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  You could have a big dipper   

Midwestern Triptych by Michael Bettendorf

The Devil Hates Dogs

They didn’t find any bodies when they drained the lake. Not surprising, most bodies around here were dumped in the river or left to rot in cornfields.

Other rumors spread, though.

Like that a twenty-foot snake lived in the lake. A man-made story fit for a man-made lake. Allegedly, it was a Burmese python, illegally released into the lake years ago. The age and origin of the snake differed depending on which local you talked to. Some said a teenager brought it home one day, but his parents made him get rid of it. Another said it was a pet brought up from Omaha after it escaped and ate the family’s newborn baby. That was a true story. Whether it was the same snake, though, was undetermined. Most people didn’t care. The local news played along for a while because what else was there to report? Meth-related crimes were down.

The dam repairs were finished and the lake was refilled after a few weeks. The urban legend slithered to the back of our collective minds only to resurface when dogs in the area started going missing.

Those, too, were rumors.

The culprit was probably one of the Myers kids. Soaked dog treats in antifreeze, waited for the dogs’ kidneys to fail, bagged them in trash bags, and tossed them in the lake. No one would be surprised because the Myers boys’ souls were sold a long time ago. Burned down a church before either turned eight years old. It was said their mom blamed God for her meth addiction, so what else were they to do? The Devil hates dogs for their unconditional loyalty.

Sinner’s Blood

There was a time in high school I could name every street in town by memory. I was too square to get high with the cool kids, so what else was there to do, but drive? This was before gas spiked and I could fill my tank for less than a couple Percocet. Can you believe it?

I mapped the entire town in my head like I was planning a heist. I knew every backroad, side street, main drag. I knew every stop sign and round-a-bout. I knew which intersection had painfully long lights. I knew which ones you could run without getting picked up by the local PD. I even knew the alleys where locals scored.

But things change and the intersection near the highway was no longer denoted by its long light, but because it was now the intersection where your friend died on impact.

And the gravel road near the community college wasn’t only where the baseball team got high after games anymore, but led to the regional center where our 8th grade Earth science teacher was housed as a sex offender. But it was too little, too late, because I could still hear my friend sobbing in my car while we drove around for hours, my sweater still marked by her tears and her story that the principal didn’t believe.

The dirt road north of town was said to have a permanent puddle of mud where my old youth pastor killed himself. Soggy not with the blood of Christ, but sinner’s blood; laced with traces guilt and other substances.

I’d been convinced the town was cursed like the one in IT, but I didn’t feel the need to come back.

I knew every road out. I only had to pick a direction.

Maybe You’ve Seen Them?

It happened before our eyes and we didn’t ever see it until it was too late.

Two highways ran perpendicular through town so if viewed from above, they’d resemble a cross, or perhaps, crosshairs. It depended on who was watching. Either way it was perceived salvation.

One ran east to west and could take you from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The other ran north to south and could take you from Canada to Mexico. It depended on the commodity.

The meth was made all over town, but never really thought about until the neighbor’s garage blew up or you read about a classmate getting pinched or heard about the influx of traumatized foster children by your mom’s friend who worked for DHHS. The only hint of human trafficking were the grainy black and white photos printed on eight-and-a-half by eleven papers, posted near claw machines at Wal-Mart.

Nobody knew why they didn’t put them on milk cartons. It was probably due to cost. Or because they were our classmates. One day they were signing our yearbooks in seventh grade and the next they were headed north or south, east or west, with their adult friends who swore they loved them.


Michael Bettendorf's writing has appeared in various places on the internet. He's from the Midwest and tries to convince the world Nebraska is too strange to be a flyover state. Twitter @BeardedBetts

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