Saturday, November 22, 2008
A Good Start
When the Mclellan Dam burst, the decades of strain from holding back Lake Dopler finally proving too much for the Depression era construct, it happened over the course of perhaps fifteen minutes. The flood waters enveloped all the houses in Millersburg to their first story before anyone had a chance to utter the word ‘evacuation.’ Even so, half of the townsfolk managed to escape with their lives and impending insurance claims. God was thanked, although curiously not blamed for allowing the dam to self-destruct in the first place. The sight of the bloated and discolored corpses of drowned fathers, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, wives and neighbors, birds perching on their abdomens and feasting on their cloudy eyes, severely dampened feelings of relief at having survived, images that would writhe wretchedly behind closed eyes for years to come. Amidst the chaos, a small incident took place involving two middle aged divorced men, Pete Dow, an accountant and Artie Palowski, a sheriff’s deputy, both lifelong residents of Millersburg.
Hanging drywall in the master bedroom of the fixer-upper the men had purchased on the east end of town when the flood hit, Pete and Artie were spared death from the initial rush of loosened water that filled the lungs of virtually everyone on the first floor of any building in Millersburg. To save money, the men lived in the houses they repaired to flip for profit, and so were fortunate to have Pete’s camping gear, which included a high quality inflatable rowboat and a battery operated air pump, in the house’s attic. In the time between the initial rush and the waters rising to immerse the house’s second floor, Pete and Artie got the raft inflated and out the attic window, with them in it, before the water reached much higher than their ankles. Past sunset by this time, and the flood waters having rendered the town void of artificial light, the men spent a long and cold night sandwiched between abyssal blackness above and icy waters below.
By daybreak, Pete and Artie found themselves drifting through what had once been downtown Millersburg, which they recognized by the marble pig statue that stood atop the corporate offices of the Cornfed Meat Company, the tallest building in town, and the only one with its roof still exposed. As they drifted nearer, they heard a faint yelling and saw a man on that roof hopping frantically up and down and waving his arms. Drifting still nearer, they saw him clearly: bald and weighing easily over three hundred pounds, his fine gray Italian suit sopping wet, the man was none other than Lawrence St. Pierre, Millersburg’s most successful divorce attorney, whose services each of their respective ex-wives had retained in their divorce proceedings, leaving Pete and Artie with virtually nothing except each other. As soon as they recognized him, each knew what had to be done. They paddled to the roof’s edge.
“Thank God,” burbled Lawrence, waddling over to them. “I thought no one would---” Artie stood up. “This is called karmic retribution, you fat piece of shit,” he said, removing his standard issue Taser from his duffel bag. He aimed and fired, sending one hundred fifty thousand volts coursing through St. Pierre’s corpulent body, allowing the pulses to continue one after the other until the fat lawyer lay unconscious. They pulled on the cable until his body rested at the roof’s edge then yanked the barbs from his flesh. Arties handcuffed Lawrence’s hands behind him. “Just in case he wakes up before he’s drowned all the way,” Artie said, and Pete nodded solemnly. Artie pushed off with the paddle while Pete grasped the lawyer’s suit jacket, all three hundred plus pounds of unmitigated malice plunging into the flood waters to drown along with so many of his clients and victims alike.
“One hundred ninety-nine short or not, I’ll call that a good start,” Pete said.
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- I write short stories and essays. I have published over one hundred stories, essays, and flash fictions or nonfictions in magazines or anthologies, as well as a novel, Jack's Universe, and a collection of stories, Private Acts. I grew up in a military family, so I'm not from anywhere in particular except probably Akron, where I've lived for forty years. Before I came here, I never lived anywhere longer than three years.