Two Birds, One Stone

Some of us are lucky enough to look back on an idyllic childhood. The kind Norman Rockwell liked to paint.

Others ain't so lucky. They spent their childhoods down here, in the Gutter.

Two Birds, One Stone by J. David Jaggers

What is it with adults? Why do they need to beat the shit out of somebody smaller to feel better about themselves? I ask myself this every day when my dad comes home and hits me. If that’s growing up, then I’ll stay a kid. It’s just not worth it. That’s heavy thinking for a twelve year old I know, but I’m not your average kid.

You see my dad works for some shady people. He doesn’t know I know. He thinks I believe his bullshit story about being a contractor, but that fell apart when I found the black case he keeps hidden in the garage. What kind of contractor keeps a gun and some piano wire stashed behind his bowling trophies? I think my dad kills people.

Our next door neighbor Mr. Kimball is the other shining example of why I don’t want to grow up. He’s retired and spends all day yelling at all us neighborhood kids or leaving nasty notes on my dad’s car about the grass. I heard dad say once that he’d fuck him up if it wasn’t so obvious who did it. That’s not why I hate Mr. Kimball. I hate the bastard because he beats his dog.

Buster and I are good friends. We have a lot in common. We both like to lay in the grass on sunny days, and we both know what’s it’s like to be punched by a grown man. Buster takes it well, better than me. If you didn’t know, it would be hard to tell. He walks with a slight limp, his hip stiff from Mr. Kimball’s boot, and he has a milky left eye. Mr. Kimball says it’s all from old age, cataracts and stiff joints. That’s bullshit. Sometimes when I look at Buster it seems like he’s telling me something. It’s like he’s saying to me, “You have to help me. You have to stop this.” I want to real bad, but I never had a plan until now.

“What you working on champ?”  Dad asks, just home, and not started in on the beer yet.

“I have a science project due at school this Friday. I need to get this poster frame made.”  He gets his first beer from the fridge and sits down to help. I hand him two wooden dowel rods that I need to tape to some poster board. He holds them in his sweaty hands and for a moment he seems like a real dad. Four beers later, he has already beaten me with one of rods and ripped the poster in half. I lay in my room nursing my sore ribs and smiling. So far so good.

After the old man passes out in his chair, I put on the rubber gloves I stashed under my mattress. I take one of the dowel rods and sneak out to the garage. I break the rod in two and take the piano wire from the case and wrap it around each half. I sneak next door and wait in the dark behind Mr. Kimball's deck until I hear the back door open and Buster runs out into the yard.

“Do your goddamned business, you piece of shit. Track anything in this house and I’ll rip your fucking ears off.”

Buster runs and hides. It’s like he knows what I’m about to do. Mr. Kimball yells, and when Buster doesn’t come back, he walks out into the yard.

“You’re gonna get it now, you little bastard.”

I step from the shadows and wrap the wire around his neck. He’s strong, still in shape. He slings me around, knocking the garbage cans over. I plant both feet in the small of his back and pull hard. It isn't long before he gives 'cause the wire is sharp. I hold it tight for a minute longer to be sure, while Buster lifts his leg on Kimball's purple face.

I put the wire in the backseat of dad’s car. The next day there are police cruisers in our driveway after school.  I don’t even go in. I just whistle for Buster and we take a walk in the sunshine.

J. David Jaggers lives in fly over country, where he spends his days in the white collar world and his nights feeding the thugs, pimps, and enforcers he keeps caged in his basement. He has been, or is scheduled to be, published in Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Spelk and Out of the Gutter magazines.