Rising From The Ashes Part 5
Lawson Hole was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it. The snow melt every year feeds the river, making it run wild across the rocks in the gorge nestled between the mountains. I don't suppose I would be considered much of a romantic guy, but I think I did a pretty good job picking this place out for our picnic. Ashley had been lost in thought but the hiss of the brakes snapped her back to reality. "You have to use the bathroom or something?" I smiled across the truck at her. "Nope." She looked confused. "Why are we stopping here?" My smile grew bigger. "It's a surprise. Hop out and help me with something from the trailer."
She was blown away by the fact that I had remembered her comments about a picnic lunch being romantic. I must admit that I got a little pissed off though when she mocked me for buying a softball, bat, and glove. I was too embarrassed to tell her that I thought this was standard equipment for a picnic, but she grabbed them and followed me as I headed off with the picnic basket. She said that it worked out okay because the bat made a good walking stick. "You know of any private places where we could make love in the great outdoors after we eat?" Not off the top of my head, no, but I was pretty sure I could find one.
“The fear of an unknown never resolves, because the unknown expands infinitely outward, leaving you to cling pitifully to any small shelter of the known: a cracker has twelve calories; the skin, when cut, bleeds.” ― Caroline Kettlewell
We found such a spot nestled in behind a big rock with a nice shade tree growing behind it. Ashley laid out the blanket on the ground and began to make our sandwiches while I took out my pocketknife and began writing words in the dirt then erasing them with my boot. "Ever wonder what our lives would be like if we hadn't met each other?"
It was a stupid question. "No."
She scowled at my simplistic answer. "Why not?"
"We had lives before we met each other. We know what they were like. That is precisely what our lives would be like if we hadn't met."
She didn't seem satisfied with the answer, but she brought me a sandwich and sat down across from me.
"You're mad at me, aren't you?"
That wasn't a fair question. Again with the selfishness. I had just done this nice thing for her yet she wanted to focus on our fight from a couple of days ago. I ignored it and popped open a can of beer and took a sip, looking off into the distance.
"I want to marry you."
I took another bite of my sandwich. That one was rhetorical, no need to respond.
"You would never marry me, would you."
I took another swallow of beer.
"Can I ask you a question?"
I hate that one. That is a question. If I say yes, shouldn't that be the one question you get to ask? I turned and looked at her without replying. She took it as a "yes."
"Why did you bring me here?"
That was a tough one. The truth is I didn't know. What made me decide to do this? Was I really going to settle down and be a family man? Had I planned to propose to her? What was my reason for bringing her here? The truth was, it didn't matter anymore why I brought here here. I was looking past her again. Not at the scenery behind her, but at Hollywood leaning up against the rock holding the baseball bat.
If I had known that was the last time I would ever see her looking peaceful and happy, I would have made a better mental image. Instead I was focused on Hollywood. Her eyebrows were raised in a questioning way as she slowly strode towards us, bat in hand.
"What are you looking at?"
One can never be sure what they will do in such a moment. Should I warn her? Tell her to run? Betray Hollywood to her face? Or should I grab her and hold her, and allow Hollywood to have her way with her?
"Who is it, baby?"
"What are you talking about?"
"She's behind you. Look out."
But she didn't. She kept her eyes on me.
"Hollywood? Baby, you are stressed out, and that is understandable. This isn't easy for you. It isn't easy for me either. There is nobody behind me baby. You're just..."
"Wait a goddamn minute!" I stood up, glaring at her. She had flipped my switch. "It's not easy for you? How did you go this long without getting pregnant, and now all of a sudden it happens?" The tears started rolling down her cheeks.
"It's okay, baby. I'm sorry. We don't have to talk about it."
"I will tell you what the fuck we do or do not have to talk about." Hollywood stopped behind her, handing me the bat, then turning to walk away. "You think you can use me? You think you can just tell me that 'we' are having a baby? You think you can just tell me how the fuck it is and that will be that?"
She sat in front of me crying. I tried to feel badly, I promise you that I did, but it was beyond my emotional reach to care. I raised the bat and swung, crashing it down into her shoulder. She moaned in pain, but did not cry out.
"Everything was okay until you did this. Everything was alright until you started making choices for me. It didn't have to end this way."
I swung the bat again, hitting her square in the right cheek. She slumped forward and blood trickled from her nose. She tried to pull herself away. I reached down and grabbed her by the back of her shirt, rolling her over onto her back. Her jaw was clearly broken, and she groaned in pain. I sat down beside her and finished my sandwich and beer.
I don't know why she just laid there on her back like that, but she did. I would have half respected her if she had tried to crawl away again, or even if she had lashed out and tried to fight back, but she didn't. She just laid there while I ate.
When I finished my food, I gathered some sticks for a small campfire. Nothing elaborate, just a little collection to make things look legit if anyone should happen upon the scene. When I returned she was still laying there looking up at me. She gestured at me to come close to her, so I knelt over top of her and she pulled me down to her.
"I love you."
No she didn't. "Love" is one of those fucked up words that people toss around but nobody really knows what it means, or if it has any real meaning at all. "I love you" is something people say to elicit a certain set of reactions from you. She didn't love me. She had made that clear.
Her eyes opened wide, perhaps with shock or maybe with pain as the knife plunged into her stomach. I made a long slice from the bottom of her right breast until I hit bone just above her left leg. She made the sounds of a kid who has fallen on his back and is trying to breathe but can't get any wind. Just a hollow sucking sound, that was all. I pulled the knife out and plunged it deep into her again. Her body convulsed up and back down, a bubble of blood burst out from between her lips. The hollow sound was replaced by a gurgling sound, as blood filled her mouth and spilled out as she tried to breathe. I cut the other way this time, slicing a deep "X" into her stomach.
"You don't love anyone but yourself, you selfish bitch."
I rolled her up in the blanket and began hitting her with the bat. I don't know how many times I hit her, but I remember seeing the blood soaking through the blanket and slowly seeping out into the ground below. I opened the cooler and took out another beer and the bottle of lighter fluid. I soaked the whole blanket, emptying the bottle on her and the wood I had collected, then I sat down and smoked a cigarette while I drank the beer.
Anyhow, as I was saying before, it really is a beautiful spot. There was not a cloud to be seen anywhere, and the sky was such a bright blue behind the mountains. I tried to take it all in, as I figured I would probably never see this place again. I was so lost in the moment that I burned my fingers with the last hit on my Lucky.
"Son of a bitch!"
Time to go. I left the ball and glove there next to the cooler, and picked up the bat, holding it over my shoulder as I lit another smoke and took one last look. I took a couple hits off of the cigarette, then turned to head back to the truck, flicking the lit square onto the blanket.
"Ashes to ashes."
It was as much of a eulogy as she deserved.
Hollywood was waiting in the truck as I climbed in. "Did you miss me?" She smiled and winked across at me.
"Liar" she said playfully, and then her face got serious. "Did you finish the job?" I looked out her mirror and pointed at the small cloud of smoke that was rising off in the distance.
"Can you agree to this?" She slid a paper in my lap, and I unfolded it and read the following.
- You can fuck whomever you please, but you will only have a relationship with me.
- You will never kill without first discussing it with me.
- You will treat me in as respectful of a manner as I treat you.
- You will never speak of that fucking bitch again.
- You will allow me to stay as long as I please.
It sounded good to me. My only answer was to put the truck in gear, and pull out onto the highway headed for Las Vegas.