UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
J.A. TYLER

Guitar Western Poetry

Silver blue licked the body. And dim fluorescent flashes shivered up and down it. The dusty boots
lay crossed and still and restless, one over another atop a dirty canvas bag. Fingers picked. A
tune, subtle, echoed almost noiselessly.

Rain had trailed the pickup in. Now it was sheets outside, gusting, filling in the rattling dirt road.
A quick storm, fast moving clouds against dusty plains.

A man, scratchy graying stubble three days out, tipped an easy spoonful of sugar into a mottled
brown coffee mug. Stirred. Stared.

The picking went effortlessly into a song, biblical and haunting. The voice was like empty
shotgun barrels, steely and wounding. Nearly whispered to a corner of glass and cheap metal
paneling.

The song ended without ending, hung on for settling dust, chimed into echoes while the man
sipped the vaguely bitter coffee.

At home, a woman’s lower lip bled a thick, deep red underneath breathless calls.

Help. Help. Help. Help.

A couple eyed the stranger, knew him as nothing more than out of town, watched his fingers
work on the strings while his feet sat still, motionless. They heard him eerily sing of The Great
Flood that washed plains and all into a shadow of ocean, fish surviving where no family stood,
' trees underneath muddied water, roots drowning in too much life-blood. He ended without hope,
without words of condolence or chance or change or love. Sipped his coffee and returned a
throaty stare studded in thorns and dirt. Downcast faces failed to return the stranger’s eyes.

Her back was bruises, browning with time, churning above swells like unforgivable waves. She
was Eve, naming the hurt, calling out.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

He started up a new tune as the coffee bobbed past an unshaven Adam’s apple and crept into an
empty stomach full only of adrenaline. A sweeping wind brushed debris past the grimy diner
windows as the words came slowly from tobacco lips and purple tongue. A new song, spur of the
moment, lined with insults, insinuations, and the cold feel of a revolver.

The waitress leaned on a dingy countertop, pencil stabbed mercilessly behind her left ear, and
listened to the man’s song. She couldn’t place all of the words, they came out like air from a
busted seam, stringy and tight, whined so low and dull they were almost intangible. What was left
was a story of a bound woman, ropes tied, gagged, beaten beyond life. The waitress smelled hash
browns and day old baked goods and cradled a pot of burning coffee.

There was simply nothing left. Sores and cuts and bruises and fractures raised swollen calls all
over a pale white canvas, oozing someone else’s thoughts of jealousy and hate. She was a mass
of gurgling wounds, all atop the worst kind of thievery, no words available to dull the threats now
breeding on her skin. Branded with a farmer’s sign. Chattel. Owned. A mule with braided hair
and breasts.

There was no need to finish the song. He felt purged, relaxed, rejuvenated. He slung another drip
of coffee down his eager throat, dropped a dollar bill on the bubbled tabletop, and shuffled slowly
down the aisle. A canvas bag gripped tightly in a massive, rough hand. A guitar in the other. The
cloth dripped blood in sparse blotches down the white linoleum. No one looked but everyone saw
it. The man smiled, tipped his hat to a little girl staring from a counter barstool, and headed
through the now clearing weather to his rusty pickup.

Voided of a pulsing life, something not his, something from another ruthless man, she felt
absolutely empty. He’d put it in his canvas duffle bag and walked out. She wasn’t sure if he’d
come back. And she wasn’t sure how she’d live if he returned. She couldn’t take it back, what
she’d done, and when the secret was broken, a misplaced word in a nervous sentence, a voice
tinged with guilt, a twitch of eyes, there was no stopping him. Revolver handle, fervent knuckles,
a fifth of whiskey, and a wire hanger. It’d really taken him no time at all.


J.A. Tyler's work has been published in numerous journals including Sein und Werden, Arabesques,
Thieves Jargon, The Furnace Review, and AntiMuse and, along with other honors, his short fiction
recently received several Editorial Nominations for the 2007 StorySouth Million Writers Award.
Chapters from his first novella are available at Ragad, Blue Print Review, Cezanne's Carrot,
Artistry of Life, Sage of Consciousness, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k). Check out all the details
or subscribe to the reader's list online at www.aboutjatyler.com.







© 2007 Underground Voices