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.