Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Luke’s Last Friend

William tried to remember the last time he had seen Luke. High school graduation? Did Luke even graduate? Yes, he remembered the way Luke smirked his way to the podium. To his own surprise, the smartass soccer jock had made it. And his adult life began the next day. No college. Straight to work at the tomato cannery. William spent the first half of the summer traveling with his Dad and the last six weeks before college in that same cannery. They had already fired Luke by the time they hired William.

William looked at the overgrown boy propped up on his porch and remembered the way Luke had always made him feel – small, wimpy, and worthless, beating him at every sport without trying, laughing at the way he always tried to do the right thing, and teasing him for ever crying. And now, he stood there expecting William to help him. He looked at him, waited until Luke looked up and said, “I don’t owe you anything, Luke.”

Luke swallowed. He looked frightened, slipping under the surface and into a forgotten current of a wild, unforgiving river. “Yeah, you do.”

“Why? What for?”

“Because of Tommy.”

“You used to beat Tommy up. You picked on him all the time. On all of us, except when you needed more guys on your side of a soccer team.” William would never admit out loud that he actually enjoyed seeing Luke so helpless.

“But he stuck around. He didn’t have a chance with you and Greg. You guys were off doing your preppie thing. He thought he was my friend.”

“We weren’t preppies.” William snapped.

“Whatever.”

“There aren’t any preppies in Brenlee.”

“No shit. Took ya’ long enough to figure it out.”

“We just wanted… to get out of here.” He wondered why it mattered to him so much. Maybe because once he met some real preppies, he knew he would always be just a boy from dirtbag Brenlee.

“And now you’re back.” Luke meant and William heard, now you’re just like me. Stuck. A failure in a failed place.

“So what.”

“We found him, Billy. And we looked at him. You and me. Not Greg or any other asshole. We saw his body. Smelled his shit. Tried to make him move. Touched his throat.”

William saw his own hand go into that twisted heap of a person looking for a pulse and come up bloody. “Shuttup.”

Luke stood up from the porch railing. He paced the porch and for the first time in his life didn’t tease Billy Loof for crying. He stopped at the top of the steps down to the moss-stained red brick path to the drive way. He turned around. “You gonna talk to him?”

“What else?”

“Whatever you want.”

“I’ll talk to him. You just keep your shit together.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Don’t make me look like asshole.”

“Too late.” Luke smiled and skip-stepped backwards down the porch steps. “See ya’ Billy.” And quickly, before William could reconsider, this old ghost hurried to his car and drove away.

“See ya’.” William said into his hands.