Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

premature fiction

Next Of Kin

Charlie Oliveri rubbed his bald head. He had only slept three hours since yes­ter­day morn­ing. He sat in his ’95 Honda Civic at the top of the steep hill run­ning down to the riv­er and the poor­est hous­ing in Brenlee. He had parked in the small park­ing lot of an aban­doned work­shop made of cor­ru­gat­ed alu­minum sid­ing. Since mov­ing to Brenlee, he had writ­ten sto­ries about ten dif­fer­ent busi­ness­es open­ing with high hopes of suc­cess in this loca­tion. Inevitably, they closed or moved to a bet­ter loca­tion.

Mike Boone grew up at the bot­tom of this hill. More accu­rate­ly, Mike Boone grew up in prison. He came of age and mis­spent his youth accord­ing to the tra­di­tion of his Arkansas fam­i­ly here on Ferry Street. He cat­fished off the old fer­ry land­ing, swam in the riv­er, drank stolen beer and wine cool­ers under the scrub oaks, took his father’s (and mother’s) beat­ings, and learned to elude the local police by float­ing calm­ly and qui­et­ly down­stream to the last jagged remains of the old train tres­tle, blown up but not entire­ly removed back in ’85. Charlie like to tell him­self, that Mike Boone was the kind of kid who might have turned out all right if he had ever learned that there was more to life than Ferry Street and Brenlee, California. He didn’t quite believe it, but he knew leav­ing ear­ly would have been Mike Boone’s only chance.

Charlie checked his watch. A lit­tle after nine AM. Had the prison called the Boone fam­i­ly yet? Probably not. Why would they? They would prob­a­bly just send the body home with a note. He start­ed the car and drove down the hill. He parked in front of an old Chevette up on blocks, weeds grow­ing through the grill and near­ly hid­ing entire­ly the bare wheels and axles. A twist­ed, half-rot­ten apri­cot tree pro­vid­ed lit­tle shade for the fad­ed car and just enough fruit to add some­thing sweet to smells of 30 weight oil, rot­ting card­board, and mildewed press-wood fur­ni­ture.

Charlie had been to the Boone house before. He knew the drill. No one would be up yet or those that were would be too para­noid to show them­selves, but a dog would come out. Barking. It came as direct­ly and loud­ly as pos­si­ble to the driver’s side door. It was a mutt with one bad eye. The news­pa­per­man wait­ed and watched the dog until he heard some­one from the house yell, “Who’s out there?”

Charlie Oliveri. From the paper.”

Skynard. Shut the fuck up.” The dog stopped bark­ing. “Get over here.” It went back towards the house and stood under the win­dow from which Mrs. Boone did her own bark­ing.

Oliveri stepped out of his car and walked towards that same win­dow. He stopped in the yard, stand­ing on an old tri­an­gu­lar piece of ply­wood. “Good morn­ing, Mrs. Boone.”

Yeah?”

I had some news.”

Well, that’s yer job.”

About your son, Mike.”

Something met­al creaked inside and Mrs. Boone’s face became vis­i­ble through the win­dow screen. “What about him?”

Well, Mrs. Boone Mike died yes­ter­day.”

Mrs. Boone moved away from the win­dow with more creak­ing and her face seemed to fade into shad­ow. The dog got up from where it had been lay­ing in the grass and pushed its way under the house. Charlie could hear it scram­ble up into the room inside through the floor. He didn’t know how long to wait.

I’m sor­ry Mrs. Boone.”

No, you’re not.”

I am. I know Mike didn’t kill that boy.”

No shit.”

He wait­ed. He knew she was cry­ing and knew she wouldn’t let him know it. Her silence said all of that. She had the pride of her grief, if lit­tle else.

Mrs. Boone, before I go, I won­der if there’s any­thing you like to say for the paper.”

She cleared her throat and then Charlie saw the flame of a cig­a­rette lighter through the screen and smelled the smoke of her cig­a­rette. She spoke qui­et­ly, her voice nev­er much above a grav­eled whis­per. “Yeah. You tell ‘em… tell ‘em I’m glad my son is dead. You tell ‘em I’m glad his blood’s on their hands. Tell ‘em that’s three boys they killed and peo­ple know it. I know it. Come an’ get me, fuck­ers.”