“Hey Joe! Watchya doing messing around with that gun? No guns, I said. I done told you to do it just like Bob Dylan said.”
“Whut’s dat, Ang?”
“I said, watch wut yer doin’. We ain’t using guns this time.”
“Wadaya, mean, no guns? We already done the blood on the tracks thing you talked about. Did it with that blond slut last night. Still got’er head in the cooler with the beer.”
Angus spun around and walked up to Joe with his chest puffed out and his chin high and although he only came up to the middle of his chest, Joe was scared. Without taking his eye off of him, Angus removed his red and black hunter’s hat and stuffed it into his back pocket then snorted back a great wad of snot and spat it on the ground. A long silvery string of spit hung from the corner of his bottom lip and he wiped it away with the back of his hand, his sleeve grating against the three day old stubble. Joe eyed Angus like a rabid dog.
“You know hows we gonna do this,” Angus said staring up at him. “We gonna do it Emmett Till.” Angus’s heavy lidded eyes gave him a calm look, but Joe knew better. He had been runnin’ with Angus for two years now and knew his ways, ways which were getting real strange lately. “I explained it to you the whole god damned way here. We gonna do it like that song we like, that Emmett Till song.”
”I know the song, Angus, the melody like, and I can hum along and stuff, but I ain’t never know what that mumbin’ motherfucker ever was sayin’.”
Angus brought his hand out and struck Joe across the face. A thin stream of blood ran out of his nose. In the split second that Joe used to recoil, Angus was on him. Angus stuck out his sturdy little bowed leg and with the back of his hand on the scruff of his neck, he slammed Joe to the ground, jumped on him and squeezed his throat. He leaned forward and calmly whispered in his ear, ”Take it back, Joe. And then we can finish this thing.” As he said this, he cast a look towards the corner of the barn.
“I–I’m sorry Angus. He ain’t no motherfucker.”
“That’s not what I’m on about, Joe. Now say yer sorry or I’m gonna fuck you up.”
“Bu-but, what did I say, Angus? I don’t know what I done.”
They both stopped and looked as a moan drifted up from the corner.
”Shut the fuck up!” Angus screamed and the corner fell silent. He brushed back Joe’s hair and grabbed his face in his rough rope-like hands. “Now take it back.”
”No fuckin’ buts, Joe.”
”Okay, okay. I’m sorry.”
Joe’s eye rolled in its socket and looked up at Angus. He saw mostly yellowed, nicotine stained teeth.
”Whut?” He repeated.
”–-For being a sorry ass muther fucker, Joe? No that ain’t it, Joe. That ain’t it at all you stupid shit.” Angus slammed his into the ground and Joe hissed in pain. “Whut yous apologizing for is saying that the man ‘mumbles,’ dumb ass. E’rybody knows Dylan ain’t a mumbler, Joe. It’s his style, you dumb shit, like you’d know anything ’bout that.”
Angus snatched the gun out of his hand and was back on his feet in a flash heading through the pool of blood towards their Bronco. Joe wanted to lay there all night just looking at the pretty little red tracks that Angus’s boots had made in the barn’s dusty floor, but he knew better and dragged himself up. He shot a look at the corner and growled, “You gonna pay, mister.”
Angus returned with a crowbar, two flares, and duct tape. “Damn near Jesus slipped out there, Joe, with the blood on me boots and all,” he chuckled. He tossed Joe the duct tape. “‘Bout to rain too, I reckon.”
Angus slid over to the corner. He stood with his legs spread wide apart and stared down at the mess of a human slumped and gagged there. It was their Emmett Till.
Another groan seeped out of the corner.
”Now, we gonna do this. This here little, Emmett Till. Come ‘ere Emmett Tell, you dirty lil’ nigger.”
Angus grabbed the mess by the back of the neck and dragged its limp body down to a trough near the large red and white barn door. The first drops of rain splattered on the floor and snuck into the barn mixing with the blood. Lightening flashed. He looked at Joe and with a twitch of his head, he waved him over. “You see,” he lectured. “In The Murder of Emmett Till Bob offers an exquisite number in which he tries to redefine the folk tradition and the whole myth of lynchings and ol’ Mr. Till hisself, taking care to add a little fear into the Delta. Tryin’ to make the killin’ of a nigger, a bad thing. Now Bob is a good guy, knows what he knows, but killin’ a black man, and a black farm owner, that ain’t so bad. Like Bob says, ‘this shit still carries on,’ right Joe?”
Joe ripped an arm’s length of duct tape and wrapped it around the old man’s legs, then yanked off another piece of about the same length and bound his hands.
”You see, Joe, I’m just trying to make this great land of ours a better place to live. That’s what Bob says to do and that’s whut I intend to do.”
Joe, the bigger of the two, then roped the man up and tossing the long end over the rafter, he tugged in the rope until he dragged the old man up and hung there by his feet.
Angus grabbed the crowbar and set to work. As always, Joe watched and smoked a cigarette and waited while Angus “fooled around a lil’ bit.” It was the same thing he did for The Lonesome Murder of Hattie Carrol gig. Angus let the old man struggle with the rope around his neck, his boots slipping and sliding in his own blood, trying not to choke. Angus loved to see them fight for life. He danced and swayed to some song in his head and watched as the old man fought to stay up, taunting him, slapping him. A roar of rain. The old man sighed and seemed about to give up and just before he let his own weight sag into the rope, Angus charged at him and rammed the crowbar into the old man’s chest.
Blood splattered his shirt. He pried the crowbar deep into his stomach, the guts and intestines making sloshing and squishing noises, the bones grinding louder than his barred teeth, until a rib bone popped out of Emmett’s chest. Angus snatched the white rib bone and pulled it until it came out of the old man’s chest with a sickening pop. He smashed the old man’s knee cap and wrenched out the patella which he threw in the old man’s face.
Joe finished him off. He didn’t use the gun. Too loud, Angus said, so he squeezed the life out of the man, snapped his neck. That’s how he did it. Always how he did it. That was the part he liked the best, the killing. Then he headed back to the truck and waited. He couldn’t stand it what Angus did next. Joe thought the dead should be left alone. But Angus had to do it his way. Fuckin’ the assholes off of dead was not his thing.
Joe looked around the farm. It was cold. Overnight a frost had swept down from the north country and hung on everything.It was oddly beautiful Joe thought, the cold. The way the air condensed and amplified everything. The house on the hill was silent and he imagined the whole family up in their rooms tucked away up under quilted blankets fast asleep. He looked over his shoulder, shook his head, chin to his chest, and slid into the Bronco. The engine awoke with a scream; the tape deck blared out Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm. The rain fell heavier now and Joe looked back at the barn, a thin shaft of white light cut a rectangular outline around the door. Another flash of lightening cut through the sky and the barn disappeared from his retina for a second. The rain came in great torrents. He adjusted the volume and waited wondering what the family’s reaction would be when they found their father mangled in the barn with two flares sticking out of his eye sockets. Angus and his stupid “calling card.”
He looked down at his feet and saw the gun lying there. Lightening flashed again and when his eyes adjusted from the flash, there was Angus walking toward the Bronco, buckling up his belt and grinning.
“I’m driving you dipshit!” Angus said. “Now get your ugly ass out and over there.” Nodding his head at the passenger seat, snarling.
The Bronco rolled silently out the long driveway to the I-4,0 where Angus stepped on the gas and the truck reared around the corner, a peel of mud arching up from the back tires, as they rushed headlong into the sea of stars that stretched over the horizon like a black ski mask. Rows of wheat fields and the odd silo whispered on by.
And as usual Angus was driving and going on about the headlines in the paper and bein’ bandits and all of that. Joe sat there listening, chin to his chest.
But this time Joe wasn’t listening to Angus. He was listening to Bob. And for the first time he heard what he said. Bob wasn’t mumbling to him no more. He was comin’ through loud and clear, clear like he imagined them new C.D.s to sound like. And Dylan sang:
Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved. Everything up to that point had been left unresolved. Try imaging a place where it’s always safe and warm. ”Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
Joe reached down between his legs and picked up the hand gun lying between his feet. Angus babbled on and on about the rush and the blood and he didn’t notice a thing.
He leveled the gun and shot Angus in the face and was never heard from again.