Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump because he’s lazy, OK, and not because he’s scared of whoever—or whatever—has gutted three people there in as many weeks. Although he probably should be.
In the stories I usually write, any sense of Horror usually only crops up when the guy my main character is crushing on turns up wearing black shoes with a brown belt. In my recent acquaintance with NYC Midnight and their short fiction challenges, however, the genre has demonstrated a tendency to pop up. (My first NYC-mandated Horror outing can be found here.) And I’m not gonna lie: Horror scares me. I don’t read it, I don’t watch it — hell, I don’t even dress up for Halloween (unless it’s in a crafty Halloween sweater from the ARC with a ghost appliqued on it, such as the jazzy number I did sport last week). I didn’t have the confidence to post this story in the critique forum during the judging (I was too scared, get it? Horror…?), but this morning I learned that poor Jumbo here helped me advance to the next round of the Flash Fiction Challenge, and so I’m sharing his story here for those who may wish to read it as my way of thanking him for taking one for the team.
For this particular challenge, my group was given Horror for a genre, a garbage dump for a location, and a two-way radio for an object. The max word count was 1,000. Please enjoy
Chivalry is Dead
Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump. Yeah, it’s right by the Dairy Queen, but that only sounds like a bonus—when his gut’s so full of soft serve and chili dogs that it’s hard to breathe right, it makes pulling something like a solid cherry waterbed frame out of the bed of his truck a pain in his ass. You haven’t slumped into a 46-inch waist at 27 years old cuz you’re Mister Let’s-Lift-It. But the thing made him seasick even when he was banging Natasha on it. If she thinks she’s too good to hang around, he sure can’t see a need to flop through one more night like a flounder. He sleeps on it all day anyhow—he’ll be just fine on the couch.
Point is, the dump sucks cuz he’s lazy, not cuz he’s a pussy. Of course three murders in three weeks in a town the size of a Wal-Mart are gonna make the news, and yeah, he Googled “disemboweled” to make sure it doesn’t mean what he thought it meant—it does—but he’s lived here all his life. If anybody hated him enough to kill him, they would have done it by now. But just cuz he ate chili dogs in his truck doesn’t mean he came here for a Sunday picnic, either. He leaves the engine running and the lights on and hurries around to wrestle with the squeaky tailgate and get this show on the road. He huffs, he puffs, and the sweat pours out from under his ball cap; every time he has to reach around and yank his jeans back up over his ass, he bangs his other hand between the frame and the truck. He’s cursing Natasha and the waterbed she rode in on while he pants and pulls. If he jumps half out of his skin and squeals like a bitch at the beepity beep of an unseen walkie-talkie and a canned call for help, it’s only because it comes from out of nowhere, and startled’s not the same thing as scared.
Still. What the fuck? When it beeps again, he notices the yellow and black plastic two-way radio seemingly cast off at the base of a pile of refrigerator parts and car seats. He gets close enough to hear whoever’s got the radio’s partner beg her own handset for Scott. “Scott? Where’d you go? How do I get out of here?”
Another reason Jumbo hates the dump: what kind of county needs a landfill three times the size of the nearest town? Everyone Jumbo knows has at least one story of getting too looped at the dump to negotiate the maze out, and Chimpy Fortescue’s had to spend the night here twice.
But Jumbo’s just been dumped himself, he knows: Scott ain’t comin’ back to check for messages. If he hadn’t gotten you lost on purpose, he wouldn’t have left the walkie in the weeds when he bailed, Jumbo telepathically counsels the hapless disembodied voice. Good luck, Sister.
He’s not getting involved. He’s throwing a bed frame onto the nearest pile of somebody else’s shit and getting the hell out of here, is what he’s doing. What he wishes he hadn’t done is stoop close enough to ascertain that the walkie-talkie is still in someone’s hand, while the rest of what he figures must be Scott is nowhere around. Shit.
It’s not like he goes around prying walkie-talkies out of severed hands as his hobby, OK? But his old pickup is that color of mint green that might as well glow in the damn dark and it hasn’t had a muffler on it for a year and a half— he doesn’t need some dumbshit couple on the front page for getting cut up at the dump and the whole county talkin’ about Wasn’t that Jumbo’s truck I saw headin’ back from out that way?
“Hello?” He presses the knobby yellow plastic button on the side, gets the beepity beep. He knows he’s shouting, but he’s way past any pussy worries. He actually has to concentrate on not shitting himself; you’re goddamned right he’s scared.
“Scott?” Doubtful. Challenging. He’s not the only one.
“Um, no. Scott’s, uh… not here.”
“Ohmygod, ohmygod.” Her panic jolts through the radio so hot Jumbo almost drops it. “What did you do to him? Scott!?!”
“It’s OK. I didn’t do anything to him. He’s just… not here. I found the walkie. I can help you get out, I think. If you can tell me where you are.”
“I’m in the dump.”
“Ohmygod, I’m not gonna tell you what part. Don’t people get killed here? You’re not Scott. What did you do to Scott? Scott!?”
Her freaking out is starting to freak him out—he throws the walkie back onto the ground. She doesn’t want his help, she ain’t gonna get it.
He’s heaving himself back into the cab—fuck Natasha and her fucking waterbed, he can always use the firewood—when he hears her scream. Not tinny, through the walkie-talkie, but big as the sky and just as everywhere.
Drive away, he commands himself. Drive!
But he’s lumbering into the night towards the scream whether he likes it or not. She lets fly another one and he changes tack, cutting up a path of old toilets, tires, and transmissions. The bulk of him blocks what little light his truck is throwing, and he’s not a fast mover by nature. He can’t make out more than a hint of her outline, and he doesn’t hear the blade slice through the night over his own wheezing. And she’s no amateur—once he realizes he has an armload of his own innards, he can’t get past his confusion: has it always been this hard just to keep them inside his body?
Her snide, mocking “My hero” is the last thing he hears. Which is fine. “You shoulda tried to save your own ass” is good advice, but it’s no help.