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
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
"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
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
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?"
"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
"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
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
"Miss what?" I
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?"
yelled. "Shit. Shit. Shit.
I gotta go. Right now."
Chase smiled at Meridian,
exposing his small teeth.
tossed his beer can into a patch of weeds. "I
mean it. I gotta go."
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
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
"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
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
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
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."
"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?"
"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
"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
"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
"I dunno. Mama said
you can feel the spirit washing over you when you
get baptized. You didn't feel anything?"
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
Silas didn't say anything.
"What? You think it's
"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.