by Lauren Dennis
“Hey Murphy! Murphy! Murphy! Murphy?” This is not a place you want to go. It’s a rat trap hippy den. A helluva place. Frozen in time between now and then, this place stinks.
You go back through the overgrown weeds, past the chain link fence reclaimed by them. You undo the frayed bungee cord holding the gate together and call again. “Jerry!” You know no one ever calls him that. It makes you laugh. “Murphy—c’mon. It’s me.”
You don’t like this kind of silence. The usual rock music eking out of the pores of the tiny trailer, missing. “Murph—c’mon man, you’re freaking me out.” You called the house phone twice last night. You know he’ll give you hell if you knock. You saw what he did to that poor sap selling the Rocky Mountain News last year. It was funny at first, the fatigues quickly pulled on, the bandanna slick with sweat, the war cries Murphy yelped as you bottled your laughter, spilling a little of the Beam on his blanket.
When you looked for a towel, he pulled out the gun. It was his from Vietnam days, and he always got that look, the unerasable rage when he held it. You were over there with him. You saw the delicate blue dress, torn, stained with her blood. She was only a child. A civilian. An innocent. After that, you tried heroin. Murphy took the needle out and tucked you in until you got home to your lady. She tucked you in for eight months when you got back. She told you it was you or the drugs, then she left you. Murphy took you to rehab. You kicked him in the balls when he picked you up after treatment. “You dick,” you told him. That was Murph, always helping others, not bothering with himself.
“Shit.” You pricked yourself on one of those spiky weeds. You push through the gate. “Murphy!” Now you’re knocking on the thin metal door. Who cares if he pulls that gun on you. You’re knocking on the fucking door. No answer. You pinch the metal between your fingers and turn. It opens. The sickening smell hits you before your other senses have time to catch up. You swallow fast. You gag. Now your eyes trace the smell. His body laid out on the floor. His gun, an inch from his outstretched hand.
“Murph,” you call again. “Murph.” You saw him two days ago. He told you you were the only one who got him. He also threw an empty at your head right after and told you your presence was “depressing as the goddamn war”. So there was that. And this was him. And you were you, only less now that he was gone.
◊ ◊ ◊
Lauren Dennis is a mother of two, violently fighting against the confinement that may or may not come with that title. She writes because she has to, and has not been published previously. She has received formal critique and feedback from the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado, where she resides.