Twelve years old
“Come on you fucking fag! You’re such a little fag pussy!”
I’d seen some of the kids in my school bully other kids before, but I’d never felt like I should butt in. If a kid didn’t have the balls to stand up for himself, then they deserved whatever they had coming to them.
But that morning I’d made the decision to leave home for good. Moms current boyfriend had used her as a punching bag yet again. But this time, when I’d stepped in front of her, not only did she push me aside, but she defended the fucker.
She said she deserved it.
She even went as far as apologizing.
I hated her for that. For becoming weak. For letting him lay his hands on her like that. I wanted to wail on John’s face so bad that I sat on the side of the school during recess clenching and unclenching my fists as I replayed that morning over and over again in my mind. I may not have been able to win in a fight against a grown man, but I was convinced I could have at least done some damage.
So when I heard those words shouted from across the playground it was like my anger had made the decision before I had a chance to really think about it. Before I knew it, I’d leapt across the sandbox and was on my way to a group of kids gathered in a circle on the far side of the yard next to the kickball field.
I towered over all the other kids in my grade and could easily see over their heads. In the center of the circle was a brute of a kid named Tyler, a dark-haired boy who always wore band logo t-shirts with the sleeves ripped off. He was holding this skinny kid by the collar of his shirt, punching him in the face over and over again with his closed fist. The littler kid grunted each time Tyler made contact. The boy’s ripped shirt rose up over his pale stomach revealing bruises in varying shades of purple and yellow. His ribs were so visible I could count them. Blood dripped from his nose and fell to the ground. I pushed aside two little girls who were cheering on the beating.
Kids can be fucking cruel.
Adults can be crueler.
I jumped in front of Tyler and cocked back my fist. With one punch to the bully’s pimpled jaw, I knocked him flat on his ass. The back of his head landed with a thunk against the pavement. Out cold.
I instantly felt better, although the need to inflict violence was always like a rat gnawing on my every thought and emotion, punching Tyler had temporarily dimmed the feeling from blaring spotlight to burning candle.
The skinny kid was on the ground holding his bloody nose. He moved his hands away from his face and looked up at me with the biggest most ridiculous smile, blood coating teeth that were too big for his mouth. Not what I expected from someone who’d just been beaten. “You didn’t have to save me. I was just letting him get some punches in before I rained down the pain.” His voice cracked on every other word of the lie. Tears ran out the sides of his eyes and down through the blood smeared across his lip. The circle of kids had broken up and gone back to their kickball game.
“I didn’t save you.” I said, stepping over him. I started walking away, but somewhere around the sandbox the kid had caught up with me.
“Of course you didn’t. I could totally have taken him. But shit man, that fucking prick has a stick up his ass,” the kid swore, throwing his hands up into the air as he jogged to try and keep up with my long strides.
“Oh yeah, and why is that?” I asked.
“Cause he wanted me to do his fucking math worksheet, and I’ll tell you something. I’m no one’s fucking bitch. So I told him to fuck off.” His voice was muffled since he was still trying to stop the blood dripping from his nose by pinching his nostrils together.
“All you said to him was ‘fuck no’ and he started beating on you?” I asked, although I didn’t find it hard to believe, aside from the bullshit with my mom and John it was mostly little things that had been making my fist ache for something to connect with.
The kid smirked.
“Well, there was that… and then there was how I told him how I thought it was cool that his dad didn’t mind that his son was the spitting image of his mama’s boss at the Price Mart.” He brushed the dirt off the scrapes on his elbows, then dusted the palm of his hands off on his wrinkled khakis. “Name’s Samuel Clearwater. What’s yours?”
I stopped and turned to him. He extended his hand to me and I uncrossed my arms and shook it. For a gangly kid who was the same age as I was, he dressed and spoke like a foul-mouthed grandfather, someone too old to give a shit about filtering his words. And what eleven year old shook hands?
Samuel Clearwater, that’s who.
“Brantley King,” I answered.
“You got a lot of friends, Brantley King?” Samuel’s unruly sandy blonde hair fell forward into his eyes, and he brushed it away with dirt caked fingernails.
“Nope.” None of the kids in school were like me. I’d felt alone since my very first day in Kindergarten. While everyone else was learning the words to Old McDonald, I was worried about how long I was going to have to wait until after dark to go home. Too early and whatever guy my mom let move in that month would be ready to brawl.
Being on my own was natural to me. As time went on, it became something I liked. Although I was the biggest kid in school, I’d always managed to move around like a ghost.
Until I started getting in trouble.
Then WE started getting into trouble together. Preppy and I. Two pees in a juvenile delinquent pod.
“Me neither. Way more trouble than their fucking worth,” Samuel said, almost convincingly. He re-tucked his too-large plaid shirt into his kaki pants, righting his suspenders that fell off his shoulders every few seconds. He straightened his yellow polka-dotted bow-tie.
“What’s up with the bruises?” I asked, pointing to his ribs.
“You saw those, huh?” Sadness crossed over his face, but he fought back whatever he was thinking about and pursed his lips. “Stepdaddy from hell with issues, ever since my mom’s died. Actually, he’s got only two issues. Beer and me. Beer he likes though. Me? Not so much.”
I could relate. Although I didn’t have one stepdad, more like a constant parade of men. They all had different names, different faces, but essentially they were all the same.
“Well, kid, I don’t think Tyler is going to bug you again.” I started walking again, heading back to my spot on the side of the building where I could be alone. In the corner of my eye I saw Tyler hobbling up the steps into the school, clutching his jaw.
“That’s it?” Samuel followed close behind me, knocking into my heels.
“What else is there?” I ducked under the branch of a low hanging tree. Samuel was easily a foot shorter than me and scooted under it without any problems. When we got far enough away from the other kids I lit the half-cigarette I’d been saving in my back pocket with the last match from the book I’d been hiding in my shoe.
“Can I try?” Samuel asked, startling me. I hadn’t realized he was still there.
I passed him the cigarette, and he inhaled deeply. He then spent the next five minutes choking. I put the cigarette out on the sole of my sneaker while his face turned a weird shade of purple before going back to pale smeared with freckles and blood. “That’s really fucking good, but I’m a menthol man myself.”
A burst of laughter escaped me, and I bent over, hugging myself at the waist. Samuel ignored my outburst and continued talking. “Where do you live?”
“Here and there.” Nowhere was the truth. I wasn’t ever going back home again. School would now become just a place to go during the day so I could sneak into the locker room before class to shower and for the free breakfast program. Everything I owned was in my backpack.
And it was light.
“I’m over in Sunny Isles Park. It’s a fucking shithole. When I grow up, I’m going to have one of those big places on the water on the other side of the causeway with the long legs that look like they’re from Star Wars.”
“Like one of them stilt homes?”
“Yeah man, a fucking Star Wars stilt home, right on the bay.” This boy lived in a trailer park where he was beaten up by his stepdad, and here he was dreaming about his future. I couldn’t see my way past next week, never mind to the next ten years. “What about you, man?”
“What about me?” I unhooked my pocket knife from the waistband of my jeans and used it to pick at the falling stucco on the side of the building.
“What are you gonna do when you grow up?”
The only thing I really knew was what I didn’t want. “Not sure. I just know that I don’t want to work for anyone. Never liked being told what to do all that much. I’d like to be my own boss, run my own shit.”
“Yeah, man. That’s fucking amazing. Yes, that. I’ll help you. We can do it together. You run the shit. I’ll help you run the shit. Then, we’ll buy a big ’ole Star Wars stilt home and live there, and no one will be able tell us what to fucking do ever again!”
Samuel removed a composition notebook from his backpack and turned to a blank page. “Let’s make a mother fucking plan.”
The idea seemed silly, sitting down with a kid I didn’t know and making a plan for a future I’d never thought of, but for some reason the thought of hurting his feelings made my chest feel stabby, a feeling I was very unfamiliar with. Unsure of what to do next I gave in. I sat down next to him in the grass and sighed. He smiled up at me like just me being there meant we were halfway there.
“We can’t be pussy’s about this,” he continued. “We aren’t going to get the Star Wars house by getting jobs in a shitty hotel or factory, and I never been much of a fisherman. So this shit starts now. Pussies get pushed over and stepped on. My uncle, who’s a total fucking asshole douche-bag, sells weed. We could steal some from him and sell it. Then, we can use that money to buy our own to sell.”
Using a black marker from his bag, Samuel began to draw on the page. The top read GOAL and he drew a house with legs underneath that did look like a stick figure version of the whatever-you-call-it-thing in Star Wars. I didn’t know the name of it because I’d never seen the movies, just the previews. Then, he drew what looked like it was supposed to be us, him much smaller than me. With a green marker, he drew dollar bill signs all around us floating in the air.
“So what? We friends now, Preppy?”
I’d never had a friend before, but there was something about this boy with the foul mouth that got my attention. I plucked the marker from his hand and took over his drawing. I was never good at much in school, except for art. Just drawing really.
Drawing was my jam.
“Fuck yeah!” Preppy said, watching me add on to his stilt home. He’d also drawn a picture of what I assumed was his uncle because he’d written douche-bag over the top. “You’re fucking good at that. Man, we’ve got to have you do that, too. Art shit. Write that down in the plan. We gotta have hobbies, too.”
“Then what’s your hobby?” I asked.
“My hobby?” He smiled and wiped his nose, which had just started dripping blood again, a single drop fell to the page and splattered on stick figure Preppy. He nodded slyly and purses his lips, hooking his thumbs under his suspenders. “Bitches.”
I think I laughed more that day then I ever did in my whole life. I also learned that ‘bitches’ could be a hobby.
“So what happens if we get caught?” I asked, pausing the marker over the page.
“We won’t. We’re too fucking smart for that shit. We’ll be careful. We’ll make plans and stick to the plans. Nobody will get in our fucking way. Nobody. Not my stepdad, not my uncle, not teachers, and especially not bitch-ass bullies like Tyler. I ain’t ever getting married. I ain’t ever having a girlfriend. This is just about Preppy and King crawling out of the shit instead of rotting in it.”
“But really, what if we get caught?” I asked. “I’m not talking about by the cops. I’m talking about by your uncle, or anyone else that does the kind of shit we’re talking about doing here. These are rough people. Bad people. They don’t like being messed with.” I knew these kinds of people first hand. More than one dealer had come to our house armed with guns, demanding payment. Mom would settle her debt by taking them into her bedroom and closing the door.
This kid may have just been screwing around, but the more I thought about it the better it all sounded. Living a life without answering to anyone. A life without fear of what someone could do to me or to this little preppy kid, who by the looks of it had enough bullying to last him his whole life.
The idea of growing up and being my own man, the kind of man people didn’t mess with, the kind of man who didn’t take shit from anyone, became more and more appealing as it rolled around in my brain and latched on, taking up residence where I was missing other things the guidance counselors said I was lacking, like a ‘firm sense of right and wrong’. But they were the ones who were wrong. It’s not that I didn’t know the difference.
It’s that I just didn’t care.
Because that’s what happens when you’ve never had anything to care about.
If I was going to take this kid seriously, I needed to know that he wasn’t going to bitch out on me if it all went south. I needed to know he was as serious about the plan as I was getting, so I had to ask, “What really happens if someone gets in our way? In the way of our business? In the way of our plan?”
Preppy held the end of a marker to the corner of his mouth where blood had begun to dry and crust over. For a moment, he stared over my head, deep in thought. Then, he shrugged and locked his eyes onto mine.
“We kill them.”
On the day I was released from prison I found myself tattooing a pussy on a pussy. The animal onto the female part.
A cat on a cunt.
The walls of my makeshift tattoo shop pulsed with the heavy beat of the music coming from my homecoming party raging on the floor below. It shook the door as if someone were rhythmically trying to beat it down. Spray paint and posters covered the walls from floor to ceiling, casting a layer of false light over everything within.
The little dark haired bitch I worked on was moaning like she was getting off. I’m sure she was rollin’ because there was no way a tattoo directly above her clit could be anything other than fucking painful.
Back in the day, I could zone out for hours while tattooing, finding that little corner of my life that didn’t involve all the bullshit I had to deal with on a daily basis.
In the past when I’d been locked up, albeit for much shorter periods of time, the first thing on my mind was pussy and a party. But this time the first thing I did when I walked through the door was pick up my tattoo gun, but it wasn’t the same. I couldn’t reach that place of temporary reprieve no matter how hard I tried. It didn’t help that the tattoos people requested were getting dumber and fucking dumber.
Football team logos, quotes from books you know they’ve never read, and wannabe gangsters wanting tear drops on their faces. In prison, the teardrop tattoo represented taking a life. Some of the little bitches who wanted them looked like they couldn’t step on a roach without cowering in the corner and crying for their mamas.
But since the majority of time my clients paid in favors and consisted mostly of bikers, strippers, and the occasional rich kid who found himself on the wrong side of the causeway, I should’ve lowered the bar on my expectations.
But then again it was good to be home. Actually, it was good to be anywhere that didn’t smell like vomit and wasted lives.
My own life had been moving forward at nothing short of full fucking speed ahead ever since the day I’d met Preppy. I’d loved living outside the law. I fed off the fear in the eyes of those who crossed me. The only thing I’d ever regretted was getting caught.
When I wasn’t locked up, I’d spent almost every single day of the twenty-seven years I’d been on the earth in Logan’s Beach, a little shit town on the gulf coast of Florida. A place where the residents on one side of the causeway lived solely to cater to the rich who lived on the other side, in high-rise beachfront condos and mansions. Trailer parks and run down houses less than a mile from the kind of wealth it takes more than one generation to accumulate.
On my eighteenth birthday, I bought a run-down stilt home hidden behind a wall of thick trees, on three acres of land that practically sat under the bridge. In cash. And along with my best friend Preppy, we moved on up to the rich side of town like the white trash version of the motherfucking Jeffersons.
True to our words, we became our own men and answered to no one. We did what we wanted. I turned my drawing into tattooing.
Preppy got bitches.
I fucked. I fought. I partied. I got wasted. I stole. I fucked. I tattooed. I sold dope. I sold guns. I stole. I fucked. I made fucking money.
And I fucked.
There wasn’t a party I didn’t like or that didn’t like me. There wasn’t a chick who didn’t give me the go-ahead move, lifting her hips so I could slide off her panties. I got that shit every single fucking time.
Life wasn’t just good. Life was fucking great. I was on top of the fucking world and no one fucked with me or mine.
And then it all changed and I got spent three years in a tiny windowless cell, studying the changing cracks in the concrete block walls.
When I was done with the purple cartoon cat, I applied salve, covered it with wrap, and disposed of my gloves. Did this girl think that guys would be turned on by this thing? It was good work, especially since I’d been out of commission for three years, but it was covering up my favorite part of a woman. If I undressed her and saw it, I would flip her over.
Which sounded like a good idea. Getting laid would help shake this post prison haze and I could get back to the things that used to be important to me without this lingering sense of dread looming in my conscious.
Instead of sending the girl back out to the party I roughly grabbed her and yanked her down the table toward me. I stood, flipping her over onto her stomach. With one hand on the back of her neck, I pushed her head down onto the table, releasing my belt buckle with the other. I grabbed a condom from the open drawer.
She knew beforehand that money wasn’t the type of currency I was looking for, and I didn’t do free. So I lined up the head of my cock and took her pussy as payment for her new tattoo. Of a pussy.
Fuck my life.
The girl had a great body, but after a few minutes of irritating over-the-top moaning, she wasn’t doing anything for me. I could feel my cock going soft inside her. This wasn’t supposed to be happening, especially not even after years of my right hand and my imagination being my only sexual partners.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
I grabbed her throat with both hands and squeezed, picking up my pace, taking out my frustrations with each rough thrust in rhythm with the heavy beat from the other room.
I was about to pull out and give up.
I almost didn’t notice the door opening.
Staring up from my doorway was a vacant pair of doll-like blue eyes framed by long icy-blonde hair, a small dimple in the middle of her chin, a frown on her full pink lips. A girl, no older than seventeen or eighteen, a bit skinny.
A bit haunted.
My cock stirred to life, dragging my attention back to the fact that I was still pumping into the brunette. My orgasm hit me hard, spiraling up my spine and taking me by complete surprise. I closed my eyes, blowing my load into pussy tattoo, collapsing onto her back.
What the fuck?
By the time I opened my eyes again, the door was closed and girl with the sad eyes was gone.
I’m fucking losing my mind.
I rolled out of and off the brunette who was luckily still breathing, although unconscious from either strangulation or the dope that had made her pupils as big as her fucking eye sockets.
I sat back on my rolling stool and dropped my head into my hands.
I had a massive fucking headache.