BellaOnline Literary Review
All in Red 1 by Mark Berkery

Table of Contents


Ugly Walk

Nicole Pickens

A peach is painted in sunset colors across a white trailer, with the phantom words “windows and doors” underneath it. The trailer waits on the side of Burnett Road that runs parallel to interstate 985, through the city of Suwanee. The traffic is brisk and everything is baking in the August noonday heat.

He walks in the middle of the road, smelling the heat of his sweat, and hears the cars whisk by on the interstate. He’s wearing black jeans with a black skull t-shirt, and his right hand is impatiently carrying a gasoline canister. A car full of bubblehead teenage blondes slows down to gaze at him. They speed away laughing like witches on an evil Sabbath, chased by the bumper sticker “girls rule, boys drool.”

He walks by a dead white chicken, whose single talon stands straight up in mock protest an observer could find almost comical. Its head is a pulp of blood poop dried on the white line, a cruel death under someone’s wheels. The rotting bird’s scent invades his nose as his boots crunch gravel. The sound reminded him of the spilled sand from Paco’s hermit crab tank in his bar that crashed to the floor in a fight two nights ago. He didn’t mean to hurt the hermits, he just insisted on prompt payment.

The white trailer is in his sight. An oasis of shade bellowing him to enter, and the heat waves over the road surface reinforce the invitation. He walks toward the trailer. On the trailer door, at the bottom left corner is a 5 x5 square white sticker with red letters that simply state Jesus loves you. He glares harshly at it, and squats and rolls underneath the trailer on the hot shallow dirt and grass.

His limbs feel torn and the inside of his head screeches in the aftermath of Jim Beam and multiple speedies. He closes his eyes while keeping very still, as his wispy horseshoe hairline and shoulders throb in protest of its August exposure. The heat surrounds him, pressing and dancing across his hairs, pinching hard like daggers on his chest, digging deeper to open him up to darkness.

“Jake Philner! Jake Philner!” A voice yells at him.

“What!” answers Jake. He opens his eyes and rolls his head to the right. Two black trouser legs violently billow in a hot wind, wait against a crimson sky.

“Come forth!” yells the voice.

“Ah, man . . . I can’t move,” whispers Jake.

“I said, come forth!” The voice yells and Jake’s body travels dead weight across the searing concrete covered with gravel from under the trailer, rises, and hovers above the ground inches from the voice in front of him.

The eyes are red, blood red. They stare at him through rage and madness. In them, he sees the sufferings of the ages, from the garden to the holocaust. He tastes pain and fear and blood and cruelty. He feels flesh tear slowly as the stench of waste engulfs his nose, binds his tongue, and fills his lungs. Voices cry in every pitch, in a chorus that cannot harmonize, singing of desperation and hatred without the use of words.

“Guess who?” the voice mocks him. Jake’s eyes are locked inside his. “Did you think you had more time, Jake?” the voice sneers. “It happened so fast, you didn’t feel a thing, did you old boy?”

Something is holding Jake’s body in mid-air, at the nape of his neck like a small animal. Images swirl around him unyielding, squeezing, threatening his body like a rope wrapping around a water balloon.

Brothels, lies, jails, bars, back alleys, needles in flesh, burnt out buildings, spilling blood, breaking bones on beautiful faces, cigarettes burning flesh and hair . . .

“I appreciate your attempts to remember, Jake. They’re energizing! Keep them coming!” The blood eyes laugh.

The blurry memories sharpen their focus with details of beauties he robbed in their prime with drugs and fists. He hears each of their names as they grieve over spilt blood on kitchen tables, in sterile clinics, and other cruelties.

“You’re tastin’ real good, Jakie!”

The freshest memories are of two nights ago, after the crash of the hermits. Jake can still feel the bones sink beneath his fist. Cries of mercies barely a whimper, as a surge of power filled him up to celebrate at the expense of the idiot client who grew too dependent. Jake’s greed swelled when the desperate returned with gold strands and diamond rings from the pawn shop and left its owner dead.

Jake hears blood eyes laughing. “We all deserve to die and come to hell, Jake. That is so true, if you can handle the truth, that is,” he said in a taunt.

Jake grows tired of floating through his own feces. His mind fights to keep the details at bay. They become hungry shadows that snarl and gnash with their teeth. He weeps. Somewhere between the snap at his right hamstring and the gnawing on his left elbow, Jake catches a glimpse of hope. He tries to remember something he heard while sitting between his grandparents in a white church with high ceilings, beautiful windows, and full of warm light.

“Stay with me, Jake. Come on, we were doing so well together,” demands blood eyes.

Jake feels teeth sink deeper, pull, and shake vigorously.

The sight of his grandmother next to his little body comes into view. His grandfather smiles down at him, while they clap hands to the distant words he could barely hear. The melody is familiar.

He saw the image of a long dead companion with her radiant black hair and beautiful legs splash in front of him. She has a vixen sex look in her eyes that promises him a good day of pay. Her wrists open and flow, offering herself for his drink.

The melody hangs in the air like a thin mist and Jake’s ears struggle to grasp it.


The sound moves in his direction.

“JAKE!” Blood eyes’ voice demands attention as a rancid wind spreads across Jake’s face, and blows back his thinning hair.

“Get that music out of your head, boy! You know, you’re not worthy to let it near your ears!”

He saw images of joyous people dancing around him.

“You don’t stand a chance, punk! After all you have done? Let me give you some more!”

Jake heard his own voice spewing out heresies and vulgarities. The disgrace of his words ranging from sex to religion, echoed around him. But Jake only wants to identify that song. He wants the hope inside his grandmother’s smile.

“She threw you away, you idiot!”

Jake’s mind freezes at that statement.

“You and your mother were nothing to them. You were just dogs!”

Jake lightly sifts over the darkness of his life, wondering if it is true.

“You were worthless then and you’re worthless, now!”

Jake can see an image of Grandmother wrapping a hug around his little body. He smells her Jasmine cologne as she swings him playfully from side to side, and the words to the song become clear.

?Je-sus loves me, this I know?, ‘cause the bi-ble tells me so?.

“He doesn’t love you! It’s all a big scam! They just want your money! They want to control you!”

?Yes, Je-sus loves me.? Yes, Je-sus loves me?. Yes, Je-sus loves me.?

“They’re hypocrites! Who in their right mind would hang on a cross? That’s disgusting!”

?They are weak, but He is strong.?

“You’ll never change, Jake. This is where you belong!”

Jake hears the sound of wings wrestling the air around him. Wings he can’t see, but the sound comforts him. Jake’s heart asks for the use of his lips. Slowly, with great pain they move, prying themselves open.

“It’s no use, Jake. What are words, anyway? They never amount to anything. They’re useless!”

Jake’s lips begin to lift up in a pucker, and his teeth bear down against each other as his chords vibrate under his tongue. “Jeee. . .”

“Shut up, Jake!”

Barks and snarls intensify in Jake’s ears. Jake pleads in his heart for his lips to remain pliable to form the next syllable. Air presses past his front teeth. “sssss. . .”

“I own your mouth and I command you to . . .”

Jake’s mouth releases a hard sigh accompanied with his diaphragm. “ussss . . .”


“Jee. . .ss. . . usss.”

The red of the sky lightens and the sense of motion arrives.

“Je. . .sus. . . lov . . es. . .me.”

Pain works out of Jake’s heart traveling across his body, dispersing out of his hands and feet.

“Jesus loves me!” Jake tries to shout the song with the choir, shout it with grandmother, and grandpa. “Jesus loves me!”


Voices shout, and become an incoherent chorus. The voices intensify.


Pains return to his body, digging deep into his muscles. His eyes open to unfamiliar faces, with chrome shining around him. People frantically screech orders at each other. Jake sings into the oxygen mask over his mouth. The man directly over him tells him he will make it through this day.

* * *

The walls are painted in Beige Desert trimmed in Fawn. The furniture is in sterile multi-beige. A visitor quietly occupies one side of the room . He’s an older man, clean shaven of all hair, wearing a black leather jacket, a black t-shirt, and soft faded blue jeans. He comfortably leans into the corner of the couch with his legs crossed, oblivious to the antiseptic in the air, basking in the soft floor lamp shining above him. The suspended television is off and the window near the bed is covered in sterile beige drapery. The I.V. and vitals monitor silently work next to the bed when Jake begins to stir. The soft sounds travel across the room to the visitor who lifts his head and eyes to investigate.

Jake opens his eyes and slowly his disorientation fades, as he recalls his last known events. He remembers fear and blood eyes. A figure carefully enters into his view. He looks with intense caution at a man he’s never seen before.

“Welcome, back.”

“How long have I been here?”

“Two days.”

“You my doctor?”

The old man chuckles, “No . . . I’m a doctor of philosophy, not medicine.”

Jake looks at him in confusion, “So, who are you?”

He held his open right hand to his heart with a slight bow and said, “My name is Jerome Javier. I am a Jesuit priest.”

“What the hell is a Jesuit?”

“Ah! I’m glad you asked that. I’m a member of a religious order of the Roman Catholic Church called “The Society of Jesus.” It was founded in approximately 1540 by a Spanish knight named Inigo Lopez de Loyola, who later was canonized as St. Ignatius of Loyola.”

“What does this have to do with me?”

“Oh . . . well, the name or term Jesuit means one who used too frequently or appropriated the name of Jesus.”

“Yeah. . . so.”

“When you arrived at the emergency ward you persistently chanted the name of Jesus like you were wielding a weapon.”

Jake’s glare breaks away from Jerome.

“Is there something you need to talk about?” asks Jerome.

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