by Amber D. Meyer
The asshole died. That’s what started it all. The lawyer called a couple of days ago and said my pathetic excuse of a father left me everything. If he’d had a pot to piss in, I guess it would have made me happy.
I drove all the way to Tennessee to make the arrangements. I didn’t care to view the body afterward, but the way the funeral director looked at me when I tried to beg off made me uncomfortable. He didn’t know the asshole. What right did he have to judge? So I stared down and tried to feel something but, nothing came. Just an empty gnawing where something should have been.
I arranged for him to be cremated after the service as burning him happened to be the cheapest option. His checking account had less money than a child’s piggy bank. Mom said that he buried his money in the backyard. So much for my inheritance.
The funeral proved laughable with five people in attendance, including a preacher I was forced to hire. I thought it unnecessary as my father never practiced religion, though I took some pleasure in knowing my old man would have hated it. He claimed to be a Jehovah’s Witness, but only to avoid standing for the pledge of allegiance. I told you he was an asshole.
The other two people included a geriatric wearing a Dollywood name tag that said Junebug who claimed to be the girlfriend and my Aunt Barbara. Our family was never a close-knit group. We didn’t have family reunions on the fourth of July and eat fried chicken and sing Kumbaya. You know the kind of families that I’m talking about. The ones the healthy kids with clean socks grow up in.
Dad preferred an antisocial lifestyle straight out of a Unabomber docudrama. Still he managed to marry three times, have countless affairs and hook-up in his golden years with Dollywood. I strolled over to speak with Aunt Barbara, the only non-snotting option. I wracked my brain for some common ground, but coming up dry I settled for the weather.
The ceremony proceeded with dismal formality. I looked around for the funeral director, but thankfully found no sign of him. I refused to shed any tears and I knew he’d be disappointed.
I hugged Aunt Barbara afterward, as we stood by dad in his loaner coffin. I found myself wondering how many other corpses had borrowed this particular model while Aunt Barbara shed a few conciliatory tears. Dollywood stood on my other side hanky flailing. Aunt Barbara commented on how good dad looked. Why do people always say that shit? Nobody looks good dead. When I’m gone, I don’t want people to saying it about me. Talk about what a quality life I lived. Talk about happy memories. Don’t stand there and talk about how pleasant I look stuffed into a damn box. It had better not be a loaner box either. Mine had better be a keeper.
Any way, we finished and I managed to mumble a few words to Dollywood and I even braved shaking her hand. I mentioned going to clean out dad’s place, but she didn’t volunteer any assistance. I guess Dollywood planned to sneak back and dig up the money at a more convenient time.
After taking a bath in hand sanitizer, I hit the road. I didn’t know how much work lay ahead since I’d never been there. The landlord had given me two days to clean out the place, as he had prospective renters.
The GPS led me down one desolate dirt road after another through hicktown USA and each turn seemed to drag me further from the reach of civilization. Just like my old man to live in the middle of nowhere. I felt like I’d stepped into one of those horror movies where a masked madman with a chainsaw slinks out of the woods, brum-brum-brum-brum brrrrrrrrrrrrr. I told myself, I’m a grown woman and I should stop letting my imagination run wild. I turned up the radio to rid myself of the eerie feelings creeping up my spine and started singing along to an old Bob Seger song.
“Ohhhhh blame it on midnight, Ewwwww shame on the moon.” I sounded like a bad American Idol audition, but it helped rid me of the jitters.
“You have arrived at your destination. Your voice guidance is now complete,” said the annoying computer chick’s voice over the end of my jam session. I parked next to a weeping willow and stepped out to look the place over. It struck me as reminiscent of the Beverly Hillbillies, before they struck oil. I decided the landlord was an asshole. No one was beating down his door to rent out this little piece of paradise.
I tiptoed in, moving aside the blue tarp hanging down in place of a door. It smelled like my childhood, poor with a touch of musty. Inside the plywood lean-to structure sat an enormous chest freezer with a lime-green extension cord running out back. That’s it, a shed for a freezer. Someone’s idea of a home addition. I started to open the freezer but then chose to save the food for last so it wouldn’t start stinking before I got to a dumpster. I opened up the door to the RV and stepped inside something the Partridge Family may have toured in. At least, I figured this shouldn’t take long.
I started to think maybe I should just see if I wanted anything and leave the rest. Let the landlord chase me down if he didn’t like it. That’s what I should have done. Instead I found a radio and switched it on. The Eagles crooned out, “Witchy Woman” and it gave me the chills, so I switched to a station playing a Flo Rida tune.
I started with the kitchen drawers. Silverware, didn’t need it. Junky canister set from 1980 whatever, didn’t need it. His clothes I could have taken to Goodwill, but I said screw it. I wanted to go home, so into the trash they went.
I found a box of pictures and I felt a lump rise in my throat. I shoved the feeling aside and put the box in front of the Suburban to go through later. I moved with speedy precision from cabinets to closet. I ran across a green metal box with a lock on it. I had no idea as to the whereabouts of the key. It was probably in the contents of the junk drawer and you know what I did with that shit already. I could force it open later. Maybe there would be treasure inside or maybe it was his marijuana stash. The thought made me a little uneasy. What if I got stopped? So I shoved the box in the bottom of a bigger container and covered it with junk.
I worked through dinner. I didn’t want to come back tomorrow. I made it to the back where the bed with a sunken middle sat. I refused to go any further in case that’s where he and Dollywood made the magic happen. If there were any creepy discoveries to make, let the landlord do it. Night was falling and a desperate itch to leave crawled all over me. My heart raced as I gave the RV one last look. Not quite empty, but close enough. I had to clean out the freezer and I’d be finished. Expired TV dinners were all that stood between me and freedom. I took a deep breath and pushed open the lid and that’s when I saw her. A frozen face looked up. The expression blank. The skin covered in frost. Body twisted at an odd angle. Duct tape over the mouth. I screamed and ran. I don’t know why. I knew who did it and I knew he wasn’t coming back, but my blood went cold with a terror that defied logic. I raced down the dark, dirt road heart pounding. In my panic I got lost. I parked the car and started to cry. The asshole’s box of pictures still sat up front and his face smiled back at me. I threw the box in the floor and came to my senses enough to dial 911.
“He killed her,” I said crying. I know the 911 operator spoke to me and I must have answered but, I don’t remember much. All I know is I sat in my car alone in the dark waiting and praying. Then this feeling of peace washed over me like a warm blanket along with the realization that it was over.
The police finally found me. They took me to the station and unloaded everything for evidence. Turns out the green metal box held sick mementos he’d kept. The next day, they found twenty-six more people buried out back. No telling how many more there would have been, but the asshole died.