W.A.R. Part Five - Retaliation
Chapter Twelve - The Locked-Down Unit
by Jeff Wilson
Monday at school was rather interesting. Not only had word spread through the whole school about Dustin's hospitalization, but word had also spread about Joey and his family being humiliated at church. I heard through Emily that the McKenzie family had left town for the week early that morning. It was funny, though everyone knew that Joey had gotten a girl pregnant and paid for her abortion, nobody seemed to care or realize that I was the one who had exposed him. Apparently, it was Pastor Carl who people were talking about. What would he do to Joey? Would he find some way to punish Joey's family for their sins? Whatever. Even in my moment of greatest triumph, I was still a nobody. I swear, I could announce over the loud speaker that I was gay and I don't think most people would even know who the hell I was.
"At least you don't have people thinking you hired one of your classmates to suck your dick," Brett said when I told him my theory as we sat together in the school cafeteria eating lunch. Oddly enough, I was nowhere to be mentioned in the news about Dustin, either. "By the way, thanks for bringing a naked gay prostitute to my house."
"I panicked, okay," I replied. "Where else was I supposed to go?"
"Yeah, I know," Brett said. "Don't worry, it'll all blow over in a couple of days. At least I finally got to see the imfamous nine-inch dick, even if it was soft."
"Dude, it's `infamous' not imfamous," I corrected. "And it's not nine inches. More like seven or eight."
"Infamous, imfamous... Whatever. Most people have no idea that he was doing that stuff up at the park. I don't know how Joey found out. Mostly people just have questions about what happened. I just tell them that he had an accident up in the woods and my house was closest and that tends to satisfy their curiosity. No one needs to know anything more than that. I've found that the truth always seems to find its way out eventually."
"So, did your mom say anything about when Dustin will get out of the hospital?"
"Well, she had him committed. He's in the mental health unit up at Mon General," Brett explained.
"She put him in the nut house?"
"Dude, that is not funny. Don't even joke about that," Brett said seriously.
"Sorry, I wasn't joking. I just don't understand how things like this work. I've never known anyone who tried to kill themselves before."
"Mom's had a couple of her freaks try to off themselves from time to time, so I know the routine. If she has them committed, they usually go to rehab for a while until they're ready to come back. It's almost impossible to put somebody in there for more than ninety days, even for her. Anyway, I'll bet we don't see Dustin until next school year, if he comes back at all."
"He's already missed half of this year."
"Oh, they'll get him caught up on school work and everything in rehab and therapy. He's smart. He'll figure it out. I don't know where he'll end up afterward. I heard his mom kicked his dad out again, but I can't see him going back there after everything that happened. Can you?"
"I don't see how that would help him. Don't we have child services in this town?"
"Dude, you can report all the shit that goes on in this town to whoever you want. Nothing ever gets done. You don't think the cops know exactly what goes on at the park at night, or who's up there? They don't care as long as they keep making money. I'll tell you what though. After the way you went after Joey, I wouldn't be surprised if your parents got a phone call for something stupid."
"This is one fucked up town."
"Welcome to the outskirts of nowhere," Brett replied. "How many times have I told you? This town is worse than Hell. I can't wait for us to get out of here."
"So, is your mom going to be Dustin's doctor?"
"Nope," Brett said, taking a bite of his apple. "She's too close to the situation. Once she had him admitted she referred him to a specialist."
"That makes sense. But why did she take care of me when I punched the mirror? I'm closer than Dustin."
"You were a freebie. If you were, like, seriously fucked up she'd have referred you to one of her friends like she did to me."
"Jesus, even when I have a mental breakdown I can't win. Okay, so who's going to pay for all this therapy and stuff? His parents couldn't afford it even if they wanted to help him."
"Don't worry about it. It's taken care of," Brett replied.
"How?" I asked.
"Didn't I just tell you not to worry about it?" Brett said.
"Oh... okay," I replied. I knew Brett well enough to know when he was embarrassed about his mom having the kind of resources that could make things happen, so I didn't ask anything further. I looked around the cafeteria. "Have you noticed how quiet it is today?"
"People don't know how to react. Everybody knows something bad happened to Dustin, they just don't know how bad it really was. The worst thing that ever happened here was when what's-his-name almost died in class from a drug overdose," Brett explained.
"Jerry Freemont," I said.
"Huh?" Brett said, losing interest in our conversation, which wasn't unusual for him. He smiled at one of our classmates as he walked by and then stared at the boy's ass as he went to his seat.
"His name was Jerry... Do you always stare at other boys' asses like that when they walk by?"
"Have you seen the way other guys stare at yours?" Brett asked.
"No... Do they?"
"Haven't I told you that you have a great ass? I don't just say that because I'm in love with you."
I blushed. "Whatever. Anyway, who is that kid?"
"That is Doug Sanders," Brett explained. "He's really nice. He moved here a few months ago. He's in a few of my classes because he's dyslexic too. Don't you think he's kind of hot?"
I looked at the kid without trying to be too obvious. He was a lighter shade of blond than I was. He noticed me looking at him and smiled. He had a nice smile. I returned the smile and turned back to Brett. "He's kind of okay, I guess."
"He's gay too," Brett informed me.
"How could you possibly know that?"
"Gay-dar," Brett replied, pointing to his head. "I can feel the gay flowing through him. That and he asked me out."
"He what?!?" I asked, though not too loud.
"Don't be jealous. I told him I wasn't interested. It's not like he knew we're together. I am quite a catch, you know. If I wasn't with you I'd be such a whore by now. Oh, that's probably a really poor choice of words right now, huh? Anyway, I'd fuck anything that moved if not for you. But yeah, Doug's pretty cool. Oh, and no one cares that he's gay by the way, hint, hint..."
Before we could get back to our usual banter, Emily Barnhart walked up behind Brett and smacked him on the back of the head. "What did you do to Dustin?" she asked him angrily.
"OWWWWW!!!!! You bitch!!" Brett whined. "Why is everyone hitting me in the head lately? I have a concussion, you know."
"Haven't you milked that accident long enough? It was like ten years ago. I think you've healed by now," Emily fumed, not realizing that Dustin had used Brett's head as a basketball when he'd beat him up.
"You get hit by a car and see how quick you get over it, Barney. I still have nightmares about old codgers in Cadillacs. And I didn't do anything to Dustin. Genius over there found him in the woods and brought him to my house."
"Okay then, Billy. What happened?"
I explained what happened to Dustin, leaving out the whole gay prostitute thing. As I did that, Brett grabbed the banana I'd had on my lunch tray and unpeeled it, then he deep throated it. He looked at me seductively as he slowly started pulling it back out of his mouth. He smiled at Emily.
"So anyway I... Dude, seriously, stop it," I scolded him.
"Stop what?" Brett grinned. He took a big bite of the banana. "I just really love eating your banana. I've never heard you complaining about it before."
"Do you have to be so crass about it?" I asked.
"What? I told you I needed to practice. I thought you liked the way I enjoy your banana!"
"What's wrong with liking a nice thick juicy banana in your mouth?"
"You're embarrassing Emily!"
Emily laughed. "Hey, leave me out of this. What you two do with your bananas is your none of my business. You two can talk about how much you like bananas all you want after we decide what to do about Dustin."
"Well, with him being in a locked ward we may not even be able to see him, but we can try to visit him tomorrow after school. I can finally use my license."
"That sounds good to me. What about you, Reilly?" Em asked.
Brett sighed. "Okay fine... It's not like I have anything better to do tomorrow anyway," he finished his banana and threw the peel on my lunch tray. "Aw look, your banana's gone all limp, Billy," he joked.
So that Tuesday dad let me use the truck. Em and Brett got off the bus at my house after school and we drove up to Mon Valley Hospital where my mom worked. It was mom's day off, so we weren't likely to see her there. I was surprised she wasn't home, actually. Dad was much cooler about letting me drive than mom. When I drove with mom, it was like she was expecting the car to go flying off the road and burst into flames at any moment. Dad actually let me drive on my own now that I had my license. He was even talking about saving up a little money to get me a cheap car of my own if I worked with him over the summer.
We had to ask the receptionist where the mental health section of the building was. While Brett was familiar with his mom's work, he'd never actually been to the locked ward before so he was no help. The receptionist informed us where we had to go, and told us that it was a locked down unit and we would have to use a phone at the door to be let in and that only one of us would be allowed to enter at one time. Brett had already told us that would be the case, so we weren't surprised. We rode the elevator up to the fifth floor and followed the signs to a set of locked doors. We made Emily call the desk. She told us that since only one of us could go in and since she'd been the one to call she was going first. The door opened and a sour-looking nurse greeted us.
"Only one of you can come in at a time," she said.
"Jesus, we know that already, lady," Brett said.
Emily quickly volunteered to go in before Brett got us kicked out. Brett and I walked to the waiting room where we were surprised to find...
"Amanda!" I exclaimed.
"Billy!" She replied, mocking my surprise.
"What are you doing here?"
"Uh, gee, let me think... My baby brother's in the psych ward after he almost killed himself. I wonder what I could be doing here..."
"Hey Mandy." Brett said cheerfully.
"Tony." Amanda laughed. "Still hanging out with this loser, huh? You could do so much better, you know. How you been, sweetie?"
"I'm good when your brother's not kicking my ass. You still living in Pittsburgh?"
"Yeah. I finished my GED and I'm going to start college in the fall. Once things get figured out with our parents we'll decide what to do with Dustin."
"Tell me your mom is not going to let your dad live there again." I said.
"She kicked him out again after what happened. He says he's moving to Cleveland, but we'll see how long that lasts until she lets him back in again. He'd better not come back or I'll kill him myself. My brother won't be home until August at the latest because after he gets out of here he's going to a rehab place north up near Erie for ninety days. I told him that he can move in with me when he gets out if he wants. I can understand why he wouldn't want to though. It's not like I was the world's best sister."
"You did what you could," Brett replied.
"Yeah, I hear you did too. I heard about my brother kicking your ass after you told mom about what dad did to him. I always knew you were tougher than you looked. That's the Irish blood. But that's how I knew how desperate things had gotten and that what you said was true. For all the shit my brother's been through, he was never violent."
"So how is he?" I asked.
"Oh he's as chipper as ever!" Amanda said sarcastically. "How do you think he's doing, dumbass? He's all fucked up on drugs and strapped to a bed so he won't try to kill himself again. He's so depressed. I barely recognize him. Even when things were bad, he was always optimistic about things. He was always the one who held the family together. But now that's gone. He's just... empty. I hate seeing him like this."
Emily returned to the waiting room, looking pale and ready to cry.
"It's like it's not even him," she said.
"Depressing, isn't it?" Amanda offered.
"He didn't even say anything or look at me. He just laid there looking at the television."
Brett moved to Emily's side and put his arm around her shoulders. She hugged him. Brett looked at me and gave me a little nod to let me know that I should go to see Dustin while he took care of Em. I quickly went to the nurse who was waiting at the big double doors.
"I need you to give me any knives, nail files, or keys... Anything in your pockets," she informed me. I quickly handed her my car keys and she used a metal detecting wand to make sure I wasn't hiding anything from her. Then she led me down the hall to Dustin's room. "Don't close the door. Don't give him anything. Try not to say anything to upset him. Don't touch him, and do not under any circumstances loosen his restraints, even if he asks you to," she ordered me. "You have ten minutes."
With all that information swirling in my head, I walked in to Dustin's room. I was shocked to see that his long black hair had all been buzzed off. He had a red buzz cut again. He was still whiter than a ghost, and he looked even more skeletal than ever. His arms were bandaged from his hands to his elbows and he was restrained to the bed by cloth straps. His earrings and nose ring were gone. He looked weak and tired. He had dark circles around his eyes, as if he hadn't slept in a month. He was watching a cartoon on the television. He had an iv hooked up to his left arm. He glanced away from the television to see me standing there, and then went back to watching the television.
"You should have let me die," he said quietly, not looking at me but watching the television.
"What was I supposed to do, leave you naked up on that hill?"
"I wish you had," Dustin replied. "I'm sorry you found me."
"I'm not sorry. I love you, dude. I didn't want you to die."
"Dude, I'm already dead. I mean, look at me." He held up his arms as much as he could before his restraints kept him from moving. "They say I've got borderline personality disorder. What does that even mean? I crossed that border a long time ago. They've got me tied up like a dog. They butchered my hair. My wrists are scarred for life now. It's useless. This world is useless. Everything is useless. Even if we live as best we can, even if we try to smile or try to make the world better, we still lose. It's all random meaningless bullshit. I should've used a gun. I thought about taking one from your dad when I was at your house, but I didn't want you guys to get in trouble."
"I'm sorry your life is so fucked up, but I'm not sorry I saved you."
"You and Reilly... My fucking heroes. Don't you understand? You didn't save me, you made things worse, Billy. I still want to die. All you did was keep the hell going. My life isn't worth living. It's all stupid. Pointless. The world will be better off without me. If I'd have died people might have remembered me for something. Now, I'm always going to be the freak who tried to kill himself. It's humiliating. I'm such a loser. No one is ever going to treat me like a normal person again. I just wish it was over with already. All I have left is hate."
"You still have people who love you."
"Who, you? Emily? My fuckin' sister? You don't know half of what you think you do, Billy. You don't know the places I've been, the things I've done. I've done some scary, evil shit, dude. Didn't you ever wonder how I suddenly had enough money to buy all those black clothes and my trench coat? Would you like to know where I got the money? I bet your boyfriend told you I was up in the park selling drugs. But you had to know I would never sell drugs because it would hurt other people. No, dude. I wasn't selling drugs I was selling myself. But I wasn't even selling sex, really. I was selling my soul one piece at a time, until there was nothing left of me. It started out so simple. Once I found out what goes on at the park, I had to try it. It was easy. Just sneak out of the house at night, wait for some older dude to drive up and hand me some cash, get in the car and go someplace out of the way and suck his cock. I thought it would be easy money. And it was, until I realized what it was doing to me. Every one of those guys... They didn't just get a blowjob. They took a piece of me with them. After a while I lost count of how many cocks I'd sucked. At least a hundred..."
"Oh my god..." I gasped. I'd never imagined...
"Does that number surprise you?" Dustin asked. "That's just the beginning. Once you've given away your soul there's really nothing left to give a fuck about. Pretty soon it's not even about the money. Once life loses all meaning you really don't care who does what to you anymore. Pretty soon blowjobs aren't enough. It doesn't take long... Everything has a price. Your mouth, your ass, your soul... It makes no difference. It's all the same. I sold it all. And once it's gone, you're never satisfied. You can't get it back. Nothing can fill the emptiness. No matter how many loads you swallow or take up your ass, no matter how many old perverts stick their ugly cocks up your ass... Nothing ever fills you. It's all emptiness. Meaningless. I have no idea how many guys have fucked me. I don't know the name of the guy who I sold my virginity to. Nothing. It's all gone forever."
I felt sick listening to what Dustin had become. But he wasn't finished.
"Yeah, so thanks for saving me. I'm so glad I get to keep living. Oh, I'm sure glad I get to live with this. But hey, at least I don't have HIV, right? Gonorrhea, sure. Syphilis, why not? But I won't die from AIDS, so I have that to look forward to. Honestly, I don't know how it missed me. I stopped caring if I got it a long time ago. I was kind of hoping I would have it so it could kill me eventually. But no. I got a shot in the ass and I'm good as new. I still don't know how my dad found out about what I was doing. One of his friends probably fucked me and told him that I was up there. You know it was my dad who raped me, right?"
"Dustin, you don't have to talk about this..."
"Why? Because I'm not supposed to get upset? Dude, I don't even give a shit. People think the broomstick was the worst part because it ripped me open. Dude, I was already out by the time that happened. I woke up in a pool of blood and puke and here was a broken broomstick jammed up my ass. He made sure he got his money's worth out of me, believe me."
"Why? Don't you want to hear the gory details? How my old man ripped off my pants and beat the shit out of me? The things he did to me? I guess once you turn a person into nothing but shit you'd be amazed what you can justify doing to them, even if they're your son. To be honest though, I don't remember much. It's all a blur. Just a lot of pain and him saying over and over, `you're no son of mine you dirty whore.' It was just another meaningless fuck. I guess that's about the best I can do for revenge. It meant nothing."
"Jesus Christ..." I said, not believing what my best friend had been through. I'd only heard a small portion of it, but I had no desire to hear what Dustin had left out. Through it all, Dustin never showed any sign of emotion. He told me the whole story as if he was talking about going to lunch.
"Yeah. Jesus Christ. Some God he turned out to be, huh? I prayed so hard that dad would stop. I got my answer though. `Stop crying you fucking little slut!' God... I just hope that all that crap they talk about in church about Hell is true, because I want to see a few people there when I get there. I've got to be honest, when I woke up after what I did I was kind of expecting to wake up in Hell. I'm sure that's where I'll end up, but it'll be worth it to see my dad there. Hell won't be all that different from everyday life around here anyway."
"Dustin, I'm so sorry," I said.
"I don't want you to feel sorry for me."
"I just wish I had said something before it got so bad."
"Well you didn't," Dustin said. "Nothing you can do about it now. I'm guessing if your boyfriend knew then you must have known too, huh?"
"Yeah. Yeah, you're a real friend, aren't you? How'd you find out?"
"Mike told me," I replied.
"Mike, huh? Figures. That piece of garbage. When did he tell you?"
"Last summer. Before volleyball started."
"Really? Wow, you knew all this time and you never said anything?"
"What was I supposed to say?" I asked.
"I don't know. It wouldn't have stopped me. Whatever. Fuck Mike. Fuck you too, I guess. You should have told me you knew. Now I feel really stupid, telling you all that crap the other day about loving you... That was really dumb. It's obvious you don't give a shit about me."
"Dustin, you know that's not true!"
"Yeah, you're someone I'm going to trust to tell me what's true or not. You know what? I finally get you, Billy. I've known you my whole life, loved you for most of it, but I never really saw you for what you are until now. Blinded myself to it, really. You're not an asshole or a dick like you pretend to be. You're just a coward. You act the way you do because you're ashamed of who you really are. You're ashamed because you like dick. Ashamed that you're a queer. You're afraid of what people will think of you if they find out you like getting fucked up the ass. You're such a pussy, afraid to be true to yourself and true to anyone else. You know what you are? You're just like your mother. You smile in someone's face and talk shit about them as soon as their back is turned, thinking you're better than a whore like me. But really, you're just a whore yourself. You've whored yourself out to this town. You want so desperately to fit in with these assholes, the same assholes who bought and sold me like a piece of meat. You're just as guilty as they are. Under all your bluster and bravado, you're just a scared little boy trying to be a man. You let Reilly get his ass kicked. You just stood there and let me beat the piss out of him, and that's your boyfriend. Jesus, no wonder you never did shit to help me. I never realized what a worthless piece of shit you are until now. You have no heart, no soul, no guts. You're a coward, Roberts. I'm sorry I ever knew you."
"Dustin, I'm sorry!"
"Fuck your sorry, Roberts," Dustin said angrily. "I got fucked by my own father and all you can say is `I'm sorry?' You're worse than he is. He never pretended to love me. Please don't come back here. It would make me happy if I never saw you again."
Dustin pressed the call button for the nurse. She appeared almost instantly.
"I don't want any more visitors," he said, tears streaking down his cheeks. "Get him out of here. Don't let him anywhere near me."
The nurse quickly escorted me out of Dustin's room and toward the doors. "I told you not to upset him!" she scolded. She handed me my keys and asked me not to come back. And before I knew it I was back in the hallway. I walked to the waiting room where Brett, Amanda, and Emily were having a good and light conversation.
"So, do I have to go see him now?" Brett asked.
"No, he doesn't want any more visitors," I replied.
"Oh..." Brett replied. "Well, fuck him then."
Emily scolded Brett for his rudeness.
"He said he never wants to see me again."
"He's on a lot of drugs," Amanda said. "He's really angry right now. Don't pay any attention, he's told me off every time I've gone back to see him."
We were quiet on the way back home, even Brett wasn't saying anything. I knew that Dustin was in bad shape, but what had happened to him had left me sick to my stomach. How could someone do something like that to their own kid? I was racked with guilt over it. I could have stopped it if I'd said something last year. Why had I listened to Mike when he said he had it under control? I dropped off Emily and then drove to Brett's house. I parked the truck in their driveway and asked Brett to walk with me. I needed to go to the place where I felt the most safe, which was surprisingly the same place where both Brett and Dustin had been sucked into their worst nightmares, the park. We walked to the pond. The bench where my grandma had sat and watched us for so many years while we played, the place where we'd had our first kiss in the snow and cold was still there. Only now it was missing a few pieces and it was covered with graffiti.
"Wow, this place has gone to shit," Brett opined.
"Yeah..." I sighed.
"I don't even think the ducks come here anymore. It's a shame," Brett said as he picked up a rock and sent it skipping across the scum-covered pond.
"Do you think I'm a coward?" I asked.
"Yep," Brett answered without even hesitating.
"No, seriously," I replied.
"I am serious," Brett said. "You have a lot of amazing qualities, Billy. You're smart, you're funny, you're adorably cute, and you're great in bed. But you're not the bravest kid I've ever met. You're the reason we're not out. So yeah, I'd say you're a coward. It's not that big of a deal, so am I. I'm terrified of bicycles and clowns. Don't get too down on yourself."
"So you think I'm a pussy?" I asked, a little miffed.
"Yeah," Brett replied. "Don't ask a question and then get mad when someone answers it honestly."
"I'm not mad at you, I'm just pissed at myself. I've never thought of myself like that. Dustin said some things that really hurt me." I looked down at the ground, reached down and picked a four-leaf clover.
"How do you do that?" Brett laughed. "That's just freaky."
"I don't know. They just stand out to me," I said. "You want it?" I offered.
"Yeah!" Brett replied, taking the clover from me and holding it. "You don't bring me flowers anymore..." he started to sing.
"I'm sorry Dustin beat you up," I said, looking out over the murky water. "I'm sorry I didn't stop him sooner."
"I know you are," Brett replied. "And I know you knew about Dustin doing what he did up here for a lot longer than you've admitted. I don't know when or how you found out, but I know you knew long before I found out. I know you wish you'd have told somebody sooner. Maybe it would have helped, or maybe it would have made things even worse. We'll never know."
"I don't see how things could have ended up any worse than they did," I said. "You got the crap kicked out of you. Dustin got raped by his own father and almost died. Everything's fucked up."
"It's not your fault Dustin got raped, Billy, I don't care what he said to you. His dad is a sick son of a bitch. You're picturing this big dramatic scene where you swoop in and play the hero, but it would have probably looked like what you did to Joey. Frank might have just killed Dustin himself. You saved his life. You were there when it mattered."
"I still feel like shit, though."
"He's alive, isn't he? There's always hope as long as he's got that going for him. And I'm all healed up and good as new. You can't feel sorry about all the things you didn't do, Billy. You tried your best, that's all you can do." Brett opened his wallet and folded the clover I'd given him into it and put it back in his pocket. Then he climbed up into the tree near the bench, just like he'd done so often as a kid. He maneuvered himself up to a tall branch and then swung himself upside-down, hanging on to the branch with his legs. I smiled.
"I love you, Brett Reilly," I said. "You know that, right?"
"Yep," Brett replied. "I'm very lovable." He pulled himself up to the branch and spun around so that he was now dangling by his arms. Then he let go and dropped to the ground on his butt. I offered him my hand to pull him up, but he pulled me down to the ground on top of him instead. We both laughed as he held me close to him. "I love you, too, you damn coward." We kissed gently as the wind blew softly through the trees. I felt as if my grandma was close by and watching over us. It made me feel a little braver than I'd been before.
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Next time: Intuition