October 28, 2016

Slingin' Some Ink

Lest you think I only write about homeless animals and my delinquent offspring, I've decided that being a writer might mean I should share other stuff I've written. Now while that thought fills me with a panic normally reserved for terminal illness diagnoses and career ending pink slips, it's time to suck it the hell up and just do it already.

*deep breath*

Here goes...

He was my best friend since fourth grade. The first pieces of gravel had just begun to fall from my cheek as I lifted my head when Miller Manheim's body slammed down with a blunt thud next to me. There was no time for the gravel to free itself from Miller's fat face before he was wrenched onto his back and pummeled by the hands of my defender. I didn't get a good look at the white knight before he was dragged from the fray to be unfairly judged and his punishment swiftly and harshly carried out far away from the eyes of any witnesses. It was all incredibly dramatic in my preadolescent mind, you see.
I was escorted to the nurse by the very adults who had only minutes earlier told me that Miller Manheim was a nice young man who would never beat up a girl and I shouldn't overreact. Even at nine years old I knew that Miller Manheim was the only son of Richard Manheim, the richest man in our small town, and wife #4 who worked in our school library and he wouldn't be disciplined for any infraction large or small. My parents called them Mr and Mrs Asshole and I liked that. I wasn't allowed to say it but I thought it a lot and snickered to myself when Mrs Asshole scolded me for talking in the library. I took great joy in calling her an asshole in my head and comfort from knowing I couldn't be punished for it. It was the little things for me, even as a kid.
Miller was most likely gingerly carried via stretcher in a neck brace to the back of a private ambulance and then raced with lights and sirens to his pediatrician in a bigger city an hour away to be extensively x-rayed, scanned and MRI'd in a valiant effort to guarantee the Manheim name would survive to bully another generation. Again with the dramatics but it could have happened that way.
It was the next day when I met him; my defender. He came into our classroom with the principal and was introduced as our newest student. He had a proper name, of course, but he was Knight to me. Much taller than the other boys in our class, he had short cropped dirty blonde hair and was wearing khaki pants with dress shoes and a polo. Other boys our age had floppy mops of hair that fell into their eyes and donned basketball shorts and T-shirts day in and day out. I instinctively knew his mother hadn't made him dress this way. He simply was who he was and as his eyes swept the room it was clear he didn't give a shit what any of us thought about him either. I liked him.
He took the seat behind me and as he settled his things on his desk he whispered, "Your face looks better than his does, Red." I had seen Miller in the cafeteria that morning and he only had a slightly swollen lip. My mirror showed the whole left side of my face full of scrapes and tiny cuts so I knew what he said was a lie but I appreciated it anyway.
Four years later Miller Manheim's reign of terror came to an end. Our school yard scuffle had long been forgotten, buried underneath scores of other incidents featuring Miller as the aggressor. His bully reputation was catapulted by a term of juvenile probation in the 6th grade. Turns out if the son of the richest man fucks with the son of the immensely popular sheriff, all that money doesn't buy as much favor as it might have had the victim been, say, me or Knight.
Miller just never made it home from school one day. He never made it to school either but that wasn't unusual so the school didn't throw up any flags over it. His parents didn't miss him until well into the night and by then he'd been gone for hours and hours. Everyone thought he'd "turn up". Miller didn't turn up. Not for years anyway. His absence from our town took the form of a comfortable quiet that everyone tried to pretend was really sad. The adults were better at putting on that aspect of the show. We kids were just able to breathe easy, safe at least for now from Miller fucking Manheim and we enjoyed it.
From the night he disappeared to the morning his remains were found in a drainage ditch half a decade later and all throughout the gossip fueled investigation into his murder, Knight and I never once spoke of it. It was only when surrounded by others and the conversation had turned to the missing and eventually murdered Miller Manheim did I look at him and he look at me and we both broke eye contact quickly because I knew he knew that I knew. Miller may or may not have been the first but there would be more.
It was about a year before Miller vanished when Knight found me in the hallway picking up my books and papers. Miller had sent them flying out of my arms two seconds before the bell rang. I was so damn mad I was crying and Knight helped me pick everything up. As we worked he told me about two sisters who had went to his elementary school in Chicago. The younger girl was a vicious little bully, her big sister seemingly unable to do anything but go along with whatever her sister did. They'd both just up and disappeared one day. He said he couldn't remember for sure but he thought they had been on their way to school and no one realized they were missing for hours.
I peppered him with questions; Had he known them well? Kind of. Not really. Did he live close? Same low income housing stretched across three city blocks. Were they ever found? Yeah but they were dead long before they were found. In a drainage ditch. Said he thought a body in a drainage ditch would be found quickly but that wasn't what happened.
I kept asking questions and Knight kept answering. Who found them? A group of boys from the complex, good friends of his. How did they die? Stabbed. Closed caskets a necessity. Did he go to the funerals? His mother had made him. Who did it? No one knew for sure.
I had a sense that Knight knew a lot about what had happened but I watched him and his face betrayed no sinister knowledge. It was just... a sense I had about him. I didn't think of the sisters again until Miller was found. In a drainage ditch. Then I remembered.

No comments: