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This ain’t gonna sit right with most of you out there, but I’m swearin’ it’s the truth. Every word of it. And I’m puttin’ the lingo down here ‘xactly like it happened.
First off, I’m about as simple as God breathed life inta. Growed up in a little Texan town in Bandera County. Hill Country. Little town called Pipe Creek, population less ’n two hundred back in the 50’s an’ most of ’em my blood kin. I worked daddy’s farm, growin’ mostly pecans that with little rain an’ too much sunshine ended up worth less ‘n a hill of beans, but we Floyds kept a-plantin’, kept our achin’ backs an’ skin-raw hands to the plow. We was decent folk, believers in our Maker where every Sunday we sat in our family pews at the Little Rock Church. Like I said, simple. Far as smarts go I never passed the fourth grade ‘cept on a bicycle,
No, I ain’t got smarts, but my word is good. I never told a lie, even times when fibbin’ mighta saved me a thrashin’ from daddy, meanest of the Floyds, a man who could stare down a deer soon to be dead in its tracks. As for us young’uns, daddy had a hard time sparin’ the rod, savin’ money for food, an’ turnin’ down hard likker. I got the scars to prove it an’ what with daddy gone some years now I ain’t still put on much new skin on these here bones. But I’m gettin’ away from my story.
Little dream of mine was to become a reporter. We didn’t have no local newspaper in Pipe Creek, but part of that dream was to start one, call it the Pipe Creek Journal, be editor an’ publisher, deliver all the news fit to print and unfit too. But I had no schoolin’. As for writin’ skills I was on empty. I could read, but slow like a tortoise an’ I could stumble over more words than my daddy could after a jug of the devil’s brew.
The devil’s brew. Funny how one day, outa some kind of magic or gift from Heaven, I all at once found myself amblin’ down a road that led me on down to Hell itself! A nightmare I figured. I’m gonna wake up in a hot sweat, laugh it off, an’ that be it. Wrong! I wasn’t dreamin’. Somehow I was bein’ given a pass to where only the wicked dead go when the old ticker runs outa ticks. I knowed it was Hell. Smelled the brimstone burnin’ an’ stingin’ my nose an’ eyes. I seen the tormented wrestling with sins pickin’ at their rosy red flesh like fleas on a hound. I done heard the powerful hopeless screams of them poor bastards tryin’ to put out the flames on their bodies by rollin’ theirselves on the blades of red-blue fiery grass.
Bodies what I said, not spirits at all. An’ everywhere that fire kept burnin’ away everything in its path, nothin’ burned away. They was bodies made to last forever.
Nobody saw me ‘cause not one of ‘em give a wave or wish me welcome or so much as a Howdy do, Stranger. It was like watchin’ a movie, seein’ and hearin’ but not feelin’ them fires.
I saw some familiar faces. Otis Danner back in town years ago raped a child an’ got away with murder, but I seen ‘im here. Back in Pipe Creek it was 1956. Here it was who knew when. If any when at all. Nobody wore watches on their roastin’ wrists. And if time was passin’ there, I sure couldn’t tell. All’s I knowed was What in hell am I doin’ here! Then I seen a saloon like what you’d ‘xpect in the Old West, with them doors swingin’ in an’ out, folks on fire stumbling’ in an’ stumbling’ out. I was sure’s hell I’d catch an eyeful of daddy doin’ what he was so damn good at when he was alive, but instead I seen through the slats of the swingin’ doors a man standin’ on a table, rantin’ in some foreign tongue, pumpin’ his arms like some store dummy come alive, his head turnin’ this a-way and that, them dark eyes dartin’ upwards, downwards, sidewards…A man in excruciatin’ pain. Then I recognized him.
He wore his black hair combed down sideways ‘cross his forehead like a schoolboy, but the chunk a black mustache under his nose wasn’t something a schoolboy penciled in. It was real. His trademark. Was I surprised? Years before, this here monster scared the whole world an’ we was all glad to see him put a live one in his head. Hell material for sure. You can’t kill six, seven million innocent folks, then die, an’ somebody hands you a harp and a free pass to the choir. Hitler was here where he was right at home.
Hitler, the Cow-Pie King himself! Hitler that sent millions to the ovens was roastin’ in an oven himself for all eternity.
I pushed aside the swingin’ doors into the saloon. Hitler was still makin’ speeches up on the table. One a his demons set there like in a daze, listenin’ to the monster. The fellow was Goering and he set there wearin’ a pink tutu that wouldn‘t burn, tappin’ his black-painted fingernails on the tabletop an’ mouthin’ real quiet-like a song line, “Doych Land Oober Alice.“ Some Nazi generals was dancin’ with each other, slippin’ an’ slidin’ on the spilled-beer floor. Eva Braun was dancing’ on a table across from Hitler. Himmler set sulkin’ in the corner drinkin’ steins of some dark lager something told me was innocent blood while Goebbels set writin’ an autobiography of not-so-proper ganda. A saloon fulla Nazi boys reiching it in. Every last one of ‘em burning away in agony.
Oh, yes, Hitler. Don't the madman have any pride at all? Standin’ on a beer hall table, machinatin’ hand and arm motions, callin’ out to all the pretty boys in Hell that they don't know thrills till they feast on what he's got to offer. One hand flyin’ in the air, the other pattin’ down his black parade pants!
Then he caught my eye an’ we was locked down in a stare you couldn’t pry apart with a crowbar. I felt my heart beatin’ loud as Texas thunder. He raised a hand an’ motioned me towards ‘im. My head said no, but there I was floatin’ in his direction till my feet floated back down in front of ‘im. Then I closed my eyes an’ prayed the Good Lord take me outa there.
In a flash I was back in Pipe Creek. When I turned around, Hell wasn’t back there, only the rollin’ hills and the noonday sun dippin’ halfway down behind the highest peaks. I was home again. Safe. Confused but safe. An’ I had me a story to tell. I wanted to shout it from the roofs of Pipe Creek, let my unbelievable story travel from ear to mouth all over the world.
But nobody believed or cared. Uncle Leon said he hoped I wasn’t takin’ up where my daddy left off and then did a booze-bottle search of the farmhouse. Aunt Gertie shaked her head and went on peelin’ her taters. My sister Ellie Mae sat cryin’ like she just found out her big brother was a lunatic. Nobody believed me.
I done put this story to paper, hopin’ somebody out there maybe like me paid a visit to Hell and like me made it back to be laughed at. Just wanted to let you know there be two of us, maybe three, maybe more, got ourselves a rare look at what’s ahead for the wicked. We could sit round a fire at the foot of the hills an’ share what we seen down there. How Hitler’s done conquerin’ the world. How he’s burnin’ away for his sins. How what goes round comes round. How six, seven million souls can rest now.
Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, Thinking Ten, Pen 10, and Six Sentences. He was the recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. He was also one of the winners in the 2011 Franklin-Christoph Fine Writing Instrument Poetry Contest.
His collection of flash fiction, 200 Shorts, is the new follow-up to his collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts. Both published by All Things That Matter Press are available in book and Kindle editions at http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet
His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems:
Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.