The Ballad

of Bobby Roberts

Content Warning; This story contains vulgar language, graphic violence, and murder.

Robert “Bobby” Roberts the third sits on the edge of his California king bed. The edge of his world.

Bobby stares into the abyss of the egg shell wall ahead, eyes dead, face slack.

Slowly he rises from his morning’s perch. He almost slithers to the bathroom, where he brushes his teeth for exactly two minutes on the top and then two more for the bottom, one minute for the fronts and one minute for the backs. Bobby flosses before and after brushing. He stares into his own eyes the entire time, trying to see the soul they say lurks within.

In his closet he picks a short sleeve plaid button up and blue jeans. He slips into his running shoes, and pulls taught the Velcro straps. From his dresser he slides exactly one dollar and twenty-five cents in quarters into his right hand, and pockets them along with his car keys, wallet and a small red pocket knife his father gave him on his thirteenth birthday.

Bobby floats to the kitchen, where he drinks sixteen ounces of water with his daily handful of pills. Some yellow, some red and green, some white, all large. He swallows the whole lot at once, like a snake swallowing its prey.

He turns slowly on his heels and prepares his breakfast; Two eggs, toast with butter and strawberry jam, eight ounces of orange juice, and another glass of water. Bobby sits at his dining table and consumes his morning meal, chewing slowly and silently.

Bobby makes his lunch and packs it into a brown paper bag; One peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one handful of pretzels, two chocolate chip cookies, one fruit punch Capri-Sun. He’ll be out in town when hunger strikes again and Bobby is nothing, if not constantly prepared.

In his Dodge Dakota, Bobby feels safe and certain. He backs out of his driveway and into the street. The faint sound of rubber on gravel, followed by the smoother tone of rubber on asphalt. Bobby prefers the latter.

First stop Wal-Mart. Bobby has preparations to make for tonight.

Bobby sits in his car for ten minutes watching people flowing in and out of the Wal-Mart; Empty-handed in, pushing overloaded carts out. A steady but chaotic stream, like ants gathering leaves.

For another ten minutes Bobby stands outside the Wal-Mart near the Barbecue display, amongst the plastic monolithic backyard playhouses. He stands perfectly still observing life unfolding all around him. For Bobby time has stopped, he’s an anomaly in time-space, just watching.

Bobby is examining the choices before him. Picking each one up, inspecting the handle, then the shovel blade. He spins each one in his hands, tests the heft and weight. He holds each one up, outstretched lined up to his eye to inspect the truth of the handle. Bobby does this for pruning shears as well, then also picks up a bundle of duct tape, three burlap sacks, and a box of very long and thick screws.

It’s a nice day, bright and sunny, not too hot, not too cold. Bobby sits alone, knees together, spine straight, his lap a makeshift table for his lunch. Bobby holds his peanut butter and jelly sandwich with both hands, taking bites like a bird picking at a roadside carcass. He’s watching parents and children running and playing. A slight breeze picks up and cools Bobby’s face.

Lunch gone, Bobby stands in silence as the clicking and thumping of the gas pump empties itself into his Dakota’s hungry belly.

In his cart Bobby places pasta noodles and sauce, Parmesan cheese, and a loaf of garlic bread for tonight’s dinner with his friend Barbara Santa-Maria.

Barbara, who prefers to be called Barb, works at the Lumber Yard where Bobby is a purchase manager. She cares deeply for Bobby, and enjoys spending time with him. Bobby considers her his only friend. Barbara considers him just a friend.

Their relationship is moving towards romantic in Bobby’s mind, hence the dinner date.

Bobby arrives home and unloads his groceries and miscellany.

Bobby starts boiling water for the pasta, and prepares and preheats the oven for the bread. Spaghetti and garlic bread is the only meal Bobby knows how to cook without help. He usually eats pre-prepared frozen meals. Bobby leans over the pot and watches the water boil, the steam fogging his glasses, and tiny beads of condensation kissing his nose and mouth.

A knock on the door, Bobby turns from the meal he’s plating with a look that is both uninterested and excited. He opens the door and Barb hugs him around the neck, he feels an intense sensation throughout his entire body, but is too afraid to hug her back. She smells exactly like a crisp fall morning. Fresh, and clean, a hint of cinnamon.

Bobby and Barbara sit to eat. Barbara does all the talking, and Bobby just listens to the sweet song of her voice, the slightest rasp appears when she laughs and Bobby finds that both charming and annoying at once, but to him this is a small flaw that can be overlooked for a lifetime of companionship.

Bobby leans in to kiss Barbara. Reflexively she slaps Bobby across his confused face. His cheek welled and red, his eyes blank. As quickly as she slapped him he thrust his fork into her neck, her eyes widened, and she gasped, trying to grab his hands, but they are slick with her blood, and he pulls back and thrusts forward seven more times with little concern for his target. It is impossible to tell where the spaghetti ends and the blood begins. Bobby’s rage subsides, and Barbara slumps forward onto the table and into her meal, blood quickly pooling.

The dining room and Bobby are a monochromatic Jackson Pollock masterpiece of blood and pasta.

Hours of clean up later, Bobby stands staring into his own eyes, washing the blood and sauce from his hands. Barbara’s body in a duck-taped burlap sack, dumped into the crawlspace just below his feet. He tries to see the soul. He fails. Again.