Saturday, 27 June 2015

'Pigwalk' by Tom Leins

Eugene Caputo was supposedly buried in the family plot, but not next to his father – somewhere among the second and third cousins. He didn’t leave much behind: eight bony cows, a few old pigs and one secret... the whereabouts of his wife, Shonda.

*

The Ocean Spray Caravan Park sounds idyllic, but the reality is an acre of grinding poverty, alleviated only by regular doses of bloody, bleary-eyed violence. People were never meant to stay here all year round, but most of them have nowhere better to go.

The watery-looking sun casts long, awkward shadows between the ugly, scattered caravans. The last time I was here was to buy a single barrel shotgun of some gypsies. I no longer have the gun, but I still have the bad memories associated with it.

A skeletal woman is loitering in the doorway of a dilapidated static caravan.

"Mrs Varney?"

"Who's asking?"

“My name is Joe Rey. Your son Norman contacted me.”

She has dark, lank hair, threaded with grey. Her skin is deathly pale and she has unfortunately bulbous eyes. Even though I’m standing outside, the caravan gives off a nasty rotten meat-stink. She glares at me, wordlessly, before turning around and walking inside.

She retrieves an old tobacco tin from the sideboard, and withdraws £200 in crumpled notes.

Norman didn’t want his mother to know how he earned the money, but admitted to me that he had posed for a series of compromising photos in a magazine called Tailgunner.

“Find my sister, Mr Rey. Shonda is the only member of my family I really like.”
She smiles, showing off inflamed gums. In the rancid, milky light of the caravan she looks like a cadaver.  

*

The caravan park is a ragged blur of dust, heat and noise. Small children play with homemade toys on the bare earth. It has been baked rock-hard by the August sun. There is an ugly, squat toilet block at the edge of the second field. A brown stream trickles through a hole in the brickwork, ending in a stagnant pool next to a climbing frame.

As I reach the end of the rutted track, the caravans seem to be arranged in increasingly haphazard fashion. The layout seems designed to obscure the ruined shell of the abandoned hog-wash. The sour smell of old blood fills my nostrils. A woman’s body lays twisted at the bottom of the pit. A shadow falls across the corpse.   

“Caputo?”

When he opens his mouth his tongue looks fat and grey. He speaks with a hoarse, whispery voice.

“As the old saying goes: pretend to be dead, and see what kind of burial you get.”

Eugene has a hammer hidden up the sleeve of his coat.

I grab his left leg and pull. He shrieks as he topples face-first into the hog-wash.

I climb over his mangled body and out of the pit.

When I glance down it looks like his hair is soaking up most of the blood.

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