Here are the beginnings of something new for Bitter Enemies. I’m trying to incorporate an experience that initially belonged to Bobby Nickels, but wasn’t ever really something that would have happened to him, I don’t think.
A while ago, in my post about smoking, I wrote, “My step-sister and I would stay up late calling in requests to the radio stations, and listen to our songs, smoking cigarettes in the dark.
I loved that time. I loved laying next to her in bed and watching her face light up in the orange glow of that exotic adult knowledge. She’d tell me about sleeping with boys, and smoking pot–two things that they did in New Jersey, a lot. And I would smoke silently, listening to her loud drags between sentences, watching the faint outline of her black lipstick on the white filter move in and out of her mouth like it was sewing her words into the world.”
This little bit stuck with me. I remember so well the idea of being a kid at the grown-ups table. I still feel like that a lot, actually. Like there is some secret that I’ll never be privy to about how the world works. Anyway, the feeling is a mix of excitement and terror. Sublimity, I suppose. Maybe Charlie can help to tackle the subject.
It’s clearly unedited and unfinished.
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 public hair hiding mysterious pleasures. Thanks to Taylor, Charlie once 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 defeat. 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 to a wet bed. 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. “Then, 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. I’m not going to kill you, but I am going to kill this.” Taylor jutted out his right hand and pointed at a cage about five feet away, containing a black cat. Charlie stepped back.
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 eye brow 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 family would lay off of him, just once.
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.” Charlies 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 knew he hated them. But at the same time, he wanted them to love him.