Nothin' Worse
J.A. Tyler
Break
"Hell of a snow that was."
"Yup."
"Hell of a snow."
"Uh-huh."
Doyle's mouth leaned slightly to the left as he rolled his toothpick down his cracked lips.
Delmer's rocking chair creaked quietly.
"Three feet was it?"
"Least."
"Maybe four."
"Maybe."
Doyle coughed, small, full of phlegm.
Delmer's rocking chair creaked on.
"Couldn't even see the sign for Parker St."
"Nope."
"And Sid's was closed down three days straight."
"Yup."
"Course he'd close at the drop of a hat."
"Yup."
"And Aunt Marie's pie went to waste down at the Sink."
"Mm-huh."
"Yep. Went right down to waste. Shame."
"Shame. Yup. Nothin' worse."
Sweat rolled in a single bead down the bridge of Doyle's nose. It took a turn near the end and headed down beside his nostril. He wiped at it with a red and white checked handkerchief.
Delmer coughed, but a dry wheezy one followed by a gasp of spit running down his chin. He mopped it clean with a white handkerchief. A fly landed on the high knob of a rocking chair and rubbed its legs together soundlessly.
"Jenny was there durin' that storm, wasn't she?"
"Reckon so. Yep. She was."
"Stayed in iron'n I suppose."
"I suppose."
"Shame 'bout that."
"Iron'n?"
"Not the iron'n. Just the endin'. Bad endin' that was."
"Yep. Can't do no worse."
"Nope."
"You seen her after the fire?"
"Little. Yep."
"Pretty nasty stuff, huh?"
"Pretty nasty."
"Look as bad as Tommy?"
"Your brother Tommy or that kid down on Recknor St.?"
"Hangin' Tommy."
"Nah. Hangin' Tommy was worse."
"Huh."
"Yep. Those bulgin' eyes was tough to git."
"Huh. Yep, suppose it was."
"That was a bad deal too huh?"
"Yep. Pretty bad."
Doyle shifted in his rocker and his rough, cottony jeans made a rustling against the wooden seat. He sniffed and then spat tobacco juice and snot over the railing. Delmer watched a tumbleweed roll down Main St. followed by a gust of lightly blowing dirt. He itched the corner of his eye and daubed at it with his handkerchief.
"S'matter? Jenny?"
"Nope. Dirt."
"Oh."
"Tommy was a nice kid, huh."
"Yep. Nice enough. Lackin' sense I suppose though."
"Oh yeah?"
"Yep. Hangin' hisself from a dry beam like that. Lacks sense to me."
"Could'a cracked on anyone."
"'Cept Tommy was a good two-hundred pounds. Maybe two-fifty."
"Didn't hurt him any though."
"Nope. Already dead I suppose."
"Shore. Just busted him up worse. Nothin' else."
"Still lacked sense though. S'what I say. Made him look even dumber."
"Suppose yer right 'bout that."
An old cur dog passed the porch, looking shambles of a creature. He paused at the steps. Looked up.
"Go'on. Git."
"Git ya dumb old dog."
The dog hung its head, tongue lolling, and padded down the dirt road.
"Couldn't even take care of his damn dog. No damn sense. No sense at'all."
"Jenny left her bird too."
"Yeah?"
"Yep. She had sense though. Maybe that's sayin' somethin'."
"Maybe."
"How the bird miss out?"
"Close to the winder. Got enough air they guessed."
"Still hotter'n hell though I suppose."
"I suppose. Wasn't really the heat that killder' though."
"That's true."
"Flames. Burnin'."
"Yep. Damn shame."
"Yep. Sho was."
Doyle took out his red and white once more and brushed his forehead a time or two. He waved a fly off his knee and picked a small hunk of dried mud from his brown boots. Delmer shielded his eyes and glared at the sun, squinting. He couldn't see much except blue tinted clouds and the open sky in between.
"Course nothin' was worse than poor Lilly Litner."
"S'that the Rodney deal?"
"Yup. Left him beggin' in the street for change like a monster."
"Shame."
"Yup. Couldn't even own up to his own dick."
"Sho. Sad. Nothin' worse."
"Could'a sent the kid off I guess."
"I guess."
"She's workin' hard anyway. Keepin' bread on the table."
"An he's servin' time fer it anyway. That's good too."
"Yep. That is something."
"Still nothin' good 'bout it though."
"Nope, nothin' good there."
"Nope."
Doyle kicked his boots up onto the railing and rocked all the way back in his chair. The knobs of the rocker tapped the glass behind him, rapping dully. Delmer coughed again, drier this time but no wheeze. He blew his nose in the white rag and shoved it down in his back pocket with an old toothpick and a clump of lint.
"Ninety ya think?"
"Yep. Maybe over."
"Hundred?"
"Maybe. Feels it anyway."
A bee looped twice between the old men then disappeared instantly down the road.
"Hell of a summer."
"Yep."
"Hell of a hot stretch."
"Yep. Nothin' worse."
"Nope. Nothin' worse."
J.A. Tyler has recent publications in Underground Voices, Arabesques, The Furnace Review, and AntiMuse with forthcoming work in Kid Rocket, Sein und Werden, and Idlewheel. Chapters from his recently completed novella Nobody are available at Blue Print Review, Cezanne's Carrot, Artistry of Life, Sage of Consciousness, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k). He lives in Colorado with his wife and one-year-old son.