Racigan’s Very Long Night
Part 1: Because it is bitter, and it is my fart
Donnie Racigan could do two things well: eat Gil’s food and pass gas. He was equally appreciative of both talents, and enjoyed showing off both talents as often as he could.
“It’s a compliment,” his wife Gil used to explain to horrified dinner guests. “He eats, then he farts. The eating is his statement and his fart is the period.”
“Even though it sounds more like ellipses,” Racigan would say, fanning a hoary hand in front of him.
“Or Morse code,” Gil would add. And laugh. Racigan loved Gil’s laugh because it was like his farts, only warmer and with less stench. A smile at his wife. A smile from his wife. A routine for them, an endearing couples’ performance, like Arnaz and Ball, Stiller and Meara, George and Gracie.
The night Gil died, Racigan buried her in a hole dug with his own hands--no shovel, no pick-ax, no hoe--just his own fingernails and fingertips scraping into the earth, piling a mound of soil against his knees, then his thighs. Gil had been murdered by a neighbor. Not that it mattered who killed her. Not that it mattered who dug her grave. Bent over, clawing at the earth, Racigan managed to deliver a 21 gun salute in her honor, firing through the seat of his jeans. “I know that’d make you laugh,” he said to Gil’s body. “That was the last of your chili.” He meant it as a compliment.
He jacked a police car the next day.
It’d been a simple thing to do. The car had been Tom’s patrol car, left in the Stay ‘n’ Go’s parking lot with Tom’s body in the driver’s seat and the keys in the ignition. Tom was two sizes smaller than Racigan. The brown and beige sheriff’s uniform failed to flatter Racigan when he shucked it from Tom’s corpse and put it on but the car fit him just fine--Racigan left Tom’s naked body in the parking lot. Drove away in Tom’s patrol car, in Tom’s uniform, with Tom’s gun. Racigan intended to do something Tom couldn’t do: He intended to set right the wrongs. He intended to protect the unprotected. He intended to make Gil proud.
He intended to bring order to an unruly world.
Racigan’s first task was to kill the neighbor who had killed his wife. He assumed wearing a uniform of the law and driving an official-looking vehicle would give him legitimacy.
Here’s what the uniform and the official-looking vehicle brought to Donnie Racigan: nothing. Nothing happened when he pulled into his neighbor’s driveway, because no one came to the front door of the small house and no one peeked around the yellow curtains in the windows.
And no one fussed over the ill-fitting sheriff uniform when Racigan rocked himself back and forth out of the car and managed to place his feet onto the cement drive, managed to lift himself out of the seat, managed to stand and walk towards the closed garage door. No one cared that Racigan had Tom’s gun in hand, pointed at random targets. Pointed at the garden gnome. Pointed at the garden hose. Pointed at the silver gutter lining the roof.
The gun might as well be pointed at Racigan’s head. No one cared. No one reacted.
A bird commented on the indifference. The bird was in a crabapple tree in the front yard. The bird said this: “Tweet.” Then, “tweet-weet.” Then, “wee-twee.”
The neighbor had killed Racigan’s wife by taking Gil's head and ramming it into the dining room table. Repeatedly. The neighbor’s name was Christine. Christine was a single mother, two kids, polite, reasonable, typical. Christine enjoyed the fart jokes. She giggled whenever Gil and Racigan went through their routine exchange. Until she didn’t giggle, was on Gil before Racigan realized what was happening.
“It’s a period,” Gil said.
“Sounds like ellipses,” Racigan started to say, but was too busy diving forward to say anything at all as he watched his wife’s head driven again and again into the corner of the table.
Racigan stood in Christine’s driveway with the gun in his hand and wondered what it’d be like to kill Christine. He imagined it’d feel pretty good--the bullet moving from the gun to Christine’s head or her heart, requiring little effort on its journey, all it’d take was a sure aim and a gentle trigger squeeze, a tickle, really, and Christine's collapse.
He’d never used a gun before.
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