Return to Smalltown (place)
Cruelty for amusement is only amusing to fools.
Three of us were cruising around in cars, as kids will do when all they care to do is get the hell away from the ones who raised them. The ones who spent every last dime they had on them. The ones who stayed up at night worrying about them. The ones who would have stood in front of that missile and caught it. The ones who only wanted to make their children bulletproof. . . (Wish I was.)
We were so far past too cool for school. We were the masters of our little town. And the smallness of the locale could not begin to measure up to the smallness of our behavior. One breeds the other, I suppose. I guess that's why so many kids stay where they were raised, no matter how gruesome the prospects. "Local townie kid gets new position as assistant manager in Farm Equipment Department! (At age 32.)" Headlines in some little 6-page newspaper. He'll cut that article out and put it in a folder. The ones he'll spend every last dime on will toss it in the dumpster when it's time.
We were cruising behind the one mall in that small desperate town. There was a classmate on his bicycle. It was as if three alley cats had spotted a bug which they had no interest in eating, but which might be amusing as a temporary toy. The driver pulled up to the kid on his bike. He was not a popular kid in school. He was what would be considered a bottom feeder.
Now I think back on it and wonder who his parents were. I wonder if he had brothers and sisters, and how they treated him. I wonder where he lived and what he was doing behind that mall that day on his bicycle. But, most of all, I wonder if he remembers what happened next.
I was in the passenger seat and the driver and my other good buddy in the back seat usually looked to me for the primary entertainment on these outings. The car stopped by our classmate on his bike. I rolled down the window and asked how things were going. As he was answering me, swelling with pride that the cool kids had bothered to stop and speak with him; probably thinking of how he could perhaps leave that bike behind the mall and actually get in the car. Thinking of how this could be the turning point in his high school career and could change everything forever.
I harked up a huge loogie and spat it on the side of his face.
As the driver peeled rubber leaving the scene of this small and horrible crime, I have never felt worse in my life. No matter how much it could have hurt this young boy, it could not have done as much permanent and unyielding harm to him as I'd done to myself.
I look in Classmates to see if I can find his name, in an effort to beg forgiveness all these years later. His name is not there. Fall on me. Black hole sun, swallow me in the lip-stretching fashion of some gravitational horror. At least do me the favor of wiping me free of this memory.
I lift my arms up to the sky and ask the sky and beg the sky. I do not want to have to tell this story to Satan every afternoon for His amusement.