playin’?”
“It’s not literally football. You will be taking over the body of a little girl who is presumed possessed. The device in your ear will control your crossing between the realms.” He tapped on that June bug thing.
I looked at that window glass TV on top a that computer doohickey. It was seeing everything that I was seein’. I waved my hand in front a my face. “Huh?”
“This machine,” he waved his hand around the room. “It’s connected to Hell’s core. It allows us to communicate with the earth realm through little girls.”
I din’t much understand what he was sayin’ so I just acted like I did an’ nodded my head. “Why lil’ girls?”
“They are the easiest to occupy. For some reason, everyone thinks that when a little girl is sad or starting her period that she’s possessed. So, we breach their consciousness when they are easily inhabitable. I could tell you a million stories of all the times that the other team has tried to shut down our operation because we figured that out. That’s why there is a treaty in place. We can scare the hell out of anyone we want but we can’t kill anyone from their team. It’s become a game of influence. We used to be able to take down whoever we wanted. But, the IT has kind of a weird relationship with the other team. Remember that. Our job is to outwit them and show the rest of the earth realm the persuasion of The IT.”
I looked at Mr. Hooper and then at the TV screen. “Remember what?”
“Jesus, Country!” He put one of them hands a his on the microphone an’ pushed a coupla buttons on that Lite Brite typewriter. “Phillips!” He turned around to look at me and said, “Just a second.” He turned back to that computer doohickey. I saw the back of his head in that glass window TV. “This guy isn’t ready.” He put his hand over that June bug in his ear. “I know that we’re short-staffed, asshole. I think we should send him back to the caverns. He doesn’t even want to do this.”
I walked over an’ tapped him on the shoulder. “Mr. Hooper.”
“Hoop! Call me Hoop!” He shushed me like we was in a church. “Not you, Phillips. I know you know my name. He’s talking to me.”
The June bug in my ear started to itch some more. “Hooper, I don’t wanna go back to them caverns. What do I gotta do?”
He put up his finger again. “Wait, Phillips. It looks like he doesn’t want to go back to the caverns.”
I shook my head no an’ talked into my June bug. “I don’t wanna go back to them caverns, Mr. Phillips.”
“You heard it from him. Can we send him up to show you that he’s ready? Yes. Okay. Of course, I’ll get him to sign the paperwork.” Mr. Hooper stuck up his thumb. “I think we’re in business.” He walked over to the trough an’ flipped some doodad. “Oh, fuck you, Phillips.” He smirked an’ winked at me. “You have a better chance of going back to the caverns than my boy Country.” He waited a second. “Oh, yeah. You wanna make a wager? You’re on.” He waited another second. “Toolshed? Are you fucking kidding me? She’s in a fucking toolshed? This hick will be a rockstar in a toolshed. If Country fucks this up, I’ll do a thousand years in the caverns. If he does things right, you go back to the caverns. Later, dipshit.” He put his hand over his June bug like he was hangin’ up a telephone.
“Do I gotta go back?” I took another drink from my water. Sure did taste good.
Mr. Hooper grabbed a stack a papers that was sitting next to the computer doohickey. He handed it to me. “You have to sign this. Now.”
I looked at the pages but couldn’t read nothin’. “What does it say?”
“That’s right, you can’t read.” He grabbed them papers back.
“I can read. I think.”
He pointed to the first page. “This says that you are enlisted in service of the underworld and that you pledge yourself to The IT.” He went to the next page. “This says that you will abide by the rules of the treaty. Blah, blah, blah. Remember. Don’t kill any priests, parents, good Christian people. We don’t kill. Our mission is to influence.” He flipped through more a them pages. “This is the treaty.” He flipped through what seemed like a coupla hundred pages an’ finally he got to that final page. “This says that you are choosing not to walk the caverns anymore. And finally, this says that you won’t try to escape once you’re in the earth realm.”
“Yeah, man. If you rip this off,” he rubbed on the June bug in my ear, “when you’re in the earth realm, you’re trapped there.”
I took a sip a that water. “So, I’d be free?”
“No. You’re not going there as yourself. Only your soul… hmmmm… your brain is going there. You will be trapped in the body of one of your hosts. Sure, you’ll feel all the same pain that your host feels and you’ll be able to smell the air and taste the food and all that good shit, but you won’t be there. Imagine being in a jail where you can’t talk to anyone you see.”
“That sure does sound better than them caverns,” I tol’ him.
“Of course it does.” He flicked his fat ol’ finger on that page. “Once you sign this, you’ll never see the caverns again. I promise. You will be able to drink all the water you want. You’ll have a bed and a room every night. If you help me win this bet, shit, I’ll get you a working fan and some lights in your room.” He handed me back them papers an’ a pen. “Please help me out, Country. In case you didn’t hear, I just made a bet with that pederast Phillips. Man, do I hate that guy. He’s been trying to steal my job for years.”
I looked at them papers an’ grabbed that pen. “So, my brain won’t be here anymore?”
He turned back to the computer doohickey. “No, your little brain won’t be in Hell anymore.”
“I don’t much like the way you’re talkin’ to me again, Mr. Hooper.”
“Fine,” he said as he punched away on that Lite Brite typewriter. “Big brain. You have a huge fucking brain.”
I started to sign them papers an’ then stopped. “Wait, what’s my name?”
He didn’t turn around. “Just sign the contract ‘Country.’ If you can’t spell that, just put an ‘X.’ I’ll send it over to Phillips immediately and he’ll process ‘two, two, five, dash, six, one, six, two, three, two, two, eight, five, nine, seven, two, three, five, one, nine.’”
I scratch an ‘X’ on that last page.
Mr. Hopper snatched them papers back from me an’ fed them inta his computer doohickey. “This should do the trick. Thing is that you need to follow the rules when you’re up there because we’re sending you out as an unprocessed agent. We are taking a chance on you because I believe in you.” He waited a minute. I took a gulp a water.
“Did you get the contract, Phillips?” He snapped his fingers at me an’ pointed toward the trough. Then, he whispered at me, “Get in.”
I walked over to that trough. It opened up like a garage door an’ I looked inside. There was all types a machines an’ wires inside of it but there was also a comfortable lookin’ lawn chair in the middle. I pushed my hands up against the back. It sure was soft.
“Oh fuck off, Phillips,” Mr. Hooper screamed like an alley cat. “Be sure and tell the old gang down in the caverns I fucking hate them.” He tapped on his June bug again an’ then hit a few more times on that Lite Brite typewriter.
I dragged my legs over the side a the trough an’ laid back in the chair. “Is this right?”
“Perfect, Country. Now lay back.” He walked up behind me an’ put this thingy that looked like a green bean strainer over my head. “It’s going to be a bit disorientating when you slip back to the earth realm, but it will get easier the more you do it.” He flipped on a switch on the side a that green bean strainer. “Are you my boy?”
“I ain’t nobody’s boy,” I tol’ him.
He laughed an’ his fat rolls jiggled near my nose. “I know that. You’re a badass. You’re a soldier. You’re a hero!” He slapped me on my arm. “Tell me the rules now.”
I stretched out my neck. That chair sure was comfortable. I felt like a pig in shit. Sure was better than walkin’ around them caverns. “Number one. Don’t tear off this or my brain will be inside a lil’ girl forever.” I tapped on that June bug.
He started weezin’ away. “Perfect. What else?”
“Don’t kill no priests or nothin’ like that.”
“Don’t kill anyone, Country. Remember the treaty. You have to remember the treaty. If you fuck this up, The IT will get in trouble with God and then I will be sucking dicks and eating pussies for a long time.”
“Don’t kill nobody,” I said.
A red light started swirlin’ around on top a that window glass TV an’ a bunch a gravy started fillin’ up inside the trough.
Mr. Hopper counted down with them fingers a his. “Three. Two. One. Good luck, Country. Let’s send Phillips back to the caverns where he belongs. Goddamn Yankee. I think he lived in Boston when he was on Earth.”
“I don’t think I ever been to no Boston. But I don’t think I’d like it.”
The top a that trough locked tight like a cigarette holder an’ the gravy completely filled it up. It din’t smother me though, an’ it din’t taste like no gravy I ever had before.
* * * * * *
I opened my eyes an’ spit out that gravy taste but nothin’ came out. The vacation ride made my big ol’ brain feel drunker than Cooter Brown. Whoever the hell that was.
I looked around ta see where I was. I was in a toolshed, hiddin’ back in a corner behind a lawnmower. I scratched at it to see if was real an’ got my hand all tangled up in some spider webs. Yep, it was real, alright. I put my hand up my dress. There weren’t no man parts down there. I was inside a one a them lil’ girls. I din’t wanna go up in there too far. I din’t much like messin’ round with lil’ girls, I reckoned.
The door across that shed opened an’ I think I heard an’ bird chirpin’. A lil’ ol’ mouse scurried inta another corner.
“Violet? Are you in here?” the man hollered inta the shed. “It’s just Deacon Breshears, Deacon Prine and your pa.”
I peeked up over the side a the mower. Those barn doors into the shed opened about halfway. I was back. I was back on earth.
I heard a voice in that June bug on my ear. Country, can you hear me?
I looked out an’ saw them deacons enter the shed.
Country, it’s Hoop. Can you hear me?
I pressed on the June bug like Mr. Hooper. “I hear you,” I said. At least, I think I said. My voice sounded like a lil’ girl. “This is weird.”
Don’t worry. The machine on your ear is cloaked when you’re in the earth realm. You successfully crossed the planes. What do you see?
Them deacons started ta enter the shed. “Violet, it’s your Pa. We’re here to help you.”
I pressed on that June bug again an’ whispered like a cotton-tailed rabbit. “I’m in a shed. Some men is comin’ in here. I think they want ta help me. What should I do?”
Mr. Hooper laughed.
Flick the switch on the side of the receiver on your ear. I need to see what’s happening. I need to handle the situation. Remember. No fuck ups or I’m in the caverns for a long ass time.
I turned on that lil’ switch on the side a that June bug like Mr. Hooper tol’ me. I felt a breeze come from outside through a hole in the shed. It smelled nice like the magnolias were bloomin’ on a Spring day. It smelled better than that burnt pig shit in them caverns. It smelled like home. It made me remember home. I even think I heard a bird chirpin’ outside.
Good work. I can see the door and the men. Keep looking in that direction. I need to know what we are dealing with. Remember. No killing.
I did as Mr. Hooper told me. Three shadows entered the shed. I grabbed onta the seat of the mower.
“What, Mr. Hooper? What do you see?” I asked him.
Open your eyes. Code red, Country. They have bats and a shotgun.
He was right. As soon as them deacons an’ that pa got to the middle a that shed, one a them clicked on a light bulb with a string. Two was all chokin’ up on different bats an’ the man who wasn’t in a church outfit had a shotgun. I think that one was Pa.
“Why do they have bats an’ guns, Mr. Hooper?” I asked him, gettin’ a lil’ chilly from the hole in the shed.
Jesus, Country. They know that you’re inside the little girl. Fucking Phillips blew our cover. We should abort.
You should come back. They’ve already won. Looks like it’s back to the caverns for me. Dammit!
“I ain’t goin’ back to no caverns,” I yelled out.
“Violet?” one a them men asked. “We’re here to help you. Come on out of that corner.”
Abort, Country! Abort!
I stood up an’ brushed off that spring dress that lil’ girl had on. I tapped on the June bug. “I ain’t going back to them caverns!”
“Violet, baby. It’s Pa.”
“What caverns, honey?” one a them men said to me.
I looked over next to me an’ grabbed diggin’ spade. “Y’all better not come back here. I’ll fuckin’ kill you, motherfuckers. I rip off them dicks a yours and eat ‘em up like possum pie.”
They all gasped as if they had never heard a swear before.
Country, Goddamit! Stand down!
“Fuck you, Mr. Hooper. I’m gonna win this football game,” I tol’ him. “You ain’t gotta worry about suckin’ no more dicks or eatin’ no more vaginas.”
I jumped on top a that lawn mower seat an’ pulled that spade back behind my right ear. The lil’ girl’s hair fell in front a my face. “Get outta here, you fuckin’ Yankees! Go back ta Heaven.”
Two a them choked up further on their bats. “Daniel, go back in the house. You don’t need to see this.”
Pa stood there, crying like a woman. His shotgun fell onto the dirt floor.
One a them deacons stepped to me. “Violet, put down that shovel.”
The June bug started blarin’ static an’ buzzin’ in my ear but I couldn’t really hear nothin’ Mr. Hooper was sayin’ to me. I turned off that switch that he had me turn on.
“I’m a gonna kill you fuckers.” I jumped at the deacon in front an’ shoved the spade right around his dick. He dropped to his knees an’ started beggin’ me to stop. I shoved that thing in an’ out a his gullet like I was churnin’ butter. A lot a his insides dumped onto the ground in front a him. He fell on his knees like he was startin’ to prey. He wasn’t prayin’, though. He was tryin’ to pick up his gizzards an’ put it all back inside a him. I started stomping through all them guts like I was jumpin’ through sprinklers in the mud. I picked up a long string a them insides an’ wrapped it around his neck like I was puttin’ Christmas lights on a tree. He coughed an’ screamed an’ it smelled kinda like he mighta shit in his drawers. He started losing his breath an’ finally fell forward. I lifted up that spade an’ dug it clean through him from the other side. When he hit the ground flat and stopped flippin’ and floppin’, I just dug my lil’ girl hands into them ears a his an’ pulled his head off.
That second deacon came at me with his bat an’ swung away, barely missin’ my head. Stupid Yankee. I walked on top a that one who was dead an’ shoved my lil’ girl fingers into his eyes. “You don’t fuck with my team!” I ripped around in his sockets an’ scratched his face, tearing all the skin right off. The water pouring outta his eyes tickled on my fingers an’ made me smile. I wasn’t in no cavern no more. Pa folded like a coward at a card table in the corner, squealing like a lil’ baby hog. All he could say was, “No, Violet. Please stop.”
That second deacon came at me again. He din’t really have much of a face no more. “Lord give me power!” he cried.
I jumped off a the deacon whose head I ripped off on the floor a the shed.
That one without a face was a hummin’ songs about God an’ lookin’ at me like he wanted ta kill.
I ran back over by the mower an’ climbed up on top a workbench. I snatched up two hammers that were sittin’ next ta my dirty, lil’ girl feet.
The deacon charged at me. “Satan! Leave this innocent child,” he growled.
I growled at him an’ he swung that bat a his an’ missed me again ‘cause I jumped like a bullfrog. It was about then that it become clear that I had some type a superhero powers. I threw myself at him an’ grabbed on to that neck a his, draggin’ him down to the dirt floor.
“Please, God. Give me power to fight the evils of—“
He din’t say another word on a count a me smashin’ his mouth with the front a one a them hammers. I started laughin’ again as them teeth a his started jumpin’ around like popcorn on a hot stove. I got up an’ danced around him doin’ the dosey doe while he tried to grab that bat a his again. I took that other hammer an’ started usin’ that claw side to hack away at his throat. He was chokin’ an’ it sounded kinda like he was gurglin’ with bakin’ soda. I smacked that hammer inta the bottom of that chin a his and them danced back ‘round behind his head an’ ripped that jaw a his clean off a his head.
I heard Pa still crying. If he knew what was good for him, he would just count the seconds a life that he had left an’ enjoy the show.
I was done with the second deacon, so I dug both them hammers inta both sides a his forehead. I wasn’t countin’ but I musta smashed into that a his skull ten times. He tried to shake his head but he just dragged them claws further and further inta his skull. He picked up his jaw an’ his teeth an’ junk an’ then he tried his darndest to speak. I grabbed onta that tongue a his that was danglin’ like a dick on sex night, stepped on what was left a his throat an’ pulled it right out. I threw it over at Pa, lettin’ him know that he was next.
More static came through on the June bug.
Country! Goddamit! Abort! Do not engage. Turn your camera back on!
“I ain’t goin’ back to them caverns, Mr. Hooper.” That second Yankee Deacon started to sputter out like truck runnin’ outta gas so I stood up over him an’ started running piss out my new girl parts all that chest a his. “Fuck you, deacon. There ain’t no God to help you now. You go an’ tell THAT to Mr. Phillips! I never did like no cheaters.”
He weren’t talkin’ no more so instead a goin’ on about the Devil an’ whatnot, I pulled them hammers outta his head. The second hammer was buried pretty deep but I jimmied it loose. I looked Pa straight in the face as I smashed both claws down next between them eyes a his. With all my lil’ girl superhero power might, I cracked that head a his open like the Grand Canyon. His eyes busted outta them sockets and landed next ta that pile a teeth an’ that jaw a his. The hammers flew outta my hands to both sides a that shed an’ I dug my face into the bowl I made outta his head. I had tasted varmint brain before, but I never did try human brain until that day. I hadn’t eaten nothin’ all those years in the caverns an’ it weren’t as good as I ‘member steak bein’ but it was delicious on that day.
Country, what they fuck is going on up there? I can’t lock your location. I need to bring you back, now. You don’t want to be trapped up there.
I sniffed around like a coon hound to let Pa know that I was huntin’. He was curled up in the corner with that shotgun a his across his lap.
“Why are you crying, Pa?” I asked him and wiped some of them brains off a my face. All sorts a goo a muck dripped down the front a that dress a mine. That head a that first deacon was between us. I picked it up by the hair an’ rolled it like a bowling ball over to Pa.
“Please, Violet,” he whimpered an’ tried to hide behind them hands a his. “Please, Lord. Please, Lord. Save my Violet.”
More static came through that June bug but I couldn’t hear no Mr. Hooper.
I stubbed my toe into one a them circular saw tables on my way to go play with Pa an’ a blade fell near that lil’ girl foot a mine.
Pa put his hands together like he was a prayin’. “Please, God. Please, God. Please dispel this demon from my sweet Violet.”
I bent over in that lil’ girl dress an’ picked up that saw blade. One a them edges cut inta my finger. I licked my lil’ girl blood an’ spit it at Pa. He was still crying. It made me laugh.
Country, turn your camera back on!
Before I knew it, I was stadin’ over Pa. He stopped prayin’ an’ looked up at me. “Violet. It’s Pa. Please come back to me.”
I raised up that saw blade an’ buried it inta that spot between the lil’ girl’s devil finger and ring finger. Mr. Hooper was right. It felt worse than getting that hand a hers stuck in a wood chipper. I pressed it down as far as it would go, crackin’ an’ breaking bones in that top a that lil’ girl hand. Then, when I finally buried it all the way down to my lil’ wrist, I bent them lil’ legs an’ started shittin’ on Pa’s coveralls.
Pa stopped crying an’ I grabbed his hand. “Tell that Yankee Phillips, that the South will rise again!”
I pulled Pa’s arm out an’ right as he started shrieking, I used my new saw hand to chop of that arm a his clean off. I kept shittin’ as I stood on top a him. He laid down, taking in his own dirty defeat. Then, I just beat his face in with his own arm. That wasn’t killin’ him, so I took to the saw hand. I just started pullin’ him apart like a dog with a ragdoll. Arms. Then, legs. Then dick. Then balls. He was chokin’ on vomit an’ blood an’ whatever ever else so I helped him out an’ shoved his fingers from that dead arm inta his mouth.
Still laughin’ an’ shittin’, I kinda just started cutting holes in his face. After I got tired a that, I totally sawed his head right down the dead center. Both sides fell onta them coward shoulders a his. There was blood goin’ everywhere in the shed like someone had shot a BB gun inta the side of a swimmin’ pool. I dug inta his brain an’ ate away. My second non-vermin brain was better than the first one. Tasted every bit as good as squirrel. I think.
More static came through on that June bug.
I’ve got you. You’re coming back, Country, you stupid fucking redneck.
* * * * * *
I opened my real eyes an’ the white trough started draining water like a bathtub. The cigarette case lid opened up, just like it closed.
Mr. Hooper ran over an’ smacked the side of the trough. “What in the fuck did you do?”
I shook the vacation sweatin’ outta my head an’ grabbed on to the side a that trough. “Maybe I’m a lil’ bit more rock n roll than you was thinkin’.”
He threw them hands a his up an’ down like he was wavin’ down a fire in barn. “What the fuck does that mean?”
I pulled man body up from the lawn chair an’ threw my leg over the side of the trough. “Well, you said that I was a ‘little bit country,’ an’ I said I was ‘a little bit rock n roll.’”
“Is that a joke? Is that a fucking joke?” he cursed. “How do you even fucking remember that?”
“I dunno,” I tol’ him. “I was just playin’ the sport like you tol’ me to.”
He stomped over to that Lite Brite typewriter an’ punched a few a them keys. “Jesus, Country. I told you not to kill anyone. What in the fuck was that? Are you so fucking stupid that you took the sports reference literally?” He tapped on that June bug in his ear. He waited a bit. He pushed some more buttons. Then he looked back at me. “You killed two of God’s servants. An innocent man. The girl is dead for sure. You shoved a fucking saw blade straight through her hand, down to her wrist. It’s too late to send in a clean-up crew. That tool shed is swarming with angels.”
“They was tryin’ to get me,” I tol’ him.
He threw a big bunch a papers across the room at me. “You know that this means I have to go back down to the caverns, right? Looks like it’s thousands of years of me sucking The IT’s dick and pussy again. Fuck!”
“I din’t mean to get you in no trouble.”
His face went white like he just saw a General Lee’s ghost. He lifted that fat ol’ finger a his an’ put it to his lips. He wanted me to shut up.
I grabbed at the water bottle. It was full again.
He tapped at that June bug on his ear. “Hello, Phillips.”
I wasn’t up there for very long but I knew that breeze sure felt good. I tickled that June bug in my ear on the belly. The arms pumped in an out like water pump at a well. Maybe that June bug din’t have to stay on my ear, after all.
Mr. Hooper fell back in that seat a his an’ laid back on it like it was a rockin’ chair on a porch. His belly stuck out an’ popped one a them buttons on that shirt a his. He din’t even know. “Yes, Phillips. I’m quite aware of what happened.”
He let out a big gasp an’ listened to his June bug. I drank some more water.
“Yes, Phillips, I get it. Well, it was your job to process him. I’m just supposed to handle him.”
I flipped on that switch on the side a my June bug an’ looked at Mr. Hooper and then at the glass TV on top a that desk a his. It was a TV camera, I reckoned.
“Of course I know that I’m the one who took the bet,” he started yammerin’ on again. “I know he wasn’t ready, you scumbag. You took advantage of me. Phillips? Phillips? Phillips?” An’ then I saw him tickle the belly on that June bug in his ear an’ flip the switch up an’ down three times. The bug’s legs came off from ‘round his ear an’ he threw it across the room.
I was right.
It did come off.
I started walkin’ over to where he threw it to get it for him.
When I started bendin’ over, he started screamin’.
“You fucking idiot. Don’t bother with that. I won’t need that where I’m going.”
When I touched his June bug, it crawled away so I din’t bother with it no more. “Where are you goin’? Don’t we have more games to play?”
“Unfortunately for me, I’m going back to the caverns for Lord only know how long,” he started cryin’. “Phillips is going to be your new handler.”
“Mr. Hooper, I din’t mean no harm,” I tol’ him. “I was just doin’ what felt right.”
He walked over to me an’ put his hand on my shoulder. “I get it, Country. You didn’t know. It was my mistake. I should never have explained the job to you the way I did. Moreso, I should never have sent you on a mission without any training.”
Then, outta nowhere. A bunch a red sirens started flashin’ all around the room. They weren’t there before, I don’t think.
“What the hell now?” Mr. Hooper yelled as he wiped all them tears off a his fat face. He started runnin’ after the June bug but it was too fast for him. “Help me, Country. I need to get this.”
I ran over by him an’ chased that June bug across that floor, up an’ down the walls until we finally cornered it by the trough.
“Don’t break it, Country. I need it.”
I put my hands down an’ cupped ‘em together. That June bug, with all his hundreds a legs crawled right inta my fingers like a cradle. I slowly got up an’ put out my hands. I spose it was the least I could do for poor ol’ Mr. Hooper.
He plucked that lil’ fella up my a few of its legs an’ put it over his ear. He tapped on the side. “Phillips? What now?”
“Code Red five, five, niner? Not possible.” He walked back to that Lite Brite typewriter an’ pushed a few buttons. Some stuff happened on that window glass TV. “Not gonna happen, Phillips.” He turned a dial on the side a the desk. “I understand that we’re short-staffed. He just killed four people. There is no way I’m going to send him up again.”
He put those hands a his and pushed them downward. “I’ll ask him.”
I took a drink a that water bottle. “What does all these lights mean, Mr. Hooper?”
He tapped the June bug. “We have a situation. A big situation. A Code Red five, five, niner, to be exact.”
“I don’t know what all that means,” I confessed.
“It means that God and his team… I mean associates… are about to take down one of our most precious hosts. They are apparently angry about what happened earlier.”
“You mean with me?”
“Yes, Country. With you.”
“Well?” I asked him. “What can we do?”
“Phillips wants to send you back into this host to fight off God’s associates. I told him I’d ask you.”
I tickled that June bug on my ear. It was my chance. If Mr. Hooper was goin’ back to the caverns, then so was I. I sure didn’t have a whole lotta interest in suckin’ no IT’s dick. “I’ll do it. I swear I won’t kill nobody this time.”
He let outta giant gasp a air. “Maybe we don’t have to go back to the caverns. Get in the pod and prepare for transfer.”
He meant that trough. I did as I was told.
He tapped on his June bug. “Phillips. We’ll do it. You have to promise me, though that if we do succeed in protecting the asset that you will stand up for me.”
Mr. Hopper snapped his finger at the trough an’ then started tappin’ away at that Lite Brite typewriter. “Get in,” he tol’ me.
“Thank you, Phillips,” he said. “I know we haven’t fixed this situation yet, but, thank you.” He tapped on his June bug an’ walked over next to me. “They are going to let us do it, Country. Sweet, Jesus.”
“Sweet Jesus,” I said, too.
He bent down about the same time that lawn chair started dropping into that trough. The gravy started coming up around me again. “What are the rules, Country? Please listen to me this time.”
“No killin’ no one.”
“And?” he tapped on my June bug.
“And don’t take this off or turn her off.”
He put up his hand like he was saluting me. “Thank you for serving the IT, soldier.”
I saluted him back. Figured it was the right thing to do.
The cigarette case lid started ta fold over me an’ the gravy filled up the trough. There was no way that I was goin’ back to them caverns ever again.
* * * * * *
I opened my eyes.
I was in bed. I reached down tween my legs like I had before. There was no man parts there but there sure was blood all over that lil’ girl’s legs.
I looked at my fingers. They were lil’ girl fingers.
There was a song playin’ on a record player in the room. I recognized it.
That song was called, “A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock N Roll.”
I always liked that song. I think that it was my favorite song.
A dirty ol’ fan was blowin’ cold air at me from a nightstand. I heard crickets a chirpin’ outside the window.
I tapped on the June bug. “Mr. Hooper, can you hear me.”
Yes. Now turn on the camera.
I got up outta that bed an’ looked out the window. I saw a nice farm outside and a rusty ol’ swing set. I knew that swing set. Was it mine? I took a sip of a glass a water next to that fan. Two hound dogs ran by chasin’ a squirrel. All them years in the cavern made me forget how much I loved bein’ alive.
I wanted to be alive again.
“I don’ think that I am gonna turn on that camera, Mr. Hooper,” I whispered.
What are you talking about, Country? Turn on the camera. We have to protect the assets. We had a deal!
I started rubbin’ on the June bug just like Mr. Hooper had before. “No, we din’t have no deal. You had a deal with Mr. Phillips an’ that IT.”
Goddamn you, Country. You can’t do this to me. You signed a contract.
“That’s where you’re wrong. I never signed nothin’ an’ nothin’ has been processed. You said it yourself.” I clicked the switch on the June bug up an’ down three times an’ it started comin’ loose from my ear. “I wanna be alive again, Mr. Hooper. I don’t ever wanna go back ta them caverns.”
Don’t do this, Country! You can’t do this to me!
The June Bug jumped off a my ear onta the floor an’ I din’t hear nothin’ in my ear no more. I was a free man. Free to be back on the earth, listenin’ to my favorite song an’ feelin’ the breeze from a hot summer night.
I got outta the bed an’ started stomping away at the June bug with my bare foot to the beat a that song by Donnie an’ Marie that I remembered lovin’ so much. It clicked an’ fizzed an’ sparked. Finally, it was all outta juice.
I walked across my new room an’ picked up a lil’ rag doll. I took it back in bed with me. It wasn’t as good as feelin’ a woman next to me in bed but it was better than hell. It was better than them caverns an’ it was better than takin’ orders from fat, ol’ Mr. Hooper.
Just before I started ta fall asleep in my new life, my great new life, the door to the bedroom creaked open an’ a lil’ bit a light shined in from the hall. A man came into the room an’ made his way over that new bed next to me.
He sat down.
It was me.
Recognize yourself, Deacon Futch?
I started blinkin’ an’ huffin’. I tried talkin’ back to Mr. Hooper’s voice in my head but no words were comin’ out that lil’ girl’s mouth. “How can you talk to me?” I asked him in my mind.
Oh, come on, Johnny. Do you really think that Hell is in the business of giving people promotions and sending them to earth for vacation? Ha!
“I don’ understand, sir. Please bring me back now!” I kept yellin’ but nothin’ was comin’ out.
The man, me, started runnin’ his wet hands through that lil’ girl hair a mine with one a his hands an’ then he started rubbin’ up inside my bloody girl parts.
There is no back. There are no agents. There are no handlers. There is no Phillips. Our job is to punish people for their sins. It is Hell, after all.
Then, it all came back to me as quick as momma bird bringin’ food back to her nest.
I was Deacon Johnny Futch.
I had my way with the lil’ girls a my flock. I raped them. I beat them. I tol’ them that I could rid their bodies of the Devil’s evil. The lil’ girl I was inside a… well, I killed her. Her Ma and Pa tol’ me that she had the devil in her on a counta she was bleeding outta her body an’ carryin’ on.
I buried her lil’ body under that swing set outside a that window.
I can’t really say it was a pleasure getting to know you.
And then, just as my head went quiet again, the other me pushed my lil’ girl head inta that pillow on that bed. The lil’ girl tried to scream. I tried to scream. Nobody heard nothin’. A belt unbuckled for the first time in what would be a zillion more. Forever. I felt my own penis go inside that lil’ girl as those wet, bloody hands wrapped around that lil’ girl throat.
Welcome to your eternity, Deacon Futch.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableDrew Stepek Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
🔔 More stories from author: Drew StepekPublisher's Notes: N/A Author's Notes: N/A
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