The girl who
knew too much
In the summer of 1963, Rennie Mancini shot her husband on his twenty-first birthday. This transpired on an abandoned logging road near Hot Springs, Arkansas, behind the mountain cabin where they’d lived since getting married two years before, when Rennie was just sixteen. The day was rainy, the road was muddy, and there had been a fight involving accusations of infidelity, criminality, and stupidity. Now she crawled over to him.
“Mose, you said there weren’t any bullets left. You remember that, sweetie?” She poked his arm. “Mose, you awake?”
His body shuddered and he made a sound like a death rattle.
God help me, she thought, I’ve killed him.
Suddenly his eyes flew open. His lips moved but no sound came forth.
She leaned over him. “What’d you say?”
He swallowed, and tried again. “Bitch.”
“Oh Mosie, don’t say that. Please don’t say that!”
She began rubbing his bare shoulders and singing to him as she did when he’d get himself in a pickle. She’d sing Elvis songs as soft as lullabies, his anger would melt away, and sometimes he would even smile as he rolled over and fell asleep. And sometimes she’d uncap a marker and draw on his back where he couldn’t see it. Two days before she’d drawn a likeness of herself with the words, “He only loves me, slut,” underneath. Slut was an ugly word, but a woman at the grocery told her not to mess around.
“Call em for what they is, honey.”
Rennie regretted taking advice from a checkout clerk, for now there was no fluttering of eyes and no falling asleep, and when Mose rolled over groaning, she saw that awful word on his back. And she saw the dark and foamy fluid that had pooled under his legs. She touched it and held up her hand, studying drops trickling down her fingers like melted raspberry sherbet.
“Mose? You having your period?”
But what was she saying? Men didn’t have periods. They just got into fights and laid about in alleyways. Sometimes they bled out and died. And if Mose died, what then? Could she just leave him here? What if his friends came over? What if they found him with his face frozen in some awful contortion with flies crawling in his nostrils? They’d get all sarcastic. They’d ask if she even noticed her husband was dead, or was he just an inconvenience to be stepped over as she went to the movies?
Is that all he is to you, Rennie? Just a fucking bump in the road?
Gossips would make it sound even worse. People who’d felt sorry for her before would now hate her. She thought of dragging him down the logging road to the beaver pond and covering him with rocks. She went there every day for a swim, so she could spend time with him. She could sing to him. But what if some hunter came along and noticed a sun-bleached thigh bone jutting from the rocks, how could she explain it? That he crawled under it? That there’d been an avalanche?
God, she thought. I’m screwed no matter what. There’s no escape.
She wiped her bloody fingers on his chinos, stood and yelled, “Damn you, Mosie!”
To which he replied, “Bitch! Bitch! Be-eech!”
She kicked him, picked up his gun and ran back to the cabin, splashing through puddles and slipping on gravel. Flinging open the screen door, she stumbled into the kitchen and set the gun on the counter next to the phone. Mose had said to call his father if something bad happened, but never the cops.
Never! You hear me?
She picked up the handset and had her finger in the dial when she remembered how Renzo had acted the last time, so she hung up and looked around for the phonebook. Where was it? She pulled out kitchen drawers, dumping them out on the floor. No phonebook, but she found the pack of needles she’d looked for that morning, now that she no longer needed them. She was always throwing things away the day before she needed them or finding them the day after. If God had given her a psychic gift like her grandmother Zoey claimed, it had gone in backwards and upside down. Finally she noticed the phonebook next to the phone, where it was all along. Under Mosie’s pistol, in fact. She pushed the gun aside, flipped the book open to the yellow pages and ran a finger down the listings with her hair dripping and spotting the paper, then picked up the receiver and dialed. With her hand trembling and her vision blurry, she dialed several wrong numbers before getting the right one. Baptist Hospital. Admissions. The woman who picked up had the snotty voice of a parole officer. She asked ridiculous questions that didn’t need answering. Like, was he bleeding?
“Of course he’s bleeding! He’s shot!”
Then she wanted the street address, but there wasn’t one.
“It’s the honeymoon cabin on Coldwater Mountain, and his name is Moses Mancini! Everybody knows him!”
“If he dies, that’s your fault. So hurry, please.”
“He’s not already dead, is he?”
“Then can I speak to him?”
“He can’t come to the phone. He’s shot. I told you that.”
Mose began yelling again and Rennie turned away from the window with a hand over the mouthpiece.
“Is that him I hear screaming?” the woman asked. “Saying a bitch shot him?”
Rennie slammed the handset down and stared at a half-torn fingernail.
“Stupid,” she said finally, for she hated torn fingernails.
© 2021 Lou Dischler