Issue 104, Fall 1987
It was a long walk to the car, and Fox carried Jesse on his back. A small trailer was parked in a lot full of weeds up past the railroad tracks, and a light was on in the window, glowing through the yellow curtains and filmy broken window that was patched with duct tape. Jesse wiped his cheeks on his father’s shoulder and thought, If only we make it that far. If we pass the window with the light on and the barking dog, we’ll stay alive. If we make it to the car. Fox’s pace was plodding, and Jesse thought. If he would run. If I stay awake that far.
The dog chained to an orange tree was barking, and it paced under the canopy of slick oily leaves and howled. The chain was long enough that the dog could reach Jesse if it tried, but a python was coiled around the dog’s legs and torso. You should stay away from the dog, Jesse knew, but the snake was deadly. The snake left the dog and slithered across the grass at him. Jesse thought, a weapon, and there was a machete in his hand. He beheaded the snake. The head was snapping on the ground, and Jesse leaped out of the way of the fangs. Then the Devil said to him, “Pick it up.”
Fox carried him away and brought him inside the trailer. Jesse said, “Why are we going in here?” “Shh,” said Fox. “We’re home.” Jesse’s mother was there. Fox said, “We’ve got one tired buccaneer here.” They put him on the bed, and he began crying as they took off his jacket and pants and shoes and socks. “Ow!” Jesse said. His mother wiped his moustache off with a warm washcloth,a nd she said, “Stop it now. Here, blow your nose.” He honked his nose in the washcloth. She tucked him in his pirate shirt and underwear.
“How did it go?” she said.
“I don’t know if I want to go next year,” said Fox.
“I’ll tell you later.”
“Did Jesse like it?”
“I think so, up until the end. I’ll tell you about it.”
Jesse started crying again.
“Shush,” his mother said. But Jesse could not stop sobbing. “I dreamed I was in hell,” he said.
Fox sat on the edge of the bed and stroked his son’s messy hair. “It’s OK,” he said. “We’re home now.”