I get to my patch nice and early. It’s barely gone eight and the sun is bruising across the sky still. From the crossroads at the top of town I can see the whole sorry mess splayed out below me, sparks of light flaring as people lose the game of chicken with the night. I strum a few chords as I wait, checking my phone impatiently every few minutes. The guitar’s not even in tune, but it doesn’t matter, that’ll come with time. When it’s my time.
It’s full dark now and I half-rise as a car crawls by, anonymous face peering out from the passenger window. It’s a black Mercedes, which is what I picture him driving. But it carries on down the hill, trawling for something I’m not offering.
At ten past midnight I sling my guitar over my shoulder and start the slow walk back down through town. I pass the same familiar faces and we pass the same familiar conversation.
No luck, they ask.
Not tonight, I say. You?
Maybe tomorrow, they say.
Maybe tomorrow, I agree. And then we all stroll on home with our instruments and our souls.
She found the baby in a wicker basket on the porch, no sign of who had rung the bell, no note to give a name. She raised it as her own, named it for her grandfather and kept its horns filed flat to its head. She gave it a strict bed time, read to it every night and hand sewed trousers to allow for its forked tail. She bought it mints for its brimstone breath and sent it to piano lessons on Sunday mornings. She gave it an alibi when the church burned down. She asked no questions when the deaths began, when the cloud of flies engulfed the house, when the sun failed to rise for the third consecutive day, simply reminded it that school would be open regardless. She never raised a hand to it, but then it never uttered a profanity. She wept for days when it announced it would be leaving. She packed it a week’s worth of its favourite sandwiches and waved it off from the porch. She closed the door and thought back to that fateful night before the screams, before the rivers ran red, before the mutilated animals. She thanked God the basket had been placed on her doorstep. She thought, Imagine if it had been next door, Mrs. Frampton’s boys are right tearaways.