No More Preachers

This still needs a real ending...

No More Preachers

When he was a boy, Corn Henks’ daddy beat him more than was right. On a day that was special bad, he took a hot iron to Corn’s face. Mr. Henks was a fuck, alright. Damn near killed Corn’s mother with a knotted rope. That was when Corn’s uncle Swinton came and took Corn and his mother out of Georgia and back here to Kentucky. Corn was fourteen then.

Corn’s proper name was Cornelius Jackson Henks. I met him freshman year at Harlan County High. I was going out with Marcus Tillman, chess club star. I didn’t mind that Marcus was a nerd. He was sweet, had blue eyes, and walked upright. That was enough to get me out of the house most nights of the week. Out and away from my brother Kelly. Shelly and Kelly, we were. My daddy thought it was cute, seeing as how it rhymed and all. Daddy was a good, but simple, man. He died in a mining accident when I was six and Kelly was fourteen. Momma lost her mind around then, and Kelly became the man of the house. When momma got so she couldn’t work, he did. When momma got so she couldn’t cook, he did, until I was old enough. When she got so she couldn’t go out of the house without wailing like a baby or messing herself, Kelly took to locking her in her bedroom all day. When I told him that wasn’t right, he punched me. After that first time, he started beating me regular... it was like his dam broke, and I was the little village just down the creek.

So, when Marcus asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance in ninth grade, I went with him. I told him what Sadie Hawkins meant, and he told me he knew but figured I’d say no anyway and he wanted an excuse to tell himself. I let him feel me up that night in his room, and every night he let me up there to study. Marcus was bright and had a half-dozen hands. I’d let him feel me up, maybe more, and he’d do my geometry homework and write my papers for me. I never introduced him to Kelly.

On Corn’s first day at H. C. H. S. there was a chess meet in our library after school. I stayed to watch Marcus. He showed me a little bit of chess, just enough so I could follow what was going on. I was still bored, but it was better than getting whooped on by Kelly. I noticed the scar on Corn’s cheek when he sat next to me. He was reading a Spider-man comic book. “Not excited by chess?” I asked him.

“Checkers with trees and horses,” he said without looking up from the comic.

I laughed so loud Marcus’s opponent dropped his piece and knocked over Marcus’s queen. “So what are you doing here?”

“Trying to read about Peter Parker and Mary Jane.”

“But there’s a chess meet.”

“Yeah, I figured it would be quiet.” He looked at me for just a few seconds, his blue, blue eyes and his hay colored hair and his little chin dimple and all, and my face turned strawberry jam. He smiled and said, “Corn.”

I laughed again, and Marcus shot me a look.

“Who’s that?” Corn asked.

“My friend Marcus.”

“Oh. Your boy friend?”

“No. Yeah, I guess. Not really. What’s corn?”

“You don’t know what corn is?”

“Why did you say corn?”

“I’m Corn. Cornelius. Henks.”

My mouth must have hung embarrassed for a minute. “I’m Shelly.”

“I’m going to put my comic book away for you, Shelly. Let’s go out for a smoke.”

“Yes. Wait, smoke?”

He was up and moving, so I popped after him.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, after we’d done it a few times, that I asked him about his scar. He told me about his daddy and his momma, about his uncle Swinton.

He asked me about a bruise on my side. I told him about Kelly and my momma. We talked for a minute about Marcus. I was feeling bad, but then Corn looked at me with his blue-blues and his dimple and... Marcus who?
Corn got into a lot of fights at H. C. H. S. His scar turned purple-red when he got mad, and Corn got mad when dumb boys stared at it. Corn could really take a punch. He said that was one thing he could thank his fuck of a daddy for. That, and for not being afraid of anyone under 6’2”. He never beat up Marcus, though. I guess he felt a little bad too.

It was just after New Year’s when some slick Georgia preacher named Pastor Jimmy came to Corn’s house and told his momma that Corn’s daddy had found Jesus and wanted to make amends. He was staying in a motel just outside Harlan, and Pastor Jimmy came with him from Macon. They neither one of them thought it would be good for Corn’s daddy to show up without anyone softening the blow.

Corn didn’t say a word while his momma talked to Pastor Jimmy. He sat with me on the couch and squeezed my hand until I couldn’t feel my fingers. I figured Corn needed to squeeze something, so I let it be me. After the preacher left, Corn’s momma sat and cried. Corn’s daddy broke her nose with that rope knot, and it healed a little crooked. She touched it and sobbed. Corn pulled me up by my sore hand and took me up to his room. He hurt me a little up there, but it was just clumsy and not mean. Plus, I thought it was better this way than being home with Kelly. At least here there was some love. After the act, I fell asleep holding him.

The next morning, I woke up to the sound of thunder. It was raining fierce, and I was listening to the storm when I realized I couldn’t go home. “Shit. Kelly’s going to kill me.”

Corn was laying in bed holding an Avengers comic and staring at the ceiling fan. “I’m going to go see my daddy. No matter what momma wants, I’m going to go see him.”

“Can I come with you?”

Corn got out of bed and pulled on his bluejeans and said, “Okay. Yeah.”

He turned his head as I got out of the bed wearing just his top-sheet. “Meet you downstairs.” I put on my own jeans, but I wore the X-Men shirt Corn took off the night before. I thought it smelled of us.

Later, when we were outside, he said, “Your brother have a car?”

“Yeah. A 92 Ford.”

“Let’s go talk to him.”

“I can’t. I have to wait until tonight when he’s asleep. Let’s get a cab and go see your daddy.”

“No,” Corn said, and started off toward my house. I followed him. What else could I do?

Corn must’ve worked himself up into a quiet rage on the way because when we got home he pounded on the door. When Kelly yelled hold your fucking horses from inside, Corn grabbed a wet, bagged newspaper from the front steps. He balled the plastic bag in his fist and held the paper like a ball on a chain. When the door opened, Kelly had time to see me and and suck his breath in before the paper caught him in the left temple. Corn pushed him inside and hit him four or five times more, like the paper was an axe and Kelly was a stubborn log that didn’t want to be firewood. He took the car keys from the peg on the wall. “Come on,” he said.

“Let me straighten Kelly up and check on momma.” My voice was steady, but my heart was thudding like a wildcat.

Corn nodded. “Okay. He had that coming, but he’s kin.”

Kelly wasn’t moving, not one little bit. I checked under his nose and felt air moving, so I knew he wasn’t dead, just out. Best I could do was drag him in front of the television and stick a pillow under his head. I checked on momma and she was laying on her bed, holding a picture of daddy, and staring at the yellow wallpaper. I got me a last minute inspiration and unplugged the phone.

Corn and me left in my brother’s shitbox. We got to the motel. Corn stopped the car next to a red pickup and said, “my daddy’s truck.”

He got out and walked slowly to the room’s door. I stayed back a bit because I was scared. I had a deep down thrill watching Kelly get hit, but I was afraid of what Corn was going to do when he saw his daddy. He didn’t knock, he just stood in front of that closed door, still as a mountain. “Will you knock for me, Shelly?”

I walked up next to Corn and tapped on the door.

A garbled “just a minute” came from inside.

Corn looked at me. The water in his blue eyes made my heart fall down to my shoes. I wanted to hug him and tell him he didn’t have to do this, that we could go and forget about our daddies and Kelly and our mommas and just be the world for each other, but then the door opened.

Corn’s daddy was a taller, older, redder version of Corn. “Cornelius? Son?”

Corn swung his fist and hit his daddy square in the chest. He kept swinging until his daddy pulled him into a hug.

I was mad at myself for coming along, mad at Kelly for making it so I didn’t have no choice but to be here to see the boy I loved most in the world being smothered by the fuck who gave him the scar that always showed how mad he was. I was mad at Corn for flashing his blue, blue eyes at me that first time. I was mad at his chin dimple, even. “You get off him! Get away from him, you drunk old fuck!” I swung wild and hit them both over and over until Corn broke away from his daddy and pulled me to Kelly’s car.

Corn’s daddy was crying, Corn was crying, and I was screaming at them both. People started coming out of their motel rooms looking at me and I had a wild thought that I was like Momma, all crazy and not caring. Corn pulled me into the car and we drove away.

Corn’s daddy didn’t send no more preachers to the house.

ROzbeans 10 years ago
For a short story, I think it ended perfectly. Be interested to see it get fleshed out more, Drae. I enjoyed it.
Draegloth 10 years ago
Thanks! I just need to slow it down a bit and get deeper in the main character's head near the end. Just haven't had the ambition. That's why I posted it here... too bad this place seems a bit deserted.
ROzbeans 10 years ago
Yeah, it's quiet, but not dead. I'll keep this site going forever. /shrugs