An Old Feud

Micah Dean Hicks

Jamie had never seen Carson this close before: gray beard, small eyes, older than she expected. His shirt was red plaid over muddy jeans. He was standing on the porch holding a bow and arrow, more arrows sticking up head-first out of his pocket.

“Where’s your dad at, girl?”

Jamie looked down at the strawberry plants. She sifted their heavy heads through her fingers. “Hunting.”

“When’s he gonna be back?”

The bag hissed when she dropped another handful in. “You’re going to kill him, aren’t you?”

Carson nodded. “When?”

“Late. Unless he gets a deer, but probably not until late.”

Carson sat down in a striped lawn-chair and watched her. “Are you afraid?” he asked.

She dropped another handful wetly into the sack. “Dad said you’d rape me if you got the chance.”

“I could never do that,” he said.

“He told me you raped my mom.”

“I bet he likes to believe it happened that way. Give me one of those.”

He held out a hard palm. She gave him one, the crushed berry bleeding across his fingers.

“Always liked these,” he said.

Carson kept watch for her father on the wood-line, but had the bow trained on her. There were no more strawberries around Jamie, so she sat down on the grass and waited.

“No one’s ever told me what started the war.”

Carson fingered the arrow-tip. “Bad blood between our great-grandparents. Nobody remembers what exactly. Your dad and I are in it for all the awful shit we’ve done to each other. That’s plenty.”

Carson leaned toward Jamie. She wrapped her arms around her legs, but didn’t move. He touched her black hair, leaving it wet with juice. Finally, he leaned away from her.

“Why a bow?” she asked.

“Been at this decades. Be odd to finish it up quick as a rifle.”

“And then it’s all over?”

“The war ends when the whole line’s gone. Your dad got mine a long time ago. I nearly had you all in that fire last summer, didn’t I?”

Jamie stared at the ground, squeezed fistfuls of grass until the blood went out of her hands.

“Thought so.”

“So you’re going to kill me, too?”

“No.” Carson shook his head. “Won’t need to do that.”

Jamie felt dizzy. It was windy out and cold. She saw a shadow move at the corner of the house. Her father stepped up behind Carson and set a rifle barrel against the back of his head.

Carson sat his bow and arrows on the ground. He wiped his mouth. “You lied to me, girl.”

“You got anybody left?” her father asked him.

Carson was staring at Jamie. He shook his head.

She felt embarrassed, but wasn’t sure why.

“Time we’re done with this,” her father said.

She picked up the bow. “We’ve been at this decades,” Jamie said. “Be odd to finish it up quick as a rifle.”

Her father grinned. Carson smiled, too, and she felt sick.

“Go to the garage and get my toolbox,” her father said.

*

Later, her father was strapping the almost skinless body to the front of the four-wheeler. It was dark, and the blue glow from the night-light made the corpse look black. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” he said.

“He said he wouldn’t kill me. Why would he say that?”

Her father looked out toward the woods. “I’ll be back soon. We can talk about things then.”

Jamie nodded, her hands shaking a little. She watched her father go to find a shovel. While her dad’s back was turned, Jamie dug through the pile of stained clothes and pulled out Carson’s keys, wallet, and cigarette lighter. After her father rode into the woods, she filled her backpack with clothes and took the truck.

Carson’s driveway was lined with concertina wire. She had to get out twice, standing in the headlights, to move it. Her arms brushed against it and beaded with blood.

She opened the door of his house, and it was dark and cold inside. She tried a light-switch, but the power was off. Jamie held up the cigarette lighter and walked down the hallway, pictures surfacing on the walls on both sides: smiling people who had the same hair as her, the same cheeks as her, the same eyes as her. She walked into a bedroom and found a little girl sitting up in bed. “Are you the only one here?” Jamie asked. The girl nodded. “Hurry and get your things. We need to go.”


About the Author

Anthony Malone’s fiction has been published in Lowestoft Chronicle, Murky Depths, The Delinquent, Wicked East Press anthologies, and many others. He has read at Short Fuse as part of the 2009 Coastal Currents Arts Festival, the London events writLOUD, Tales of the Decongested, Liars’ League, Storytails and One Eye Grey's “Spectres At The Feast” event, and recorded for London Link Radio. He lives in London.