Welcome to Bannville, MS, home of the Banned Library and set right in the middle of the dark piney woods where drugs, violence and dark forces are as abundant as the humidity. Our narrator on this journey is Evan Banned, one time director and current owner of the library now trying to bring it back after it burned to the ground and then, right after it reopened, was closed due to funding. Will Evan get the library back on its feet? Who is the mysterious man Carter who burned Evan’s car? Will Evan’s cousin Ilene AKA “Imp” explain her connection to Carter?
There’s something about having your car burnt in front of your library that gets you feeling a bit uncomfortable. That’s how I explained not going to the library today. I did not stay last night, either, instead taking Imp with me in the bookmobile deep into the north woods of Banned County and sleeping at our family’s land.
It was like camping.
Carter found us around noon today. He drove up in that blue Volvo and stood staring at the gate to the land for half an hour. I watched from the woods as he got out of the car and just stand there. Staring. Pistol in his hand by his side.
“What’s up, Carter?” I said.
He turned his body and stared into the woods. I was not sure if he could see me, but knew if I moved I would be dead.
“Not much, Ev,” he said, “Long time.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Yeah, it has. What do you want?”
He laughed. The sound was raspy and old. I felt bad for him.
He pulled the blue button-down shirt he was wearing from his pants and put the pistol in his waistband. Then he lifted the shirt higher.
“See this,” he said, pointing to a jagged pink line down his side, “This is why you have to die, Ev.”
“Don’t remember doing nothing like that,” I said.
He laughed again and pulled the pistol free, “Oh, you didn't. Woke up in a bathtub full of ice for that one. You remember the bathroom, Ev?”
“I remember. I still don’t see how I had anything to do with that.”
He raised his gun and fired. The shot hit a tree close enough to cause bits of bark to rain down on me.
“You don’t” he said, “you fucking don’t see how leaving me with that monster and not coming back would have kept me in one piece?”
“Fuck you. You said go. I went. Don’t remember Tim or Amber getting a choice.”
He shot again and this time I felt the air as the bullet passed me. What the hell? I stood up from behind the blind I was behind, leveled the shotgun and fired.
The pistol went off and he ran to the other side of his car. I kept firing, one shell after another in controlled bursts. He dove into the Volvo and started it. I let him leave and noticed something on the ground where he had been standing. I reached through the gate and picked up a small man colored in blue and red. I put it in my pocket.
I walked back to the bookmobile and the small trailer hidden by the trees. I walked around it to the latrine, a blue shack looking thing over a hole in the ground. I was sick in there, my stomach emptying.
“You okay?” Imp asked.
“No,” I said.
“You want some Pepto?”
“No,” I said and walked out to her.
“So he’s pissed?” she said, looking up at me. I nodded, judging what I should say to her. She had not spoken to me since yesterday.
“How do you know him?” I said.
Her shoulders shrugged and she turned from me, “What did he say about me?”
She stopped and turned, “Nothing?”
She shook her head, “I guess it didn't mean that much then. Fuckin dick.”
“He’s a goddamn psycho, Imp, and the last time I saw him we were… He knew some really fucked up people. How the hell do you know him?”
“How do you?”
“I know him goddamn well enough to have a gun ready when we talked. Why’d you slap him?”
“Fuck you, Evan. It was… We were drunk. I went to Florida to see you and you had already come home. He said he knew you and we went to a club...”
“Oh, Jesus, I do not care. Not one bit.”
“Then let’s go to the cops. Fuck Carter. Crazy asshole. Let the cops deal with him.”
I shook my head, “Can’t.”
“Why? How do you know him?”
“There’s… We dealt drugs in Florida together. Shit went south in a bad way and I came back.”
“You came back?”
“Yeah, and I thought he was dead. And if he starts talking I could… There’s some fucked up shit Detective Parker would love to dig up on me.”
“That was, what? Ten years ago? What’d you do?”
I turned from her then and left. She yelled my name, but I did not hear it. I walked into the woods with the shotgun and she did not follow. I walked long and far into the woods until I found a small creek. I sat by it and watched the dirty brown water flow past.
As the sun went down the air grew cold and I should have brought a jacket. I leaned back against a tree and watched the sky grow dark and the stars shined above. I shivered but stayed put.