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.