by Philip Wardlow
Pip was the greatest friend I ever had or ever would have for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget him. I first met Pip in Mrs. Grainger’s sixth grade class. We had just finished up on a spelling test that I was sure to get a D+ on, I didn’t care either way. Mrs. Grainger walked around the class collecting tests. I stared out the window and lost myself in thought as I often liked to do while she did. I saw out of the corner of my eyes many of the other kids sitting around me all turn their heads in unison towards the opened door to our classroom. I turned my head as well. What caught their attention had been a boy our age. He held a paper in his hand and just stood there in the open doorway to the classroom. He looked around the room taking everyone in as he quietly turned his head.
Mrs. Grainger hadn’t notice him yet as she continued to pick up the tests. The kids just gawked at him as he stood in there; as kids are going to do when they see something new, like a new kid standing in their class, especially this kid. I have to admit I gawked as well. He stood a head taller than any girl or boy we had in our grade, especially me. I’m as short as they come for my age. He wore these dingy blue overalls which hung over a thin, but wiry frame. He wore a white long sleeve shirt which buttoned at the neck and these big paint speckled black leather shoes which seemed to stick out too far from the cuffs of his pants. He was a sight I tell ya.
The boy ran his hands through his short blond hair as he waited patiently for Mrs. Grainger to notice him in the doorway. He was cool, no doubt about it. Even in that get up, you could tell he knew exactly what he looked like standing there, he was comfortable with who he was. He didn’t care, not in the slightest. It was almost as if he was challenging someone to say something about the way he looked, but then again as I think back on it all now, maybe it wasn’t a challenging look, maybe it was just a look of, I don’t give a damned if people don’t like what they see, I’m not changing for anybody.
Brandon Fenster, the resident a- -hole in my class, who sat behind me and loved to slap me on the back of the neck when the teacher wasn’t looking, decided to meet the challenge.
“Hey, Mrs. Grainger, there’s a farm boy at the door trying to sell a bushel of apples!” Brandon’s voice boomed across the entire sixth grade room.
The class erupted in laughter. Everyone joined in on the merriment, but he just stared ahead, waiting patiently, seemingly unaware of Brandon’s stupid remark. I could swear I saw the new boy’s mouth give a slight twinge upward, almost as if he was trying not to smile. Smile, could that be? Not after what Brandon had just said. What a jerk that Brandon is, I thought to myself.
“Oh, I was wondering when you might show up,” said Mrs. Grainger as she finally got a clue as to what was going on. I hated the way she always ignored the things Brandon and his friends sometimes said and did to the other kids in the class, all because their parents owned half of the damn town or sat on some committee she was part of as an underling kissing the ground they walked on thinking it would do her some good for her own sake. Nobody else counted in her class, especially me; my family was the biggest bunch of nobodies you ever saw. Her attitude pissed me off, immensely. In case you’re wondering what immensely means, it means a lot.
The teacher walked over to him and grabbed the paper from the boy’s hand and looked it over like it was the most important piece of paper in the whole world. In her annoyingly scratchy tone Mrs. Grainger introduced him, “Class, this is Jonathan Pipkin he will be-“The boy interrupted her at this point.
“Sorry ma’am, but I’d like to be called by my last name, Pipkin, Pip for short actually. If you don’t mind that is.” Pip looked at her innocently with big saucer blue eyes while the rest of the class kinda held their breath waiting to see what would happen next. Would she explode? Go epileptic on us?
No one ever interrupted the teacher, at least not if they could help it, and woe be to you if you did. She smoothed her wrinkly white hands down the front of her long rough black dress and leveled her gaze down through her round spectacles directly at him.
“Now see here Sir-first we do not interrupt the teacher when she is talking, that is just rude and unmannerly, and second we do not call people in this class by their surname unless prefixed with a Mr. or a Miss and we certainly do not give a shortened version of it. Would you like to call me Mrs. Grain or, better yet, how about, Grain; that would do nicely hmmmm…?” She almost seemed like she was going to hiss like a cat at the end. She always seemed very proud of dressing down kids in front everyone else.
“Mrs. Grainger, I’m sorry that I interrupted you but I thought you should know up front that seeing as how it’s been my God-given name for almost twelve full years, and my family’s name for who knows how long, that you could call me Pip. I not only bear the name Pip for myself, but to honor my poor grandfather’s memory who passed away just this past spring who had nicknamed me Pip from the time that I was born. “ Again he looked at her with those same innocent eyes but this time with a hint of a challenge, it seemed.
I don’t think she knew what to make of Pip after that. I really don’t. But what he said must have struck something in her, because from then on she always called him Pip.
“Please find a seat… Pip, and find it quickly” she said
He walked to the back of the classroom through stares and open mouths of the other kids including my own; even Fenster seemed to be at a loss for words.
“Hello?” Pip said “Hello?” he said again as I realized he was talking to me.
“Is this seat taken?” He said pointing to the empty chair beside me at my table.
For some reason I broke into a grin; he almost seemed to infect me with the same energy that I saw dancing behind his eyes.
“N,n,n, no no” I stammered to him and my grin faded.
My damn stutter, I hated it. More than anything else in life, I hated the sound of my voice ever since I could remember.
Then Fenster found his voice again. He leaned in close to me from behind his desk table and whispered so as not attract the teacher’s attention as she waddled back towards the front of the room with the spelling tests clutched tightly to her.
“Can’t carry a conversation with Jeremy here, farm boy, he can’t ta.. ta… talk straight.” Fenster gave me playful slap on the back of my neck and leaned back into his seat while his lips spread into a Grinch like grin across his face.
God, I wanted to murder him then. I was small but stocky. I know I could’ve snapped the scrawny Fenster like the toothpick he was. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Something always held me back. I wasn’t really scared of him. I couldn’t explain it. I just couldn’t bring myself to pop him one. So I just took it, day after day, the comments, the slapping. Every day at school always ended up a pleasant experience.
Then Pip, who was now sitting next to me at my table, turned around in his chair and whispered to Fenster, “You what my Dad used to tell me?” Pip asked him
“How the hell do I know, he’s not my Dad.” Fenster said smartly but to smartly on account of Pip could’ve stomped him into the ground lengthwise if he wanted.
“That wise men talk because they have something to say fools, because they have to say something. Which one are you?” I remember Pip just looked at Fenster as if he expected an answer. Pip yawned theatrically, waiting. No answer came. Fenster just sat there. You could tell his brain was gonna start to smoke trying to figure out what Pip had just said to him. He could be a real dullard at times.
Then the bell for lunch rang with its intermittent shrill, which probably saved Fenster from his head exploding. He popped up from his desk and scampered away like a hyena not being able to steal a scrap of meat off a lion’s kill.
The class began to file out of the room but I hung back to talk to Pip.
“I just wa wa wan t.t.t..to thank you.” I stammered helplessly.
“For what? He’s a Neanderthal. Jerks like him need to be put in their place early or else they just get worse as time goes by. Hey would you mind if I sat with you at lunch? I hate eating alone.”
“Sur Sure” was all I said to him in a calm voice. Inside I was a mess. No one had sat with me at lunch since I was in 2nd grade, the grade before kids really start labeling you as an outcast. I didn’t know how to handle it. My palms began to sweat as we walked out of the classroom door and took a right towards the cafeteria which was barely fifty feet down the hall past Mr. Harvey’s fifth grade class. My heart was pounding like a race horse in the Kentucky Derby. It was awful, Mrs. Grainger stood like a sentry at her post at the front entrance to the cafeteria as we marched in under her straight eyed robot stare.
Pip and I both got in the hot lunch line. I noticed he had a hot lunch card ready to be punched out in his hand just like me. Must be as poor as me I thought. Nobody willingly ate this shit if they could help it. Pip gave me a nod to indicate an open table off near the exit doors leading to the playground. I thought my tray would slip out of my hands on account of all the sweat pouring out of them, it was terrible.
To make things worse, the kids we walked by just stared at us, like we were aliens or some weird freak show come to visit from a traveling carnival. Meet the amazing Big Boy and his pint-sized sidekick Tiny. Oh lovely, for some reason I gave a glance over at Pip and he was grinning to himself. It made me wonder if he was thinking the same thing.
“Knowledge is the food of the soul Jeremy, but it doesn’t quite taste like food to the belly. Does it Jeremy?” Pip said as we finally sat down together.
“Are you you quo quo ting somebody. It sa sa sounds that way anyway, whe whe when you ta ta ta talk.” I said.
“Clever Jeremy, you’re right I was quoting someone else, Plato to be exact. My father and mother teach me a lot. They are both professors over at the University.” Pip opened up his milk and took a gulp while he rolled up some of the spaghetti from his lunch onto his fork.
“I thought you w w were AA fa fa farmer, or some something else? I asked. I felt my anxiety melting away with every question I asked. It was wonderful, pure delight, even with my stutter.
“Oh that,” Pip leaned in close and spoke in a whisper “I like to dress like that for the first couple of days; it helps weed out some of the kids who might wanna be your friend for the wrong reasons. You know you’re the only one who didn’t smile or laugh when I walked in the door. I notice things like that, people’s first reaction. It tells a lot sometimes, not always but sometimes.”
Pip and I talked liked that the whole lunch time. He didn’t finish my sentences when I talked. I hated when people did that when I talked. He was different, he was patient. I have never known anyone to be as patient with me as he was when we talked, not even my mom. I found out that his grandfather was alive and well living in a retirement community in central Florida. He also told me that he had nicknamed himself when he was eight because he thought that the name fit who he was. I came to believe that it did.
He then did a curious thing. He put down his fork and looked me straight in the eye with a real serious expression on his face “Define yourself, lest others define you first, Jeremy.” Pip seemed to be quoting someone else again. So I asked, and he told me.
“Myself.” He said
I told him he was odd, and he said that was the pot calling the kettle black and then playfully punched me in the shoulder.
We both broke out laughing. I can’t explain it. Right then and there in that little moment, all seemed right with the world. Then the school day was over too soon and I found myself waving goodbye to Pip as I climbed on my bike and rode towards home.
I heard him yelling even before I pulled up in my driveway on my bike. My step-father or my step-asshole as I liked to call him, would get home at about 2:30 from his job everyday at the slaughterhouse and then bitch at my mom and drink himself stupid (or more stupid) as he sat his fat ass in front of the television the whole night scratching and itching places I don’t want to mention.
His yelling had stopped by the time I had reached the back door to the kitchen. My mom was leaning over the sink doing the dishes as I came in, she hadn’t noticed me come in because of the noise of the running water still filling the sink. She looked tired. Her shoulders were slumped as she stood there cleaning the dishes. Her face looked flushed and moist like she had just stopped crying. I curled and uncurled my fist as I stood there watching her. I could hear the television on in the next room. I’m sure he had a can of beer in hand with not a care in the world, the fat bastard.
My mom turned and noticed me standing there. I saw her try to look away. But I saw it; a bright red bruise on her right cheek. A look passed between us, a look I knew well. That’s all it took. I ran past my mom towards the sound of the television and the bastard sitting there, I was going to beat the hell out of him.
“No!” my mom half whispered half yelled at me.
I was yanked backed violently by my arm just as I had run past her. My mom held me with a death grip. I could feel her fingernails digging into my flesh through my fall jacket.
“Let me go.” I yelled at her
“Stop Jeremy, please stop what have I told you before, please. It won’t do you or me any good to see you hurt. Please don’t get him started up. He’s just settling down again. Please.” She dug into me harder. She pleaded with me with her eyes. She loved me. I loved her. How could I say no?
“Okay mom.” I tore out of her grip. I was mad at her for putting up with it, mad at him for doing it, and mad at myself for being as weak as she was. I ran past him laid out in his chair with the television shouting out a commercial to buy tires. Big surprise; he was a sleep. He had the Lazy Boy fully reclined with a beer nestled in his crotch, dead to the world. It would have been so easy just then to take a baseball bat and bash his brains in, but I didn’t, instead I vaulted up the steps two at a time as I climbed the stairway up to my room and slammed the door behind me.
Silence, somewhat anyway; I could hear the muffled noise of the television penetrating into my room. I loved my room, it was my haven. No one could enter. I made sure of it with a dead bolt lock I had installed myself one day while they were away.
This was my haven, my home away from hell. I didn’t have to stammer at anyone, didn’t have to deal with the likes of Fenster, my mom or step-asshole. I could just pull down the shades, put on some music, lie back in bed and stare up at the ceiling for hours in my cocoon of solitude letting the music wash over me.
Sometimes I cried as I lie in bed, letting it out for no one else to see but me. Today I didn’t cry, instead I contemplated death, my death. Would I be missed if I died tomorrow? Would anyone really care? To be simply gone from the face of the earth, nonexistent.
No, came the voice from within my head as I lie staring up at the many cracks radiating through my ceiling above me.
Not at all, it finished up, as I continued to stare at nothing.
Later, around dinner time, my mom knocked timidly on my door, interrupting my thoughts on death.
“You coming down to eat, honey?” she said through the door.
“No I’m not, just leave me something.” I said to the door.
“Are you sure? I made you spaghetti, your favorite. It doesn’t taste that good reheated you know?” she said
I jumped up. I knew what she was trying to do. What did she think this was a “Leave it to Beaver” family? Ward Cleaver slaps the wifey around and everything’s just swell in Pleasantville after a nice sit down dinner together with the Beave.
I drew back the dead bolt and opened the door. I saw my mom take a step back into the hallway as she stared at me with the question still in her dead brown eyes. I wanted to yell at her, cuss at her, tell her to go to hell and get a backbone. But instead I went and hugged her; hugged her fiercely. Whether more for me or her I’m not sure.
“I’ll bring you something up. Okay? She tousled my hair a little as she turned to go back downstairs.
“Margaret!” I heard my step-father bellow for my mom from downstairs.
“Coming Randy!” she yelled down to him as she put one foot on the step leading to the downstairs. She turned back to me with her eyes darting from me to the stairway and spoke in a whisper. “Don’t worry about me – okay Jeremy? All that’s important is that you’re all right. You know he can’t help himself. He really loves us you know. We just have to watch not to upset him, that’s all.”
I saw her raise her hand and lightly touch her cheek where Randy had struck her and her eyes go distant. “Margaret! Get your ass down here! What the hell are you doing? I’m hungry!” he spouted up at her with his fat ass probably still in the chair.
“I’ll tell him you’re not feeling well tonight if he asks.” she said in another whisper as she turned and crept down the stairs to him. I turned slowly back into my room, locked my door, and fell back into my cocoon.
The next day at school was like any other day. It was there. I showed Pip the “D” I had just received on my spelling tests. He realized I didn’t care if it had been an “A” or and “E”. Pip and I talked at lunch, but not like the first time. We didn’t joke together. I didn’t ask him any questions. He did most of the talking. I just added a few “uh huhs” and “ohs” at the right moments. This went on for a week with Pip and me before he finally got fed up with it all one day after school and asked me what my problem was.
“Nnn Nothing.” I told him as I reached down to unlock my bike from the rack.
Pip just eyed me with those eyes of his chewing some gum he had, with his hands resting on his hips. I felt like a frog with my innards laid out under a microscope when he looked at me like that. He was really trying hard to figure me out. Then his blue eyes brightened. I swear you could almost see a light bulb go off over his head with the expression that was on his face. He was so excited I thought he might choke on his gum.
“You got time for me to show you something cool before you head home?” he moved in close and stood over me next to my bike. Like I had a choice I thought to myself.
“Sure wha wha what do you ga ga got to sh sh show me? I said with my stammer worse than ever.
“Come on, we haven’t got much time,” he turned and ran off.
I threw my lock into my book bag, untangled the front wheel of my bike from the rack and jumped on just as I saw Pip running hard and disappearing around the corner of the school; not seeming to realize I wasn’t there.
I pedaled as fast as I could and banged my left shin when my foot slipped off the pedal. Oh the pain. He was already halfway up Rochester, the two lane street that ran adjacent to the school, when I had rounded the corner of the school on my bike. I saw Pip give a glance over his shoulder as he continued to run down passed the winter stripped trees that lined the lane towards the outskirts of town. Where was he going, and in such a hurry I thought as I rubbed my throbbing shin while I coasted.
I caught up to Pip on my bike just as he came to an abrupt stop at the train tracks crossing Rochester just at the edge of town. Not even breathing hard or breaking into a sweat, Pip turned and smiled at me “You got change?”
“Ch Ch Change?” I asked, wondering what the hell he was talking about as I leaned heavily on my bike to catch my breath.
“Yes like a few pennies, that’s all I need.” He looked at me more seriously then, his smile fading with his lips compressed together in seeming patience.
Under that look I felt compelled to dig into my pants pockets and rummage through my book bag for some change. I came up with three bits of pocket lint, a broken Goofey key chain, two pennies, and a very dirty nickel.
“Excellent.” He said as he scooped up the two pennies from my hand and ran down the edge of the tracks away from me.
“Hey! Wa.wai wait up!” I yelled. I thought was beginning to act stranger than he usually did
I caught up to him just sitting on the ground waiting it looked like, for something.
“What’s a mat mat mat matter, gotta prob problem? I asked.
“No, I just wanted to show you something, that’s all.” He held up the two pennies which he had taken from me earlier and placed them on the track rails about six inches apart from each other with a piece of the gum he had been chewing stuck to the bottom of each one. “You ever see a penny after it’s been flattened by a fifty ton box car going by at about forty miles an hour. It’s beautiful. It stretches the skin of the penny so much that all distinguishable marks that were once there are totally gone. What you’re left with is a smooth flat shiny piece of elliptical shaped copper looking nothing like the original. You wanna try it?” He asked with a gleam in his eyes.
“You ha ha have fl fl flipped.” I stared at him, “Is th this why you ra ran? I’ve g g g got better things t to do with m m my time.” I went to get back on my bike.
“No.” he said. I heard the distant shrill of the whistle off around the bend behind the forest of trees. “We have to talk, Jeremy.”
“N No we don’t.” I finally realized why he had dragged me out here. It wasn’t about the stupid pennies at all. “I’m outta here.” I said as I mounted my bike.
“Not until you deal with this.” He said. Pip stepped upon the tracks between the rails.
“Wh what the hell are y you doing?” I yelled at him. Again I heard the train whistle pierce through the trees as it made it’s steady but speedy progress closer to us.
“Seeing what you care about.” Pip calmly stated as he continued to stand there like a statue waiting for a pigeon to land on him.
“Wh what do you wa want from me?” I said getting fed up with his bullshit. The ground started to vibrate as I saw the train peek out from behind the bend and come into full view with its one shining eye turning to look at us.
“For you to save me, of course. I’m not moving from this spot unless you come over here and move me yourself” he said simply.
“St stop bullshitting” I yelled louder at him. The train suddenly seemed a lot bigger as I snatched a look at it again. It couldn’t have been more than a hundred yards away. He couldn’t be serious I thought. Pip’s face was set with purpose and what looked like a grim determination to see it through. God! He was gonna do it. He really was waiting for me. He was crazy! What the hell did I care? I barely knew him anyway. I’ll just turn around, ride home and find out how it turned out on the evening news. I didn’t know I was kidding myself until the point where I saw myself throw the bike to the ground, and run towards Pip. The train was barely fifty yards away and I was ten but it was faster than me. Everything slowed; just like in the movies. I half dove, half leaped at Pip, snatching his jacket with both my hands and yanking him off the tracks to the other side. The train roared by not seeming to notice the two ants they had almost crushed to death beneath their steel feet.
“So you do care!” Pip yelled over the din of the train as it sped past us as he lie there next to me looking up at the sky with my hands still clutching his jacket.
“Of course I saved you, you stupid bastard, what the hell were you thinking? We both could have been killed!” I was filled with such anger that it didn’t seem possible to contain it all.
“I’m thinking you don’t stutter when you’re really mad about something” he said casually as he dislodged my hands from his jacket, got up and dusted himself off.
That’s when I jumped up and hit him full in the face with my fist. I saw Pip stagger back from the hit and rub his jaw and just give me a look. I stood there stunned, not believing what I had just done. The dull throb of my right hand told me the truth.
I had hit someone and I couldn’t take it back.
The last train car passed and the silence of the forest engulfed us both.
“Well what are we gonna do now?” Pip asked as he continued to rub his jaw.
“Tell me wha wha why?” my stutter had returned. I guess Pip was right; my anger was gone, all sucked up.
“I wanted my friend back. The one I had six days ago, the one who gave a shit about something!” he said advancing towards me a little.
“I didn’t g g give a sh shit then either” I said rather calmly to him.
“Something happened after that first day I met you. What?” he asked
“What always hap hap happens; I go home.” I said reluctantly as I studied the dirt beneath my feet.
“What’s at home?” Pip said cautiously to me.
“M My My asshole stepfather who thinks he’s a m man just because he can beat up my m m mom anytime he f f feels like it or knock m me around for a ch ch change of pace when he’s feeling b b bored.” It all spilled out of me. All about my real father dying in a car crash when I was only two, my mom shacking up with Randy a year after, me being thrown through a screen door window at the age of four all because I had accidentally spilled milk on the living room floor. I told him about all the beatings my mom had taken in defense of me and how I had wished night after night for death to come claim him, or me, I didn’t really care which.
I found myself crying and kneeling on the ground with Pip next to me, waiting.
I pushed him away from me. “I d d don’t want or n n need or your he help.” I told him. Pip didn’t say a word. He walked over to the train tracks, bent down, and picked something up from the bed of stone gravel around the railroad ties.
He walked over next to me still kneeling there on the ground. He made an under hand throw at me and two flattened pennies just as he had described shined up at me in the dim afternoon light.
“You might not need my help, but you do need to make a decision.” Pip said quietly.
“Yeah” was all I said.
“The decision to be a person with something to call his own, with something to care about in his life, a purpose for being, or you can go through life never knowing the sheer joy of finding the one thing that makes it all worthwhile; to be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming is the only end in life. Do you want to be like those pennies there; devoid of character and for, lost forever in nothingness, a little trinket thrown in drawer, forgotten under all the other junk?” With that, Pip turned and started to walk back the way we had come.
“You, you are an odd one” I said to his back with a smile.
Pip turned around and gave me a grin. “Well that’s the pot calling the kettle black” he laughed as he turned and walked back to me.
I picked myself up and walked over to meet him. “So wh what now?” I asked serious again.
“That’s up to you, Jeremy. It’s your call.” Pip stared at me intensely waiting for me to make a decision, any decision.
“You sur sure don’t ma make it easy do you?” I asked not really wanting an answer.
“There’s no such thing as easy. That’s what they invented the word ‘hard’ for.” He smiled at me.
“Let’s g go.” I told Pip.
“My home.” I said firmly
I wasn’t sure what my decision was yet as we traveled to my house. I just knew I wanted it all to end and end as soon as possible. My innards tightened as I saw my step-father’s red pickup parked out front in the street. You knew he’d be home I thought to myself. Let’s get this over with. I jumped off my bike and strode towards the kitchen door.
“You have a plan or something?” Pip asked me as he stopped me right before we entered.
“Carpe Diem. Pip. Carpe Diem.” I babbled to him a little lost in my own thoughts. I opened the back door to the kitchen. “Mom!” I yelled to the empty room. The clock over the stove read almost 4 o’clock. She should be getting ready for dinner soon I thought. “Mom!” I yelled again. The only thing I heard was the television from the other room.
“Is that you Jeremy, boy?” I heard my stepfather yell over the television set.
“Where the hell have you been? You’re late getting home! Your mothers been out looking for you, worrying her ass off over you. Come in here!”
Pip and I gave each other a what-the-hell-do-we-do-now look as we stood there in the kitchen waiting. I stuck my hand in my pocket and rubbed the pennies Pip had given me. It calmed me. The knots loosened in my gut and the tension eased. I walked into the living room where he was; a dim lamp on the far wall glowed along with the familiar blue and white flash of the television set as the only source of light in an otherwise dark room which always had the thick shades drawn over ever window. I didn’t look at him; I just marched straight to the television and turned it off. The absence of the noise sounded like a cannon going off in the room. It seemed the room had never known quiet before.
“What the fuck!” my step father yelled as he struggled to get up from his chair. Pathetic, I thought to myself as I looked at him being careful not to spill a drop of his beer as he finally pushed himself to a standing position to tower over me with his full weight bearing him down like a bloated whale trapped on beach. He just stood there in his striped boxer shorts and his beer stained muscle shirt which didn’t quite cover his massive low hanging gut.
“Pathetic.” I said to him
“What did you call me?” he said as he gingerly put his beer down on the end table next to the Lazy Boy.
“You heard me!” I yelled at him this time, for some reason feeling more confident about my situation than I really was. His eyes went wide with surprise and bulged in their sockets as he reached for me with his fat thick hands. I easily dodged his feeble grab for me as Pip stepped out of the way onto the landing of the stairway to watch the show. Pip knew I wanted to handle this by myself and for that I thanked him.
“You’re a fat feeble minded fool who doesn’t deserve to live on this earth much less be married to my mom!” I danced around the room like a monkey in a circus trying to avoid him. He was infuriated. His face was flushed and red with exhaustion and rage as he chased me around the living room. Up over the sofa, back over the sofa, a hop over the Lazy Boy, repeating the chase over and over. All the while I taunted him.
“My mom must have been blind, deaf and dumb to marry someone like you.
Your almost as fat as the fattest person on earth, oh wait, you are the fattest person on earth. You oughta be in the Guinness books” It went on like that for ten minutes. I was apart from everything, disconnected. It was wonderful. I hadn’t noticed that I didn’t stutter once.
“Stand still you little shit.” He said, as he took a moment to catch his breath. I saw that his chest was heaving with exertion and his forehead was damp with sweat. I was really giving him a workout.
“I want you to stop hitting me and mom. Can you do that?” I asked him seriously as I watched him shift his pudgy feet on the floor.
He grinned at me coldly, a lot like Fenster did at school, “Yeah, I’ll stop hitting you right after todays over. Heh heh.” He laughed to himself like he had made the funniest joke ever.
“That’s what I thought.” I said simply. I stepped in closer to him and he grabbed me by my shirt collar and hauled me over the sofa to him,
“Now you’re mine, you little piss ant.” He slobbered in my face and I could smell his rancid meaty breath reach out and make me wanna vomit.
Then my step-father did a funny thing. He gasped and dropped me as he put his hand to his chest. I heard a strange gurgling sound escape from his throat and then he dropped straight to the floor.
“What happened?” I jumped back from him.
He just lie there not breathing, not moving at all.
“I think his body gave out on him.” Pip said as he came down from the stairs to join me.
“Did I kill him?” I said stunned.
Pip bent and sunk two fingers deep into the thick rolls of fat around his neck. “No pulse. Looks like his heart couldn’t take it. I’m not a doctor, but I hardly doubt he would have lasted much longer, it was just a matter of time I’m sure. I wouldn’t feel bad about it. If you do that is. Do you know CPR?” He asked
“No. You?” I said
“Well as far as you know, I don’t.” Pip said looking at him hard in the eye. I just nodded my head in understanding.
We called the ambulance and told them my step-father had suffered some sort of heart attack. They arrived just as my mother came home from searching for me. She was stunned and upset. More stunned I thought than anything. We hugged for awhile while the paramedics covered Randy’s lifeless body and carried him away. I never told my mom what really happened that day. No reason to. It was over.
Pip and I were the best of friends that school year. Fenster received a fat lip for another try at slapping me on the back of my neck. I got detention for it but I was smiling from ear to ear the whole time. My grades improved, somewhat. I even started to make a couple new friends as well that year, but nothing’s perfect as perfect goes. Pip had to leave at the end of the school year because his parents changed jobs with another University about two hundred miles away. I was sorry to see Pip leave and sorry to lose my best friend. I knew deep down that we would always be friends through the years. I knew I had met him for a reason and that reason I’m sure had saved my life.