Cataract City

Free Cataract City by Craig Davidson

Book: Cataract City by Craig Davidson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Craig Davidson
Tags: Fiction, Literary, General
shone like glass.
    “Be like your fathers,” he said. “Work a solid job. Build a family. Smelling like a cookie’s a small price to pay for ordinary happiness.”
    A hellish noise kicked up in the woods: a high gibbering shriek that tapered to an ongoing moan. Mahoney spun on his heel, pistol jerked high.
    “God rot you! I’ll have your guts for garters!”
    For the next several hours, until the sky lightened in the east, Mahoney blundered around in the forest. Every so often came the splintering of wood or a low animal bellow. Dunk and I lay together by the dying fire, dew silked to our skin.
    At some point Mahoney emerged. His clothes were torn andmud-streaked, his face badly scratched and his hair stuck with burrs.
    “Goddamn bastards … thought you had me but I outfoxed you … didn’t I, Daddy? Stinking of pig blood but I won. I
won
.”
    He shambled over to the tent, which was much too small for him. His cowboy boots stuck out the flaps.
    I rose with the sun scraping the treetops. I’d fallen asleep on my side and woke up tucked close to Dunk. He was sleeping still. His spine bowed with each breath, touching my stomach.
    My arm was pins and needles. I flexed my fingers, which felt full of static. My mouth tasted of burnt meat. The clearing was washed in new sunlight. Nothing in the trees except a chipmunk nibbling on a nut. Dunk rolled onto his side, blinking at the sun.
    “You okay?”
    “I want to go home,” I told him simply.
    He stood and stretched, catlike. We scratched our itchy bits and rubbed the dirt out of our hair.
    I said: “Should we wake him up?”
    “My dad doesn’t like to get up after he’s been drinking.”
    “So what are we going to do?”
    Dunk stared at the sky as if he could tell the time by where the sun sat. “Okay, let’s wake him up,” he said finally.
    Bruiser Mahoney’s cowboy boots still jutted out of the tent. The toes were covered with muddy grass as if he’d been kicking holes in the earth. Dunk tapped one of them with his sneaker.
    “Hey, Bruiser. We got to go home.”
    Dunk kicked harder. Bruiser’s foot barely moved. His boot could have been filled with concrete. Dunk pulled back the tent flap. His nose wrinkled. “He must’ve puked.”
    Bruiser lay on top of his sleeping bag. His hands were covered in raccoon blood; it had dried and split, making his skin look likelizard scales. Dunk crawled inside the tent. I tried to grab him but he was already halfway in.
    The smell was the same as when my dad had found our neighbour’s cat under our porch, eaten by beetles. “That would gag a maggot,” he’d said. Sunlight streamed through the tent’s metal eyelets, picking up the dust above Mahoney’s chest. His skin pale through the rips in his clothing. Quite suddenly I realized how
still
things were. Nothing but our own timid movements and the floating dust.
    “Bruiser,” Dunk said softly. “Hey … you awake?”
    My knee knocked into Bruiser’s leg. It was hard, like a mannequin leg. I pulled away, spine pressed against the tent’s canvas. Mahoney’s fingers were curled back in defiance of their bones. They reminded me of the Wicked Witch’s shoes in
The Wizard of Oz
. I thought Mahoney might be taking a long breath. I held mine until my heart thudded at my temples. When I let it out he still hadn’t taken a breath of his own.
    Dunk leaned over him.
    “Bruiser?” Shouting it: “
Bruiser!

    Mahoney’s face was the colour of the moulding clay we used in art class. His eyes were wide open, his eyeballs milky, snaky with burst vessels. White stuff that looked like dried shaving cream was crusted at the sides of his mouth. There was something the matter with his face. His upper teeth were ejected past his lips, connected to a strip of dingy pink plastic.
    “Dentures,” Dunk said quietly. “My grandpa wears them too. When he goes to bed he puts them in a glass of buttermilk.”
    Dunk pressed his thumb to Mahoney’s teeth and tried to push

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