The High Priest of Roadkill
by Roy Dorman
“You better watch your mouth, old man,” said Deputy Andy Donaldson as he roughly pushed Fred Dirkson to the sidewalk. This wasn’t the first time Andy and Fred had butted heads. Andy felt his position in law enforcement deserved respect. Fred felt Andy was a pompous ass.
Andy was the Town of Windsor’s deputy. And though the small town was fairly crime-free, he felt the need to micromanage the goings-on of anybody he deemed to be lacking the qualities of a good citizen.
Fred Dirkson was an old bachelor who lived by himself on his deceased parents’ farm three miles outside of Windsor. Most folks in Windsor tolerated Fred’s odd ways, because they had liked his parents. Fred had been his parents’ only child and, though he had attended the town’s elementary and high schools, he was limited to the occasional odd job for his income.
* * *
“I tell ya, Chief, that old Fred Dirkson needs to be sent away to some kind of home,” said Andy, now back at the police station.
“Now what’d he do to get yer goat, Andy?” said Chief Rebecca Adams. “He tell ya yer shoes needed polishin’?”
Andy’s eyes dropped to his shoes. Noticing their spotless shine, they quickly came back to look at the chief. It irritated him when the chief didn’t take him seriously. He’d gotten used to taking orders from a woman, but her poking fun at him still rankled.
“No, I told him he should get that smelly wheelbarrow of his out of town. He had some dead squirrels, rabbits, and who knows what else in it, like always. Ya know what he said to me? Somethin’ about me being a hawk, or a crow, or somethin’. He’s always mumbling some sort of nonsense. What is wrong with that man?”
“Even a hawk is an eagle among crows,” sighed Chief Adams.
“Yeah, that’s what he said,” said Andy. “Sounded like he was sassin’ me, so I shoved him.”
“Listen, Andy, you can’t be pushin’ people around; even people like Fred. If I get a complaint, I have to discipline you. Neither one of us wants that, do we? Fred picks up the roadkill between his place and the town. It’s his ‘hobby.’ It’s a nasty hobby, but he’s not doing anybody any harm. He showed me this pit he dug behind his house. He throws the roadkill in the pit, and every once in a while throws some lime on it. He told me, when he gets the pit full, he’s gonna start another one.”
“Yeah, it is,” said the chief. “But it’s harmless, and I said he could do it. I’ll go out and talk to him and tell him he’s not to bring the wheelbarrow into town anymore. You let it go.”
* * *
“Okay, Chief, I’ll just pick up right to the town’s limits and then turn around and head back,” said Fred. “Oh, hey, I got a deer for the pit the other night. Figure I may be starting a new pit sooner than I thought.”
“You’ll probably want to put a layer of dirt over that pit when it’s full. Who knows what kind of disease germs might fester in that mess. You’ve gotta live out here, ya know.”
“Sure thing, Chief. I’ll take care of it. ”
* * *
The next Saturday, Andy Donaldson had the night off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had Saturday night off. As he sat drinking beer, his fourth, at Lenny’s Silver Dollar in the neighboring town, he was thinking maybe he needed a change of scenery. He had argued again that morning with Chief Adams about the need for another deputy, but the chief had blown him off. “We don’t have enough to do as it is,” the chief had said. “We’d be bumpin’ into each other all day on the way to and from the water cooler.”
Andy was also still upset about Fred Dirkson mouthing off to him. He especially didn’t like it that Fred had insulted him, and he still didn’t know what the insult was. Even after Chief Adams had repeated it, he didn’t know what Fred was talking about.
“Crows and hawks!” he said, slamming his empty glass on the bar.
“You okay, Andy?” asked Bob Fenster, Lenny’s longtime bartender.
“Yeah, I’m just fed up with my job, is all. I feel like I could just get on my bike and ride, ya know?”
“All jobs get that way sometimes,” said Bob. “Ya just gotta try not to let it get ya down.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I think I’ll head out. I’ve got the Harley, it’s a nice night, and maybe I’ll take the long way home. See ya.”
“See ya, Andy. Drive careful.”
* * *
Andy left his helmet strapped to the back of his bike and took off from the Silver Dollar’s parking lot in a spray of gravel. He boosted the bike up to about 80 mph before he caught himself. Throttling it back, he settled in at 60 and took the curves on the country roads in nice long arcs.
He was having a good ride until it came to him he would be passing Fred Dirkson’s place on the way into town.
“I’ll go up his drive and wake him up,” he said to himself. “Maybe I’ll swing around back and take a look-see.”
As he got closer to the Dirkson place, Andy started to fantasize about what this encounter could turn into. Maybe Fred would come out to challenge him, and Andy could knock him down again. Maybe even knock him into his disgusting garbage pit. He smiled and thought that would be just great.
Turning into Fred’s driveway, Andy gunned the Harley and let out with a war cry. “Hey, you disgusting old coot, get out here!” He drove around to the back of the house and circled the yard until he picked out the pit. Next to the pit was a mound of loose dirt that Fred had piled up when digging it.
Andy got off the Harley, propped it up, and walked over to the edge of the pit. The beam from the Harley’s headlight illuminated enough for him to see the bottom. He unzipped his fly and aimed a stream into the pit. “Here’s what I think of you and your roadkill pit—”
Andy had hardly finished that sentence when Fred came running up behind him and shoved him into the pit.
“Aw, hell!” Andy shouted from his hands and knees just before he threw up. “I’ll kill you—”
He didn’t get to continue that sentence either. Fred had shut off the bike, dropped it off of its stand, and pushed it into the pit on top of Andy.
Fred then picked up his shovel and started to fill the pit with dirt.
* * *
It had been a week since Andy Donaldson hadn’t shown up for his Sunday morning shift. Chief Adams had interviewed Andy’s few friends, his landlady, Pete at Connor’s Grocery, and Bob at the Silver Dollar. Bob had maybe been the last person to see Andy before he disappeared.
Now, sitting at her desk after having called the State Police for help, something Chief Adams really hadn’t wanted to do, she remembered Andy’s run-in with Fred Dirkson. She hadn’t seen Fred since she had been out to his farm to tell him not to bring his wheelbarrow into town anymore.
* * *
“So, I got another deer, a small one, and finished up with my first pit,” said Fred to Chief Adams as they headed toward the backyard. The chief hadn’t said anything yet about Andy’s being missing. She wondered if, since he was alone out here, Fred had even heard about it.
“Yeah, looks good, Fred. Got a new one started, I see.” Chief Adams walked from the recently filled-in pit to the second one that was a few yards away.
“Not much in her yet, but there will be.” Fred now noticed that the recent rain had caused the new earth to settle some and there was about an inch of motorcycle handle grip sticking up out of the dirt. He wondered if Chief Adams had seen it.
As Chief Adams looked into the new pit, she heard Fred say behind her, “In for a penny, in for a pound,” and she ducked. Fred had swung his shovel at Chief Adams’ head and would have connected if the chief hadn’t dropped to her knees. She grabbed the shovel as Fred swung at her again and wrestled it away from him.
* * *
“Something must have happened that Saturday night that caused old Fred to snap.”
Chief Adams was talking to two of the State Police detectives in her office. “He was odd, but never violent. When I saw that stub of a handle grip sticking out of the ground, I knew where Andy was. But I guess we’ll never know how he ended up there.”
“Won’t the old guy say why he did it?” one of the detectives asked.
“After he was admitted to the Sunnyview Sanatorium for observation, he asked one of the attendants when he’d be able to go home. The attendant told him he was probably never going to go home again. She thought she was doing him a kindness with the truth.
“Fred went into some kind of catatonic withdrawal and hasn’t spoken since. He won’t even acknowledge people when they speak directly to him. He just stares. The doctors say he may be reliving what led up to that night, or he may not be thinking of anything at all. They say he may come out of it eventually, but I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to explain why he did what he did.”
“What was that business with him collecting roadkill?” asked the other detective.
“Well, I told Andy one day that it was just the harmless hobby of an odd old man. But lately I’ve been thinking it may have been more like a religion for old Fred.”
“You think your deputy was some kind of sacrifice?”
“No, I’m thinking that maybe Andy did something Fred thought was sacrilegious, and he paid the price for it.”
Copyright © 2017 by Roy Dorman