TO SMILE AT EVILDOERS

10/28/2020 6:13:11 PM
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A Native New Yorker, born in Harlem and raised in The Bronx. I spent a great deal of time visiting, living in and working in Virginia. As a result, many of my short stories are in the vein of Zora Neale Hurston, with extensive use of southern black dialect.
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“Okay, Sargent Duncan, holt still now,” said Casey Fairfax, with a smile, as he aimed the crossbow at the apple on top of Sargent Duncan’s head.

A lifelong bachelor, Casey was a fifty-three-year old light-skinned, black man with thinning blonde hair and green eyes. He had a large scar running diagonally on his forehead above his right eye. A couple of months earlier, Marlene Ferguson Raines, the daughter of the deceased, esteemed church Pastor, Malcolm Ferguson, had hired him to clean the late Pastor’s house, which she hoped to sell as soon as possible. 

While cleaning the house’s attic, he’d found a crossbow and several bolts, which he decided to keep and use for hunting rabbits and squirrels. As he was wiping off some of the dust from the crossbow, Casey saw an engraved inscription on it that read, “To Smile At Evildoers”. 

“Why would anyone wanna smile at evil people?” he wondered to himself. “Especially wif a crossbow.” He reasoned that whoever made the device had a wacky sense of humor or might’ve had mental problems. He put the crossbow and bolts in the box containing several other items he was taking and continued working.

Now, with his arms unsteadily gripping the crossbow, Casey looked down its sight at the apple. He’d purchased the beat-up mannequin, which he’d named after the arrogant, despicable Drill Sargent he’d had in the Marine Corps. for three dollars from Boots Morgan, a local Creston resident and renowned dumpster diver. Sargent Duncan sagged as it pulled down against the shoestring and rusty railroad spike with which it had been secured to the tree. 

Casey paused for a moment, placed the crossbow on the ground, removed his eyeglasses and wiped the lenses with his handkerchief. He lifted the crossbow once again and resumed aiming at the apple.

At this point, there were four projectiles protruding from the ground in front of and in the fence behind the tree. There was also one stuck in the plastic, right leg of the mannequin.  This had given Casey hope that his aim and ability to properly shoot the crossbow were both improving. When he was sure he had the apple properly lined up in the crossbow’s sight, he very slowly began to pull the trigger. It discharged. Unfortunately, the recoil from the crossbow lifted Casey’s arms just enough to send the bolt flying through the air and over Casey’s fence.  A few seconds later, he heard someone yell out in pain.

             “Oh, shit,” thought Casey. “Ah’d betta hide dis thang somewair.”

He removed the bolts from where they were stuck in the ground and fence, snatched down the mannequin, removed his gloves and, along with the crossbow, threw everything into his small, yellow shed. 

He lived in a secluded area of Bullton, a small residential subsection of Creston.  His house was located along a commercial railroad track which was used twice daily, once in the morning and again in the late evening. Separating Casey’s home from the railroad track was a narrow, dirt and gravel driveway that ended in a cul-de-sac a few yards from the house. The beige, wooden, bi-level home had a neatly manicured lawn. Casey’s battered, blue pick-up truck was parked in the small driveway.  The seven-foot high fence surrounding the yard had a dense growth of bushes and shrubs on the other side of it. The nearest house to Casey’s was over one hundred yards away and occupied by Thomas and Brenda Braxton and their three children, all of whom had gone to Maryland for the weekend.

After hiding the evidence of what he’d been doing, Casey went into his house picked up a stack of National Geographic magazines he’d found along with the crossbow, took a can of beer out of the refrigerator, walked back onto the porch, sat in his favorite cushioned, rocking chair, and pretended to read. As he smoked cigarettes and drank his beer, he occasionally looked up towards the end of the railroad track from where the yell had come. 

Casey was putting a magazine back on top of the stack, when he heard the sirens of the Creston Rescue Squad heading in the direction of The Dining Car restaurant. The Dining Car, located at the end point of the railroad track, was a former train depot that had been renovated and converted into a high-priced cafe. He went into the house for another beer and returned to the porch, where he nervously chain-smoked cigarettes. About an hour later, Casey saw Didney Martin walking along the railroad tracks.

“Hey, Didney!” Casey yelled. “What was all uvvat commotion about uppair?”

Didney stepped from between the tracks, walked down its slightly elevated embankment and strode to where Casey sat on the porch.  He put a foot up on the top porch step, leaned onto and rested his crossed arms on a porch railing.

“Man, somebody shot Julius Fangas in de hip wif some kinda arrow thang when he was goin’ inta de Dinin’ Car fo’ lunch,” Didney said with a broad grin. “Heard wunna dem white boys call it a bolt or sumfin.”

“A bolt. So dat’s why dey don’t look like reg’lar arrows,” Casey thought to himself.

Didney continued, “Ah bet dat summabitch felt like a lightnin’ bolt when it hit his ass.”

He and Casey laughed.

Neither man liked or had much respect for Julius Fingers who had moved to Creston several years ago from New York City, and opened a real estate firm, ZUME Realty on Main Street. He, however, had quickly developed a reputation for being deceitful in his real estate dealings. Moreover, many longtime Creston residents viewed him as an arrogant, conniving, sycophant. Fingers had also become complacent in his ability to cause hardship and misfortune to others, without having to pay any real consequences for his actions.

“Is he gon be okay?” asked Casey.

“Yeah,” replied Didney. “Dat uppity ass nigga gon be alright. Dey said it was really jus’ a flesh wound. But Ah bet if dat fuckin’ bolt, arrow or whatever de fuck it was had gon anuvver few inches inna nuvva direction when it hit ‘im, dat four-eyed fucka woulda been shittin’ outta two assholes.”

Both men laughed again.

Didney continued. “Well dey carted his good fo’ nuffin ass off ta Lennix County ta remove de thang. Bet dem hospital folks ain’t nevva seent nuffin like’at befo’.”

“You right ‘bout dat,” replied an agreeing Casey.

“Wish whoever shot de damn thang had aimed a little higher an’ caught dat bastard in his haid or his heart. Woulda been doin’ Creston an’ de world a big favor.”

“You ain’t lyin’,” said Casey.  “You wanna beer or sumfin?”

“Naw, thanks,” responded Didney. “Ah betta git ma black ass on back down de track befo’ Nessa comes lookin’ fo’ me.” Vanessa “Nessa” Martin was Didney’s wife. “Ah tole huh Ah was goin’ out fo’ a packa cig’rettes an’ Ah been gone almos’ two hours.”

“See ya later,” said Didney, as he began walking away from the porch.

“Okay, see ya,” replied Casey. 

As Casey watched Didney climb up the embankment toward the railroad track and continue his journey home, he breathed a sigh of relief that no one was seriously injured, or even worse, killed by his errant projectile.  Just as he finished that thought, from the corner of his eye, he saw a Sheriff’s Department cruiser coming down the narrow dirt road towards his house.  When it reached the house, it stopped and Deputy Greg Marshall opened the door and climbed out of the vehicle.

Like Casey, Marshall was a light-skinned, black man, who had been born and raised in Creston.  He’d joined the Sheriff’s Department after leaving the army.  Casey worked with Marshall’s brother, Harold, at the Fort Belvoir United States Army installation in a neighboring county. 

“Hey, dere, Casey,” said Greg. “Whatchu doin’ onnis beautiful Saturday afternoon.” He sat his six feet two-inch frame down on the top porch step, leaned against a column and removed his hat.

“Nuffin much, Greg,” replied Casey. “Tryin’ ta decide if Ah wanna go over ma sista, Rachel’s house or to de movies.”  He stared down at his shoes.

“If you do, tell her Ah said, ‘hello’ an’ tell her crazy husband we need ta go fishin’ agin, befo’ it gits too cold.”

“What brangs you out dis way, Greg?” asked Casey. He smiled nervously.

“Not sure if you heard ‘bout what happened ova at de Dinin’ Car, didja?”

“Yeah, Didney Martin was tellin’ me sumfin ‘bout somebody shootin’ arrows or sumfin.” Casey was doing his best to feign ignorance and innocence.

“You ain’t seen nobody shootin’ arrows out dis way, have you?” asked Greg.

Casey laughed. “No, cain’t say Ah have. But Ah been in de house doin’ some chores, so sumfin coulda happened while Ah was inside.”

Greg shook his head and laughed. “Dis cain be a crazy town sometimes an’ Julius Fangas got a hole in his ass ta prove it.”

Casey laughed nervously and said, “Coulda been somebody who he cheated on wunna dem real estate deals.”

“Ah thoughta ‘bout dat,” replied Greg. “An’ from what Ah’ve heard dere’s a buncha people innat pile o’ folks. Dat’s somethin’ Ah’ll look inta.”

“If Ah see or hear anythang, Ah’ll give you a call,” said Casey.

“Ah’d appreciate dat,” answered Greg. “Shit insteada arrestin’ whoever did it, Ah might jus’ shake dere hand an’ pin a medal on ‘em afta all de shit Ah been hearin’ ‘bout Julius Fangas an’ his shenanigans.

Casey smiled.

“Gonna take a ride over ta de Braxtons ta see if dey saw or heard anythang,” said Greg, as he rose from the porch step and stretched his arms and legs.

 “Dey went away fo’ de weeken’” said Casey. “Mer’land, Ah thank.”

“Izzat right?” said Greg. “Thanks fo’ savin’ me a trip. See ya later.” Greg walked back towards his cruiser.

As Greg drove away, he waved. Casey returned the wave, while trying to hide his trembling hand.

Over the next several days, Casey listened for any updates on the Julius Fingers situation. The following Thursday, there was a small article about it in Creston’s weekly newspaper, The Lennix County Times, but eventually people stopped talking about the incident and the hubbub surrounding it died down. 

Soon enough, Casey gave in to the temptation to use the crossbow; he felt he just needed more practice to avoid accidentally shooting someone again.  He decided to shoot the crossbow away from his house and outside of Bulltown. 

Casey was trying to think of the perfect place to shoot his crossbow without being seen and, most importantly, without accidentally hitting anyone with a bolt.  Suddenly, he thought about Mattaponi, a large, heavily wooded area. A large Native American population once resided in this part of Virginia, and had remained there even after European settlers had moved in nearby. For the most part, the Native Americans and the settlers got along well, with each respecting the others’ territories. Eventually, however, all of the Native Americans moved further out west. Mattaponi was where he and the Marshall brothers had gone hunting on previous occasions.  As it wasn’t yet hunting season, he should have all of the privacy he needed and wanted.

A week later, Casey removed the crossbow and other items from the shed and put them on the back of his pick-up truck.  When he arrived at his destination, he unloaded the truck and then camouflaged it with some bushes, fallen leaves and broken tree branches.  After tying the mannequin to a tree with some old, frayed rope, Casey stepped back a few feet from it, lifted the crossbow and took aim. The bolt struck the mannequin in its right thigh.  He reloaded the crossbow, took aim and fired again.  This time the bolt hit the mannequin in its left hand, slightly above the knuckles.

“Okay,” Casey thought to himself. “Ah gotta breeve in an’ out when Ah fire dis thang jus’ like when Ah shoot ma shotgun.”

He did as he instructed himself and this time the bolt struck the mannequin in the midsection.  Casey smiled broadly.  “Too bad ain’t nobody ‘round ta see dat, but me an’ you, Sargent Duncan,” he thought to himself and laughed.

He decided to shoot one more before packing up all of the things and heading home.  After all, he reasoned that he’d have plenty of opportunities to practice some more before trying his hand at rabbit and squirrel hunting with the crossbow.  Additionally, much to his delight, he’d discovered that most of the bolts were undamaged and, hence, reusable.

As Casey was getting the mannequin properly sighted, the crossbow fired sending a bolt on an angle up through the treetops. “Damn!” said Casey. “Not again! Shit!” 

He began to examine the crossbow to see what might have caused it to misfire.  It was then that he read its inscription again.  Only this time, as he was not standing in the weak lighting of Pastor Ferguson’s attic and he was wearing his eyeglasses, which he’d removed while clearing shelves, he saw that he had misread it the first time and the words were, “To Smite All Evildoers” 

“Smite?” said Casey aloud to himself. “Ah wonda what in de hell dat means. Who in de hell is Smite? Casey laughed and thought to himself, “Maybe dat guy Smite is de one who made de crossbow.”

After reloading the crossbow, he took aim at the mannequin and pressed the trigger. Nothing happened.  Casey tried again. Nothing happened.  He tried to remove the bolt, but it wouldn’t budge. “Now dis damn thang is stuck,” he thought. After several more unsuccessful attempts at both firing the bolt and removing it from the crossbow when it wouldn’t fire, Casey decided to pack up all of the gear and head back to Bullton. “Ah’d betta git rid of dis damn thang befo’ Ah hurt somebody or end up hurtin’ maself.”

On his way home from his hapless target practice, Casey decided to stop at the Safeway supermarket.  As he pulled into the parking lot, he saw his niece, Helena; she was the daughter of Casey’s oldest sister, Lillian.  Remembering that Helena was a teacher at Creston Junior High School, Casey had an epiphany. “Ah bet she’ll know what dat word, ‘smite’ means.” He called out to her.

“Hey, Lena!” shouted Casey across the parking lot.

Twenty-four-year old Helena, who taught mathematics, looked in Casey’s direction and then walked towards him.

“Hi, Uncle Casey.” She gave her uncle a hug.

“Hey dere. How’s evrathang?”

“As well as can be. Tryin’ ta get ready for the start of a new school year. The first day is next week. Durn hardheaded brats.” She and Casey laughed.

“You’ll be okay. You smart like me an’ yo’ mama’s side o’ de fam’ly,” said Casey. “How’s yo’ mama? Ah need ta git ova dere an’ see huh befo’ she disowns me.”

“She’s fine. Waitin’ on you to come over for Sunday dinner like you’ve been promisin’ forever.”

“Ah’ma git ova dere soon. Maybe nex’ Sunday,” replied Casey.

“Alright. I’m goin’ to hold you to that,” responded Helena.

“Anyway,” said Casey. “Seein’ as how you all college edjacated an’ evrathang, Ah was wondrin’ if you could help me out wif sumfin.”

“Sure. What do you need to do?”

“It ain’t so much as doin’ anythang, Ah jus’ needta know what a word means, is all.”

“What word?”

“De word, ‘smite’.”

“Yeah, I think it means it means to hurt or kill somebody, if I’m not mistaken. Why? You ain’t plannin’ on smiting anybody are ya, Uncle Casey?” said Helena, emphasizing the word ‘smite’. She laughed.

Casey laughed. “Naw, baby gurl. Ah jus’ heard it in wunna dem ole, black and white pitchas Ah’m always watchin’ on .t.v. an’ was curious. Dat’s all.”

“Good.”

“Well, Ah ain’t gon hol’ you up. But tell yo’ mama Ah’ll be ova on Sunday.”

“Alright, Uncle Casey,” said Helena. “But if you don’t show, me an’ mama are goin’ to come git you.”

Helena gave Casey another hug and then walked towards her car.

A few days following the second accidental discharge of the crossbow, Casey was waiting to get a haircut in the Bennett Brothers Barbershop on Third Street, one of several narrow sidestreets off of Creston’s Main Street, when he overheard the following conversation.

“Man, damn if somebody ain’t got it in fo’ Julius Fangas,” said Donald Gaines.

“What happened ta dat sorry ass bastard now?” asked James Bennett, the older of the two Bennett brothers.

“He was out surveyin’ some property jus’ outside o’ Creston when anuvver one of dem arrow thangs was shot inta his shoulda.”

James laughed and asked. “Too bad it didn’t kill his dishonest ass.”

“Ah know,” responded Donald, “He’d steal de stink offa shit.”

Three other barbershop patrons laughed, while Casey remained silent and listened.

Donald continued. “It gave ‘im a nasty ass gash in his shoulder. Ah guess it mighta ruined wunna dem suits he’s always wearin’ like he’s de fuckin’ Pres’dent or sumfin.”

Finally, Terry Jones spoke. “Are dey any closer ta findin’ out who’s doin’ it?”

“Not from what Ah hear from Greg an’ dem uvver boys downnat de Sher’ff’s Department.”

“Good,” replied Terry. “Ah hope dey nevva fine out.”

Soon enough the conversation turned to sports and the nearby Washington Redskins professional football team’s chances in the upcoming season. 

After getting his haircut, Casey drove home and sat in his truck trying to decide what he should do about the crossbow.  Later that night, he took the crossbow, remaining bolts, mannequin and gloves down to the Creston landfill and threw the items over the back end of the landfill’s fence.

The following day, twenty-two-year old Warren Newman was directing trucks to the appropriate places in the landfill where they needed to take their garbage.  There were separate sections of the landfill for the different types of garbage brought by commercial and residential users of the landfill. An unhappy Warren was thinking there were almost as many things he’d rather be doing as there were nasty, annoying seagulls flying around the landfill.

“Wish Ah hadda joint ta help me git through this day,” he thought to himself.  

When Warren reached the backend of the landfill, he saw a strange object and what appeared to be a man lying on top of a pile of debris.  A curious Warren walked over to where the man was.  When he got closer, however, he saw that it wasn’t a man, but a mannequin. Warren laughed out loud.  He also saw that the mannequin had holes in its torso, legs and left hand. Not far away from the mannequin was the object. He carefully picked it up with his gloved hands and realized that it was a crossbow. Warren examined it, aimed and tried to shoot a seagull with it.  Fortunately, for the seagull, the bolt didn’t fire. He banged the crossbow against the palm of his hand and his knee in an effort to dislodge the bolt from where it was stuck; it didn’t budge.  He pulled the trigger several more times to no avail.  Finally, he gave up and tossed it on to a pile of garbage and said, “Stupid piece o’ junk!”

As he walked away, a seagull landed on the crossbow and the bolt was sent flying into the air.  Moments later, the bird took flight as a Creston Department of Sanitation truck unloaded its smelly, heavy, cargo on top of the crossbow, bolts, gloves and mannequin, completely covering them.

 Meanwhile, not far away, Julius Fingers stood under an apple tree in the backyard of a house on Gibson Street.  The house once belonged to a local church Pastor, who was now deceased, and his daughter had engaged ZUME Realty to sell it for her.  Fingers was calculating how much he stood to make on the deal if he could manipulate the sales numbers and cheat the silly, airheaded daughter in some way. Her easygoing personality had allowed the daughter to be taken in by the pretentious congeniality of his two assistants.

“Yessiree, Bob, Mrs. Ferguson Raines was ripe for the pickin’,” Fingers thought to himself and laughed.

Fingers was shaken from his monetary ruminations by the soreness in his right buttock and shoulder.  They were painful reminders of how much he despised Creston and its residents.  He rued the day when five years ago he was forced to leave New York City for this town. Fingers felt a jolt of pain in his shoulder and dry swallowed the two aspirin he’d removed from his shirt pocket. As he by deliberate design had little or no contact with the majority of Creston’s residents, most especially its black population.  The only reason he had ended up in what he called this “despicable place” was that relatives on his father’s side lived there. In any event, regardless of familial ties, he avoided contact with them unless it was absolutely necessary.  In most instances, that “absolutely necessary” was something that benefitted him either directly or indirectly.

Fingers leaned against the apple tree with his good shoulder; sitting on anything uncushioned was still not an option at this point. He had just finished showing the house to Ben and Kim Moore, a young black couple from New Jersey, who had taken jobs with the federal government in Washington, D.C. Creston’s close proximity to the nation’s capital - - it was about forty miles from it - - made it an ideal place to live for those who worked in the D.C. and the surrounding area. 

The Moores, who had been referred to Fingers by Langer, whom they’d met at an N.A.A.C.P. conference in North Carolina, were now on the way back to their hotel.  While standing under the apple tree, Fingers got a slight whiff of the terrible smell coming from the landfill. He was glad the Moores hadn’t spent too much time outside the house or they might’ve smelled it, as well. He decided that he wouldn’t tell them about how near the house was to the landfill until all of the documents relating to the sale of the house had been signed, sealed and delivered. “Ain’t that right, Stevie Wonder?” Fingers thought to himself and laughed.

Fingers smiled as he looked up to watch a bright red cardinal perched on a tree branch.  Seemingly out of nowhere a bolt struck him in his forehead, penetrated his skull and travelled through his brain before exiting out the back of his head, pinning it to the apple tree; his eyeglasses fell onto the ground and he defecated on himself.  The impact of his body shook an apple free from the tree. It fell and landed on top of Fingers’ head where it remained. 

A week later, the Lennix County Times contained the following article:

 

Man Killed By Arrow

By David Tibbs

Creston

 

The Creston Sheriff’s Department is looking for the person or persons responsible for the death of 59-year-old Julius Fingers.

According to Sheriff’s Department spokesman Vincent Thomas, Fingers, President of ZUME Realty, was found dead last Wednesday evening after having been shot with what appeared to be an arrow.

Fingers’ body was discovered by his two female assistants when, after several hours, he failed to return to his office after showing a house on Gibson Street to two prospective buyers.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is urged to contact the Creston Sheriff’s Department at (703) 555-1681.  All calls will be kept strictly confidential.

 

There was a photograph of Julius Fingers accompanying the newspaper article. Many Creston residents looked at the picture and smiled.

 

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