Small Town Horror: Part Three

Assault and Battery 

One Wednesday afternoon I had the house to myself. I went upstairs to my room and spread my homework out over my bed. El colonialismo en Hispanoamérica

The shouting started all at once. I had been in 415 long enough to know that the townie neighbors were like Black Cat fireworks—short fuses, big explosions.

My room had six windows, two groups of three. One group faced north, toward the side of the townie neighbor’s house. The other group faced east. As soon as they started shouting I jumped off my bed and ran to the north-facing windows. I peeled the blinds apart near the bottom corner, half-hidden by the curtains.

I spied on them a lot, mostly to try and understand how a group of people could be so loud, and also to keep tabs on what I was almost sure was a drug dealing business. I was pretty good at recognizing several of the vehicles that made regular stops there—a beat-down gold minivan, a red truck—people running in and out at all hours of the day. Definitely a drug dealing business. Probably meth.

There were two men in the side-yard, Brown Shirt and White Shirt. Brown was accusing White of stealing a chainsaw. There was some shoving and much cursing, and a woman on the sidewalk screaming at them to stop.

Eventually White got in a white Escalade with his friend and drove off.

Hunch supported: Nobody owns an Escalade in Kirksville unless they’re rolling in dough from dealing meth.

Brown stayed out in the yard. He paced back and forth, talking to himself. He got on the phone and yelled about the confrontation to the person on the other end of the line. He kept pointing south down the street and telling his cell phone that the motherfuckers were down there.

Five minutes later Black Shirt showed up. He was carrying a chain saw. I was never able to find out if this was in fact the chainsaw that Brown had accused White of stealing—but it didn’t seem to matter. Black and Brown went inside and closed the door.

I waited. Nothing. I sat back from the window, thinking it was over, dreading going back to my Spanish textbook.

Then I saw the white Escalade coming down the street. They must have made a huge circle around the block. Driver slowed down in front of the townie house, nearly stopping, while White stuck most of his body out the window to glower at the townie house in a very menacing fashion. Driver revved the engine.

Seconds later, Brown and Black burst out of the front door. The Escalade drove half a block then stopped so that I had to move to the east-facing windows to see them. Brown and Black chased the vehicle, gangly arms and legs pumping, both armed with baseball bats.

Then White did the stupidest thing I have ever seen another human being do—he got out of the car.

“Oh, God,” I said.

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and dialed my Dad’s number. He’s always the first person I call.

“Hey, Sweetie. How—”

“Dad! The neighbors are fighting. There’s these two guys with baseball bats attacking this other guy.”

Two women were on the street corner, screaming at the men to stop. One of them was on her cell phone. Brown and Black were marching slowly toward White, the bats up against their shoulders.

“Where are you?”

“I’m in my room. I can see them through my window.”

White had his fists up, walking backwards. Brown and Black moved in jerking motions, hoping closer, then away, almost like a hesitant dance.

I can’t remember which one of them swung first.

A bat went through the air, way out of range. White jumped back, Brown and Black kept coming.

“Oh God. Now they’re swinging at him.”

“Have you called the police?”


“I think you should hang up and call the police.”

“Okay. I’ll call you back.”


White was on the ropes, all but running backwards. Brown and Black were furious now, no longer dancing. They swung to hit. White blocked a blow with his forearm, then held it against his body.

For the second time in my life, I dialed 911.

“Kirksville Police Department, what is your emergency?”

“Um, yeah, I’m at 415. There are two men attacking another man with baseball bats. They’re hitting him. He’s running now, behind the houses. I’m watching them from my window.”

All of the words came out in one breath. My hands were shaking from adrenaline. It felt like I was in the fight as much as they were. I even had the absurd notion of running out there and trying to stop them. I thought they were going to kill White, knock him down then bash his head in.

That’s what I get for obsessing over Quentin Tarantino movies.

“Okay, hon.”

She said “hon” because she could hear that all the words came out in one breath and she was trying to calm me down.

“We’ve already received calls from that area, officers are on their way.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

I hung up, looked out the window. I couldn’t see them anymore, blocked by the houses across the street.

“Dad. She said the police are already on their way.”


“I can hear the sirens now. Here they come.”

The cavalry. Five patrol cars, two of them parked directly in front of 415.  I went downstairs to see if I could get a better view of them being arrested. Put away forever where they couldn’t interrupt my Spanish homework or rev their engines or shout incoherently in the middle of the night.

I couldn’t.

“Stay inside for a while.”

“I will.”

“The police might ask you some questions.”

They never did. And a few days later, the townies were all back in the yard, working with the chainsaw Black had brought over.

I explained what happened to my housemates when they got home. None of them were very surprised.

“I heard the sirens,” Washer said, laughing. “I was walking home. I thought, ‘Ahwp…Wilke’s dead. The townies got her.'”

Small Town Horror: Part Two

Los Vecinos

Here at Truman State,  the students have a special term we use to talk about the people that are not students. When used in this particular context, the word townie refers to a native of Kirksville who is at least one of the following:

1. Frightening in appearance due to an unruly beard or lack of teeth

2. Linguistically underdeveloped and intellectually challenged

3. Addicted to and or dealing methamphetamine or another controlled substance

4. The owner of one or more large pick-up trucks

5. Fond of revving the engines of said pick-up trucks

6. Extremely conservative

7. Unemployed and living off government benefits

8. Loud, volatile, and profane (especially between 12:00-4:00 am)

9. Racist and or sexist

10. As annoying as they are scary

After having enough of dorm food and malfunctioning fire alarms, four girls and I rented a house for our junior year. Two stories, five bedrooms, and two full bathrooms.  Over the summer my Mom, sister and I repainted my bedroom. I came up with a color scheme of white, turquoise, and well-oiled teak wood. I sanded, painted, and finished my bedroom furniture myself. The place looked like the inside of a spa resort when we were done with it. It slanted a bit, but we put Styrofoam stabilizers under the dressers and let that be that.


My sister (right) and me (left) before paint


After paint

415 is located about a mile north of campus, a few blocks up from the Square. It is also surrounded by townies.

The neighbors live in a two-story house that must at one time been painted white. Now the paint is an intricate, crackling, gray mosaic clinging to the planks of warped wood. The windows are dark, blocked by blankets.

The front entrance, framed by four beams whose job it is to hold up an extended portion of the roof over the patio, leans severely to the left. The whole thing gives the impression of a very poorly planned Jenga tower.

Under the patio sits a large sofa. Gray and squashy, probably close to becoming the world’s first water-couch. The man on the sofa is a snowbird who has traded sitting stonily in front of the undulating waves of the ocean for sitting stonily in front of an undulating brick street in the armpit of the Midwest.

While he sits—stoically liquefying the couch—the other occupants move around him like insects in a time-lapse video of the rainforest floor.

One man drives his Ford through the patchwork lawn of weeds and dirt, bowling with the trashcans. He uses the truck as a stereo to share his music with the entire neighborhood.

The blankets over the windows shift. More emerge from inside, bare-chested and blinking in the sunlight. Silver cans glint in their hands.

A middle-aged woman, rarely seen out in the open, peers around the side of the house. She grasps the corner of the wall with the fingers of both hands and moves her head just enough to see into the yard. Her eyes are huge. She is a Tarsier clinging to the branches of the canopy. Watching. Waiting.

A teen in baggy pajama pants and a plume of violently pink feathers in her hair shouts all the swear words she knows into the speakers of her cell phone.

A man with a long gray beard stands in the middle of the yard, swaying on his feet. Left and right, left and right, for hours.

I come back from classes  just in time to fully appreciate the man in overalls revving his engine. They have a dog named “Puppy” who’s always running away. They shout for him over the engine noise. Trashcans go down in the yard as the couch cushions sink a fraction lower.

There’s a definite divide between us and them, the townies versus the Truman students. I lock my doors and avoid eye-contact, thinking nothing would happen as long as I kept my distance. But maybe Puppy always knew better. He had the right idea all along.