by Mark Spencer
Table of Contents
Part 2 appears
in this issue.
|part 1 of 6|
Armed with only a paint-ball gun and a burning sense of responsibility, 14-year-old Henry Wales struggles to impose good moral values and appropriate behavior on his mother, a “biker babe,” and his older sister, a disciple of Paris Hilton. To add to his troubles, Henry feels his policeman father slipping away into a new life with a new spouse and baby. Ultimately, desperation forces Henry to commit dark and desperate acts.
I was in the woods at the park, playing paintball with these guys that were supposed to be my friends, but what happened was what always happened. All of a sudden the four of them were blasting me point-blank, the paint balls smacking all over me like wasp stings. I didn’t know why exactly they ganged up on me. Maybe it was because I was short or because my sister was a slut or because my mom was or because my dad was a cop.
Brandon, this kid with freckles all over his face — almost to the point that with a little filling in with a brown Magic Marker you could make his whole face one big freckle — and with this real orangey hair was shooting me in the neck where my mask gave me no protection and saying, “Die, mother freaker!” He really said “freaker” because his parents used to beat him all the time for swearing until he got so that he never said anything but “freaker” and “friggin.”
I was yelling, “Stop it, loser!” but he wouldn’t stop, so I went postal on him.
My fist landed right in the middle of his mouth, cut my damn knuckles, and he started bawling, his eyes shut tight, his freckled hand over his mouth, and everybody stopped shooting.
Josh held me so that I couldn’t hit Brandon again and said in my ear, “It’s just a game, dude.”
Then Weston was suddenly hopping around just like a monkey and pointing at something he saw through the trees. “Dudes! Dudes!”
Seth said, “Man, look at that! Look! It’s a girl! A damn near naked girl!”
Of course, we all wanted to see, even Brandon, so he opened his eyes and gawked with the rest of us, his mouth hanging open and these strings of blood in the spaces between his teeth.
And there she was — a skinny girl wearing nothing but a bikini. Some fat, gray-headed guy in army fatigues was chasing her with a paintball gun. I was hoping nobody knew who she was, but almost right away Josh said, “Hey, Henry, isn’t that your sister?”
Brandi was seventeen and had no sense. I was fourteen and figured somebody had to take care of her.
So I took off running. The fat guy was Krebs. Brandi worked for him at a Mexican fast-food place called Taco Yummy.
I heard Josh yell, “Hey, Henry, what you doing?”
Brandon hollered, “Wales is a total psycho!”
It felt good to blindside Kerbs, just plow right into his lard and watch him spill all over the ground and quiver.
He worked his mouth for a minute before any real words could come out. “What’s your problem? You trying to kill me?”
I was still holding my paintball gun and stuck it in his red face. “What are doing chasing my sister?”
Brandi had turned back and came running up. “Henry, you idiot!”
She bent down to Krebs like he was some little puppy that had gotten run over by a car. “Are you all right, Mr. Krebs. I’m so sorry about my stupid brother.” She took his arm to help him up. She really was almost naked. Krebs’ hand brushed the blonde fuzz on her thigh, and I almost pulled the trigger in his face.
“Are you all right, Mr. Krebs?” Brandi said again.
I said, “Put some clothes on, Brandi, and go home.”
Krebs stared at me like I was nuts. “You’re in big trouble . . . .”
“What? What did you say to me?”
Brandi got between us. “Don’t pay any attention to him, Mr. Krebs. Henry has a condition real bad. It makes him cuss uncontrollably.”
“What the hell, Brandy?”
“See? He can’t stop himself. He needs to be in a special home or hospital or something probably.”
I shot Brandi in the leg, and then I bolted, left Brandi howling and Krebs cussing me out. I jumped on my bike and pedaled like crazy to get home, my paintball gun swinging from my belt like I was an outlaw.
Brandi pulled up in the driveway in her Chevette same time I did, and we busted through the front door together. Somewhere along the way, she put on some shorts and a t-shirt, thank god. And she got her big mouth open before I could get mine.
I yelled, “Mom!”
Like always, Mom was drunk in her bedroom, watching Jerry Springer.
“Mona, this lame excuse for a brother screwed up a special job I was doing for Mr. Krebs.”
On Jerry Springer, a dwarf picked up a folding chair and hit another dwarf with it, and some female dwarf with really big boobs and really short arms was screaming at them. I was short but not like these dwarves. I was just smaller than everybody else in my grade at school, but not by much.
Mom stared at the TV and didn’t even look at me or Brandi.
“Yeah, a real special job,” I said. “She was running around the park, naked.”
Mom perked up a little. “Yeah?”
“I had a bikini on. Mr. Krebs was going to pay me fifty bucks to let him chase me with a paintball gun.”
I said, “What was he going to do when he caught you?”
Brandi had gone into Mom’s bathroom and came back out with a washcloth and was trying to scrub the paint stains off the leg I shot.
“Mr. Krebs just wanted to shoot me.”
Mom nodded. “Fifty bucks not bad, girl.”
“I know.” Brandi glared at me like she was the winner. “I have to slave away for like ten hours at that stupid Taco Yummy to make fifty bucks.”
Mom waved toward the dwarves. “Men are bastards, Brandi. Get used to it.”
“He’s actually kind of nice when he’s not stressing out over broken taco shells. He says I remind him of Paris Hilton.”
“What’s next, Brandy?” I said. “Porn movies?”
Brandi paused in her scrubbing and looked at me, her mouth open.
“You really mean that?”
“You really think I’m hot enough to get hired for a porn movie?”
I just stared at her. And I was still in that process when the doorbell rang.
Nobody made a move. Mom was watching the mad dwarves, and Brandi was scrubbing at the paint stains.
“I’ll get it,” I said.
It was Dad, all decked out in his Nazi cop costume.
“What are you doing here?” I said.
Mom hollered from her bedroom. “Who is it?”
I hesitated, said nothing, a little scared about what would happen with the two of them face to face.
Dad called, “It’s me, Mona.”
“What do you want? The kids don’t want to see you.”
“I’m here on police business.”
Mom staggered through the living room to the front door, looked him up and down, smiled a little. “Hey, Big Henry. Since you’re here, I wanta ask if you could give me an extra three hundred dollars this month.”
“I’m here about Henry,” he said.
Brandi came to the front door. She couldn’t stand to miss anything. Dad had not been invited in and stood on the stoop.
“Mom really needs that three hundred bucks. Help her out for once.”
“Brandi, honey, I pay plenty of child support every month. I’m here about Henry. Can I come in?”
Mom sneered. “No. If you don’t got a warrant or three hundred bucks for me, then stay out there. Get lost.”
“Listen. A Louis Krebs has filed a complaint against Henry. He says Henry assaulted him in the woods at the public park.”
“That jerk!” I blurted out.
“This little twerp deserves whatever he gets. He lost me fifty bucks.”
“Brandi was whorin’ herself out to the guy.”
Dad blinked a couple of times. He blinks real fast when things surprise him or confuse him. “What?”
Brandi rolled her eyes like it was the biggest pain to have to explain things. “I work for him at Taco Yummy. He asked me to play a paintball game with him at the park.”
“Maybe I’ll play with him,” Mom said. “Get my three hundred dollars.”
“I’m sure you would, Mona,” Dad said.
She stared at me a minute, then said, “Why hasn’t some crook shot you yet?”
Dad looked down at me. He was pretty tall. I got my shortness from Mom. “I’m sorry your mother talks this way in front of you.”
I hated it that he looked so far down at me. “Well, what do you expect? You basically just called her a whore.”
Brandi gave a big nod like she was a filly at the race track ready to go. “You tell him, kid.”
“Henry, I’m sorry. All right? Listen, you’ve been banned from the park.”
“What?” I wanted to find a folding chair and slam the thing over my dad’s head. “Why?”
“Mr. Krebs wanted to file charges. The desk sergeant called me in as a favor to you and me, and I convinced this Kerbs guy to simply allow the city to use its authority to ban you from the park.”
“But where the hell am I going to go paint balling?”
“You’re lucky you’re not on your way to Juvenile Court. I did you a favor.”
“Oh, thanks a lot. I’m royally screwed. Thanks for the favor. Thanks for not giving Mom the money she needs, too.”
I bolted. Dad hollered, “Henry!”
I locked the door to my room, slipped the dead bolt, put on the chains.
I flopped down on my bed and buried my face in the pillow. I was starting to hurt all over from being shot by all those paint balls.
* * *
That night Josh and I were riding our bikes along the streets of our crappy town, our paintball guns hanging from our belts. I was tempted to shoot all the losers we drove past. Some guy changing the oil in his junker and pouring it down the sewer grate. A fat guy with no shirt on and guzzling beer in a lawn chair. A skinny dude sitting on his stoop, dragging on a cigarette like he thought he was cool because he was such a total loser. Some old whore standing in her doorway with her stringy gray hair in her face, leering at me and Josh, like that witch in the Hansel and Gretel cartoon movie I used to watch when I was little. In the yellow street lights the losers all had shadows hanging from their faces. They looked like zombies.
Josh pedaled hard to keep up with me.
“So what are you going say to him?” he asked me as he came along side.
“I’m not going to talk to him. He’s not going to see us.”
“We’re going across town to see him, but you’re not going to talk to him?”
“Yeah. I’ve done it before.”
“Hold on.” I motioned for Josh to stop. “That’s it. We’ll dump our bikes here.” We walked our bikes over to some bushes and left them. Then we snuck up to a little house where my dad lived with his new wife. We got close enough to see through the living-room picture window. Then we hid behind a tree.
“Do you see him?” Josh asked.
“Well, what’s he doing?”
“Just sitting there. Watching the TV.”
“Is he watching Cinemax? My dad loves those soft-core porns on Cinemax.”
“No. It looks like a show about birds. That’s all he ever does. Just watches shows about animals.”
Josh stepped out from behind the tree so that he could see, too.”
Dad had civilian clothes on. On the TV, birds were feeding worms to their chicks.
“Hey, hide, dude,” I said. Josh got back behind the tree. Josh was a pretty small guy, like me.
“Brandon’s got a dvd about animals eating each other and their own babies. . . . Does your dad watch cop shows?
“He says he hates cop shows. If you ask me, he’s not much of a cop. He’s never even shot anybody.”
“He looks tired.”
“You think so? You think he looks tired?”
“Does he look sad?”
Just then Jenny, his new wife, walked into the living room. She was real young. At least Mom always made the point that Dad had robbed the cradle. Jenny looked like she was about to bust with that new kid of hers and dad’s. She could hardly get around on her stork legs. Her stomach was like the medicine ball we had to toss around in gym class. She leaned over Dad and slobbered on him.
Josh was out in the open again next to the tree. “That your step-mom? She knocked up or got some tumor or what?”
“Jenny the Ninny, my mom calls her. He didn’t waste any time finding himself somebody new.”
“Your mom didn’t either.”
Jenny stopped slobbering on Dad and sat down next to him, and they just sat there, watching the bird show together.
“Mom was lonely.”
“You know, dude, this isn’t real interesting. How long we going to stay here?”
“Okay, I guess we can go.” We started walking back to our bikes. I looked back at the house once.
“What did you want to see?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I wanted to see if he was sad. My mom’s always sad. I want to know he’s sad, too.”
“Your mom always seems pretty happy to me.”
“She’s not. She’s not happy at all.”
“Was she happy before your dad left?”
“What you got against your dad?”
“Well, like right now, my mom needs money, and he won’t give her any. And that thing about the park.” “Did he really get you banned?”
“Pretty much. He wouldn’t stand up to Krebs.”
Josh and I got on our bikes. “Yeah, Henry, your dad should have shot him for complaining about you attacking him.”
“Speaking of Krebs, come on. We’re going to go pay him a visit.”
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Spencer