“Well, my boy, you are some marvel,” said the Warden, almost mockingly. The overpaid head of staff of the bleak Lovecraft Insane Asylum was smiling at the first hall maintenance janitor not to abandon his post after only a month of work. The fattened Missouri-born blue-blood criticized the mangled son of America, in his thoughts. A son of Mahkra, Kansas. And he was soulless for laughing, even mentally, at the boy. The boy was Kenton Reeve, age 32.
His face was a bit lumpy from two obvious scars, and the war's demented game of dodge-the-artillery had left him deaf in one ear. The abuse of medical-grade morphine after a series of bullet wounds and cuts had made him jumpy and the three cases of trench foot left him with two toes on his left foot; the field surgeons had taken the three outer-most toes off. His foot was so terribly mutilated that his cobbler stayed up at night and often into the morning hours doubting the existence of God. But the one thing that was subtly noticeable about Kenton Reeve was his mental handicap accompanied by a slight stutter procured from a blow to the head from Fritz. After that, the Germans took him to their camp as a prisoner and kept him there as a jester, mocking his slurred speech and asymmetric stride. They got him drunk and watched as he vomited in unused latrines. This one-act circus carried on until the end of the war.
After his European adventure, he worked in a warehouse of a small kitchenware catalog. He became ill from dysentery for a few weeks, and a friend stopping by had told him he had been replaced. He came to the asylum for a job, and he received one as a janitor after telling the secretary of his misadventures in Germany and the injuries that disabled him from most jobs. He told every one at the Asylum how he became so disfigured. Doctors. The warden. The secretaries. The patients. But only the secretary had been reduced to tears during the recital.
“You do a great job here, and you should feel glad to know I've just raised your monthly pay to twentyone dollars.”
“My w-wife will b-be so pleased.”
There was no wife. But he knew by the stories Kenton's family had told him over lunches and phone conversations that there was a Mrs. Reeve before the draft, but she was quick to move away from his condition. This new wife's name changed quite often. Harriet. Penelope. And when he felt foreign, Kenton went home to Lola. “How is the wife, Kenton?”
“Oh Juanita, she's b-been showing me what Costa Rican food really is! Haha. . . ha!”
“She's such a pretty girl.” The Warden felt very uncomfortable and contemplated strafing right, avoiding mentally criticizing him any longer. Kent took the compliment, and carried on with a small monologue on the recent perk of bright weather, even though the warden had just attempted to talk of the recent placement of a highly unstable patient, and how all of the Ward's staff should try to sell tickets to watch him pace his cell. Kenton moved to continue the mopping that he had started before
being informed of his pay raise. What a piece of work, thought the Warden. What a nice day, thought Kenton.
The warden had to go home. It was six and six. The wife wanted him home at seven for dinner, and he had to take the commute. He stopped by his office to grab an umbrella. The weather to the station was not going to be forgiving. It had been raining at the knees with April's showers for the past three days in the sleepy town.
Kenton had opened a cell for its weekly cleaning. The man inside had been making good small talk with him for the past four weeks. His name was Robert Wayne Ross, age 27. Robert had been quiet of his own past, but Kenton was told that he had some attachment to the staff he had met, and that he was deeply affected by their disappearances and walk-outs. It seemed to cause him more mental harm when none of them had replied to his letters and wire telegraphs that the staff mailed and passed on for him.
His schizophrenia had gotten worse over the years, and today he seemed particularly antisocial.
“How are you t-today, M-missur Ross.”
“B-beautiful weather today.”
“I'll move out of your way.”
Kenton found it odd that while he cleaned Robert would default to watching him, studying, almost as though he were taking notes on his gait and movement. He often became self-conscious of his limp while being surveyed. He looked at the wall next to Ross' bed and saw an active tally, etched into the white tile, but it couldn't have been for his days or weeks there; it hadn't changed since Kenton had started his active duties.
“Hey, Rob, I just, I just got a fat pay rai-”
Robert stood up, interrupting the working janitor's sentence. His irises had been disproportionate from the other, but they were both wide. This startled the low-wage janitor.
“Your eyes are weird. Are you oka-”
“Father. . .” Robert muttered. There was a pause of confusion between them, but Robert went on to answer himself. “Yes, son?--I want to kill you.”
Kenton stepped back, scared. He raised his broom in some inferior form of defense. Robert twisted the broom around on him and continued to push him to the wall. He positioned the broom handle on Kenton's throat. The struggle was long to the wall, but Kenton lost out. Noises escaped his throat as he was pressed and fell unconscious to the floor.
“Shh-shh,” whispered Robert as he dropped the broom to arch the man on the white-tile floor. “...shhhhhhh.” He pulled the janitor up, moving his back toward him, and turned his neck until a grotesque crack resounded in the acoustic, white-lit-white cell.
The scrawny five-foot-two man undressed the janitor, and put them on. He noticed that his watch was cheap, but effective, as he tied it round his wrist: it was now six and thirty. He sat there and watched the time for two hours.
He dragged the naked corpse down the empty hall, imitating Kenton's perfect, right-biased limp, and interrupting the silence with the excess baggage of the janitor causing an old brake-like effect. Robert thought it was like skipping rocks, or rather dragging a sack a potatoes up stairs, which made him laugh, because he had just reached a stairwell to the basement. He sauntered down, past a corner and hoisted the corpse into the furnace, covering it with old documents and twigs. Robert made haste up the stairs. He moved through the empty hall, and as it caught his eye, he stopped. He peered at the recently
added garbage chute. I must make use of that next time, he thought.
As he headed toward the entrance of the building, he checked his watch. Eight and fifty. Damn, he thought, I bet the cow is sitting there, waiting. He reached down his trousers for a letter he had composed in the days proceeding. He moved to the front office, facing a ninety degree angle to the entrance. He peered in. Empty. He knew the front office secretary took a thirty minute break at 8:30.
He placed the crumpled envelope on the desk and drew the ring of keys from the side of his oversized pants. He found the one for the front door and opened it, exited the building, and locked it behind him. Robert looked out onto the raining lot in front of the asylum to see the milk truck, with its rooflight still lit. It was as if the milkman had left it unguarded. He looked into the light and noticed how the narrow beam revealed only a streak of the inescapable shower.
“This weather is hellish!” said a disembodied voice, muffled by the rainfall. Robert stopped to peer around. He saw the outline of a man moving to the truck, and moved toward him, eerily. The milkman mumbled to himself, and as he crossed into the light from the truck's roof, Robert sped up, but kept the limp that he had studied and perfected. He moved as to meet him at the door.
Robert approached him with fervor, shouting, “No, father, not the belt! No, son, not the knife!”
The man turned around and Robert grabbed his damp collar with an angry lust governing his right hand. His left hand jerked the handle to the truck, opening it. He placed the milkman's head directly on the crease of the truck's door and slammed it. The man whelped. Robert screamed back: “Why are you doing this? Why?” Slam. “I told you to come home before dark, and look at the time!
Look at the clock!” Slam. “Go get my belt!” Slam. Robert stopped. The diffracted light revealed the beautiful blackness of the milkman's blood. His body was notably limp, yet still tense. He opened the truck's steel door, and pushed the milk man to the other side of the truck. Robert shut the door, but it opened. The milkman's head had dislodged the door. Robert grunted, “See what you did?!”
He drove. He went over the bridge he so fondly remembered from only a month ago, over a river that was a creek before the deluge had started only three days ago. And the other that crossed a river that almost now ate at the banks with Spring's downpour.
The phosphor lights of the town of Mahkra glowed yellow in the windshield of the humble automobile from a decreasing distance until the entire vehicle was illuminated by their surrounding presence Robert Moss looked into the alleys of Mahkra, and saw their emptiness. He turned his head to look at the milkman and back to watch the road.
“What's your name?” his accent was plain and untainted by neither the southern drawl or the Yankee snarl, but sounded just like Kenton. He looked at the name tag on the man, shown up by the lights, and it read 'Bob.' “ I'll call you Gordon. My name is Kenton Reeve. I'm a trifle deaf, but I'm st-still able to h-hear you. I'm quite late for d-dinner, I hope you don't m-mind g-going in and eating with me and m-my wife. We can get that head of yours packed up.” He turned off to a dimly lit street. “Well here w-we are.” He pulled into a humble driveway.
He forgot Gordon, but trudged off toward and onto the stoop of the small house. He pulled an old skeleton key from the pair of pants he had on under the baggy janitor's pants and opened the door. As he entered, Robert immediately found an old oil lamp, turned the wick up, and lit it. He picked it up and moved towards the stairs. The walls were bare on the ground floor, and there nothing on the wall siding the stairs except a waving cut that had, even in the dim light, noticeably molded over.
In the upstairs hallway, he looked at the familiar doors. The doors, he thought, oh these doors. He read the first, which was to his right. “brother andrew” it read, in blood, dried from years of age. The top of the 'w' in 'andrew' curved and went straight to the floor. The second door, also in blood, read:
I'd add an 'a' to the last, if I had time, he thought, turning to his watch. Twelve. Exactly. The second had just met the twelve as he looked. He never did have enough time. He always told himself that he would add that 'a' next visit. He found the last room. Its blood read 'father, mother'. He opened it. The lamp revealed a corpse huddled in a corner, and the corpse itself had no odor, or emotion. Its skin was decayed for the most part, and Robert overlooked it, only seeing the knife stuck in the wall and the glare with the lamplight's reflection. The lamp revealed a wall of nails, some with keyrings on them, labeled each with two initials. He reached to the belt loop and plucked the keyring up. He found an empty nail, scraped his index finger on its head's edge, and placed the ring on it, writing an icon of the two letters 'KR', with his blood, on it. . .
Robert woke to a tap on his cell door. “Come in.”
“Mr. Ross, how are you today?” asked Julia, the new cleaning lady, with a slightly delightful tone. Her face was youthful but pale from working two jobs to pay for her tuition.
“Good, how is your sister?” Robert said this to her without looking at her, holding a blank stare at the ceiling. She was adjusted to his informalities, and he seemed, to her, to be just a troubled young man, and considered him quite hansom. “I got a wire last night saying that the baby is fine. It is a boy, however, that would be their third. . . I told her about you and how nice and how caring you are.”
“Why, thank you. That makes him Pisces, right?”
“Capricorn, it is December, Mr. Ross.”
“Oh, of course.”
“Did you hear what happened to that one milk man we had disappear?”
“No, why? Wasn't his name Gordon or Gregory?”
“Well his name was Robert, like yours is, but they found him in his truck, at the bottom of the riverbed, with his brains beat in!”
“How terrible, did he have any family?”
“A wife and two boys, and a daughter, I believe, it said in the obituaries.”
“Do you need anything done in here? You never seem to mess anything up...”
“No, but do I have any mail or anything at all to have come in? I've been wanting to know how Kenton is for some time now, I feel like he's put me in the dark, like he doesn't care about me.”
“I'm sorry, but his family is in the dark, too. It did say in his note that he was moving to New York, maybe he hasn't found time, he didn't even turn in his uniform, seems rather rude to me. ”
“I just wish he would send something to me. It seemed like he was a better friend than this.”
The furnace had just kicked up, it sounded as though a coal had just been struck by the flame. A terrible stench fumed out of the vents, and almost made Julia choke. “Well, I'll make sure your mail gets to you. If you don't need me in here, I'll be on my way.”
“Please turn my light out. I'm quite tired.” He kept his eyes open, watching the door shut. His eyes stayed open. For minutes, he held the disproportioned stare. For hours. Into the morning.
No biography was submitted.
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