Dead Bob

First published in Book of Matches, Issue 1, 2021. Copyright 2021 by Tetman Callis.

            Dead Bob slept behind windows covered over with aluminum foil. The flies could not get to him there. They were not why he covered his windows with foil.


            The screens over the windows of Miss Gay Alabama’s home fit snugly but one, loose in one spot, one corner, you wouldn’t have noticed, it curved up a smidgen away from the window frame. Miss Gay Alabama slept soundly. She awoke to find herself spotted with itchy bumps, each with a tiny red hole in its top center.

            Damn. What happened to me?

            She found a blood-sucking fly on the window screen. Engorged, too big now to squeeze to safety.

            Bitch. That’s my blood.


            Renee of the Red Army readied for work. Hard sausage and saltines in the shoulder bag. High heels and tight skirt for better tips from the old men.

            She never went anywhere without food.

            She’d go home with an old man for an extra tip.

            She went home with Dead Bob once.


            Summer was the rainy season. Thunderstorms bulking up over afternoons, spilling their guts on the city come evenings. Rain was a blessing in the desert. Twice as much rain was not.

            It was a good year for flies.


            Fiona was a Scot. She painted abstracts on canvas twice her height. Curl-edged paintings, unstretched and unframed, shades of cream and khaki, tan and brown and red. No blacks.

            No one understood her paintings.

            No one understood Fiona. When she spoke—except for Miss Gay Alabama, she could sometimes make it out.

            You guys. Just pay attention. It’s not Gaelic.


            The flies didn’t get into the restaurant. The windows didn’t open and there were bug lights over every door.


            Fiona was the second-string hostess. She arranged menus at her station. Miss Gay Alabama arrived.

            You covering for Terri tonight?

            Fiona nodded and said something.

            Probably. He’s off tonight, too. I swear, I don’t know what those two see in each other.

            Fiona said something.

            Oh, girl, you sure called that one square on the dollar. A quart of ice cream a day and he’s hers for life. Did you know he made out with me in my car?

            Fiona looked surprised and said something.

            That’s right. I had a little bud to sell and there we were, smoking and sealing the deal. It wasn’t too long before we were all kissy-kissy.

            Fiona said something.

            Oh, I knew he would. I’ve been waiting for him. He’s kind of cute. Repressed six ways from Sunday. But I could see it coming.

            Fiona said something.

            I have no idea. You would think she could. She has two eyes and they both seem to work.


            Renee of the Red Army sat at the bar. She sliced small pieces of hard sausage and ate them with saltines. Dead Bob was sure to come in. He always came in. Kneipenhocker. What her father would have called him.

            That was a long time ago.

            Herr Kneipenhocker, wie geht’s? Hat du durst?


            Zzz-zt. Zap.


            Dead Bob checked the I-saw-yous every Sunday morning. He was never seen. And what would a seer see if seeing Dead Bob? Heavy-lidded light green eyes, always half-closed. Dimples so deep and old they were ruts. Mouthful of rotting teeth.

            If sales of souls were still made to devils—but those days were over.

            How else to explain Dead Bob?

            He had the most beautiful singing voice. Rich, full baritone. Put Sinatra to shame.

            But those teeth. And those eyes.

            And then there was the smell.

            Dead Bob.


            There would be rain again tonight. Three nights previous it had rained enough to flood the outdoor patio, force the door to the restaurant to stay shut. But no one had been dining on the patio. The flies saw to that.


            No one ever saw Renee eat all of her sausage and saltines. She always re-wrapped the uneaten length and crackers and returned them to her shoulder bag. She never offered any to anyone, either.

            Miss Gay Alabama sat at the bar.

            Mizz Red Army, you never offer anyone any of your sausage and saltines. Why is that?

            Oh, I’m sorry. Are you hungry? Here.

            No, that’s all right. I’m not hungry. I’m just curious. You always have them, too, your sausage and saltines. Why is that?

            The war.

            Was that when you married the Red Army?

            Not the whole army. Just one of them. It was the best thing to do.


            Terri of Rusty and Terri thought she was pregnant. She told everyone at the restaurant, I’m pregnant. I think I’m pregnant.

            Miss Gay Alabama said, Girl, that’s wonderful. Rusty, don’t you think that’s wonderful?

            Oh, yeah. Sure. We’ll have our own little rug-rat.

            Renee of the Red Army said, Terri, did you get a test?

            Not yet. But I’m going to.

            Fiona said something. No one could make out what it was.


            No one knew why Dead Bob kept his windows covered in foil. Renee asked him, the one time she went home with him, Robert, why do you do that?

            Dead Bob didn’t say.


            In came The Amazing Electric Max. He bellied up to the bar.

            I make a thousand dollars a day, free and clear. Give me a drink.

            Renee stood behind the bar.

            That kind of money, Max, you can afford to buy one. And don’t forget to leave a tip.

            Show me some leg.

            Renee of the Red Army hitched up her skirt.

            The sky outside darkened. Max bought a drink and he drank it. He bought more drinks and he drank them, too. He ordered a steak from the restaurant menu.

            Rare. I want to see blood.

            Fiona came in and was concerned. The Amazing Electric Max squinted at her.

            I can never understand what that Cockney is saying.

            Fiona said something. Miss Gay Alabama made out, “cock-splatting pig-sticker,” and was glad of Max’s opacity and Fiona’s accent, both.

            Fiona was still concerned and said something else. Miss Gay Alabama followed her to the door.

            Well, I’ll be. I’ve never seen such.

            Not far from the restaurant, three funnel clouds spun slowly around each other and made their way north. Fiona said something.

            No, I don’t think so. They’re headed up the valley. We’ll be okay. Fine and dandy.


            It was almost dark when Rusty came in.

            You guys! You would not believe what happened!

            Miss Gay Alabama demurred. Oh, honey, you know we would. We believe every little thing you say.

            Max took a napkin and wiped the blood from his lips. So tell us what it is that we’re not going to believe.

            The baby slid out.


            The baby. It just slid right out.

            What on earth are you talking about?

            Terri went to the doctor for a checkup. He did a DMC and said that somehow the baby had just slid out. Terri didn’t even know. The doctor said all that was left was the placenta. So he took that out, too.

            Renee lowered her voice and turned to Fiona.

            He is such a fucking fool.

            Fiona nodded and said “witless twit,” then asked Rusty a question.

            I’m sorry, Fiona, I never understand. Bammy, you can always tell—what did she say?

            Miss Thing, she asked if Terri’s all right.

            Oh, she’s fine. She’s at home. A big gust of wind came up and blew one of the barn doors down. She’s fixing it up.

            Max belched. Renee, I need another drink.

            I’ll bet you do.


            Zzz-zt. Zap.


            Lightning flashed and rain beat against the restaurant’s big windows. The Amazing Electric Max lolled in his chair. Blood from his third steak dribbled down his chin. His drink sloshed in the glass he waved at Dead Bob.

            Robert! Give us a song! Our favorite! You know the one! I’d sing it myself, but I’ve had too much steak!

            Dead Bob smiled, showing his rotting teeth. He had a beautiful voice. Lightning struck the power transmitter on the pole behind the restaurant. The lights went out. Bob sang, thunder obliterating the opening verse.