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Under the Full Moon


In a three room apartment above a camera store specializing in vintage film camera sales and repairs, Timofei jiggles the file cabinet drawer. Locked. He uses the small crowbar that had popped the front door lock. He bursts open the file cabinet drawer. Small metal fragments bounce and clang off the hardwood floor.

“Wait! The keys. On the desk. You don’t need to…,” Wiz says, nodding toward the desk and the ring of keys, from the chair in which he is seated, bound.

“Shut up!”, Vasily says, slapping Wiz hard with the back of a surgical-gloved hand which prevents leaving finger prints. Spittle flies from Wiz’s mouth.

Timofei looks at the ring of keys, at Vasily who says nothing but smiles maliciously, and pops another drawer. And another. And another.

“I told you it’s not here. Michael has it,” Wiz says with a mouth full of mush. Jaw swollen to chipmunk proportions.

“And we said to shut up,” says The Mustache from the far corner of the room, without looking around, as he tears open boxes and clears shelves. Cameras and parts fly across the room. Vasily hits Wiz again, harder, on the opposite jaw. Wiz whimpers. Tears in his eyes.

###

The Mustache stands beside Wiz, Timofei and Vasily (who never talks), holding a Canon AE-1, debris strewn behind him. Click, click. click goes the shutter but there is no film in the camera. He lets the camera drop from his hand, the 50mm lens cracks when it hits the floor. “There’s nothing here,” The Mustache says. Wiz wants to, but dares not, say, “I told you so.”

“Hey! Look what I find,” shouts Timofei, digging through the file cabinet. “The little kike’s personal stash.” He rakes keys and papers from the desk and lays down four 8X10 color photos.

“A rump ranger. A tail gunner. Our boy is a peter puffer,” The Mustache says with a smirk, detectable despite the enormous bush obscuring his mouth. He pats Wiz on the shoulder.

“You want we to ride you hard before we kill you?” asks Timofei slapping the crowbar against his palm.

“Like the big buck in the picture?” adds The Mustache, “Is this your boyfriend Wiz?” The Mustache holds one of the glossies for display. “Untie him and bend him over the desk.”

Palms on desk, pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles, Wiz sobs. The thugs play with their belt buckles. Pretending. Wiz trembles. Urine trickles down his left leg.

“Now we know why they call you Wiz,” The Mustache jokes. The other men guffaw. “Let’s get out of here. One peep out of you, you little pervert, and we’ll come back and finish the job. We’ll shove this crowbar so far up your ass… Are you listening?” Wiz nods, his forehead nearly touching the desktop.

Timofei steps forward and whacks Wiz’s ass with the crowbar. A red welt appears instantly on snow-white cheeks.

“We’ll be back, sweetheart,” The Mustache says, pinching Wiz’s bruised jaw, Wiz winces but does not cry out. The thugs laugh and jostle one another and collectively blow Wiz kisses. They exit.

Alone in the makeshift office of his small apartment above Wiz’s Camera Shop, Bernie Wizniewski, Proprietor, stands frozen at his desk, tears blotting the pictures of men engaged in unnatural acts. The trickle of urine has become a torrent.

Pissing and bawling and quivering in his soaked shoes.

###

After Wiz collects and cleans himself, he sits with ice in a sandwich bag applied to the most damaged of his two jaws. His tongue nudging a sore, wobbly molar. The taste of iron.

“I’d like to kill Michael,” he is thinking, “for putting me in this situation.” First of all everybody told Michael to keep his hands off Lori’s little girl Cinda. Twenty years old or so but everybody still thinks of Cinda as a little girl because she has the mind of one. And Michael, so much older but, with no better judgement. You could talk Cinda into anything. It was shot with an old Super-8 camera that Michael and borrowed from Wiz. Wiz developed the film and transferred it to disk. It is shocking. Barely 10 minutes but more than enough to excite you or turn your stomach depending on your disposition.

According to Michael, only the three of them, Wiz, Cinda and himself, have first hand experience with the movie but its existence has, somehow, become well rumored. Surely Michael isn’t stupid enough to have bragged about it. Actually, Wiz wouldn’t put it past Cinda to talk. She’s the kind of girl who might take pride in such a thing. Such a very dangerous thing.

The political operatives want it for the damage it can do to Lori’s campaign, the mob for the blackmail money it can generate. Money and politics, two things as unseemly as what is on the disk. Nobody will believe there is only one copy, per Michael’s instructions. Well, two if you count the original film that is also in Michael’s possession. Wiz could have surreptitiously made himself a copy but it does not exactly cater to his tastes and he thought that not having a copy was better for his health. Now he’s not sure.

But there is one person who wants it more than anyone else, more than the mob, more than Lori’s political opponents, more than Lori herself. Cinda’s uncle Lars. Tic.  

###

Tic crawled along the jungle floor through puddles of water as warm and viscous as the piss and blood running down his thigh. Rifle cradled in his arms like a newborn he inched to and propped his elbows up on a corpse as inconsequential as a log. He’d stopped smelling the stench of death long ago. 

He took aim at the Gook sharply silhouetted against the bright full moon. The Gook turned as Tic squeezed off a single shot, ripping off the better portion of the face. 

In real life or rather real death, the Gook collapses immediately but in the nightmare he walks toward Tic. Concave hamburger face. A featureless, mobile, mocking, animated corpse.

Bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, eyes wide with horror. The pillowcase and sheet are damp. Tic’s heart races wildly. He reaches for the rifle that isn’t there.

A recurring nightmare that never loses its effect like a movie you watch over and over even though you know how it ends.

Tic’s squadron was pinned, relentlessly shelled. The blast to the forward guard blew a soldier into two distinct halves. The trunk, arms and head lay a few feet from the hips and legs, the right foot twitching in a final death spasm. Corpse eyes alert and confused seemed to stare at his disconnected bottom half.

Can you be dead before you know it? Is Tic among the living dead? These are questions he asks himself.

In the days of execution by guillotine, the executioner would grasp the executed’s severed head by the hair, lifting it from the basket to stare into still alive eyes. The executioner’s face would be the dead’s last sight.What does a decapitated head think and feel at the final moment? Sorrow? Remorse? Hatred? Mere resignation? Confusion like the onset of a stroke? Does it see the faces of loved ones? All of these imagined emotions and experiences seem as tepid as jungle water, Tic thinks. There must be more to it. There has to be.

Tic quits the bed in sweaty boxer shorts and sleeveless t-shirt. In the bathroom he drinks a full glass of water poured as cold as it will pour. In his hand the pills from the medicine cabinet that calm the anxiety, stop the nightmares, prevent the hallucinations but render him numb. Uncomfortably numb. He puts the bottle back on the shelf behind the hinged mirror. Splashes his face with water. Dresses in jeans and boots and the leather jacket with the star shaped studs. He leaves the cabin and rides off on his Harley. It is 3:12 a.m.

###

The service road off to the right of the highway is gated. The lock has been broken for months. Teenagers enter through the gate, up the rise, into the edge of the forest to drink, smoke weed and fuck. A section of the public nature preserve has been sold off to private logging interests. The government says it’s a budget balancing necessity. Timber harvesting will begin in a few months. The locals are not happy.

Tic rides the Harley to the top of the mount. Pulls it around a big fir tree that will someday soon be coffee tables or bar stools. He looks down the slope opposite the highway. Through the trees and brush he can see the bright light in the parking area behind Michael’s house. Cinda’s Toyota isn’t there but that doesn’t mean she isn’t.

Tic had turned off the Harley lights when he entered the access road. He had a flashlight in the saddlebag but left it there, carefully scaling down the hillside under the bright light of the moon. He pauses when he reaches the railroad tracks. Looks down the tracks in the direction where the train will arrive in an hour or so. The freight train schedule is not precise. The route was on the verge of being decommissioned until the timber company came along and promised it new life.

Tic must be careful. Up the road, just a bit, lives a police-woman who knows him well and who wouldn’t at all care for, or be surprised by, his house calling and interrogation methods.

He is armed with only a Bowie hunting knife that he has with him always. Tic uses the Bowie to deftly spring the back door lock.

Tic finds Michael asleep in bed. Alone. A wave of relief washes over him.

In less than an hour Tic is scaling the rise back to the Harley with a video disk in his jacket pocket. The wind is treating the trees rudely. Clouds shun the moon. It has begun to rain. A storm is on the rise.

###

Jeanine was awakened by the train’s commotion. Trumpeting like an angry, wounded elephant. Something is wrong. Despite the early hour and grim weather it is her duty to investigate. She rouses Spence who now understands the downside of falling in love with an officer of the law.

The gale turns their umbrella inside out. They abandon it and struggle forward, unprotected, for a considerable distance, to the scene of the accident. They find a distraught train engineer and Jeanine’s neighbor, Michael… sliced cleanly in half at the pelvis by steel on steel. Detective Dexter and other officials will soon arrive.

###

Tic places the video disk on the kitchen table. He’ll deal with it later. Rumor has it there were several men involved. Another rumor says a large dog is the star of the show. Tic will not watch his Niece’s defilement. He has seen all that and more, live and in person, in a place far, far away where he was sent against his will and greeted without welcome.

He takes one of the numbing pills from the medicine cabinet hoping for sleep away from combat. Later he will go to The Lemon Grass, in the alley near The Delirious Dissident Bookstore, to see his beloved Kim-Ly. He will talk to her in her native language while he eats his favorite noodle dish. He will tip her extravagantly which she finally accepts after much patience and prodding. She keeps the money in an ornate box in her room upstairs where she lives with her family. He will tell her that he will soon take her away from all the corruption and violence and depravity. And after the months patience and prodding, she will smile.

But will not laugh.

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