Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Luke Bettis

“First off, I didn’t do it. I don’t need none of that. I’m a screw up, but I’m not some kinda sicko. They’re gonna say all kinds of bullshit about my record and whatever, but I didn’t do it.”

“Do what?”

Luke looked up from the place where the stucco met the cement floor of the porch. “Nobody told you?”

“Told me what?” William drank from his coffee mug, hoping it would clear his head.

“This morning. Early. They found a boy killed out in an orchard just outside of town.”

“Who’s orchard?”

“How the fuck do I know? It was out just over that little canal where Wesley crashed his motorcycle that time.” He waved his hand in the general direction of the Brenlee Irrigation District canal that used to be the northwest border of town.

The twist in William’s stomach made his hands feel week and he tried to casually put down his coffee mug before he dropped it. “A kid from around here?”

“Yeah. A Mexican kid. About ten years old.” Luke looked out at William’s yard. Neither off them spoke for a long time. Then matter-of-factly, he said “You need to mow your lawn.”

“That’s not the same place as Tommy.” A half-hearted dismissal.

“It’s close enough. Nothin’s that far apart around here, anyway.”

“It’s different.”

Luke Bettis looked at William. He wanted to hit him. “If it was, Billy, you wouldn’t have to say so.”

William shook his head, avoiding Luke, “Dude. It’s different.”

He took three quick steps towards William to stand right in front of him. “Look at me you goddamned college educated stoner. Look at me.”

William looked up at Luke.

“It’s the same thing as Tommy.”

“Tommy wasn’t Mexican.”

Luke growled from the back of throat, “I’ll kick your ass, Billy.”

“Okay.”

Luke walked back across the porch. He leaned against the stucco railing and crossed his arms across his chest.

“What makes you think they’ll come after you?”

“Same thing that made ’em go after Mike Boone. He was an ex-con who hung around town messin’ with people.”

“Your role model.”

“Not by choice.”

William sighed to hide a laugh.

Luke shifted his feet. “I know what you think, but it’s not…” He could never say he didn’t feel in control of his own life and maybe that was the problem.

“It’s different now. Different cops. And I think they have to let the county deal with it.”

“It don’t feel different. Hell, some kid lets the air outta some old lady’s tires and they pick me up or come to my house.” He looked and sounded honestly mystified at the idea of being anyone’s prime suspect. To have heard him tell it, a person might even have thought Luke had never dipped into the till at the local liquor store. Never tried to burn down his mother’s house for the insurance money. Never held an elderly couple at shotgun point in their home in order to steal their personal savings and Cadillac.

“So, what do you want me to do about it?”

“Talk to that cop you know.”

“Hernandez?”

“Tell him about Tommy. Tell him I wouldn’t do that to any kid. Not after the way we found him that day.”