A Fine Young Man
The yellow Dodge pickup truck missed the curve on the north side of Big Bend Bridge. Smashed into a pine tree. Shattered the windshield. Mr. Cooper who pulled the body out before the gas tank exploded said, “Billy was killed instantly.”
After Ralph’s dad left, Mr. Foster and Fred rushed up the front steps. Roy watched from the living room window and then from the shadows of the dining room when told to leave. Knew something else was wrong.
They stood before Roy’s parents. Followed them to the sofa.
It seemed like hours before either Foster said anything. Both with red faces and redder ears, staring around like they were somewhere never seen before.
Mr. Foster held his hat before his belly. His chubby fingers inching around the brim like Mr. Cooper’s skinny ones had earlier. Bowed his head. Looked like a kid on display for company.
Fred kept wiggling and squirming. Rubbing his neck. Scratching a knee, twisting and untwisting his arms. Running his fingers through his wire kinks.
His mama and dad sat together waiting.
Then like lightning Fred’s face fell. Tears poured. Flung his hands over his eyes sobbing, shoulders shaking violently back and forth.
Roy was embarrassed and sad like seeing a friend acting a fool in public. Fred was Billy’s age. Fred and Billy were best pals. Roy called Fred, “Dodo Bird”. Said mean things about his basketball playing. Was crazy jealous thinking his brother liked Fred more. Knew that was stupid and silly, but did. Even though his mama said, “Blood is thicker than water.”
Finally between sniffles and swallows, Fred stared at the floor and mumbled in a weak voice like choking. “Billy and me left practice. Drove over to Elsewood because I got kicked off the team.” Here his voice stopped like Billy slamming on brakes in the middle of the road that morning. Then burst out all at once in a squeaky cartoon voice. “Got somebody to buy us beer.”
Fred lifted his head. Face swollen larger. Eyes bloodshot more. Fingers spread like branches before him. “I’m sorry!”
The grown-ups didn’t seem to hear him or Roy falling against the swinging door. Again he felt like Wilbur Moore had punched him in the stomach. Busted his lip. Blackened his eye. Tore his clothes. The pain was worse than falling on the pitchfork points up, eating candy with every tooth rotten.
His mama screamed. Jerked away from his dad. Leaped forward like the Indians on TV. “You killed Billy!” she hollered pounding Fred’s chest. “You killed my boy!”
His dad jumped up and grabbed her around the waist. Held her like Roy did Sam. Swung her around, her feet leaving the floor. Then they were face-to-face. His mama’s sobs buried into his dad’s chest.
Roy grabbed the doorsill pulling up.
His dad, closer than a guard in basketball, jerked his finger in Fred’s face. “You should’ve been in that pickup too!”
Fred ran out into the night screaming and hollering for God to strike him dead.
Roy hated Fred more than the Devil. No matter what Martha or the Bible says. (more)