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.”