A Slightly Less Dangerous Game

the kid

“Are you sure your parents won’t mind?” Timmy fidgeted with the six pack of beer that was warming up in his hands.

The kid said, “Those dicks don’t care what I do.”

“Fine then, I don’t care what they think either.” Timmy thrust out his chest and walked through the front door. He kicked through the clutter and adjusted his weight to crush the few things he did step on.

The kid said, “Hey don’t step on that.” He grabbed the old bag of tobacco off the floor. Off to the right was the old couch, he grabbed a Low-Rider magazine from between the couch cushions and took a seat. He spread out a long line of dry shake, removed two papers and began to roll. The kid said, “Come on give me one of those. And pop one for yourself. Don’t just stand there like a pussy.”

Timmy removed one beer from the plastic ring. He threw the other five on the couch. “I ain’t no pussy.” He popped the top on the beer. He tried to drain the beer in one go, but he choked down two bitter swallows before the bubbles burned his throat. “This is good.”

“Here take this.” The kid held out a lit rollie in one hand while he held the other between his lips. He took a good drag then took a sip from his beer.

“There ain’t much better than a smoke and a beer. I tell you what.” Timmy took a drag. The slightly stale smoke seemed to bring sweet relief to the burning in his throat. “You sure can roll one hell of a smoke.” The odd rollies that his friends had given him and the occasional joint were oblong, uneven doglegs. The thing was pristine like it came straight from the factory, but the kid was a master.

Timmy had seen the kid around before, but until today, he would have nothing to do with him. The kid looked dirty, and his hair was shaggy. He was stupid and he never bathed. But the kid didn’t smell bad. His clothes were faded hand me downs, but they were clean. He lived further back in the woods, but the trailer wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. The kid was cool.

The kid said, “I got an idea.” He walked down the narrow hall and disappeared into his room for a second. He came out with an air rifle and tube full of pellets.

They went onto the makeshift porch and shoot at empty bottles that lay along the tree line. One would drink while the other took aim at the rusty old car half covered in brush or the random small animal unlucky enough to be caught in range. The kid took a beer for himself and handed the last one to Timmy. “I bet I could finish mine before you finish yours.”

“Hell no you can’t.” Timmy was far beyond such concerns as bad taste or esophageal irritation. Timmy and the kid popped open their beers and smashed them together.

“Cheers,” they both said.

Timmy got about half of his beer down before he had to stop to take a breath. But the kid was still working on his. After catching his breath, Timmy began to guzzle with increased intensity. He let some of the beer spill out of the corners of his mouth and drip off his chin.

“I won,” Timmy said.

The kid said, “You cheated you got half of it on your shirt.” But by the time they had both finished their beers, Timmy no longer cared who won the race.

They stumbled around stupidly through the brush to the back of the trailer. Timmy leveled the air rifle as best he could and shot a hole through the bedroom window.

“What the hell is wrong with you? You little asshole, my uncle is going to kill me.”

Timmy pushed the kid away by the top of his head. “Now, look whose being a pussy. Where is all the big talk now?”

“No, no, I ain’t no pussy.” The Kid picked up a rock and threw. Timmy flinched and stuttered out a word or two in self-defense. But the rock went whizzing passed his head and shattered the glass behind him. Timmy let the air rifle slip from his fingers. The kid pitched another rock then another. He did not stop until all of the windows were smashed out.

In the time it took him to walk back around from the front of the trailer something about him had changed. He walked with a measured even pace. He seemed contented, even at peace. He was holding something in his hand. “Look. I found a paint ball mask. Have you ever played this game?” He tossed the mask to Timmy.

The old mask had been faded from the weather, but Timmy saw the face that someone had taken the time to hand paint on the black mask. It was the shape of a skull but it seemed to resemble a retarded ape. But it was an ape with five long sharp fangs and no bottom jaw. Timmy tried to fit the mask over his head. The mask was set too small to fit over his head, so he began to worry at the straps. “Yeah. You got a couple of paintball guns? Let’s play.”

“Then run.”

“What?” Timmy looked up to see the kid pointing the pellet rifle at his chest. The kid pulled the trigger. “Ouch.” Timmy threw the paintball mask at the kid. The kid shot again. “You asshole, that hurt.” The kid raised the pellet rifle and stared down the sights.

“Run, or I will shoot out your eye.”

Timmy made his best menacing grunt and reached out to snatch the rifle barrel. The kid fired. Timmy felt a singing sting of pain in his cheek and a tickling trickle on his ear. He turned to run.

The kid said, “Stand still you asshole.” He fired another shot. This time Timmy was running full bore, and he barely felt the sting in the small of his back. Timmy was running wildly in the direction that he thought was the road. And the kid was trailing behind shooting and laughing.

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