“Enjoy Your Mutiny, Captain” — Read a New Short Story from David Nutt
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FICTION: THE RIM, BY DAVID NUTT
LaRoche and DeWalt and DeWitt wait around the rim, squinting through the steam, the guilt, dreaming of the next career. This current situation, not really a career-type situation. Their crisis management skills, nowhere near par. LaRoche looks across the void of newly punctured earth and notices DeWalt with a loogie pronounced in his cheek, about to launch.
“Swallow that shit,” LaRoche says.
“Mmhhnnmm.” DeWalt moves his head in the negative, a vigorous slosh.
“Don’t be a motherfucker. Think about Hard-G Giles. That hole’s not even an hour old.”
A long stretch of cable dangles slack into the dim gap at their feet. Not a bad hole, LaRoche thinks. Another hot rash of guilt ensues.
DeWitt nudges DeWalt and DeWalt swallows the phlegm.
“I don’t wanna think about Hard-G Giles,” DeWalt says, a bit breathless.
“What?” LaRoche glances up from his fuzzed reverie.
“The look on his face.”
“Yeah,” DeWitt adds. “His face.”
“I didn’t see his face,” LaRoche says. “He had a face? I mean, he was left with one? It happened so fast.”
“You think he took that lame-ass Tupperware with him?”
LaRoche shoots DeWitt a caustic look.
“I liked you more when you talked less,” LaRoche says.
“Yeah, dude, well, I liked Hard-G Giles more when he had a face.”
“Touché.” DeWalt reaches over to DeWitt, arm angled for a high-five.
“Get that fucking thing away from me,” DeWitt snarls, and spits in the hole.
DeWalt retracts the hand and holds it up with the other hand, mid-air, like a civilian mugged at gunpoint, saying to LaRoche: “Enjoy your mutiny, captain.”
“Captain…” LaRoche can’t muster the words, any words.
DeWalt looks over the rim, downward, Hard-G-Giles-ward. “God, that’s a big fucking cunt of dirt,” he whispers.
DeWalt is wearing the orange flame-retardant jumpsuit from the job before the office job, a sentimental favorite, still a little charred on the sleeves and chest and crotch region. “That Tupperware, man. You remember how it made those ghostly whooshing sounds every time he opened it to get his lunch? That noise always chapped my ass, roiled my hemorrhoids. Now I sorta miss it. Probably got crushed under the thing along with the rest of him. They’re both halfway to hell by now. Tupperware. The actual brand.”
“The man had an abiding love of tofu Reubens.”
“Abiding. Good word.”
“Tofu?” LaRoche asks, head swiveling. “Really?”
“He abided himself right into the goddamn grave.”
“That thing is no grave,” DeWalt says, leering at the hole. “A grave has a bottom.”
“God’s own glory hole,” smirks his former cubicle-mate DeWitt, his khakis ink-and-blood spattered, clip tie and shirttails blowing loose in the wind. But his smirk shrivels. “At the very least, the dude could’ve left us his tool holster, his hardhat. The goggles he wore strapped around his squinty Hard-G-Giles-like face.”
DeWalt flicks an old cinder from his lapel. “That machine, man. You hear it? I think it’s still running.”
The three men lean over the hole and listen.
“I don’t hear anything,” LaRoche says.
“Must be all that guilt clogging your ears.”
“It wasn’t my fault.”
“You pressed the button.”
“Not on purpose,” LaRoche replies. “I just bumped into the thing that bumped the other thing, and thatthing fell and crushed him and they both — ”
“You broke the goddamn earth,” DeWalt says. He turns and kicks a clump of loam at DeWitt. “Ain’t that right?”
DeWitt’s head, though, is heavy with other things.
“You okay, DeWitt?” LaRoche asks.
DeWitt looks up blankly and says, “Whitney.”
“Whitney,” DeWitt repeats. “Why the hell did my folks name me that? Whitney DeWitt? What a stupid fucking name.”
He gives the ground under his deerskin loafer a halfhearted stomp. The ledge loosens and folds and then he too is gone. Just gone. There isn’t even any cable to dangle after him.
“Holy fuck all,” DeWalt moans. “You see that?!”
“Wha?” LaRoche asks.
“DeWitt, man.” DeWalt points at the hole, the crumbled rim, a haze of stirred dirt. “He gone!”
“I am looking,” says LaRoche, not looking at all. Instead he’s fussing with his daisy-yellow safety vest, brand new and ill fitting, the plastic reflectors that look pasted in place. He’s trying to manage his attentions, his guilts, his vectors. The problem, LaRoche thinks, is that he doesn’t have anything to manage them with.
“Ir-re-spons-i-ble!” DeWalt finger-stabs each syllable in the dusty air.
LaRoche squints harder and studies the man’s ruddy cheeks, his face flash-flooding.
“Are those tears?”
“No, I’m serious. I mean, is that what tears look like? Because those are great tears, man. Really. Well done. They almost sorta look like slugs, don’t they? Strange griefy slugs.”
DeWalt chews the rough knot of his tongue, a stoic mourner, refusing to wipe the slickness off his hot fireball face as he glares at the vacant spot that held DeWitt.
He dangles his foot over the hole, dances it a bit, and draws it back.
“You hear that?” LaRoche looks up, looks around. “Anybody hear that?”