ISOLATION WARD – DUG OUT

By Jenna Moquin

I could feel the dirt caking beneath my fingernails as I tried to get Connie out of there. She was buried up to her bare shoulders and I could see her tan line, a little white spaghetti strap shape from her bikini. She was still breathing, that much I could tell, and her eyes were open but she wasn’t seeing me…she wasn’t seeing me.

Trying to dig out someone with your bare hands is fucking hard. A couple of my nail tips ripped off already, but I don’t care. I have to get her out of there. I don’t know where her dad is, and I don’t know when he’s coming back.

“Connie! Connie! Wake up, it’s Marissa!” I didn’t want to stop digging even for a second, but I wanted to slap at her face and see if it would snap her out of it.

“What did he do to you?” I heard my voice crack at the end. And then my cheeks started getting wet. I knew I shouldn’t’ve let her come here alone. She was just going to pick up a few things, and then we were going to leave for Boston and never think about this stupid hick town again. I brushed away the tears and kept digging. I could see the top of her boobs where that adorable little mole was on her upper right one. Then I saw a tiny ant crawl over it and gagged, but I didn’t stop digging.

Bugs were probably crawling all over her, worms and ants and who knows what else. I couldn’t stop myself from picturing bugs crawling all over her boobs, her clit, her lips, even crawling inside of her, and I didn’t want to answer the question a voice inside me kept asking, “would I still eat her out knowing that the worms were crawling in and out?”

I felt myself about to get sick and clamped my mouth shut and breathed through my nose, the way I always do to keep myself from throwing up. I just pretend there’s a lock on my mouth, and concentrate on something else. It’s worked every time I got too drunk and every time I got the flu.

Focusing too much on the task at hand wasn’t helping, as I kept thinking about worms crawling in and out of her. I made myself think about happier times between us, like the first time I won her a teddy bear playing Whack-a-Mole, and the first time we kissed. That brought me back to how we got started in the first place.

Connie and I have been friends for as long as I could remember. We sat next to each other in Mrs. Greenfield’s class second grade, and again in Mr. Hennesy’s class fifth grade. But it wasn’t until junior high that we realized how we really felt about each other.

I was always a tomboy, played softball and field hockey and just had more fun hanging out with the boys. But the thought of kissing them made me uncomfortable. I thought I just wasn’t ready, but that I would be one day whenever I got married. But that day was a long way off, so I concentrated on school, sports and having fun with my friend Connie, the girl I liked hanging out with more than any other girl at school. I guess you could say we were best friends, but we never referred to each other as anything lame and co-dependent like that.

Connie was more girly than a tomboy, but in other ways she was a lot like me. She didn’t like the thought of kissing boys either. We thought we’d try practicing on each other, to see how it went, and one day decided to try it in her bedroom.

The first time we kissed felt like Fourth of July, Christmas, and a trip to Canobie Lake all rolled into one. Connie said she saw stars in the sky even though it was the middle of the day. I remember saying to myself that if that’s what kissing was like, I was ready to start kissing boys.

So we went on a double date with two boys from the baseball team. They were both really cute, and sweet, and we had fun getting pizza and then going to the batting cages.

But at the end of the date, when I kissed him, it didn’t feel the same as it did with Connie. When we talked about it over the phone later that night, she said the same thing happened to her.

“Are we lesbians, or something?” I’d said with a laugh.

“I just know I would rather kiss you than any boy I’ve seen.”

When she said that, I felt tingling all over. I wanted to kiss her again, kiss places besides her face, kiss her everywhere.

Connie was more into trying it with boys again than I was, but I went along with it for her sake. We tried a couple more double dates; Connie even went so far as to giving a boy a blow job but I couldn’t make it that far. When she went down on me for the first time, she said it was about a thousand times better than when she went down on the boy.

One time, after my softball practice we went into the dugout and hid until everyone left. Then we kissed and took turns eating each other out for hours and hours, and Connie said it gave new meaning to the term “nappy dugout.” I loved her for stuff like that.

Just after Connie’s eighteenth birthday last week, she decided to come out to her parents. I warned her about it, since I knew people like her dad, who thought women and anyone who wasn’t white was beneath him, couldn’t be reasoned with, but she insisted. She wanted to be up front with them, but we were moving in together no matter what they said. We already paid first month’s rent, and had enough saved for us to get by for the next couple months. I’ll get a job doing anything, I don’t care if I have to work five jobs, I’ll do whatever it takes.

I didn’t have the same parental problems as Connie since mine died when I was a baby. My grandmother raised me, and I did come out to her, but she’s always been so indifferent toward me I don’t know if she was happy about it or happy about Wheel of Fortune coming on. She never seemed to notice how often Connie stayed over, in my room, sometimes for days on end.

Connie’s dad didn’t take it so well, as suspected. Her mother didn’t say anything, just got up and started doing the dishes, humming to herself. Her dad got up and slammed the door on his way into the backyard, and we could hear the sounds of glass breaking. I got up and peered through the window; he was throwing beer bottles at the cemented patio. Connie stayed at my place that night.

When Connie said she was coming here to pick up some things she wanted to bring, I had a bad feeling. When she didn’t meet me at the coffee shop afterward, I got really worried so I came over to the house.

The car was in the garage, but no one answered the door. The door was unlocked so I walked inside. The television was on, but no one was watching it. I called “Hello!” a couple times but no answer. I turned to walk upstairs to Connie’s room, and saw that the door to the basement was open. I thought maybe Connie was down there looking for boxes or something, and just didn’t hear me when I called.

I walked by the kitchen to get to the basement door when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I could’ve sworn someone was in the kitchen, I just felt something. I called “Hello?” again, but no answer. I reached around the door to the basement and turned on the light switch. I looked down, and at the bottom of the stairs saw my girlfriend buried up to her shoulders in a pile of dirt, the back of her blond head tilted to one side.

I thought I screamed, but I don’t remember any sound coming out. I nearly fell down the stairs trying to get to her, and when I saw she was catatonic my heart stopped beating for a second.

Immediately I began to dig through the dirt. I looked around trying to figure out exactly how she was buried in the basement floor, when I saw that part of the floor had been torn up and it was just earth, a hole dug out just for her.

I kept saying her name, trying to get her to wake up and see me. I thought maybe if I started talking, just talking normally like we always do together, it might get her to come around. I’d heard somewhere that sometimes worked with comatose patients.

We had started to watch the movie Blood Simple. the other night, but never got around to finishing it. Connie had never seen it before. It was one of the movies on our list of “cool unknown thrillers” we’d been working through. Last week we watched Shallow Grave.

“So the best part about Blood Simple. is the ending, so we’ll have to finish it at some point. I don’t want to give too much away, but you’ll like it. I know you didn’t seem that into it, but trust me it’s worth it for the cool ending. I’m not gonna give too much away, but Frances McDormand, you know Abby? She kicks ass!”

I suddenly got the strangest thought, that maybe if I told Connie the ending to it, she would snap out of it. She hated it when I spoiled endings for her, in books and movies, I sometimes just couldn’t help it. I’d wait for her to read the book, but I’d want to talk about it so I’d reveal some things that happened. She called me the Spoiler Princess. But I thought maybe, if I tell her the ending she’ll snap out of it. Maybe.

“I know you’re going to kill me, but I just have to tell you the ending. So Ray is hiding out in the new apartment, and that creepy private detective guy is across the street with his gun aimed at the place. Abby comes in and turns on the light, and Ray tells her to turn them off ‘cause he’s afraid they’re being watched. Now remember this whole time Ray hasn’t told Abby that her husband is dead; she thinks he’s the one after them, but Ray knows it isn’t but he knows someone is. We know it’s the private detective guy, but they don’t.

“They’re arguing and Abby turns the lights back on, Ray takes a step forward and next thing you know a shot comes from across the street, hits Ray and he’s dead! Abby ducks and runs over to the spot underneath the window, and it works as a shield from anyone shootin’ in. Then she throws her clogs at the light bulb to smash it, to turn off the lights so he can’t see in.”

I stopped to take a breath, and checked to see what Connie was doing. Nothing had changed; she was still breathing, eyes open but not looking at anything. I didn’t know what else to do but keep on digging and talking to her.

“So then Abby starts to hide in the bathroom and the private detective guy comes in – “

Noises came from upstairs, like someone walking around. I stopped and listened. I looked to see how far I’d gotten Connie out, but still had a long way to go. I couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long to get to her. Then I realized, I was just digging through the dirt, not shoveling it. I wasn’t putting it anywhere, so it was piling back onto itself like snow.

I wanted to cry my eyes out, then the basement door at the top of the stairs slammed shut. I panicked and backed away from Connie. There was an old washing machine turned upside down in the corner; I crouched behind it. More noises from above. Then the door opened back up; I peeked around the washing machine and saw Connie’s dad.

He walked down the stairs, very slowly. The stairs creaked every other step as he walked; he’s a big guy so they would.

“Helloooo?” he called in a singsong voice. “Is someone down here?”

I glanced at the mess I’d made; it was obvious someone had tried to dig her out. But I didn’t come out. Just because he knew I was down there, doesn’t mean I had to give in that easily.

“You’re going to enjoy the show, wherever you are!” He laughed and clapped his hands together. Then he pulled a metal folding chair out from behind the staircase. He opened it, and it creaked. It creaked again when he sat down on it, facing Connie. That’s when I saw he had something in his hand; some kind of long metal wire with a bright green square attached to it. It was a fly-swatter, and he slapped Connie across both cheeks with it.

“Well little girl, you’ve gotten yourself into a real mess now haven’t you?”

The realization of just how insane her dad was had been sinking in since I’d found Connie buried. I always knew this fucker was a bit nutty. Religious freaks usually are, especially the kind that have bright, colorful crucifixes hanging above their doorways. Anyone who looks upon a crucifixion as festive is missing more than a couple of cans from the six-pack. But I never realized just how insane he was. He even thinks Connie is responsible for being buried in the dirt. He’s one of those guys who would hit a woman and say “Look what you made me do!”

I felt the tears coming again. They washed away the dirt that was on my face. My fear started to turn into anger as I watched him slap Connie over and over again with the fly-swatter. It was somehow worse than hitting her with his hands. I wanted to hit him with something of my own, and I glanced around behind the washing machine but didn’t see anything.

Connie’s dad stopped slapping her and stood up. I held my breath for a second, watching him. He placed the fly-swatter on the metal chair and shuffled over to the shelves that held a bunch of preserves and canned food. Then I heard the door that leads to the backyard open and he left, shutting the door behind him.

I came out from behind the washing machine, but just stood there because I didn’t know exactly what to do. Do I keep digging out Connie? Do I look for some kind of weapon? Do I run upstairs and call for help? Or do I peek outside to see what Connie’s dad is doing, and that’s what I went to do. But the second I started to walk over to the tiny basement window, I heard the backyard door open and I rushed back to my hiding place.

I waited to hear the sound of the door close, but it didn’t. I heard Connie’s dad mumbling and some clinking noises, like he was moving glass jars around. Then he grunted, and I heard the door close but he didn’t walk into the basement. I peered around the side of the washing machine; he wasn’t there. He must’ve just grabbed something and then went right back out.

So I waited a minute, then crept back out again. I tiptoed over to the window, but it was starting to get dark and I couldn’t really see anything anyway. I was worried her dad would see me, so I did one of the other things on my to-do list and looked for a weapon of some sort.

My first impulse was to look around those shelves near the door, but I was afraid to be too close to the door in case he came right back. What the hell was he doing anyway?

So I went to the other side of the basement, hoping to find something in the storage area. There wasn’t much besides a bunch of stuff from Connie’s childhood. I saw an old rocking horse and a tricycle; some clear plastic bins with dolls and jump ropes, her old pom poms and batons; next to that was a bin marked “baby clothes” and then another marked “dance clothes.”

My eyes went back to the bin with her old cheerleading stuff. Specifically the one with batons. I rushed over to it and snapped the top off, riffled through red and white pom poms and grabbed one of the batons. It was hard plastic with rubber ends, and I knew a baton wouldn’t be much of a weapon but it was the best I could do. I went back behind the washing machine, and a few seconds later heard the backyard door open.

Connie’s dad walked back into the basement. He went over to his chair and brought it closer to Connie. He had a couple of things in his hands, a knife and a piece of wood. He was using the knife to carve the wood, and I couldn’t quite make out what he was carving it into, but he started whistling. He’s fucking whistling, what a sicko!

I looked at Connie, and could’ve sworn I saw her twitch. That made me feel a lot better, she was still with me. I tightened my grip on the baton, and it suddenly felt like an even lesser weapon compared to his knife and whatever he was fashioning that piece of wood into. Not to mention the fact that he was about five times my size.

At least I could try to stop him from hurting Connie. I just didn’t know what he was planning to do. If he was carving the piece of wood into a weapon to use against Connie, why didn’t he just use the knife? And if he was going to kill her, why hadn’t he just done it already?

“I haven’t seen that little friend of yours,” his voice was gruff, and he cleared his throat.

“But I suspect she’s around.” And he looked right at my hiding spot. Asshole was probably watching me from the backyard through the window the whole time.

My palms were sweating so badly the baton slipped and almost hit the washing machine. I gasped, a bit too loudly. Connie’s dad chuckled and resumed whistling.

I centered on the piece of wood, and it looked like he was carving it into the shape of a gun, and he appeared to be done with it. He put down the knife and blew excess shavings off the wooden gun and held it up. That’s when I saw what it was. It wasn’t a large wooden gun, it was a large wooden dick. Though the difference between the two in reality is slight; they’re both so similar in shape, and action. And some people wonder why I don’t like to fuck men.

“You see what this is sweetheart?” He smiled and pointed the wooden dick at Connie. “I’ve been working on this for you, ever since you and your little friend told me you think you’re both men. You’re not men. This means you’re a man. You seem to want one so badly, I made one for ya!” He shook with laughter and I shook my head in disgust.

“But we’ll save that for later.” He put the wooden dick on the floor next to the knife. The knife…it was a far better weapon than the stupid baton I was holding. I needed to get to that knife, but it was too far away, and too close to him.

“For now, I’ve got a real one for you sweetheart.” I looked at Connie’s dad, not sure I heard him right. But then he unzipped his pants and pulled out his own dick. It looked disgusting, filthy and hairy. I felt like I was going to throw up again, and kept my mouth closed tight.

He crouched down next to Connie holding it in his hands, and hit her across the face with it. This was even worse than the fly-swatter. Then he opened up her mouth. Now I really felt like I was going to throw up…

“I’ll teach you to like it sweetheart. It’s what’s natural, it’s what God intended…”

Really, and God also intended for a father to abuse his daughter like this? Connie was so out of it, I hoped she had no idea what was going on. He started pushing himself into her mouth, and I realized he was further away from the knife, and no longer facing my direction. I knew it was my chance, so I started creeping out from behind the washing machine, keeping my eyes on him. I ran over to the knife and grabbed it without hesitating. He didn’t even see me until I had the knife pointed at him.

“Stop it you fucking asshole!”

“And what do you think you’re going to do with that little girl?”

He pulled away from Connie, his dick sticking out and giving him this hideously comical look. He started laughing, but I could tell he was somewhat nervous since he tucked it back into his pants. That gave me a feeling of power and I took a step closer to him, now holding the knife across my chest so that my thumb was resting on the butt of the handle. One of the boys in school taught me how to hold it like that; he said most people hold the knife like they’re pointing it, and that makes it easier for an attacker to take it away from you.

“You’re going to dig out Connie, and then we’re leaving. You’ll never see either of us again, I promise you that.”

“I can’t let my daughter leave. She’s my responsibility. I’ve got to set her straight before she goes off into the world.”

“She’s eighteen, she’s an adult. You can’t tell her what to do.”

“Neither can you my little dyke!” He reached out and tried to grab the knife. I backed up and swiped at him with it; I heard it swoosh the air, it missed his arm by a couple inches.

“You better watch it with that before someone gets hurt!”

He grabbed for it again, and this time when I backed up I hit the chair he’d been sitting on and stumbled. He grabbed my arm that was holding the knife, and twisted it so hard it felt like it was going to snap. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of hearing me cry.

“Let go or I’ll break that arm of yours,” he twisted even harder; I dropped the knife.

“Stupid little girl,” he said, and then slapped me across the face. I wanted to kill that son of a bitch so badly right then and there. I lost every ounce of empathy I ever had as this rage bubbled up inside me.

Years of playing softball and soccer made the muscles in my young legs so strong and supple, I wished that same strength had been in my arms. I could’ve fought him harder when he tried for the knife. Women are stuck with strength in their legs, not in their arms, but it comes in handy when you have to kick a man in the balls. Which is exactly what I did.

I summoned up all of that rage and energized it into the massive kick I laid into his groin, and I actually felt him stumble back a bit from the force of it. He screamed and cupped his groin, and dropped the knife in the process. I grabbed the knife and stood up, and that’s when I saw Connie’s mom.

She was standing at the top of the stairs holding a gun, for how long I had no idea. She could’ve been watching the whole scene between me and her husband.

“Stop it right there,” she said and pointed the gun at me. It looked like it had a silencer attached to it, like I’d seen in movies. I lowered the knife but held onto it. Connie’s dad was still whimpering on the ground, and I thought I heard a soft cough that I hoped was Connie’s. I looked back at her mom.

Connie’s mom had always been very timid, never questioning her husband and dutifully tending to chores and cooking meals. Connie used to say, “I hope that crap isn’t hereditary!” Seeing her mom holding a gun with a calm look on her face was a shock. I had been basking in my triumph over Connie’s dad, and now her mom was apparently just as crazy. We were screwed; I was never getting Connie out of there, and they were going to kill me.

“This is what’s going to happen,” Connie’s mom said as she took a few steps down the stairs.

“You’re going to take Connie and get away from here. I’ll help you dig her out. But first I’m going to shoot my husband.”

She turned, pointed the gun and shot Connie’s dad. I saw the bewildered look on his face as the bullet went through the center of his forehead.

I gasped and sucked in air since it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Connie’s mom stepped around me and took a plastic shovel that was hanging on the wall; how I’d missed that when I first got into this I have no idea. Guess I was too focused on Connie. Her mom started to shovel the dirt away.

“Can I get some help? There’s another shovel over there.”

Wow. There were two shovels I’d missed. I got over my shock and ran to grab the shovel. We not only had to get her out of there but get her to a hospital because she was in a coma or something.

“I don’t know what else to say but thank you!” I grabbed the shovel and began digging.

“You might not want to do that just yet. I’m going to tell the police that you and Connie killed my husband.”

I stopped and stared at her.

“Don’t worry, I’m going to tell them it was self-defense, and that I don’t want to press charges. I just needed a patsy.”

Connie’s mom, who never said anything to me besides “Want some lemonade?” or “Are you staying for dinner?” was talking like some character in a thriller. Who was she, exactly?

“This horrible man was abusing me in every sense of the word, but I wasn’t going to jail for killing him. Perhaps I could’ve left him, but I didn’t want to leave Connie alone with him. I also didn’t want to lose the home I’ve built over the years. But as soon as Connie told us her big news last week, I started thinking about using you as my patsy.”

“So what are you going to tell the cops?”

“Exactly what happened, only I’ll tell them you found the gun and used it on him after he tried to stab you with the knife. I’ll tell them all about his homophobia, but not the abuse toward me since that will make me a suspect, and I’ll play the grieving widow very well. Sorry to put it on you, but you won’t be here anymore to worry about this anyway.”

We finished digging Connie out, then took her to the hospital where they hooked up some IVs and gave her fluids, and overnight she suddenly woke up. She didn’t remember anything about what happened, and for that I’m grateful.

After the cops questioned me, and made sure my story corroborated with Connie’s and her mom’s, we moved to our little place in Boston. Connie’s temping and I got a job at the Museum of Fine Arts. We still visit with Connie’s mom, but she always comes down here. It’s too hard for Connie to go back to the house where she grew up. Here, we’ve made a bunch of new friends and have set up a nice little life for ourselves.

Sometimes when I go down on Connie, when I put my tongue really deep inside her, I can somewhat taste dirt. It’s diluted and faint, very faint, but it’s there. She tells me it’s all in my head, and we laugh about it. Connie says it gives us a new meaning to the term “nappy dugout.” I love her for stuff like that.

 

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