I remembered how Katrina Olson yelled out at Craig’s funeral, “I hope the Devil enjoyed his barbecue.”
Jeanee Kinley, Craig’s fiancé, started to howl like a cat in a car, tears pouring down her pretty face, as her nose grew redder and redder.
At that point a couple of big guys, maybe fraternity brothers, hauled Katrina out of the church.
I sat looking straight ahead at the casket, all covered with white flowers. I thought about Craig and the time we’d spent together. Part of me wanted to tell perfect Miss Jeanee Kinley that her Craig had never been faithful to her. I wanted to tell her about all of the women Craig had considered his conquests, even after they’d become engaged.
That was forty years ago. We were in our early twenties, ready to face the world with our hopes and dreams.
The casket was closed due to the unpleasant way Craig had died. He’d burned to death. His body was found in the passenger seat of his 1981 Corvette. A lighter was in one hand, a cigarette in another, the door was open, and a charred gas can was next to the driver’s side door. He’d gone up in flames but nobody knew how or why. The back of his skull had been cracked with a blunt object but not enough to kill him. There were also scratch marks on his shoulders. Since he was sitting against the seat his back was spared from the flames that engulfed the front side of his body and most of the car. His handsome face and lush chestnut brown hair had been completely burned off.
I can’t imagine a more horrible way to die.
On the floor driver side floor of the car a delicate silver chain with a tiny bird pendant was found. It had been broken, as if torn off of it’s wearer. Nobody knew who it had belonged to. Jeanee said it wasn’t hers. She’d been in Los Angeles with her mom at some spa. Craig had died in Northern California near the UC Davis campus.
That is where we’d all gone to college.
I thought about Craig and my college days as I drove along the backroads through tomato fields and almond orchards.
My bag was packed with everything needed to our get together. I brought the charcoal and beer. Fresh made brownies were in a bag, still warm from my oven.
When I arrived at the abandoned farm buildings off the side of the road I saw I wasn’t the first one there. Karen, Katrina, and Lydia had also shown up. Greta pulled up in her orange truck right behind me. Several other women waited around a fire this cool summer evening.
Nine women ranging in age from fifty eight to sixty four stood around the fire, building a shrine for Craig. Our friends Dan and Rick were there too, now with white hair, and no hair respectively.
Barbecue sauce, rib rub, garlic bread, lighter fluid, baked beans, and beer surrounded the fire. This was going to be good.
We all talked and caught up as we did every year at this time. We’d done well, despite our misspent youth. We’d grown up to be a college professor, an attorney, a retired Navy officer, a librarian, a museum curator, a high school principal, an antiques dealer, a furniture builder, and other professions that would have baffled us when we where in college.
Dan mentioned how Craig had just finished his first year of law school. Some of the women talked about their experiences with Craig. We all opened drinks, poured shots and glasses of wine and prepared for a toast.
Karen placed a photo of Craig on a holder, kind of on a long stick. Dan placed a model of a 81 Corvette down by the fire.
We lifted our glasses and bottles to a toast. “To Craig, law student, roommate, fellow student, and rapist.”
Then I lit the photograph on fire and we drank, and then had dinner. The Devil’s Barbecue and a fitting shrine for Craig.
I remember that night as I stood bloodied and torn as he laughed in my face just before he lit his cigarette.
My wrists burned from the twist ties he’d put on me so I couldn’t get away from him. Later that night I’d hit him in the head with a lamp, then in a panic agreed to drive him to the hospital. I poured gasoline all over the car and threatened to light a match so he wouldn’t attack and rape me again. Then out in the middle of the farmland I pulled over. I don’t know why, but I stopped. I’d walk home rather than get help for him. He could drive himself to the hospital. He got out of the car and lit a cigarette. I told him to stop. I told him to STOP. I told him to put his lighter away. I begged him. He laughed again and called me a whore as blood ran down my leg and I watched him burst into flames.
I never told anyone it was me. Not a soul.
I looked into the fire fingering my necklace; a small silver bird on a delicate chain, a replacement for the one I’d lost. The yearly shrine to Craig burned bright in the summer night as we all looked on knowing justice was served.
“I love you all,” I said as I looked into the faces of Craig’s victims and their friends.
“We love you too,” said Katrina. Then we did a big group hug. It was nice. Super nice.
Then we grilled some pork ribs, ate our salads and my brownies, and caught up. Most of us talked about our kids, our dogs, and just all sorts of good things about our lives.
Life is good. Yes, it is.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman