Funeral Soup

A dude from my small hometown of 300 murdered his brother and dumped him in a hole. Covered it with branches. Like burying a shitty pet. The brothers were both edging fifty and embroiled in a dispute over farmland. It resulted in a gruesome death. This was huge news for Manvel, North Dakota. 

Before the corpse was discovered my mom went on a hike with our dogs. She was trying to see if the body was in the burn pile in our woods. Or perhaps stuffed into one of the junk cars my uncle abandons out there. Her search came up empty.

My uncle has all these old cars buried in the woods. His treatment of the land doesn’t please my mother but she’s yet to put dump him in a hole over it. I always loved that graveyard of cars. Growing up we’d try dig them out with spoons. Friends and I went there to bust windows. Once blew one up with my slingshot. Later on I brought the slingshot to school and got in trouble for carrying a weapon. Columbine on a budget.

I imagine Mom hesitantly reaching out her walking pole. Tapping around dead cars. Shaking out mice and spiders. Telling our crazy dog Xouirteeee to forget her life of woof woof leisure and become a bloodhound. Sniff out that corpse, ya diseased dog. Maybe the little investigator would have found pieces of the brother’s body. An arm. Beating heart. Or just an old pair of shoes my mommy could theorize to be those of the dead man. She didn’t find a carcass, but saw an old bed on a burn pile. Guess she thought it was hers. Wrote me a stern note asking why I threw her mattress away. Left those words on the counter.  I threw up on that mattress once. But this one wasn’t hers. And so concluded her days as an investigator. It started out with hopes of headlines: Local Beauty Finds Body. In the end she settled for a soiled mattress.

But my mom wasn’t the only one out looking for this dead dude, Don. Two of his brothers were searching too. They logged hours in a pontoon, trolling up and down the Red River hoping to find their sibling slung ’round river branches. I knew one of these brothers growing up. He was the father of a classmate of mine. The dad used to come into my old gas station job, buy ten cans of Mountain Dew, then grin through his mustache. “Getting my go fuel.” Dude was a good guy. So was his son, Sam, my friend. Their extended family was known to be pretty wild and crazy. A couple decades ago some of them got arrested for destroying mailboxes and dynamiting a house. Sam, a razor thin dude with arms like frog legs and a constant smile, inherited some of that familial felonious energy.

Spending a night at Sam’s was always an adventure. An adventure that usually ended with me getting shot by fireworks; sailing ditch water in the boat he crafted from a fuel tank. We went to the same elementary/middle school and a few times a year he invited me out to his farm west of Manvel. I also grew up on a farm but his was different. They had a shop, guns, and four wheelers. Sam was hands on, adventurous, and kinda reckless. I almost chopped off my leg with an axe in his woods. We once soaked fifty feet of his driveway in gasoline. He lit it then stomped the tipped can so that it shot fireballs.

I loved going there. My home life was stiff and formal as a kid. Our mom restricted us from the things that make young boys joyous: ATVs, video games, guns, hardcore porn, and sugary cereal. I had all the country to roam but spent a lot of time holed up reading or at my cousins’ who had more freedom. We spent our time pretending to be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by beating trees with plumbing pipes.

My few nights a year at Sam’s were great. His was one of the first places I saw porn. His dad kept a stash out in their shop. We’d go there at night, grab some Hustlers, then sit in a little trailer with a wood stove, grilling hamburgers and passing around the pussy. Thinking of everything I’d do if I had a girl. It made me so nervous and excited. I remember him playing with his chameleon, trying to feed his Venus Flytrap; the time I laid on his living room floor and his sister walked over me wearing only a towel. But sometimes we’d just play with Legos or sit on his bedroom floor listening to Garbage, sipping Dew, recording ourselves making fart sounds over pop songs.

His huge property was lined with piles of cut wood which his father sold. Behind these piles, in the woods, we shot trees with guns. As if we were lumberjacks ourselves. I wasn’t used to guns. Felt shy when holding one. But if it was suggested to me I tried fitting in by shooting too. 

One night we spent an hour cruising a dirt road where I sat in a pickup box. Sam drove. I worked a spotlight. A friend of ours shot the rabbits I spotted. We just left them there. Sometimes Sam stuck a gun out the window and fired. We shot at power cables out in a North Dakota field at night. Three boys, guns raised, leaving empty shells at our sides. I think shit sparked. I was nervous. We laughed and hollered. We were thirteen.

Sometimes there was death at Sam’s. He’d have me run into his barn screaming “FUUUUCCCCKKKK.” When birds flew out he got ‘em with a shotgun. Half the time his dog Bert ate the birds whole. Crunch. Crunch. Swallow. Flesh and feathers. Bones and BBs. He had a tree house built high with a trunk running through its middle. We once pretended our schoolbus driver was attacking our fort. Killed her by climbing to the roof and pouring gasoline overboard as if to create a chemical waterfall. We dropped matches twenty feet until one hit the fuel. Rest assured, the bus bitch burned.

In that tree house we lounged on hammocks. Looked at porn and made fires. Talked about girls in our class and pigged out on junk. Played the radio and talked about girls some more. I chewed apples picked from a tree in their yard. I spit pulp down the hole we climbed in and out of. It made such a mess even Sam scolded me for it. This came from the dude who had me help him tip a barrel of old oil so he could burn the spill. One night in the fort I woke to the sounds of a mouse scratching in a chip bag left on the floor. 

Sam was a real farm kid. He didn’t have any compunction over mice like I did as I was deathly afraid. To him they were just another creature. Once he picked one up to play with and I warned he’d catch disease from its fur. That morning in the fort, when I told him about the mouse in the chips, he sprung into action. Stapled the bag to the floor. I could see the mouse’s outline as it raced around the bag. Desperate to escape. My biggest threat of death stuck in a salty chamber. Eventually Sam captured it in a Styrofoam cup. Threw it in our fire. Cruel but quick. Death defeated. It didn’t lessen my fears. But I got to live another day.

 Once he took me on a rabbit hunt in the winter. It started with us cruising fields on a snowcat. Sam was at the helm. We cruised going fifty. My arms clung to his waist. An old .22 was slung off my shoulder. If Sam saw a bird or rabbit he’d grab the gun from me. Without slowing he’d stand to empty a clip at the target. No hands to steer. Just me clinging his legs. I’d hear the whinny of a speeding snowmobile punctuated by rifle fire. Shots went in a 180 degree arc as he twisted to keep aim on a passing animal. His gun hung just over my head as he shot more. I stared forward, wind against my visor, watching the endless white of a flat landscape approach then pass by. Perhaps dead shells bounced off my head. Once sated, Sam sat down and punched the gas to chase another rabbit.

Eventually we got off the cat and walked around a shelter belt in search of rabbits. I doubt my bullet was the coup de grâce but we killed one. I spent half an hour traversing a snowy field looking for the corpse. Then we found it. It was tipped on its side with open eyes. From a tiny hole blood leaked into snow. I picked it up — a sagging, loose corpse. We took off on the snowmobile. No more fifty mile an hour drive-by. Back in those days I always wore this black Bomber — a winter hat lined with rabbit fur. I’d sweat in it to the point the fur became a matted mess. Now in my lap was the source of my favorite hat. Fur matted down with streaks of blood. A body not yet stiff. As we hit field ruts its body shifted in my hands as if still alive, if only for a few minutes more. 

Once high school began Sam and I drifted quite a bit. Our interests were too different. I was into Star Trek and masturbation. Sam held onto his rural roots and outdoor adventures. But we still hung some. When his girlfriend dumped him senior year he had me drive him by her house so she wouldn’t recognize his car. Played Halo in my basement as I kept my guns in the virtual world by then. We also had some crazy summer adventures harassing dipshits in our hometown which you can read about here: Vanilla Coke Guy

But there was one moment that seems relevant. Sam, a friend of ours, and myself went into Grand Forks to get some late night dinner and cruise around looking at girls. On the way back, just out of town, we saw lots of flashing lights. The police stopped our car and told us to take another route. All along that road I could see cops and ambulances near the Humane Society. Perhaps a pet rapist had struck. But the next day we found out a couple young people were killed by a drunk driver twenty minutes before we arrived. Just twenty minutes. If we hadn’t been out looking for cuties, maybe it would’ve been us. Probably not. But maybe.

All the times at Sam’s were risky, but I never felt my life was in danger. The closest I felt to a semblance of death was the mouse swimming in the chip bag. Even when my grandpa died freshman year it didn’t make me think much of mortality. But the drunk driver did a bit, at least for a week or so. I guess the times at Sam’s helped me ease into death in an exciting way. We did shit on the edge that could’ve gone wrong and hurt us. Sure I got nervous but it was just so much fucking fun. And when death came near, Sam threw it in the fire. No hesitation. No worry. Just swept it away. So when I found out that Sam’s uncle had killed another of his uncles I thought of my old friend.

This murder was scandal for our small hometown. We have our share of drunks, dudes in SUV meth labs crashing into bridges, and men who hang themselves after abusing the women they were cheating with — but this was next level shit. Brother on brother murder. The first killing our town had known. And it wasn’t even over something titillating, just farmland. Maybe one day they’ll hang headlines about it in the Manvel Museum. I know it’s something I’ll never forget.

Rodney killed his brother, Don. Then he fled to California before his capture. After the murder stories about Rodney came out. A guy interviewed on the news talked about how he’d shot his dog. I knew of another dog that was also shot by him. I guess the dude was practicing on Man’s best friend before moving on to Man himself. Perhaps he was the Humane Society animal rapist. I don’t know. But the stories bubbled out about how psycho he was. 

Dude terrorized people in my hometown. Made threats to anyone who wronged him. There was a guy who got blown up while cutting apart a car a few years ago. His face is all fucked with burns. After the accident someone stole a land mover and smashed up the railroad with it. They went to Fucked Face’s house and destroyed it along with everything in his yard. I found out from my dad that even before the murders he and others suspected Rodney of doing this. So the guy was a dick. A magnet for death and mayhem. But when he killed he knew enough to run. Dude had to of known his life was fucked to the point of uselessness if ever caught.

For lots of last summer there wasn’t much to do except make bad Rodney jokes after his capture. I was always threatening to cave in my sister’s head with a pipe if she didn’t do inane tasks like pour me some Cheerios. But in talking with a friend of mine I found out I had a run-in with the murderer years before. 

I was nineteen and with two friends driving back from Grand Forks. Coming into Manvel this guy had his pickup parked across the rail tracks so we couldn’t cross. He got out and approached our stopped car. Started asking if we were out robbing houses. Robbing houses? Dude was pissed. He said we broke into his garage and stole loads of shit. I didn’t even know who he was. He seemed to be a dirty fat farmer screaming towards kids at two in the morning. He asked for our names. My cousin was driving and felt intimidated. Told the guy who we were. Said we didn’t know anything about high stakes garage theft. We drove off.

We had a laugh about that crazy fuck. Cruised around Manvel with nothing to do. Just killing time before returning to our parents’ to jerk off alone and get to bed. As we approached a stop sign I (in the backseat) looked out at a driveway. As we went by a pair of headlights flicked on. They shined me in the face like one of those dumb rabbits Sam and I liked to shoot. Once our car halted at the crossway a pickup came flying at us out of that driveway. It nearly slammed into the back of the car but we turned in time. The pickup skidded across the gravel, overshooting its target. If my cousin had hit the gas a moment later there would’ve been a wreck. Our car rammed into the ditch. Me in the backseat. Probably with matted head of bloody hair.
We shot down a gravel road out of town. We passed an old horse farm and rows of grain bins. The shitty pickup kept following. It was the guy from the tracks. Nobody knew what to say so we just gave updates on where we thought our assailant was. These were followed by long periods of silence. Sometimes a mutter of how crazy he was. We passed back through Manvel then headed toward my parents’ place five miles away. We lost him for a while. 

We saw headlights a mile off. Headed toward them only to realize they were coming at us fast. We got turned on a field road and sped away, swerving through mounds of loose gravel. But the pickup was not giving up. Our shitty high school car couldn’t pull away. Before long we topped ninety on a dark gravel road. The pickup was close enough for its beams to light the backs of our heads. They were an invite to heaven. God, Satan, some other space wizard, was calling. Had deployed their tractor beam. Things were quiet enough to hear rocks kicking against the car. Any second we could lose control and flip into a ditch. Or the pickup could find extra juice and crash us. It was a silent time inside our four doors. Each of us was staring forward and peeking back. Not thinking of how we could die but feeling in our bodies we might. He got close but we scurried free.

I can’t recall what was said afterward but we all knew this situation was bad. It was time to get back home and hide away. Jerk off in the safe glow of a computer monitor. This was the closest I’d ever felt to mortality. So we sped back into town, nervously joking about what a psycho that guy was. Then as we passed the ice rink a man ran out from behind its boards. He swung a 2×4 at our car as my cousin stomped the gas. Our would-be killer had switched to foot power. Fred Flinstone swinging his club at kids.

After that chase we talked about it a few times but it more or less just became something that’d happened. I didn’t even tell my parents about it until years later. It was just after the murder and my friend reminded me it was Rodney whom we’d encountered that night. In the moments of the chase, when we were going so fast on that gravel road, sliding and bumping over ridges, I knew I could get hurt. Or perhaps even worse. But it didn’t make me think about death for long. Didn’t make me change who I was or the way I lived. But in the immediacy of the moment I think it scared me. So perhaps it was more than just something that happened — a sign of what was to come.

We say that people always think of, and are motivated by, sex or death. I’ve spent so much of every day, for over a decade running, thinking of the former. Virtually never reflect on the latter. I don’t worry about death or sickness. I know I’ll die someday, so it’s not a denial thing. It just seems like such a worthless thing to stress over, especially when I’m young and in good health. I’m more concerned with embracing a good life than I am with living a neverending one. Besides, you can perhaps live on a bit after death through friends, the people you affected, bodies of work left behind like one’s writing. 

Maybe we all work, treat people right, and have children, partially in hopes to keep living on in the brains of countless others — disseminating yourself throughout the globe via memories and shit. Selfish via selfless to create a legacy. Nobody wants to be forgotten. For no one to carry memories of you. That’d be real death. So even though Don is dead, and Rodney will spend forever behind bars, in a small way they’re nearly more alive now than ever before. Though I’d guess they’d rather just be breathing, free, and still unknown.

The only thing concerning death I’ve put much thought into is what I want done with my corpse. In Guatemala there’s a tradition of washing the deceased’s body then collecting that wash water to make soup served at the funeral. I could make people eat Nolan Funeral Soup. But I also think it’d be fun if my body was thrown into a swamp after my organs were harvested. Just me and my childhood teddy bear, Horsey. I got him during a time when neither sex nor death were a part of my life. Before porn and guns. I bring him everywhere though not sure why. So it’d be the two of us. Sunk and slimy. Fed to gators. Returned to the earth. Cycle the food chain. Nolan Swamp Soup.

In contemplating sex and death, I choose to believe I’m surrounded by more fucking than dying. Much more. Sex makes one feel vital. For death you usually have to wait, but sex can be here and now. Even though I don’t do it to procreate, it is the start of every new being. So maybe I really am scared of dying.

Sometimes I fuck to feel full of life. To infuse myself with anti-death. Dancing on that edge between new life and dead cum. Perhaps that means I’m just existing in limbo, like when people were out searching for Don’s body. Not knowing if he was alive or dead. Eventually they found him. Maybe one day they’ll find me in the swamp. Then exhume me. But not fucked back to life. Just shoveled out like some shitty pet.
Your  Guns, Dope, Porn, Etc. Narrator, GABFRAB:
Sam and I with a catfish we reeled in together.

P.S. Rodney was found guilty for the murder. He gets sentenced in a few weeks. Someone needs to take up his position as the primary terrorist of Manvel. If you’re interested, let me know. Or just comment in general below.

Cheers, folks. 

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