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by Robin Crawford

I’m a punk. I’m seventeen, and a punk, and I don’t like the way you’re looking at my girl. My girl has no name. Not to you. It’s enough for you to know she’s mine and you don’t look at her. Not like that. It’s enough for you to know I’m coming after you. I’ll make you pay.

It’s a ’61 Impala and I tell her to get in. “I’m taking you home,” I tell her. “I’ve got something to do.”

She listens. She knows better than to argue with me.

On the way to her house I remember their faces. I remember their mistake, and I remember the rage. It builds, and I grip the steering wheel hard in my left hand. My right arm curls around her waist. My hand is up under her sweater and I cop a feel. I’m holding her tight, and my fingers dig into her ribs because I can’t forget them looking at her.

“What’s wrong, Eddie?” Her voice is soft and scared. I like that. It makes me feel good. It makes what I’m about to do a good thing. I don’t answer.

In the driveway of her parents’ house I tell her goodbye after we kiss. My tongue feels good inside her hot mouth and I can taste the cherry red of her lip gloss. Under her sweater, my fingers tweak her nipples pressing hard against the silk of her black bra. I know it’s black. She always wears black underneath when she’s with me.

I begin to reconsider. Her eyes are closed and she is relaxing into my hold.

Her hand falls to my lap.

“Come on, Eddie,” she whispers, and squeezes me. “Come on inside. Mom and Dad are playing cards down the street. They won’t be home for hours.”

I don’t know why, but I see their faces again—the two assholes in the C-store. They flash into my mind and I push her away from me.

“Gotta go,” I say. “I got important business. Tomorrow.” I cock my finger at her like a gun and she gives me the boot lip. But she listens. She knows better.

I make the tires squeal pulling out of the drive and I catch her wave out of the corner of my eye. I don’t wave back. I nod, and that’s good enough.

Under the seat is an eight-track tape. I find it and push it into the player. Black Sabbath screams “Paranoid” and my hands slam along with the music on the steering wheel.

On the way back to the C-store, I taste the cherry on my lips, and my fingers tingle where they touched her warm skin. That taste is mine; that skin is mine. I see the assholes walking down the sidewalk and my fingers tingle in a different way. My muscles harden in a different way and I pull to the side of the street.

My shirt is new so I take it off before I get out of the car. My legs pump like steel pistons, carrying me toward them. I feel light on my feet, alive. This is what I do. This is my purpose.

One of the assholes is tall and lurpy, and he wears glasses. I take him out with a kick to the chest. His glasses fly off and bounce across the sidewalk. He’s in the bushes, blindly swinging the sixteen-ounce Dr. Pepper he just bought and it slips out of his hand. I feel it smack me in the back, but I’m already on his buddy.

I read fear and confusion on this one’s face. The fear is what feeds me. I don’t give a shit if he’s confused. My fist shoots out and catches him in the bread-basket. He stumbles back a step and whatever he’s trying to say comes out like air from a leaky mattress. He doesn’t fall until I get him between the eyes. My knuckle meets the bone in his forehead and he hits the sidewalk hard.

Lurpy is out of the bushes. He finds his glasses and stuffs them into his pocket. Our eyes lock and he turns to run.

“Tank, what the fuck?”

It’s my friend Ron, standing by my car. I didn’t see him come up. I was busy. Ron leans over the asshole on the sidewalk. He yells after me. I’m chasing Lurpy, but I stop.

“Holy shit, Eddie. I think you killed this guy.”

The guy’s not moving. I’m gulping air, wiping my hands on my t-shirt, and all I can think is that I’m glad I took off my new shirt. Blood streaks the white cotton stretched across my heaving chest.

“Hey!” I yell in the guy’s ear. I put my hand under his nose, like I’m feeding a horse. I feel nothing. I rip a handful of grass from the lawn and stuff it into his mouth. It sits there. He doesn’t care if there’s grass in his mouth. He’s dead.

“Get him in the car,” Ron says. We drag the body to the curb and it takes both of us to get him up and into the back seat. He’s a little dude, but death makes him heavy in our arms.

My brain kicks into focus and I tell Ron to drive to the lake. Ron takes my keys and his hand shakes so bad he drops them.

“What’s your problem, man?” I say. “We gotta dump him.”

I already know where. I know exactly where no one will see us and no one will find him for days. It’s funny that I know this, I think, like I had it all planned before.

I’m in the front seat next to Ron and my brain kicks me again. Lurpy is still running, down the sidewalk ten feet in front of us. We stop, get out, and grab him.

He’s in the seat between us, sitting on my new shirt and sobbing or some shit. I grab my shirt out from under his sorry ass. Then I tell him that if his friend’s dead, I have to kill him, too.

“No witnesses, man,” I say, and I feel nothing explaining this to him. But my mind wanders and I think about the ‘no witnesses’ part.

Ron’s knuckles are white around the steering wheel and I shake a cigarette up from my pack. I offer one to him and one to Lurpy. I am aware of the body in the back seat. It makes the car drive slower. The lake is fifteen blocks away but we’ve been driving for hours, I think.

I don’t say it this time, but I think Ron knows what I’m thinking about the ‘no witnesses.’ He’s my best friend, since kindergarten, but when you kill someone you can’t leave any witnesses, even best friends.

This is what I’m thinking: dump dead-guy; snap Lurpy’s neck and dump him; kill Ron and dump him; get rid of the t-shirt and wash my hands. Wash them real good, ‘cause there’s blood all over them. Then I think about tomorrow and seeing my girl.

She’ll wait for me to call, then I’ll pick her up and we’ll go for a drive and share a six-pack up by the lake, but not over where the body is. And she’ll let me touch her and maybe I’ll get a little, because she’s my girl, and nobody else touches her. Nobody else better look at her . . .

We’re at the lake. We’re all quiet. Dead-guy’s the quietest, of course.

“What now, Tank?” Ron asks.

I find a cup in the car. There’s pink gloss on the edge and I know it tastes like cherry candy.

I hand the cup to Ron and tell him to put some water in it from the lake. He runs across the rocks and I sit there with Lurpy. I feel like I should say something but I don’t know what. I’m not really sorry. It’s just the way it is, my mind says.

I take the cup from Ron and splash water in dead-guy’s face, up his nose, in his eyes, in his ears, and I hear Lurpy scream or some shit. Dead-guy’s choking. The water sprays off his face and his eyes are open. I can see that they’re blue, like mine.

“Okay, dude, you’re outta here.” I pull him out of the back seat and throw him on the ground. Lurpy’s just sitting there looking.

“Get the fuck out of here,” I say. “You tell anyone and I’m coming after you.”

He falls out of the car and lands on his ass next to his friend.

“Slide over,” I tell Ron and I take the wheel.

We drive away. I crank the eight-track and “Ironman” shakes the windows. At the C-store, we buy a quart of Budweiser and some Doritos, and we sit in Ron’s driveway jamming until his dad comes out and tells me to go home.


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