Friday, January 23, 2015

The Incomplete Soldier II

Basic Training was a carnival of cruelty, pain, and exhaustion. In all my life, perhaps excluding only funerals, I cannot recall another time I have witnessed so many adults openly weeping. Some terrible part of me truly enjoyed the chaos of it all. There was something extremely exhilarating about such physical training, be it the obstacle courses, working out, or training with the SAW. It would be a lie to say there were not times I found myself dusty, muddy, sweaty, and exhausted, while idly wondering to just how I could have gotten myself into such a stupid situation. Yet, those times were brief, because training was mostly filled with a lot of energy and excitement.

Just over a weeks into basic, I was unanimously selected to lead my company, which also meant I carried the training guidon during marches. While the position of "company lead" was less official than that of a department store greeter, I was still immensely honored and humbled to be selected for such. The feeling of having so many people believe in your abilities to lead, solve problems, and aid others, is such an indescribably amazing feeling. With this title came added responsibilities, and coordinating with five other Privates who were selected as platoon leads.

My new duties included keeping morale, resolving conflicts, pushing my fellow Privates to accomplish whatever goals were assigned to us, making sure everyone understood orders, and answering questions concerning said orders, instructions, or what was required. Basically, it was all chores the Drill Sergeants were probably more than pleased not to deal with on a less routine basis.

I managed to form a surprising connection with much of my company. Many of them came to realize they could always talk to me about a problem, or self doubts, when the time allowed it. I tried to constantly encourage everyone to stay the course. Many of them, even the few who were older than myself, began referring to me as "the Old Man", because there was a commonly shared perspective that I spoke, and conducted myself as someone much older. It was flattering...at least, in a way.

Originally, after basic, and AIT, my duty station was to be somewhere in North Korea. Such initially sounded rather exciting, however after making so many friends, it felt increasingly crummy knowing a majority of them were going to Iraq without me. I found myself struggling with the idea of so many others going off to face danger, while I would go somewhere relatively safe.

When I first approached a couple of my Drill Sergeants about changing my duty station, in order to follow the rest of the platoon, such was dismissed. Yet, I persisted whenever the chance arose, and finally one of them, DS Andarata, explained I would need to speak with administration. She, and the 1st Sergeant, said they would help arrange an appointment for such.

On one particularly clear, but extremely cold, early morning, the entire company gathered outside before the barracks, preparing for a long march, as the sun was just starting to dilute the once dark sky. We had done such before, but what made this one different, was that we were going to preform such in full gear as to experience what it was like to be on the move while carrying so much weight.

After I was done preparing my on things, and DS Andrata inspected such to make sure it was aligned exactly with the standards of the diagram explaining what belonged where, she only nodded her approval, then instructed me to begin aiding others. Following orders, I began moving from group to group, offering aid where I could, and making sure their own gear prepared correctly. It was only a short time later that I found myself moving over to a group I was more personally familiar with.

There was Pvt. Neith, a slender, dark skinned, African-American girl, fresh out of high school, and a former varsity basketball player. With her bright smile, and almond-shaped, brown eyes, a lot of the guys use to comment on how pretty she was. Next to her was Pvt. Leliel, a blond, blue-eyed, Caucasian kid, from Alaska, who was hoping the Army would help him figure out his life. A lot of the women frequently said he was "striking". Oddly enough, he and Neith were quite close. It was quietly rumored they were a bit more than squad mates. Of course that sort of thing was strictly forbidden during basic training, so it remained just that, an unsubstantiated rumor. Standing across from them was Specialist Pan, a tall, gangly, Caucasian guy a couple of years older than me, but extremely goofy, loud, and quick with jokes. Pvt. Gorgon, a short Latino kid from New Mexico, was knelled near them still gathering his gear.

"Andarata? Oh, man. She's fine as hell!" Pan was saying to Gorgon just as I arrived.

"And we're off." Leliel shook his head.

"You might want to stop talking like that. I doubt the Drill Sergeant would appreciate that if he heard you." Neith warned.

"Hey, its Williams!" Pan exclaimed before grinning as he motioned to where DS Andrata stood near another group. "I know 'the old man' will back me up on this! Isn't Andrata sexy as fuck?"

"I tend not to make it a habit of checking out any of the Drill Sergeants." I replied while helping Gorgon get his rucksack in order.

"Oh, come on, Williams! You mean to tell me you never noticed?" Pan snorted in belief.

"I tend to try and keep busy, Pan. Much like you should be doing right now." I advised.

"Well-- that is sort of true. Andrata is pretty hot." Gorgon spoke up reluctantly.

"For fuck sake, don't encourage him." Leliel openly groaned.

"Pan isn't completely full of crap this time. Andrata is hot." Pvt. Taurus chimed in as he suddenly arrived. He was a tall, burly, Latino kid, also fresh out of high school, and a former varsity football player.

"See! See! No man can't not notice an ass like that!" Pan continued with a longing sigh.

"What if he's gay?" I partially joked as I moved to inspect Neith's rucksack. She watched Pan with an obvious look of disgust on her face but I doubt he stopped talking long enough to notice.

"Well, first I feel sorry for that fuckin fairy. And second, I'm not gay, so I get to notice what a fine ass she has." Pan smirked.

"Wow. I wish she could just punch you right in the face." Neith shook her head.

"Its cool! I like it rough!" Pan retorted with a grin.

"Come on, dude. Seriously, you need to chill on that." Leliel explained more seriously.

"If she can make fatigues hot, you know she's got a body." Taurus followed.

"Don't join in on his pervert party." Neith frowned at Taurus before turning to me. "Williams, aren't you going to say something?"

"Ignore him, Private Neith. He's not worth the energy. To me, Pan's constant talking is a mild buzz somewhere in the background. We have to be absolutely ready before formation is called. I suggest you focus on that." I explained to her while helping another Private who came over.

"Dude, come on. She's married, and even has a small kid." Leliel explained with increased irritation. "And on top of all that, she's one of the Drill Sergeants. Respect her rank"

"Its not like he's raping her or some shit." Taurus laughed in disbelief. "He's just saying she's fine."

"What's wrong with me saying I would bang Andrata if I got the chance?" Pan asked with feigned indignation.

Just as I looked up to tell Pan to shut up, and return to preparing his gear, I caught sight of DS Woden approaching the group from behind. When I stood to call "At Ease", he quickly caught my eyes and simply shook his head. I remained silent and returned to helping others. Drill Sergeants seemed to really enjoy sneaking up on Privates. DS Woden, a veteran of three different campaigns, was a tall, Caucasian man with dark eyes, and a shaved head. He was always extremely harsh but also one of the fairest Drill Sergeant's assigned to our company.

From the direction he was approaching, only I, and possibly Gorgon was able to see him. All the others had their backs to him. I suddenly felt nervous for Pan, while he could be an irritating loud mouth, I still feared what would happen if he was caught speaking such things.

"How is it my fault that I noticed a sexy woman? I'm a guy! We see shit like that!" Pan continued even as D.S Woden came to a stop a mere few feet behind him. "Who wouldn't want to fuck Andrata? Shit! I know I would if she gave me half the chance! I wouldn't give a shit if she was married!"

"So, you want to fuck, D.S Andrata?" D.S Woden finally made his presence known. Pan was a pale guy, but to this day, I can clearly recall the way he grew all the whiter as his eyes widen, and he turned to face one of the worse-case scenarios. The entire group fell silent under the epic weight of a collective, "Oh shit!" moment.

"Drill Sergeant-- no-- I was-- no not-- I wasn't." Pan stammered fearfully as he took a tentative step backwards.

"No, no, Specialist Pan. There is no reason to be shy. She is a woman, and you are a man after all. How can you resist talking about wanting to fuck her." Woden feigned understanding as his eyes raked over him.

"Drill Sergeant-- I, I was only--" Pan shook his head and moved another step back.

"At ease!" D.S Woden suddenly snapped at him causing Pan to instantly assume the ordered stance. "Now, what is it you were saying?"

"It was a joke! It was just a joke, Drill Sergeant! I swear to God." Pan tried to explain.

"Oh. It was just a joke?" D.S Woden seemed to ponder such for a few seconds. "Oh. Now I get it. That is really funny, Specialist Pan. Hey, its so hilarious, that I just want to share it with my old friend, Andrata." With that her partially turned towards where she was standing some distance away. "D.S Andrata, are you free?"

"Yes. What do you need, D.S Woden?" Andrata responded.

"I just need you to hear this really hilarious joke, by Specialist Pan." Woden explained before turning back to Pan.

Our group watched tensely as she approached. I could not see Pan's face, but who needed to in order to know he was terrified. I think if any of us were dismissed, most would have hurriedly left the potential blast radius as quickly as possible. Yet, there was perhaps a morbid curiosity to what terrible results were about to occur. Like watching a car speeding towards a brick wall.

"So, what is this great joke?" D.S Andrata inquired upon arriving and folding her arms behind her back.

"Oh, I wouldn't do it justice if I were to try and tell it." D.S Woden smiled in a rather humorless way at Pan. "Go on, Pan. Tell her."

"Drill Sergeant-- I wasn't." Pan's voice was low with fear.

"Tell her, now." D.S Woden ordered more firmly.

"I-- I was just saying-- I was saying she was attractive." Pan replied quietly.

"No, no. You are not telling it right, Specialist. Tell her what you were saying, Specialist Pan. If I have to repeat myself again, you are going to hate life for weeks." D.S Woden's eyes narrowed.

"I--" Pan began again reluctantly. "I said Drill Sergeant Andrata was sexy-- and I wanted to fuck her."

"I can barely hear this idiot." D.S Andrata remained stone-face as her eyes searched him over like a pair of threatening daggers. It was more than clear she heard him.

"Speak up." D.S Woden ordered sharply.

"I said," Pan began again much louder, but also with a tremble in his voice. "I-- I said Drill Sergeant Andrata was sexy, and I wanted to fuck her-- but I swear-- I swear I was only joking."

"That is hilarious." D.S Andrata responded flatly as she continued starring into him.

"Told you it would be." D.S Woden agreed with a similar humorless sort of tone.

"Why are we keeping this hilarious joke to ourselves? I would feel selfish if the other Drills Sergeants, and even the 1st Sergeant, didn't have a chance to laugh with us." D.S Andrata explained before she began to look about, then calling the others.

During this entire exchange, I did nothing more than continue waiting for the enviable. It was absolutely no secret that even causing mild annoyance to the Drill Sergeants could result in the entire company getting 'smoked'. Now, seeing that both D.S Woden, and D.S Andrata were clearly, if even quietly pissed, I was truly dreading what sort of punitive consequences were in store for all of us. So, I silently, if even begrudgingly resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be a long, long, long day.

Then a miracle happened. Something that felt so magical, that even if I had learned, at that very moment, it was just discovered Christmas and Halloween somehow got together, then had a baby, that resulted in a new holiday filled with masks, lights, treats and presents; it would have still been only the second most magical thing to occur that day.

"I suggest you all move along, Williams. I want everyone ready in exactly 10 minutes. Absolutely no excuses." D.S Woden finally acknowledge me once more without looking away from Pan.

"Yes, Drill Sergeant." I nodded, and despite being stunned, I gathered up all the other Privates, who seemed more than happy to escape what was happening.

Somehow, against the odds, the company was not going to suffer with Pan. Why? Maybe their coming anger was so intense that it needed a single focal point to be released on? Maybe they realized it was only Pan who screwed-up? Or maybe they were just so pissed that they decided to forgo protocol and pour all their wrath on that one guy? Honestly, who gives a hell? There was no way I was going to stick around and question good fortunes.

As we hurried off, all the other Drill Sergeants, and the 1st, were beginning to arrive to hear this new 'hilarious joke' that was suddenly all the rave. I was more than certain not a single one among them was going to laugh at the punchline, regardless of how it was delivered. Specialist Pan was made to regret everyday for over a week.

I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Good Night

It was an extremely warm summer night. Perhaps the warmest Peter had ever experienced in his short seven years of life. To help cool his room, his mother turned on a circular fan,the one with a base as red as a fire truck, and big, glossy white propellers. Even as it sat there by the open bedroom window, slowly humming from left to right, the fan struggled to achieve the one purpose it was built for.

It was story time, like every night, but this was different. Very different. In the light of the single, nearby candle, she held the big book out in front of them, so Peter could both, follow along, and see all the big, colorful pictures.

"In a place nearby, in a time not so long ago, there was a rich man who belonged to a big family, had many friends, and just as many admirers." She began again with a gentle, and quiet voice. "But despite all these blessings, he was still a sad man, who always felt so alone."

Peter uncomfortably squirmed as she turned the page, revealing the picture of a simple, sad looking figure standing outside a large home. To soothe him, she gently brushed her fingers through his hair, pausing the story until he settled.

"This continued for a long time. Soon, the man began to feel really bad," She continued. "He could not understand his sadness. 'I have so much, while others have so little', he guiltily thought to himself. 'Am I just ungrateful for my blessings? I should be much happier.' But no matter how hard he thought about it, he just could not understand, or cheer up."

Movement to the right of the room immediately caught Peter's attention, and he turned his eyes to the curtains, only to find it was a warm breeze causing the thin fabric to billow.

"That is only the wind, silly boy." She laughed playfully at his reaction, before continuing. "The lonely man began to believe he would always be so sad. Until one day, while out walking, he met a beautiful, friendly woman. At first he thought he should not talk to her. He had been taught all his life that some people, especially those who were different, were very bad people. But, being very lonely can make people do all sorts of strange, strange things."

She turned the page, and Peter found himself gazing down at a brightly colored picture of the man, and now a dark skinned woman, smiling at each other in the woods.

"At first, both the woman, and the man were scared of one another. But when they finally began to speak, they enjoyed it so very much. It was very, very late before they both realized it. Both the man, and woman, had to get home, but promised to meet again the next night."

A creak, somewhere in the house caused Peter to again look about, but she kissed him on the top of the head, and stroked his hair, until he settled once more.

"And that is exactly what they did." She turned the page, revealing a picture of the man and woman holding hands. "They kept coming back. Until one night they fell in love. For the first time, since meeting the beautiful woman, the lonely man was no longer lonely."

"Stop." Peter whined quietly and squirmed a little once more.

"Its not going to get all lovey-dovey, or mushy, Peter. I promise." She laughed warmly at his reaction, then continued on. "But they were not supposed to be in love. And like most secrets, someone found out, then told others. The man's family, friends, and admirers were very, very upset. They loved him far, far too much to let him make such a horrible mistake."

She turned the page, the next picture showed both the man and woman fleeing from skeletal, red-eyed shadows.

"So, the man and woman, both decided to escape so they could be together. They fled far from home, far away from the people who hated their love. They kept going until they found a quiet place where they could build a home, and live alone together." She explained, then turned the page, revealing a picture of the man and woman, in front of a smaller house in the woods, but happy again.

Another creak sounded from somewhere in the house once more. Louder, and closer to the bedroom this time, startling Peter.

"Its just the house settling. It happens all the time." She turned the page. "Guess what?"

"What?" Peter asked with a small voice.

"Eventually, the man and woman, became mommy and daddy." She held the book up to better catch the candle light, as if to show her favorite part of the story. "See, they had two little girls." She happily pointed to both the small, smiling little girls standing beside their parents. "And they were all so very happy together."

As she lowered the large book back onto her lap, it seemed she would close it, and the story was over. However, after the brief silence, she tuned to the next page with a heavy sigh. Peter eyes widen at the image of the family, surrounded by skeletal shadows, all coming towards the home with readied flames.

"But there were others. Others who learned of their love. This made them hate the mommy, and daddy. They even hated the little girls who existed because of that love." When Peter shifted uncomfortably, she gently stroked his hair once more. "One dark night, they came to find the family they hated so much. Then one, by one..."

She turned the page, and the next picture caused Peter's eyes to widen with fear. The man, woman, and two children, were all hung from trees as nothing more than blazing silhouettes. The surrounding, skeletal shadows all gazed upon the burning bodies, their eyes gleaming, and big grins on their faces.

"That night the man lost everything he ever loved. His beautiful wife, and his two precious children, all turned to ash by a cheering crowd." She explained quietly as she carefully shut the book.

Peter could not help it as he closed his eyes and began to openly cry. She began gently rubbing his back.

"Shh. Peter, its alright." She offered genuinely. "The story isn't over. Because the woman, who also lost everything, did not leave. The sudden emptiness...kept her from leaving." Her lips felt icy against Peter's ear as she whispered reassuringly. "It hurt too much. It was not fair that they had love, and children, while she had none. So-- I had to make it fair. I only took what they all stole from me. But even with all their children as mine-- the emptiness never left. So, I need more children. Its the only way. The only way to end the emptiness."

Peter sat completely still. The fear making his heart pound in his chest, and keeping him immobile on her cold, cold lap. He did not know if it was possible to feel more fear than he already was experiencing. Yet, when she went silent, he learned his terror could indeed expand. For a long time he sat there with his eyes tightly shut, and his arms hugging him.

When Peter could no longer take it, when the anticipation made him want to scream, he dared to open his eyes, and as he looked up, he finally stared in transfixed horror, at her gray face and vacant eyes.

"Now do you understand why I killed mommy and daddy? They would have never understood why you had to come with me." When she attempted to smile at him, it only resulted in an unnatural, tooth filled grin that literally stretched from ear to ear. "Taking you away would have hurt them so much, Peter. So, now, when you come with me, they won't hurt at all."

Then, as several, gangly, long arms began to embrace her newest child close, she blew out the candle.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Revolver

There are two sides to a gun.

Mostly everyone knows and loves the first side because it is easily the most popular, and attractive of the two. It is the power that attracts a great number of men and women to firearms. Be it the giddy gun enthusiast, unbalanced child, a desperate gang-banger, or paranoid member of a militia. It is a malleable power that can be shaped to fight back, defend against, seek revenge, or even oppress. A gun can make the weak strong, the fearful fearless, and the meek violent.

The second side is lesser known and far less celebrated, or even acknowledged. It is the responsibility. The acceptance of what irreversible consequences will immediately follow once an individual knowingly decides to pull that trigger, and understanding that even one single bullet will not only take a life, but also impact many others by proxy.

Most people do not want the responsibility. Therein lies the greatest problem with guns. By itself, even the biggest gun, with the deadliest type of ammo, is only an inanimate object. Power without responsibility and sound judgment always creates tragedy. History has enough examples of such scenarios to fill an entire book with.

The first gun I ever held in my life was a large 45 caliber revolver. I was 9 or 10 years old when I discovered it after climbing onto the roof of our house when we still lived in Oakland on 79th & Hillside. Much to my Mother’s chagrin I frequently sat on our roof when I was a child. No real significant reason really. I just loved sitting up there and thinking about life. I remember sitting there after finding out about the murder of my Father, the shooting that killed Harold, and when our friend Joshua was run over by a speeding driver.

I spotted the revolver immediately after climbing onto the roof that day. It was just lying there unexpectedly like an uninvited, drunk guest crashing on a couch. I was not scared as much as I was curious to what the hell it was doing on our roof. I went over to the gun and carefully picked it up. I was so nervous about handling such a weapon, that I kept my finger away from the trigger, and even the hammer, because I wanted to avoid even the slightest probability of somehow causing it to fire.

I had once seen an episode of “New York: Undercover” where one of the detectives, after finding a similar gun at a crime scene, opened the weapon to check if it was loaded. I did the same. Who says television teaches a child nothing?

Both the chamber and cylinders were empty. I was uncertain on how to proceed next. It felt so epic. So, I sat there holding that large revolver, looking it over, imagining where it could have come from, and what it would feel like to fire it. I briefly imagined keeping such an immense discovery to myself. The understanding that no one was aware, that it was my secret, that it could be my gun, was very seductive. Looking back I realize now just how profound that seemingly minor event was. That I was standing on the precipice of fortunate and unfortunate.

Somehow better sense won out. I finally decided to take it to the one person who, at that age, I believed could make sense of it all. After climbing down, I came back inside our home through the backdoor. I cannot remember what my mother was doing in the living room that day, but I can easily remember her giving me a look as if I slithered in on tentacles, while honking a clown nose.

Walter! Where did you find that?” She quickly asked in surprise.

Of course I explained the whole story. She in turn called the police, who came to take a report, and retrieve the weapon. Later one of my brothers told me I was dumb for having brought the gun to our mother first instead of giving it to one of them. I tried to explain that if the gun was used to kill someone, or in some other crime, then if they were caught with the weapon they would be blamed for all that stuff. This was also something else I saw on “New York: Undercover”. Of course I was just called stupid again. I know. It was a really rational and fair assessment of the situation.

Since then I have trained with all sorts of firearms. However, from time to time, I still look back on that revolver, and I cannot help to wonder what was it's story up until the point we crossed paths, and whatever became of it after wards. I also wonder who possibly used its power in some terrible way, and then ditched the responsibility by tossing it onto the roof of our home.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Elementary Chaos Theory

The sky hung heavy, big, gray and brooding overhead. Rains fell from above all over the city wetting everything. It was no real surprise that it had begun to rain that day. Throughout my morning walk, to my Fifth grade class at Parker elementary, the petrichor buzzed heavily on the muggy air.

On that particular day I sat in the back of the classroom starring through the last of the large rectangular windows. The glass was partially distorted and runny with the constant rolling of water. As I did frequently, I was watching a house far off in the Oakland hills. It was light gray, like an overcast sky, and surrounded by thickets of woodlands. From my view I could see one of the home’s windows, wooden back fence, and a swig set.
 
I desperately wanted to live in that house, with my family, away from the sprawl everything in East Oakland seemed to be surrounded by. Funny thing is, I do not recall wanting to move there in order to escape the violence that plagued the city. Human's are adaptable creatures, and it's children are incredibly resilient. Maybe that is why all the fighting, the shooting, and even the frequent wails of sirens all seemed incredibly average by that point in my life. I was aware there existed more peaceful, "better" places. However, at that age I figured they were either rich, where White people lived, or only in the episodes of sitcoms.
 
This nonchalance towards chaos extended even to the immediate environment of my dysfunctional classroom. That year I had the awesome luck to land in the absolute worst class of the entire school. As it were all the days before it, and would be many days after it, nothing was being accomplished. None of the students listened as Mr. Evans made a futile attempt to teach. Perhaps the situation would have been different elsewhere. Maybe if it were a city where more funds were available, where more people cared, and day to day survival did not constantly occupy a majority of minds, someone may have intervened to permanently transform the madhouse back into a classroom. Such was not the case here.

Our teacher, Mr. Evans, was one of those very unfortunate educators caught in a worse-case scenario. He found himself serving as dungeon master to many of the worst students the school had to offer. On a daily basis he was endlessly mocked, ridiculed, and insulted. His attempts at authority were swiftly slapped away.
 
It did not start that way of course. He once had the reigns of power in his slippery hands when the year first began. But he let things go too far. So, like some sort of unmediated border dispute, the situation in that class slowly escalated. First there was laughing and noises behind Mr. Evans back. Then there came outright defiance and insults.
 
Finally the first shot was fired. Someone threw a small pebble at him while he had his back turned. It did not take long for others to soon join in on the fun. From there it worsened. The artillery grew to large lime green science books and dark blue math books. The class had completely spiraled out of control, and with the last dying breaths of order, Mr. Evans role as an authority figure was null and void.
 
Such happenings is why I continued staring out the window that day while ignoring the happenings in class. Any attempts to learn would have just been dust in the endless chaotic winds of the room anyway. However, to his credit, Mr. Evans was still trying to write something despite being met with such malicious deterrence.
 
It happened like clockwork. Any time he dared to turn his back on the class in order to write on the blackboard, a book was stealthily launched. Its pages wildly fluttering and flapping through the air like the broken wings of an out of control bird, before ultimately hitting the board, or Mr. Evans. Finally having had enough he turned about with an almost flabbergasted look on his round bearded face.

"That is assault!" He angrily warned, only causing the children to laugh and ridicule him. "If one of those books do me any serious injury,” He continued sternly. “And I catch who threw it, it won't be me, you, momma and the Principal. No Sir! It will be me, you, momma and the Police!"
 
The laughter only grew from the class and someone yelled ‘Shut that shit up!’ from the anonymity of the class.
 
Mr. Evans looked about the class with a sort of haggard expression. Finally he seemed to just sigh and give up before retreating back to his desk. Sitting there quietly for a while he appeared to ponder his plight then shuffled through some tests only a very limited number of us participated in. I can still recall just how weary. down trodden, and forlorn he appeared. Even as a child it was abundantly clear to me that he was very unhappy. It must have hurt to have so many kids mocking and disrespecting him on a daily basis. He existed in some bizarre universe where the students were bullying the teacher.
 
No, do not confuse my observations as altruistic concern. I would like to say I was deeply moved by the circumstances he suffered. Perhaps it would benefit my image more if I were to say such. However, my father had been murdered only months earlier, and I honestly just could not find it in me to feel much about anything. So, I sat there in class as just an observer behind a thick glass of apathy.
 
There were two ringleaders of that carnival of malice. Two boys named Abjah and Jimmy. Both were held back before, both were too old to be in the Fifth grade, and both had behavioral problems. With those two boys in the class, equipped with an entire gaggle of flunkies, there was almost no way of ending the troubles.
 
On the day in question, Abjah and Jimmy were just in rare form that afternoon. They had both riled the class up quite a bit, ensuring the school day would start out pointless, and end equally as pointless. I was growing increasingly bored. I finally lowered my eyes from the window, opened my desk and began searching for something to do. Again, I heard books fly across the room. The multiple impacts hit along the walls and floor as the students laughed.
 
Mr. Evans gave another impotent warning that only served to further amuse his tormentors. For a moment he seemed to have had enough. Quickly standing from his desk, he marched over to the phone on the wall that would put him in contact with the office on the first floor, but then stopped, shook his head and apparently changed his mind. It was a pitiful thing to see. Perhaps he was afraid calling in for assistance once more would not bode well for him.
 
A sudden knock at the door drew Mr. Evans’ attention and caused the class to quickly power down. Such always happened in case it was the principal or someone else with more than enough power to handout punishments until their heart was content. Mr. Evans answered the door to find a student sent by one of the other teacher’s with a message of some sort.
 
I was just about to return to what I was doing until the conspiratorial whispers from Abjah, Andre, Ben and Jimmy baited my curiosity. I was sure they were all up to something by the way the poisonous smiles began to slowly spread across their faces.
 
Walter.” Abjah looked over at me and then motioned to Mr. Evans. “Watch this.”

I ceased what I was doing and continued to watch with building curiosity.

I quietly waited...

I continued quietly waiting...

I kept waiting...

Then nothing happened.

Finally I shrugged at the anti-climactic finish, and returned to digging through my desk for something to read. I had already finished our textbooks. Well, all except that damn math book, which I had not even entertained touching because I absolutely loathed math. Fortunately I had checked-out a couple of books from the school library on the previous day.
 
The fearful, high-pitched scream of a girl suddenly soared above the rest of the noises in class, and yanked my attention upwards in time to witness Mr. Evans about to close the classroom's door when a small trophy, with a marble base, cut through the air and smashed into the wall right in front of his face. The impact shattered a large hole in the plaster and snapped the trophy into various pieces.

Mr. Evans, startled by the near miss that was obviously aimed for his head, took a few clumsy steps back, bumping into the still partially opened door, causing it to swing open once more. The room erupted into of amused uproar of laughter as he stood there so startled and dumbfounded. The curtain had been raised, Mr. Evan’s was on stage, and the audience was so eager to see him preform.

Yet, the longer he stood there, oddly frozen with that exact same frightened expression on his face, the more the clamor of the room began to die off. After several long seconds the audience was not so elated anymore as it became terrifyingly obvious that something was wrong. Mr. Evans finally took a curious half step to the left, then turned as if he was going to walk off, but his legs went limp beneath him, and he toppled over quite suddenly with all the grace of something spilling out of a container, causing his head to bounce off the hard floor, where he remained sprawled halfway between the hall and room.

There was a silence after that. It was a quiet so harsh that only the sounds of the rains pelting building dared to make any noise. The eyes of the entire class were forced upon the results. Mr. Evans was not moving. The audience had expected a comedy but was now privy to a tragedy of their own making.

A very skinny, dark-skinned girl, Felicity, bounced to her feet and rushed over to him as if she was hoping to help, but upon arriving the reality was truly overwhelming, causing her resolve to instead disintegrate into a fit of hysterical screams. By then blood was beginning to run from the side of Mr. Evan’s head, pooling upon the beige, brown and black swirl pattern floor. The sight of the blood instantly ignited the fear of many other children.

Mr. Evans! Mr. Evans! Oh my god!” Felicity continued screaming a short while longer before suddenly bolting out of the class room. Panic is a volatile contagion. It has this terrifying ability to spread with speeds that can out pace even the most voracious wildfires. Soon many other students began rushing from the classroom, pouring into the hallway, hysterically banging at neighboring classroom doors.

Mr. Evans is dead! Mr. Evans is dead!” The panicked children began raising the alarm. But even as all the screams for help were occurring, not all the students were trying to find help for our teacher. Many began focusing on saving themselves. Abjah, Jimmy, and the rest of their crew were beginning to accuse one another. Fear was rising. This latest escapade had gone much too far. There were going to be the usual suspects, but none of them, even the most brazen amongst their ranks, wanted to be the one tossed under the massive, flaming, many wheeled bus obviously speeding towards the class.
A reckoning was nigh.

I continued sitting there watching it all occur. I was calm because the event mostly did not resonate with me on an emotional level. Of course I felt bad for Mr. Evans but I realized there was nothing I could really do for him. I briefly considered retrieving a coat out of the closet to lay his head on, but I also remembered constantly hearing not to move an injured person.

The class was empty by the time I finally stood from my desk, walked over, and watched him for a while. Despite the blood it was clear he was still breathing. After crossing over Mr. Evans, I wandered into the hallway. Other teachers were exiting their classrooms while telling their own students to stay in their seats. Some of the kids were still yelling that our teacher was dead.

I was uncertain of what to do next. I watched the commotion around me for a short time before moving off down the hall, walking down the two flights of steps leading to the first floor, and going to the office. A very large man named Mr. Knolls, who served as security, stepped out of the office as I approached. Felicity, who arrived long before I did, could not be soothed enough to speak coherently. Ms. Gause, an administrator in the office, was hugging the girl tightly in an effort to calm her.

Walter,” Mr. Knolls began sternly in his normally deep voice. He was a very intimidating figure. “What happened up there?”

Someone threw something and I think it really scared Mr. Evans. It looked like he fainted.” I explained with a shrug.

Did you see who threw whatever it was?” Mr. Knolls asked.

No. Sorry.” I replied.

He watched me suspiciously for a while as if maybe I knew more than I was admitting to. Perhaps there was some truth to that. I saw the conspirators whispering and one of them did tell me to watch for what was coming. However, I did not actually see who threw the trophy. I only saw the object in mid-flight and the ending results.

Mr. Payne, the school’s principal, emerged from his office. He was so worried about Mr. Evans that he rushed past us all and raced up the steps to check up on him. Mr. Knolls began corralling the entire class downstairs near the office. All the kids, even those who were never involved in the craziness, appeared frightened by the unfortunate turn of events. There was still bickering amongst the main instigating group, each vying not to lose their head.

At the front of the building, one of the two pairs of large, beige, double-doors, making up the entrance, were pushed open by Mr. Knolls as the paramedics slowly pulled to a stop near the curb just outside. Cold air blew in through the building, carrying the sounds of rain gurgling in the gutters, and the tires of vehicles sloshing through the wet streets as they passed. A pair of EMT’s hurried into the building with a stretcher as a cop followed them into the building.

Mr. Payne was furious by the time he returned to the children gathered there near the office. “You should all be ashamed of yourself.” The principal began in his mildly high voice. “What you did here today really hurt an innocent man that was only trying to teach all of you. Are you proud now? Are you happy about what happened here? Mr. Evans is going to the hospital because of all of you.”
Many of the students, including the instigators, began to cry as the severity of his words sank in.

I remember seeing Abjah, Jimmy and the others of their crew crying as well when I glanced over at them. Back then, the fact that they, the worst of his tormentors, were now crying, looking for some form of sympathy, or maybe even a hug, seemed absurd to me. Now as an adult, I gaze back on them with the sympathy I would have denied them then, because it is abundantly clear to me they were just children. Foolish, misinformed, perhaps even poorly raised, children.

We are going to find out who did this.” Mr. Payne continued gravely. “The responsible party will be found. There will be real repercussions for your actions.”

The crying only increased as the EMT’s carefully carried Mr. Evans dazed form down on a gurney. He had a bandage on his head and there was a glazed look in his eyes. Mr. Payne continued his tirade but I had stopped listening by that point. Instead I turned my attention to the falling rains. I am not sure when it happened, or even why, but suddenly he, and everyone else annoyed me so much that I simply walked off down the hall. I did not want to be a part of it all any longer. I heard Mr. Payne, and some other adult call after me, but I did not acknowledge them. I did not want to be privy to any more speeches or crying. It all felt pointless.

As I searched to find some place quiet to sit alone, the world seemed increasingly silent and gray like the cloudy sky outside had somehow saturated everything to such a point that all the colors were washed out down into the gutters, leaving everything bleak and colorless. I walked down the secondary hallway and sat at the flight of steps leading out of the side of the building. It was a secluded area that I often isolated myself. No one really ever went there Sometimes I would just sit there and think about everything. Other times I would read. That day, through the high windows above that side entrance, I watched the rains falling while unintentionally reflecting all that happened.

"Walter?" A soft and familiar voice called from behind causing me to turn and find Mrs. Language, the school's special programs coordinator and psychologist. She was a short, blond woman who frequently wore floral print dresses, and scarves around her neck. My desires to be left alone caused us to cross paths frequently. She was always kind and funny. Always giving me one book or another to read. Everyone seemed to love having her around.

Hi, Mrs. Language.” I said with a small smile.

What’s the matter?” Mrs. Language asked with some concern.

Nothing.” I replied simply. “Why?”

Well, I just heard about everything that occurred with Mr. Evans so I came to see what was happening. I was told you left so I walked around to find you.” Mrs. Language explained.

Oh.” Was all I could really think to say for a while. “I just didn’t want to be there with them. What’s the point?”

Well, maybe you should come and sit with me in my office for a short while.” Mrs. Language smiled. We walked down the next hallway before stopping outside her office door. Unlocking and opening it, she allowed me to walk in first, then followed up the short flight of steps.
Mr. Language's office always seemed to have a comfortable glow no matter the weather. There were a pair of large windows that overlooked the entire schoolyard. All about the office were a great deal of books on shelves, trinkets from various cultures she had studied, posters against drinking, drugs, unsafe sex, and others about homework, honesty, integrity. Besides for the sound of the rains there was some sort of R&B instrumental playing on the radio from one of those stations that only played that sort of thing.

How are you feeling?” Mr. Language asked gently as she took a seat at her desk.

Okay, I guess.” I shrugged after sitting across from her.

Are you sure, Walter?” She further inquired. “A lot has happened today. It is okay to be sad or upset about any.”

I was quiet for a while. I seriously contemplated what she was explaining to me and I wondered if I should feel something. “No. I guess I'm alright.” I replied to her sincerely and turned my eyes out towards the rain. “It has been raining a lot lately.”

Yes. It has. The forecaster said it should last throughout the next couple of weeks.” Mrs. Language said cheerfully but not enough to conceal her concerns. But she did not press. She was always very patient that way. God knows she would need such dealing with me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ride



Note: An Excerpt from "Restless Dreams", an upcoming book of short non-fiction stories.


The sound of the gunned engine mixed with the rain constantly pouring against the car's frame. No one was concerned about the storm as we continued cutting through the dead of night down the virtually deserted highway. It was reckless. It was dangerous. It was stupid as hell. None of that mattered.

They were all laughing as the other two passengers dared the Driver to go faster and faster. He of course enthusiastically accepted the challenge as we continued careening heedlessly through the watery darkness with only the headlights guiding the way.

I silently sat there in the front passenger seat while continuing to stare through the windshield. Their building excitement felt as if it was buzzing around and through me as I watched the world rushing towards us. At 17 I frequently felt numb but on this night the exhilaration was not wasted on me. It was the first time I felt excited in what felt like ages.

"Walt is scared." The Witch suddenly teased from behind me with a sing song voice.

"What?" The Driver asked with a confused laugh.

"He’s been super quiet the entire time." She continued nastily.

"Walt, are you scared?" The Driver asked with a suspicious glance over at me.

"Doubtful." I said while continuing to stare ahead. It was all almost hypnotic.

"Oh yeah?" The Witch poked my shoulder. "You can admit it, dude. No one is going to call you an absolute puss. Well...at least not to your face."

"I imagine you would love that." I called back to her.

"Poor baby." The Witch offered sympathies far too sweet to be anything but mocking.

"You not used to driving fast, Walt?" The Thrall, who was the Witch's boyfriend, teased from where he was seated behind the Driver. "Tell you what, all you have to say is, ‘Please slow down because I feel the pee starting’, and we promise not to laugh too hard."

"Dude, you aren’t scared, are you?" The Driver laughed but there was a hint of disappointment. I thought that was a little odd.

"Shh. He might cry and stop hanging out with us." The Witch added causing the three of them to begin laughing in unison.

I began feeling a bit annoyed. Not at the teasing, but at all the sudden chattering. I wanted to enjoy the experience because it had been so long since I really felt anything outside of the lethargic fog that seemed to hang over me so frequently. I first glanced up into the rear-view mirror at the pretty, grinning face of the Witch, and then over at the Driver, before turning to the door to begin rolling down the window. The winter air instantly came rushing in and it felt good.

"Oh shit! Are you about to be sick?!" The Driver asked urgently despite their continued laughter.

"Dude, seriously just try not to spew all over inside the car!"

I opted to ignore them as I instead unbuckled my seat-belt, and partially leaned out of the window, meeting the darkness and water. The rains mildly stung the skin and the night flowed around us in a steady torrent. I could barely see the cement road tearing by below. Feeling, hearing and seeing it all was intoxicating. For reasons far too foolish and morbid to fully grasp, I answered the sudden fatalistic beckon to stop tasting, and instead glut on the experience. Such led to me climbing further out the vehicle to take a seat on the window frame.

Was I trying to prove something? Was I daring fate? Or was the excitement just addicting? I would say a little of all three, plus something else. I held on tight, and closed my eyes as an indescribable rush washed over me. It was all so much like flying.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Thrall called out as the laughter was ceasing.

"Walt, are you alright?" The Driver asked nervously.

"It’s fine!" I called back with a unbidden laugh that suddenly escaped me. "Keep going!"

"You heard the man." The Witch encouraged with more laughter. To this day I have met only one other woman who laughs anything remotely similar to her. It was more of a musical, gleeful cackling really. When it would reach a certain pitch it was easy to imagine she was a bit..."off" in a wonderful sort of way.

"Faster!" I called back into the car.

"Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! Fuck it!" The Driver yelled back proudly just as I felt and heard the car further accelerating. His engine always had a distinct 'growl' like some sort of powerful, mechanical beasts doing his bidding. He loved that vehicle. Truth be told, anyone who rode in that car for at least a couple of minutes, fell in love with it as well.

The feeling of that moment. How can I ever describe it? The words partially elude me even now. The highway and city was rushing by at over 90 mph. I knew I could fall, and that if such were to happen it would doubtlessly result in death. It was like riding closer and closer to a place between oblivion and life. A razor thin membrane that could rupture at any moment and let a violent death pour in. It all felt divine.

There has and probably will always be two halves of me. One that is hopeful, compassionate and truly believes in humanity’s potential to rise above its base nature. Yet that was not the one being fed that night. No, it was that half that can be deeply depressed, nihilistic, cynical, and borderline self-destructive. It was that exact same side that sent me climbing up the sheer side of a cliff without any gear only a few weeks earlier. It was there, at 14 yrs old, when I would stand as close as humanly possible to the railroad tracks as freight trains went shooting by. Or riding along with friends at 16yrs old, who were drag racing against others on dark streets.


The Driver, Witch and Thrall were unlike any group of people I had ever known. They drank, hung out constantly every night, did drugs and wanted me to join them on that pointless midnight carnival. I was extremely close to embracing, and joining them in that dark place where the shadows, nihilism, and pleasure meets to baptize your fears, conscience and cares away. The sort of place that if you go down into, you more than likely will never return from.

At that moment, on that night, I honestly could not imagine being happier anywhere else than with those friends, racing forward towards whatever awaited us. I was surprised to hear the Witch suddenly call out from behind me. I looked back to find her also hanging out the window in the same manner. Her dark hair fluttered on the wind and she had the biggest grin on her face. It was clear she absolutely loved the experience.

"Shit, I want to try it too. But you bastards get all the fun." The Driver lamented in good humor. "But I am the goddamn driver. I do that shit and we crash."

As the off ramp drew closer he was forced to rapidly decrease the car’s speed and began pulling onto the street. We were all laughing at that point. The Witch, and I climbed back into the vehicle, soaking wet from the rain.

"You both got issues." Thrall laughed somewhat nervously.

"Shut up. You fucking love it." The Witch teased him before leaning over and kissing him roughly. She was always the dominate one in their affair.

We all continued talking until reaching my stop. The car smoothly pulled up to the curb outside my home.

"Well, here you are, brother." The Driver announced.

"You coming out tomorrow night?" The Witch asked hopefully.

"You know it." I said while climbing out the vehicle.

"Catch you later, Walt!" Thrall called after me.

The Driver sped off suddenly causing the passengers to laugh with excitement. I turned watching them fade off into the night. That is how I will always remember them. Perhaps that is the only way I wish to remember them.

Those three were like ghosts to me sometimes. I almost never ever saw any of them during the day. They manifested only after the sun was down and there was something crazy enough to summon them. For us, when we were all together, life was a poorly made product that was going to break no matter how gently you handled it, so why worry about consequences?

Of course we all hung out for a while longer after that night. Each time felt like a nearly addictive experience. Fortunately better sense began slowly winning out. It happened after I realized they came close, very close, to convincing me to try just a ‘little line’ to see what it was like. I slowly began pulling back and distancing myself. I absolutely loved being around them. That is why I chose to leave despite not wanting to.

They fed a side of me that I just do not want ever coming to the foreground. I could try and say it was the moral high ground that forced me back to my senses. No such thing happened. I just did not want to hurt the people that cared about me. In the end it was probably the only reason I permanently ended my ride with them.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Fireball Incident

Note: This is an excerpt from the upcoming collection of short non-fiction, "Restless Dreams"

A tennis ball and some duct tape. There is nothing suspicious or fascinating there. You could put some tape on stuff or bounce the ball around a little.

But what if we combined them? By wrapping, like, half the duct tape around the ball? Still not much possibility there, except for maybe one stupid ass game of tennis where there is no need to keep score because everyone's a loser just for participating.

But what if that insanely wrapped tennis ball was drenched in lighter fluid? And that lighter fluid was lit? Now it’s getting good. But it’s not done just yet.

What if that fiery object was attached to a thick rope, which was tethered to a big stick? Now add one extremely excited, reckless boy swinging that flaming contraption to and fro with all the heedless joy of a mentally-ill monkey on a bender. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? Oh, I think you are. And there’s more.

Now surround that half-crazed man-child with a younger, but equally crazy large group of boys. One half is loudly chanting, "Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!" and the other half is chanting. "U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!"

It was like magic! We were all mesmerized! How did we get to this point? Who came up with it? Where did we get the stuff from? Who cares! It was party time and we actualizing the hell out of our potential!

You should have seen it. It was this burning orb being flung all around through the air in every which direction like a small comet we snatched out of the sky and stuck on a stick. A stick that was being swung wildly through the air without thoughts or concerns about possible fire hazards, safety, injury or other little annoyances like that.

But then reality got all rude and didn’t even bother to call to let us know it was on its way back. Somehow, during our haste to bring our brilliant blue print off the page, and into life where it belonged, we never considered "fire hot" and the rope was not indestructible. So, during one exceptional feat of stick swinging, the burning, fiery tape ball suddenly shot through the air and hit Mitch in the chest. To make matters worse he was not wearing a shirt on that hot summer day.

The chanting and excitement ends. This kid is screaming in pain. In fact he screamed running all the way home. Things get a little hazy after that. It’s hard to keep track of what exactly happened while running in blind fear in hopes of not being connected to that tragic incident. Don’t look at me like that. Everyone ran. The next day, Mitch showed up with a bandage, and no hard feelings.

See. Fun was had by all.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Friend the Monster

Note: An excerpt from the upcoming book of short non-fiction, "Restless Dreams".

I was 16 when I woke up on that particular evening. Faint rays of light from the setting sun managed to partially seep in through the black curtains and heavy pale blinds to ease the normally dark shadow of my room. I did not immediately get up from the bed. Instead I remained lying on my back staring at a ceiling. I was still annoyed and disappointed by a sudden turn of events that had been transpiring.

A close friend, a girl named Anne, started dating another very close friend, Argus a few months earlier. Despite my outward smiles and support I felt little happiness about any of it. Secretly, every night when I was alone, I was having fist fights with a green-eyed monster. My true feelings about the situation invited this new and terribly alien opponent to a rematch again and again no matter how hard I tried to feel differently.

The first time I saw Anne I immediately caught feelings for her. She was a pretty, olive skinned girl with raven hair. When looking into her large brown eyes it was easy to see mysteries and dreams that made every smile seem secretive. She was a witty type of spirit that loved to create, laugh and question. Unfortunately Argus saw her through the same lenses at the same time. He was also much quicker and braver about approaching her.

Worse, Anne was completely smitten by his arrogance, dim-wits, and good looks. Yet, to be honest it was those same dim-wits, plus his ability not to take most things serious, that made him one of my best friends at the time. He was fair-skinned with a mop of curly brown hair, and defiant gray eyes that accompanied his constant smirk. Though I was taller than Argus, he was more muscular due to his constant years of football. Despite the jealousy I felt over Anne, part of me looked up to him because Argus was the type of person that was completely comfortable in his skin.

No matter. I was his friend and he was mine. So, even though I did not want to hang out that particular evening, I promised earlier that day I would show up to meet him. No one was home when I left my room, went down stairs, and exited through the front door. The sun was all but gone as I walked down the street towards the agreed upon place. The railroad tracks were a shortcut to the bridge. On hot summer days those dusty, rocky passages would bake beneath the sun and then regurgitate that heat back into the evening air.

Argus was nowhere to be found when I reached the bridge so I learned over the railing and stared down into the waters of the creek. I noticed my boots were slightly dusty and scuffed from the walk, so I made a mental note to wipe them off later. While waiting I listened to the impromptu choir of crickets and frogs against the distant sounds of children playing somewhere amongst the quiet suburb.

"My boy, Walt." Argus called out as he reached the start of the bridge. He seemed genuinely happy we were hanging out. Such made me smile a little despite my earlier feelings.

"What’s up?" I looked up from the water towards him.

"Nothing much." Argus replied. He seemed almost sad and that confused me. "What’s been up with you today?"

"Nothing really. I have been asleep most of the day because I had a really bad headache." I stood up straight from the railing and slipped my hands into my pockets. "Did you stay home all day too?"

"No. I went and hung out with Anne for a little while." He shrugged.

"Is everything alright?" I asked with some internal hesitation. I really did not want to get on the subject but I did not want to leave him hanging if something was wrong.

"Yeah, I guess. Just-" Argus shook his head and that time I definitely could tell something was bothering him. "But fuck it, you know?"

"Fighting again?" I asked curiously.

"Yeah, something like that." Argus looked around once before sliding his hands into the pockets of his oversized, gray jeans. "She was being a stupid so things happened, but fuck her, I don’t feel like talking about it right now."

"Cool." I shrugged not wanting to force the issues. "Want to walk or something? You look pretty bummed about it."



"Yeah," Argus nodded then motioned for me to follow him down the tracks. "I was thinking about going to the store to grab a soda or something. You up for it?"

"Sounds like a plan to me." I turned in the direction that would lead towards the liquor store.

"I didn’t mean that store, Walt. Besides, they charge way too much for, like, everything. Trying to buy a pack of gum from them would probably cost $2." Argus shook his head.

"Then where?" I asked with some confusion.

"Let’s walk to that supermarket over near the Drive-In. They have all sorts of cheap shit." Argus said before taking a step back.

"Sure, if you want to." I said as I began following him. "Not like there is much else to do. It might be kind of nice to walk a little further anyway."

"Oh yeah?" Argus asked curiously while we walked down the tracks.

"Yeah, haven’t been out and about in about two days. To be honest it feels good to be out right now." I explained.

"Dude, you should get out more." He replied simply.

"Says you." I quipped.

"Pft, that is good enough. I’m like some sort of expert on this sort of stuff." Argus said with a brief laugh.

Our conversation jumped several topics as we made our way towards our destination. We talked about college, the future, movies, video games, music, clothes, etc. Finally leaving the hot, dusty trail of the railroad tracks, we crossed a lush green landscape newly created by the city for a beautifying effort. Admittedly, all the flowers and trees were really working. After jay-walking the rather busy street, Argus and I crossed the big asphalt parking lot and walked through the doors of the supermarket.

The pale lights of the store were an artificial afternoon stuffed inside of a building. To say I found it uncomfortable would be an understatement. We did not immediately go for the goal that brought us to the store. We wandered about looking at whatever caught our attention for a brief moment. At some point we arrived at the magazine aisle where we killed time by flipping through the pages concerning video games or music.

"Goddamn Mace and Puffy." Argus fumed about an article featuring both artists with a shake of his head. "Why do people listen to this fake shit?"

"Not a clue." A shrugged while flipping through a copy of the same magazine to find what article he was annoyed with. "Can’t say I’m a fan."

"Isn’t it enough they keep playing his crap on the radio and TV?" Argus glanced up from the magazine. "And what’s up with dudes dressing like him and those other ass clowns on his label? They look stupid as hell wearing all that shiny, bright, foil looking shit."

"They can’t help themselves. Their idiots." I replied causing Argus to laugh.

"Don’t lie, Walt. You know you hide a couple of his CD’s in your room." Argus joked while sitting the magazine down.

"You are only saying that to see how I feel about your dreams of becoming one of his back up dancers." I did the same with my magazine as we laughed and began moving towards what we had walked all that way for. Eventually we found our way out and wandered back towards are neighborhood. Despite his occasionally laughter Argus still seemed morose during the walk back. We eventually arrived at the bridge. He finished most of his soda before tossing the bottle into the waters below.

"Hey, don’t litter, asshole." I joked from where I stood on the opposite side. "Hasn’t the wisdom of Captain Planet taught you anything?"

"Dude, there are three shopping carts down there already." Argus replied with a smirk.

"Don’t mean you have to add to it." I countered. "Thanks to you an entire family dolphins are going to die in about 10 minutes from now."

"You’re right, Walt." Argus added with mock sincerity and lowered his head in shame. "I don’t think I can live with myself."

"Right." I laughed causing him to do the same.

"And yeah, I went to Anne’s house today." Argus suddenly said as he glanced over at me then turned back to the water.

"Oh." I was not really sure how to respond because I had forgotten about the earlier topic and it seemed odd he would bring it up again so suddenly. "Is everything alright? Did something happen?"

"We were fuckin around, you know? Just kissing, touching, and that sort of stuff." Argus explained while still staring down into the water.

"And that bothered you?" There was a small pang of jealousy but such did not out weight my concern to why he seemed so sad and distant.

"No. No." Argus hesitated for a moment and glanced over at me.

"Dude, seriously, what’s wrong?" I asked with building concern.

"Nothing." Argus turned his eyes back to the water appearing more distressed. "Just, well, I got her shirt and bra off, you know? So we kept kissing. Then she started acting all funny and shit. I had unzipped her jeans and slid my hand down into her pants-

"Whoa," I stopped Argus with a nervous laugh. "I’m not sure she would want me hearing the details to all this, besides-

"Walt, just—just listen." Argus tone suddenly became irritated as he looked over at me.

"Yeah, ok. Sorry…" I rubbed the back of my neck becoming concerned again.

"No, it’s cool. Just," Argus shook his head and concentrated on the water again. ", she kept grabbing all over my dick, and stuff. You know? But when I got her pants off she started acting all funny, Walt, like she suddenly didn’t want to anymore." He shook his head. "She was just playing goddamn games like always."

"Ah, so that is what the argument was about I take it?" I asked curiously. "Look, maybe you should call her and-

"We didn’t have a fight, Walt. She just kept fucking with me." Argus said angrily as he turned his eyes to me again and stood up straight from the railing. "I got tired of that shit finally. Know what I mean?"

"Don’t tell me the two of you broke up?" I asked in disbelief. I was not totally innocent in that situation. Yes, I sincerely wanted Argus and Anne to be happy, but that jealousy poisoned some of my intentions. The moment I felt that small spark of hope I instantly regretted it. I desperately wanted to be a better person than that.

"Yeah, we kind of broke up I guess or something." Argus glanced down and found a rock on the bridge. Picking it up, he easily chucked it to the water below.

"Do you want me to talk to her for you?" I asked surprising even myself. "Maybe there was some sort of misunderstanding, you know?"

" Like I said, I got tired of her fucking with me, man. She thinks just because she looks good, I have to take her shit all the time." Argus chucked another rock into the water below. "So, I was like fuck it."

"Wait, I don’t understand. What happened?" I asked in confusion.

"I pulled her fucking panties off anyway." Argus began again with noticeable agitation. "So she started whining and telling me to stop. I told her she shouldn’t been grabbing all over my dick all afternoon like a cock tease."

"Argus?" I asked with a voice quieted by a sudden dread that slithered from the back of my skull, down my neck, and over my spine, thick and icy. The end of the story already seemed apparent but I was in denial.

"She was a cock tease, right?" Argus continued on angrily but still was not looking at me. "Anne, that bitch, just kept playing with me every day. Acting like she wanted to go all the way, I show up and she changes her mind. What kind of shit is that? How is that right?" He finally looked over at me seeming to search my face. What was he searching for? To this day I am not really sure. "So, I took off those panties and got what I wanted."

"Argus?" I asked once more without being sure exactly what it was I was questioning.

Things went quiet between us for a while. That tense silence was filled by the flowing water and a train passing in the distance. Argus kept staring down at the creek, concentrating, and focusing on it far too hard. I was surprised by a sudden and bitter laugh of seeming contempt that that rose from him.

"Anne screamed but I didn’t give a shit. I just kept fucking her even when she told me it hurt without lubrication." Argus was still laughing but it was a sound without any humor. "I was fucking pissed by then so I told her ‘oh, here comes your lube.’ And I busted a nut in her and just kept going. Fucking cock tease started crying, dude. Started to say some shit about how she loved me and wouldn’t tell if I stopped. I told her stupid ass I would stop when I wanted to."

"Wait." I laughed as I suddenly caught on and some small relief washed over me. "You’re just fuckin with me, right?"

"Nope." Argus said flatly as he looked me in the face once more. "I fucked her right there in her living room, on the floor, by the couch. She got what was coming to her. After we finished she started blubbering about how she felt like she couldn’t walk or some bullshit like that. Whatever, she enjoyed that shit and just didn’t want to say it."

"Dude, seriously, enough now. Stop playing." I wanted to hear him suddenly burst out in laughter at me for having believed him. Deep down I was praying he would. I needed him to laugh. I knew it was coming at any moment and I was waiting for it with all my heart. I stared at him waiting for it. "Argus-

"I’m not fucking playing!" Argus nearly yelled at me in sudden anger that caught me by surprise. "I told you I fucked her and that is what happened. It’s not my fault. She wanted it anyway." He stood up from the railing again and turned to face me as he grew more irate. "What the fuck you trippin so hard for? I don’t give a shit so why do you?"

"What did you do?" I asked a question that had already been answered. I stared at him in continued disbelief. The full understanding of what he had said was slowly dawning on me, and I just could not believe Argus, careless, funny Argus, who I looked up to, would do something to Anne. That he would do anything so horrible to anyone. I saw this kid return a wallet full of money. I heard the ugly words clearly but they just made absolutely no sense coming from him. "You raped, Anne…" I trailed off as the words touched the air between us for the first time.

"What are you talking about? I didn’t rape anyone!" Argus snapped angrily. "Anne wanted it. Why the fuck else would she let me take all her clothes off? Huh?" The question seemed to be aimed at both of us as there was a look of confusion added with his anger.

"Dude, she was crying. You even fuckin said she told you to stop. You raped her!" The words were an incantation that razed and salted our friendship with a curse that could never be broken. "What the hell is wrong with you? You raped, Anne!"

"Shut up!" Argus ordered furiously as he took a step towards me. "I didn’t rape goddamn, Anne. Why are you going ballistic over this? I’m supposed to be your boy, remember?"

"You don’t get it. You raped Anne. What the fuck is wrong with you?" I looked him over trying to understand what the hell had just happened to my friend. "What are you going to do? How could you do that to Anne? She’s our friend. She trusted you." I wanted an answer and at the same time I felt selfish for some reason. Argus stared at me for a while as if he did not quite get what I was saying. It was the look of a deer trapped by the oncoming glare of headlights. For the briefest moment of time I felt sorry for him.

"Fuck you, Walt." Argus suddenly said viciously with a mixture of anger and hurt. "You can go and kiss her ass if you want then. Maybe you just have a hard on hearing about Anne getting fucked? Is that it? You liked hearing about that cock tease getting what she wanted!" He laughed bitterly and the sound was hideous to my ears. It managed to both hurt and repulse me at the same time. I did like Anne. I had feelings for her that tittered between that uncomfortable place of friendship and romance.

I am not completely sure what happened during those few seconds. The sudden explosion of hatred and anger took me across the short distance between us with an uncontrolled scream, before I snatched him by the throat and threw Argus with as much strength as I could gather. He tumbled hard when he hit the ground several feet away.

Scooting backwards when I took a few steps towards him, he watched me with disbelieving, wide eyes. I caught myself somehow. For a moment, for a split second in time I truly understood the urge to kill. I thought about wrapping my hands around Argus throat, and just squeezing until the life was milked from his lungs.

"Fuck you!" I yelled furiously at Argus while trying hard to restrain all the dark, ugly things suddenly poisoning my every thought. "I should kill you!" I took a step towards him as my fist tightened, begging relentlessly to be introduced into the equation. "I should kill you where you are sitting you worthless, fuckin bastard! Anne was our fuckin friend! She trusted you!"

I felt enraged and saddened at the same time. I was not sure what else to do. Part of me wanted to continue the fight but another part of me was yelling not to. I looked between Argus and the way home. I hated him for hurting Anne and for ruining our friendship. Those were the last words I ever spoke to Argus. I turned walking away as quickly as I could.

I was some distance away from the track when I suddenly felt nauseated. Maybe it was all the strong emotions exploding inside of me or maybe it was the thought of Anne being violated. Whatever it was it caused me to stop and become sick near the track wall when my stomach lurched forward. It might have lasted less than a minute but I felt as if I was throwing up for an hour. By the time it was done I needed to lean on the wall to remain standing.

Raising my face to the sky, I closed my eyes and began trying to control my breathing. I still felt so much hatred and anger. Reason ignited and burned under the mixture, and suddenly I was angry at both Anne and Argus. There was a vicious stab of jealousy lodged in my heart, green and fiery, spurting and churning like an insane lime fissure.

"Anne should have choose me!" I suddenly reasoned inside of my head. If she had been with me none of this would have happened. I respected her. I supported her. I looked out for her and that clearly made me the better choice. Anne went with someone more popular and such was her undoing. It was a poor goddamn decision and she was paying dearly for it.

Then as suddenly as it had begun the pure hatred that corrupted my thoughts were gone, and the green-eyed monster won a definitive victory. Though no one was there to judge me for those private thoughts, I felt terribly guilty and partially sickened with myself. Who was I to be hurt in all this? How could I think that way about someone I loved?

It was dark on the tracks and nothing but a few distant, orange-yellow lights stood as sentinels against the night. Some belonged to the isolated factory across the field and others surrounded an expensive, gated community across the creek. I decided to walk to the corner store Argus did not want to go to earlier. There is no poetic way to describe how I felt while walking to my new destination. I felt like a monster.

It seemed like I was floating as I left the railway and began down the silent street. My thoughts kept drifting back to Anne. I wanted to go see her. To tell her I was sorry for everything that happened. The thoughts constantly repeated themselves over, and over even as I arrived at the liquor store. I stepped through the entrance and out of the night.

I found a lime soda.

I paid the man.

Then walked back out into darkness.

I washed my mouth out with the drink, spitting into the grass beside the store before beginning the walk home. I thought about going down the street to visit my cousins or back across the creek to see my friend Brandon. Then I decided I wanted to be alone so I walked back down the tracks and hopped the fence leading to my backyard.

For the first time ever that brick wall felt like a challenge but I still managed. I stepped onto the cement of the basketball court and stared ahead at my own home. Most of the lights were out except for the upstairs light in my mother’s room. It pitched a faint, pale glow into the backyard like a weak spotlight to an opening play. Instead I went over to the Gazebo and walked inside before sitting on one of the large white wood chairs.

Leaning my head on the back, I closed my eyes, feeling guilty, bitter and lonely. I seriously contemplated calling the cops to report what happened but I wondered if that would have been what Anne wanted. What if she denied the whole thing? What if it made the situation worse somehow? I did not want to try and carry the weight of that decision. So out of fear and uncertainty I remained inactive. It stayed that way until the dawn began chasing away the darkness of the night.

I ended my staring into nothing and silently slipped into the house through the side entrance. It was early but I already knew I was going to spend the day alone. After entering my room, closing and locking the door, I fell onto the bed. While lying there my thoughts eventually drifted to Anne again. I still wished I could tell her I was sorry. I wanted to hug her and let her cry into my shoulder if it helped any. I wanted to make everything better. I wanted nothing more than to make everything right.

However this was not a situation from a story book or sitcom. There would be no final dramatic moment. No quick resolve to clear up the entire problem before the next adventure. There was nothing but pain and suffering with no real resolution.

My room always felt like a haven from the world but it was no sanctuary from my thoughts and conscience. I lie there until the thin black veil of sleep fell over my face and a monster far worse than the green beast arrived to make sleep a nightmare.