“The firewater that ran through Old Tarpy’s guts burned hot as the colors splashed across the early evening sky. Old Tarpie & Cowboy sat on the porch, Tarpie’s back bent over & crooked like the rocker on his warped wooden chair; he drank ‘til the darkness of the night matched the darkness in his heart.”
Old Tarpie walked the path through the woods to Main Street every Tuesday. On Main Street, he’d stop a few places for supplies, The Crazy Cat Bar for lunch, to visit the widow of his brother, then headed home. His dog Cowboy, which was meant to be funny because Cowboy was a bitch, followed Old Tarpie all day.
Old Tarpie put the burlap shopping bags down & took rest in the shady pines a few times during the walk home. He threw a twig to Cowboy & she caught it in the air.
Cowboy was all white & by her fur & muzzle looked mostly like sheepdog, with little bits of other breeds mixed in; her ears, height & tail were a pretty strong mishmash.
Old Tarpie was a mixed bag too, but not of breed, of tragedy. Broken heart left him sagging inside & out, self-hate squinted his eyes, worry & doubt choked his spine & hair follicles. He was a patchwork of pain, a Raggedy Andy unraveling.
Old Tarpy & Cowboy made it home a little before sunset. The firewater that ran through Old Tarpy’s guts burned hot as the colors splashed across the early evening sky. Old Tarpie & Cowboy sat on the porch, Tarpie’s back bent over & crooked like the rocker on his warped wooden chair; he drank ‘til the darkness of the night matched the darkness in his heart.
The daytime was friendly to Old Tarpie. He buttoned his soft flannel shirt at the doorway to the cabin, the morning mountain air fresh on his musty flesh. Cowboy ran down to the stream & splashed in.
“Dang dog gonna splash away all the fish,” Old Tarpie said, though he never did any fishing. What the hell for? He’d never eat one of the slimy sons of bitches.
Cowboy came running back up the piney hill when Old Tarpie started creaking down the cabin’s three front steps. Carrying one of the burlap bags from town, he crossed the property & went to the closest of the cluster of four huts that surrounded his cabin. All the huts were more or less of the same, handmade design. He unlocked the closest hut’s wooden door’s tarnished knob with his rusty skeleton key.
The smell was rotten & decaying: bubbling, burping, gassy decay: life breaking down to feed new life.
Old Tarpie flipped on the light, the rich, ripe odor thicker inside the windowless hut. A tarp covered a large, herky jerky mound. Old Tarpie slid away the tarp to reveal his distillery; grain alcohol bubbled with Old Tarpie’s harsh, raw happiness. He poured himself his first metal mug of the day.
Old Tarpie tended to his mash & bottling. He poured himself another serving, left The Distillery’s door unlocked & moved to the next hut ten yards away.
The unmistakable smell of cedar chips hit him first, then the pallet of urine & vermin. The rabbits in their overcrowded hutches scrambled uncomfortably when Old Tarpie pulled the string on the hanging light. The rabbits hopped & wriggled over each other, their soft fur softly sliding them along the defiled cedar.
None of the rabbits were called anything besides ‘food’.
Old Tarpie pulled eight rabbits out by their ears & took them out of The Hutch & up the hill to toward the tree line. The rabbits kicked & scratched Old Tarpie with their muscular hind legs & screamed with voices like a tortured woman.
The third refrigerated hut was cool & odorless, unless you counted cold as a smell, which Old Tarpie didn’t. The Butcher Room was taken up by a large butcher block table, its top stained with years of innards spilling outwards.
Soon Cowboy’s muzzle was sticky & brownish, happily deep in a pile of discarded rabbit guts.
“Slow down, ya greedy bitch!” Old Tarpie commanded his dog as he stripped another rabbit’s skin down easy as a sleeping bag.
Old Tarpie filleted the final juicy bunny, sliced strips & ate it right then & there, without even so much as letting it loose it natural body heat, let alone warm it over a fire.
“I ain’t got no regard for no germs. That’s just so companies can sell soap,” Tarpie explained to Cowboy as he salted the remaining rabbits. “Man’s gotta eat, so I eat. Would it be better if I ate at Mickey Donald’s? Never feel the pulse of my meal, pretend it was never alive & I killed it? I killed those rabbits so my stomach would be full all week. I bred those rabbits so my stomach would be full forever.”
Cowboy began to whimper & give her daddy sweet puppy dog eyes as he picked his teeth with a rib bone.
“Spoiled little bitch,” Old Tarpie said as he hacked the head off one of the bunnies & tossed it to his dog.
After hosing down The Butcher Room, Old Tarpie went down to the river & splashed off. Then they sat on a fallen log in the sun. Old Tarpie drank his 2nd, 3rd & 4th mug of white lightening.
“Well, all right now,” Old Tarpie’s voice was creaky & crackily as his back. “Time to get some work done.”
Cowboy knew what time it was and bound over to the fourth hut, a double bay Garage; she also knew that she wasn’t allowed in & wanted to beat Old Tarpie there. It was the largest & most nicely maintained hut; it had cement foundation & deadbolts on the aluminum door. Every inch of The Garage was rich & shiny with the scent of the multitude of oils congealing in this space.
Two hydraulic lifts marked the spots where two cars should have been, but there were no cars. In the place of an automobile (where the hell was Old Tarpie driving to, anyway?) was an industrial sewing machine & a long, clean work table.
All kinds of garment, automotive, home & garden tools, parts & equipment hung & waited healthily, in the place Tarpie designed for them. Old Tarpie’s back was bent at the same degree as the scythe when he stood in the lawn care section. The pile of rusted fenders were in better shape than Old Tarpie. You’d be hard pressed to tell the garment section if it wasn’t for the industrial sewing machine. No spools of ribbon & thread, no rolls of oilcloth or gingham; just the machine, some drying racks, giant spools of heavyweight twine & a large wood steamer trunk.
Old Tarpie opened the trunk. There was a tarp jellyrolled inside. Old Tarpie squeezed the jellyrolled tarp from the trunk & unrolled it slowly on the long work table. It was actually a series of tarps sewn together; between the rolled up layers of tarp was a large blanket of mostly white rabbit pelts: a long stretch of fur, pieced together day by day, life by life, by Old Tarpie.
He lay the pelts from the morning on the bottom racks of the drying rack & slid the leathery ones from the top off. He oiled the flesh side until it was supple & fluffed the nap of the fur even softer.
Old Tarpie could no longer hear Cowboy crying outside the door when his foot slid onto the sewing machine’s pedal & he attached the luxurious new pieces to his patchwork of life. He nubbed on some rabbit jerky & hummed “Mary had a Little Lamb” while sewing.
By the time he was finished sewing, his cup was empty & his belly nagged him.
Cowboy raced up from the river, her ears perky, when Old Tarpie emerged from the garage. He patted Cowboy’s head, made her sit & gave her the piece of jerky he saved her.
“Bitches always want something from ya,” Old Tarpie said, turning his back to Cowboy, who ran into the house in front of her master.
Old Tarpie used the indoor plumbing. He pulled six pieces of bread from the cellophane, spread butter & fig jam on each slice & made three sandwiches. He stacked the sandwiches on a plate & slow as stop animation, walked to The Butcher Room. The door, still unlocked, slid open & Tarpie put the sandwich stack on the table. He left the hut & hustled, which for Old Tarpie involved lots of little grunting sounds, to fill his metal mug at the distillery hut. Careful not to spill his cup, Old Tarpie made his way through the sunshine & rubble & didn’t spill a drop.
Cowboy sat & salivated at the sandwiches.
“Go lay down now, Cowboy! Go lay down now,” Tarpie commanded. She did, but not very far away.
Old Tarpie peeled open & laid out the bread like a magician doing a card trick. He sliced a rabbit thinly into carpaccio & put it between the bread. He sliced the rabbit & jam sandwiches into halves with his boning knife.
Old Tarpie ate his two sandwiches slowly on the rocker on the porch. Cowboy gobbled half of hers while still in The Butcher Room. Old Tarpie wouldn’t give her the other half until he finished all of his.
Before & during every meal, Tarpie berated Cowboy, “No bitch dog is ever gonna eat before me! You didn’t do nothing to deserve this meal, let alone this life, you unappreciative, simple bitch. You only think of eating, drinking & your own comfort. Lucky dumb dog, only cares about her full belly & I see to that.” Cowboy never argued.
Old Tarpie sat for a while & let his lunch settle. He filled his mug & went inside. He kindled a fire, then carried the other burlap sack from town the previous day to The Butcher Room. He spilled the contents onto the stained butcher block: a carrot, onion, three potatoes & a parsnip. Old Tarpie chopped the veggies & the remaining rabbits. He left the fixings on the table, filled a large thermos from the distillery, re-gathered the ingredients & put all the food in a pot over the fire to make stew. When dinner was finished, Old Tarpie & Cowboy ate inside at the small table. It was good.
Old Tarpie put the pot of leftover stew into the empty fridge. He washed their bowls & spoon. He filled his cup with the remaining white lightening & went to his rocker on the front porch. The nights in the pines are always dark. He didn’t think or move until the cup of moonshine was is in his belly, blood & mind, then Old Tarpie knew his dreams will be of life, not the fragile threads that connect it.
The rest of the week passed steady. The only difference being the stew got thinner as the week went on.
Old Tarpie knew it was Friday because Marky Stump, owner of The Crazy Cat Bar, interrupted his day when he stopped up to buy his booze.
Monday night, Old Tarpie took care to clean his teeth before bed.
Tuesday morning, when Old Tarpie went out on the porch & breathed in the morning air, everything smelled fresh & pine air crisp. His shopping sack over his razor blade shoulder & Cowboy by his side on a rope leash, Old Tarpie made his way to Main Street.
No one went out of their way to greet Old Tarpie, his only interactions were at the shops where he bought his food & mash supplies. He had lunch at The Crazy Cat where he had steak & potatoes & a shot of the moonshine he supplied the place. Marky Stump never charged him for the first shot. Old Tarpie never tricked himself into believing Marky gave him the drink out of a form of friendship; it’s a common courtesy extended to a good supplier. The kids in town, even though they knew Old Tarpie kept one of his mean, old eyes on her, came to pet & play with Cowboy while she was tied up out front.
Old Tarpie then went to pay visit to his brother’s widow. She always looked & smelled nice & had pretty cookies. Cowboy was allowed inside as long as she didn’t jump on the brocade couches. She never did; Cowboy was always on her best behavior at the Widow Merryweather’s sun dappled house.
Tarpie & Widow Merryweather didn’t talk much during their visits, just sat pleasantly. They never hugged, cried or reminisced. They shared a plate of sweets & some time.
The widow called Tarpie “Merryweather”, their sir name, the one thing they had in common. If she knew people of the town referred to her brother in law as Old Tarpie, she never let on; that was simply not how she saw him.
“Merryweather,” the widow whispered, her voice stuck behind something.
“Ma’am?” replied Old Tarpie, Cowboy’s ears perking up at the sound of his voice.
“I’m an old woman … It’s time I asked … Did you know that I’ve always loved you?”
“Well yes, ma’am, of course you have, & I you. You’re the wife of my brother & a good wife you always were.”
“No Merryweather, I mean more than that.”
Time passed like dust floating in a thick moat of sunshine. Sweets went uneaten. Cowboy began to whimper & shift uncomfortably.
“Well I better go,” said Old Tarpie, rising & leaving without another word, Cowboy at his heels.
The Widow Merryweather’s tear splashed onto the frosted cookie that remained untouched.
All week Widow Merryweather prepared for her brother in laws next visit. She cleaned & baked & arranged her hair appointment so she’d look nice. How stupid she felt for admitting her love for her brother in law. At one time, all the girls liked him; he was too much alone to notice.
Her husband was just as handsome, but in a softer, more conventional way. He’d told her, when they were young & dating & he’d caught her looking at his brother, “Darlin, he seems exciting because that attitude he wears around him like a mink stole, but he’ll never love you like I will. He’ll never give you his whole heart; he guards it too close. I’ll give you everything.”
And with that, she was his & they were happy. The Widow’s husband died a satisfied, successful man, his heart full of love for the family he cultivated; love she had to share, like dinner divided: Widow Merryweather never stopped wondering what it would be like to be loved by a man who didn’t love anything but her.
Her week was dusted in confectioner sugar & permanent wave solution.
Finally it was Tuesday & Old Tarpie never came.
When she could stand at the window waiting no longer, the widow walked to the bar to see if her brother in law would allow her to join him for a glass of port.
A car was ran up the curb & a crowd was in front of The Crazy Cat, Marky Stump in the middle, holding back … My goodness! It was Old Tarpie & he was thrashing like a shark in a net, screaming unheard of obscenities. The Widow Merryweather took off toward the crowd at a tottering jog.
At Tarpie’s feet was Cowboy, her legs pulverized into the cement.
A small boy was wailing, blood pouring from his nose & mouth. The boy’s father tried to attack Old Tarpie, Marky Stump kept them apart.
“Damn you! Damn you all! You killed my dog! She wasn’t yours, she was mine & you killed her!” Old Tarpie dropped all his supplies & struggling, slung Cowboy over his shoulders. Silently, the old man walked away, his legs begrudgingly supporting the extra weight.
None of the town people lifted a finger to help or apologize.
The widow advanced, “What happened? That man just wants to be left alone!”
The father of the bloody boy replied, “He punched my boy in the face!”
“Well how would you like it if he allowed your boy to get his legs ran over? Did your boy untie his dog?”
“Yes, but he just wanted to play …”
Widow Merryweather interrupted, “That dog’s life wasn’t something for your boy to play with.”
And with that, the widow scooped up the spilled supplies & carried them to her home. She was prepared to deny any offers of help to carry the packages. No one offered to help. Just as well.
At home, she changed out of her afternoon company clothes.
“Well I haven’t worn these clothes in ages,” she thought as she pulled out her old hiking gear & pack. Everything was a bit bigger because no amount of pound cake could help an old lady keep her robust youth.
The widow, wearing clothes of her active years, before she was to spend all her time doing for everyone else, began the trek to Old Tarpie. Widow Merryweather had to stop & rest more frequently than she would have liked, but she made good time nonetheless.
“MERRYWEATHER!”, she called, not wanting to barge in & startle the solitary man in his grieving. He didn’t answer. The widow kept hollering his name as she advanced toward the cabin.
She stood on the porch & took a sip of water. After a moment, exhaustion set in & the widow sat on the rocking chair.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing here?!” demanded Old Tarpie, coming down the hill from The Garage.
“Well, Merryweather,” she began to hand him the supplies & was interrupted.
“Why in the hell can’t you people leave me the hell alone? I don’t need any of those damn supplies! I don’t need anything!”
“I’m sorry Merryweather, I just …”
“I especially don’t need anything from you! My brother’s wife. Not my wife. Why don’t you get the hell out of here!” Old Tarpie’s back was an exclamation point.
Widow Merryweather stood to leave. As she took her first step down, she & Old Tarpie stood eye to eye. His neck, ears & chest were covered in fur & blood.
“I’m sorry Merryweather.”
“I don’t want your pity, woman. I don’t want anything from you. I especially don’t want you to feel anything for me!”
He shook her.
“You ain’t perfect anymore!”
He shook her harder.
“You chose my brother! You were a good wife! You were perfect & now you’re ruined, spoiled like everyone else!”
“Don’t say that, Merryweather. I’m still as I’ve always been, as you’ve always seen me. I see you as you are too. I’m not like everyone else; never like everyone else. I’m here with you.”
“I don’t want you here with me. I never did.” Old Tarpie’s tone changed, “I never had nothing to give you. I ain’t nice. I couldn’t give you nice things.”
“I never wanted nice things, just to be taken away, up here, away from everyone else.”
“LEAVE ME ALONE!” screamed Old Tarpie, his voice a rusty chain straining under pressure, as he threw his metal mug against a tree.
“Sorry to bother you,” replied the widow, averting her eyes as she went down the remaining stairs & rapidly crossed back down the path.
“Now everything is ruined,” the words slid out like his runny nose & sobbing eyes. Tarpie knew he could never see her again; he knew there was no one left to keep away.
He heard her scream just down the path.
Old Tarpie ran.
Her leg was twisted like a river on a map. Her eyes were still open, though they focused on the wide blue yonder.
Old Tarpie reached his Gloria & lifted to cradle her head.
Blood gobbed out of the side of her head, a clump of her hair stuck to a large rock & her blood caked face.
No. No. No. No. No. Old Tarpie was on a rotten rocking chair on the edge of a crumbling cliff.
Widow Gloria Merryweather turned her head to face him, the left side of her ash blond curls covered in gore.
The love they could’ve had together flashed before his eyes: their passion flaired by grain alcohol, her constant dissatisfaction & need for more, more everything: love, attention, devotion. He would never be able to give her everything his brother did, would never damn want to. But damn it, he could’ve loved that woman.
Old Tarpie had “had” women. It was the vulgar one who liked abuse who came for him. Abuse them he did. He was the man they wanted him to be.
And in that moment, she died, the right side of her beautiful face & hair as perfect & golden as it had always been.
The sun went down late & the rocks on the ground lost their warmth.
Old Tarpie got cold & crampy & damn it, the woman was dead.
He limped back to the garage, stopping along the way to retrieve his metal mug & got his wheel barrow. He lugged the slight woman into the wheel barrow, brought her back to the garage, lugged her onto his sewing table & covered her with a new blue tarp.
Cowboy was still alive, her legs were crushed & she would be dead soon, but she was still alive & she was sad & in pain. Old Tarpie fixed her blanket & stroked his dog’s head. Cowboy cried.
Cowboy’s breath was fast & shallow. Her eyes rolled wild.
“It’s o.k. honey. You don’t have to prove nothing to me by holding on… I know you’re hurtin’.”
Cowboy licked Old Tarpie’s hand & he soothed her until she died.
Old Tarpie put Cowboy in the wheelbarrow & familiar with the dog’s dead weight, thumped her into The Butcher Room & onto the brownish table. Old Tarpie sat in the dark, with no celestial light penetrating the dingy windows, petting his dead dog when he said, “I got damn near nothing left now. But I got something, at least.”
And with that, Old Tarpie cut Cowboy’s fur off; he pulled it off in nearly one piece. He salted the meat.
The bright, full moon lit Old Tarpie’s way. He carried the pelt into the garage, stopping along the way to fill his mug. Outside The Distillery, clutching the gory pelt, Old Tarpie’s breath puffed a cloud when he gasped for air after chugging the mug of white lightening. Old Tarpie was trying to see the light, to burn his insides so hot he’d have to be alive to feel it. He was nothing surrounded by living tissue.
Old Tarpie slid Cowboy’s pelt to the bottom of the drying rack.
He stared at the shape under the tarp. He knew it was Gloria: he knew it wasn’t Gloria. She loved him & he was too late to live it. He saw the love in his mind but couldn’t feel it in his heart.
Old Tarpie peeled the tarp back. She was beautiful, had always been beautiful. And never his – until now.
He stood stooped over her, like a scientist looking into a microscope. “How thin is the line between life & death?” Old Tarpie mused aloud, either because he was talking to Gloria, himself, the memory of Cowboy hanging at his ankles, or was he talking to something sicker? “The line between life & death is the blade that separates it.”
He wiped his nose with his sleeve. “Oh well, damn woman’s dead now & I don’t have a damn thing left to live for except to wait this week to add Cowboy to the patchwork.”
Old Tarpie pulled the tarp back up to cover the widow, turned off the light, washed up inside & went to bed.
The morning, bright & sunny, meant death as much as night did.
Tarpie went along with his routines, but instead of fixing rabbit, Old Tarpie would eat Cowboy all week. No more pelts to add to the patchwork; Old Tarpie would be dead when there was nothing to add. He stopped feeding the rabbits.
The folks in town noticed the widow’s absence in a gossipy way, saying Old Tarpie killed her & wrapped her body in a tarp. Or they’d say that they’ve really been in love all these years & the widow stayed up at Old Tarpie’s cabin & they’d be sitting on the porch holding hands for all eternity. No one cared enough to look.
Tarpie attached the final rabbit furs. “A stitch in time saves nine” Old Tarpie didn’t know what “nine” was that he was saving. Maybe one of nine lives? Cloud nine? “A stitch in time…”
Cowboy’s skull was baking in a sunny spot, covered in bugs: death feeding. “Bunch a dang fertilizer, we are.”
Gloria’s body was still perfectly preserved under the tarp. He wouldn’t bury her; she wasn’t worm food.
Old Tarpie was suffocating under a cape of death, smothered, swallowed.
On Monday, Tarpie was out of meat. He had to eat today; he had to eat the next few days until he added Cowboy’s pelt to the patchwork; he had to eat, there was no avoiding it. Tarpie hated the nagging of his stomach as much as if it were another person. He could kill some rabbits, but what would he do with the pelts?
“A rabbit ain’t shit without it’s fur,” said Old Tarpie, sitting, hungry, watching the bugs crawl over Cowboy’s skull. “A rabbit needs its fur to be alive, keeps it safe & warm & alive. Animals are lucky sons of bitches; shoot I got furs & I’m not safe & I ain’t barely alive.”
“Or ain’t I,” Old Tarpie responded to himself.
Old Tarpie stoop up with determination. It must’ve taken ten trips back & forth to get all the remaining, starving bunnies into The Garage. Then ten more to bring all the distillery equipment in. Then all the knives from The Butcher Room.
Old Tarpie re-hooked the distillery up like an old pro, kicking at & cussing the bunnies the entire time.
The still bubbling, he hooked plastic tubing to the end of it; to the end of the tube he attached a maple syrup tap.
Old Tarpie dismantled a weed wacker & extracted it’s fist sized motor.
Pulling down the tarp, Old Tarpie undressed Gloria’s aged body.
Old Tarpie shoved the maple syrup tap into Gloria’s arm, & opened the valve, pumping her full of white lightening.
He sliced long slits up & down her arms, legs, stomach, back, face & chest. Picking up rabbit by rabbit, Old Tarpie sliced open their skin & shoved their still living flesh in with the widow’s dead tissue.
The widow’s body began to bulge. Old Tarpie sewed her up with patches & strips of rabbit fur. The grain alcohol pumped into the widow, exciting the foreign animal flesh, keeping it alive, awakening the dead with its sensation. The juicy flesh & firewater were mingling & tingling.
He patted her soft fur patched cheek until she started to stir.
Old Tarpie withdrew his hand as if electrocuted. He just wanted to shove her full of life, fill the black with the white. He didn’t ever really think…
“Where am I? Merryweather?” the widow’s voice was the rust that destroys bridges.
She opened her eyes. They were the cloudy windows of a car at make-out- point: smudged, hot & capable of making wrong decisions.
Old Tarpie leaned into her line of vision.
Old Tarpie stumbled backwards, tried to get a grip, stumbled. Fell, and while falling, saw the bulging body of the living dead flesh & fur monster, blurring him into complete terror. He hit his head & saw stars.
Old Tarpie came to.
All the rabbits were dead. Gloria was gone. So was the patchwork of pelts. “Damn rabbit needed her fur,” grunted Old Tarpie as he passed out again, his face in a puddle of booze, blood & broken glass.
The sun was shining. He didn’t know what day it was. Old Tarpie was hungry. These were the things that were certain. Everything else a terrible blur.
His clothes were covered in blood. He was covered in blood. He took off his clothes & went to the stream. The cold water forced invigoration into his skin, which was good. The sun was warm & it warmed his skin, which was soothing.
Old Tarpie did not dress, but went naked to The Garage to prepare Cowboy’s fur.
The Garage was littered with broken lives & sharp ruin, but Old Tarpie’s face didn’t register a difference between treading on fur, bone, glass or flesh.
On Main Street, Marky Stump wondered about Tarpie. Tarpie didn’t come down this week. Marky needed to make sure Tarpie was still gonna supply the moonshine; he closed the bar & began the hike up the mountain.
Marky knew Old Tarpy was a crazy son-of-a-whore; everyone knew that; must be to live up there all alone. All that solitary will make a man go crazy. Marky Stump laughed inside his empty head, his face too lazy to change his expression to a smile. No one knew what was in those huts; all anyone knew was what Old Tarpie bought every week. A few damn potatoes ain’t enough for a man to live on! Every few weeks Old Tarpie would buy a tarp. Damndest thing, why all the tarps? He’s got the huts; what’s that man up to up there? I know one damn thing he better be up to, making my booze! Marky Stump nodded his chin in agreement with his thought as he lumbered his way through the woods.
Old Tarpie, standing naked, didn’t hear Marky come through the well-oiled door into the garage. Nothing had been cleaned, the rabbit slaughter, distillery destroyed, life unbidden sliding down the storm drain.
“Tarpie! What the hell’d you do? What about my moonshine!”, Marky, with the courage of an impulsive animal, lunged through the carnage toward the old man.
Before Marky Stump could reach Old Tarpie’s shrieking nudity, a knife sliced him through his lower back, peeled around & cut out his liver & lungs.
Gloria, wrapped in the pelt patchwork, shoved the organs in her mouth & swallowed them whole. She sucked the blood from Marky’s wound until he stopped screaming & twitching.
She looked at Old Tarpie, who immediately became aware of his vulnerability & covered his shriveled privates with Cowboy’s fur.
“I guess you’re gonna kill me now,” said Old Tarpie, not afraid: appalled, mean & insolent.
“No. I love you Merryweather. I’m here so we can be together forever. Now we’ll never have to die.”
Old Tarpie replied, “Today I die. My life is over.”
“But I’m here! If everything you love is gone, then I’m all yours!” pleaded the bulging, patchwork widow.
Old Tarpie frowned: forgetful, mean & fickle, “I don’t love this version of you. The one who loves a man like me. I loved you when you were alive & kind & I loved you when you were dead and a sweet memory. I don’t love the vulgar woman who love me & want me to destroy them. The women who love me ain’t no good.”
Gloria’s feet crunched glass as she listened & slowly treaded toward Old Tarpie; blood dripped from her teeth & oozed from her fur sutures. “You will not die. You will stay with me & we will be life.”
Tarpie responded, “I am old. Ruined. Finished. Leave me alone.”
The Widow sprang at Old Tarpie; the life they could’ve had together passed through her heightened senses: soothing heat, exhilarating chills, warm smells, rich tastes & piercing pain; these are the feelings of love.
The widow’s hands closed around Old Tarpie’s waddly neck as she loved him gently over into the suffocating black.
But then he wasn’t alone & he was comfortable & warm.
Gloria pulled back Old Tarpie’s tarp & they were together, between life & death, forever.