[Last part - sorry about the rest. Thanks for sticking with me to the end. Hope you enjoy, and I encourage anyone to leave their opinions and suggestions. -SD]
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But back to the matter at hand – sitting around the cooler shooting the shit over beer. The second Blake heard Danny mention the ‘N’ word, he started giggling.
‘What the fuck is so funny, huh? Did I crack a fucking joke? If you assholes want to sit around playing with yourselves, that’s your goddamn prerogative. But, like I say, I’m going to have myself some fun.’
Blake’s smile quickly faded. ‘Hey Danny, I didn’t mean anything by it. You know that, right?’
Danny took heavy swig from his bottle, then wiped his chin. He stared at Blake for a good thirty seconds before I tried to restore order.
‘Easy, Dan,’ I said, tugging on his pant leg. ‘Sit down, have some more beer and tell us all about it.’
‘Right then. I’m warning you two, though – I’m not taking any shit tonight, got me? My pops found out about us drinking his wine last night, and when I get home he’s going to boot fuck me without remorse.’
‘It’s cool, Danny, no worries. I'll keep quiet. So what are we going to do with that fishing line, then?’ Blake chirped, glad to be off of the hot seat.
After we each finished a couple more beers, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Danny’s master plan, if you could call it such, involved taking a small jaunt to the wooded park that ran parallel to the North Saskatchewan River just outside of our neighborhood. Once there, we would locate a bike trail with heavy traffic, loop several strands of fishing line around one tree, stretch it across the path to a tree on the other side, then, making sure the line’s so taut that it hums when you flick it, tie it real tight at neck level. Then, the plan went, we’d wait off to the side, but not too far off, because the initial shock that the poor bastard catching his throat on this fucking thing will feel will be too priceless to miss.
We made loud asses of ourselves walking through the neighborhood, but as soon as we hit the first patch of brush we were all business. We found a real nice trail at the bottom of a hill just a ten minute walk into the park. We stood around for about fifteen minutes or so, waiting to see if anyone actually used it. To our delight a family of cyclists, each with matching nipple tight riding outfits and shiny new helmets, drove by. They smiled at us: pappa duck on his blue ten-speed mountain bike, followed by mamma duck and her elegant pink affair, followed by the kids, each riding little red bikes with training wheels jutting out to the side. We waved as they passed.
As soon as they were out of sight Danny and I went to it, measuring out a long strand of fishing line, probably twenty feet at least, and stretched it across the path as Blake stood as our lookout man on top of the hill. Once we had it up, Danny gave it a good twang.
‘Fucking gorgeous, man. Can’t wait to see the face of whoever catches themselves on this.’
We waved Blake down and we slipped into the bushes, settling on a spot about thirty feet away from the action.
‘It feels a bit like fishing, don’t it boys?’ Danny whispered excitedly, his breath steaming like hot beer fumes. ‘Haven’t been fishing in years. Fuck, you can’t even see it, eh?’
It was true. The fishing line was thin and translucent, lost in the sunshine. It's a hard sell, even when you're squinting. Wouldn’t want to be the poor fuck running into that off of the hill, I thought to myself. The beauty of the snag’s location was that even if the rider sees it, there’s no way he (or she – I’m all for equal opportunity) could stop in time, unless they rode the break the whole way down. But really, who in their right fucking mind would rob themselves of the rush of gravity? I rest my case.
‘I’m fucking bored, man,’ Blake said, turning over onto his back. ‘You got a smoke I could have, by any chance?’
‘No smoking,’ Danny replied sternly, eyes focused straight ahead. ‘The smoke would give us away for sure.’
Blake started mumbling under his breath, but a sharp glare from Danny shut him up.
‘Fuck, quiet, I hear someone,’ I whispered, and we all ducked our heads into the brush. All was silent for a second, like the world stopped spinning on its axis or something. Then, on top of the hill, we could see a stumbling shadow painted against the puffy blue.
‘Aw shit, he’s not even fucking riding a bike,’ Blake groaned.
‘Let’s just wait and see what happens, right?’
The man was obviously drunk, probably around forty or so, teetering haphazardly as he swung a big brown bottle merrily from side to side. He was grubby looking, with greasy looking hair and week old grizzle covering his face. He sang to himself as he walked, mixing shots from his bottle with notes from some obscure off-key love ballad. The slant of the hill must have crept up on him, because the second he hit the incline his body jerked forward, like someone had tied one end of a rope to his chest and the other to the back of a pickup truck and let the rubber fly. Looking like an old pro, the drunk tumbled over and rolled down the hill, yet amazingly enough still kept clutching his bottle as if it were his only child.
We were all dead silent as we watched him spastically drag himself to his feet. What would happen if he stood up and saw the fishing line? Fuck, as hard as it is to see, I reasoned, only a moron wouldn’t catch it at two feet away. Then again, the other side of my brain said, playing devil’s advocate, he looks pretty sloshed – if he missed something as big as a hill, what are the chances that he’d have the cognitive framework in his drunken state to see a thin, translucent wire?
He got up grumbling, jamming his hands into the pockets of his muddy jeans and started walking. The old motor in my chest started humming; my blood felt electric just watching the son of a bitch shuffle forward.
The adrenaline spike hit its apex when the fishing line caught the drunk in the forehead as he stumbled forward, slicing a thin red wrinkle just above his eyebrows. We laughed – we couldn’t help it, really.
The fishing line snapped as he pressed his face right through it. His first reaction was to fall to his hands and knees, cradling his sticky face in his hands. Then he stood back up and looked around.
‘You fucking arseholes, I know you’re out there. Come on then, come get a fucking piece of old Billy!’
We laughed again. Anyone that tanked who spoke in the third deserved a standing ovation. Danny stood up, clutching his belly with one hand and pointing with the other.
‘Hey you drunk old fuck,’ he yelled, cupping his hands around his mouth as if it were a loudspeaker. ‘Maybe you should watch where you’re going, eh? Boys, stand up and look at this poor bastard.’
We stood up, laughing ourselves silly. By now the drunk had regained some of his wits and was wiping the blood off of his face with his sleeve.
‘You want to scrap then, boys? Come on then, don’t be fucking shy.’
To our delight he started making his way through the brush towards us. At first it was like watching an ant try to crawl up a sand dune – utterly hopeless and fucking comical. He kept tripping over exposed roots and waylaid tree branches, grumbling things like, ‘old Billy is coming for ye,’ and, ‘Fucking little punks’ every step of the way.
‘You can do it, chum! That’s it!’ I called out.
‘It’s like watching my gramma try to run a fucking marathon,’ Danny blurted, jabbing me in the ribs with the tip of his elbow.
But then, as if our insults somehow fueled his internal combustion system, old Billy picked up speed. The closer he got, the more imposing he became. He didn’t have the look of a dirty old drunk anymore; with his matted hair and sickly grin, he looked like the sort of person who’d take pleasure in sawing off our balls with a rusty spoon. He wasn’t slouching over, either – Jesus, I thought to myself, he’s like six foot five.
Blake must have seen it too, because he was tugging at Danny’s shirt.
‘Hey, um, Danny, this guy looks like a real twisted fuck. Maybe we should fuck off while we still can.’
But Danny was too busy taunting to notice. Finally, with the slurring beast just ten feet away, Danny looked at us, looked back at the drunk inching closer through the stumps and escarpment, and turned tail and ran. We followed him, me on his ass and Blake not far behind.
‘Split up!’ Danny called out militaristically. ‘He can only chase one of us! Afterwards we’ll circle around and meet at the park gates!’
With that he took off to the left. I turned right, got a little ways then looked back at Blake, who had kept on going straight.
‘Keep running you fat bastard,’ Blake called out with a nervous chuckle before fading into the trees.
After awhile I stopped running and paused to catch my breath. I was free and clear. I met up with Danny at the gates.
‘Where’s Blake gotten to, then?’ I asked as Danny lit up a smoke.
Taking a fat drag, he nodded his head a bit to the left and looked over my shoulder.
‘He’s over there. Saw them as I came out. S’not a pretty sight, let me tell you. Boy’s got himself into a bit of a mess with our friend Mr. Bill.’
I spun around and squinted.
‘Don’t see anyone.’
‘Look harder, right down there, by the riverbank.’ He pointed.
I put my hand over my eyes and squinted. I could make out two fuzzy shapes in the distance, one quite a bit larger than the other and flinging it around like bag of groceries.
‘Jesus, Danny! We have to go help him. That fucker is just stomping the living shit of him!’
He truly was, too. I could see the outline of old Billy lifting his boot high and stamping on Blake as if he were trying to extinguish the dying sparks of a cigarette butt. Every time he brought his foot down I could see Blake’s arms and legs shoot up in the air, flailing wildly.
‘No, we aren’t going to do nothing, understand?’ Danny said with a sort inhuman, almost robotic calmness, making me feel sick to my stomach. He took one last hit from his fag then spat out a wad of phlegm, tossing his freshly lit cigarette on the ground. ‘Blake’s a big boy. Can handle himself. We’ve all got to learn, you know?’
He stepped on the smoke and grinded it into the dirt.
‘Jesus, Danny – that’s fucking bullshit! Easy for you to say when you aren’t the one getting fucked up,’ I choked. In my flustered state, somehow my anger prevailed over whatever reason or survival instinct I had, and I pushed Danny, putting all of my weight forward as I put my hands into his chest. It was like trying to dislodge a fucking semi with its emergency breaks on. He barely moved, didn’t even have to step back or adjust his footing. He tilted his head sideways at me, his face mixed with anger and disbelief. I could see a vein the size of both my thumbs combined throbbing up his neck, growing fatter by the second. His face wasn’t hard to read – any second now…
‘Watch it – I warned you earlier. I’m not taking any shit today, right?’
‘Suck my dick, you aren’t taking any shit!’ Fuck it, I thought, gritting my teeth. No turning back now. ‘I cannot fucking believe you. Are you scared? Are you scared of that drunken fuck, is that it? Under all of that tough-guy, ninja shit, you are just a big fucking –‘
Before I had a chance to finish that choice set of descriptors attacking Danny’s manhood he grabbed me by the shoulders and deposited his knee straight away into my gut, winding me. The move was fast and fluid, and before I had a chance to mount any sort of counterattack I felt myself falling to my knees, gasping for air.
‘Now listen, you fuck up. Blake got himself into this fucking mess, so he is damn well going to get himself out of it. You think that the world is always going to take it easy on him? No. It will constantly try to kick his fucking teeth in, whether he likes it or not. Now, he can do one of two things, right? He can let everyone wipe the fucking floor with him, or he can take his lumps and toughen up a bit.’
I wasn’t taken in by his wisdom, so I just kept on my knees and wheezing with whatever contempt I could muster. Irritated at my insolence, he reached down, taking my shirt collar in one hand and my hair in the other and dragged me to my feet.
‘Now, we are going to go have a fucking drink at my place, before my pops gets home. If we aren’t fucked before he comes home from work, I swear to God I’ll bust every bone in your body. Besides, Blake knows where to find us, does he not? Tonight we’ll all be laughing at this over some hash or something. Britney says she can score some. It’ll be fun times, trust me.’
Great, I thought, coughing as he clapped me on the back while we walked back to his place. Now we’re all buddy-buddy. Not only do I have the distinct pleasure of pissing blood tonight, but now I’ve got to spend some quality time with captain roid-rage and his equally psychotic old lady. Not to mention that I felt just fucking horrible leaving Blake at the hands of that prick in the park.
After a few hours we were sitting around the worn out wooden coffee table in Danny’s basement, huddling over an electric hot plate. Danny had jammed a metal butterknife into the element, and now we were waiting for it to heat up.
‘This shit is premium man, no doubt about it,’ Britney said as she ran her hands through Danny’s hair. ‘Just wait till your first hit…it’ll, like, blow your fucking mind or something.’
Britney was good looking, in every conventional sense of the word. She was fairly tall, looked malnourished, had straight blonde hair, dyed, I suspect, that hung past her shoulders. She wore pink constantly: pink nail polish, pink shirts, pink pants, pink fucking everything. I hated pink, but Danny liked it. He liked ‘his’ women to be fragile and weak, all delicate and skinny and fucking pink. I never really liked Britney – every time I talked to her I felt like she was looking right through me, or over my shoulder or whatever, at something more interesting. I always felt impotent around her, like a cat hanging powerless by the scruff of its neck as the scalpel slowly inching towards his testicles. She could be really fucking emasculating.
A perfect match for Danny, the resident alpha-male, who did a little bit of ball-carving himself.
‘Knife’s hot enough,’ I said, tapping the handle. ‘Give me some of that hash.’
Wrapping a down blanket around one of my hands, I lifted the knife off of the element and picked up the top half of a sawed off pop jug. Britney gently plodded a small brown chunk on the knife’s flat edge. I put the pop jug’s mouth to my lips, hovering the open bottom over the smoking lump of hash, careful not to waste any of it. I coughed as the shit entered my body.
The fumes seemed to go straight from my nasal cavity to right to my brain, skipping the lungs altogether. I could feel the hash seeping into my skull, melting its contents into a swirling mandala of fucking bliss. Soon I was swimming, just fucking swimming, and Danny took the hash from me to do his hit.
‘Fuuuuuck,’ I moaned, staring off into nowhere in particular. Britney clapped my thigh, laughing, as Danny blew out a thick cloud.
By the time Blake showed up we were so high that our minds couldn’t even register his presence. Not right away, at any rate. Caught in a spell of drug-induced hysteria, I fell from my chair laughing and rolled into his shin.
‘Blake!’ I said, straightening my face.
Danny and Britney, still laughing, waved at him.
‘Holy fuck – that’s a face only a mother could love!’ Danny shouted between chuckles, wrapping his arm around Britney with his beer hand and pointing at him with the other.
I got to my feet to get a better look at it. His face was smudged with mud and blood, a giant purple balloon inflated over his eye. His lip was fat, split like a sausage down the middle. It was a real fucking mess.
‘Jesus, Blake,’ I said, putting my hand up to his face. I let my fingertips slide across his sticky cheek. His face tightened, but he didn’t bat it away or say a word. ‘Are you okay, like? It’s a fucking mess!’
Up to this point I had managed to retain my composure, but as the words tickled over my tongue I felt an uncontrollable urge to break into hysterics. I had to grab his ripped shirt caller to stop myself from falling over.
‘I’m like, fucking sorry, Blake. It’s not funny, I know – it’s the drugs…’
Danny and Britney joined in, rolling around like two children dripping with too much serotonin and cackling like hyenas.
‘Fuck, Blake, sit the fuck down and have a drink!’ Danny cried, getting to his feet and extending his beer to him. ‘That bum really gave you a good shit-kicking, right? I would have went for his balls, man, grabbed the fuckers and twisted for dear life.’
When Blake didn’t accept Danny’s offering, we all went silent.
‘Come on then, be a man and take the fucking beer.’ Danny’s smile quickly faded. ‘Did the old fuck bust your eardrums or something?’
To the surprise of everyone in the room, his hand swung up and slapped Danny’s stretched hand, sending the bottle loose and shattering on the concrete floor. Danny’s mind needed only a fraction of a second to realize what had happened, and in a flash he had Blake by the throat.
‘What’s that, you little prick?’ he hissed.
‘What are you going to do, Danny? My face is already gone to piss. You want to put the finishing touches on it, or what?’ Blake’s voice, more of a gurgle, lacked its usually playful current. It sounded apathetic, uncaring, hopeless even. Danny thought for a few seconds, as if considering it, then pushed him away.
‘Not worth it,’ he grumbled, retreating back to Britney’s open arms on the couch. I was too stunned to manage any words.
‘I’m done with this shit, Danny. I’m done with you. Done with drugs. Done with you, too.’ He nodded in my direction.
‘Aw, come on, Blake, you don’t mean that,’ I tried to say, but my words only got lost in a sea of sharp laughs and grunts.
‘Well, go to fuck then. We don’t need you – you’ve always been a fucking pussy, holding us back. We’d be better off without you,’ Danny said, spitting off to the side. ‘Get the fuck out of my house.’
In the dim light of the single overhead bulb that hung as if from a noose a bit above our heads I could see Blake’s eyes glaze over. He snorted, rubbed his dirty sleeve across his face, then walked up the creaky stairs without another word. I followed him with my eyes.
‘We don’t need him, sweetheart. He was always a pussy. Probably a fag, too,’ Britney purred, rubbing Danny’s chest as it rose and fall.
‘He shouldn’t have fucking wasted the beer, right?’ Danny muttered , as if he were trying to convince himself of something. ‘Told him – not tonight. No shit. Didn’t I fucking tell him that?’
He looked at me with sharp black eyes that were all pupil. I nodded, then all three of us broke into laughter. It was a numb, pleasureless sort of feeling, convulsing on the ground and over the dingy furniture, clutching my sore belly. I felt like I was dry-heaving, like my body was totally out of synch with my mind and my emotions. As I watched Danny and Britney giggle into each other’s faces, sliding their tongues in and out of their mouths, I promised myself that I would move, fuck off, escape all of this shit. It was hard to take myself seriously when I was on my back, laughing at nothing in particular as I stared at the ceiling.
"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen... there you have me in a nutshell, and kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change."
From his Last Will & Testament, Marquis de Sade