- By Mark Osmond
- Monday, November 29, 1999
- Hits: 725
Even Mr. Russell says Damien is lunatic and he doesn't say things like that. Mr. Russell is my little league coach and he's friends with the pastor. Damien doesn't care though. He punched Mr. Russell in the yahoo during batting practice. He got kicked off the team and everyone was happy. No one likes Damien, because he is a crazy person. Not too long ago he put a steak knife to my throat. He asked me if I wanted it in the head or the heart. He almost finished me off for good.
This is how it started.
Every week at church, Billy Bartnik and I ask permission to use the restroom at the same time. Only we don't use the restroom. We go downstairs and eat sugar cookies and drink fruit punch until the pastor gives the benediction.
Last Sunday, Billy and I became blood brothers.
"Simon," he said, "we've been best friends since before kindergarten. I don't get in fights, but I'll always be there for you. If anyone wants to get to you, they'll have to get through me first. We should become blood brothers."
I asked him what that meant.
"It's a friendship ceremony between guys. We have to slice each other open and rub our cuts together, then we'll have some of each other's blood for the rest of our lives, like real brothers."
"What should we use for the cuts?" I asked
Billy went into the pastor's office. He slammed drawers and threw things around. While I waited, I went to the Sunday School chalkboard. I drew a picture of an army helicopter shooting down the Eiffel Tower. It didn't mean anything. I don't have anything against the French, but I like drawing pictures like that. I erased it and ate another cookie. Then Billy came out of the pastor's office chewing bubble gum and holding up two thumbtacks.
"I was hoping for something sharper, but these will work." Billy said.
He handed me a tack and we traded wrists.
"Don't go too deep." he said. "If one of us goes too deep, the other dies. Do you trust me?"
"I trust you, too. Press hard and go quick."
We were bleeding pretty good afterwards. I could feel the blood trickle down my arm. It made little puddles on the fellowship table. We didn't cry or nothing though, because we're not cowards.
"Now we're blood brothers for life!" Billy said as we rubbed our wrists together.
Upstairs, they started singing the closing hymn, "In Peace and Joy I Now Depart." We were still rubbing our wrists together, because we had to make sure enough blood transferred.
"Afterwards, we'll have to get some toilet paper to clean up this blood," I said.
"Let's give it a few more seconds," Billy said. "Enough blood has to transfer."
Just then an old guy with hearing aids came through the stairway. He was wearing a top hat and an overcoat. He walked to the refreshment table. As he reached for a sugar cookie, he saw us out of the corner of his eye. We had our wrists together.
"Holy crow!" he said. Then he turned around and ran upstairs. The corridor opened and slammed closed.
"I think we scared him," I said. "We must've looked like a couple of psychos. I hope he doesn't tell."
"Don't worry," Billy replied. "I'm pretty sure he's retarded."
"Do you think?"
"He had his hand down his pants for half of the sermon. He wouldn't stop itching his yahoo."
"I was in the same pew. He probably won't tell."
We cleaned up the table with toilet paper, then bandaged our wrists with gauze and medical tape from the pastor's first aid kit.
After benediction, everyone came downstairs for fellowship. Fellowship is when the congregation comes downstairs to eat cookies and drink juice. Everyone's happy during fellowship because church is over.
Mr. Russell, my little league coach, came up to me. He asked me if I was ready for tomorrow's practice. I told him that I was.
"I'm happy you kicked Damien off the team," I added. That was a stupid thing to say. But sometimes I say stupid things when I'm nervous.
"It's a cryin' shame, a cryin' shame," Mr. Russell said shaking his head. "But I had no choice. I hope Damien can get right with the rules before it's too late. I'm praying for him."
Mr. Russell isn't like most people. He isn't mean to anyone, even people who punch him in the yahoo. In fact, I can see Mr. Russell on his knees right now, telling God what a cryin' shame it was that he'd kicked Damien off the team. I like Mr. Russell, but praying for Damien is a waste of time.
By the stairs, I saw my mother looking at me. She was waving her arm at me.
"I have to go, Mr. Russell. My mother's signaling for me."
Mr. Russell turned and faced my mother.
"Hi, Mrs. Combers!" he said.
That night I was reading a book about Babe Ruth. I like Babe Ruth, because he hit 60 homers in a 154-game season. I've read his book a thousand times. Only this time I was reading it in my skivvies, because my house was a furnace. I was at the part where the Sox traded Babe to the Yankees. A reporter asked Babe about a slump he was in. You could tell the reporter was rubbing it in, too, but Babe knew how to handle him. "With every strike I'm closer to my next homer," Babe said. "If I was going for them dinky singles, I'd be batting .600."
Soon I heard footsteps steps behind my house. It's easy to hear things behind my house, because we live in front of the Vassar Middle-School playground and the playground is filled with pea gravel. You can hear people walking a mile away. It's usually teenager couples. At night, they go to the playground and kiss. They swing on the swings for a little while, then kiss on the jumbo slide. I've watched them. Once, Billy and I seen a girl without a shirt on. Her boyfriend was a real jerk, too. I'll bet he runs down turtles and pees all over toilet seats for kicks. He was really kissing her, though. Billy watched them in my GI Joe binoculars. He handed the binoculars to me for a turn. I might be a coward, but I got real scared watching them. I didn't even look, really. I focused in on the jerk's tennis shoe for awhile, then handed the binoculars back to Billy. I wanted to get rid of that idiot though, maybe even kill him or something. Anyway, I got out my GI Joe binoculars and went to see what was walking through the playground.
It was Damien Barnes. He had a Rottweiler with him. The dog was towing Damien forward. Damien had a cigarette in his mouth and a burlap sack over his shoulder. Something was fidgeting in the sack.
"Slow down, goddamnit!" Damien said. He pulled the leash so the dog was almost vertical. It whimpered. "You bitch!" Damien said. They turned the corner around the gymnasium and I lost sight of them.
Damien is going to do something real bad, I thought.
I felt like a maniac, to tell you the truth. My fingers were like icicles. I got back into my church clothes, grabbed my knapsack, opened my window, and stepped onto the roof. It's really not a bad jump from the roof. Actually, I jump off it a few times a year to practice for emergencies. I tuck-and-roll, so it doesn't hurt very much. This time I screwed up though. I landed on mom's water sprinkler. It gouged into my stomach. I was bleeding pretty good. My shirt was all bloody. I was still feeling like a maniac though, so I didn't really notice.
I walked through the playground, past the gymnasium and over the basketball courts. After walking awhile, I felt less like a maniac and more like a coward, to tell you the truth. It was a real dark and I could only hear my footsteps and a bunch of crickets chirping. Honestly, I was real scared. My stomach felt like a bag of ice. I was about to turn around when I heard Damien.
"All right, Dibber," he said, "I know you're hungry, so I'm giving you a present. I'll unwrap it for you."
I looked around the corner of the school building and saw Dibber leashed to the flag pole. Damien untied the burlap sack and held a white kitten. Dibber lunged forward and growled with all its teeth.
"Let's take this one slow, boy," said Damien.
He set the kitten against the corner of the fence. It looked like a cotton ball. Damien unleashed Dibber.
I felt into my knapsack and crept towards them. My heart was beating like a tommy gun. I tried real hard to walk like an Indian. I was right behind Damien. Dibber was hunched towards the cat. The kitten was hissing, holding up a paw.
It's done for, I thought.
"Sick!" Damien said. "Sick!"
I took the cap gun from my knapsack and fired it in the air.
"Click … "
Everything froze. Then the kitten scurried around the fence, Damien almost fell over doing a pirouette, and Dibber turned toward me, dumbfounded.
"Simon Jacobs," Damien said to me, "you're officially done for."
I went to run, but he caught me under the arm. Damien's real strong. To tell you the truth, he's probably stronger than most dads. He threw me against the fence and punched me in the gut. I fell over gagging, then Damien took the strap of my knapsack and strung it around my neck. He dragged me into the parking lot like that and swung me around in circles, choking me to death. Dibber was jumping around us, barking playfully.
"I never thought I'd have to kill anyone," Damien said. "I thought everyone knew better than to mess with me. But since I have to kill someone, I'm glad it's you, Simon. You should've known better, punk!"
This is it, I thought, I'm a goner. My head felt purple and I couldn't breath at all. I was about to fall over dead when Damien hurled me to the ground. I lay there dizzy and grasping. Then Damien kicked me in the rear and picked me up. He pressed me against the fence and reached into his pocket.
"It's time to finish you off for good, weasel boy!"
He put a rusty steak knife to my throat. I was crying, not too much though. I just hoped that my mom would be okay with me dead and all. I was afraid she'd crack and end up in the asylum or something. I'm sort of an older kid, but when my mom and I go to the city she always holds my hand if we cross the street or something. I'm too old for that stuff, but she says she doesn't know what would she'd do if something ever happened to me, so I just let her hold my hand. All I could think about was my mom. I was crying pretty good actually.
"Damien, don't kill me," I said. "I just didn't want to see that cat get ripped up. It sorta looked like my old cat and—"
"Shut up!" he said. "This is a routine execution. There's no time for plea bargaining. I'm going to ask one question. Where do you want it? Head or heart?"
"Hold it right there, ratfucker!"
It was Billy, my blood brother. He had his slingshot aimed at Damien's head.
"Put down that knife or I'll plant this BB through your skull!"
"Get the outta here, Bartnik!" Damien said. "Weasel boy has it coming to him. This isn't your goddamn business!"
"I've nailed bottle caps from 20 feet away with this slingshot. If you don't let him go in five seconds, I swear to God I'll make you a blind man. I'm going to count down in my head. If I hit zero before you let him go, pretty soon you'll have a glass eye."
Dibber was looking at us curiously.
Damien lowered the knife and let me go.
"I won't forget this," he said. "Next time I catch sight of either of you, you're dead where you stand."
Billy and I walked towards my house. I sort of had my arm around his shoulder. I was beat up pretty bad.
"Thanks for saving me, Billy."
"We're blood brothers," he said. "What do you expect?"
A few days later the pastor called my house. He told my mom that Billy and I were blood brothers and all. The old man with the hearing aids told him. My mom was pretty worried. She took me to the doctor's for a blood test to make sure I didn't get AIDS or something. The kicker is the old man was the pastor's dad. He was visiting from Arizona. I guess he wasn't retarded after all.
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