He hated Amarath.
Rumor was, his mother pulled off the side of the road, squat down and bore him while the car was still kicking up late August dust. Then pulled away before the dust had fully settled, leaving him red and squalling in a ditch.
Facts were, he was found pink and naked and newborn by a passerby, then raised collectively by Amarath. The town passed him around it's citizenry out of obligation, but not with care. He stayed in one house until he'd outlived his usefulness, or become too expensive, or too mouthy. He walked out of his last host home on the day of his eighteenth birthday and stood in the the road, both middle fingers extended high in the air.
"Fuck you, Amarath!", he yelled to the town. He stood there for a moment, half expecting women to wail and men to curse him, or bolts of lightening to come down from God Himself and strike him dead. Instead, he was met with the persistent silence that proved what he had known since the day of his birth - no one cares.
Apathy and poverty proved stronger than resentment, and he took a room at the boarding house in the middle of town. He paid fifteen dollars a week for a shared bathroom, breakfast, and a metal framed bed in an eight by ten room. His fellow boarders were primarily transient; they stayed only long enough to earn the money to leave. Folks didn't come through Amarath and think, 'Now this is someplace I'd like to settle down.' It happens sometimes, if a man's car breaks down and he never gets around to getting it fixed, or a woman falls in love with the sheriff (he is a foxy fellow), or a baby is dumped in a ditch by the side of the road.
There are some holes too deep to dig yourself out of.
He wasn't sure what brought the woman to Amarath. He stood in the hall and banged on the door to the bathroom and when the door swung open, instead of Bob Jenkins - who stunk up the bathroom with his cabbage shits and general lack of hygeine - it was the woman. Her hair was wet and stuck to her face, and she smelled like soap and steam and sex. He sucked the air in through his mouth, trying to swallow it, to swallow her, gulping her down as she pushed past him.
"Do you believe in God?", she asked one night, much later. They lay on his bed, blowing smoke in the air and trying not to look at each other.
He hadn't given it much thought. He spent the summer of his tenth year living with Jonas Nabb's family, and they were devout Church of Christ. They went to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and Wednesday nights, too. Sometimes, Jonas would skip Wednesday nights and spend two hours in the barn instead. He'd come out red and sweating and rubbing his crotch, then he'd tithe extra on Sunday.
"Nah," he said, "I don't suppose I do."
"But what about when you die?", she raised herself up on her elbow and looked him in the face. "Don't you believe in Heaven?"
He blew out a stream of smoke and stared at the ceiling.
"What about Hell?", she sounded nervous now.
"Yes," he said, "Yes, Hell is real and I know its name."
She started to laugh, but choked it back. She traced a finger along his chest and down his belly. "Well, what's its name?", she teased.
In his head, he was on top of her with his hands around her throat, her face purple. He squeezed and squeezed until her eyes bulged and her tongue swelled between her teeth, until her legs stopped kicking and her nails stopped scratching.
In the bed, he exhaled slowly and turned his gaze to her and said, softly, "Amarath".