Bad To The Bone

Pop. Pop. Pop.

That’s right it’s me, you found me you nasty fucker. Like what you see, don’t ya?  Come, c’mon closer, c’mon, I know you want to. Don’t be shy. Everybody wants a piece of me. But I’ve got to warn you if you think you’re one bad ass, I am twice as bad. I’m bai-yid to the bone.

If you’re looking for a story about some sad fool who finds redemption go read fucking Anne Rice, because you’re not going to find it here. There’s no redemption here.

I know right about know you’re wondering what’s going on, what the fuck did you get yourself into. Well, I’m gonna tell you, but not so fast. You know, baby, the best things come nice and slow, but yeah, not too slow, I hear you.

Right now they all think I’m dead, they think they offed, me, but you know better. There’s no killing me. I kill for the fun of it. You can’t kill someone who kills for the fun of it; all you can do is make them meaner.

I’ve been bad to the bone for a while now, when I was just a little doodad I collected bones, all kinds of bones, cow bones, bird bones, cat bones, dog bones. I lingered in their smooth feel and in the sultry idea that they held some poor soul together. The thought that they were once part of something living made all my joints sing. After the pop I’d hold them in my hands and I’d almost come in my pants- that blistering marrow of life.

You know bones are just the like fools they hold together; they’re strong and they’re weak at the same time. Bones break easy, in a snap. There’s nothing like the sound of the snap, the break and the pop, just like when I’m pulling one out of some suckers shoulder-the pop and the snap.

I wondered if that punk Rueben thought he was going to catch me in here. He was probably the only one who didn’t believe I was dead. That boy didn’t believe anything, which is why he always jumped the gun, but this time he was right.  But if he did come round here, I’d show him I’d pop his shoulder blade out. Snap crackle pop.

“Billy Billy, are you up? I haven’t got fucking time this morning. Get your ass out of bed or I ain’t lending you my car, you got me?”

“Shit!” My mother was at the door. I know what you’re thinking. Well, don’t because I’m still a bad ass. She kept banging. Then the door flung open. I could see the smoke fall out of her mouth like she was John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. No one takes a drag from a cigarette like my mother she looks so freakin’ bad, badder than me. So I got up, pulled my t-shirt down over my briefs. I tried to pull the door closed, but Mom was pushing against it.

I hollered, “Fuck, I’m not dressed yet, I’ll be right down.”

“You fucking better, Billy or you’re toast, and you better go to classes today. I swear this is your last chance.”

Then I could feel the door fall away in my hands. I was walking back to my bed, when I heard her knock again.

So,  I turned around. I was about to kick the damn door and then I heard her say, “I got some breakfast ready for you, hurry.”

It was a good thing she said that or I would have popped her. She was a smart Alice, watching her step like that. I love her and all but there was only so much I’d fucking take. Now, I wouldn’t really pop my mother, but you thought I might, didn’t ya? That’s because you never know what Billy is going to do.

People always talk about bones crunching but bones don’t crunch they snap and pop.

After I heard her steps fall down the stairs I opened my dresser. Hell, I didn’t care, I kept the special bones right in my top drawer. No one would ever believe this, what I had contained in this drawer, this was my prize. I picked up the jawbone and I held it held it near the window next to the dresser. The morning sun was pouring in. I should’ve feel guilt, remorse.  I felt nothing but chills. The sun blazed against the blistering marrow. My dick got hard. It can’t describe what it’s like to hold your kill in your hands, what’s inside your kill, it’s fucking insane.

I had to hurry before she came back up again. I threw a pair of jeans on. I’d shower whenever. I ran down the stairs and saw her  over the stove, cigarette dangling out of her mouth, flip-flops on her feet, house coat around her waist. I had an image of her standing over the stove the window opens and a man’s hands pushes through the glass and strangles the life out of her like she’s in a snuff film. I love the word snuff. She turned around and scooped some eggs onto a plate, cigarette still dangling out of her mouth. We didn’t say a word. We both sat down at the table and scooped the eggs into our mouths. I don’t know how she did it, but I don’t think her cigarette ever left her mouth till she finally put it out in her plate after she devoured every last drop of yellow that was on that dish.

Then she said, “Billy you can’t spend your life sleeping in your room. You can’t keep cutting classes. And for god sakes you need to find some more friends. We could use some extra hands around here.”

She took another drag from her cigarette. I didn’t even see her light the next one. She stood and she threw the dishes in the sink like they were old tires.

“Fuck, mom,” I said, “What about Reuben?”

“Reuben is a freak and when is the last time you saw Reuben? Say where has Reuben been lately?”

So I just said real quiet-like, “I’ve seen him recently, mom.” It was sort of true, like I cared about the damn truth. The truth is what you make it.

But she just cried back, “You are a liar like you’re good for nothing father. I suppose you saw him recently too.”

“Screw you, mom.” She knew I’d never seen my father. I should’ve popped her right then and there. If she wasn’t my mother I would have. At that moment I decided I had to think of more serious shit. I couldn’t keep getting sidetracked with my mom’s bullshit, or my schools bullshit, or with friend bullshit. I didn’t talk much at school anyway I just liked to watch, and wait.

She reached into her housecoat and threw the car keys on the table. “Remember no fucking around, Billy you have this car home right after school, and could you pick me up a carton of Marlboro? Tell Chester to put it on my tab.”

Then she turned around and walked out of the kitchen. The door swung behind her. I stared at the keys in my hand for a moment and thought about Reuben.

I suppose I don’t have to tell you I didn’t go anywhere near that school.

I stepped on the gas. I felt like flooring the son of a bitch, digging up some gravel, screeching like a lunatic. I tore down the road a bit. We were right off a highway. There are patches of woods all over the place near my house.  Soon I pulled over to the side of the road right near that old willow tree, the big one that always looks like it’s about to topple over.

Well, I just sat in the car and watched the sun hit the leaves. I thought about everything, and I thought about nothing. I thought about bones. I thought about school. That school was filled with bones. All kind of bones, old bones, young bones…live bones. Then I thought about Rueben. I ain’t going to tell you what I was thinking just yet. You’ll soon see.

I never did feel like talking. Not to the kids at school. They all thought they were better than me, but the thing, the one thing I was really afraid of was finding out that it was true. Sometimes I’d get confused, you know. I was naïve. I thought everyone was as honest as me, but they weren’t, they were all just lying sacks of bones, bones to play with, bones to keep.

Anyway, just beyond the tree and down aways there was a dirt road, and off to the side there was a large patch of brush between two big fucking oak trees. And between the trees, in the brush, was my latest prize. And the fucker deserved it. Remember, I told you before, he didn’t believe anything. Well let me enlighten you, I made a believer out of him.

I put the car into gear. And I slowly cruised down the road. You could hear the gravel spitting out under the rubber marking each spin of the wheels. Branches brushed against the side of the car as the wood got thicker. The sunlight clicked on and off like a shutter on an old camera. When I neared the first tree, I put the car in park.

I barely closed the door. It was so quiet. I’ve never heard such quiet, not even a god damned cricket.  I stepped through the brush. That’s when I caught the first glimpse of Reuben, his hands tied together. Ruben lying on the ground, well not lying, lying implies voluntary motion; he was fucking chained to the ground. But the first thing I saw that morning were his hands, tied, reaching like they were praying, I guess for some kind of help from somewhere, but Reuben wasn’t going to get help, not the kind of help he wanted.

I made sure he was good and secure when I tied him there. Good old Rueben’s chains were attached to a heavy block of wood I spread out on the ground the day before I lured him into the brush. I weighed that wood down with big old cinder blocks. Rueben wasn’t going anywhere. His hands were tied. His legs were tied. Hell, I would’ve tied his dick too, if I thought he could use it to run.

As I approached him I saw the sweat dripping down his neck, files buzzing round his head. But Rueben had bigger problems, because he only had one foot left. I popped his other foot yesterday, popped it, broke it, and then I fucking chopped it off. I was doing Reuben nice and slow. One day at a time. A bone a day keeps the blues away.

I just stood over him grinning for a few minutes. He must have thought I was one sick fucker, and I was, am.  I thought about tearing the tape from his mouth but I knew he was just going to whine like a little bitch after the first rip. Poor Reuben should have listened to me. It’s not like I didn’t warn him, and I didn’t warn everyone, little Rueben was special.

I knelt over him. You could hear the leaves brush away as I drew close to his left ear.

I started out in a whisper, “You didn’t believe me did you, Rueben?  What did I tell you? I told you I didn’t want to be your friend, that I didn’t want any damn friends, but you wouldn’t leave me alone. I told you I had secrets, secrets I couldn’t share with anyone. You thought I was fucking gay? Ha that is such small potatoes compared to this, ain’t it?”

Then I began to yell, “ain’t it!”

I became so excited; I felt my dick get hard again. I ripped the tape from his mouth. He winced  like a son of a bitch and then he screamed. I didn’t care. No one was going to hear him out there.

I said, “shut the fuck up Reuben.” Then I slapped him across the face, like I was a damn jailhouse screw.

His lips sort of clenched together and he cried,” I’m sorry, Billy, I’m sorry. Please just let me go!”

See what I mean by special? Most of them would tell me what a sick bastard I was but not Reuben he freakin’ apologized. Oh I knew what he was doing, I wasn’t a fool, but still it took a certain crazy to apologize in the position he found himself in. I think, Reuben was possibly crazier than yours truly. I knew his bones were going to be good, maybe the best. I brought his foot bone along to show it to him. Seeing is believing. I was going to wave it right in his sorry eyes.

I held his head and I said, “You’re not going anywhere, Rueben, sorry or not. What did I tell you? I told you to stay away from me!”

“I thought I could help you, “he sobbed out,” I just wanted to be your friend.”

“Who the fuck are you the Salvation Army? You’re just an eighteen year old punk. Oh you are going to die nice. You didn’t believe me. No matter what I said you didn’t believe me. You believe me now dontcha, Rueben?”

“Yes, Billy,” he said, and his eyes started to water like a little girl. It was making me crazy. I just wanted to pop every bone in his body right then and there. It was hot. I pulled on his hair and he began to scream. Then I dangled the foot bone before his eyes. I didn’t have a chance to clean it off real good yet. There were still some shreds of skin and blood dripping on the surface. I like to clean them off good, like my mom always says clean is mean.

Then I toyed with him a little. It’s all part of the game.

I said, smiling, “Hey Ruben how’d you like to play some football?”

I thought he was going to scream more, but he just stared at me like he was the saddest puppy in the world. I almost felt sorry for him, but his bones, the anticipation of what was to come drove any pity I was feeling into the farthest reaches of nowhere. It was fucking Miller time! This one was on me!

He cried out while his hands thrashed the chains against the wood,” if you let me go I won’t say a word, I swear, Billy.”

He didn’t understand. He thought I was worried about getting caught like this was some average crime. He didn’t get it. This was a freakin’ religious experience. This was nirvana. This was what we did. This was about the bones.

He began to thrash his hands harder against the plank. The sound of the chains sliding against the wood was making my temperature rise. I thought about Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  I grabbed his hands in mine and pushed them harder against the wood. The sound of the metal was intense. He looked at me with such fear. I knew I had him then. He knew there was no going back.

He just cried “please, please, please!”

I grinned. “That’s what your best friend, Jason said please please please and now I keep his jawbone in the top drawer of my dresser. Yours is going right next to his. I’ll have a nasty pair.  I know everyone thought poor Jason got kidnapped, or ran away from home or just freaking disappeared into the ether, but you know better dontcha, Rueben?  You believe me when I say I have his jaw bone in my dresser draw, don’t ya?”

Finally, he said something normal. He swung his hands like a lunatic and he cried out “Fuck you, fuck you to hell and back you sick son of bitch!”

His red hair blazed under the sun. It was everything I wanted.

I ran my hands through his hair and whispered, “Look around you, Billy the woods are filled with my friends. I pointed toward the tree. You know who’s  buried right next to you beneath that tree, you got it, what’s left of Jason is right over there.”

That was it.  The look in his eyes said it all. He was terrified, more terrified than anyone I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen a lot of terror in the eyes, but his was the baddest.  That glorious moment had arrived. It was time to pop his jaw bone.

I grabbed the side of his head, and said, “if you have anything left to say you better say it now, because I’m taking your jawbone home with me today.”

He didn’t mouth a word. I told you he was special, but his hands; they thrashed and clawed against the wood as I placed my fingers in his mouth. I put them in and then I pulled down hard on his lower teeth. The sucker tried to bite me, but I was too quick, I got that splintery piece of wood between his uppers and lowers fast as a bullet. Then it was easy as piss. I just pulled down on that piece of wood hard hard as I could. My feet were grinding against the dirt. My whole body was in motion. Reuben was trying to move. He couldn’t go anywhere. I wondered what my mother would say if she knew. It was going to be awesome! Reuben tired to scream but his mouth was about to break.

Then, out of freakin’ nowhere I heard her, my mother hollering, “Billy Billy!”

She was standing over us. I couldn’t believe it. A cigarette dangled out of her mouth. Fire was in her eyes.

She went on, like a jack hammer. “Fuck you, Billy, just fuck you; you’ve seen Rueben recently? Really? Trying to pull fast one on me? You want some private stash or something? Forget about it .And what are you doing breaking his jawbone? What did I say before? I said we needed extra hands.”

I didn’t know what to say, I thought again about popping her. My hands were still jamming the wood down on Rueben’s jaw. He was squirming like a jellyfish. I could only imagine what was going through his head. Shit, that was enough to drive me insane. You know what got hard again.

She pulled me. She grabbed my hands and she pulled me away. The wood still stuck out of Reuben’s mouth. He peed in his pants

Then she pressed my hands against Rueben’s hands and she cried, “Like I said hands, Billy.”

Mama always gets what she wants. Someday I’ll probably pop her, though for right now, I snapped Billy’s hands back hard. He couldn’t scream, but the look in eyes said it all when the pop came. It was freakin’ brutal. I was bad to the bone. Bad to the bone.

I pulled my knife out and I began to chop his hands from his arms. I did the right one first. I did it fast, I could have ripped it off, it was so limp. My mother watched, puffing away slowly like she was at cocktail party. Rueben, he writhed like he was about to disintegrate. Tomorrow I’d be back for my lucky jawbone.

Still, my mother wouldn’t let up.

“I’ll bet you didn’t even pick up my cigarettes did you? This is going to stop, Billy. Tomorrow you’re going to class and you’re going to get your life in order, you hear me?”

She took a drag from her cigarette. The longest and coolest one I’ve ever seen. Life is crazy ain’t it? Like I told you from the start there’s no redemption here. There are just bones.

By Bruce Memblatt

 Bruce Memblatt is a native New Yorker. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association. His stories have been featured in such publications as Aphelion, Short Story Me!, Bewildering Stories, The Horror Zine,  The Dark Fiction Spotlight, Bending Spoons ,Strange Weird and Wonderful, Static Movement, Danse Macarbe, SNM Horror Magazine,  The Piker Press, Pill Hill Publishing, Eastown Fiction, Short Story Me! 69 Flavors of Paranoia, Necrology Shorts, Suspense Magazine, Gypsy Shadow Publishing,  Black Lantern Publishing, Death Head Grin, The Cynic Online The Feathertale Review, Yellow Mama. and many more as well as in numerous anthology books.