Authors: John Kennedy Toole
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary
"She isn't going with you. She isn't here," I said as he started to walk to the old couch. He turned around.
"Now, son, maybe you don't understand. It's for your own good, and for the town too. As a Christian, I want to see that what's done is the best for all. I'll go up and get her myself."
He walked over to the stairs and started up, but I called to him.
"She's not up there. Anyway, you can't come in here like that. Get out of here. You hear me, get out of here. Get off those steps, damn you, before I come pull you off and get the sheriff. Get the hell out of this house, you bastard, I know what you. . ."
"I won't listen to any more of your profanity, boy. Keep your peace and be grateful that someone has enough interest to work for you and help you in the name of the Lord!"
He started up the steps again, and I ran back in the kitchen and got the gun. I aimed and fired just as he got to the top. The gun kicked me up against the wall, and when I got my balance again, I saw him falling forward. He didn't scream or anything like I had expected from the movies. He just fell there at the top of the steps and laid quiet.
I dropped the gun and stared up at the top of the steps. He didn't move. He was sprawled out with his head and hands in the hall upstairs and his body down on the steps. The back of his head was beginning to get red, a bright sort of red.
When I got up enough courage to look at it, I walked up the steps to where he was. I had shot him through the back of the head right near where his neck began. The blood pumped out in little spurts and flowed from the hall onto the top step, where it made a new pool in one of the worn-out foot spots over Mother's blood that was caked from the night before. I stayed up against the rail on the other side of the steps and didn't get near him, and I didn't know if he was alive or dead. When the blood didn't stop, I turned my head away and looked down in the hall near the kitchen where the gun was on the floor. Then I looked back at him. The blood had stopped, and I felt sick in the stomach. I had killed somebody.
The cold in the house made me shiver even though I had a coat on. I ran down the upstairs hall and went into the room where the train was and slammed the door. I tried to open the window to let some of the warm outside air in, but it wouldn't move. My legs were tingling up and down the inside, and I felt it grab me right up between them. Outside the pines were blowing in the breeze. The sun was all over everything, and the sky was that bright clear blue that hurts your eyes if you look at it. But it was cold and dark in the house, and I wanted to get outside in the warmth and sun. I had to do something first, though.
It was cold and darker, I thought, in the room where Mother was. Under the cover I could see her shape, but not too well. The only parts that stuck up were her feet and head. The rest was sunken in and looked like just part of the mattress, but I knew she was there, and it made me scared. Without taking the old blanket off, I put my hands under her and picked her up. She was heavier than I thought she would be, and her cold and stiffness made me want to put her down and wash my hands and get out of the house.
As I carried her past where the preacher was, the blanket dragged through the blood and made a trail down the steps until I got to the kitchen door, where it stopped leaving a red trail but just made the floor damp. I had to put Mother down to open the back door, and the blanket fell away from her legs, and I saw them stiff and cold and brown. Before I picked her up again, I threw the blanket back in place so I wouldn't see any of her. The hard brown flesh made my stomach turn over.
When I had filled in the hole back in the clearing, I threw leaves and needles and scattered things over it so nobody would know where it was and disturb it. Then I saw that the mound still showed, so I got the shovel and leveled it off and threw the dirt all over. Then I put some more branches and things over it, and I thought it looked the best I could make it.
I went and threw the shovel way under the house and was going off, but I went back to the clearing and got down on my knees where the things were all scattered, and I prayed, and the pines began to make longer shadows over the place. Then I knew I couldn't stay any longer.
The envelope Mr. Williams gave me was in my coat pocket, so I went out of the clearing and looked back once and went on down the path. I walked through town and said hello to people I knew, but I didn't look back at our hill or the house or what was in it. Nobody had heard the shot. The house was too far away from anything else, and they always had hunters up in the hills.
The man at the train stop said there was one coming in in about half an hour, but he didn't know where it was going. I sat down on the bench there and waited.
So here I am on the train. Dawn is coming up. I can see it through the windows on the other side of the car, pink and a little yellow at the top and dark red at the bottom. The car is almost empty, except for me and an old woman up front and a soldier across from me. All night we stopped and people got off.
By now I can't say how far away from the valley I am, but it must be quite a way. I've been riding since before the night first came on, and we've been going pretty fast, though not as fast as we could, because this looks like an old train. At least the seats are old and uncomfortable, and I never did go to sleep.
This is flat country. No hills to talk about now that I can see it. I never been in flat country, and I wonder what it's like to live around here. I'm used to hills, I guess, and pines, but they don't have any trees like that around here, just low flat-looking ones that look like they wouldn't move in any kind of breeze.
I didn't ask the conductor where this train went. I know I should, but I just gave him Mr. Williams' envelope and told him to let me off where it didn't pay for the ride anymore. He hasn't come by yet, though he's passed down the aisle a couple of times lately, and I thought he was coming to see me and tap me on the shoulder, but he hasn't, so I guess I have a while more to go. I hope I get off in a city, a big one. I always wanted to see a city, and you can get jobs there, and people don't ask a lot of questions like they do in a place like the valley.
Maybe they're up at the house now, too. The preacher's wife would get somebody to go see where he was, I guess, but I'm not so scared now with the train getting this far away.
I want to write a letter to Aunt Mae. When I find out where I am and get a job, maybe I'll save some money and go to Nashville and look for her. I guess they think that's where I am, that I went to look for her.
The sun's up full now over the short trees, and I can see the sky's the same clear blue that it was yesterday in the valley.
Scan Notes, v3.0:
Proofed carefully against DT, italics intact.