Birch by Andrew Jason Jacono

After I strangled him and kissed his forehead and tossed him in the trunk I drove to the hardware-drug store down the road to get a pair of scissors and a shovel and a bag of manure and some air freshener. I was in a hurry but the cashier was a fat old woman who breathed very loudly and had trouble ringing my things up.

“Can you please go quicker or do you need help,” I said and I went to tap my watch but I realized its face cracked in the scuffle with him so I hid it behind my back instead.

She looked at me for a couple of seconds. She might’ve been mad but I couldn’t tell. “Yes I can,” she said but she didn’t sound impatient which was a good sign. She went to ring up the shovel when her eyebrows went up. “Don’t mind my asking sir,” she said, “but what are you planning to do with all this stuff?”

“I’m going to plant a tree,” I said and smiled.

Her face relaxed. “Very nice,” she said. “My father was a working conservationist.” She went to ring up the air freshener; the fat under her arm jiggled and I felt the urge to strangle her too because all that excess meat would retain her warmth for a while but I decided not to because I was too tired to get into another struggle.

“Would you like anything else?” she said.

“Yes, can you please get me a twelve pack of those Durex behind you?” I asked.

She looked suddenly very confused but she still turned to get a pack and rang it up. She asked for twenty dollars trying to smile again but it looked more like a cringe. I gave her the money and an extra five dollars and said, “Thank you very much ma’am keep the change.” Then I left.

I went to my car and put everything in the back seat. When I got in the driver’s seat I jacked the ignition and the engine sputtered. I was afraid it wouldn’t start because the weather’s been freezing lately but it whirred alive and I pulled the gearshift and started driving to the orchard.

People honked when I blew a couple stop signs and the streetlights were for some reason very bright tonight so I started to hyperventilate and throttled the steering wheel until my hands got white. I really thought I’d go crazy but things got better when I left town. There was no moon in the sky nor was there a single star so it was all black out and if it wasn’t for my car’s headlights I would’ve gotten lost in the void which I actually think I wouldn’t have minded. I spent the time watching trees on the side of the road drift along. Elms and oaks and others I couldn’t identify in the darkness. Watching them go by made me feel something good for the first time in a long time. The same good I used to feel when I’d go on walks in the woods with my mother when I was a kid and she was still alive. I never loved her or anybody for that matter but the walks gave me a feeling close to it. I don’t get much of that goodness anymore but once in a while I do and I think that’s why I haven’t killed myself yet.

Soon I saw a sign that said the orchard was a mile away and I sped up. When I got there I parked a few feet from the first line of apple trees. I got out of the car and took the scissors and the shovel and the manure and the condoms from the back and dropped them in a little pile next to the car. Then I unlocked the trunk and opened it.

When I saw him I jumped back because he was still writhing a little. He noticed I was there and he mumbled “Where am I” and I jumped back and tripped to the pile and got the scissors and came back and he moaned a little when I stuck the sharp ends into the flesh under his beard.

I was already hard but the smell of him made me solid like a stone. I hauled him out and patted him face-first on the ground and then cut open the back of his pants with the scissors and unbuttoned my fly and opened the condoms and put one on and then I lowered onto him. He was warm.

I was done quick. I shooed dirt off my knees. Then I picked up the shovel from the pile and started digging. It took me a while and made me sweaty but the hole was deep enough for him and for me if I really wanted to join but I chose to put that off for the next time. Or maybe the one after. I dropped him in and scooped some of the dirt back in until the hole was half full and even though bodies are better than manure I emptied the bag into the pile just to make sure. For the final touch I opened the door to the passenger seat and took out the birch sapling I’d been saving and stuck it in the manure and stood there for a few minutes praying to God for good rains.

I tossed the shovel in the back of the car and sprayed the air freshener in the trunk to get out some of the blood smell. And before I left I promised myself I’d come back in a few months to see how much the sapling had grown.

Andrew Jason Jacono is a proud Manhattan native who has been writing ever since he could hold a pen. His work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver Magazine, Thin Air Magazine, Maudlin House, and Cease, Cows, among others. If you'd like to learn more about Andrew, you can visit his website: