VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Robert Ragan

Their Mother Should Have Swallowed

The moment Natalie started talking about the thoughts, Marshall should have left and never looked back. The night they met, he missed all the red flags and flashing warning signs. As they sat in a small bar and talked for the first time, Marshall was lost in the way her blue eyes seemed to sparkle when his own eyes weren’t peeking at her tanned thighs.

In denim jeans shorts, she could have confessed to a murder, and he wouldn’t have been shocked without an orgasm making him come back to his senses. 

He didn’t see the sexy version of Nat. No, she was depressed, isolating herself. Her friends dragged her out, kicking and screaming to this hole in the wall bar across the road from a cornfield. 

It showed with her tangled, and oily hair draped over her face with no make-up. Despite this, Marshall was still interested in her.

Instead of talking about herself, Nat felt this obsessive need to tell him all about her brother’s murder in prison. 

Marshall put his hand on her leg, “Damn, that’s fucked up,” he said when she told him about her older brother catching a steel shank to the throat behind prison walls. 

Sitting there, she removed his hand from her knee and started taking slow, long, deep breaths. Taking a sip from her bottled water, Nat said, “I’m sorry, I just have horrible anxiety.”

Marshall said, “My sister does too.” But it wouldn’t take him long to figure out his sister didn’t have anxiety this bad.

Natalie did manage to shock Marshall. Looking down at the table, she said, “Mom and dad always acted like everything was fine, but I should have seen it coming after what happened when we were kids, obliviously.

A couple of her friends walked over and asked if she was okay.

Natalie introduced them to Marshall, then lied, saying she’d be fine. They asked her if she was riding home with Marshall. 

He said, “Yes,” and Nat gave him a funny look.

When her friends walked out, Marshall surprised himself when he remembered to ask her what had happened between her and her brother when they were kids. 

His memory caught Nat off guard, and the question seemed to terrify her. “Oh, never mind,” she said. 

By now, Marshall wanted to know the rest of the story. Natalie was only giving him bits and pieces, all out of order. 

She said, “I can’t believe they put Teddy in the general population and not protective custody.”

Marshall, quick to put it together in his head. An incident when you two were kids, oblivious parents, and he got his throat gashed open prison. 

Drawing a dark conclusion, Marshall said, “I don’t mean to make your anxiety any worse, but was your brother locked up in prison for some kind of sex charge?”

Her mouth gaped wide open, joining her eyes, which also opened wide, “Oh my God, how did you know?”

From there, she said Teddy was doing really good. First, he stopped smoking meth then got a decent job. After all that, he met a good woman named Kimberly.

Everything was fine, then her wild 15-year-old daughter, Dorey, was sent to live with her after the girl’s father fondled her. 

Dorey was supposed to be safe from this sort of behavior with her mother. Natalie said, “She would have been safe had she not brought drugs around.”

Siding with the victim, Marshall said, “So a teenage girl is responsible for her own assault because she brought drugs around a grown man? I’m sorry, but that sounds like total bullshit to me.”

Angered, Nat shot back, “What about the way she teased him by trying to sit on his lap along with all the other things she did?”

Looking into Marshal’s eyes, Nat said, “Oh, I know you’re one of those good ole boys who think my brother got what he deserved.”

Marshall agreed but didn’t admit to it or deny it. 

Natalie explained how Teddy had kept his charges a secret until a corrupt correctional officer informed Aryan Brotherhood members that there was a sicko pervert among them. 

Not trusting the C.O, a chief member called and had his girlfriend look up Teddy Michael’s charges. Sure enough what the C.O. told them was true. So the green light was on to shank him.

This inmate confessed all of this when Teddy’s dead body caught up with him.

Marshall just wanted a piece of ass; now he sort of disliked Natalie for taking up for this perv. Then again, he had to consider this pervert was her brother.

Thinking of his own siblings, Marshall knew his brother and sister would disown him in a heartbeat if he ever did such a thing.

So, he didn’t miss those red flags and flashing warning signs. No, Marshall just overlooked them. None of it mattered when he took Nat home and buried himself between those thighs. 

When he woke up in her bed the next morning, Marshall thought, ‘Well, I’ve had some crazy women in my time, but this one might take the cake.’

Later on that day, he learned she didn’t work anywhere and received a disability check every month for multiple mental illnesses. To him, that meant getting ahead financially a little bit easier. 

It was hard to make ends meet on his paycheck alone. Marshall had already broken the promise he made never to sell weed anymore. Now, if he could deal with Natalie’s shit, maybe he could stop for good. 

If not, it wasn’t like he was destroying his customer’s brains with meth or leading them to the physical dependence of heroin. A little loud never hurt anyone.

Not to mention, Nat was pretty when she made herself up. She wasn’t the same woman he met in the bar. All eyeliner and mascara, but the gleam and sparkle in her eyes was gone. A dull darker shade of blue replaced them in the middle of panic and agony. 

It was their first official date, and Marshall showed up having already drunk a few cold Bud-lights Nat said she had her license and would be fine to drive.

Before going out to a nice steak house, they stopped by Walmart so Marshall could buy some new Steel-toed work boots.

As they were driving out of the parking lot, Nat stopped to let a group of teen pedestrians pass by on their way inside the store. Marshal was chilling, ready to eat. He heard Nat punch his steering wheel. 

“What the hell, babe!”

With her eyes closed, she took deep breaths. The teens had long walked past, and the driver behind them blew their horn. As they drove off, Marshall asked if she was, ok?

Brushing the hair away from her face, she said, “Yeah, I’m ok. I just saw myself press the gas and mow down those kids back there, that’s all.”

With his eyes widened, Marshall said, “It’s cool; everyone has bad thoughts like that. Just tell yourself you’d never do a thing like that and let it go.”

Nat was amazed; she never expected Marshall to say something like that. Those words filled her with a feeling of peace better than any high, and she thought this might be a good night after all.

Then at the steak house, Marshall ordered his steak medium-rare. A vision of his teeth ripping out her throat flooded Nat’s mind with rabid fear. Clenching her tiny fists, she closed her eyes tight again and started taking long deep breaths. 

Marshall noticed the family sitting across from them as they stared. “What?” he said, “You never knew anyone who suffered from anxiety?”

When the waitress finally brought their food, Natalie hoped she could calm down long enough to enjoy her steak cooked well-done. No such luck, as she looked across the table and noticed Marshall sawing through his bleeding slab of meat.

Images of cows and hogs butchered in slaughterhouses flashed like old memories. Nat closed her eyes tight again and thought of cuddly puppies. After a long deep breath, she opened her eyes and saw blood covering her mashed potatoes instead of gravy. 

Instantly, drenched in sweat, Nat started heaving. Standing up, she rushed away from the table and headed to the bathroom. On her knees before the white porcelain toilet, she vomited. After a few moments, a couple of waitresses walked in to check on her. 

Natalie was curled up on the floor, repeatedly asking, “Why me, God? Why me, God? Why me?”

On the way to take her home, Marshall decided he could make it just fine on his own. Some pussy from a mentally ill hottie drawing disability would have been nice, but there was no way he could deal with her phycological issues. 

A sicko pervert for a son and a psycho daughter, their oblivious parents must have been so proud. 

When Marshall dropped Natalie off at home, he planned on never having to deal with her again. After a couple of days without hearing from him, she got the picture quickly. Once again, Nat was alone in the picture holding long strands of her hair in each hand.

Calling Marshall, she left a message. “I never lied to you,” she said, “I told you I was mentally fucked up.”

For the next two hours, Nat laid naked in bed in the dark, calling Marshall and leaving message after message on his voicemail. “I’m not really crazy,” she said, “All those gory visions came from a demon I’m possessed by. Doctors call him OCD, but I know him as Bloody Knife.”

In Nat’s third message, she said, “If this has something to do with my brother, I hope you know I think it was fucked up what he did to that girl. Do you really think I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me when we were kids? That’s how this fucking demon was born in my brain, to begin with. It was once named Disgusting Guilt, but over the years, it’s become the ultimate shapeshifter.”

Marshall was awake and only ignoring her. He listened to those messages and thought, ‘Damn, she’s probably gonna stalk me and be impossible to get rid of. What could it be besides that massive, long dick he gave her on the first night?’

When those messages started to sound like she was reading suicide notes aloud, Marshall finally answered the phone. “Nat, I know you have a lot of problems, but you’re cool, and you’re gonna be ok,” he said, “Trust me. I can’t commit to any woman, and so it wouldn’t be fair to keep leading you on.”

Crying over the phone, Nat said,” That’s all-total bullshit, and you know it, Marshall!”

Forcing a laugh through her tears, she said, “Don’t you dare think you’re gonna get rid of me this easily!”

Going all out to hurt him, Nat said, “What if I call your job and tell your employer how you sell pot to all your co-workers? While I’m at it, I might as well call the sheriff’s department and ask to speak to the head of narcotics!”

Marshall had heard enough, and he said, “Over a little weed? Go ahead and get me locked up, bitch! I’ll be fine in prison. No one is shanking my throat because I wouldn’t do what your brother did.”

Enraged, Nat said, “You think I really give a fuck? He’s probably burning in Hell right now!” she said.

Marshall didn’t give a fuck either; he said, “Your crazy ass isn’t far behind him!”

Natalie went silent for the first time. When she spoke again, it was about an ex who made her, and her brother look like stable members of the community. He once threatened to mutilate her vagina with a knife. Ever since she’s been plagued by images of this actually happening to her.

Natalie said, “I’ve lived in constant fear of him returning to murder me. But the things he would do to you would be much worse.”

Tired of going back and forth, Marshall said, “You know where I live; tell him to fucking bring it!”

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