The Hell Bucket
Adam Peterson

But it's not like that. The Hell Bucket is a good thing. Maybe the best thing.

We searched the woods when the full moon bled and a baby's cry split the trees. Hours spent in mud dyed red and we couldn't find the baby, but Sorensen found The Hell Bucket. He said he heard it calling his name from inside the cave where those teenagers died on prom night.

We know how it sounds, but you have to believe us. The Hell Bucket is a gift not a curse. If only it wasn't called The Hell Bucket, but the name is written in midnight right on the tin. There's nothing to be done. We tried to erase it, but Magnuson at the hardware store tells us it's not any sort of ink he's ever seen. So we bought the blackest paint on the shelf and matched the thorny font the best we could. We proudly showed everyone the 'The HellP Bucket' until Alderson—who was guarding it that night—fell asleep. When he awoke our 'P' was gone and there were locusts.

Forever it is The Hell Bucket, but you are doing yourself a disservice if you choose not to look because of poor branding. Only Paulsen claims to have seen anything at all like the devil weaving nets out of condemned souls. We find it likely that Paulsen's divorce, and not our beloved, drove him mad because the rest of us see flowers and puppies and how the world is going to end in the most wonderful flash of white light.

Here's proof that it's a good thing: when Paulsen threw The Hell Bucket into the fire before he jumped from the window, The Hell Bucket screamed. Nothing unfamiliar with fire can team with evil in the great battle for our souls. Thank God, The Hell Bucket was fine. It wasn't even hot. If anything it was blisteringly cold. We were even going to give it a nickname, The Ice Bucket, but Bergstrom turned blind when he uttered it in the bucket's presence.

This is your chance to see what love looks like. The Hell Bucket awaits you behind the velvet curtain atop a mound of granite. The throne is the only thing it's asked of us, that and the thing with the cats.

We are all so blessed. We don't need the sun to rise again to make us believe in The Hell Bucket. Inside it we see the awful we've done and watch each sin transform into something beautiful. Look, look into The Hell Bucket. Watch as your worst trespass is forgiven by a child holding an ice cream cone or a baby giraffe taking its first step.

Climb inside the bucket if you want to hear your own sins confessed.

Everyone climbs inside, in the end.

Adam Peterson's new book of fiction/s, THE FLASHER, is out from Spring Gun Press. He edits The Cupboard.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Neil Sanche.

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