by Jeff Dosser
Kyle Hogg never dreamed the Sunny Acres Trailer Park would be a sight he’d long to see, but after the night he’d had, even the relative peace of his decrepit Winnebago was cause for celebration.
With a cursory check of the empty Tulsa streets, Kyle scurried from the shadows, his wet shoes squishing softly as he made his way to LOT 2B and home sweet home. Stepping inside, Kyle heaved a sigh of relief and flicked on the lights.
“About time, Fat Boy. I was wondering when you’d show up.”
Kyle’s heart skidded to an icy halt as he spun to find his employer, Lawrence Talbot, aka, Hairy Larry, plopped down on his couch. Dressed in a pair of khaki shorts, and a pink polo, the RV’s light shimmered on the ebony forest of hair carpeting Larry’s muscled arms, and exposed chest. In fact, the only part of the man which wasn’t covered in thick fur was his clean-shaven face and the round smoothness of his bald head.
“I missed you at our rendezvous, Kyle.”
Larry pushed up from the couch and with a wave of his pistol, motioned Kyle inside. “Go ahead and have a seat.”
“Hey, Larry.” A lame smile played across Kyle’s plump lips. “I was gonna call, but I lost my phone in the river.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Larry smirked. “Because I was startin’ to get the impression you were trying to avoid me.”
As Kyle squeezed through the narrow passage, Larry hurried him along with a pistol-jab to the ribs.
Kyle squealed in terror and dropped onto the couch.
“Don’t hurt me. It wasn’t my fault.” Kyle looked up, his lips trembling “There … there was nothin’ I could do.”
“What do you mean, it wasn’t your fault?” Larry’s eyes narrowed. “Where’s my ice?”
“It was the police,” Kyle said. “They had some kinda checkpoint set up on Riverside. They was stoppin’ everyone, Larry.”
Kyle struggled to breathe through the tightness ringing his chest. Fumbling through the piles of fast-food wrappers and beer cans littering the counter, he spotted his inhaler and gasped in a breath.
“When I pulled into the line of cars at the stop,” Kyle continued, “I didn’t know what to do.”
“You left the dope in the car?” Larry asked with brows rising.
“No, no, I’d never do that.” Kyle waved his hands as if wiping away the allegation. “I knew how important that dope was to you and Fat Sheila. But the cops. They saw me take off, Larry. They came after me.”
He shook his head, tears welling in his eyes. “I’m no athlete.” Kyle waved a hand over the swell of his gut and his pencil thin legs. “Just look at me.”
Larry leveled a finger. “Then how the hell did you get away?”
“I jumped in the river before they could catch me. They had spotlights, an’ the helicopter came. But the current was swift. I was past em’ before they set up. I wanted to call, but I lost everything in the water.”
“And the dope?”
Kyle shrank away like a dog expecting a blow. “Gone.”
Larry took an angry step, hand raised.
“Please, no!” Kyle shrank beneath Larry’s upraised arm.
Larry paused, staring down on the trembling Kyle.
“God damn!” He slammed a fist into the faux wood cabinet leaving a jagged indention. “Sheila’s going to be pissed when she finds out.” He eyed Kyle suspiciously. “If you weren’t so stupid, I’d think you were pulling a fast one. That’s twenty-k worth of ice, Kyle. You think Fat Sheila’s gonna just let that go?”
“No, I swear on my momma’s grave. I didn’t take nothin’.”
Larry leaned back and jabbed the pistol towards Kyle. “How much money you got, Fat Boy?”
Kyle shrugged. “I dunno. A couple hundred bucks.”
“A couple hundred?” Larry shook his head and laughed. “Shit! A couple hundred’s not gonna appease Sheila.”
Kyle did his best to roll into a ball as Larry stepped over and jammed the gun’s muzzle into the back of his head. “You better find some cash pretty fuckin’ fast or you’ll be floatin’ in that river.” He stepped back wiping a hand across his head. “Shit!” Then looking about the camper, Larry’s brows rose. “How much this piece of shit worth?”
Kyle’s eyes darted about his home. Despite the faded carpet, sunken mattress, and quirky plumbing, the RV was his. The only thing of value he owned. “I don’t know. Three … maybe four grand.”
“You got the title?”
Kyle looked to the glove box and nodded. “Yeah, the paper work’s in the cab.”
Larry crawled into the passenger seat, the sound of crinkling paper and muttered curses drifting back to Kyle. When Larry returned, he swept a hand across the table, dumping the trash to the floor, then he slapped a pen and the title in front of Kyle.
“Sign it over, Fat Boy. I’ll have my sister notarize it in the morning.”
“But it’s all I’ve …” Kyle began before Larry’s slap set his ears to ringing.
“I said sign it, or I pop you right now.” He rapped the pistol on the table to prove his point.
When Kyle signed, Larry pocketed the document and held out his hand. “Keys.”
“They’re in the cabinet. Last one on the left.”
As Larry rifled through the drawer, he asked over his shoulder. “You got family? A mom or dad? A bunch of little piglet brothers and sisters running around somewhere?”
As a key’s rattle announced Larry’s success, the big man turned, his dark eyes flashing. “Well? I asked you a question.”
“Y…y…yes. I mean no.” Kyle said. “Mom and Daddy are dead, but I got brothers.”
Larry weighed the statement, then shaking a finger, “Stay right there.” He strode out the door and a moment later, Kyle felt the low throaty growl of an untuned engine and the complaining squall of failing brakes. The trailer door slammed open as Larry stepped back in.
“Okay, Kyle, here’s what you’re gonna do.”
As Larry leaned in, Kyle shrank back trying to escape into the cushions. Larry’s gleaming face pressed closer until they were nose to nose. Slowly, Larry lifted the pistol and pressed it to Kyle’s temple. Larry’s breath stank of Slim Jim’s and grape Swishers.
“What you’re going to do, is get in the car outside and go find your brothers. You’re going to explain that if you don’t come up with twenty-thousand dollars in the next twenty-four hours, you’re a dead man. You understand me?”
Kyle whimpered a feeble, “Yes.”
“Good. Once you’ve got the money, you’re going to meet me on the 11th street bridge tomorrow at midnight. “
The pistol barrel dug into Kyle’s head.
“But you’re taking my RV,” Kyle protested. “Don’t that count for somethin’?”
“Call it a restocking fee,” Larry chuckled. “You don’t have a problem with that do you?”
Kyle shook his head.
“And do you know what Sheila’s going to say if you don’t show up tomorrow night?”
Tears burned down Kyle’s cheeks.
“She’d have me killed?”
“No. she won’t have you killed.”
Kyle’s eyes fluttered open, and he gasped out a, “Really?”
“Really,” Larry said. “First, she’s going to have me hurt you real bad….”
Kyle shuddered, a high pitched moan escaping his lips.
“Then, shell have you killed.”
Wet heat spread across Kyles lap.
Larry stepped back, his eyes drifting to the growing dark spot on Kyle’s already damp shorts.
“Now get out, before I change my mind.”
The buzz of cicadas and box-fan hum saturated the humid July air as Michael Hogg sat on his couch, the game controller grasped firmly in his hand. Clicking his game to ‘pause,’ he watched for the dozenth time as his brother, Kyle, thudded across the hardwoods and peered through the shuttered blinds.
“He ain’t comin’,” Mike said, returning to his game. “You said yourself, there’s no record in the trailer of where you’re from.” He looked up and met Kyle’s eye. “An’ we parked that heap you came in behind the barn.” Mike set down the controller, then rocking his prodigious girth from its indention on the couch, rose ponderously to his feet.
“There’s no way anyone could find ya even if they did have an address. The mailbox’s been gone since the tornado last spring, an’ no one ‘round here’s gonna give up a neighbor.”
The screen door protested with a high-pitched whine as Mike waddled onto the porch and considered the cow-dotted fields surrounding the Hogg family farm. The sun sat like an ember on the darkening Oklahoma horizon, the shadow cast by the two-story farmhouse stretched like a blanket to cover a parking lot of rusted hulks squatted in the weed-strewn yard.
Leaning onto the gas grill at the edge of the porch, Mike lifted a hand against the sunset and squinted at a dust trail boiling up the road.
“What kinda car this fella drive?” he asked.
Kyle bustled out, the screen door slapping shut as he joined Mike on the porch.
“He’s got a candy-apple-red F150 with chrome rims.” Kyle squinted into the light. “Oh, God. It’s him.” He stumbled back shoving the grill against the window and ripping open the screen. “It’s him ain’t it?”
It was a red pickup, that much was certain, but there were plenty of red pickups. The vehicle slowed as it approached the drive, the pursuing cloud of dust enveloping it as it ground to a halt beneath the gnarly old elm.
Mike turned and stomped inside. By God, this was Hogg property, had been for generations. As he rummaged through the hall closet, the smell of mothballs and old cardboard filled the air. At the back, he found Daddy’s Remington 870 and a box of shells. Stepping onto the porch, Mike thumbed in three rounds of 00 Buck.
The squelch of tires on gravel announced the arrival of the intruder and as Hairy Larry stepped from his pickup, Mike worked the 870’s action – Cha-Chunk -and jacked in a shell.
“Go on and get back in your truck,” he called from the porch. “We don’t want no trouble.”
Larry wore a tank top and an OU Sooners ball cap. The fur in his shoulders shone like a dark aura silhouetted in dusk’s fading glow.
“Look,” Larry called. “I know Kyle’s here. All I need is twenty-thousand, and I’ll be on my way.”
“I ain’t got no twenty-thousand dollars,” Mike said.
The screen door gave a squeak as Kyle poked out his head.
“Hey, Kyle,” Larry called. “I missed you on 11th last night.” He pulled off his cap and ran a palm across his gleaming head.
“But, tell ya what.” He turned, eying the open fields and grazing cattle before returning his gaze to the front porch. “You got a nice place here, Kyle. I’m sure if you sign it over, Sheila will let bygones be bygones.”
Heat rose in Mike’s face. His grip tightened on the 870’s stock. After Daddy and Momma’s death, their older brother, Deon had worked to keep the family whole. Once he’d left, the responsibility of maintaining the homestead and protecting Kyle had fallen to him. He’d be damned if some drug-dealin’ trash would threaten his brother and kick ‘em off their land.
“How about you take this with ya instead?” Mike hefted the shotgun and fired.
The blast sent Larry diving for cover as an explosion of dirt erupted beside the truck’s front wheel. With a hiss of escaping air, the Ford sank onto its rim.
“How’s he supposed ta leave now?” Kyle grumbled from the doorway. “You shot out his tire.”
Mike turned to answer when Larry rose above the hood a pistol gripped in his hand.
Kak-kak-kak-kak, bullets zinged and thudded sending Mike and Kyle diving inside. With the sharp ting of metal and low, deep thuds, more rounds careened through the walls sending clouds of plaster dust and splinters of wood spinning through the air.
Rising from the floor, Mike raised his head and peered through the window in time to see Larry drop his pistol’s spent mag and load another.
“What’s that smell?” Kyle asked.
Mike sniffed in the sharp bite of propane. One of the bullets must have punctured the grill’s tank. If he fired back now, the muzzle flash would ignite it and blow up the porch.
“Come on,” Mike called, dragging Kyle to his feet. “We gotta get.”
As they raced towards the kitchen and out the back door, Larry opened up once again. The fan in the window took a hit. One of its plastic blades shattered, throwing the entire mechanism off balance. As it tumbled from the window and struck the floor, the cord was yanked from the plug. In the shower of sparks which followed, Mike had time to shove Kyle through the doorway before the porch and living room were consumed in a swelling ball of flame.
From the bed of his Chevy Silverado, Deon Hogg took a drag from his cigarette and puffed a gray cloud into the humid Oklahoma night. Although Mike, in his frantic call, hadn’t explained everything, he’d told Deon enough. Kyle was in trouble…again. Only this time, he’d brought trouble home.
Although Deon wasn’t Kyle’s father, he felt the same guilt of his decisions. Hell, he’d been only eighteen when Momma and Daddy had died, petitioning the courts to keep the family together; three brothers eking out a living on insurance money and what little the cattle brought in each year. Yet somehow, it had been enough. He’d barely been more than a boy himself, doing his best to raise a ten-year-old Kyle and fifteen-year-old Mike. By the time, he’d volunteered for the Army and left Mike in charge, Kyle was an uncontrollable fifteen-year-old, experimenting in boys, weed, and wine.
He shook his head and flicked the cigarette into the night. Hell, if he’d stayed at home, there was no guarantee his baby brother wouldn’t have ended up an addict anyway.
He watched the headlights turn into the empty neighborhood and splash across the billboard announcing:
Willow Creek Estates
2 & 3 Acre Lots Starting at $100k
Build Your Dream Here
Deon reminded himself that blood was blood and if you messed with one Hogg, you messed with ‘em all.
“Deon,” Kyle wailed as he tumbled from the car and raced into his brother’s arms.
Kyle smelled of weed and sweat as Deon pushed him back and forced a smile. “Well, you really put your foot in it this time.”
Kyle’s face fell as Mike stepped up beside him.
“Yeah, we all know Kyle fucked up,” Mike said. “What we don’t need is a lecture.” He kneaded Kyle’s shoulder then met Deon’s stare. “What we need, Big Brother is help.”
Deon nodded and tapped out another cigarette.
“You’re right,” Deon said. He looked his siblings over, acknowledging inside that Mike was right. It would be easy slipping into the father role and meting out blame, but that wouldn’t help them escape the problem.
He took another drag, feeling the icy menthol chill and jabbed a finger at the car.
“This your ride or the heap the drug dealer gave ya’ after he stole the RV?”
Kyle spared a glance at the dented Taurus and nodded. “I don’t have a car. This is the one Hairy Larry gave me to find ya’ll. To get the money.”
“Twenty grand,” Deon’s brows V’ed into a frown. “That what he wants?”
Kyle nodded and looked away.
Stepping over to the Taurus, Deon opened the door. “And you’re sure there was no paperwork on where you grew up inside that RV?”
“None,” Kyle said. “I have no idea how he found us.”
When he’d first received their call, Deon assumed Hairy Larry had found his brothers by searching the web. You could find almost anything on the internet, cooking recipes for grilled snake, how to build a deadfall trap, the phases of the moon in 1901. He’d searched himself and found nothing on Kyle or the family farm outside of Bartlesville, Oklahoma; drug arrests, court dockets, and more crap about his brother’s lifestyle than he ever wished to know, but nothing on the farm.
Deon crawled inside. The Ford’s trash covered carpet was crusted stiff from spilled pop, and God only knew what else. He searched beneath the seats pulling out layers of crushed food wrappers, used tissues, and faded receipts before climbing out with a fist-sized bundle in one hand.
“What’s this look like?” Deon flipped a balled sock into Kyle’s hands.
When Kyle dumped the contents, a rubber-banded cell phone and portable charger hit the trunk with a metallic thud.
Mike peered over Kyle’s shoulder and shook his head. “He’s known where you were the whole time.”
“Do we destroy it?” Kyle asked.
Deon shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
As he studied the empty lots and the handful of half-built homes lining the neighborhoods empty streets, a plan began to form.
Deon grabbed a lantern from the toolbox in the back of his truck and motioned towards the house in front of them. Three stories high, brick and stone exterior, gabled roof, and three-car-garage, it would one day be the centerpiece of the neighborhood. “Grab that phone and follow me,” he said as he led them up the sidewalk and through the front door. “I’ve got a plan.”
Lawrence, ‘Hairy Larry’ Talbot, studied his GPS as he maneuvered onto the pristine concrete roads snaking through the open fields and rows of partially constructed homes. Chain lighting chased itself through the cloudy horizon as a warm breeze sighed through his truck’s open window bringing with it the sharp tang of cut grass and the scent of approaching rain.
Flicking off his lights, Larry prowled the vacant streets until he spotted the Taurus parked in front of a three-story mansion at the top of a rise. The car was parked beside a new Silverado whose doors and truck bed sported bright images of a cap-wearing pig, a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other.
HOGG MASONRY AND BRICKWORKS
GO WHOLE HOGG
Was written beneath the dancing swine.
So, Kyle dragged both brothers into this little drama, Larry thought. He eased the F150 into a spot just short of the house.
Pulling out his pistol, he crept through the shadows to the front door. A yellow glow stained the front windows and seeped through a hole in the front door where a handle should be.
Leaning down, Larry peered through the opening and spotted the three portly brothers standing at the center of an expansive living room. He recognized Kyle and the brother who’d shot at him from the front porch of the now burned down farmhouse. The older, fatter of the three had to be the owner of the Silverado.
A battery powered lantern at the room’s center cast tilted shadows from 20-foot scaffolding onto the plastered wall behind. Except for a pile of bricks, and lengths of 2x4s leaning against the scaffolding, the room was empty.
“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!” Larry announced as he kicked open the door.
The brothers turned, Kyle’s face flush with terror. The farm boy glowered, and the head Hogg, the oldest of the trio scowled. Beside the stack of bricks, a partially constructed hearth and chimney scaled the thirty-foot wall and disappeared into the ceiling. Larry wondered what kind of people could afford such luxuries. He wondered if someday he might be one of them.
“Hands up, my three little piggies,” Larry chuckled. “Or should I say, Hoggs?”
Kyle and the farm boy’s hand’s shot skyward as they stepped back from the door. The older of the three held his ground before letting something fall clattering to the floor. Then he too raised his hands and stepped back beneath the scaffolding.
“Ah, I see you found my phone.” Larry’s voice echoed through the cavernous room. The entire space stank of dust, and fresh pine lumber, and the muddy wetness of new cement.
“You don’t have to do this,” the older brother said. “I’ve got all the money I could lay my hands on. $8,000 bucks.” With one of his upraised hands, he pointed to the front door. “It’s in the glove box of my truck. Take the truck too.”
Very slowly, the older Hogg lowered a hand and dug into his front pocket. With a flick of his wrist, the keys clattered to the floor beside the phone.
Larry clucked his tongue and stepped closer. “A fine offer, but Sheila has a code to maintain. You start lettin’ people rip you off and word gets around. Pretty soon you’re either out of business or six-feet under.” He shrugged. “It’s not personal. Just business.”
Never taking his eyes from the three Hoggs, Larry stepped over to the phone and knelt down to pick it up.
“Any last words?” Larry asked.
In the instant Larry lowered his eyes and reached for the phone, he caught a flicker of movement. He glanced up to see the older brother kick away a board lying beside his foot.
With a ropey twang, a leaning 2×4 shot away from the scaffolding and slapped against the floor. Glancing up, Larry watched in horror as the entire steel structure tilted over. Slowly at first, then gaining speed, it smashed down upon him. Sheets of drywall and metal framing slammed the ground in an ear-splitting roar surrounding him in an explosion of pain and sudden oblivion.
When Larry woke to his cramped darkness, the only illumination was a rectangle wedge of light close beside his head. The air was stifling and humid yet bright with the stink of his own cologne and the coppery tang of blood.
Rising to an elbow, he ignored the lightning bolt of pain lancing through his ribs realizing suddenly that his arms and legs were bound. Larry peered through the rectangular opening into the room he’d been in only moments before, recognizing he was sealed inside the hearth.
With the gritty scrape of trowel on stone, Larry watched as the older Hogg spreads a line of mortar along a brick he held in his hand. He turned and meet Larry’s eye.
“Ah, you’re awake.” A smile dimpled Deon’s chubby cheek as he leaned closer.
“You asked if we had any last words?”
As the brick was slid home and Larry’s fate sealed, he could just make out the bricklayer’s muffled voice:
“Not by the hair of our chinny chin chins.”