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.”