Brian Tucker – Pseudoephedrine Served Nightly

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Wendell Hall, a Kentucky game warden, walked alongside fresh tire tracks down a muddy road for half a mile and heard the noise of something similar to a motor. The whine made him think of a pig ready for slaughtering. A Datsun pickup appeared around a curve, and Wendell waved. Black and low to the ground, the truck made its way towards him.

“Good afternoon,” Wendell said. “Do you live back in that field?”

“I do,” the man said, with a quick glance in his rear view mirror.

“You been hunting this morning?” Wendell asked.

The Datsun’s driver nodded. Wendell spotted the gun rack where a shotgun was perched behind the man’s shaggy head like a still picture frame. The inside of the truck’s cab reeked of cat piss.

“You need to see my license?” the man asked, around a brown wad of tobacco.

“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind.”

The driver’s face looked like a train wreck, whiskers reaching in every direction. His eyebrows bushy over saggy brown eyes made Wendell think of hard living, lots of bourbon and very little Coke. His cheeks were scabbed in places, and Wendell remembered bar fights he’d seen at Mercer’s Pub. The man stared blankly, reaching out his window with his driver’s license which read: Bledsoe, Martin P.

“The license is good, but I need your state hunting license as well, Mr. Bledsoe.”

The driver gave a reluctant smile that brought his droopy cheeks up and again he glanced behind his truck.

“Tell you what. How about I ride back with you to your house, and you can get it? No worries about not having it here.”

The man nodded more so to his mirror than to Wendell, and muttered something about being in a hurry.

Wendell got into the Datsun and shut the passenger door. He turned to the driver and asked him how long he’d lived out in the sticks. The driver answered that he’d been there all his life. Eventually, the Datsun came to rest under a basketball goal that hadn’t been in use in a long time, judging by the bent, rusted metal hoop where a net had once hung.

The driver got out and walked towards his house. He didn’t look back to see if Wendell was following. The house had been boarded up on all sides. The screen door closed behind the man, and Wendell waited for him to get his license.

Several minutes passed without any noise coming from inside. Wendell called out to the man. An anxious feeling hit him in the ribs, making it difficult to breathe. He called again, unfastening his nine millimeter Beretta and climbing the wooden steps.

“I’m coming in,” he yelled into the silence. “I hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”

As he entered the home, Wendell noticed that the kitchen cabinets and countertop were beaten. There were visible yellow marks along the walls and a pungent piss odor in the air. Wendell covered his nose and moved to the window. He saw the propane tank with its blue valve coloring and cleared his throat. His eyes began to burn; he heard footsteps coming towards him.

“I found my license,” the man’s voice said calmly.

Wendell wiped his eyes on his t-shirt and looked to where the sound had originated. He pointed his gun in that direction and saw that the man held a lit fuel torch of some sort.

“I don’t think you want to point a gun at me, warden.”

Wendell’s hand shook and he lowered the pistol, placing the weapon on the gritty kitchen linoleum.

“How long you been cooking meth in here?” Wendell asked, his voice almost a whisper.

“Do you feel that burn in your throat?” the man asked. “That’s your mucous membranes being slowly eaten away, and your respiratory tract crying out for help.”

“Why in the hell are you doing this?” Wendell pleaded. “I’m not out here to bust you on anything. Listen, Mr. Bledsoe, I didn’t see a thing.”

The man carried his flame out onto the front porch. He spun and looked at Wendell and apologized for not having his license earlier, not having remorse. The man pointed and pulled the trigger. A whirring noise was heard, and Wendell saw illumination. He toppled over, as the flames hit a picture frame of what looked to be the old Bledsoe family hanging on the wall. It was a picture of a young Mr. Bledsoe smiling.

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