Sherman had no intention of getting stuck in the mud, so he drove his pick-up into the clearing and brought it to a halt on the dry stretch of packed earth several feet from where the water lapped at the edge of the swampy shore.
He jumped from the cab and hustled around to the truck bed, opened the tailgate, and, muscles straining, tugged the heavy barrel out.
He rolled it the short distance to the water’s edge and shoved it in. He gave a smug smile as he lit up a smoke and watched the gray barrel sink with hardly a ripple into the dark, murky depths. It barely disturbed the ragged water weeds that covered a good portion of the surface. A stray cloud occluded the full, rising moon, briefly casting the clearing into darkness, before drifting on across the sky.
He tossed his half smoked cigarette butt into the water, climbed back into his pick-up, backed up cautiously, and headed out of the trees and onto the highway.
Later, he lounged on the couch in the living room of the old house, feet on the coffee table, watching TV and swigging his sixth beer. Something Ida would never have allowed him to do.
He looked over at the chair where his wife usually sat playing with that damned doll, brushing its hair, straightening its frilly dress, talking to it.
He’d rammed the pickaxe through its eye, cracking one side of its face. He chuckled, remembering Ida’s outraged screech. She was looking at the doll, mouth open, when he brought the pickaxe down through her skull.
She couldn’t stop him now, not from the bottom of the swamp. She and that stupid doll were down there together, forever. He’d carefully cleaned up the mess, and with some judicious cramming, everything had fit neatly into the large barrel, including the doll, and his pickaxe.
He gave a wet, satisfied belch, flicked the TV off, got up and staggered upstairs to bed, still fully clothed.
A full bladder awakened him. He opened his eyes to a pitch black room, confused. Hadn’t the lamp been burning when he laid down? Why was it so dark? Bulb must have blown, he thought through a fuzzy brain, as he stumbled to his feet and began feeling his way to the bathroom.
He reached the door, pushed it open, and stepped in, fumbling the light switch on – and gaped in shock. It wasn’t the bathroom. It was the attic room of this ancient, decrepit house his wife had dragged him to months ago, and directly in front of him, close enough to touch, was the doll, somehow grown larger, nearly as tall as he was. Her cracked, one-eyed face leered at him through her bloody, mud splattered hair.
Hot urine rushed from him as his bladder gave way, but he never noticed as the doll raised the dirt-streaked hand that held his pickaxe, and brought it down through his skull.