by Mark Spencer
Table of Contents
in issue 258.
|part 5 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.
Beer signs flashed in the windows of The Red Dog. Pick-up trucks and choppers filled the parking lot. I went to one of the windows and looked inside at the bikers and the whorey looking biker babes, not that a couple of them weren’t bad looking — I could appreciate that even though I was pretty scared and depressed and tired and everything.
I kept looking through the window with the beer sign flashing across my face until I spotted Mom. She was carrying a tray of beer mugs and smiling and flirting with a table full of bikers. I knew she was flirting just to get tips, the same reason she was wearing the tight clothes.
I pushed through the door and made my way through the crowd. The place was noisy as hell and full of smoke. I had my paintball gun hanging from my belt, and some biker hollered, “Hey, kid, no guns in here,” and laughed.
Then some other biker said, “Since when?” and lifted some giant revolver from beneath his table, and a bunch of people laughed.
I went up to my mom. “You did it. You’re here.”
“What are you doing here? You can’t be here. You trying to get me fired, huh?”
“I tried to get you the money.”
“Will you get out of here? Go home.”
“Mom.” Then I couldn’t talk anymore because I was crying like some little baby. Some times I really was a dork.
Mom let out her breath and stopped looking quite so mean. “Go on. I’ll be home after closing. Go home and go to bed.”
The bartender yelled, “Hey, get that kid outta here!”
Mom touched my shoulder for half a second and said, “I gotta work.” Then she bolted like a bat out of hell to serve more drinks to more drunk bikers.
I started heading back to the door, but everything was blurry, and I kept bumping into people. The place smelled like beer and cigarettes, and again I thought I was going to puke.
Some woman said, “Hey, Linda. There’s a young one for ya!”
Then the one named Linda said, “Talk about jail bait!”
I shoved my way out through the door and stopped and breathed in the outside air and watched a cop car cruise past slowly. But nothing happened. Maybe the cop didn’t see me or he didn’t think I looked like a kid. Maybe he just thought I was some midget.
* * *
I had this dream that freaked me out. I was robbing Edward at Taco Yummy, but I wasn’t wearing the panty hose over my head. We were behind the front counter of the restaurant, and the safe was open. Edward was pulling out wads of bills and handing them to me, and I stuffed the money into both legs of the panty hose. Pretty soon, the panty hose were standing by themselves like the lower half of some girl was standing there.
Next to me was the girl from the park, the one that told me to get screwed. She was my accomplice. She was holding my paintball gun on Edward, and she said, “Edward. Edward. Don’t you love me? Tell me you love me.” And she started crying.
Edward looked at her like he really felt sorry for her and said, “I can’t. I’m gay.”
Then he winked at me. And that was when I woke up.
I was home in my bed. The clock on my nightstand said it was nearly eleven. My whole body hurt when I stood up, and I almost got back in bed, but I heard Mom and Dog talking in the living room.
“So you gonna do it today?” Dog said.
“You know it.”
I was still wearing my clothes from the day before. I didn’t care. I kind of staggered into the living room.
Mom and Dog were drinking beers. Dog lifted his beer can and said to Mom, “Cheers, baby.”
When Mom noticed me, she said, “Jesus, kid. You look like hell.”
Dog belched and said, “I hope the other guy looks worse.”
Mom laughed. “If the other guy looks any worse, he’s dead.”
“You’re in a good mood,” I said.
“No thanks to you. What was the idea coming in the Red Dog like that last night? Were you trying to get me fired?”
Dog laid his meaty hand on Mom’s shoulder. “Who cares, babe? It worked out for you. I told ya the tips would be freakin’ fantastic.”
“Oh yeah. Plenty for what I need.
“You got your money for that operation?”
“Yeah, kid.” She laughed. “Your ole mama’s gonna live.”
“Yeah. And with the meanest-lookin’ pussy cat on her belly of any righteous babe in America!”
“Hey, that’s an idea. How about if the kitty can be layin’ on an American flag?”
“Real patriotic. Just don’t go showin’ it off to the troops. You’re my old lady.”
“What are you guys talking about?”
“Your mama’s gettin’ a tattoo, kid.”
“Some times I think the kid’s as dumb as I am.”
The telephone rang. It stopped after two rings because Brandi picked it up in her room.
“You needed money for a tattoo?” I said.
“Hey, you’re startin’ to catch on.”
Brandi came skipping into the living room like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. She was all excited like she’d just gotten offered a part in a porn movie. “Taco Yummy got robbed!”
Mom said, “When? Just now?”
“Last night. Lou just called.”
“Who?” Mom said.
“Lou... Mr. Krebs.”
Dog belched again. “How they do it?”
“With a paintball gun.”
And the whole world looked at me.
Finally, after everybody had gotten in a good gawk at me, Brandi said, “Yeah. Exactly. The kid had panty hose over his head, but Lou has a pretty good idea of who it was. Edward was working last night, and he says to Lou this morning, ‘Doesn’t Brandi have a brother, and isn’t her brother a paintball freak?’ Emphasis on freak, please.”
Mom was suddenly really pissed looking. Her face was so red I thought she’d have a stroke. “Jesus Christ. Did you rob that place, kid?”
“No. No, Mom.”
“How much money you get?” Dog wanted to know.
“I don’t know anything about it.”
“The robber didn’t get a dime,” Brandi said. “A complete dweeb. So I figure it had to be Henry. Open and shut case.”
“Anyway, Lou said the cops should be coming any time.”
Mom’s eyes got big. “Coming where?”
“Here. To question dork. Hey, Henry, maybe you can start lifting weights while you’re in prison, and you can come out and be all buff.”
Mom started waving her arms around. “You’re gonna screw up my plans for the day. I was gonna go down town and get my pussy cat tattoo.”
Brandi’s mouth fell open. “Really? That will be so cool.”
Dog said, “Let Big Henry handle the kid.”
“Yeah,” Mom said. “I’m washing my hands of this. See ya in jail, kid. We’ll visit at Christmas.”
“I thought you needed help! I thought you were sick!”
Brandi looked at me. “I’d say you’re the sick one, dude.”
I bolted. I was out the door without my feet touching the floor. I started to get on my bike but then noticed the screwed-up wheel and remembered how nothing had gone right in days, weeks, months, years. I grabbed my paintball gun off the handlebars and then shoved the bike over and kicked the stupid thing. Everything would have been better if I had been six feet tall and if I had been sixteen or twenty-one and if I had had a Corvette and if my Mom and Dad and sister and everybody else hadn’t been a bunch of jerks.
I started to walk down the driveway but stopped and looked back at the house. As I stared at the house, my chest hurt and I couldn’t breath, didn’t think I’d ever be able to breath again if I didn’t do something.
I charged toward the front door of the house and burst in on them.
Dog was sitting on the sofa. Mom and Brandi were standing in the living room.
I aimed at Mom and shot her in the stomach.
“What the hell, kid?”
I turned to Brandi next.
“No! I just did my nails!”
I shot her in the chest.
“Ouch! You dork!”
Dog was laughing his ass off. I shot him in the chest, and he stopped laughing instantly.
“Hey! Now I got to kick your butt, kid.” When he came after me, I dodged his meaty hooks, danced around the chairs and coffee table. “I can’t let you get away with it. So just come on. Let’s get your beatin’ over with.”
Mom said, “Now wait a minute, Dog.”
“Guess what, Dog,” I said. “The dinosaurs are all dead.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
I shot him in the chest again.
Brandi was looking out the window and said, “Cops are here.”
Dog got hold of my shirt sleeve as I ran past him and ripped it off, but I got out the back door, leaving everybody dripping paint.
* * *
I approached Josh’s house from the backyard, looking around, hoping like hell nobody would see me. I snuck up to the backdoor and tried the door knob. It turned, and I pushed the door open slowly and stepped inside. It felt creepy because it was cool and dark inside and real quiet and I didn’t know if Josh was home.
I walked through the kitchen, smelling all the greasy stuff Josh had micro-waved for survival since his mom died. In the hall, I said softly, like I might wake up somebody otherwise, “Josh? You here?”
Soft foot steps on the carpet came at me.
“Josh isn’t here. Hey, don’t shoot, man.”
“Hey, don’t shoot, man.”
Josh’s dad flicked on a light. He was kind of short for an adult. He had glasses on with black frames that made him look smart and kind of like an old Harry Potter or something.
I looked down at my paintball gun dangling from my belt.
“I’m sorry.” And I headed toward the back door.
“It’s okay. You’re Henry, aren’t you? Josh’s best friend, right?”
I stopped and looked back at him. He was smiling. “Yeah.”
“Josh will be back. Why don’t you wait for him.”
“No, that’s okay.”
I started toward the backdoor again.
“Stay. Where have you got to go?”