Ouch! stories by Mugtoe


Something Wicked
Eudora Wetly-Losing Battles

by Mugtoe

I left the office Saturday morning around eleven o'clock heading to the stop two blocks away to catch the bus home with the transfer from my trip down earlier. The skies were leaden, pregnant. The buildings, calcified accretions 'a barren reef rising from a seafloor of flint'otiose in the absence of life's green and volatile engines. The weathermen divined that snow would arrive that afternoon, but as yet the sharp edges on creation remained an indictment of summer's retreat. I left my gloves in my pack and read with numbed hands as I walked, drawing warmth from Welty's southern landscapes against the rising wind from the north.

A woman sat at the bus stop outside McDonald's. I passed her and turned to the window of the restaurant. A line of Ojibwe faces peered back at me munching little machine-flattened bricks of fried potatoes and sipping orange soda. They looked past me indifferently as they looked past the woman on the bench and the theater across the street and the village just beyond named for a Christian king and saint and the woods and plains and rivers beyond that. Their pockmarked cheeks moved up and down in andante rhythms under deep black eyes that stretched back eons. I turned and faced the street, aping their nonchalance.

"This must be my day for men with beards! All I see is men with beards today!"

I nodded slightly and tried to smile in a way that was not engaging.

"I haven't seen my friend Alvin in ages, and he came up to me today with a big beard on his face! What is it with all these beards today? You don't think men are really wearing beards much these days, do ya?"

I tried to give a benign shrug and a smirk, as if to say, "I'm a foreigner. Please forgive me; I do not understand a word you're saying."

The woman had the voice of a well-trained parrot that rose and fell in dramatic fashion irrespective of where natural inflection should lie and the face of my maternal grandmother smiling up at me as she fumbled for a cigarette with gloved hands little turquoise knitted mittens that hinged back to reveal tattered fabric on her fingers. Her hands trembled a bit.

I inclined my head at her again and tried to give her a pleasant look. I didn't want to perpetuate the conversation, but I also didn't want to be too brusque in my retreat and risk offending. I turned back to my book and drew my shoulders in as another gust of wind circled my neck and ran down my spine. Each blow from the north drained another increment of warmth from the reserves I carried and left me that much less to meet the next assault. I folded the book back and tucked it under my arm and buried both fists hard in my pockets. The bus should've arrived by now.

I turned back to the window. The panel of faces chewing their cuds and doing their best to maintain a stern countenance gave an almost imperceptible nod back in my direction. I turned back around and faced the theater across the street and noticed a coyote on the sidewalk under the marquis. He was staring back at me. He gave what sounded like a little barking laugh and danced in a quick circle before disappearing around the corner where the tobacco shop had recently moved out next to the cinema. The rest of the street was vacant, save for the woman and me. She noticed her cigarette had gone out. She reached again for the little leather holster that held her pack and returned the remainder into it.

The snow began falling as the bus rounded the corner. I stepped back enough to show her the right of way as it pulled up in front of us, but she merely sat and stared into the side of the bus and said nothing. The flakes were falling heavily already. I stepped up into the bus and sat by the window with the damaged and the penurious overlooking the woman on the bench. She continued to stare just below me at the side of the bus, or through it. She was accumulating puffy little cobwebs of snowflakes all over her head. I looked back at the window of McDonald's, but my faces were gone. I returned to Eudora Welty. The bus churned me homeward through a thickening white rind that dulled the sharp edges.


Something Wicked
Doug's Brand New Way

by Mugtoe

Progress and emotional development coincided in some measure with the point in time at which he gave up his fantasies of being a rock star at the high school talent show and really impressing everyone with his searing guitar licks. He didn’t know how to play the guitar, and couldn’t even conceive of the arrangement of sounds and how to produce them. But there he was, bobbing his head, long hair falling in front of his face and dancing back and forth as his fingers flew up and down the frets. At the critical moment in this fiery lead, he collapsed to his knees and the spotlight flashed off the chrome of the guitar. He folded back over his feet and stared up at the stage lights while the crowd erupted in screams of delight and all those principals and teachers shifted uncomfortably on their feet at the back of the auditorium and schemed their own frontier justice down upon his head. Hey, at least he wasn’t out torturing small animals when he was a kid.

The radio on the receiving dock kept him company when the compressor wasn’t kicking in. It was a local call-in show ruminating over the latest in a fit of killings that were plaguing the metroplex. Eleven people dead now with the gruesome discovery two mornings before of a young woman’s corpse in a roadside ditch south of the airport. Sodomized, stabbed and mutilated she had been dead only two hours perhaps when she was discovered by a state trooper on a traffic stop. The murderer had taken several bites from the body while she yet lived according to the county medical examiner, which matched the practice performed in the prior murders. However, that was a detail left out of the news reports.

The murders were taking place with an increasing frequency and with a random nature that made them seem all the more horrifying. A jogger killed and found within hours of her death had been the first. Three weeks later a woman taken from a grocery store parking lot in broad daylight was found in an abandoned house two days later her genitalia savaged with a knife. Her eyeballs had been removed, and the coroner found semen in her eye sockets. And, of course, there were large bites of flesh torn from torso, thighs and face. Then the two college students, male and female, found in their apartment bound together with chunks of meat chewed from their bodies as they lay sixty-nine fashion screaming through their gags while their bodies were so terribly torn by teeth and metal. The killer had eaten their genitals as they tensed and jerked involuntarily and voided their bladders spilling out urine and blood over each other’s bodies and the predator’s face as they died each witness to the mutilation of the other. Six more along those lines, and the rumors of how ghastly these deaths truly were was beginning to seep out of official circles.

Doug checked the boxes steadily while the talk show host interviewed the deputy in charge of public information. Sixteen years with the company and he could do this in his sleep. He cut loose the packing slips sealed behind little plastic shields on the boxes and checked them against his paperwork from materials. He’d worked other areas of the plant and had even been a supervisor for a time, but he was too abrasive, too tactless, to please the good-old boys who ran this dusty backwater company. He’d given up long ago trying to get ahead with these southern redneck fucks. He could do his time here and hang out for retirement at this point, and they could all kiss his ass. There was no more kid at home, and it had been two years since his wife had left him for greener pastures. Daily life was a cycle of bells and trucks and the endless scanning of the wand over bar coded boxes of electrical parts all punctuated by cigarettes and coffee and lunch on the dock and the occasional beer at the strip club on the corner with the guys. But Doug didn’t care much for the guys either. There had been a time when he had made the attempt to form bonds with his co-workers, but demotion and the estrangement of other people moving on had left him with a fresh batch of people and himself a fixture of the receiving dock as much as the foam-pack machine and about as colorful, useful and taken for granted.

“There have been some really disturbing rumors floating around town about this string of murders, Deputy Godwin. Is it true that there is an element of cannibalism involved in these brutal killings?â€

A momentary pause, and then the sound of tangy barbecue sauce and chewing tobacco came over the radio, “These homicides are very vicious crimes, Mark, but I’m afraid I can’t comment on any details like that due to the ongoing nature of this investigation.â€

“Backwards, redneck fuck,†thought Doug.

That voice was the voice of every motherfucker down here who had kept him from success at the exact moment when it should have been his, every time. These Billy Joe Bubba Earls with their land outside of town for the weekends and their bass boats and mud tires and hot girlfriends in short shorts with pussy lips straining to peek out at him moist and full between tight, meaty thighs. And Doug was a man without a country, removed and insulated from the passage of time and kept in stasis. Gone from the small towns outside of Buffalo, New York for almost twenty years now, his parents dead, wife unhappily remarried and child grown and estranged he had negotiated a lesser space in the universe and drawn himself in several notches. He made himself smaller and less visible.

“Deputy Godwin, there is a report from last night of a missing fourteen year-old girl from over in Rowlett. Do you have any reason to suspect that this may be somehow related to these crimes?â€

“Mark, we have no reason to suspect anything like that at this time, but I couldn’t comment without knowing more. Rowlett is quite a distance from the area of the other homicides. But the police departments in the region are working closely together in this investigation...†Cigar smoke and the creak of leather came out of the radio. Doug thought he smelled bleach and aerosol blackboard cleaner as well, but he didn’t wonder why.

Doug wasn’t tall; he was compact and thick, but not fat by any means. His body had received the attention of a few women in the plant, but the way he presented himself and his reputation for negativity nipped most advances in the bud before they ever reached the latter stages of development. He had an almost perpetual five o’clock shadow and a square-set jaw that made him more menacing than he otherwise would have been. His eyes were small and unintelligent, fit for a creature of his appetites. And his lips were mismatched and somehow asymmetrical; they stretched tightly over his teeth. Coarse black hair stood out on his arms and peeked out from his collar, but there was little of it on his head and what was there was sprinkled with gray. He kept his hair cut rather short and had since shortly after high school when it began to quickly thin out and disappear. He was always clean and neat, but never fashionable. He was the kind of guy who always packed his lunch and ate alone, and nobody tried to talk him out of it anymore.

--The End