Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction


Charlie only made it back up to the the top of the hill before he had to pull over. He returned to the small park­ing lot of the old met­al work­shop.

I’m not equipped for this. I can’t do it Fran. Not kids. Not all these kids.

He felt him­self hyper­ven­ti­lat­ing and lost track of the num­ber of tears in the hot-faced embar­rass­ment of cry­ing in some­place almost pub­lic. He bent his head to the steer­ing wheel, sob­bing now. “I’m too tired,” he tried to say out loud, but the words ran togeth­er like a weep­ing child’s. He became very con­scious of the sounds his lungs, his mouth, his nose, even his eyes were mak­ing. He tried to make it all stop, press­ing his fore­head into the wheel until final­ly the car horn went off. He shot upright. He could see no one near enough to hear.

You remem­ber Johnny, Fran? My broth­er Johnny? The one my moth­er talked about. My father pre­tend­ed nev­er exist­ed. I nev­er told you, he died young. Drowned. In a canal. A canal. Swept into a gate. Three feet of water. If he stood he, if he could have, he could have breathed. I saw him. It ruined our fam­i­ly. Emptied it out. This… maybe I’m at home here because Brenlee’s been emp­ty all these years too…

He lis­tened, but Fran did­n’t respond. So many years since she died and still each week, each day he wished for her ghost. Charlie Oliveri would have giv­en any­thing to see her, hear her, even faint­ly on a breeze or in the ear­ly morn­ing reflec­tion of a dim street light off low lying val­ley fog. Nothing came.

The car felt hot and cramped so he opened the door. He began to breathe eas­i­er. Some fast food nap­kins wedged between his seat and the gear shift were the only things he could find to help mop up his face and blow his nose. Stepping out of the car, he paced and sighed, look­ing for some rea­son to be out here oth­er than this maudlin grief for his dead wife and these dead chil­dren.

He walked over to the old met­al build­ing and tried to see through the small, cracked, dirty win­dow on the door. A lit­tle light came through some high nar­row win­dows that ran along the length of this rec­tan­gu­lar space. It looked as though some­one had been using the space for stor­age. Looking down now at the door han­dle, he noticed that the han­dle was clean and the locks in good shape. Inside, box­es and large pieces of equip­ment were cov­ered with blue tarps and while noth­ing looked new, things did­n’t look neglect­ed either.

Charlie walked around the build­ing. Weeds were dying all along its the base of the walls, except where a small cement ramp had been poured under a large slid­ing door, now locked, but also recent­ly used. In the weeds along the back, high­er and more vig­or­ous than those along the sides, he found a sign for one of the work­shop’s now defunct busi­ness­es.

Art’s Furniture and Cabinets. The first busi­ness in the space that Charlie had report­ed on. Art had re-done the cab­i­nets in Charlie’s house and done some work over at the news­pa­per office too. About ten years ago Art closed the shop and went to work for anoth­er fur­ni­ture shop. He still owned the build­ing and the lot and Charlie sus­pect­ed that he had kept the sign because he always intend­ed to reopen his place again some­day. The sign only part­ly cov­ered some old spray-paint­ed graf­fi­ti. What would Brenlee kids spray?

With some effort and the bet­ter part of all his bal­ance, Charlie man­aged to tip the sign away from the wall of the work­shop and read what was writ­ten behind it. It had none of the art or style of urban graf­fi­ti, but all of the des­per­ate need to claim some rel­e­vance and iden­ti­ty in a place that strives to for­get its poor­est and least rep­utable peo­ple.

Boone Rules.