Fatso walked up next to me and pinched the back of my neck. It was pretty hard, but not that hard. He was usually pretty gentle on me. He was always doing this, and other people got it much worse. No matter who he was pinching, he thought it was funny, and he sometimes called it the lobster claw, which was funny.
“Oh you fucker,” I gave Fatso a fakers stink eye and rubbed the back of my neck. “Can’t you take it easy on the ladies? Jesus.”
Fatso rustled my short purple hair, “You’re no lady Stef, you’re just a little shit.” He lit a smoke and looked at the stage. “Who’s up next?”
“I think the Tit Squad? Maybe it’s the Stinks. I don’t know, I just showed up a little bit ago,” I said, patting Fatso’s cargo pants pockets for his smokes.
“Still broke, huh?” He pulled his pack from a jacket pocket and handed me one. “Nah, just lazy.” Fatso rolled his eyes.
For awhile we sat smoking and quiet in the loud room. I liked doing this, but Fatso had a hard time not talking for too long. He was impossible to go to the movies with, and I heard that he was the worst person to be caught up with at the end of a party, but it was pretty cool to hang with him during shows. He was big, like really big, being made of a lot of muscle, but mostly fat, so no one ever fucked with us. I could stand on the side of the mesh of thrashing bodies where people were dancing, and no one ever touched me.
I could feel him shifting his considerable weight next to me. “Go ahead, talk,” I said, turning to look at him.
Fatso didn’t say anything at first, just pointed at this old guy standing in the middle of the room, then, loud as hell said to the room, “Whose fucking dad is that?” He broke out laughing like a maniac.
Ten or eleven other kids, some with mohawks, others with long, greasy hair and face piercings turned to look at Fatso, and then, following the length of his hand with their eyes, noticed the guy standing there with a six pack of unopened beer cans by his feet, arms crossed, like a totally useless dick. He was wearing khakis for fucks sake. Khakis and a button down – tucked in. His belt and shoes matched, and his hair was done in this weird Ken doll business man style. There was a brief silence while everyone considered the situation.
“Hey daaaaaaad,” one of them yelled. “I fucked your wife, and she tasted like suburban meatloaf” a particularly small girl with raccoon-like make-up screamed across the room. Laughter rose up all around us like flames. The man stood, arms crossed, shoulders swinging back and forth a little bit. I could see he was sweating. I looked at Fatso, who was laughing like crazy. “What the fuck is he even doing here?”
“Wait,” Fatso said, his loose body still shuddering from his laughter, “I have an idea.” Fatso heaved himself up off the floor. As he walked, he turned to look at me, flipping me off, then rearranging his fingers into a thumbs up. Not intimidated at all, he approached the man. They spoke for a second, the man shook his head and returned to staring at the stage. Fatso lowered his shoulders, turning back to me faster than I had thought he could, so that his arms swung out to his sides like a poodle skirt., “I hate you, Dad,” he screamed, stomping dramatically back over to me.
I laughed. “Fatso, what happened over there, you big idiot?”
“Turns out this dad’s not of the cool variety. He wouldn’t let me have a beer. Total bullshit.” Fatso lit a smoke defiantly, blowing smoke in Dad’s direction.
Tit Squad didn’t used to be a good band, not until that freaky chick Sheila took over. She’s scary as hell, but it works on stage. They’re still not good, but they’re better. All their songs sound exactly the fucking same, but that one song is pretty good. Fatso spent the set with his arms crossed, and nodding his head, appearing to agree with each beat the band presented. In between songs he made comments to me. “This shit sucks.” “I heard that chick fucked a donkey.” “Gotta piss.” “For a band called Tit Squad, they sure don’t have a lot of tits.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the sexually ambiguous bass player, who had long straight hair, no chest to speak of, and wore a sour expression across its face, adorned with mascara and the beginnings of a mustache. “I don’t know,” I laughed, “the singer’s pretty stacked.” Fatso shrugged, looking back at Dad. “What the fuck is he doing?” I looked back at Dad, who had moved to the back center of the room, out of the way of the building crowd. He had removed his button up shirt, and now wore only a white undershirt. Every few seconds he lifted a beer can to his lips and drank furiously. “Who the hell is this guy?” I smiled, nodding to the band, that insane front woman screeching, Chicks want to worship killers, too.
The break between Tit Squad and the Stinks was almost unbearably long. There were still three more bands that were supposed to play, and it was already almost midnight. I had to be home soon. “Jesus, when are they starting,” I whined. Fatso was quiet. “Fatso, when are they starting? Don’t you know those assholes? Where are they?” Fatso nudged me with his elbow, nodding toward the stage. I scanned the room. At the left side of the stage, leaning against the plywood was Dad, looking like a drunkard, and chatting up the singer of Tit Squad. “Ho-ly shit,” I said, turning valley girl open mouthed to Fatso who just shook his head. “Who is this guy? I bet he fucks her. Awesome. Totally fucking awesome.”
For the first time that night I really took a look at Dad. He was handsome, but weird looking because he had to be in his 40s. Not very tall, or particularly muscular, he stood with a posture that I didn’t notice before, his back hunched and arms slack. Every now and then he would straighten up and smile as if he were just remembering that he was talking to a hot babe. Looking at him made me feel two things, I decided, one – like I should be home doing homework or something, and not out late smoking and getting felt up in the circle pit by dudes who hadn’t showered in weeks, and two – that I was inconceivably young. “Heeelllloooooo,” a harsh voice came across the speakers, “you probably know us, because this town is smaller than a baby’s asshole, but just in case you don’t – we’re the Stinks and we’re going to kill you to death!”
Excited, Dad broke his gaze from the leader of the Tit Squad, and let out a scream like a wild animal. The Stinks stormed the stage and started playing, their distortion veiling the sound of any actual instruments. The dead are killing/the dead are killing/the dead are killing themselves! Dad tossed his last, half empty beer can straight up into the air and dove into the crowd of violently flailing kids. Fatso let out a laugh I’d never heard before, a high-pitched cackle that almost sounded like a baby’s delight and gave me the good old lobster claw, “Holy shit, man. I never thought I’d know a Dad I could look up to. That bastard is alright with me.”
What it was like to wake up alone.
It was lonely and cold. Single and solitary, but still morning with thousands of people waking up together, or also alone, getting to places that needed getting to. Millions, probably. I don’t know that many people, or can’t conceive. It was morning, and alone, and cold, but not really because the air was off. It had been nice the night before, and you had said it was “good sleeping weather.” It was. Maybe still is, but I’m not sleeping. I’m awake, and that’s how I find the bed empty. Or, half empty. A better person would say half full.
I was dreaming in a way that didn’t let me know I was dreaming. About work, or driving, or putting on my bra, or whatever—something stupid and mundane. But then I was shocked out of it. By what, I can’t remember. It wasn’t horrible, though. A jolt. A bull running at me? It doesn’t mean anything, or at least I don’t think it does, but I just like remembering if I can. Usually I try to remember it in the shower, as I switch the water from hot to cold and then back again. And then back again all the way so it’s burning so hot that it feels cold, and I can’t tell which way I’ve turned the knob. That’s usually when I remember what happened. If I don’t, I stay under the hot water until my brain confesses something. You’ve got to stay thinking. Always thinking.
But now, I don’t want to think, because I can’t remember my dream, because you’ve left and it’s on my mind. And breakfast. A whole mess of breakfast. I deserve it after this. Maybe I should be thanking you. I haven’t had a decent breakfast for a while. The best meals come from deserving; I’ve always thought so, at least. Hash browns, bacon, toast. Everyone knows what breakfast is. Maybe that’s a first-world thing to say. This is a first-world problem, waking up alone. Does this happen in tribes? Does a boy leave a hut in the morning, before anyone else is awake? Who would be awake? Hunters. Maybe he had to leave to go hunting. “Dear Girl, I’ve left this morning to go hunting in the city streets. Will return with nuts, berries, and the New York Times.”
Suppose he’s died in the bathroom. Does that happen actually? To people who just met? Or, as a punishment to people who have stayed together for far too long; gotten comfortable, lost love, wandered into the outskirts of fidelity…If he is dead in the bathroom, what will I do? I suppose that depends on how he’s died. If it’s messy? Call an ambulance. And if it’s not, will I stare into his dead eyes trying to find something, like I’ve seen famous people do with other famous people who are, most often, pretending to be people who aren’t famous and just living their everyday lives? Maybe that’s what people really do. I’m not there to see.
Likewise, no one is here to see me, so I could do anything I pleased with that dead body. Not that I would please. I’d just stare. Never seen a dead man before. Would it be me that I was looking at, really? My dead body in his. Just lying there, alone on the bathroom floor, stranded and silent. I ought to try—to lie down for a moment on the tile, to see what the dead man would see. Float gently through the roof and down the street. Leave the house and do my ghostly business. Quiet as a dead man now. Quiet and still.
I spent the day in the park doing that thing again. I’m ashamed. I’m kind of ashamed. Well, Dr. Trenohn says I should feel ashamed. Or, not ashamed because that word has such a negative emotion aspect, but that I should stop doing it, which means that this is the sort of thing I should not be doing with my days, and therefore I should feel ashamed that I am doing it. I’m trying to feel it, but I can’t. It feels good to do, and no, I don’t give a shit about those people in that park. All of them gawking and staring. They look at me with their mouths open like baby birds waiting to get fed, and all the time I’m thinking what the fuck do you think I’m doing? If they don’t like what I’m serving, then they should just go home and switch on the TV, watch Alice and Jane Shave Each Other’s Legs, or whatever is on that shit box these days. They can go stare at some other poor soul. There’s plenty to see in this city, they don’t need to warm the park benches. And Michael? I’m sure he deserves it in one way or another. Asshole.
Oh god, Judy. You wouldn’t believe this crazy woman in the park today! She looked completely normal, and I didn’t pay any attention to her, really, until she started hollering and carrying on. I thought she was a beggar or something. She wasn’t wearing ratty, awful clothes, and she didn’t look like she stank, but you know, I hear that the economy is bad, and I’m sure these poor people have some dignified clothes left over from when their lives weren’t so hard. But you know what? I don’t think she was begging at all. Maybe a prostitute, who knows. For a few minutes, while Mary was telling me that story about that yappy little dog she had last year – you know, the one that jumped from her lap out the window of a speeding car and into the bay? – and bored as I was, I watched this woman, that crazy woman, walk from man to man and then walk away disappointed. Then all of a sudden, after walking up to a man that looked like that fantastic waiter at the club, she just started letting him have it. Eff this, and eff that. Eff you, Michael! She even called him a, oh, well, a cocksucker. Mary almost choked! Eventually, the woman slapped him and stormed off. He looked then as if he’d just been the victim of a verbal mugging. Judy, it was the darndest thing, even for the city. Pretty little girl, too. I bet it was some sort of reality television stunt. You know? Crazy.
Shielding his eyes from the sun, Michael looked across the park. He thought he had heard someone saying his name. It startled him. His grandmother used to say something about what it meant when you thought you heard someone saying your name, something about a fateful warning, but unable to remember what exactly it was that she said, Michael forgot the whole thing and continued to stand in the middle of the sidewalk, completing his text message.
Terrible time last night.
Tell you later.
Michael looked up at the sky and sighed. The date really had been terrible; he wasn’t being an asshole this time. He didn’t think it was fair for everyone to always assume he was the jerk just because he had been a shit that one time and broken up with that girl poorly. Things happen. He was learning – just like everyone else. Weren’t they all just trying their best to hold on, and not go careening out into space, or some other thing that symbolizes a descent into immediate and utter insanity? This chick last night seemed to be holding on pretty good. She had a nice job, a well-styled apartment. A cat. She was responsible. But, with the terrible jokes she kept making about The Rock and Vin Diesel—it just wasn’t right. Did she assume that because he was a guy he would be turned on by the fact that she kept up with all those terrible sequels about dickheads and their cars? It didn’t make her a bad person. She just –
“Excuse me, are you Michael?”
A beautiful girl stood in front of Michael. Although he didn’t know her, he decided instantly that he would like to.
“And you are?”
The girl crossed her arms, and shifted her hips to the side.
“Just tell me. You look really familiar. Is your name Michael?”
A single man, and coming off of a bad date, Michael thought that maybe the universe was throwing him a sweet treat, something he could talk about at drinks later that might redeem him to Tony, who always had perfect dates and perfect jobs and perfect fuck stories, instead of just talking about his terrible date, and how his hours at the restaurant just got cut.
“Yeah, sweetheart, my name is Michael, who are you?”
The girl looked down and drew in a breath. A small, perfect smile appeared across her mouth.
“HEY YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE COCKSUCKER. I FUCKING HATE YOU AND YOUR GODDAMNED FACE. YOU SUCK DONKEY DICKS YOU SHIT FUCKER.” With that, she slapped him in the face and stormed off.
It was the most popular thing to name your baby boy in 1983, you know. I go to a bar and ask around, I find a Michael within the first three men about 80% of the time. They usually look like assholes. You’d think that someone with such a common name would look more unassuming. There’re a million of you Michael; you’re not shit. Michael. Michael. Michael. Michael. Michael. Fuck.
You know, sometimes I catch myself hoping that this Michael will be the one. I deserve it. More than any Michael does. I’ll be standing there, calling him the filthiest most fucked up names I can think of, and he’ll do it —he’ll ball his meaty fingers into a tight fist that’ll turn my pretty face into something he can’t stand to look at. Pow. Right in the kisser.
The painted mirror
When we got to the museum, a man in a hat with a shadowy face leaned out from between two pillars, and whistled us over to him. He confided in us that there was a secret exhibit called The Painted Mirror, and it would show your past, present and future. He drew us a map on the back of a cocktail napkin, and as we looped our way through the corridors, past the armory, Asian displays, and past the bummer wing, where the sad faces of bedroom eyes Jesus will get hung on crosses for all eternity, to a small room where nothing hung except The Painted Mirror. Sure enough, as we stood there, our past, present and future began to unfold. We walked into the room, waited with expectation, and like always, left defeated.
We are friends
Two bears lived together in a cave. They loved each other, and all was well, except that one was a tiger. They lived and loved for a long time, and it didn’t matter that one was a tiger, so Tiger never told Bear what he really was. Bear and Tiger had a friend named Eagle, and Eagle was a wolf. They had been friends for a long time, and everyone liked who they were, until Fox moved into the woods. On his first day in the forest, Fox thought it might be polite to introduce himself to his neighbors. Bear was more than delighted to meet Fox, because she had never met a fox, and thought his orange color was the most beautiful she’s ever seen, but when Fox left the cave, Tiger remarked to Bear, “I don’t know what kind of game that Fox is playing, but he is certainly NOT a fox.” Confused, but willing to learn, Bear asked gently, “Well, what do you mean? He was nice enough.” “Puh! Nice enough I guess, for a liar. I’ve seen foxes, and that was not a fox. I don’t think we should have him over again.” Those were Tiger’s wishes, and that was the end of the conversation.
The shark and the time machine
The earth was much as it is now, but buildings that have crumbled were new, and deep below the wicked surface of the sea, a shark found a magical cave. He didn’t know how special this cave was, so when he returned from a short venture into the vast chamber, it made no difference to him that the cityscape outside the water had changed from stone cathedrals to skyscrapers.
OR, The cave was a time machine. And when Shark swam out again, a million years had passed, but it was still silent at the bottom of the sea.
Bloodlust and cowboy boots
Everyone wears cowboy boots now. It’s not just about the cowboy boots, though. It’s the pocket knives, the feathers in everyone’s hair, and it’s this new, peculiar brand of mystical rock. Most disturbing, though, is the bloodlust. It’s impossible to walk down the street without coming across the small, lifeless bodies of decimated vermin. Blood and fur gets tracked into coffee shops, record stores and bookstores all over town, and you can tell who goes where. I can just imagine the new after parties; drinking to the point of anger, and rushing the streets to fuck up nature’s last-ditch effort to eek a way into the hard pushing future. Dancing in clubs, on floors slippery with the perfect embodiment of everything we took for granted, and fucking hated. Laughing hard, sliding across floors, covered in the guts of everything weaker than us.
It’s your dreams, stupid
Steve started waking up next to stuff that appeared in his dreams. Every night he lay in bed thinking hard about gold, or world peace, or beautiful ladies. But he dreamt of giant bats with giant tits, mangled dogs, and sharks in itchy wool dresses. Once his apartment was full, Steve felt he had no other option except to line up these monster fucks and drown them, one by one .
Lady No-English Likes to Hear You Talk About Time and Space
Lady No-English began showing up to class. It was cheerfully ridiculous, I thought. But once, while the professor was explaining in heavy science vernacular something about a giant hole in the universe, she caught my eye. We stared at each other, listening to a subject so clearly unknowable, regardless of language. Silently we sat together feeling the incomprehensible truth of infinity.
In time they came to understand that their world wasn’t going to get any better. That they may as well sink into the soft downy couch of ennui. They would always be lonesome on this planet. Haggard, spread too thin, left feeling like an old country and western song, moving too slow only to relate one sad and deepening point. Sick of working, they weren’t sure what to do with their hands anymore; feeling each stretch of tendon to be in vain. So, they carried their hands around in rings of remorse, constantly brushing off the dead cells, jumping at any chance to change. They knew now, after so and so many years that things would always be this confused. The dreams that they dreamt were the only points of consciousness left, and impossible to share in full. No one touched anymore, for fear of retribution, being marked as the vexed; knowing too much to be safe. So the world loped around in its orb, spinning inaccurately and lacking preciseness. But it didn’t matter anymore, because speech was fading, barriers were breaking down; the sharp blade of distant future cutting less and less often through all of their todays.
The second draft of a story I’ve been working on every now and then. It’s a mash-up of an old Bobby Nickels story and a failed NaNoWriMo attempt. It’s not finished, and it’s got typos. Don’t read it if you care about that sort of thing.
Charlie looked up from his Mustang. “C’mon, Chuck, I found something you gotta see.” Charlie looked down at the miniscule motorcar, giving it little kick. “Aww, I don’t wanna. I just got this thing. Let’s play cars!” Charlie kept his eyes focused on the tiny wheels. He would drive a car when he grew up. Maybe a Mustang like this one, but maybe better. Taylor walked up the driveway, brushing through a pile brown leaves in a slow rhythm. He shook his head. “What the hell is that? Your dorkmobile?” Taylor punched Charlie’s shoulder lightly. “Who gives a shit about a tiny baby car? I’ve got something way better.” Charlie looked at Taylor and knew that what he was saying was probably true. Taylor had been responsible for showing Charlie his first nudie magazine. Glossy pages filled with giant tracts of pubic hair hiding mysterious pleasures. Thanks to Taylor, Charlie once got drunk off warm beer, and Taylor didn’t even laugh at him when Charlie threw up on his favorite shirt after smoking his first cigarette. Taylor knew about all the best things. It was like he had a secret special portal to the world of adults, and Charlie was lucky enough to know him. Once in awhile he got to glimpse into that deep well of darkness and sin, which Charlie was sure is what kept his parents up all night, laughing and clinking glasses in poorly lit rooms. Sometimes, they screamed like they were falling – their stomachs resting for hours in their throats. They could summon the drop of a rollercoaster from infinity when they wanted. All they had to do was call upon the mysterious void that made them old and Charlie young – always when children were asleep, or pretending to sleep. Listening despite a gut-tickling mix of jealousy and revulsion.
Charlie pushed his car away in disgust, and waved his arm at Taylor in surrender. Always defeated in this situation, he had come to figure that there was no point in fighting the badness, especially since he was pretty good at forgiving himself later for whatever wrong things he had done. Once, he pushed a girl. She had called him a silly faggot and he pushed her from behind so that she fell with her face in the dirt. When she stood up, a tooth was missing. “Fuck her. Her dad is probably a faggot, which is why she’s lashing out at you. She’s probably in love with you, but can’t have you and it pisses her off. She wants to fuck her dad.” Taylor had said. He knew about these things.
The two boys walked through the woods. Taylor focused on the trail they followed, and Charlie idly wandering behind him, stopping to look at the shapes of leaves and keeping an eye out for spider webs. Charlie had seen The Fly several years ago, at an age when he parents thought he was too young to understand, and therefore surely too young to be scared of anything happening on screen. They had been right for the most part. In fact, Charlie had fallen asleep in front of the television, only waking once to see the scientist’s head on that tiny, helpless fly body, screaming for someone to save him, with no one noticing. It felt so real to Charlie, and that night he dreamt of being eaten alive, his guts sucked out of him by a giant spider with the spinning head of Mrs. Lewis, his health teacher. He woke up to a soggy sheets. Now, walking through the woods, he made sure to keep sort of a quiet, listening, and ready pose in case he heard the tiny screams of a small fly with the head of a man. Suddenly, Taylor took off running.
“Here! Here it is!” Taylor waved frantically, something silver and terrible appearing in his hand. Charlie started after him and tripped, landing at Taylor’s feet. “Get up, you baby. Charlie, you’re a grade A pussy.” Taylor flashed the knife in Charlie’s eyes. Embarrassed, Charlie pushed himself up off the ground, wiping dirt and leaves off his slacks. “So, that’s what you’re here to show me? That knife? I’ve seen a stupid knife before, Taylor. Who cares?”
“No, man. It’s not just the knife.” Taylor jutted out his right hand and pointed at a cage about five feet away, containing a black cat. “I’m going to kill it.” Charlie stepped back.
“Shut up, no you’re not.”
“You’re such a pussy.” Taylor chuckled and pointed the knife at the cat as if it were a hostage, aiming it intermittently at Charlie to punctuate important words. “You too, Charlie. You’re the biggest, sloppiest pussy I’ve ever seen. My dad used to kill animals on his farm all the time. He said that when he was a kid his dad told him he was a man when he killed his first sheep. When the fuck are you going to grow up?” Taylor shrugged.
Charlie felt stupid. Of course he wanted to grow up. But there weren’t two cats. There was only one, and Taylor was going to kill it. Charlie didn’t want to be there for that. “Fuck you man. Maybe tomorrow,” Charlie mumbled, turning to walk back toward home through the tracks they made hiking into the woods. Taylor would kill the cat and be a man. Charlie would go home and play with his toy cars.
Charlie’s sister sometimes came home from college. She would let him stay up late with her. They would lay on the floor in her room all night long, calling in requests to radio stations, and then listening to their songs and smoking cigarettes in the dark.
Charlie loved those times.
He would lay next to her on the floor watching her face light up in the orange glow of that exotic adult knowledge. She’d tell him about sleeping with boys, and smoking pot – two things that they did a lot in college.
And Charlie would smoke silently, listening to her loud drags between sentences, watching the faint outline of her dark lipstick on the white filter move in and out of her mouth like it was sewing her words into the world.
Charlie imagined that his sister was a telescope. He could see more clearly the adult world, and all the wonders contained therein. During those times he knew that Taylor didn’t know shit about what adults did. Yeah, they fucked and fought and killed. But for different reasons. For love, and hate, and insanity. They weren’t trying to be anything. They just were. Adulthood is a force of nature, he decided. Charlie couldn’t wait for that surrender.
His mother laughed and looked at him from what seemed like miles above, “What were you laughing at?”
The joy in Charlie’s heart suddenly replaced by fear and embarrassment, he quickly dropped his smile in to the face of a soldier at attention.
“The joke,” he said quietly, sternly. He shrugged, ever so slightly, attempting to subtly inform the room that he was embarrassed, and just trying to play along.
“Mmm, I see.” Mother laughed lightly, and moved some steak around in her mouth. A tiny stream of juice slithered out the corner of her upturned mouth. She lifted a twig like finger and pushed the juice back into her mouth, leaving behind a shiny trail into the smelly chamber. “What was the joke, then? I don’t think I got it correctly, if you managed to get it, too.”
Charlie looked around the table. Everyone was looking at him. His leg began to twitch. Skinny, their black lab rose from his father’s feet and came to lick Charles’ shaking knee.
“French fries,” Charlie timidly chirped. Mother arched one eyebrow and looked around the room, sucking gristle from her teeth and chuckling. “And?”
Charlie picked at his blistered finger. It began to ooze beneath the table. Skinny licked his leaking hand. “French fries are a good food for a last meal. If I were going to die, I would want to eat a bunch of French fries before I went?” Although this wasn’t a question proper, Charlie raised the end of the sentence to a sharp point before trailing off. His intention in this mirrored that of his meek, feeble shrug from earlier. He wished his sister were home.
Everything remained silent for far too long, except the sound of Skinny devouring Charlie’s finger puss. Charlie’s father coughed. “Jesus, Marie, just tell the kid why it was so funny. He’s got to grow up sometime.” Charlie’s mother smiled, a peppercorn stuck between her lateral and central incisors. Leaning in very close to Charlie’s face, she said in almost a whisper, “Charlie, darling, he’s not just going to die he is being killed, because he’s a murderer. He is getting electrocuted to death, in front of people. His last words include the term French Fries because it’s a pun. His last name is French and he is going to fryyyy.” With that the room began to shake again with laughter. Charlie sunk in his chair, feeling foolish and stupid and naive and hated and ashamed. He tried to laugh again a little, so they knew that he knew. He also hoped they could see how he hated them in that moment. He was just a kid. What the fuck were they doing?
“May I be excused?” Charlie asked, pushing himself away from the table, giving Skinny a light nudge with his foot.
No one answered. The roar of conversation at the table seemed to get quiet for a moment as he moved up the stairs to his bedroom, and then suddenly laughter exploded and the sound of talking reached a normal level. Charlie blushed, knowing they were talking about how stupid kids were, especially him. His eyes momentarily filled with tears. Looking into his bedroom mirror, Charlie called himself a baby and then told himself to fuck off and quit being a pussy. Skinny sidled up to him and licked his blistered finger once more.
Charlie grabbed hold of Skinny’s collar tightly. The dog whimpered. Twisting the collar tightly around his hand, Charlie listened to the dog’s breathing grow shallow, his nails clicking erratically on wood floor as he tried to get away. A deep sob erupted from Charlie’s mouth as he released the dog who backed away into the corner. “I’m a grade A pussybaby, huh Skinny?” As Charlie cried in a soft, but high-pitched squeal, Skinny returned to his side, licking lightly at his pus.