Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler

 

Archive for October, 2007

William and Tamra On The Porch

Friday, October 26th, 2007

He told her about the old man, about Fresno, drinking coffee, and Maria, Tommy’s mother. He didn’t tell her who the old man accused of killing the boys. He couldn’t. It felt simply too absurd. He wasn’t sure it was true yet, hadn’t reasoned out all the evidence the old man had rattled off on that park bench as though listing the ingredients of a favorite family recipe.

When Tamra asked him directly, “So, who does he think did it?” William stalled. “I’m not sure he was making any sense.” The old man was perfectly coherent, a person of one, rational mind, with a sound conclusion. “He’s not a cop any way, so it doesn’t much matter.”

“But he might go to the cops.”

“He wants me to.”

“What?”

“Yeah, says he’s too old. That it’s best for me, blah blah blah.”

She leaned away from him in the large wicker chair they had settled into more comfortably than either would have thought possible. She looked at him and knew he was hiding, she’d seen it in her mom’s boyfriends and in addicts she had scooped into the ambulance, both groups more the run off of human beings than whole persons. Casual lies as carefully and densely constructed as some ancient Spanish fort, each word a precisely cut stone, every pause diligently mixed and expertly spread mortar, and each window offering only the narrowest glimpse of deadly archers within. She took aim and lobbed her artillary over his high walls of deception, “You’re full of shit.”

“Wha-?”

“I don’t know what that old man said or even if you saw some old man, but you better figure your shit out.” And into the house she went without so much as a “fuck you” to cap the whole thing off.

The comfortable warmth of her body receded slowly until he couldn’t remember how they had fit together. He decided to tell her the whole truth, but he would wait to start until she was almost asleep and less likely to hear his fears in the telling.

Home From A Fool’s Ramble

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

It’s the same upsetting feeling he’s known before. Maybe known all of his so-called adult life. Certainly the last ten years of it.

Nothing achieved. Opportunities missed or entirely blown. Friends and so-called friends lost. Success (whatever that means) almost entirely elusive. All the education and what? None of the discipline and hard work? No, there’s some evidence of even hard work. Of risks taken. But just the way he can and, more often than not, does lose at any game of strategy, he has mis-played his life so that he is in a weak, losing position.

He remembers, vaguely, those games of chess with his grandfather so many years ago. What was the goal? The king. Eliminate the king. Keep as many of your pieces while taking as many of your opponents. Never make a move that isn’t covered by another piece. Protect, control, win. He never won much at chess. Ever.

But life isn’t a game of strategy, is it? No, but using some strategy wouldn’t hurt. And knowing what you mean by winning is essential. If it’s enough to have played the game, to have lived, then stop whining. If you must take your opponent’s king (whomever that is), strategize.

So, maybe, all this time he’s been thinking about things incorrectly. Maybe not really thinking at all.

What strategy, what values got him here? A long time ago it was God and Mom and Dad. The Trinity. Maybe not so very long ago. And then his divorce. A failed dream or two. Corporate jobs that felt dead and deadened him inside and out. Parties. Books. Movies. An urbane city life. Somewhere along the way Art invaded the picture. Way back. It unsettled The Trinity, invented meaning for the wanderings and enlivened the parts of him that were being crushed under corporate culture. And now? He’s off the track completely. Back to Brenlee. Small, broken, completely without Art, Brenlee. A town which bared its soul to him only in the body of a dead boy, otherwise he knows nothing of any importance about it. That boy is what it showed him that he could never truly leave. This was its curse on him.

Nothing he could do would erase the memory of his friend’s blood on his hand. Nothing could eradicate the feeling now, he realizes on endless emotive loop for twenty years of reaching into the physical death of another. That shock, usually reserved for men or even young men, wasn’t meant for a boy. A boy can’t shake it by retreating to a better vision of his childhood. Instead, death became his reference for life. How bad is being broke? Not as bad as that. How bad is failing a test? Not as bad as that. How bad is it to get fired? How bad to fire another? How bad to cheat and know you’re cheating, steal and know you’re stealing from someone in need, destroy, ruin, ignore? Not so bad as that. How bad is it to try to do good and be mocked for it, because others don’t know? Not so bad as that. How bad is it to borrow and know you’ll never repay? It is all nothing compared to that feeling. Death wins out. Life wins out. The details between and around those two events exist in an absurd numbing haze. A haze he wants lifted finally. William would like to take a truly deep and clear breath once and for all. Perhaps once all this is settled with Tommy, when he knows who did it and why.

And Tamra’s sitting in his favorite chair on his porch, eyes closed, a light from inside his house offering a diffuse glow over the whole scene. He knows he might hurt her, but he can’t dream of sending her away. She might hurt him. He could still feel that, couldn’t he? He parks in his driveway and her eyes open, the moment of peace ended.

At The Station

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

“Is it true?” Dennis Plaster heard his 68 year old father’s tired gravelbed voice coming from his own mouth. A mind blurring ache had taken up residence in his skull, he could feel the odd shade of yellow that surrounded the large black and blue bruise in his chest, but all that felt natural and ordinary on top of the waves of nausea he’d been riding since seeing Mose Brenlee’s body.

“Doesn’t matter. What court is going to take the last words of a disturbed old fireman who entered a home illegally to lay in wait for an opportunity to kill its resident and then attacked a police officer with a fire hydrant before blowing off his own head?” Win Kady‘s body filled up half of Hernandez’s office and his personality filled up all the parts left between Plaster and Hernandez.

The two Brenlee officers sat, Hernandez behind his desk and Plaster in a chair near the wall so he he could lean his head back and put an ice pack betwen the back of his skull and the white sheetrock, keeping his hands down and arms still so that his chest would maintain only a dull throb.

A photo copy of Mose Brenlee’s letter to his family was spread out on Hernandez’s desk. They had bagged the original and put with the other evidence, including the knife Hernandez had found at the canal that morning. Win Kady would take it all to the county lab.

“We’ll need to verify that it is Mose’s handwriting…” The other two looked at Hernandez and he shifted a little in seat. His pants were dry now but not comfortable and they smelled of the algae and mud of the canal. He had spent three hours at Andy Currie’s farm with the county crime scene team, Plaster, and later, Win Kady. Andy Currie was on duty at the firehouse and did not show when called. Currie said he trusted them and would rather not see his old friend that way on his own land. Hernandez had spoken to Currie himself, the man sounded genuine.

“You going to question Andy?”

“If he’ll co-operate.”

“But if it’s true…” Plaster’s chest hurt as he tried to get in on things between Kady and Hernandez.

“If it’s true,” Kady answered, “then we’ll get him.”

Hernandez thought about the old truck he saw through the narrow crack between the locked doors of Currie’s barn. “We checked the scene and Currie looks clean.” He thought about the shadows of that barn and it’s cement floor (an expensive luxury) and the dry thin ditch behind it where water had drained off that floor into the orchard not so many hours before they came to find Mose. They had no cause to force entry into the barn and he wanted to do this by the book. It had to be by the book.

“What about the kids?” Plaster managed to ask calmly without breathing deep enough to hurt his chest.

“And Mr. Sneed too…” Hernandez added. “I know. I don’t want Currie to know that we know all that. I want him to think we’re looking past him.”

“He’ll hear rumors about he kids.”

“Let him. If he asks, act a little surprised that he’s heard anything. Let him think we’re pretty well sure he’s a good old boy.”

Win Kady nodded and took out his pipe and started packing it with cherry tobacco. “If Sneed talks to anyone, the good old boys aren’t gonna like it.”

“Yeah. Talk and rumors. I know. But I’m not going to let this go on that long.” Hernandez wasn’t looking at either of them. Maybe it was the ice and aspirin doing its job, but Plaster thought he felt the room cool a bit. Win Kady seemed to shrink and his personality took up no more room than his small wooden pipe. Before long Win motioned to the door with his pack of matches and moved his bulk through it, down the hall, and out the back door of the station so he could smoke.

Some minutes later Hernandez broke the silence with one word, quietly, meant for no one, and Plaster doubted he actually heard it, “Ghosts.”

William Drives North To Brenlee

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

He had made a pilgrimage to see a guru – a Sears plaid shirt and grey chino wearing Armenian, a whiskey-breathed old newpaperman, himself more subject to the whims of chance than a master of divining the fate of humankind. What the old man told him was entirely clear and William couldn’t believe it.

But, then again, William Loof didn’t believe much of anything any more. He didn’t believe people were basically good or that things all work out for the best. He didn’t believe the infinite proceeded with any sense of intention or guidance. He didn’t believe in the way he loved or the way others loved him. He didn’t believe the words from the old man’s mouth even as he knew them to be true.

William drove his his dead mother’s car north along highway 99 feeling the dull knife edge of this deep internal contradiction: his consistent failure to believe what he knew to be true. Learning to dwell on this edge had filled his parent’s life with meaning. The truth made little sense and seemed to offer no redemption, while belief dangled a vision of hope and a healthy feeling of clarity. If he could only reconcile the two, bring his belief in line with the truth, then perhaps he could break free of all that kept him coming back to Brenlee, he could avoid life’s many twisted routes that he returned him to the safety of his own failures. Didn’t that mean figuring out Brenlee? Impossible. A fool’s errand, but, then again, what other kind did he have?