X Marks the Spot

2년 전

My entry for @bananafish's Finish the Story Contest. This isn't like last week - it's not a happy ending at all!


Image by Burak K.


by @dirge

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?" Mike asked. He glanced over his shoulder, ensuring that Derek was still in the bathroom. "I mean. He's your uncle. That doesn't bother you?"

"You don't know him like I do.” Terry sipped his beer. Budweiser, working class. He snubbed his cigarette out and lit another. “He deserves it.”

“That’s not up for question.” Mike shrugged. “What I mean is, it’s heavy, is all. Taking life. It’s not a simple thing. You don’t know. Cause you’ve never done it. So don’t be doing this deal just because Derek wants you to.”

“Don’t question me.” Terry eyed Mike, his face tensing up, his pupils dilated. Guys on meth, Mike noted.

Derek returned from the bathroom, cigarette dangling from his grinning mouth. He stretched his arms out to Mike and Terry, the gristle on his chin showing. “Boys,” he said. “Let’s get over this plan a final time, then, eh fuckers?”

Derek walked over to his bar and brought back three more beers. The empty bar, Jerry’s, had been his fathers, who, incidentally, was also not named Jerry. “Terry, what are you going to do?”

Terry sipped his beer and began. “I’m going to come along on his fishing trip that he takes every Sunday. I’ll communicate it to him in person. I’ll tag along up to his favorite fishing trip at Red Top State Park. I’ll get him nice and drunk so I drive back.”

Derek turned to Mike. “And you?”

“I’ll be ready and waiting at the gas station of the 4-1-1. I put a gun to their head and demand cash. Terry says there’s cash back at his Uncle John’s place, not far off. And, if he’s right, there is, buried in the backyard. The house is off the main road, far from neighbors, so it’ll just be the two of us."

“And I’ll be following y’all there.” Derek nodded. “We get the cash, kill the old man and make it all look like an accident.” Derek leaned in close to them. Mike could smell the cheap bourbon and cigarettes on his breath. “Now, not one of you is going to fuck this up, because I’m not going back to prison. So I’m going to make this crystal-fucking-clear for y’all. You do it all like I say. Exactly like I say, and there’s no trouble. Understand? No trouble aside from you having the problem of which hooker you want stick your Mr. Franklin into for the evenin’, undestand?”

Derek extended his hand to Mike. Mike shook it, looking him firm in the eyes. This was Derek’s ritual before a job. He’d seen it all before.

Terry was next. He took Derek’s hand. But Derek didn’t let go.

“You lying to me about your Uncle Jon burying his loot in the back yard? About what he did to you? You lying to me now, boy?”

Terry stared Derek in the eyes. “I’m not. So promise me that I get to be the one to do it.”


My ending

Mike knew there was something off as soon as he’d put the gun to Jon’s head. Two red-rimmed eyes had swiveled to meet his and sparked to life. The motherfucker was excited.

Now they were in the dark, Terry and Jon three feet into the dirt and still digging.

“How far down you bury this shit?”

“Not much more, I swear,” said Terry, widening his eyes like a schoolboy. His uncle chuckled.

“Keep wedging your nose into his crack, boy,” he muttered. “You lousy, no-account druggie.”

“He means business, Uncle Jon! You wanna die?” Terry was still clinging to his frightened victim role. He was too high to realize Jon hadn’t bought the act for a second.

Something pale landed with the next shovelful of dirt. Mike kept the gun trained on him and poked at it with his boot. A bone he was pretty sure was human. This was the third one. He grimaced at Jon.

“Don’t look at me, that’s a boy’s tibia. It’s Terry who wants the young ones. I like ‘em older,” Jon said with a leer and a wink.

Mike suppressed a shudder. Jesus, do I ever want this job over with.

He’d kept out of Derek and Terry’s conversations concerning Jon. He’d no interest in pretending he was robbing and killing for the greater good by going after villains. That was Derek’s dumbass kink. But now he wished he’d paid more attention to Jon’s alleged crimes.

Someone’s shovel hit metal. Jon picked it up but Mike had Terry open the old cookie tin slowly.

“There’s no money,” said Jon. “Just some of Terry’s souvenirs.”

He went back to digging while Mike flicked through the box. There was a baseball card, a marbled rubber ball, a bloody scrap of fabric, and underneath an ID card from the local middle school. Adam Brewer, seventh grade.

Mike jerked back. He still remembered two years ago when Adam had gone missing. His oldest sister, who didn’t talk to Mike anymore, was best friends with Adam’s mom. Mike had volunteered in a couple of searches, earning a grudging thanks.

“That’s the company you’re keepin’ when you team up with Terry,” said Jon.

“It’s not my fault,” snarled Terry. “If you hadn’t done what you did and got me started–”

Jon vaulted from the hole as soon as the shot fired, catching Mike off guard, but his swing with the shovel went wide and Mike only stumbled. Mike’s next shot got him right in the chest. His body fell across Terry’s.

“Holy fuck! What’re you thinking?”

Derek sprang from his hiding place and ran over.

“It’s gotta look like an accident!”

He was gesturing towards the X formed by the bodies when Mike let his final shot loose. Not all killing was heavy, it turned out. Sometimes it felt right.

Mike began calculating the best route to the nearest big city. Anywhere but here. Fuck this shit. From now on it’s good, clean, anonymous bank robberies for me.

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Ahh those good ol' bank robberies! I don't think I could have imagined a more gruesome couple than that represented by Terry and his unsettling uncle.

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Yes, poor Mike having to deal with them. You think you sign up for a nice, easy crime and then it gets all messy.

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When are you joining the Bananafish army on discord, @sidequest? 🤠

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Then Mike is the real protagonist of the story, if he's really going to be a good person from now on, his conscience will carry the weight of the murders he committed.

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Hopefully, but I'm not sure how good a person who's planning on supporting himself with robbery can be...

Jon turned out to be a vile criminal, dragging his nephew into a criminal world, and of course for such a being it is difficult to deceive him, from the beginning he caught his nephew's betrayal but was not saved.

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Happily not saved, but too late for a lot of others!

I really enjoy this being from Mike's perspective, it's gives the story a new angle, especially the take you have on it, with the morality of each of the other characters thrown into question throughout, the way you take each and twist it. Mike's slow realization Terry is just as bad as his Uncle, the way you give it depth, and contest in Mike's own life really makes it. Then his early sentiment of not being interested in killing for a greater good, contrasted with his statement about the weight of killing, for that final sentence, it's just, voila! Tied up with a perfect bow! And the x!!! And how it ties into the title, X not being the spot it was buried, or anything like that, and not even just the spot and the way the bodies fell, although it is that, it's also the moment (or the spot) where things changed for Mike, hopefully for the better.

haha, you know what, kind of is a twisted happy ending. The opening implies Mike works for Derek, or has killed for Derek on jobs before, and the ending is Mike choosing independence, and leaving this behind him, to go start a new life of... less violent crime... haha - either way, it way an enjoyable one!

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X not being the spot it was buried, or anything like that, and not even just the spot and the way the bodies fell, although it is that, it's also the moment (or the spot) where things changed for Mike, hopefully for the better.

Uh...yeah, I am totally that smart and thoughtful a writer and did that on purpose! Kidding, kidding, but also you're right even if I wasn't thinking that at the time. It's rare, and I guess lucky in a way, to have an epiphany where you see your path so clearly and can make a conscious choice to alter it.