Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Sand And Stone

You were friends with the boy?” Old Man Bergoyan asks through his great grey mous­tache — full, long, and some­how liv­ing with him more than grow­ing out of him.

Tommy? Yes.”

He only nods and says, “Hmm” with the sound of some­thing rum­bling beneath the Earth’s crust. Bergoyan’s eyes moist­en and all of his many wrin­kles grow tight.

I did­n’t know the boy yes­ter­day.”

He was a good boy.”

You knew him?”

Bergoyan could not reply hon­est­ly with­out reveal­ing to this young man that, yes, he did know this boy, but only as a ghost. So he lied. “I spoke with Charlie. Charlie Oliveri. He told me.” He shook his head and sipped his cof­fee to keep from cry­ing. “All about it.”

William picked up the small pea green 70s era gro­cery store mug from the cof­fee table. After mak­ing William wait out in the hall for 10 min­utes as he looked up his pic­ture in a 20 year old Brenlee Elemenary School Year Book, the old news­pa­per­man had let him in and then insist­ed on mak­ing ‘real Armenian cof­fee’ for his guest. It was strong and if William fin­ished it, the already wan­ing affects of his morn­ing joint would be noth­ing but a tired play­thing under his caf­feine buzz. Bergoyan had left the year book open on the cof­fee table. Young Billy Loof looked up with a star­tled smile at old William Loof and two rows up, Tommy Coates looked as though he was laugh­ing at all the changes of adult­hood he’d been spared and William endured.

The old man reached over and closed the book. “I should­n’t have left that out.”

That’s okay. It’s why I came, sort of.”

You think you want to know what I know?”

I guess. Yeah.”

You don’t.”

Look, I need to know what hap­pened. No one ever thought Mike Boone did it any­way.”

The old man shook with some­thing like a chuck­le, but deep­er and joy­less, “Mike Boone could­n’t think his way through a stop­light. He did­n’t kill that kid. At least they can’t even hide from that now.”

I know, he’s in jail. He could­n’t do it.”

Jail? He’s dead. Yesterday.”

What? How? What hap­pened?”

Did you think you were going to prove his inno­cence and get him out? Sorry, Loof, twen­ty years in the California Penal System does not inno­cence make.”

That’s pret­ty cal­lous. Mr. Bergoyan-”

Drop the ‘mis­ter’ busi­ness. I’m cal­lous because Mike Boone made me that way. I vis­it­ed that boy for months and he did noth­ing to help him­self. ‘Making the most of a bad sit­u­a­tion’ is what he called it. Finally, he would­n’t even see me. They picked him because he was too damn dumb to help him­self when he could.”

William could feel the caf­feine com­ing on and he kept sip­ping at his cof­fee. He need­ed more than bit­ter­ness from this old man. It was­n’t Mike Boone that had brought him here. He decid­ed not to say any­thing, to wait the old man out, as impos­si­ble a task as that seemed. Bergoyan was made of some desert wind carved stone and William mere sand, but he would wait.

Minutes and then a quar­ter of an hour passed with only the sound of the two of them sip­ping cof­fee. When William final­ly fin­ished his cof­fee, he picked up the Year Book. He turned to his class page and like some ancient Asian proverb it came to him, sand will not defeat stone in silence.

William looked at Bergoyan in his cush­ioned chair, con­tent to slow­ly crum­ble here. Content to let every­thing crum­ble beneath him. He slammed the year book shut, stood up and waved it at the ancient jour­nal­ist and his large mous­tache. “You have to tell me what you know. You kept this year book. You left Brenlee, but you did­n’t leave Tommy or Mike or me or any­one there. You breathe in dark, poi­so­nous, guilt every­day. I know, I breathe it too. Tommy’s mur­der tor­tures you and I think maybe it’s ruined me. So god­damnit old man — Bergoyan — you’re going to tell me who sent Mike Boone to jail and every­thing else.”