It was past 3 am. A full moon in the Eastern sky was obscured by fast rolling dark clouds.
When I came in the house the boy lay sleeping on the rough blanket, his hands clenched. Max walked in behind me and stood at my side. The contours of the high dresser and other objects in the dark room were visible, backlit by the flames in the oil stained yard. The boy looked like an effigy on top of a sarcophagus.
I lit a match and checked the bruises on his face, neck and chest.
Shook him. He started awake flinching when he saw me, then relaxed.
Come with me. We have to finish it.
I held his hand. Max followed us, breathing on the back of the boy’s neck. The boy hesitated at the door. I waited.
I pushed the screen door and led him out. It banged closed behind us. The two charred corpses were visible through the flames. The boy looked up at me.
Okay we just let them do a bit more. Then we bury them. You will help me. Sit there.
He sat on the back porch swing. The wind rattled the metal supports. He stared at the car. Max lay beside him.
After the fire banked I turned to him.
Always let things follow their full cycle. Okay?
He stood up and followed me.
We passed the car, the smell of burnt flesh was strong in the cool night air. He put his palm over his nose and mouth. At the barn door I turned to him.
I drove out the tractor which I had reinforced with steel lifting prongs. Heavy metal plates over the back axles meant it could lift tree trunks, dead bullocks, engine blocks.
Get up here.
The boy climbed up into the unframed cab. The coyotes barked in the desert far off. The engine idled.
Max looked up at us.
I drove the tractor over to the car, the boy clutching the gouged metal seat for balance.
Okay let’s get started.
I swapped places. Stood behind him on the tractor’s tow bar. I showed him how the throttle worked. The engine responded. We moved forward. Slowing when the steel prongs touched the car.
Okay a little more gas.
The tractor began to crush the car against the wall of the grain silo.
The blackened skulls toppled off – the bones where they were attached to the neck shone white like the Texas high desert moon.
Back up a bit.
The boy looked back at me. I leaned over. I showed him.
Okay, forward again.
The boy pressed the accelerator. This time the car frame crumpled, folding in on itself, the corpses toppling out of sight.
He put the tractor in reverse without prompting. Then he did a sharp fast forward. The chassis collapsed.
The boy whined and writhed like a belly-shot hyena.
Okay – let’s get rid of them now.
The boy nodded. I did the first part, scooping up the crushed car. I showed him the hydraulic controls.
He raised the crushed car to the maximum elevation. It looked like a sacrificial offering to the newborn cyborg king. I directed him to a trench behind the silo.
I tapped the boy’s shoulders to stop near edge. He held the tractor steady with the crushed car held high.
Okay just hit this lever here.
It dipped and the crushed car fell into the hole. One end of it scraped against the dry hard soil of the edge before landing on the bottom.
Okay let’s fill it in.
The boy figured it out quickly. I knew he would be one of the great ones later on. He scooped up and dropped the heavy red clay on top of the car. The hole was soon filled. We drove over the top until it was level.
We got down.
That is when the boy cried. Deep jagged sobs from the faraway land where boys shouldn’t cry.
Max paced beside us, low whines in synchrony with the boy.
I stood there patting the boy’s back.
It’s Okay. It’s Okay. It’s Okay.
But it never was.