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 3 from DIRTY LITTLE ANGELS, a Novel by Chris Tusa

     On Saturday afternoon me and Meridian went to Satan's Bayou. Originally, Satan's Bayou had been called Bayou Landing, but people started calling it Satan's Bayou after the sheriff got a phone call one Halloween that a group of Satan worshipers had done a sacrifice there.  Rumor had it, when the sheriff arrived, he found a pentagram of gasoline burning in the grass and a dead goat dangling from the branches of a blackgum. The goat had been strung from the tree by its neck.  It had been gutted, and its eyes had been plucked out.
     Satan's Bayou was on the east side of Jupiter. For the most part, it was nothing more than an old burned-out log cabin surrounded by a wall of pine trees. The windows of the cabin had been punched out. Shards of glass flickered in the dirt like diamonds. On the porch, a red canoe was propped against the rusted skeleton of an old washing machine. Weeds sprouted through cracks in the boards.  A nest of sparrows squawked in the black mouth of a mailbox. A splintered pier with missing planks of wood overlooked the bayou. 
     As I sat on the rusted hood of Meridian's father's truck, I watched Meridian pull a lipstick from her purse.  
     Like me, Meridian had spent her whole life in this grimy little town. Her family was as crazy and lopsided as mine. Maybe this is what drew me to her. At first glance, she was the kind of girl whose eyes you wanted to scratch out. But she grew on you, like a tumor, like a bloody scab you didn't dare pick at.
     We had gone to Satan's Bayou to meet our friend Hollis. Me, Meridian, and Hollis were in ninth grade at Jupiter High. Hollis was a skinny kid with a bleach blonde flat-top. He had a hair lip and a tattoo of Woody Woodpecker on his right bicep. He'd brought his cousin Chase Haydel with him. Unlike Hollis, Chase was muscular. He had a fat neck, and it looked like he'd rubbed tanning cream all over his body because his skin was the color of candied yams. He had a small, red mouth.  It looked like a doll's mouth. His eyes were the color of a hearse.  Chase had gone to school in Slaughter. He was supposed to be a senior, but he'd dropped out in the tenth grade. He'd been to jail twice.  Once for beating up a boy at the A&P. Another time for smashing the windshield of his girlfriend's pink Corvette with a lead pipe.
     I watched as Meridian scrawled her phone number on Chase Haydell's forearm in bright red lipstick.      
     "Here," she said, smirking as she handed the lipstick to Chase, smiling with her fat collagen lips. "Put yours where I won't lose it." She batted her eyelashes at him. They looked like spiders crawling out her eyes. Meridian leaned back on the hood of the truck and lifted her blouse until you could see the edge of her black lace bra, a noose of blonde hair dangling down her back, her gold waist chain flickering in the sun.
     As Chase leaned over Meridian with the lipstick in his hand, he turned his eyes on Hollis and smiled, a strand of blonde hair dangling in his eyes as he wrote his phone number across Meridian's stomach.
     A few months back, Meridian's dad had bought her a boob job. I watched Chase's eyes crawl over Meridian's boobs. They were obviously fake, but Chase didn't seem to care. I watched him circle a chocolate brown mole on her hipbone with a number zero, watched him draw a red number three that curved around her bellybutton.  As he did this, he glanced over at me.
     "Your brother ain't Silas Trosclair by chance?"
     "Yep, that's him," I said, sitting up.
     "He hangs out down at the old bank with Moses Watkins and those boys, right?"
     "Yep."
     "Man, he's a legend."
     "Didn't they start some kind of gang or something?"  Hollis asked Chase. "The Sons of Jesus? Or something like that?"
     "The Sons of God." Chase exhaled, his words wreathed in smoke. 
     Hollis grinned.  "They're the ones that broke into that Jewish church in Plaquemines."     
     Chase smiled at me. "My brother went to Jupiter High. He had a math class with Silas, way back when."         
      Meridian grabbed the lipstick from Chase and stuck it in the back pocket of her Wranglers. 
     "You got a cigarette for me?" she asked, fiddling with the pearl dolphin that dangled from her waist chain, her sandled feet dangling, the black polish on her toenails chipped away. 
     Chase took a drag from his cigarette, pulled a pack of Camels from his shirt pocket, and handed one to Meridian.
     Hollis wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. "Speaking of math, how'd you two do on that algebra test?"
     "Thibodeaux's a witch," Meridian wheezed, her voice the soft swarm of bees. "She never even covered that crap in class."
     "I don't miss that shit." Chase sucked the last drop of beer out the Schlitz can, then squeezed the can until it crackled in his fist.
     "Miss what?" I asked.
     "Algebra, geometry. That whole mess." Chase dropped his cigarette onto the ground, mashed it with the toe of his tennis shoe, then pulled another can of Schlitz from the six pack at his feet.
     "You see her husband?" Hollis asked. "At the pep rally?"
     "He was there?" I asked. "Which one was he?"
     "The one in the dark blue suit with the yellow tie. With the black hair. And the glasses."
     "The one that followed her around like a dog the whole time," Meridian snapped. She took a drag off the cigarette. "Woman makes me wanna puke."
     Chase's mouth twisted into a smile. "Man, you got it in for that woman." He took a sip from his beer, wiped his mouth on the green sleeve of his shirt.
     "Meridian's got it in for everybody" Hollis said, smiling as he popped open another can of Schlitz.
     A smile crawled off Meridian's face. She stared at Hollis with her muddy brown eyes. "Not everybody can be a stinking teacher's pet, Hollis.  Shouldn't you be at work by now anyhow?"
     "Shit," Hollis yelled.  "Shit.  Shit.  Shit. I gotta go.  Right now."
     Chase smiled at Meridian, exposing his small teeth. 
     "Chase." Hollis tossed his beer can into a patch of weeds. "I mean it. I gotta go."
     "Jesus, Hollis." Chase rolled his eyes, scratching an itch in his armpit. "I just opened my beer."
     "I mean it.  If I'm late again, Lois is gonna fire my ass for sure."
     "All right, dammit. Gimme a minute." Chase walked over to Meridian and took the cigarette from between her fingers.  He took a drag, blew the smoke out his nose. "So tell me, Meridian. What's a girl like you looking for in a guy?"
     Meridian smiled with those fake collagen lips of hers. "Me? I like the dumb, slab-of-meat, brain-dead kind." She fondled the tail of his shirt, looking up at him as she spoke. "The kind so muscle-heavy they might just suffocate me when they pin me down." 
     Chase smiled back at her. "Well damn Girl . . . we're a match made in Heaven."  He took another drag off the cigarette and handed it back to Meridian. "Don't you forget to call me now."
     Chase and Hollis walked over to the weedy edge of the bayou where Chase's car was parked. It was a sky-blue Trans-Am with a sun roof and black mag rims.
     "Nice, huh?" Meridian asked me. 
     "Yeah. He's cute."
     "I'm talking about the Trans-Am, Hailey."  Meridian took a drag, bit her lip, then blew the smoke out the corner of her mouth. "He's ugly as dirt," she smirked. "Gotta nice ass, though." She took another drag and smiled. "Maybe I could teach him to walk backwards."
     I laughed and took the cigarette from Meridian, staring at it before I took a drag. There was a long grey curled ash on the end, and a red ring of lipstick around the filter where Meridian had slobbered all over it.  
     As Chase pulled off, Meridian was staring at a white egret floating against the sky. Her eyes followed the egret across the horizon until it landed on a cypress stump. It looked like a white flag fluttering in the wind. Meridian raised her right hand as if it was a gun, took a drag from her cigarette and pointed the tip of her finger at the egret, her left eye squinted. I leaned back on the hood of the truck and stared at the empty sky as sunlight ricocheted through the trees.
                                                    
                           

     That afternoon when I got home, Silas said that Moses had called a meeting down at the old bank. Apparently, he'd gotten word that a boy at Jupiter High had been wearing a shirt with a black pentagram on it. Everybody knew the boy Moses was talking about. He was a senior named Seth Connors. He and his friends had jumped Silas a few years back. There was even a rumor that he was the one who'd wrecked the Tyler's annual Christmas display the year before. He'd smashed the glowing Baby Jesus, pulled the wires out the blue lights of its eyes, ripped the head off one of the Three Wise Men, and hung the Virgin Mary from an oak tree.
     For the last year or so, Seth had worked down at Jupiter Supermarket bagging groceries. After the meeting, Moses talked about Satan and said that people who worshiped the devil were sinners. At the end of the meeting, he told everybody to meet down at Jupiter Supermarket.
     Moses invited me to come along. He said it would be my first chance to see the Sons of God in action. I decided to ride with Moses. The other boys rode with Silas. Ray Livaudais in the cab and Lenny, Spider, and Dax in the back. 
     On the way, Moses showed me the scars he'd gotten on his back when his daddy beat him with the extension cord. They looked like black worms moving under his skin. He said sinners burned the blue flames of God's voice, that suffering was what saved sinners, and that sinners couldn't reach Heaven without suffering first.

                             

     We got to Jupiter Supermarket just before it closed, around eight forty-five. It was starting to rain. The air was black, as if all the stars had fallen from the sky. The parking lot was empty except for a few cars. Silas got out his truck and stood by Seth's black El Camino while the other boys hid behind the car.
     Around nine o'clock, Seth came out the supermarket, a carton of Camels under his arm, a white apron thrown over his shoulder.  He smiled when he saw Silas, his mouth like a red scab, his long wiry hair combed over his eyes. "Didn't I kick your ass, already?" he asked Silas.
     Silas smiled back at him, his hands jammed into his pockets. As Seth got closer to the car, the other boys swarmed in from behind the truck. He didn't see it coming. Before he even knew it, the boys had put him in a headlock. Spider pulled a roll of silver duct tape from his trench coat and started winding the tape around the kid's feet while Dax held the kid's legs together. Once they had his feet, Spider rolled the duct tape around the kid's head so that the silver tape covered his eyes. They wrestled him over to Silas' truck, shoved him into the bed of the truck and peeled out the parking lot. Moses shoved the Omni in gear, slammed on the gas, and swerved onto Hwy 61, following the taillights of Silas' truck. I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone had seen us, but all I saw were black puddles of rain water littered with packs of Camels.
     We drove down 61 for a while, until we came to a dirt road lined with ditches.  About a mile down the road, we came to weed-choked field surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Silas parked the truck on the side of the road and killed the engine. As me and Moses were pulling up, Dax and Spider were yanking the kid from the truck. By now, his hands had been bound behind his back with duct tape. Once they'd gotten him out the truck, they stood him up against one of the wooden posts of the fence. Moses stepped out the Omni and walked over to the boy. He rubbed an apple against his shirt, a switchblade flickering in his other hand. He cut a piece of apple, holding the sliver of apple against the blade of the knife with his thumb as he brought it to his mouth. He sucked the sliver of apple from the blade, then glanced over at the kid. "You ready to get saved, Boy?" He paused for a moment, cutting another piece of apple. The kid didn't say a word. 
     A second later, Silas stepped up, slipped the brass knuckles onto his fist, and socked the kid in his gut. The boy's head bobbed like a cork, his long wiry hair dangling in his face.
     Moses threw what was left of the apple into a weedy ditch and pulled a miniature bible from his back pocket and started reading from Corinthians. While Moses read from the bible, Silas socked the boy in his gut, stepping back once in a while so Ray, Dax, Spider and Lenny could take turns slugging him in the face.
     In a twisted way, it was kind of exciting, knowing that the boy had jumped Silas a few months back, knowing that he'd finally gotten what he deserved. Being apart of the Sons of God made you feel so powerful. And to be honest, I was starting to like that feeling of power.
     When Moses was done, he closed the bible.
     Silas stepped back from the boy for a moment, catching his breath. "What you wanna do with him?"  
     Moses pulled a blue comb from his afro. "Leave him be." He combed the black hairs of his goatee and stuck the blue comb back in his afro. "He can crawl his way back to Jupiter for all I care."
     Silas gave the kid one more kick, then everyone went back to their cars. I watched Silas head back toward the truck, covering his head with his hands, trying to shield himself from the silver shower of rain, the sky flickering as the boys ran by, black mud sucking at their shoes as they passed.

                            
   
     After we got back to the old bank, we talked with Moses and the other boys for a while. Around midnight we headed home.
     On the way home, I told Silas I was worried that Mama and Daddy might get a divorce. That sometimes my thoughts got so scattered they felt like roaches crawling around in my head.
     "I wouldn't worry about it too much, Little Sis." He unwrapped a red sucker, stuck it in his mouth and threw the wrapper out the window. "Spose it's normal to feel like that from time to time. After all, there ain't a person in the world could stay sane living with those two lunatics."
     I laughed. 
     "I'm serious." Silas pulled the red sucker out of his mouth and glanced out the window across a field spotted with horses, tapping his finger to the beat of the music. "I didn't know what to do when they started talking about divorcing each other. I guess it was depression. You know what it felt like?" Silas cleared his throat, spit a red wad of phlegm out the window. "It was almost like I had a hole in my heart. You know, like if my insides were empty." Silas put the sucker back in his mouth, sucking on it between words."
    "How long did it last?"
    "For a while I guess. After a while, though, the depression turned into anger."
    "It did?"
    "Yeah. Pretty soon, all I wanted to do was sock somebody." Silas bit off a piece of the sucker. I could hear it cracking between his teeth. "I used to get Daddy's punching bag out the garage and sock it for a while.
    "Did that help?"
     "At first. But after a while I got tired of that bag and I started to wanna sock a real person. It didn't matter who so much, just as long as they had a heart beating in their chest. To tell the truth, that's what made me wanna join the Sons of God in the first place. It wasn't so much for the religion of it all, as it was for the ass kicking." He took the sucker out his mouth and twirled it between his thumb and index finger, glancing over at me, a smile crawling across his face. "After all, what other religious outfit could you join where you got permission to sock some poor sinner on a regular basis."
     "You think it's right?" I asked. "The way Moses uses religion?"
     "Whatcha mean? Beating people up for their sins?"
     "Yeah."
     "I dunno. I guess it ain't no worse than what most preachers do, scaring the Jesus outta people every Sunday with those bullshit sermons so they can milk old blue hairs outta their life savings."
     "Yeah. Just seems like praying might be more Christian-like, you know."
     "Praying? Hell, I watched Mama spend her life throwing money in the tithe jar every Sunday, waiting for some angel to land on her shoulder and cure the whole family. She's spent her whole damn life praying. And where's it gotten her?"
     "So you don't believe in Jesus?"
     "Nope. That's one hook I ain't gonna swallow, Little Sis. I fell for Santa Claus and even the Tooth Fairy, but I ain't falling for that one." He talked around the sucker in his mouth, moving it from one side of his mouth to another between thoughts. "It just don't make sense to believe some long-haired hippie is somehow pulling all the strings."
     "Why'd you get saved? Just cause Mama wanted you to?"
     "Yeah." Silas bit the last piece of red sucker off the white stick and hurled the stick out the window. "If dunking my head in some holy water will get her off my back, then so be it."
     "You didn't feel anything when they baptized you?"
     "Feel anything? Whatcha mean?"
     "I dunno. Mama said you can feel the spirit washing over you when you get baptized. You didn't feel anything?"
     "Nope."  Silas pulled a pack of Picayunnes from his shirt pocket and shook one from the pack, speaking out the side of his mouth as he lit it. "Felt that stupid preacher's fingernail digging into my neck as he dunked me. But that's about it." He took a long drag, blew the smoke out his nose. "You not thinking about getting saved are you?"
     "I dunno. I was just wondering."
     Silas didn't say anything.
     "What? You think it's stupid?"
     "No." Silas combed a hand through his shiny black hair, the cigarette dangling from his lip. "Not at all. Everybody's gotta believe in something. Just cause it didn't help me, don't mean it won't help you. Hell, religion helps a lot of people. It just never helped me, that's all."
     "So you don't believe in the bible?"
     "I like the characters. And I like the stories." Silas took another drag off his cigarette and flicked it out the window. "Especially in the Old Testament. God didn't take any shit back then. Hell, he'd turn your ass into a pile of red dust if you didn't do what he said, strike you dead with a lightning bolt. But as far as God and Jesus being real? I dunno. They just never seemed like believable characters to me. Huckleberry Finn . . . now that's a believable character." Silas turned up the volume on the radio. "Ooooh, I like this song." He smiled over at me, tapping the steering wheel. 
     I watched him smiling, tapping the steering wheel to the beat of the music, all the while thinking of Chase, imagining his little red doll's mouth, his candied yam skin, as I stared out the truck window, stars blinking through black walls of pine, the silver breeze crawling through my hair.

 

 

 
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