Aiming for a creative life

I Am Santo

Home / fiction / Anger Keep Out

Anger Keep Out

Gasik stepped down the drop-off toward the water and breathed shallow, the sulfur of the pond stinging even against his effort. The place was a swollen lesion on the ass of the town; a chained-up, fenced-in, sign-posted swath of embarrassment that was the subject of children’s dares and adult’s dark grumbling. Gasik’s own child has come here though and now it was his annual turn to visit, enduring gnat clouds and the soggy muck that sucked at his shoes as he miss-stepped. Every year it was the same thing, shoes caked in mud, face red with insect irritation and a soul leaking as if he were a balloon stuck by the sharp pin of memory. But he came, never planned, but always around the same time when the trees sprung back to green and the air vibrated with cricket lust. He’d see the sign suddenly while at work, reviewing a legal memorandum or listening to a client drone on about their fair share of assets and he’d know it was time to disobey again that warning. “Danger Keep Out.” Only now it was “anger” he was warned to keep away from by chipped green paint and rotten wood. Because the danger had been ignored, a bold little boy with a head full of nothing and curiosity greater than any cat’s ducking under the chain, dismissing the sign he barely could read. And now it was anger that Gasik had to steel himself against, as his bile rose equally from the stench of the waste filthing the air here and the thoughts of his son losing his footing where he should never had set foot. Tears now, there they were. He shook his head as if the thoughts clinging to him were gnats. But they stuck like bad promises, tenacious as the brier to his now ruined slacks.

Who cares?

He pressed on, feet damp, feeling the will of the swamp exacting on him with every step as if there were whispers of forgiveness in the knowing rustle of leaves. He stepped onward, shoes cupped by the poison marsh, legs straining against its murky grip, until he reached the edge of the water, a calm pane of glass rippling under the dance of water bugs that likely would die soon from what had been dumped here. It was quiet but for the sounds of woods like any other. He frowned. This was nothing like any other woods.

He considered wading in. The pants were ruined by thorns anyhow, his shoes too. Why not? Gasik could see himself going in, working his way through slick strands of algae looking to wrap themselves around him in final embrace as if they were snakes with long enough memory to know the taste of his bloodline. “Oh,” they’d hiss. “We know you.”

It should have been enough to thrust him into their tangle. He could give in, find himself trapped and then, slowly, feel himself eaten by the mess of this horrid Hell he’d defended twelve years ago for the biggest money he ever made in his career. Bentol Solutions had come and gone as had the house Gasik bought for he and Sheila after he’d cleared the corporation of any legal wrongdoing. Now Sheila was in Chicago and he wrote settlements for rich divorcees. And Luke was here, not really but still. Here. Among the quagmire of choking Earth that he’d wandered into past a five dollar, rotten sign and a rope chain no more daunting than a weak parent’s suggestion.

“Stay outta there,” he recalled telling Luke once or twice when Sheila requested his stern voice assist with discipline. The boy would flinch as if a hand had been raised, and Gasik felt the sharp poke of guilt before returning to his iPad to finish reading the latest outrage. Of course the kid didn’t listen. If anything, he was driven to do the opposite of what he was told because his parents were always nose down in their phones, tablets, work, bullshit. At that time Gasik was seeing Arielle on the side, so maybe he was texting her what he wanted to do to her next time they met when Luke slinked off unnoticed and headed to Wraith Pond with his bear, Donny, and a backpack full of the kind of supplies only a five year-old would know to bring for a journey. They’d found Donny first, fur clumped with equal parts grime and blight, the part of him that has been submerged bleached from brown into a caustic white. They told him he didn’t have to see Luke, that the clothes, the articles found, the blood sample all proved who the boy was. He agreed, never seeing his boy before they buried what was left of him. Now Gasik wondered if he should just slink under the iridescent water and breath as deep as he could, soaking up every sin he was paid for and that he paid for. But like always, he got wet, got stung, got sad and after a while of sulking, he lurched back out of the slop, removed most of his clothes and drove home in his underwear. Next year. Next year he would walk further and face Luke’s final moments, welcoming danger and anger. Next year, Gasik thought. Next year.

To see what's what in the world of Santo

>> <<