April 2023 Nothing but the Truth

  1. Who’s truth?
  2. How do I know it?
  3. Is it an inside job?


By Eugene Marckx

Narrated by Eugene Marckx

Dan was in Community College, but he quit. His loans began to mount up. One thing Uncle Jim and Aunt Reva taught him – “Dan-Boy, don’t ever owe nobody no money.” Dan had a part-time job washing dishes in a restaurant. To pay off his loans to the bank he took on more hours, but somehow the extra money didn’t quite make it to the bank.

He fell in with the prep cook, Doug, an older man who knew how to set the stock pot to stew overnight. And he knew how to cook crack, and how to sterilize a needle with his zippo lighter. But mostly he bought street drugs – meth and opioids. Dan got hooked, and his whole focus narrowed. Speed wakes you up. Jackpot zones you out.

“But don’t take too much,” Doug told him. “You want to make sure to wake up.”

Doug found a house marked for demolition where they could sleep – with the rats. When the demolition crew came, they found another empty house. Rats were there too. One afternoon Dan woke up shaking – so much so that he couldn’t even scrub the kitchen pots. He was let go. And he was in no condition to find work. So he huddled in his slicker, stood on shaky legs, and took himself out of town, sixteen miles, home to Uncle Jim and Aunt Reva.

They were shocked at the sight of him, the boy they’d raised on love. Dan took a long shower and slept off his jitters. For days he tried to recall an old, rusted place in himself. Jim and Reva helped him scrub it down, paint it up, and then waited patiently as he found the key to that door. He found odd jobs among the farmers up and down the road.

After a year Dan started missing the excitement. He felt steady now and knew something about the city. He wanted to pay a visit to Doug. It might be fun to see him again. Dan was bored of living on a country road, nothing on it but chickens and dogs, cattle and pigs, and people set in their ways. Every day he heard – “Dan-Boy, we love you.” But was this all there was? In the city, love wore slim dresses, black and tight-fitting. And you could take something sending you into electrified spaces that riveted you to a dream – for ten minutes at least.

Too many nights Dan could not sleep, with another humdrum day ahead – working for neighbors for chump-change. On a spring night, after Jim and Reva got snoring loud in their bedroom, Dan dressed and crawled out his bedroom window, tramped through the garden under a full moon, and took to the road he knew so well. With sixteen miles ahead of him, he could use a ride, but not from one of those neighbors. Cars roared past – speedsters, dragsters, hotrods. Then a pickup stopped, one he didn’t recognize.

“Want a ride?”

“You going to town?”

Dan got in and peeked at the man. No, he was no neighbor. Just a lonely farmer heading for a bar. Dan took his leave seven blocks from the old house he’d lived in with Doug. Half the streetlights were out and cracks in the pavement chock-full of weeds. At the house Doug wasn’t there – not yet, a shabby girl said from down the hallway. It wasn’t long and Doug showed, all jittery, and led the dark way to his room with his zippo lighter.

“Where is it?”

“Where’s what?”

“The stash I hid.”

“I just got here, man.”

“Maybe that girl … did you see her?”

“You want money? I got some.”

“How much? Let me look … probably enough. Let’s go.”

Dan stumbled after Doug into the street. They went to another old house used for drug deals. Dan opened his wallet for the deal, and there was nothing left. They went back to Doug’s room and sat in the dark. Dan wanted to start a conversation, but Doug had to have a fix. By the light of the full moon out the window Doug’s eyes glazed over. He lay back and fell asleep, into an out-of-rhythm growl. Dan wanted to say that he missed the city, missed the life – the electricity – but Doug was out. Dan waited in silence. The moon outside shifted. Doug had got so quiet.

Dan called, “Hey, buddy.” He called again. There were times he too had passed out – blotto! He reached for Doug’s hand. Stone cold – but the whole house was cold. A soft guzzle came from Doug. “Hey, buddy!” Dan scrutinized the lumpy figure and shook the hand, shook it hard, Harder, frantic for some life. The whole body rolled – right into him, and he leaped away, out of the house, down the street. In his wallet – nothing!

He started walking out of the city. Sixteen miles. On a lonely road. He reached Uncle Jim and Aunt Reva’s just before dawn and climbed in his bedroom window. undressing and slipping into bed, his mind abuzz. But the buzz flicked off. He slept like a log, slept through until evening. After supper, Jim and Reva sat at the table with him.

“You find what you needed in town?” Reva asked. Dan nodded. Then Jim looked over.

“Dan-Boy, better clean up that garden mud your shoes left on the bedroom rug.”

Not another word was said. Dan as usual washed the dishes. Later, on the late news they all saw a report of a dead man found in a house about to be demolished. Police, and even the TV reporter, shrugged at another drug death – a slow night for news. Dan rose from his chair and in the kitchen got a glass of water. It was cold and clear – from a well deep underground into the tap of this quiet humdrum home.

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