A girl texted me, saying, “Tell me a secret.” Here’s how I responded:
When I was 6, I beat a drifter to death with a shovel.
His name was Earl Sherwater. He was from Billings, Montana. It was his time to go.
He was 6’4” if he were a foot! His job his whole life was selling aluminum siding to newlyweds. His whole family was killed in a freak oil fire just outside of Bend, Oregon. He never recovered. He became a drunk. Then found his way into huffing paint. Eventually, he road the rails from Portland to Tallahassee.
When he and I crossed paths, he told me he had seen the future.
He said he always knew one day he was going to confront a little boy who just had learned how to shoot a .22 in the desert somewhere.
I threw the gun aside and said, “Nay!” You can live, Earl! You’re better than this!”
So we took him in.
He cleaned up his act. He started wearing my father’s suits and going on job interviews.
We called him “Uncle Earl.”
Then one sandy, humid August night, Earl came home drunk. My father’s suit tattered from various bar fights Uncy Earl had endured from a night suckling at the teat of a one Mr. Jack Daniel’s.
He kicked open the back porch door as we all watched “ALF” on NBC.
He demanded to talk to my sister. Apparently, he wanted her to be his bride.
My dad went to the safe to jitterly gather his gun. My mom and brother ran to call the police. But Earl had cut the phone lines.
So it was just me, my older sister and Earl, like the end of a Tarantino movie. But instead of guns, we had bad intentions pointed at each other.
Good ol’ Earl, stared ghoulishly at my sister’s watery eyes and said, “I not only took your rose, but now I will give you the THORNS, YOU BITCH!” and he lunged at her.
I took the shovel my brother just bought to dig up the dying palm tree in the backyard and I struck Earl abound the forehead.
He stood dazed, looking at me like a Brutus to his Caesar. I knew I had to finish the job, so I hit him over the head again. My sister screamed that they were in love.
But I kept beating him.
Blood sprayed from his temples like ketchup from a punctured plastic diner bottle. And I stood over him triumphantly.
I had won that day.
My brother and I took that bloodied shovel, now mixing colors with the rust.
And we dug up that palm tree. And then we kept digging.
We put ol’ Earl’s body in that hole like we were burying a time capsule.
And that’s where he has stayed since. No one has ever talked about that night. There’s just a time capsule in the yard. Ever knowing. Ever looking. Always haunting. But we forget.
And sometimes when I see the new palm that grew above his grave, I think it’s him gently waving to me in the wind. And he’s saying:
“Well done, kid.”
She responded by saying, “What’s ‘ALF?’”