When my brother Ryan was 5 or 6, and still relatively normal, he had a friend named Timmy who lived across the street from the cul-de-sac where our house was before we moved to Georgia. Timmy’s family was a nice one; he had a baby sister, his dad drove a big Lincoln Mark IV and his mom was a nice, blond lady named Nancy who stayed home just like our mother did. Nancy and my mom became fast friends, and that’s how Timmy and Ryan got to be best friends too.
So, when my best friend Bill came for his summer visit with us that year, he not only had to put up with Ryan’s pestering parasitic presence, but he had to deal with Timmy tagging along from time to time too.
The neighborhood was relatively new and more and more houses were crowding around our pie-piece shaped tract lot. Saplings were desperately struggling to take root and neighbors desperate to keep up with the Joneses were dropping in sod and sprinkler systems every weekend it seemed. We lost access to a lot of the places we used to play as those open areas transformed into frames for houses and fences began springing up like ragweed on the sides of the rolling hills surrounding the sun-baked suburb. We had to go farther away from home to find open areas to play in, and my parents were in an ugly battle with a Frenchman who bought the house behind them over the fence that needed to go up and the property line.
That summer Bill brought his bike with him, so we could take bike rides and get away from Ryan and Timmy from time to time. Other times my mother left us “in charge” to watch Ryan while she was shopping or getting drunk. We’d stay in the cool of the central air conditioning and play inside when she was busy, and the most fun game we had was torture Ryan.
We got back from my grandmother’s house late the night before, so the next day was the first day that Bill and I were able to start enjoying his stay. We had long, hot days to enjoy and it was always okay for us to stay up late when Bill was there. We had to be quiet, of course, but we could stay up late. So it was going to be fun.
First on the agenda was a trip to a tiny little candy shop positioned behind the Stop-N-Go just a short bike ride from the new development. It was in one of the older parts of town, but the roads had been extended and wound up the steep hill to where our new houses were, so there was a line on the street where the old pavement stopped and the new pavement had been added just a couple of years before. The old streets were pock-marked and pot-holed with years of abuse and disrepair, and the tinier houses from the past era were swarmed by large, mature trees that shaded the yards and made the sidewalks buckle from beneath as the roots pushed under them. The steep hills that led down to Railroad Avenue from the side streets were a fun bike trip and we’d peddle down as fast as we could through the quiet neighborhood, whooping and yelling and being kids.
We’d be given an allowance for Bill’s visit. It was generally five dollars, which in the middle ’70s was a lot of money for two kids under 12. Naturally, we’d blow it all on candy, but it wasn’t as easy to do then as it is now. The miniature grocery store nestled in the bottom of an ancient two-storey stucco building had one of the best candy selections in town. We bought a lunch-bag full of stuff and had spent less than a dollar. Bill took those opportunities to tell me about all the new candy brands and types he’d tried since he last came, and pointed and said “Those are great, get some o’ those,” or “Aw, these are so damned good!” It was always so cool when Bill swore. I have no idea why.
So, the next trick was getting ourselves back to the house — it was uphill all the way — with our booty in hand. Boys didn’t have baskets on their bikes, of course. And, to make it worse, the bike my parents had purchased for me had shock absorbers on the front and a dense, heavy metal frame. It weighed about 10,000 pounds and scrawny, geeky-assed me had to peddle that son of a gun up hill for what felt like 10 miles.
By the time we got back home, I was exhausted, hot and sweaty. We walked into my room and were greeted by Ryan and Timmy.
I knew by the look on Ryan’s face that this was going to be his chance to show off in front of Timmy. He had that little brother sneer that tells you right away he’s going to try and push buttons and say things to tick you off, so that when you retaliate the scream for mom could be sounded. And my mother, overly protective of Ryan since he’d been run over by a truck at two years old, would rush in and get in the faces of the older kids to leave him and his friend alone. It never mattered who started it; it only mattered who was loudest. That was Ryan every time, all the time, bar none.
“Hey, who’s this?” Bill said, thrusting his chin at Timmy in greeting. Timmy shied away, and Bill got a quizzical look on his face, looking to me for cues.
“It’s Ryan’s friend Timmy,” I intoned heavily. “He lives across the street. What are you guys doing here, Ryan?”
“I live here too, JD!” Ryan said, his voice dripping with contempt.
“Yeah, not my choice. Bill, let’s get out of here,” I said quickly.
“Why?” Bill said casually, dropping onto my bed and bouncing. Ryan and I shared a room, and always had to my memory. But when Bill came to stay, he and I would stay out in the living room in sleeping bags. My mother always left the “spare” room for “guests” that never came. She never once considered separating Ryan and me, and when Bill came, he didn’t want to sleep there by himself.
Ryan was on his bed with Timmy standing next to him. Timmy was a nerdy little kid at five or so; he had what seemed like a big head, with his platinum blond locks and ice blue eyes peering out of his milky white skin. He had a mealy-mouse little voice that almost always whined, and a mono-toned laugh that was more squeal than giggle. He was pretty well-spoken and a hell of a lot quieter than Ryan, but he had a pants-wetting problem that his mother was trying to figure out and solve.
“Because we don’t want to be around these turkeys,” I said, staring right at Ryan, knowing what he was up to. “Turkey” was vernacular for jerk at the time, and Ryan was still sneering at me.
“Nah, they’re cool,” Bill said. “Want some candy?” He held out his open bag to Ryan and Timmy, and they hesitated only a second before diving in.
“Hey, just one!” he snapped, trying to close the bag as they tore into his stash like vultures.
“Mom says you have to share,” Ryan snapped, getting snippy. Here it comes, I thought. Not even 24 hours and it’s starting already. I knew the shout for my mother wasn’t far away now.
“I did share, you little prick,” Bill snapped back, and I instinctively blushed at his foul language in front of Timmy. I still thought it was cool, though. It made Bill seem more “bad” when he swore, and his use of words forbidden from our own vocabulary always attracted me.
“Mom –” Ryan started.
Bill stood up quickly, menacing Ryan with one fist clenched over his candy sack. “Shut up you little ass! I did share with you, butterball.”
Timmy was cowering between Bill and Ryan, who were squared off between the beds in the room. Mine was against one wall, with the foot of the bed pointing toward the door, and Ryan’s was against the opposite wall, on the other side of the room with a window between them and the closet at the foot of his. There were two nightstands between them and the ventilation register set into the floor. Other than that, the only thing separating the two was Timmy.
“I’m gonna tell my mom if you don’t get out of here and give me s
ome candy,” Ryan threatened, sitting forward on the bed in defiance of Bill. I don’t think Bill was used to being defied by little kids, or even kids his own age. Bill was used to getting what he wanted when he threatened other kids, and when he didn’t, he followed through on his threats. He’d grown up in a much more urban setting, in a much larger town, full of very different, city-smart and street-toughened kids. White-bread suburbia was different for him, and Ryan was a spoiled little snot with a mouth like a foghorn who knew that his mother was going to intervene every time he mouthed off and got into trouble.
“I did give you some, you little shit,” Bill spat, getting angry now. “You didn’t even say ‘thank you’ either, butterball.” He always called portly Ryan butterball. He said he looked like one of those Thanksgiving turkeys you get at the store with his waddling girth and double-chin.
“I don’t have to say ‘thank you’ — my mom says you have to share, so you have to give it to me.”
“Oh, I’ll give it to you all right, you fat little punk — right up your ass I’ll give it to you!”
Bill had lost his temper, and he moved forward and gave Ryan a firm stiff-arm shove to the shoulder, sending him backwards onto the bed.
Unfortunately, timid Timmy didn’t have the brains to get out of the way, and Bill’s body pushed the twiggy little whelp aside and down onto his butt, hard on the floor.
“Oh, sorry, kid,” Bill started, but it was too late. Timmy wailed and tears gushed down his cheeks as he made the loudest sounds I’d ever heard him make.
Bill’s face drained of color as he reached for Timmy’s hand, but Timmy was sitting square on the floor with his head hung and his eyes closed, with that siren sound vibrating our eardrums and bouncing off the walls, rattling the window in its frame.
“Hey!” Bill yelled, trying to be heard, “Hey, it’s okay! You’re okay, it’s no big deal! Calm down!”
“Here, Timmy, have some candy!” I shouted, holding out my open candy bag and trying to see down the hall, looking for that inevitable shadow of my mother rushing to murder us for making a child cry.
“Stop! Stop crying! It’s okay!” Bill said, then looked at me helplessly. “Is this guy some kind of sissy or something?” he asked.
“Well … yeah, but …” I stammered.
Bill had an idea. He dropped his bag on my bed and picked Timmy up quickly and put him over his shoulders behind his neck.
Timmy was startled into silence. “How about a ride in a helicopter, Timmy?” Bill said happily, trying to inject lightness in his tone to brighten Timmy more.
“Hey, put me down!” Timmy laughed, starting to giggle.
I started to warn him, “Bill, you don’t want to do that, he has a prob–“
Too late. Bill started spinning, with Timmy extended and stiff out on either side of his head, spinning like a helicopter’s propeller.
“Here we go, gettin’ ready for take off!” Bill said, and he spun a bit faster. Timmy was laughing uncontrollably, loudly, and Bill started making what he imagined were helicopter sounds.
“Bill, I don’t think you should –“
“Okay, let’s get up some speed and really move now!” Bill continued, and Ryan was laughing and squealing loudly along with Timmy, who was absolutely shrieking and turning red with mirth.
“Bill, I really think this isn’t a good idea, he’s –“
“Look out, JD!” Bill said, “here it comes for a landing!”
I closed my eyes and shook my head, brushing my long, unruly hair out of my eyes and sat on the foot of my bed, trying to stay out of the way. Gradually, slowly, Bill slowed the momentum of the boy and began to wind to a stop. Then he bent down and flipped Timmy over his shoulders to set the little tow head down on his feet between the beds again.
“There!” he beamed proudly, “wasn’t that more fun than …”
He stopped mid-sentence, looking at me. I had my hand on my forehead, a pained expression clearly stamped on my face, not looking at Timmy.
Bill’s face sank out of his broad smile, and he turned to look at Timmy.
There was a large, dark wet spot between Timmy’s legs, spread in almost a perfect circle out from the crotch. In the exact spot where Bill had him perched on his shoulders.
Bill’s eyes widened in horror. “Oh my God!” he whispered. “You pissed?? You pissed on me??” He was completely incredulous.
Timmy looked calmly at Bill.
“Well, you were spinning me and spinning me and …” Then he shrugged with his hands outstretched as though there were nothing more to say, no more explanation than that needed.
Silently, jaw slightly agape, Bill strode out of the room and past the linen closet just outside our bedroom door, into the bathroom beyond. The door closed and the lock clicked.
I looked over at Ryan and Timmy. They stood and moved quickly.
“Timmy’s gotta go home and change now,” Ryan said hurriedly. “Tell mom I went to his house.”
They raced down the hall and I watched behind them as they vanished into the foyer. Directly down the hall, I could see my mother through the sliding glass door of the dining nook, puttering in the garden. She’d never heard any of it.
A second later, the front door slammed shut. An instant after that, I heard the shower running in the bathroom.