To Lie Down In Green Pastures

by | December 2020 B (Day 2)

“Hurry Simon, your parents found the book,” Alfonzo hissed. Simon paused, leaving Spiderman in his hand hanging in midair above a battered Wolverine. 

 “Are you sure, Alfonzo?”

Alfonzo says nothing. 

 Simon dropped Spiderman to the floor and reached to his neck where he had worn Alfonzo ever since Simon’s sixth-grade class trip to the Natural History Museum. Simon had become entranced by a cheap necklace bearing a spotted cow ornament. The cow figure reminded Simon of the sweetly dumb cows he had grown up around and the Sumerian god statue featured in the Museum’s Mythology of the Fertile Crescent exhibit. Half bull and half man. A god that nobody would mess with. Later that day, on the bus trip home, Simon named his new friend Alfonzo, pleased by the last syllable’s sound; zo. Simon’s classmates had little respect for the phonetics, no respect for Sumerian deity’s badass attitude, and even less than none for what they saw as Simon clinging to baby stuff. Alfonzo helped Simon convince them. Alfonzo had shown Simon how to fight back. After Simon had broken the shin of the mocking seventh-grade bully with one kick, nobody dared to even squeak an unkind word in Simon’s direction.       

 

“Simon, did you hear me? Put your toys away; they found the book you hid under the couch.”

 

“Yes, I heard you, Alfonzo. What should I do?” Simon could hear the creaking of the stairs leading up from the basement. He pushed Spiderman and Wolverine under the bed and stood up in his bedroom, grasping Alfonzo tight. “Simon?” came his mother’s timid voice from the other side of the bedroom door. “Yes, mother?” Simon’s mother slowly opened the door. She gazed at Simon with a moon-eyed expression. Over her shoulder stood Simon’s father, his mouth drawn into a lipless frown. His father moved closer to Simon and spoke. “We’d like to talk to you downstairs, Simon.” 

 

Simon and his parents sat in the basement on an ugly multi-colored rug. Simon’s parents bought the hideous thing to cover the basement floor’s bare concrete after a flash storm had caused a flood of Biblical proportions at a construction site at the hill above their home. The soft carpet Simon loved to feel under his bare feet had been drowned like the Egyptians in the Red Sea. He missed going barefoot ever since they had moved away from the cow farm into this city house. God’s plan, his father said. Simon’s parents had been awarded a settlement from a civil suit against the construction, and his father had used the money to buy a hot tub instead of replacing the carpet. God provides everything we need, his father said. 

 

“We found this under the couch, and it’s disgusting,” Simon’s father declared, shaking his head. “How do you explain this?” Simon turned his gaze to his father’s meaty fist holding a paperback copy of “Aliens vs. Predator,” a Dell Sci-Fi Original high above Simon’s head. 

 “Where did you get this, Simon? Tell us it’s not yours,” his mother pleaded. 

 

“Deny it, Simon. You don’t know what that is.” Alfonzo seemed to move in Simon’s hand.

 

“I don’t know what that is. Whatever it is, it’s not mine,” Simon intoned. 

 

“That’s right. You tell the bastard.” Simon squeezed Alfonzo, feeling the heat in his fist.  

 

“You don’t know what it is?” Simon’s father moved closer to Simon, opening the book to a random page. “Maybe if I read some of it, that will refresh your memory.” 

 

Simon looked at his mother. Her eyes looked past him at a pile of his father’s un-ironed shirts laying on the ping-pong table on the opposite side of the basement. 

 

Simon’s father cleared his throat. “Lieutenant Philips, the doc says the creature that attacked Marco has a prehensile penis. That’s probably the same monster that laid those eggs we brought inside the command center…” 

Simon’s father stopped reading. “This is not the type of thing you should be reading. It’s satanic. You’re inviting the devil inside you by reading this garbage.”

 

“But you told me I could check out any book at the library. You said I was an advanced reader,” Simon protested.

 

“Ah-hah!” Simon’s father exclaimed, throwing the book down. “So that is your book.”

 

“No, Simon, no, why did you say that? Stupid. Stupid.” Alfonzo screamed inside Simon’s head.

 

“You lied to me. You lied to us.” Simon’s father stood, his hand on Simon’s shirt collar quicker than Simon could recall the most sacred rule of all God’s rules: No lying.

 

“Kick him, Simon, smash his balls,” Alfonzo roared.

 

Simon dangled futilely from his father’s fists, legs flailing, as his father tossed Simon onto the ping-pong table. Simon landed with a crack. His parents had set aside some settlement money to buy the table as a gift for Simon. After all, they aren’t monsters. 

7 Comments

  1. Jack O'Connell

    I lolled at “Maybe if I read some of it, that will refresh your memory.” Keep the parents talking to the kid, stretch out the interrogation, I think you will find a lot more humor. Alfonzo felt like something from the Exorcist or the Shining. But he seems like a slightly simple agent of destruction. He just wants Simon to kick ppl in the balls. What does Alfonzo like, want, need, love? Is he trying to recreate the conditions for a ritual sacrifice or something? Does he want to resurrect himself by sacrificing Simon’s parents? What part of Simon is he giving voice to beyond anger?

  2. Saxon Baird

    Wow, heavy ending, Silas. Nice dark turn. I expected a punishment but not so violent. I also love this Alfonzo character…very Calvin and Hobbes-ish, but maybe playing with the trope of an imaginary friend that is actually a devil on your shoulder. I love that its a cow necklace. Hilarious.

    I wonder what the piece would be like if we got into it a little quicker and maybe cut some of the details, even about Alfonzo. Maybe the piece doesn’t even really explain much about Alfonzo: “Hurry Simon, your parents found the book,” said Alfonzo, the cow-necklace hanging from his neck.

    It’s not a like-or-like comparison, but I’m thinking of Joy Williams’ story The Yard Boy where there’s a plant that doesn’t say anything but broods with a personality over the main character. It’s never explained, it just is. We roll with it.

    My only other comment is wondering how it’d look if Simon does actually try and kick his father in the balls. Only because he listens to Alfonzo with everything else. And then it further plays with the idea of “a devil on your shoulder…” idea it hinting at.

    And maybe its too conclusive, but I kind of wanted Simon to do something with the necklace after. Perhaps there’s some room for more interaction between the necklace and Simon either before or after the punishment.

  3. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Great action and movement and character. I definitely thought it was going to be pornography instead of AvP, which makes it that much better. I love the tension of living in such a strict household. With the ending violence, which is really well told (with a great final sentence), I want to see a bit more of what happened after he broke that kid’s shin. If his parents are this angry over a book, how did they handle school suspension or worse? I’d like to see more of this fear of parents vs. rebellion through sci-fi and violence. Great pacing and dialogue throughout. This feels like a chapter from a novel.

  4. Traci Mullins

    Silas, I think there is more than one story here, and I have a wild idea: make this a micro:

    Simon dropped Spiderman to the floor and reached to his neck where he had worn Alfonzo ever since Simon’s sixth-grade class trip to the Natural History Museum. Simon had become entranced by a cheap necklace bearing a spotted cow ornament. The cow figure reminded Simon of the sweetly dumb cows he had grown up around and the Sumerian god statue featured in the Museum’s Mythology of the Fertile Crescent exhibit. Half bull and half man. A god that nobody would mess with. Later that day, on the bus trip home, Simon named his new friend Alfonzo, pleased by the last syllable’s sound; zo. Simon’s classmates had little respect for the phonetics, no respect for Sumerian deity’s badass attitude, and even less than none for what they saw as Simon clinging to baby stuff. Alfonzo helped Simon convince them. Alfonzo had shown Simon how to fight back. After Simon had broken the shin of the mocking seventh-grade bully with one kick, nobody dared to even squeak an unkind word in Simon’s direction.

    I actually thought the story was over after I read this paragraph until I scrolled down and saw that there was more. I felt like the last sentence above nailed it! I absolutely love that the necklace is a character of its own and inspired Simon to become what he needed to be in the face of a bully. Just a thought!

  5. Bud Smith

    Silas,
    Nice. This ending really hits HARD. I felt this. I like when stories focus on imaginary fiends because it seems in life that we are all moving along alone and when we have an experience with art it is like we are having an experience with a part of ourselves that is supposed to be invisible and often it is. In this story, the imaginary friend tires to help out the boy but it just doesn’t work out. This part of the story was the nerve center for me:

    ” “But you told me I could check out any book at the library. You said I was an advanced reader,” Simon protested.

    “Ah-hah!” Simon’s father exclaimed, throwing the book down. “So that is your book.”

    “No, Simon, no, why did you say that? Stupid. Stupid.” Alfonzo screamed inside Simon’s head.”

    very well done. If I had any critiques at all it would just be that I think only using ‘said’ for the dialogue would go a far distance. We don’t need to protest or explain because that is just speaking … saying … though I did like when Alfonzo screamed inside the head. Some people would have used an exclamation mark but you did it with ‘screamed’ and I like that a lot better stylistically

    maybe something a little more like this:

    “You said I was an advanced reader,” Simon said. “And I could check out any book at the library.”

    “Ah-hah!” Simon’s father threw the book down. “So that is yours.”

    “No, Simon, no, why did you say that?” Alfonzo screamed inside Simon’s head. “Stupid. Stupid.”

    • Bud Smith

      I think if you just look at the dialogue like that, how to condense and compress and how to use action to indicate speaker and how to create pauses in speech where you want by having it indicated by action (never a sigh or looking out the window) it’d go a long way to smartening up the prose here. I hope that’s fun and not a bummer to hear, I’ve been studying that stuff myself and trying to figure out how to write better dialogue — it’s taken me a lot of practice and a lot of reading and marking up how other writers do it.

      Your storytelling is really sharp and pulls me in. Thank you for this!

  6. Bill Merklee

    This was a lot of fun. But I think it’s the start of something larger. The idea of an ancient Sumerian deity advising the young son of fundamentalist Christian parents is just too delicious. And after this latest incident, I suspect some revenge is brewing. Well done.

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