Cutters, Part One
Right after school Cecil grabbed his shotgun from his father's rifle cabinet and headed out the door. He took his old BMX out of the garage and slung the gun over his back. He pedaled the bike as fast as he could. Small for his class, he was still waiting for a growth spurt. His grandmother had told him that sometimes it happens later in life. But he wasn't waiting until eighteen or twenty-one. He had outgrown his shit hole town already. He spent most of his time out on state land shooting squirrels or just walking. There was nothing at home that equaled the thrill of just being out in the woods, nothing that equaled the thrill of being among the pines and oaks. He was master of all he surveyed out here. No one came to bother him.
He pedaled his bike down Wilson Road past house after house all of them empty because no one was home from work or school yet. Out here the paint was chipped and the yards were filled with junked automobiles. There was one house right at the end of the road that was immaculate and Cecil always assumed something evil lived in that house. The lawn was finely manicured and zinnia and marigolds bloomed profusely in well-tended beds. The large, friendly house was set back far from the road; its seemingly freshly-painted green shutters and white front often beckoned him. In fact, one time he had gone up the long driveway and called for the owner. But no one answered and his voice echoed through the open lot only bouncing back when it hit a stand of pine trees at the far edge of the property. He called a few more times, but there was no response. Not even a dog barking greeted him. The wind stilled and far off he heard what sounded like a train. But nothing came from the lonely house. He stood there looking in the windows for a while. Everything looked immaculate inside; had anyone ever lived there? There were even white frilly laced place mats on the kitchen table that matched the equally white peaches patterned tablecloth. He continued to look around for a bit, but nothing seemed awry. Everything was right here, except there were no people. There never were. He passed here almost every day after school. The few times he had skipped he had never noticed anyone. Even on weekends no one was in sight. He began to think of the house as his own private secret set far back in the woods near his private place in the woods. That day was the closest he had ever come to figuring out its mystery. He circled the house looking in each window hoping to see some sign of life even if he was just chased away. The shades were drawn in several rooms, but the others were always immaculate in every way.
He stared in the window marveling at the ancient wallpaper that covered the walls and the old portraits that seemed to welcome him with their gilt-edged frames and promises from another time. He walked across the lawn to the out buildings. There was an old red barn in remarkably good shape and a smaller building that served as storage space. He pushed on the barn door and it swung open. Did he dare enter? He had come this far. The room was cool and smelled musty and there was absolutely nothing inside except for an old stop sign against the wall. Nothing had been parked inside for ages either. Cecil dared not go further as he didn't want to leave any footprints on the hard-packed dirt floor. Maybe no one would notice, because they obviously never went there; he wanted to show some respect for the old place. It was magical in its loneliness. The other building was made of wooden logs treated with some kind of varnish. The door was locked. A chain had been wrapped around the latch and a large padlock had been jammed through the links. He tried the door, but couldn't budge it using all of his weight. So he contented himself by looking in the window.
The room was an office and it was the only visibly messy room on the entire property. Papers were strewn far and wide over an old-fashioned roll top desk piling onto the floor and the chair was upturned on the floor. Yet again no one was in sight. After staring into that room, Cecil wanted to leave. The place had been too perfect, but this disorganized mess only made him feel lonelier for the house where he had never seen a soul. In the back of his mind, part of him realized that he never did want to see anybody there. Maybe it was better without them. Yet he still looked every time he rode by. After his exploration, the place never seemed as friendly, but he always wondered where everyone was. This time was no different. No one was there, yet Cecil barely slowed down. He wanted to get to his spot. He rode about another mile and turned off onto a bumpy rock strewn trail. He jumped over one hill after another. His trips here were so numerous that he could probably follow the trail in his sleep. He knew for a fact that no one else could do it with a gun across their back. His years of practice were all that made it possible for him to be so adept. When he had first come out here, he had fallen horribly. One time he even shredded his knee on a rock when his bike had skidded across a fallen log. Now the area that had once been thinned out under the auspices of some forestry plan had grown over. This trail was barely visible to the average hiker. Plus it was on the far side of the park for most visitors who took the main road closer to the county line. If Cecil went that way though, it would be at least another hour before he got there. He liked his route. It was difficult getting there, but it was worth it because he always had the area to himself. He pushed himself faster. He wanted to get there. He was looking forward to sprawling in the grass. He just wanted to check out from the hassle of school and home. Sometimes he wondered why he ever went back. He could just push on. If he had a car, he could run away. His bicycle wouldn't get too far. He knew that his old man knew the county sheriff and he would be rounded up within hours. That is, once they realized he was gone. They might not. Perhaps he could steal his dad's car or another. He thought about this daily, but he had never formed a plan for real escape. Anywhere else would be just the same. Even a new school, a new life, it would all be the same. He dropped his bike behind a pine tree and lay down in the familiar grassy area near the ravine. The grass was soft and smelled sweet like the sweet flag his mother had shown him when he was younger – in that distant time before she left his father, the distant time when his parents seemed happy, the distant time when he actually spent time with them together. This was before the forced and awkward period where they tried to buy him with anything but attention. He lay in the grass for what felt like hours. The sun was still somewhat high in the sky and the warmth of spring surrounded him. He felt at one with the earth and barely cared to brush the mosquitoes and flies that lazily landed on him. He was quick to crush a wood tick between his thumb and finger piercing its body with his fingernail before tossing it into the woods. If it crawled back he would do it again. He lay like that for hours thinking about his life. Then he did what was expected. He put the shotgun between his legs, braced himself against the tree, put the barrel to his chin, and pulled the trigger.