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.