Sunday, July 29, 2007

"The Critic"

Murder, most foul, the writer thought, shaken, but satisfied. He stood over the armchair critic who had talked for over an hour at lunch and had said nothing. His knowledge was an ocean wide and an inch deep, but he wouldn't say anything more. The writer plucked the jagged-edged turkey leg bone from the critic's chest and tossed it outside to the critic's beast. The dog bayed at nothing every night from two in the morning until six am and roamed the neighborhood as a part-time member of a small dog pack. The dog greedily crunched the bone, choked a bit, but kept on eating. It might die, and if not, some relative would soon whisk the dog away. Either way, the silenced critic and the dog would be gone.

Pleased, the writer washed his hands with a touch of bleach in the laundry room and headed for home on the path through the woods as he had done dozens of times before. He contemplated the vague description he'd give of a car that had never driven into their quiet cul-de-sac this morning. The burn pit, piled high with weeds and twigs, awaited his blood-splattered clothes from his perfectly planned murder.

"Murder, most fowl," he said in a gruff voice, hoarse from a night of arguing with himself about the critic and what to do about his nemesis. He laughed and a bug flew into his mouth. He gagged and stepped into a leaf-covered hole left by a memory of a pine tree. His leg snapped. He pulled his lips tight against the pain until they split against his teeth. The burning agony of his shattered leg nearly caused him to pass out. Blood trickled down his leg, and he saw the splinters of bone. When he looked up, his vision was blurred. His glasses had flown onto the forest floor. He couldn't see them and searched the immediate area with his hands, and then realized he couldn't pull his leg out of the hole. Something moved in the bushes behind him, startling him. Several somethings crunched leaves, but he couldn't make out what it or they were. He growled low a few times, conserving his voice. The rustling stopped. Yelling would attract no one. The only other person who stayed at home during the day had been the critic. Other neighbors wouldn't return until dark.

Even in the woods, the afternoon sun found a path through the leaves and baked him in spring's first heat wave. His moaning lessened as the hours passed. His tee-shirt draped over his head only trapped the heat. He whined when dizziness overcame him, and he passed out several times. As night settled around him, something moved again in the bushes. The dog. It must be the dog. He froze as something approached stealthily from behind while the sun's last rays slipped under night's cloak. The headlights of a car swept into the cul-de-sac. Through the fog of his delirium, he needed to yell, attract attention. He hesitated. Someone rescuing him would undo his perfectly planned murder. A single sharp peck at the base his head froze his thoughts. He waved an arm in defense like a twig in a dying breeze. More strikes. He slumped forward. He had become one of the characters the critic had complained about: dead to the world around him.

A flock of turkeys pecked, ate, and gobbled collectively--murder, most foul.

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