Going Down Like Little Jesus in Sun Hole

Nathan Blake


Spunk bangs out the house like he's been caught fire to.

He has been caught fire to.

He's one of those sparking fairground banshee wheels, busting porch balusters and headfirst over the railing, without traction when he first hits the drive. I'm between two water oaks deeply hammocked. It's legend—you wonder where the sun goes every evening and it's here, in this little jutting ham hock of river rock and mud what the Algonquians called Sun Hole. And such vistas! Weeping willows brushing their hands across the creek shoals. People brave switchback Rangtang Road out to my hill just to see the storied water lightning ride ebb tide at sundown, which, when witnessed, will impart in girls a keen itch to lean back and spread their milk-money thighs.

But showing up for sunset nookie has ended among the romantics and, further, the onanists availing themselves of romantic windfall. I keep them away. My pit bull Mavis attends the coppice for fresh kill. He knows the long solitudes I require. I have finished twenty-nine calendars, and Mavis his fourteen, giving him this sharp Old Testament stare. Maybe we are both down in the world but not yet of or out it. To be true, my rest isn't what it should be since Lynne's indiscretions with Deputy Fire Marshal Chief Asshole Goon Dick-Sticker Teddy William Deston III came to light during last spring's Fireman's Ball. And I'm embarrassed as all hell, though you wouldn't know. I've got girls in my bed two, three nights a week, girls who can suck the buttons off a double-breasted sports coat. Still, it's like my apricots have been tied off with wire hawser; there's feeling but no true gravy in the line.

A sunset, resurrection, Jesus with his impossible decency—who needs them now the way Spunk shimmers so ornamental down the drive, off into a sawgrass bunch at water's edge. I barrel roll from napping, kick him to the creek, get him good and extinguished. The steam coming off his person is somewhere near the ballpark of hairdresery or cafeteria.

Christ, Spunk says after some time, did you see?

Man, you are a lot of meat right now, I tell him. Don't talk, don't say anything.

Meat! he says.

What I know is you cannot dwell on what-if horrors. Emergency medical has conditioned me not to turn away my head, not even for the casket cases fanned out in roadside trauma, because truthfully there is no hard dug line between someone's pumping gore one second and warm medical waste the next. You've got to make life your gospel and keep it tucked under your lip.

Time to put you together, I say. Set you loose.

Get me back out there in the shit, he says. Okay. Yes. I'm about ready for that.


Up at the house I lay him face down on the kitchen table where the dog and ticks won't get in and feast him where he's been cooked. He isn't much concerned, given circumstance of a twenty yard flaming sprint. Spunk has a native blood but also some high Elizabethan in him. He goes both ways between hard-assing and milquetoast, can drink past the point of logic while still proclaiming Billy Shakespeare. Furthermore, he's obtained inner peace. Once during Sunday service he was so truly ushered into a sense of his own iniquity that he snuffed his Baptist streak and went soft Catholic, for the forgiveness they command, grabbing his dick now at the deacons and those who speak to him of coming hellfire.

Spunk cries after them, Fuckers! Fuckers!

I make sure he's bourboned and cull for prescription vials. I ask him how it is he come to be all burnt up.

Spunk watches me as Mavis did three days after wolfing a baggie of fish hooks. Something's not right. His eyes don't seem to know what exactly they're made for.

I'll stick her deep in her heart! I'm gifted that way. She can be left inside-out somewhere in a ditch! He starts fingering around back there in the gore so mechanically. His fingernail catches a raw patch of neck, something school paste orange fizzles out. I can't bear it. Suddenly I've got weak guts. I give Spunk a good womp with the bottle, push some pills down his throat. I leave him alone with his head dropped to a supper plate and drooling.

The hallway—it's already bent from summer sun, now there's a smoke shadow running both sides about five feet high, opens onto the porch where he came rushing. Coffee table upended, rotary unhooked in the floor. I can't call medical. That will mark the end of Spunk's civilianhood. In March, he lined one of these foul peepers in the nose with a size eight lead sinker from his bedroom window. And Spunk believed his shot triumphant! This boy of no more than twelve years shaking nearly to bloody death in our drive, jean shorts rolled around his ankles and slight member exposed. A delegate's nephew. Requisite manhunt. With The Heat at our front porch, I spoke of Spunk's having taken off in a cloud of Yamaha exhaust toward Manitoba with five-hundred dollars in cash and a .410 strapped to his chest, a taste for the improvised backdoor casinos, was my guess. This with Spunk listening from the split-in-half springhouse. They dispersed away from our hill with so much blind blood-want.

It's summer now. We routed the bastards.


I had something good with Lynne. I mean wonderful. Two nights she and I didn't make love nigh a year. We have these birds here. They mimic cats all night long with awful abilities that will make you sit up in bed and cogitate. But it was storybook. Whenever Lynne and me were tangled between ourselves and the linens, these things would start meowing, or something akin, in the shoal-sweeping branches of the willow, and afterwards you couldn't help but wonder if their cadences weren't called to us directly, or if in a way what we were doing wasn't just some echo of them.

But she is gone now with a man who displays a white Stetson. I can't go into work anymore and see his mouth moving. I know where that mouth goes when it goes home. Sometimes I dream them, Lynne and Chief, theorizing upon the trails of each other's private hair. Also their children, each who, I believe, will be ten pounds of shit in a five pound gunny, if there is any justice left.

Listen—these feelings, I have bled for them all, even the turdy ones like love grief and hope, and they aren't any damn body else's to cut the teeth out of.


 I follow the streak to Spunk's room. Inside, Spunk's girl Shelby is undressed on top of the covers, feeling herself all over with her fingertips.

Give me your bone, says she, and I'll love you forever.

This is very nearly a kid. She's got her black hair turned in braids that rest atop her bosoms, which are pure teevee. No mystery here of the hidden nexus—I see everything of her there is to see, and then and then.

I say to her, I'm pert gunked up inside.

Come here, sweetness. It wasn't me gave that to you.

And what of Spunk?

Haven't seen his trifling ass since Easter, she says and digs cigarette ash against the headboard behind her, then lights another. Not since Christmas.

Well, he's possibly dead in the kitchen.

It wasn't me did that to him. Plus, he's queer. His sex is just show.

On the bed scattered around her are five or six twisted aluminum wrappers and about a pack of loose Kools. She worries through the cigarettes, finds one she wants, sniffs and holds it out to me.

We can go somewhere big, she says. Lay into this sherm and you'll think you've woken up inside your dead momma's throat. I mean it goes down like little Jesus in velvet britches.

I don't need any throat or velvet britches, I say.

I know what it is you need, she says, and tugs hard on my belt-buckle from where she lay.


Some will pardon infidelity as such on grounds of brainless lust. That the heart never believes.

To them I say you know jack shit of the heart, which believes everything. These people to me are like so much plastic creek-mouth flotsam you hit with a match and which burns and keeps on burning down the river for hours in dead noon heat to be picked apart by snakes.


Shelby can do this bit with her hands. She has mind to claw away my guts. She cuts into me so deep everything hums electrically. We do nasty things that don't take well to retelling. But nothing's changed for me after the pornographic act. I feel rotten. The whole time she's cussing paint off the walls, a chemical tang to her braids, and I can't uncork. Shelby pulls away and hangs off the bed's edge when we're through. She digs a Kool from under her thigh, limp with sweat.

Look at that wonderful goddamn sunset, Shelby says. She stares for some time into the glare, so long you think she's lost herself in it, then takes with her the cigarette and bed linen to the commode. She sparks up and shuts the door behind her.

I slide back into my pants and pick crushed cigarette off me. Through Spunk's window you can see the sun fall right into the river the way the Algonquians saw it, when all this land for them was just a hole to be filled up with light. I don't know what to tell you. It looks like somebody went up there with a ladder and put a bullet between the sky's ears.

So I'm feeling lousy with regret and memory—Lynne, who would dangle a cut of bacon and let me chew it up to her fingernails, Lynne disrobed, Lynne washing Mavis in the creek, afternoons watching backyard nookie followed by serious nookie of our own, Lynne and the space around her charged with this cotton smell you can only get through catalogs.

And then those birds. They come in meowing again, as though it were Lynne who had just finished pulling me apart. The lowness in me bottoms out finally and I wretch across my lap.

Spunk keeps a turtle gun under his mattress, and I use it to drive the birds away from our hill. I let off four shots from the window sill, nowhere shots of zero aim, when I see Spunk ease off the front porch heavy-headed and knock-kneed in his stupor toward and into the creek.

The water sweeps around his chest, he wades in deeper, and, underneath the setting sun, Spunk takes on with piety the magic matchstick sheen of Sun Hole lore.

I think he's going for baptism. When he's nothing but the top of his head in the tide, I know it.       

Like little Jesus! Shelby hollers from the commode. A banging of body against tile. I open onto Shelby wrapped in a flaming sheet and spinning across the floor. Smoke of such black that you know she's winnowing away under that sheet, winnowing into little more than what can be swept up later or scrubbed with bleach.

This time there's no turning my head. I yank down the shower curtain and whip her about the body. She won't stop twisting, knocks off in her rolling the medicine chest and its secrets and then she's pert bonfire, going down like little Jesus in velvet britches. With my near nudity I choke out what little is willing to be choked, but soon we're just one hot St. Vitus worm bouncing between the walls.

In my slapping back I feel the pinch of one hundred little tongues and then thousands. The sheet, curtain, and Shelby has hold of me for good. I'm not going anywhere.