Hey, guys! So here are Chapters Four and Five of TDH. It’s a bit long because it has two chapters, but they are two really good chapters. Things are going to start getting a bit heavy in these chapters, so be ready. Also, there is some strong language about Manny and the things done to him, so read with care. I hope you enjoy them! As always, comments are welcome. Neophyte Punk, over and out!
After a few minutes, Alma pulled herself together and asked for a cigarette. They sat down on the porch next to each other.
“How many of these have you had?” asked Kansy, lighting it for her.
“I smoked a whole pack last night. Couldn’t sleep.”
Kansy nodded and lit one for himself, as well. “Me too. Been looking like a chimney for the past week.”
They stared out at the front yard and expected to see a rabbit shoot out from the woods and hop across the gravel road but there was nothing. All was quiet and still; no wind, no birds, no rabbits.
“It’s crazy. Been this way all week.”
Alma looked at the river birch trees and wished for some movement or noise from the cardinals, but they stayed in their nests. “It started when he did it.”
Kansy coughed and turned to face her, lament in this eyes. “Have you talked to your momma about that day?”
Ignoring his question, she asked him one of her own. “What else did you hear about the funeral?”
Kansy nodded his head and didn’t press her about it. “Dad said that you turned the hose on those bitching outside the cemetery. That true?”
Alma smiled and exhaled smoke. “It wasn’t me. It was Bufford.”
“Yep. I said it was me because I didn’t want him to lose his job. Whole town already thinks I’m crazy so it doesn’t matter what I do.” She puffed out smoke. “He saw how much they were upsetting Momma. And Momma’s always been really good to him. She sews his clothers, cooks for him sometimes and gets him stuff to do around here when he’s short on cash. He did it for her.”
Manny sat next to Kansy, longing centered in his eyes. “You should get him some food. He hasn’t eaten either.”
Alma nodded. “You hungry? We’ve got enough food to feed a small army for a month.”
“Yeah, I haven’t eaten breakfast.”
She stood up and headed toward the back of the house.
“Where are you going?” asked Kansy, confused.
“To the kitchen. You can go in through there. I’m taking the long way.”
“I’ll take it with you,” Kansy smiled, following her. He understood.
In the kitchen, she pulled out the deli slices from the refrigerator to make Kansy a sandwich while he threw out the warm deli meats and empty jars from the sink along with the rest of the trash bags.
“Jesus, there must have been a sea of people here yesterday,” said Kansy, washing his hands in the sink.
“Oh, yeah. And all of them were quick to say how sorry they were and how regrettable everything was. ‘He had such a bright future.’ ‘If there’s anything I can do for you and your mother.’ Or my personal favorite, ‘I feel so guilty. I feel like I could have helped him if he just asked me for help.’ Yeah, right. Where the hell was that while he was getting the shit kicked out of him by the entire baseball team? Where the hell was that when the coach, the principle, and the sheriff ignored the ass-beating that put you two in the hospital? Where the hell was that when they vandalized his locker, his car, our house? Yeah, now that he’s gone people in town are suddenly becoming these bleeding hearts for anti-bullying and gay rights.”
“Have news crews showed up here yet? They have at mine. Even the sheriff and principle wanted to invite me over to have a televised conference about what changes they’re going to make to keep gay student, all students, safe.”
“Yeah, they’ve shown up, but I told them que se fueran a chingar sus madres. And, yeah, I heard the whole school board was going to be there too. Bastards, all of them. They just want to save their own asses. Do you want tomatoes on your sandwich? I might have to dig in a little bit, but I’m sure we have some.”
“No, I’m fine.” Kansy stood by the screen door and lit another cigarette. “Anybody come down?”
“You mean to fuck around and hurl brick messages through the windows and shit? No. I don’t think they’ll come today. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. Do you want mayo?”
“Then get it out of the fridge. We have, however, been receiving phone calls.”
“What do they say?” Kansy scanned for the mayonnaise jar.
“Oh, what’s expected: my brother’s in hell, rotting and screaming in agonizing pain as the devil sodomizes him.”
Manny jumped on the kitchen counter and smiled. “Think I should go and poltergeist their ass?”
Alma licked her finger and stifled a chuckle.
“What?” smiled Kansy, tossing her the jar.
“Nothing. You want a lot or a little?” she asked, opening it.
“Lots.” He noticed she was only making one sandwich. “You’re not having any?”
“I”m not hungry.”
“Have you eaten at all?”
“Yeah, enough to keep me going. It’s all enough to keep me going, Kansy.”
“Hey, Alma?” Kansy looked her up and down.
“Mmm? What do you want for sides? I’ve go chips, fancy crackers, jello, fruit, fruit with jello. You name it and I’ve probably got it in the fridge or on the table somewhere.”
“No, I’ll just have the sandwich.” He took the sandwich from the counter and bit into it. “Are you gonna spend all day in nothing but your underwear?”
“I’ve got a tank top on. Hey, man,” she pulled out more bread and started making another sandwich. Kansy always ate two of everything. “Nobody was suppose to be here today. Nobody shows up the day after a funeral.”
“Says who?” He was already done with half the sandwich.
“I don’t fucking know who, but it’s an understood rule. Showing up the day after a funeral is embarrassing because it means that person’s loved one was not important enough for you to take the day off and haul ass just to come and offer a I’m-so-fucking-sorry-life-is-a-real-bitch-sometimes handshake. I mean, you show up a few days later or not at all, but not the next day. Things are still too fresh. You weren’t suppose to come here, so deal with it.”
“Talk to him, Alma,” said Manny, jumping down from the counter.
“Could I have tomato this time?”
“Look for them in the fridge. In the bottom drawer. Hey, give me your lighter. I’m going outside really quick.”
Outside, Alma and Manny paced around each other, whispering quietly and keeping an eye out for Kansy.
“You need to talk to him.”
“What the hell am I doing in there?”
“Small talk and a sandwich. You need to open up to him like you did back on the front porch.”
“No. That was one time.”
“Talk to him.”
Alma took a long drag, looking at Manny. “Are you in my head or are you real?”
“Is there a difference?”
“Yeah, one means I’m bat-shit crazy and the other just means I’m broken.”
“Talk to him. That’s the only way you’ll find out.”
Something shattered inside the kitchen. “Puta vida.” Alma put her cigarette out and ran in.
Kansy stood by the fridge door, holding it open with his back. Across the room on the yellow wall behind the kitchen table, a seaweed-green stain dripped gradually down to the wooden floor. Kansy breathed heavily and slammed the fridge door shut, moving to the lean on the counter. Alma moved around him to the side of the fridge and picked up the broom and dust pan when she stepped on something that nearly made her slip. She looked down and saw large blue shard of glass with white letters that spelled out POLICE BOX. It was the coffee mug he’d given Manny last year on his birthday. It was Manny’s favorite show, about a madman in a blue box.
Manny stood behind him and looked at Alma, pleading. She nodded, put the broom down and awkwardly put a hand on Kansy’s shoulder. He was trembling.
With both hands, she tilted his head to look at her, and she smiled sadly. Fat pear-shaped tears rolled down his face, but he made no sound, only stuck out his bottom lip a bit.
“Come here,” she said.
He dropped his head on her shoulder and cried. He hugged her as she caressed the back of his head. “I wouldn’t have let them hurt you, you know. If you had come yesterday, I wouldn’t have let them hurt you like they did that night.”
“I tried to stop them, Alma, but it was the whole fucking team. I tried, but I couldn’t fight them all off.”
“I know…you nearly fucked up your pitching hand trying. You tried to protect him.”
“But it wasn’t enough.”
“Welcome to the club.”
“Why couldn’t you guys get along like this before?” asked Manny, pacing beside them.
“Jesus, we’re not gonna start bonding, are we?”
“Would that be such a bad thing?” sniffed Kansy, lifting his shirt to wipe his face. “Lord knows we’ve been through enough, you and I. We’re companions now, you know. We always get left behind…and he always leaves and doesn’t come back for a long, long time.”
“Yeah, I never understand when you speak geek to me. And I don’t want love, Kansy.” She rubbed his shoulders and then picked up the broom and dustpan. Kansy picked up a dishcloth from the sink.
“You don’t want love or you don’t want my love?”
“Both. I don’t need love, except maybe for my momma’s.”
“You don’t believe that.” Alma ignored him and swept the floor. “You can’t believe that. That’s all we have to hold onto right now. It’s the only thing that can keep us going.”
“Thanks,” smiled Kansy. “But I’m gay.”
They laughed like they used to, but the quiet crept in and silenced them. They looked at each other awkwardly like they shouldn’t have laughed so freely. Alma went back to sweeping and Kansy wiped the wall of the dripping green stain.
Manny stood outside, pacing and biting at his thumb. Kansy was right; they were companions now. Left alone and left behind. And he would not come back to them in a very long time.
The day dragged on, slow and sticky. Kansy went upstairs to Manny’s room and Alma walked around the house, smoking and pushing all feeling away. Momma woke up around three, groggy and forgetful. She remembered, of course, and flipped through photo albums, working her way through another box of tissue.
Manny drifted from place to place. Sometimes he would lie down with Kansy or linger outside of Momma’s door, but mostly he walked outside with Alma.
“Momma’s awake.” Manny did a headstand in front of her to make her stop walking. “You should try and get her to eat something.”
“I never understood how you could do that.” She watched him balance. She flicked the cigarette in her hand his way and watched it fire out as it went through him. “I never could.”
“You just have to let go and not worry about balancing everything out.” Manny flipped right side up, smiling. “Remember you broke the wall with your ass the one time you actually tried.”
“That was your fault. You let me go.” She wanted to push him, but she would only go through him. “You always let go, don’t you?”
“I don’t want to fight, Alma.”
“No, I know you don’t. If you did, you’d still be here, wouldn’t you?”
Manny was gone. He yelled down from his open window. “You should get Momma to eat something.”
“Why don’t you go in there and do it yourself!”
She heard a thump from his room. Kansy appeared in the window, rubbing his head. “Did you call me? I fell asleep.”
“I asked if you want to help me with Momma?”
They helped her down the stairs. Kansy took her into the kitchen through the hallway while Alma ran around to the back of the house.
“You want a sandwich, Momma?” Alma was already getting the bread out.
“No, mija,” she smiled. “I’ll just have coffee.”
“Kansy poured her and himself a cup. Momma glanced up and saw the dried green liquid caked to the wall. “What happened there?”
“That was me, ma’am.” Kansy picked up the dishcloth from the table and wiped at it again. “I, uh…”
“He lost his shit and broke the cup he gave Manny for his birthday,” finished Alma. She was sitting on the counter, Manny next to her, both dangling their feet in rhythmic twin time.
“It was a beautiful cup. He always drank out of it every night before bed.”
“Are you sure you don’t want anything to eat, ma’am?” asked Kansy, scrubbing at the wall. The green muck was stuck on pretty good. “I saw Mrs. Munoz made that famous stuffing of hers. I could heat some up for you. Or some soup? There’s about five different kinds of soup in there.”
“I only counted three,” said Alma, lighting up another cigarette.
“Five. I found two near the back.”
“Coffee is better,” said Momma, taking a sip and looking at Alma smoking. “Dame.” Alma tossed her the pack of smokes and the lighter. Momma light one up and took a deep drag. Everything was quiet. “I think I’ll go back up now.”
“Momma, you have to eat something,” said Alma, jumping down from the counter. “Please, at least fruit or some jello. Or both.”
“No, mija, really.” Momma got up to her feet and wobbled. Kansy dropped the dishcloth and wrapped his arms around her waist to steady her. “I just want to lie down. Look at some photos of him. Do you want to look at them with me?”
“No fucking way. Looking at those photos isn’t going to change a damn thing, Momma. He’s gone. It’s not gonna bring him back. El no va a volver. Nothing will ever bring him back to you.”
Momma flinched like Alma had hit her. She hadn’t meant for her voice to sound so loud, so anger.
“I’ll look at them with you, ma’am,” said Kansy, shaking his head at Alma.
“Mi hija,” Momma handed Kansy her cigarette and opened her arms for Alma to come to her. He let her go when Alma embraced her. “You sure are running, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not. I could, but I’m not. I’m just…not feeling.”
Momma pulled Alma back and petted her hair away from her face. “Aye, mija, you may not know it, but you’re running as far and as fast as you can.”
Alma shrugged her shoulders and puffed on her cigarette.
“No matter what you do, he’s still there every time you look back, verda?”
Alma stepped back and let go of Momma, not knowing what to say. She thought of the hallway and the light fixture where he…
(his face was so pale and he had those marks on his neck)
Momma reached for her and said, “Maybe you should stop running.”
“Maybe you should start feeling,” said Kansy.
She backed further away and threw Kansy the finger. “Both of you need to stop it. Basta ya! If you two idiotas want to cry for him, ta bueno. Cry you brains out, but I’m not going to. He made his choice.” She looked behind Momma where Manny stood biting his thumb. “He chose to give up. He chose to leave. I’m not gonna cry for him. No lo merece. He doesn’t deserve it.”
“You want to talk about choices, vale. What are you going to do, Alma? Que vas a hacer? Linger on him or let him go? Are you going to close yourself off for the rest of you life?” Momma stood on her own for the first time in a week. She radiated strength, acceptance, and heartache. She was Momma again.
“What the hell is that suppose to mean?” Alma didn’t mean to shout, but Momma wasn’t making any sense. She, not her, had done everything. Everything! If anybody had a right to linger (not that she was lingering), it was her. She had done everything.
“It means you have to deal with this. Acepata lo que paso. You can’t run.”
“What the hell do you think I’ve been doing this past week?” Alma grabbed the first thing she could reach for on the table and threw it to the floor. Potato chips flew across wooden grooves. She reached for whatever was on the table and threw it to the ground and across the room. Food jetted in every direction. “I planned the funeral! I picked out his clothes! I called our relatives and let them know! I have been taking care of you! I have been telling reporters to piss off! I cleaned his car when they sprayed fag bastard and ass licker on it! I taped all the windows up in the family room and the dining room the night those fuckers threw bricks at us! I have been answering the phone filled with fuckers saying disgusting things about Manny! I dealt with the whole baseball team and the school belittling him! I found him! I cut him down! I have always been the one to take care of everything!”
Alma’s voice echoed through their silent world. She looked down at her hands. They were covered with bits of cake frosting, cookie crumbs and pieces of ham and turkey. Her breathing was labored and quick. The floor and walls were decorated in food. Deli meats and cake chunks clung to the walls. Bread, cookies, chips and crackers littered their feet.
“Momma, I’m sor–”
Momma raised her hand to silence her. “You haven’t accepted what happened yet. Let’s go upstairs, Kansy.”