by Garrett Cook
“Won’t you come home, Bill Bailey, won’t you come home?” she screamed the whole night long.
But that was not the name of the treacherous object. The name was raincoat slick, slippery as a womb, harder to grasp than grief. And it was off. The name moved onto the next town and found work as a roustabout, married a girl named Carol but it didn’t last. It was the type of name that had a girl in every port. It was no Messiah, so it couldn’t be nailed down.
In a parking lot outside the bank, William Mack, sheriff of Treesbleed, ducked behind a car as an elephant with a James Dean pompadour opened fire with dual shotguns.
“The jig is up, Billy Joe,” said the sheriff, “I know exactly what you’ve done!”
The crowd gathered round clapped for this staccato three times. They were glad to know their tax dollars were so hard at work. They knew he would never let Billy Joe or his Lakota shaman accomplice, Robert Smallhands escape justice.
But the radio barked to life with the sound of problems that had nothing to do with rogue elephants or Native American sorcerers.
“There’s been a murder.”
“Stop!” the sheriff shouted, waving his arms.
“Why?” asked the rogue elephant as he let loose another burst.
“Why?” asked Robert Smallhands, as he sprinkled some sort of magic dust on the ground.
“Why?” asked the spirits of Robert’s ancestors as they loaded the elephant trailer with sacks of money.
“There’s been a murder!” shouted Sheriff Mack.
One of Robert’s ancestors whispered in his ear. The shaman nodded.
“It is so,” said Robert.
“Was it anyone I know?” asked Billy Joe.
She was dancing as hard as her hooves could take, high off the soul of the pizza guy on the floor.
“Come a little bit closer,” she’d said, “you’re my kind of man, so big and so strong…”
And he did, failing to register the green of her skin and her cloven feet, instead taking in her curves and the rapacious gleam in her eyes. He’d had no idea how rapacious and how ravenous she was. He had no idea that she’d dance him to death and suck his soul out through his cock.
It was in him, the name, vagabond though it was, way in the back with other trivium. She encountered it sometimes before it took its leave. But it always took its leave and it always became Bill Bailey. And she did. She made the usual promises, and they didn’t come to fruition.
William Mack of Treesbleed had a sweet green corpse in his swimming pool. It was a sloppy frameup. Pinned to the chest was a note that read “you did it.”
“How could you!” exclaimed the elephant, eyes dripping great big pachyderm tears.
Robert the Sioux squeezed his temples.
“He didn’t. It’s a frameup.”
“Oh,” said Billy Joe, “I’m very sorry. She was someone I knew.”
“We all knew her,” said the sheriff, “she was an important part of this community.”
“What are we gonna do now?” asked the elephant.
She danced around the room orgasmic and sated. She danced around the room knowing something was coming, and it was going to be good. She stopped screaming for Bill Bailey since morning had broken like a hymen, letting loose a stream of epiphany. Yes, that was the name, that was the thing. She’d attained it.
The doorbell rang and she assumed it was a giant check from Ed McMahon, who would roam the town all revenant-ish to give out giant checks even after death. Because someone had to do it. But standing at the door wasn’t Ed McMahon. It was a milk man, or at least a deliveryman in the whitest uniform she’d ever seen. He was carrying a bouquet of flowers.
“This is for you,” he said, “you’ve done it.”
“For me?” she asked.
And so was the knife in his other hand which he drove in and out thirty times over just to make sure it was done, just to make sure that someone else would be lost to a broken taboo. The Man Who Delivered Flowers took her out to his truck and made a political statement. It was an election year and the other sheriff candidate was his cousin.
What would they do without her; she, who lent beauty and effervescence and hope and asked nothing but souls to drink, she, who had been so innocent and well behaved and not done the one thing she wasn’t supposed to until she did, she whose loss would no doubt cause some sort of important change in the heart of some man or another, she, who was almost a person interested in things besides not doing the wrong thing that would get her murdered…what would they do without her?
The sheriff experienced a complicated epiphany.
“You might just make it out of this alive,” an angel whispered into his ear.
He looked to the crying elephant and the crying shaman and the crying ancestors and knew what to say.
“Take the money and run.”
Author of Murderland part 1:h8, Murderland 2:Life During Wartime, Archelon Ranch, Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective, and Time Pimp. Find out more about me: http://thegarrettcook.blogspot.com.