BONE DEEP

The damned itch just wouldn’t go away.
 

Oh, he scratched.  Scratched like a dog with all the fleas, scratched like the old ladies with their pennies and dollar lotteries down at the Seven-11.  Scratched ‘til his arms and legs and ass were red and hot.  Still it itched.
 

“Christ,” Boone said.
 

Sleeping was tough enough, with Shawna gone and the trailer so quiet.  It was good she left, though.  It hadn’t been right between them for months.  He’d felt it, in his bones, that it wasn’t right.  Still, the humpin’ had been good, even after the screamin’ fights, so they hadn’t quit for too long.  He was still wearin’ the ring she’d gave him, the black one with the badass-lookin’ skull on it.
 

Damned itch.  He couldn’t focus, not even on missing Shawna.  Not even on the ‘Bama-Ole Miss game on the tube, and he waited all year for that.  Funny thing was, there wasn’t no rash, nothin’ on his skin but the marks he’d made with his own fingernails. 
 

If this kept up, he’d have to go to the doc.  The thought Boone wince.  Didn’t have no insurance.  He could go to the hospital up in Jackson, to the emergency room, but that was a four-hour drive. 


So he scratched some more.  Hurt like hell, and the itch still didn’t go away.  Not even when he started to bleed from the scratches. 
 

Not even when the blood started to bubble and burn hot.
 

“Christ,” Boone said.  The blood on his left forearm, where he’d scratched clean through the skin, was boiling.  He ran to the sink in the kitchen and ran cold water over it, but that only made the blood run faster and hotter.  The itching had stopped, and now it was pain, kick-me-in-the-balls pain, bear-trap-on-your-arm pain. 
 

That was when the voices started, and Boone thought he was going crazy.  When the first face started to poke through the flesh of his arm, mouths open and chewing on him, he knew he was going crazy.
 

In the morning, Shawna came to the trailer.  Time to make up with Boone, the humpin’ was that good.  When she came through the door, she didn’t see him anywhere.  Just a white pile on the floor, by the still-runnin’ TV.  Just sitting there, among what had to be bones, was the ring she’d gave him.