Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Home From A Fool’s Ramble

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.