... Dumble grabbed Brent by the lapels and
hauled him up. Dumbles forearms were slick with sweat and caked
with graveyard dirt. His blood pounded in his ears. Brent hung from his
grip like a CPR dummy. Blood and mucous smeared his face, his smirk almost
literally wiped off his visage.
... All this time, Dumble said
quietly, almost to himself, all these years living in fear of spindly
little toe-rag like you. And cause of what? A lucky shot. Cause
you saw me before I saw you. He pulled Brent closer. Brent whimpered,
like the old man was about to breathe fire on him. Well, hear this,
Dumble said. I see you now, you abomination. Dumble picked
up Brents dick jar.
... Prepare to meet your unholy maker.
... But Hell had already broken loose down
... There was an explosion of sound that
rocked Dumble even these few blocks away. La Gordas Putero was engulfed
in flames, the neon figures topping her sign melting into hot pink squiggles.
... Dumble looked around for Lily, but his
eyes only told him what the icy feeling in his gut already knew.
... He dropped the jar of penes, shattering
it. The flaccid scraps of flesh lay there in broken glass and preservative.
Then he dropped Brent, who landed broken-face first in his newly-freed
collection of dead johnsons.
... Lily, Dumble whispered to
the cold graveyard.
... He ran the three blocks to La Gordas.
... Dumble could feel the heat from the
flames up the block. What girls and johns were able were fleeing the inferno
on foot or by car. Dumble tried to breach the front door but was held
back by the panicked crowd and the wall of heat, which dried his eyes
before the tears could even form. Dumble, the evening of destruction finally
catching up with him, let go. He rode the flow of scattering humanity.
... Deposited upon a concrete parking slab,
Dumble sat and watched the Putero burn. The stream of people fleeing dwindled
to a trickle, and he did not see Lily anywhere among them.
... All these years. Gone. Wasted. When Dumble
had been consumed with boredom, with bullshit ennui, hed blown town
until he found meaning. Esmerelda. Lucy. Life, not death.
... But death had caught up with him. Death
had stolen his family. So hed spent fifteen years hunting death
down until hed finally caught up with her.
... Bullshit. Hed spent the past fifteen
years the way hed spent his whole life: running away. Running away
from home. From Daddy Dumble. Then, from his dead family, the insufferable
guilt. Hed tried to paint it as piety, as duty to his God. But he
was nothing more than a giant fucking coward, hiding behind the hem of
the robe of his Creator. And on his Holy Quest to prove he was not as
big a coward as he actually was, hed gone and gotten Lily killed.
Lily, the one blooming flower in this miserable desert. Lily.
... Dumble wept.
... Whaddaya cryin about?
a voice croaked.
... Lily had dragged herself all the way
out to the parking lot. Her legs splayed out uselessly behind her as she
dragged them, broken and bloody over the asphalt. A collapsing roof beam
had all but crushed her lower half, and blood dribbled down her chin as
she fell, spent, no longer even able to keep herself up on her elbows.
... Here, Dumble thought. Here is a second
chance. He rushed to Lilys side. He found a crushed beer can with
some Miller Lite still in the bottom. He quickly made the sign of the
cross over it and sprinkled it on his desert flower.
... Lily coughed up some more blood, the
copper stink of it thick in her nose and now mixed with the odor of stale
beer. She forced her heavy eyelids apart and watched as Dumble prayed
... Lord, sayeth he, she
whom you love is all fucked up. This fucked-up-ness is not unto death;
it is for the glory of God. So that this son of a bitch here, jabbing
a thumb to his chest, may be glorified by the means of it.
... Lily felt a coldness begin to seep over
her legs. She tried to ask for some water, but all she could taste was
her own blood. Her eyelids began putting on the pounds.
... Father, Dumble cried to the
Heavens, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. I know that Thou
hearest me always. He sniffled, a line of snot on his upper lip.
But I have said this on account of the fact that Im a no-account
motherfucker with a brain addled by junk pharmaceuticals and a heart ravaged
by the devils of the wilderness. Do not, O Lord, do not pluck this Lily
and keep her to Thine breast. As Thine humble servant, I beg of Thee.
So little fight is left in these old bones, and though I deserve no better
fate, have pity on Thine useless, sack-of-shit, to-the-curb bum of a servant.
For she embodies the strength I so require to do Thine work on this here
... Dumble lowered his head. Lily,
he whispered, Come back.
... And as his tears shed onto Lilys
face, Lily saw the Light spread outward from his silver crown, filling
her eyes, her head, filling her mind, her soul. And she felt the warmth
creep back into her legs and strength into her spirit. As she heard the
thunderous charge of the host of Heaven as it descended to assist them
in their work, their most holy work, Lily began to rise to fight once
again at Dumbles side.
... Then it turned out all the light and
noise was just news helicopters.
... Fuck, she said as she sank
back to the ground. Nope, it didnt take. Youre gonna
have to get me to a hospital, man.
... Three months later, Lily was wheeled
out to the curb in front of Our Lady of the Eternal HMO. A shiny, newly-waxed
56 Fleetwood Cadillac hearse awaited her there. Dumble helped her
gingerly out of the wheelchair and into the shotgun seat.
... Lily took the new pair of Ray-Bans off
the dash and set them gently on her face. So, where to now?
... Well, Dumble said as he got
in behind the wheel, to put it bluntly, you and me are about to
rush in to where angels fear to tread.
... Lily arched an eyebrow. That a
... Yes, maam, Dumble said
and turned the key. The Fleetwood fired up with a throaty roar. Dumble
put on his own shades. That La Gorda sure thinks she pulled a fast
one on us by killing herself. And now shes sure as sheep shit living
it up even further down south.
... Lily smiled. Mexico.
... Nope, Dumble said, Even
... Um, Lily said, South
... Where were goin aint
on no map, Lily. And its even hotter there than in this here desert.
... Lily thought for a minute, and then a
slow grin spread across her face. I savvy.
... But you and me gotta make a real
important pit stop first.
... The banks of the Rio Felipe were far
from scenic. But what with all the detergents dumped in here along with
the raw sewage, Dumble figured they about evened each other out enough
for his and Lilys needs. Lily, still in the starched white hospital
gown, followed him down to the water, her exposed buttocks revealing no
shame (and with a set like that, really, what was there to be ashamed
... The brackish green waters parted grudgingly
as the Reverend Dumble and his holy piece, Lily Mudge, stepped into the
river. Without a word, Dumble placed his hand on the small of Lilys
back, the other behind her head, and eased her down into the drink.
... The water washed over her face.
... He brought Lily back up to the surface,
and she coughed and sputtered a bit. But she smiled up at him. Dumble
said, Repeat after me, sugar:
... Come to Him and receive His light!
... Lily dutifully repeated.
... I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall be ever in my mouth.
... (Lilys lips curled into a playful
smile at this last.)
... Let my soul glory in the Lord;
the lowly will hear me and practically shit their britches.
... Look to Him that you may be radiant
with joy, and your face may not blush with shame.
... (Now Dumble felt it difficult to keep
the smile from his face as he uttered the next words.)
... Taste and see how good the Lord
is; happy the person who takes refuge in Him.
... Lily repeated this and said, Yknow,
were gonna just have to do this all over again.
... Dumble frowned. Huh?
... Dumble, Lily said, pleasantly
exasperated, I been in that hospital three months now. She
grabbed his crotch. Now I wanna taste and see how good the Lord
... Um, uh, um...
... Lily squeezed just a bit more. Come
to me and receive my light, Calvin.
... And so he did.
Dumble and Lily will be back in:
Your Pretty Face Is Going to