Lesley Jones stands on a damp, grassy shoreline
near the Walnut River in Kansas. It’s New
Year’s Day and he’s not wearing a coat, but he
doesn’t seem cold. His buddy Bart is sitting
on a log, breathing heavily, looking at
Lesley and saying, “Winfield is just chaos.
It’s madness. It’s…” “Sparta!” Lesley shouts, spinning
the sword over his head and almost losing
an ear in the process. “Damn … this thing is light,”
he says over his shoulder to his lone friend.
“Where’d you get that anyway?” Bart asks, taking
off his shoe to remove a few pesky rocks.
“I found it in a field,” Lesley answers. “Cool,
huh?” Bart raises an eyebrow. “You found a sword
in a field?” Lesley nods. Bart scoffs. “What are you?
Joan of Arc or something?” Lesley rolls his eyes.
“It’s just a sword in a field. It’s no big deal.”
“It’s kind of a big deal,” Bart snaps, standing up
and limping over to Lesley. “Let me see
it.” His pal hands over the weapon and Bart
gives it a once over: the hilt has a pearl
grip. The hand guard is a phoenix perched on a
cross. The blade is made of Blue Wootz Steel and has
crazy patterns running through it. When the light
hits just right, it almost looks liquid. “It’s like
a lightsaber, kinda.” Lesley says, watching
Bart turn it in his hands. “When you move it, it
looks like it’s moving with you … like it’s liquid.”
“It’s weird,” Bart says, taking a breath and giving
the sword back to Lesley. “I like it,” he says,
holding the weapon aloft, then bringing it
across his body in a wild, sweeping
arc that makes him trip over his feet and fall
into the water. Bart cackles and helps him
up. “You’re a dork. And a clutz. You’re lucky I’m here.
We need to get moving. The storage space is
down in Horner’s Corners. The walk will take a
few hours. Keep low and move quickly. If
you fall behind, I will leave you to die
in my footsteps.” Lesley chuckles. “What?” Bart snaps.
“That’s a line from a Bob Dylan song.” “So what?”
Bart asks. Lesley shrugs and they begin to walk
south, following the curving river past the
Kickapoo Corral, Highlands Cemetary
and the tunnel mill dam. Two hours later
the storage space comes into view about one
mile down the river, right on the water.
“So this storage space … what’s in it?” Lesley asks.
“Little bit of everything,” Bart replies.
“My cousin Stu and I set it up after
he moved back here from California.” “Why would
someone move to Kansas from…” Lesley is stopped
short by a howl and rustling in the trees
all around them. Two boys jump out of the woods
and crash into the water. “Look at these two
assholes,” Bart says with a chuckle. The boys stand
and face our heroes. Boy one has a steak knife,
the other is empty-handed. They mirror
Lesley and Bart. The bigger of the two (the
one without the knife) puffs out his chest and says,
“Give us your sword, your bag, and your money or
my friend here will cut you.” Bart laughs. Lesley points
the sword at them. The kid with the knife whispers,
“He doesn’t have the balls. Let’s get him.” The boys
creep forward. Lesley hesitates. They rush him.
Bart punches the kid with the knife in the face,
grabs the second one and tosses him into
the water. Lesley walks up to the boy on
the ground, points the sword and sneers. “Run away, bitch.”
The boys run back through the trees. Bart turns to his
friend and gives him a look. “What the hell was that?”
Lesley’s confused. Bart sighs. “You hesitated.
Those kids would have killed you. You have to act, dude.
You can’t just stand there holding a sword. That does
nothing.” “I don’t want to kill anyone, Bart.”
Lesley says. Bart rolls his eyes. “Neither do I,
but if you’re in a situation where it’s
you or them, you better be ready to strike.”
They walk for a few moments in silence, then,
“So you and Stu … you’re not cool?” Bart glances at
Lesley and frowns. “I am. He’s not. Stu’s a clown.
And a pothead. All he does is sit in his
house and peck away at an old typewriter.”
“He’s a writer?” Lesley asks. Bart nods. “He wrote
a book. It’s stupid.” “What’s it called?” “Killer
of Fish. It’s about a quarterback who plays
for the Indianapolis Colts and just
destroys the Dolphins every time they play.
Like I said, it’s stupid. The guy’s name is Burt
and he’s from Arkansas. He has multiple
personality disorder, but only
one of his personalities is a good
quarterback.” Lesley nods, thoughtfully. “And there’s
something about the Dolphins that sets him off?”
Bart nods. “The Dolphins are my favorite team.
Stu’s a dick. He wrote that book just to fuck with
me. He doesn’t even watch football, so the
Colts beat Miami by scores like 69 to 2
and 138 to 18 – ‘Burt
Flynn’ throws for seven hundred yards in that one
and 13 touchdown passes. He also runs
for another 300 yards and six scores.
It’s the most ridiculous goddamned book I’ve
ever read in my life and that son of a
porn star sent me an autographed copy with
a picture of his dick wedged in the middle.”
Lesley laughs so hard he has to stop walking.
“Stu’s mom is a porn star?” “Yeah.” Bart nods. “Nina
Hartley.” “No way,” Lesley says, shaking his head.
Bart crosses his chest. “Swear to God. She’s Stu’s mom.”
The conversation is interrupted by
the sound of grinding metal from the storage
facility. Bart and Lesley share a glance,
duck down and creep forward. In the storage space…