THE THREAT: Heed the Reaper

A DELTA SHORT by William Prentiss

The Threat

WARNING: See end of post!

Heed the Reaper

by William Prentiss

It started with a threat…

While attending Bible college, in another life, I memorized a proverb describing the condition of men with little self-constraint: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

I was aware of this, intellectually.

As a Bible-believing Christian, I knew vengeance belongs to God. I knew this! However, His still, small voice emphatically warning me to heed the reaper was willfully drowned out amongst the incessant cacophony of fear, pride and perceived terror deadening my situational awareness and formerly almost good sense.

I’ve always been encumbered by a passive-aggressive streak with little tolerance for stupid, fostering the occasional florid behavioral flare-ups.

I should have worked harder on me! I didn’t!

It’s best to “let things go!” I couldn’t, or wouldn’t!

Pride will cause a man to do what he ought not do in a society predicated on justice, even if the wheels of justice are often airless; vengeance still belongs to the State, and ultimately to God only.

I should have listened! I didn’t!

Perfidious Jones was a nasty boy. Mean as a cold, wet hen. His mother had been a librarian married to an almost always out-of-work mechanic who verbally and physically beat both boy and mother when drinking, starting daily—job or no job—right after lunch.

She was already pregnant when the whuppins began. It was too late to run. Cornelius promised her he would kill her and the little shit she was carrying if she ever tried to leave.

She named him Perfidious after his father’s nature. She knew what it meant! He didn’t! She was right! She called him Perfidy, thinking it might soften him. It didn’t! Yet, she loved him, only in a way a severely broken mother could. Though he was the spittin’ image of Cornelius, she still tried to love him. She really did!

He had not been out of prison long, having bludgeoned to death his old man Cornelius on the day Perfidious turned 16. He was now paroled and living with his mother in the house next door to me.

Still on probation, he kept mostly to himself doing odd jobs for a local lawyer who had legally pilfered most of his mother’s insurance settlement she received from a car wreck. Supposedly, he had been trying to get Perfidious out of prison early on an appeal. It hadn’t worked!

The cunning barrister, keenly aware of Perfidious’s foul nature, figured he might be safer keeping the pugnacious parolee in beer money and not focused on the disappearance of his mother’s settlement—now an umbral memory in an empty bank account.

Perfidious lived next door for about three months before I killed him, and his mother!

Didn’t mean to, but I caught him leering at my wife and child over the three-foot fence separating our properties. I stared him down for a few moments, then without provocation he haughtily slid his tongue in and out between two fingers before sauntering back into his house.

I was livid! My pride and shame and fear festered! I boiled, for hours; couldn’t decide whether to let it go or confront him now.

I thought about calling the sheriff, but what could I prove? He had committed no crimes, just a threat and gross disrespect for those I love. He insinuated he was going to harm them sexually, didn’t he?

Damn right he did! Didn’t he? This had to be dealt with. Now! My wife pleaded for me to let it go! I couldn’t!

“But he’s crazy, Honey! I’m not gonna let him threaten us and hurt y’all!”

“But your temper! Please don’t go next door! Chew on it for awhile!”

I chewed, and the more I chewed the madder and more fearful I became.

The sound and feel of hot, rushing waters flooded everything from my neck up. Head exploding! I was losing reason, hopelessly engrossed in a miasma of acute foreboding and pernicious thoughts.

I grabbed a pistol from a drawer and hurried next door in a blind rage seeing only red. I barely recollect kickin’ his front door, over and over, screaming, “Come out you sick son of a bitch!”

After an eternity, he opened the door, smirked at me, and said, “Can I help you, college boy? You look like you got your wife’s panties in a wad? Wouldn’t mind having a pair or two of those myself!” One vivid moment frozen in time, a nano-second really…

I hit him full bodied like a linebacker squaring up on a tackling dummy. Pummeling his punk ass over and over, we fell to the floor in a mass of hot sweat, blood and vituperative spittle.

We separated to catch our breath and to assess what the hell just happened…

He reached for his pocket. I thought he did. Maybe he didn’t, but I had a split-second decision to make, so I shot him; killed him in a phobic rage, while his fractured, histrionic Mama clung to me like saltwater barnacles on an ocean liner.

So I killed her, I guess. I don’t really remember it. Can’t imagine I did, but I guess I did. Her blood is still all over me. Good grief! What in the hell have I done?

Didn’t mean to kill either one of them, but sometimes things just seem to take on a life of their own, and God’s children not in tune with His spirit are equally as capable of committing desperate crimes of passion when passion is not restrained by goodwill, forgiveness and rational thought: all requiring practice in goodness predicated on a life well lived.

Now I’m here, on the river bank, with a bottle of whiskey, some weed, a pistol no longer fully loaded, trying to figure out what else I need to think through before really asking for God’s forgiveness and pulling the trigger.

How did it get to this? Fear, terror and a lack of trust in the system and ultimately in God Himself! He says He will deal with the unjust, but His perfect timing just wasn’t fast enough for me and my lack of self control has irrevocably destroyed many lives.

My wife and only daughter were just enjoying a fall day laughing in the hammock and talking about taking our dog Randy to the greenbelt walking path running alongside Muddy Creek, and now this…

Yesterday. Just yesterday!

I should have listened! Unable to take back words or bullets, I am incapable of making anything right in this lifetime! I should have listened to that still, small voice, but I didn’t!

How foolish to confront a convict’s ass who’s done years of hard, hard time—at home as a child and in the penitentiary! It’s much more harrowing and final than throwing down with a frat boy at a crawfish boil. Shit gets real, quickly, when dealing with folks who’ve done time.

Damn! I’m devastated! So sad! Numb! Lost! Hopeless, helpless, Lord help me! I can’t do time, Lord! I am so sorry! I can’t make this right!

Nothing and everything left to say. Only God could redeem something from all of this foulness, but I’m too far-gone to ask for help. God I have shamed you like no other! Please forgive me? Please take this cup of my own crafting from me! I am unable to bear this…

I just read on the Internet that his parole was scheduled to be revoked on Monday! If I had just waited!

I killed him and his mother; now they are hunting me! I can’t do time, yet I can’t live with two murders hanging on me, yet I am afraid to die! Lord? Lord!

I must now kill the killer!

I am typing this note on my iPhone listening to “Simple Man” by Skynyrd: my favorite song; one I didn’t heed while nourishing the Reaper with my self-inflicted malignancy. A simple life is a pure life; my life is over!

Going to hit send as soon as the song is over. Goodbye my Loves! I am so sorry! Devastated! Broken and lost without y’all! God will provide! Please Lord!

I have shamed you Lord! God please forgive me and receive me now as you have promised!




“Daddy, Daddy, wake up! Mama said that strange man from next door is out front and he said to tell you he was sorry…”



This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to people or places, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

WARNING: Delta Shorts, though ultimately shrouded in redemption, portray some characters in their basest state, including coarse language, non-gratuitous graphic sexuality, and internal dialogue and behaviors, which include obvious incidents of racism, sexism, and behaviors unbecoming those seen in a moral and polite society.

Please read no malicious intent into the author’s purpose for developing these flawed characters other than to present to the reader believable Delta characters–always fodder for a tale told by an idiot, signifying very little, other than just a Delta tale worth telling.

William Prentiss, with the assistance of his able and noble bride of mythical proportions, a fine meta-muse named Madge Marley Howell, has begun thinking about the “Great Southern Novel.” He will be describing characters rooted deeply in the Delta psyche.

He knows no more about them than does the reader. They reveal themselves line-by-line and serif-by-serif. William is likely more expectant than the reader to find out how his developing characters will behave.

At what point will plot be made manifest? It depends. In describing the characters and an incident or two from their past and present, Mr. Prentiss believes the story line will become clearer as the morning sun burns away the dross like dew on Saint Augustine (a bit over the top, but damn it sounds fine, huh?).

All characters are fictional, but how could a Delta writer not use real-life folks and genuine incidents as the skeletons awaiting the meat and sinew of prose and verse? For a better understanding of this character, read Carlene, Father Percy and Milky Steve, Grinnel, Genevieve, Eddie, Blue, and Donny, Connie & the General and more – all under DELTA SHORTS.

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  1. You had me from the beginning. Please “keep on keepin’ on. Can’t wait to read more!’

  2. Amy, I couldn’t agree more! I couldn’t stop once I started. My pulse actually sped up a bit in anticipation for what was next!
    Thank you for your encouraging comments to Chilly Billy! 🙂

  3. Ahhhhh Mr. Prentiss – What a story!! Love your words – such a richly written piece – flows so well, were it a page I would be turning the next page quickly! And the ending … whew! Love that you always send me to the dictionary at least once to look up a word!!! Thank you – keep writing!!

  4. Great read! Keep it up!

  5. Sandy and Rivers, thank you for commenting on this piece by Billy. Your encouraging words are a blessing! I do hope he will continue writing too! It gives me great pleasure to share his work here on The Delta Bohemian! 🙂

  6. Amy, Sandy, and Rivers, thank you for the comments. ‘Tis rare to get feedback on a “dark story,” but y’alls comments bless me! Thank you! Billy 🙂


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