(C)Tooluser February 2011
This story is fiction, and any resemblance to real people or places is entirely coincidental.
Apologies for the long gap between updates this time!
Hope you like it, anyway.
I dunno how long I was runnin’, I just come to with the rough blacktop against my cheek, feelin’ how I was still sobbin’ and tryin’ to breathe right and not makin’ any kind of a good job of that. Every time I thought on Bill I called him a bastard; over and over, but it’s like half of me was fightin’ the other half, and all of me hurtin’ just real bad inside.
When I got up and look around, I could see as how it was all strange – ain’t never been around here afore: not even just out ridin’ scopin’ out neighborhoods. It was the kind of area Pop would’ve said was no good and turned right around: too many dogs an’ burglar alarms an’ stuff, where our old brown Dodge stood out worser’n a cop in a fag bar.
So I was just standin’ there, feelin’ as how my face was all cold and wet, and lookin’ around at the street: all big walls and and trees an’ white houses like that durned restaurant. My hand was hurtin’ - all bleedin’ where it got scratched up from me fallin’ down. Rest of was cold too: my nice stuff all muddy from where I fell someplace before, and covered in that goopy food too.
Ain’t nobody about, cept this car swooshes by, and when it’s gone I can hear traffic real faint like its a ways away, so I start limpin’ toward the sound, with my new sneakers squishin’ and wet, and feelin’ my knee hurtin’ where I guess I bashed it when I fell.
Near jumped outta my skin when a siren whooped behind me, and right behind that scare I got the clammy-cold scared of knowin’ what Pop was gonna do if’n I brung the pigs around to home. Wisht I could do runnin’ again, but there weren’t nowhere to go, just the dark of big old trees. Anyhow I figured it’d just make ’em certain sure as how I weren’t up to no good.
“Now then son,” this big, square-headed guy called from the window of the patrol car as it come up level. “What’re you doing here?”
“Just walkin’,” I said, real careful to be sure my voice didn’t come out funny, but the pigmobile pulled ahead a little and stopped anyhow.
“Never tell the pigs nothin’!” Pop walloped that into us time and again. “Never talk to ’em – everything what you say goes into their ’puters and it’ll come back later sure as shit and hurt your kin.”
The guy who got out of the car didn’t seem so bad. He didn’t look angry or nothin’, just frownin’ at me thoughtful like.
“Cardew,” he said over his shoulder, “guess this one’s for you.”
Durn. It was a dumpy woman got out of the other side of the car. She had this look on her face, all smilin’ like Mom gets when she’s gonna do B.S. On you. I hate it when Mom looks like that: kind of sly, but reckonin’ you ain’t cottoned on. Trouble is, when Mom gets sly, she gets a real good memory and you get caught real easy and end up doin’ stuff you don’t wanna or else you feel mighty bad.
“Hello, little one,” Dumpy said. “And what’s your name?”
I mumbled somethin’, acting like I were scared, but it weren’t all actin’ I can tell ya.
Sure enough she said: “And where’s your Mommie? What’s her name? Can we take you home?”
I kinda froze up for a minute, but she just smiled that freaky smile some more, and I knew I gotta say somethin’.
“We only just come here,” I said. Her smile got bigger and looked like she wanted me to say more, but she’d somehow gotten closer while I was talkin’ without me noticing. How come she sneaked up on me from the front like that I still ain’t figured.
“Well we’ll just give you a ride home, shall we?”
Shit! I heard about them durned rides. Ask you all kinds of stuff while you’re sat in there, but if you say no you don’t want a ride then it’s worser, on account of they they know you ain’t on the level, and they take you somewhere where you gotta help ’em: where you gotta squeal on your family or go to jail.
’Cept I ain’t old enough to go to jail; not a real one where I could find a big guy to look after me. So I’d get kid-jail and the Snoops, and once they finished askin’ all their dumb questions, Mom and Pop whalin’ on me.
But while I was figurin’, she’d kinda crowded me against the car and then I was inside and she was smiling at me in that scary way they use what makes you want to answer and tell ’em stuff: what they call bein’ a good boy, only it ain’t good, it’s squealin’. She was askin’ me my name, so I told her “Shayne,” and hoped she’d shut up, but she didn’t, of course.
I couldn’t think of nothing but Bill, all kinda mixed up, with this big dumb part of me just wishing he’d come rescue me, and the smart part not wantin’ nuthin’ from a guy who’d play a mean joke on you like that, like you was just dirt.
And it ain’t helpin’ how Dumpy Cardew – Pop says always be sure to recall their names – how she was doing all that smarmy, lying be a good boy mom-stuff. It was like my stupids come on real bad and all I could think of was Bill, Bill, Bill.
“I remembered,” I said, real sudden and I give her Bill’s address. Okay, so he ain’t my friend no more, and that hurt real bad, but I reckoned maybe he’d cover for me or somethin’, and if he didn’t, well, I figured he fuckin’ deserved a bit of grief. I don’t know - I were real scared right then, and it was like my brain had discovered extra dumb, or somethin’. I would’a said I lived at the White House with the President if I reckoned they would of took me there. Anything so they don’t bring me back to Mom and Pop’s place and draw attention. That what Pop really hates, he says, the attention.
So she smiled at me and the the guy did stuff with the radio – all cop talk and “ten-four” and that shit, and I got a real chill hearin’ him saying my name into that thing, just knowin’ that a whole lot of stuff was gonna pop up from that computer.
We drove some, and it was a great to finally see a place what I knew. When we turned into our street I didn’t even look toward Mom ’n’ Pop’s place what was all loud with party music and stuff. The guy gets out and opens the door - I didn’t try to get out on account of I know them pig mobiles don’t open from inside if you’re in the back seat – it’s one of them things my brothers been sure to say.
When they let me get out they didn't’ hold me or nothin’, and I did think about running. Dumb idea though, I couldn’t of got away, and then like I said before they’d know I got somethin’ to hide, so I didn’t.
So I just stood beside the car, feeling scared and fixin’ in my mind how it don’t matter if Bill was gonna be nice; it was only coverin’ on account of the Pigs and it don’t mean shit. It got real nasty for a minute, when I was scairt I was gonna bust out cryin’, and that would have got ’em all askin’ questions again but I managed to kinda stuff it all down inside of me again. I kinda gulped and the woman gimme a look, but she didn’t grab for me or nothin’ and she’d finally shut up askin’ if I was okay.
So we walked up the path to Bill’s place, and I’m hoping he’s gonna help, only part of me’s thinkin’ about me sayin’ thank-you after and, and -
Look, just earlier if I’d thought about thankin’ Bill – you know, climbin’ on him and suckin’ him and maybe gettin’ him to fuck me, I’d a been so hot ’n’ my uhu would’ve gotten so twitchy I’d’ve had to be careful not to walk out in traffic. Now though I was wonderin’ if he’d-a been laughin’ at me even then and I ain’t seen it, and that was just like a whole new world of hurtin’ opened up.
I was so busy thinkin’ back on all that, it hit me for a loop when the dragon lady – Mary – opens the door. “Yes, officer?” she says.
I got kinda hopeful, on account of her voice is as cool as a dead Dago’s dick and her face ain’t givin’ nothing away: honest, Mom couldn’t-a done it better. Only then she looked down and seen me and I seen her eyebrows kinda squinch like she’s puzzled and my guts goes all to water.
So I just run past her into her house – don’t know just exactly what I was gonna do: maybe hide or something. I just didn’t wanna go down the station and squeal on my folks. It don’t matter nohow on account of I didn’t get far: tripped over the leg of a table with some old vase on it and fell against the wall.
“Do you know this boy?” Dumpy was asking, and I just kinda curled up, waiting for her to drop me in the shit.
But she don’t. She just says: “My, aren’t you the dirtiest little boy?” with a weird tone in her voice. Then I heard her say yes she knew me and how I was the neighbor’s boy, and she told them my name.
They weren’t keen to let me off here, wanted to talk to my folks even though they could see everything next door was in mid-party, but she talked to ’em good, and eventually the guy said he’d just go next door to confirm, and Mary said that would be intelligent, and meanwhile she’d attend to the child.
Dumpy stayed though, all chatty and friendly – seemed like they knew each other from church or somethin’. Wanted to know all the ins and outs of the situation, like they do: and Mary does just a great job sayin’ she don’t know nothin’ on account of she’s been at some action group and Dumpy should come along again – they was gonna start picketing some rainbow center and wanted to be sure everything was all square and legal, like.
Then square-head comes back with that kinda goofy look what says Mom worked him good, and they all get their heads together. Kinda weird though how Mary don’t know nothin’ about Bill takin’ me out, and goes quiet. Dragon Lady or not, she ain’t in Mom’s league for B.S. On the fly, but with her and Dumpy bein’ compadres they figure it all checks out and suddenly they’re all smiles an’ saying goodbye.
So once the door closes I’m watching out real careful, you know: kinda out of the side of my eye? Mom gen’rally waits until they’re well gone, but a couple times she’s been too pissed, and if you ain’t lookin’ out and being real careful it can catch you bad.
But Dragon Lady just smiles – not a whole lot, but some – and holds out her hand. I’m way too smart to fall for that one, though. Then she says maybe I’d like to get some of that mud off of me.
It was scary, her knowing about me liking to shower and I wondered if she had some secret way of knowin’, like x-rays readin’ your brain or somethin’, but she just stood up and said to come along.
I took my shoes off so I could feel that nice soft carpet with my toes, and Mary she looked at me and nodded like I won a point or something and then turned and went on up the stairs and I followed on after, thinkin’ how I just gotta tell Raylene about it all. Loads more of them pictures what she likes and big sparkly hanging shandy-leers like on TV. They even got carpet upstairs – and then we went through this bedroom and into a bathroom that made my favorite room look just like an old shack.
The wall tiles was like this warm pinky-brown color, and the shower was real big, all made of glass. There was a tub, too, all shining white and standing on four kind of animal feet. But the main thing – get this – every single faucet and spray and door catch was made of like solid gold. Even the basin plug: I looked.
I thought she was just gonna turn on the shower, but she started filling the tub, instead. The thundery gush made me think of the slides at the water park, and I just couldn’t wait to get in; I started unbuttoning my shirt just as fast as I could. She put some pink stuff in the water and it all foamed up like rainbows. It smelled icky-sweet and kinda gross but the bottle looked real pretty.
She actually laughed when she saw me taking my shirt off and said I was a good boy and how she’d go get me some towels.
The water was great. It come right up to my chest, and the foamy bubbles come even higher, so when she come back I was feeling kinda safe, ’specially since I figured she wouldn’t see I still got my shorts on in case I gotta run or somethin’. She looked real happy about somethin’ and she was even humming to herself under her breath, so I reckon she must’ve snuck out and had a hit or two. She was too far away for me to smell if she’d been boozin’, but that’s what I guessed.
There was somethin’ freaky about that warm water – the pink stuff she put in it maybe. Weren't only it was real nice but somehow I didn’t care about stuff so much – it all kind of went away some. I didn’t even pay no mind when she started askin’ me all about this evening and Bill.
I said about it bein’ my birthday afore I thought as how maybe it weren’t no more, and crowdin’ up behind that like a rig in the rear-view was how maybe the whole birthday-swappin’ thing was real little-kid: dumb little-kid playin’ stupid make-believe and buyin’ into the con. It was so dumb I couldn’t figure how ’zacktly I’d been sold. I tried to look at it fo-rensic but it hurt real bad: just like the very worsest times when I used to talk to Ash in the mirror.
Stupid anyhow to try and figure it while I got a hostile interview: deserved to get my stupid head smacked for that. I reckon Dragon Lady didn’t spend her whole time prayin’ at them meetings, but picked up a trick or three from Dumpy. I could kinda hear myself chattin’ on about Castle Iceberg an’ spillin’ my guts, but then she asked a Snoop question about how come Bill ’n’ me met and it was like I slammed awake with my heart hammerin’ in my ears and sick ashamed how easy she’d pulled a Mom on me, ’cept Mom would’ve known better: she knows to put ya in a warm, safe place before gettin’ to them kinda questions and askin’ ’em in that real soft, tricky way she’s got.
It was kinda scary thinkin’ on how Dragon Lady ain’t so smart, on account of underestimatin’s a sure-fire way to get suckered, so I made sure to start callin’ her “Mary” and shiftin’ all my private thinkin’ to stuff what wouldn’t hurt if I said it accidental.
So I picked a focus like you gotta – that was real easy: I truly did like that bathroom, and the water was nice even with pink yuk in it, so I swooshed it about, feelin’ it running through between my fingers and makin’ myself just be a dumb little kid in a bathroom. You gotta believe it or you cain’t sell it.
She asked again while I was starin’ into the rainbow sparklies on the bubbles, but I had my shit together by then.
I told it quick, just the way Bill said to Mom on our driveway: just eatin’ and back to here, with none of the nice suckin’ or stuff Bill ’n’ me done. Mary asked a whole lot of questions about Bill and Mom talkin’ and I made sure to tell her about Mom and how she was dressed, on account of I figured Mary could use a few pointers on dressin’ to work guys’ heads an’ get free stuff, but I kept my focus and said it all dumb-kid. It was good - I could feel as how she was interested.
I reckoned I owed her for fixin’ the Pigs for me, and rememberin’ how she talked to Bill like she was on automatic mean or somethin’ I tried to show her how to work guys and like Mom says about honey catchin’ more flies than vinegar, only I made like Mom had said it all to Bill. It was real easy on account of Mom ’n’ me goin’ for the same kind of guys: like I said, you gotta believe it afore you can sell it.
She was kind of walking in and out between the bathroom and the bedroom as she talked to me, and I was glad of the bubbles because one time when I was stood up washing, she come back in and it was only the bubbles what kept it all decent.
Well, Mary went kinda quiet like she was thinkin’, so I reckoned I’d given her enough pointers, so I said as how her bathroom was pretty and I liked how everything kind of went together and she said yeah it was exactly like the bathroom what her daddy had, and she talked about stuff, only it was like she weren’t really payin’ attention to what she was saying.
I felt kinda strange, and yeah, I guess tryin’ to fix it so she and Bill got on better was kinda dumb in one way, but heck: I only give her like, Mom 101 - “Truck-stop Betty” - and here she was, knocked for a loop; no way I had to worry about her hornin’ in on me. Maybe I should-a started her off with Raylene; only that’s kinda hardcore with all them eye lines and how you sit and stuff – all what Raylene gets out of them magazines, you know: scien-tiffical? I dunno. Maybe it’s just Raylene’s style don’t sit well with me: all that “Guys are just dumb animals what gotta be housebroke” stuff. I reckon it’s disrespectful – only I ain’t plannin’ on telling Raylene any time soon on account of likin’ havin’ my head pointing this way around like everybody else. Anyhow, what Raylene needs a whole stack of them magazines for, Mom can do with just a smile. She’s like me: liking guys just comes natural to her.
But Mary didn’t seem to notice that I was a guy at all, she just put some clothes down next the towels and said she thought perhaps they’d do, even though they’d be a bit big on me. I didn’t figure what she meant until she grabbed my stuff off of the floor, and then I could’ve laughed. Good luck sellin’ any of that shit – it was so nasty I reckon even bums would of told her to shove it.
So I figured I’d better move afore she worked that out, and I clumb out the tub. Wished I could-a spent longer dryin’; her towels was all soft and not a one of ’em stunk.
The clothes was weird – like a plaid suit, kind of – only made of this furry kind of cotton. And just jacket and pants, no shirt or undershorts or nothing. I threw my wet shorts behind the tub and got dressed real quick. Felt better once I got ’em on, even though the sleeves come right down over my hands and I got to hold the pants up the whole time.
I was just standing there, wondering if I made a mistake not wearin’ my wet shorts underneath, and if I better run right now and not try getting my sneakers back, when she come in again. She looked at the bath and said how I’d left a big ring, and then laughed when I said no: bling ain’t my thing.
She come over close and crouched down, and I pulled up the jacket like she told me. I near pissed myself when I saw she got these big shiny folding pins but she only stuck ’em through the waist of my pants, not in me.
Mary stood up and held out her hand, real casual, like she was gonna walk me somewhere but like I said I ain’t fallen for that one in a long time, so I made like I didn’t see it, and after a bit she just said to come along.
She walked me to this room, all empty like it weren’t used no more, only the bed was all nice. It was only then I figured out I didn’t have to go home like, right away. She asked if I wanted any warm milk or cookies, but I figured maybe she’d put magic in ’em like she done in the bath water to make me talk so I said no. Then she said how she was gonna go wait for Bill, so I figured I better get some sleep afore all the yellin’ and throwing stuff got started.
* * *
Bill felt his guts tighten as the limousine pulled up outside Shayne’s place. He could see no movement, although every light was blazing. He looked across to the driver, and manufactured a smile. “Well, it looks hopeful,” he said. “Appreciate all your help, Mr. Williams: I really don’t know how to thank you. This has been way beyond your call of duty.”
The driver set the parking brake with quiet economy and returned Bill’s smile, his gold tooth gleaming momentarily in the gloom. “Don’ you go thinkin’ on that, sir. Why, how could I not want to find that chile, just the same as you?” He shook his head and sighed. “Still think phonin’ the po-lice would-a been the smart move, if you’ll forgive me, sir.”
“Yeah.” Bill closed his eyes and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “And if the boy’s not home, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.” He reached into his hip pocket for his now sadly thinned billfold. “Here,” he said, proffering a couple of twenties.
The driver shook his head. “No,” he said. “Don’ feel right, somehow, suh. ’Sides, you gassin’ me up back there must-a set you back considerable. This big ol’ bus sure does drink deep.”
Bill popped the door. “Well, thank you again,” he said, pausing to offer his hand. Brown Williams took it in a firm grip and Bill felt the other man’s strength and assurance flow up his arm in a tingling wave.
“It’s gonna be all right, suh – you’ll see, he said.
Despite the blazing lights, Shayne’s house was silent. The doorbell appeared not to work, and knocking produced no result. Bill stood back and stared up at the frontage, his mind playing horror scenarios: Shayne lost, phoning, and the family spreading out to search; Shayne hurt, and the family summoned to the hospital; the police calling, bringing even worse news.
Guilt climbed his back like a monkey as he made his way over the Meachum’s overgrown lawn to the pavement. He could still think of no way of involving the Police without the unnaturalness of his relationship with Shayne being obvious. It had been a coward’s decision not to make that call: to waste Brown Williams’s time and his own with that fruitless search. As he hurried up Mary’s neat, carefully tended gravel path towards the front door Bill found himself praying the prayers of the desperate everywhere: deal-making with the Almighty. Whatever happens, he prayed, please let Shayne be alright.
His hands were shaking so badly it took him two attempts to get his key in the lock. He turned the key twice: the first turn to throw the deadbolts, the second to pull back the spring catch, and put his shoulder to the oak paneling the moment the door unlatched.
The nearest phone was in the front parlor, to his right. He stepped aside automatically, avoiding the display table; flicked on the hall lights, and paused to close the front door so that it wouldn’t slam and wake Mary. He’d just taken a step towards the parlor door when he was startled to see it jerked open from the other side.
“So how long has it been going on?” Mary snarled, emerging from the gloom of the shadowed parlor, her pale gray eyes freezing him to the marrow. “With that – that Jezebel next door?”
“What?” Bill was sure his guilt must show on his face: all his evil risen up to show on his skin like leprosy: the stink of his past juices rising from his skin.
“Don’t lie to me – lecher!” she said, moving towards him. Bill felt cold sweat break out on his back. Every move, every touch of Shayne’s skin upon his was branded in his memory. He cringed, guessing what Mary was imagining now.
She spat, wiping the back of her wrist across her lips, her hand shaking. “I know every sordid detail; that child – that innocent little child that you used - I know all about sick men like you: using that child’s precious innocence like a weapon to lure her into your reach!”
Her hand slammed onto the doorframe. “Don’t lie to me! I can smell your sickness on you like poison, fresh from your satyr’s couch!” She drew a shuddering breath and lowered her hand again, her face working. “So where have you been?”
“I, uh -” Bill hesitated, not sure where to start. “Out-” searching for Shayne he was going to say, but she gave him no time.
“Well thank you for not insulting me with a believable lie!” she said through her teeth, “- as if you haven’t already humiliated me enough!”
“What?” Bill backed up a step in the face of her fury. “I haven’t -”
“Oh, haven’t you?” The brighter light of the hall revealed her face as beyond pale: bloodless except for two burning patches over her cheekbones. “Causing a scene like that in Chez Ami – as if you couldn’t guess every single one of our friends would know of it within the hour!”
Bill drew breath to ask her to sit, to calm down, but she cut him short with a gesture.
“Be quiet! I will finish – you constantly interrupt me and I will not tolerate it! Thank you! You will end this sordid imbroglio with this Marianne creature and henceforth you will sleep in the spare room and remove all your -” she stopped, and ran her tongue across her shaking lips, “your idols from my garage!”
“But Shayne-” Bill began, “he-”
She took a step closer, breath rasping in her throat. “The innocent who is this moment enjoying the bliss of Angels upstairs?” she hissed, “That you left to roam the streets, naked to every Satan-loving pedophile, yes?”
Bill recoiled from the searing disgust in her eyes. “He’s all right?” he managed, his voice shaking.
“As if you cared while you were whoring your stinking sweaty flesh with Marianne Meachum?” she shouted, her voice cracking; hands working convulsively as she leaned close.
Bill felt numb. Too confused to feel relief; knowing the futility of denial: whatever he said would be seized upon and twisted to his disadvantage. He’d long ago learned silence was the only defence against her rages.
“Oh yes,” she sneered, “I see you don’t deny it. Close your unclean mouth, with which you dare to address your Maker.” She shuddered, her skin gray, her sea-hag face looming over him.
Bill never saw her hand move, and crashed sideways into the little display table, his ears ringing. The blinding pain from his ribs seemed somehow to magnify the shocking pain in his ear, and a moment later his head cracked against the plaster. A white gunshot flared behind his eyes.
He hung there, fingers gripping the hard edge of the table, numb with vast surprise and only gradually registering that Mary had stopped shouting.
“’M fine!” Bill said, realizing only then he was answering for the second time. He was aware of blood trickling as he pushed himself up, feeling the coolness of the mis-rendered plaster beneath his palm. He looked down at the milky glass shards on the table and made them as Mary’s prized Lalique vase: found himself mumbling an apology even as some hundredth part of himself registered the thump of something heavy falling.
He was turned around: the cold of metal beneath his hands was the door lock. Suddenly all he could think was – Out.
I’m very sorry for the long gap since the last update. I'd like to thank those few of you who emailed me, and especially to Knotty for his encouragement.
As always, thoughts, wishes and encouragement warmly welcomed. Flames ignored.
Please mail me at email@example.com