Monday, February 26, 2018

A Hanging by Patrick Cooper



A Hanging

“The fires of Hell burn hotter than any feeling of betrayal you’re experiencing right now. My son, please, before you step off that stool, think twice.”

The noose fibers creaked as Lomez’s wiry frame wobbled on top of the wooden stool. Sweat trailed down his narrow face and his toes ached. He couldn’t keep standing on them much longer.

“Betrayal?” he said. “What do you know about betrayal, Father?!”

“Jesus tells us-”

“And no Bible stories neither! Go on and forget your collar for once and tell me all about betrayal.”

Father Howard bowed his head and dabbed sweat off his face with a handkerchief and said nothing.

“That’s what I thought. Now get with the benediction or last rights or whatever it’s called and I’ll get on with this hanging.”

The door creaked open and a tall man with unwashed blonde hair poked his head in. He smiled. “This where the hanging is?”

“Fuck are you doing here, Ike?”

“Skinny Dale out front went and got me. Said you was tying a noose. Thought I see.”

“Well this is a private hanging. Just me and my priest. So fuck off.”

Behind Ike, the Friday night ruckus of the pool hall swelled. Q-balls cracked and drunk men laughed. Ike shut the door and stepped up to the old oak desk that split the small office in half. The stool sat on top of the desk and Lomez stood on top of that - the head of the suicide totem pole. The rope was tied around a heating pipe. A nudie calendar hung on the wall behind him.

Ike said hello to Father Howard then looked up at Lomez. “Is this about Maddie?”

“Of course it’s about Maddie, goddammit! Everything is! My life-”

“Just a girl, man.”

“Just a-”

“Girl.”

Father Howard put a sweaty hand on Ike’s shoulder. “It’s best we don’t mention the girl.”

“There’s other kitties out there, man,” Ike said. “‘Sides, you die, who’s gonna manage this dump? Skinny Dale?”

Lomez shrugged.

“He couldn’t manage a petting zoo, for God’s sake.” He turned to the priest. “Sorry, Father.”

“Fine, my son. I was telling Mr. Lomez about the fires of Hell and how while this feeling of betrayal will not last, the fires are eternal.”

“You hear that, Lomez? Eternal.”

Lomez moaned. “Think I can walk this earth while Maddie gives birth to a boy ain’t even my kin? Screwing behind my back, Christ! I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go on!”

The door opened and the large round head of Skinny Dale poked into the room. “Hey, uh, sorry fellas. Say Ike, how you want that burger cooked?”

“Medium. I thought I told you.”

Dale paused and nodded awkwardly up at Lomez and dipped back out to the pool hall.

“You ordered food?” Lomez said. “You knew I was back here, possibly already swinging by my neck, and you stopped to order yourself a burger?”

“The kitchen closes in 15 minutes. I had to act fast. So what?”

“Nobody cares!” Lomez started sobbing now.

“My son, the Lord always cares. He is on-”

“Would revenge help?” Ike said.

“What?” Lomez said.

Father Howard put his hands out in protest. “Revenge is never the answer, my sons. The Lord-”

“We find the piece a shit that knocked up Maddie and…” Ike made a gun with his fingers and mimed shooting himself in the head.

“It’s impossible! Maddie won’t tell me who the guy is and I don’t...I don’t who it is! That’s swell a you to say, Ike. But, Christ, the hell with this.”

Lomez lifted one foot off the stool. Ike and Father Howard raised their hands as if to catch him. Before Lomez could take the full step off, the priest said, “Stop! It was me!”

Lomez recovered his balance and stared down at Father Howard. “Fuck did you say?”

Sweat poured off Father Howard now. He wept into his hands. “It was me! Dear God, forgive me! I gave you my life for 30 years! The temptation of the flesh! She came to me, the girl! For confession and, and I tried to help her! 30 years of celibacy! Please, turn a blind eye this one time, dear God!”

“Yeah God.” Ike pulled his pistol out of the back of his waistband and raised it to the priest’s head. “How’s about you look away for a tick.” He fired and Father Howard crumbled to the ground. Ike put the gun away and looked up at Lomez. “All better?”

Lomez surveyed the scene beneath him, unsure.

“Get your ass down from there, man. That necktie doesn’t suit you.”

“But it doesn’t...it doesn’t change a fucking thing!”

“Sure it does! This snake here, the one who screwed your girl, got her pregnant, is dead. Problem solved! Now c’mon” Ike checked his watch. “Let’s tell Skinny to throw another cow on the grill before the kitchen closes.”

“But I still feel the same. I don’t...this thing inside me still feels broken.”

“Quit being a turkey. Let’s eat.”

There was a pregnant pause, then Lomez said, “I’ll catch up with you. Just...just give me a sec.”

Ike went to leave the room. Halfway through the door he turned and said, “How you want yours?”

“My what?”

“Your burger.”

Lomez thought of Hell’s eternal flames. “Well done.”

Ike smiled and closed the door behind him. Lomez pictured Maddie in his head and the bump in her belly and stepped off the stool.

-End-

Bio Patrick Cooper is a writer living in Trappe, Pennsylvania. His fiction has appeared in numerous outlets, including Thuglit, Spinetingler, Dark Corners, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, and Ghost Parachute, as well as some print anthologies. Check out the goods at: https://patrickgcooper.com/

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