Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Shredding As A Second Language

She had tiny fin­ger­nails paint­ed cot­ton can­dy pink at the ends of tiny hands. She was skin­ny with dirty blonde hair, and braces that looked new and painful. “You should talk to Mac. He liked Gabriel. They sat by each oth­er.”

*

Plaster had been to the boy’s house and the boy remem­bered him — his par­ents had a domes­tic dis­tur­bance habit that came nat­u­ral­ly with all their oth­ers. Big for his age, he wore men’s hand-me-downs and used workman’s clothes. His voice and some­thing about the way his mouth moved made it plain that even though he hat­ed speak­ing, mak­ing any sound at all, he trust­ed Plaster. “Gabriel was cool. And tough. He took me to his house once. Mac came too. They were like best friends, I guess.”

*

This one knew she was the smartest kid in class, but seemed inca­pable of brag­ging about it. Plaster knew her fam­i­ly too. Dad was just this side of a vet­eri­nar­i­an with a degree or two in some­thing about live­stock and her mom ran Brenlee’s County Library Extension. She was qui­et and had clear­ly been cry­ing. “Is Mac dead too? They were friends. They were nice to me.”

*

He didn’t look like much of a talk­er. His mom had dressed him like a Gap Kids skate­board­er, prob­a­bly at the start of the school year, but he had already worn in the clothes to some­thing more gen­uine­ly skate rat — pant cuffs torn to fringes; can­vas shoes writ­ten on, spilled on and glued to; a t-shirt that had expe­ri­ence mul­ti­ple encoun­ters with a thick per­ma­nent mark­er; and a wrist band that looked like he’d made it with sta­ples and an old swim­suit. He stood slight­ly turned so that he could see the door the whole time he met with Plaster in the librarian’s office. “Gabriel was nice.”

What’s that in your pock­et?” His left pant leg was wet and droop­ing from the weight of some­thing in the over­size pock­et.

Nothin’. School stuff.”

Show me.”

He took a tar­nished cop­per sprin­kler head from his pock­et. “Here.” It went down on the desk with a clunk and water dripped from the stem.

This from out in the play­ing field?”

Righteously indig­nant. “No.”

Plaster decid­ed to wait and stare. It didn’t take long for the kid to stop look­ing at him and focus sole­ly on the door. He squirmed and then he spilled. “We all took one. Well, they did. Gabriel and Mac and them. I wasn’t there or I would’ve. But Gabriel did it first. That Mexican could shred. Not on a skate­board, but on every­thing else. He would try any­thing. He wasn’t ever afraid. That’s prob­a­bly why they got him.”

Where did you get this?”

The same place they did. Only I had to go deep­er ’cause they took all the ones in the first row.”

You stole it from an orchard.”

Yeah.”

Where?”

He looked at the door and the sprin­kler and then, “I’m in trou­ble, huh?”

Maybe.”

All the punk angles of the lit­tle skater began to wilt, “It’s this farm on the canal. Not where they found Gabriel, but fur­ther up the canal. They rode their bikes there. It’s hard to take your board on the dirt, so, I wasn’t there that time. It’s an old house, like light green. It’s haunt­ed, I think. And a met­al wind­mill that just creaks. I think it’s stuck.”

Plaster had dri­ven past that orchard and that wind­mill. He had nev­er seen the house. He knew he should con­fis­cate the sprin­kler head and return it to its right­ful own­er, but he also knew the kid would go back for anoth­er one. “Okay, you can go, but we may have to talk again. Take that with you.”