It was a dilapidated shack. Thin, rickety boards slapped together through shoddy workmanship. The torn apart carcass of a raccoon lied prostrate on the front steps, having become a breeding ground for maggots.
Bullock pressed the toe of his boot up against the varmint’s hide and kicked it into the weeds, which were plentiful.
The inside was worse. It contained one single grimy bed. There was barely any room to move or do much of anything.
Martha, holding Maggie by the hand, gasped as she pointed to the wall. It was covered with faded blood stains.
“Disagreement amongst the prior tenants I suppose,” Bullock said.
“Stop making light of everything, Seth,” Martha said. “We’re in hell.”
“We are,” Bullock said as he rested his hands on his belt buckle. “Sol said in his letter that this place is a bit of a fixer upper but he did not elaborate.”
“There’s nothing better?” Martha asked.
Bullock walked outside and took a look around Finnegan’s Row. All of the houses were either in as bad condition or worse.
The tenant of the house directly to the right of the Bullock abode was an old timer with a face full of white whiskers. In a pair of tobacco stained long johns, he stepped out his front door long enough to puke his guts out all over his patch of weeds.
But at least he was polite about it. When he was done, he belched, wiped his chin, then threw out a cordial, “howdy neighbor” at Bullock before he went back inside.
Bullock grimaced but he didn’t want to be rude. “Howdy.”
He rejoined his wife to answer her question. “It would appear not.”
Maggie’s face filled with joy as she pointed and shouted, “Kitty!”
Martha was overcome by nausea when she spotted it – a fat rat scurrying its way around the corner.
Bullock made use of his boot again, prodding the tiny beastie towards the door.
“No Daddy!” Maggie protested. “I want to pet the kitty!”
“No darling,” Bullock said as he booted the obese rodent out the front door. “He’s a bad kitty.”
Martha sat on the edge of the bed and held her head in her hands.
Bullock took a seat next to her. He attempted to put his arm around her, but it was pushed away.
“I swear to you this will all get better,” Bullock said.
“That preacher was right,” Martha said. “This whole town should be burned to the ground.”
Bullock stood up. “Come on. Let’s go see Saul. He’ll show us the store. It will help you keep the faith.”
“I’m not going back out there,” Martha said. “And Maggie’s definitely not setting foot out there ever again.”
Bullock steeped outside again to survey the surroundings once more. While his neighbors were far from high society types, none of them looked conspicuously dangerous. The old man with the rotten gut was likely fast asleep. Across the way, an old gal rocked on her porch and knitted a sweater. A few houses down, a woman was hanging clothes on a line.
“I’ll just head over and see him then,” Bullock said from the front steps.
“You’re just going to leave us here?” Martha asked from inside.
“Martha,” Bullock said. “Will you buck up? We’re in the swankiest part of town!”
Martha expelled an exasperated sigh.
Bullock walked to the wagon, retrieved his shotgun and loaded it up with two shells. He walked back inside and placed it into his wife’s hands.
“Keep it pointed at the door. Shoot anyone that isn’t me or Maggie. Got it?”
Martha breathed deeply then exhaled. “Got it.”