Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
     
 

Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer

Chapter 15 from DIRTY LITTLE ANGELS, a Novel by Chris Tusa

    
By the time Sails and I left for the hospital, dusk had wormed its way through the guts of the trees, choking off the last little bits of light. After her appointment on Friday, the doctor had decided to admit Verma to the hospital. He said the diabetes had eaten up the veins in her legs. Before the miscarriage, when Mama used to work at the hospital, she'd tell us about the Diabetes patients, how when the disease ate up the veins in their feet, their toes turned black and fell off. We were nearly half-way to Jupiter Memorial before Silas told me that the doctor had cut off Verma's right leg. I thought about how the preacher had laid hands on Verma's leg, how the congregation had prayed to God that he'd spare it, how once again, God had ignored our prayers.

"You still mad at me?" Silas asked, taking a bite of a ham sandwich.
"Yes, I'm still mad at you. I can't believe you punched Chase."
"Punched him?" Silas wiped a Hitler moustache of mayonnaise from his lip. "He's lucky that's all I did. I should of called the cops and had his ass thrown in jail."
"All he did was give me a hickie, Silas. Hasn't a girl ever given you a hickie before?"
"Sure. I've gotten my share of hickies, but I've never given one to a fourteen year old girl." Silas glanced in the rearview mirror, picking a piece of bread from his teeth. "That kid's a slug, Hailey. You don't need to be hanging out with someone like that."
"I can hang out with anyone I want to hang out with, Silas. I don't know why you feel the need to butt into my life so much."
"Cause I'm your big brother, that's why. I'm supposed to protect you from people like that."
"Yeah, well. I don't need you to protect me."
"So what?" Silas took another bite of the ham sandwich. "You expect me to let you hang out with scum like that? You expect me just to sit back and do nothing?"
"Chase is not scum, Silas. I like him. He treats me nice. Anyway, you don't even know him."
"He's a pervert, Hailey. Plain and simple. And I'm not letting some pervert screw around with my little sister. If that makes me an asshole, then so be it."

We didn't say anything after that. When we got to the hospital, I climbed out of the Hyundai. Silas said he'd wait for me in the parking lot. I wondered why he didn't want to come in, but I was too mad at him to even ask. Mama had said that Verma was in room 224, so when I got inside the hospital, I went to the elevator and made my way to the second floor. When I found Verma's room, I knocked on the door. I didn't hear anyone answer, so I opened the door and peeked my head in. Verma was lying in the bed, asleep, her head propped on two pillows that looked like two white clouds. Her face was flat, her lips bunched up in her mouth.

"Hailey," she wheezed, her eyebros cocked.
I walked over to a chair that was next to Verma's bed. A bed pan filled with urine was on the table next to me. It looked like a smiling silver mouth.
As I sat down, the door opened, and a woman in white walked in, wheeling a cart of food. "It's lunch time, Mrs. Williams." The lady wheeled the cart to the foot of the bed and left.
As she was leaving, I thanked her and pushed the cart closer to Verma. "You ready to eat?" I asked. I couldn't help but stare at the empty white space where Verma's leg had been.
Verma motioned to me with her good eye closed, only the dead eye staring back at me. I picked up the fork and stabbed it into a stringy piece of roast beef and put the fork to her mouth. Her lips cracked open, and I guided the fork into her mouth. She swallowed all of what was on the fork, except for a small piece of roast beef that dribbled down her chin. "How you feeling?" I asked, wiping her chin with the napkin.

Her lips rolled around in her mouth for a second while she chewed the roast beef. "Them sons-a-bitches took my leg," she said, swallowing the bite of roast beef. She put the straw between her teeth and sucked the water into the tight brown fist of her mouth. Her lips rolled around in her mouth as she sucked on the straw.
I looked on the table next to me and saw the leg. It was beige and smooth like a mannequin's leg with little metal hinges at the knee and ankle.
"Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine. For a one-legged old woman I spose." She rubbed her forehead with an ashy brown hand. "Gonna have to plug some plastic leg into my hip to get around now," she said, talking between sips. "Got a bum hip. Couldn't hear a freight train barreling toward me with these ears I got. Now this diabetes comes along and takes my leg. But, Hell, these doctors ain't killed me yet."
"Are you having any pain?"
"Nope. They got me all hopped up on pain killers. For when the pain in my ghost foot starts."
When Mama had worked in the hospital, she had told me that amputees sometimes felt pain in their missing limb years after it had been cut off. They called it phantom pain.
"Can you believe that?" Verma chewed each word and handed the cup back to me. "Pain in my ghost foot? As if I ain't got enough pain running through the one I got."

I thought about the leg the doctor had chopped off, wondering what they had done with it, wondering if the leg had a memory, if it somehow still remembered the body it had been stuck to. I imagined the black toes wiggling after the doctor cut it off, like the chickens I'd seen at my grandfather's house, hopping around the yard after their heads had been lopped off.

I smiled at Verma. "Mama said your sister's coming to bring you home tomorrow."
"Yeah. She's gonna bring me back to the house and stay with me for a few days. Says she's gonna take me to Galatoire's. Once I'm feeling better."
Galatoire's was one of the most expensive restaurants in New Orleans. Once a month, Verma's sister took her there to eat.

"She'll probably take me over to Wal Mart too. I need to get a few things. That reminds me. Be sure to tell your daddy that I haven't forgot about that job interview. Soon as I get outta this hospital, I'm gonna call that friend of mine and see if I can't get him another interview."
I smiled. "You don't give up, do you?"
"No Ma'am. I'm gonna get that daddy of yours a job if it kills me. You'll see."
"Alright, I'll tell him, but right now you need to get some rest."
I fed Verma the rest of her dinner. All that was left was a pile of bright green string beans and a yellow sliver of apple pie. After she'd finished, I told her I'd see her when she got home, and I kissed her on the cheek and left.

***

As Silas and I pulled into the driveway, I could see the sheriff leaning against the fender of his squad car smiling with those little baby Chiclet teeth. Silas parked the Hyundai and killed the engine, and both of us climbed out the car and walked over to where the sheriff was standing.

"Sorry to bother you two again," the sheriff said. "But I got a few questions for you, if you don't mind."
"Sure, Sheriff," Silas said. "Anything we can do to help."
"I appreciate it." The sheriff took off his hat and scratched an itch on his liver-spotted skull. "Not sure if you two heard about it or not, but an alleged child molester over in Bogalusa. Well, he was attacked a few nights back."
"Attacked?" Silas asked.
"Yeah." The sheriff was sweating in the heat, and you could smell the Old Spice seeping from his skin. "Somebody beat him up pretty bad, knocked a few teeth out, broke a few ribs. Woulda been simple battery. But as it turns out, that kid wound up dead two days later. Apparently, he had a blood clot in his brain."
"Did he get the bloodclot from the beating?" Silas asked.
"We're still working on figuring that out. Looks like the blood clot was the result of the beating, but we're not totally sure at this point. Initially, the authorities in in Bogalusa thought it might have been the father of the girl who the boy had allegedy molested, but his alibi panned out. You two haven't ever heard of a group called the Sons of God, by chance, have you?"
"No." Silas looked at me then back at the sheriff. "No, sir. Is that who you think did this?"
"Well, we're not exactly sure at this point. There's a local boy who got beat up a few weeks back, Seth Connors. You might know him."
"Yeah, I know Seth," Silas said. "He works over at the supermarket, don't he?"
"Yeah. Anyway, they did him the same as they did that alleged child molester. Tied him up with duct tape. Beat him up."
"You don't think it was the same people, do you?"
"Well, they're separate instances, of course, but we're looking at the possibility that they might be related. Since they're so similar and all."
"Well, I'm sorry sheriff, but I don't think I can be much help. I never heard of any Sons of God, and I haven't seen Seth in months."
"Yeah, I wasn't sure if you'd know anything or not. Figured it couldn't hurt to ask."
"Course if we can help any just let us know. We'd be glad to come down to the precinct if you need us to."
"That won't be necessary." The sheriff opened the door of his squad car. He started the engine, turned the car around and headed down the driveway.

When we got inside, the power was out. Silas was so mad that Daddy had forgotten to pay the bill again. We moved everything from the refrigerator to an ice chest so it wouldn't spoil. I told Silas I was scared that the police were catching on to what we'd done, but he said they were just fishing for leads. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn't help but think that we'd get caught for killing that kid.

That night, I dreamed that my organs were rotting inside my body. In the dream, my heart and my lungs felt like rotten meat, and each breath I took buzzed in my chest like a swarm of dirty flies. Jesus was standing with me in a field of purple flowers. He was wearing a tuxedo, and I was dressed in a white straightjacket. My fists were clenched, and when Jesus opened them, I could see that there were bloody nail holes in my wrists. When the dream ended, Jesus was flying up to Heaven, and I was standing in the field all alone, like a fallen white angel with its wings chopped off.

 
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer
Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writerChris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer Chris Tusa, Louisiana writer, Dirty Little Angels, Haunted Bones, southern fiction writer, southern gothic fiction writer