W.A.R. Part Five - Retaliation
Chapter Four - Return of the Prodigal
by Jeff Wilson
I waited in the back seat of the car as mom walked to the car. I wiped angry tears off my face as she inspected the back of the car. Finally, she opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat.
"I don't want to talk about," I snapped.
"You didn't do any damage," she offered, looking at me in the mirror.
"This stupid car is a piece of crap!" I exploded. "How the hell are you supposed to see behind you when you parallel park? Goddammit!"
"William Aaron, I rebuke that in Jesus name!" mom scolded.
"What?" I asked.
"You watch that mouth young man! You may be sixteen, but you are still my son and you will not use that language. If you don't settle down we won't come back."
"Whatever. I don't want to come back. I'll just ride my stupid bike forever," I scowled viciously at my mom from the back seat. I had just failed my second driver's test in a week when I backed into the barrier as I was parallel parking. I didn't even get to take the road test. I was so fucking pissed off. Mom was becoming almost unbearable that week since she heard that sermon on Sunday. Everything was suddenly a religious issue with her. She went through my cd's and burned any of them that she thought were evil. She burned a t-shirt I had worn because she thought it was giving out a bad message. I was supposed to be becoming more independent, wasn't I? But mom was trying to control me more than ever.
To make things worse, Brett hadn't been in school all week. His mom said he got sick riding around in all the bad weather. I wanted to visit him, but Dr. Reilly insisted that I should stay away from him for a few days so that I wouldn't get sick too. He was apparently too sick to even talk on the phone. Dustin hadn't been in school either, though that was hardly a surprise lately.
When we got home, I quickly left the car and ran to my room as fast as I could. I slammed the door and found a Metallica cd which had survived the purge and turned it way up so that I couldn't hear my mom yelling at me. She pounded on the door, so I jacked up the volume even more, hoping she'd go away. I tried calling Brett, but he didn't answer. I thought about jerking off, since it had been a while since I'd been laid. But then, on a whim, I dialed Dustin's number. I didn't even know why, except maybe I wanted to piss off my mom some more. Ever since Dustin's car incident, I'd kind of kept my distance from him. We hadn't really seen each other outside of school in a while, and to be honest, he had become kind of depressing, dressed all in black to go with his hair which hadn't been cut in over two years. In fact, the last time it had been cut was when his dad scalped him right before our last Christmas party. It had started growing back and since then it hadn't stopped. People had taken to calling him `the vampire' and `Goth boy' because he was so pale and thin. There was even a rumor in school that he had AIDS or some horrible disease. He was like an entirely different person from the happy red-headed dude who never swore I'd known all through elementary school.
The phone rang a few times and I was about to give up when Mrs. Smith answered.
"Hello, Mrs. Smith," I said.
"For the last time, we'll pay you when the checks come out on the first of the month," she said angrily.
"What? Mrs. Smith, it's me, Billy Roberts."
"Oh... I'm sorry, Billy. Usually the only people who call me Mrs. Smith on the phone want money."
"Okay..." I said awkwardly. "Um, is like, Dustin around?"
"Hold on... DUSTIN!!!!" she yelled.
After about a minute or so I heard Dustin grab the phone. "Yeah?" he said weakly.
"Hey, dude," I said cheerfully.
"Who is this?" he asked.
"It's Billy," I replied. "Gosh, it hasn't been that long."
"Oh, sorry. Hey, Billy. What do you want?" Dustin asked, sounding exhausted.
"I wanted to see if you wanted to come over. It's been a while."
"Billy, it's cold out there. I don't want to go out today."
"Come on. I need someone to hang out with. I miss you. We used to hang out all the time."
I listened while Dustin thought about it. "Ahhh... Oh, alright. I'll be over in about twenty minutes or so."
"Cool. See you then," I said.
"Sure," Dustin replied.
I left my room and found mom in the kitchen. "Dustin's coming over," I said.
"Dustin?" Mom said. "I thought I'd made it clear that I don't want you hanging around him."
"So you want to choose my friends now, too?" I asked. "Do I need your permission to breathe now?"
"Billy, I am trying to protect you."
"You're trying to ruin my life, mother," I replied.
"Why are you acting like this?" she asked. "Where did we go wrong with you? You've had a real attitude problem lately and I don't think that hanging out with a criminal is going to help much."
"I don't have an attitude problem, I have a mom problem. All I want is to be left alone. God, I'm surprised you haven't snuck into my room at night and buzzed my hair off like Dustin's dad did."
"Don't think the thought hasn't crossed my mind," mom replied, totally missing the point. "A boy doesn't need to have hair as long as yours. You look ridiculous. Why can't you have a nice normal haircut like Joey McKenzie?"
"God, I am so sick of hearing about Joey McKenzie! He's a douche bag! He's one of the worst people I've ever met. I hate him."
"How could you say an awful thing like that! Jack and Heather McKenzie are pillars of the church!"
"I've got news for you, mother. Just because somebody's parents suck up to the minister doesn't mean their stupid kid's a perfect little angel."
"And I suppose a kid whose parents can barely go a day without sucking down a case of beer is any better? They only borrow their neighbor's cars at night, right? And who knows what else that boy is into. If the rumors about him are true, and they probably are, I don't think you hanging out with him is a very good idea. People are going to get the wrong idea if a boy like him is in our house."
"A guy makes one mistake and..."
"It's not just one mistake from what I've heard. And when that one mistake ends up in court, then I think I'm justified in wanting to keep my son away from him! I don't want my son getting that kind of reputation!"
The knock on the backdoor interrupted our argument, but I knew it wasn't over. It would come back up when Dustin went home, and every time I'd mention Dustin in the future. Mom was simply unable to see that anyone could be right except for her and anyone who agreed with her and her stupid preacher.
I opened the door and the black-clad, pale figure of Dustin Smith walked in. He was a bit taller than me, about six foot three, and he looked thinner than ever. He was impossibly pale, so much that he was almost see-through at that point. His grayish blue eyes had dark circles around them, and he looked like he hadn't slept in a week. His long black greasy hair looked like it hadn't been washed in a while. I invited him to my room to avoid the lingering stares from my mother. Mom had the nerve to smile at him and greet him as if she actually was happy to see him, and that pissed me off even more because it just proved what a phony bitch she was being. He slipped off his wet boots and long black tattered trench coat and then he followed me to my room. I closed the door and asked Dustin if he wanted to play a video game.
"Did you seriously ask me to come over to play video games?" he asked, sitting on my bed.
"Well, we don't have to..."
"Look, Billy, I get that you're embarrassed to be my friend right now. I would be too. I'm sorry. I really screwed up."
"I'm not embarrassed," I replied. "I just stood up for you with my mom."
"Whatever. We can't go back and undo the stupid things we did. I blew it. I screwed up my whole life. Not just the car thing... I mean everything. I'm really not in a good place right now."
"Is there anything I can do?" I asked.
"Can you turn back the hands of time?" he asked.
"No," I replied. "But I can be your friend."
"You know, I never thought I'd say this, but I actually miss having my sister around."
"Wow, I never thought I'd hear you say that!" I said. I would have thought Dustin would have been thrilled when Amanda packed up and left home before Christmas. She didn't even wait to finish her senior year. But he had been miserable, even more than usual, when she left. It seemed it didn't matter how cruel his family was to him, he would defend them to the death.
"Yeah, without her around, my parents have more time for me," he said dismally. "Hey, you got any aspirin or anything?"
"Probably," I said. "Is everything okay?"
"I just haven't been feeling right for a few days."
"Maybe you're catching the flu like Brett," I said.
"Well that explains why you invited me over. Figures... Whatever. Anyway, you got any?"
"Let me check my bathroom cabinet," I said. I didn't find any medicine in my bathroom so I asked mom and she told me to look in the cabinet in her bathroom. I found the bottle of generic aspirins and wouldn't you know that right behind them I found my stupid bottle of pain pills that had been missing for months! I was too concerned about Dustin to worry about how they'd ended up in my mom's medicine cabinet but we were definitely going to have a conversation about it later! I quickly took the aspirin bottle back to Dustin. When I returned to my room I found him doubled over in pain on the bed, holding his belly.
"Are you sure an aspirin's going to help you?" I asked.
"I just need something to make it stop for a while," Dustin groaned. He took the bottle and swallowed about five pills straight with no water.
"I'm going to get my mom," I said. "You're really not looking too good."
"NO!" Dustin insisted.
"She's a nurse, Dustin."
"I know what she is," he snapped. "No doctors. No stupid nurses! I just need a few days and I'll be fine, just like always."
I sighed. "Dustin... I know you're going to get mad at me if I ask this... Did your dad do this to you?"
Dustin glared at me as if I'd kicked a puppy. "Fuck you, Billy. You don't know shit, okay! Stay the fuck out of my family's fucking business unless you want the shit kicked out of you. Don't you ever ask me something like that again. You hear me?"
"Dustin, I know you love your dad, and I don't know why because he hasn't been anything but a dick to you, but..."
"Shut up, Billy," Dustin snapped. "You don't know shit about my family, so stay the fuck out of it or I swear I'll kick your ass."
"Maybe Mike can help..."
"Fuck Mike!" Dustin growled. "Fuck that fucking asshole!"
"What happened between you guys, Dustin?" I asked. "What made you decide to steal the Mustang?"
"You know what he did, Billy. You're the only one who knows what he did to me. It was disgusting. He was molesting me. I had to get away from him before he turned me into a faggot like him. I have enough shit on him to destroy him if I wanted to, having sex with an underage kid. But I didn't, did I? I could have ruined him if I wanted to. But I never called the cops on him. I don't know why he called the fucking cops on me."
"Well you did steal his car and park it in the middle of a bridge. What were you doing on that bridge anyway?"
"Nothing! I was going to bring the stupid car back!" Dustin protested. "Nothing happened to it. If he'd have just waited... Fuck! I wish things were like they were before!" He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "Shit, why do you always make me bawl, Billy? I swear I never act like this around anyone else."
"Maybe because I've known you for so long you don't have to pretend to be something you're not around me and be the real you," I suggested.
"So the real me is a pussy who bawls like a little bitch?"
"I'd say more like a turtle who can peek out of his shell because you know you're safe with me," I replied.
Dustin stared at me for a moment then for the first time in a very long time he cracked a smile. "Wow, that's like the gayest thing you've ever said and I'm guessing the words `fuck my ass' have come out of your mouth."
"Shut up," I laughed.
"Can we play the game now?" he asked.
"Okay," I said.
We played around for a while, playing Brett's old racing game, the one he'd never let me finish because he'd always make me crash by teasing me.
"So, you and Reilly still boning each other?" Dustin asked.
"I don't think that's really any of your business," I whispered. I couldn't trust my mom not to spy on us.
"I'll take that as a yes," Dustin sighed. "You could do so much better than him."
"Hey, I didn't ask you to come over here so you could beat up my boyfriend," I replied.
"It's just..." Dustin started, but then he closed his eyes and groaned in obvious pain as he held his belly. "Oh fuck..." he groaned, tears forming in his eyes.
"I'm getting my mom," I informed him.
"No you're not!" Dustin insisted. "I'm fine. I'll be okay. It's already better. I just gotta use your bathroom."
He opened the door and practically crawled across the hall to the bathroom. I could hear him crying in pain from behind the door. A few minutes later, he returned, looking even paler, if that were possible. He really had been crying, and tears were still streaking his face.
"I've got to go home, Billy," he said. "I'm sorry."
"It's no problem," I replied. "I'll see if my dad will drive you home."
"Okay," Dustin said without a protest.
Dad was happy to take Dustin home. I went along for the trip. When we got to his house, Dustin sat in the seat for a little while, as if he was hoping we'd forget to let him out and drive him back to our house. But eventually, Dustin thanked us and walked gingerly into his house.
"What, boy?" dad asked.
"Do you think Dustin's going to be okay?" I asked.
"I don't know, boy," he said. "What do you think?"
"I don't know either," I replied. "I think he's hurt."
"Is there anything you want to tell me about what's going on with him? I could help him, you know. I know a few people. We could get him the help he needs."
I thought about what I knew about him; the prostitution, the abuse, the way he looked so sickly and pale.
"Nah... I'm sure he'll be okay," I said. I felt almost sick about it. Poor Dustin had been through so much, and for the most part I'd sat back and done nothing to help him. It didn't help matters when I saw there was blood on the toilet seat when I got home. There was definitely something wrong with Dustin, and ignoring it wasn't going to make it go away. But I was scared. What could I do, I was just a kid? I kept telling myself that there was nothing I could do. But it didn't make me feel any better.
Looks like something is going on with Dustin. What do you suppose happened to him?
Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them! You can reach me at email@example.com
Next time: A Close Shave