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.”