Writing | The Killer by Danielle Willis

the killer drove south over
the crushed head of a jackrabbit
in a pale green Chevrolet with the
radio crackling the
thin ghost of a mariachi band and
a suppository melting like a
sharp pebble in his rectum
around 2AM he came to a
small coastal town ravaged by meningitis
the local broadcast said
ten or twelve were dead already,
spinal cords shorted out like
telephone cables in the rain
there was no news of pursuit,
only a distant farm report and
miles of indecipherable static
the killer smiled, dangled
his arm out the window
the air settled on his skin
warm as gasoline and he
wondered if a brain could
become so engorged with fever
the skull would crack open
he still had traces of the
migraine he'd developed
three states ago and every time
he shifted his weight gum wrappers
popped like cellophane bottle rockets
in the lining of his coat
the last time he washed his clothes
was at some deserted laundromat on
the outskirts of Philadelphia
it was four in the morning and
someone had drowned a cat in
one of the washing machines
its fur was pressed flat and orange
against the glass and the
killer stared at it until
his clothes were done, then
got back in his car and
drove away wondering
what kind of asshole would
do something like that--
probably some jackoff who
still lived with his parents and
kept a collection of dead animals
hidden away in the basement under
a pile of ancient tabloids and
crude pencil sketches of his sister
fucking the family German shepherd
the incident irritated him
all the way to Atlanta where he
got himself a gun and a hotel room that
smelled of rainwater and chipped plaster
and sat up all night playing Russian Roulette
until he calmed down and fell asleep dreaming
of highways and stomachs split open
brilliant as pi´┐Żatas at a child's birthday party
the killer hated amateurs--
they made the artists look stupid
in the morning he headed west toward
Hollywood and Spahn ranch but
lost interest a few days later
somewhere in Texas and pulled into
an all night diner for a cup of coffee
and a slice of lemon meringue pie
the waitress had puffy white arms that
jiggled when she took his order
she told him her name was Amber and
she was getting off work in half and hour
if he wanted to go home with her
the killer hadn't had sex in
almost three months--
sometimes when he'd been driving
for a few days straight the road blurred
into a black and white pornographic
film loop where everyone dressed like
it was the 1930s and the celluloid
jumped and sputtered whenever anything
remotely graphic began to happen
the waitress took him to her apartment
and led him into the bathroom where she
showed him a dime-sized hole she'd
drilled next to the medicine cabinet
the killer pressed his eye to it and
stared in at a naked fat man sitting
cross-legged on the floor holding
am enormous iguana in his arms
he was feeding it crickets from a mason jar
and saying Pretty Girl, Pretty Girl
over and over again
the waitress said she could
hear him through the walls all night
she told the killer to
stay where he was and got down
on her knees and unzipped his pants
he came into her mouth staring into
the green and gold eyes of the iguana
just as the fat man gave it a
sloppy kiss on the top of its head
the waitress brushed her teeth and
sent the killer down to the corner store
for some beer and groceries
the cashier was a skinny albino with
a huge Adam's Apple that jumped up and down
like a pale frog in his throat
the killer only had seventy-eight cents
and a condom his father had given
him back in 1955 so he bought a
stale candy bar and a few pieces of bubblegum
and got back on the interstate heading south
until his car ran out of gas
somewhere in the desert
he pushed it off the road and
climbed into the back to sleep
there were wire springs like fingerbones
pushing up through the worn seat covers
and the killer dreamed he was trapped in the
final panel of a comic book horror story
where the dead rise from the grave
to punish their murderer
in the morning he drank the chalky dregs
of a bottle of Kaopectate he found in
the glove compartment and wondered
if he was developing a conscience.