I’ve always looked like a good little boy, but I’m not. I’m very bad, and because I’m still somewhat of a “kid” it makes doing what I want easier. Generally speaking, I usually only want to do bad things. People expect and accept that children and teenagers will act impulsively—especially ones that look as normal and harmless as me. I look just like my brother, Mike. He’s not like me though; he’s good. Mike and I are the Wonderbread boys who look like we played second base in Little League. Our friends’ younger sisters have our initials etched next to their own on notebook covers. We shovel driveways, rake leaves, and basically just give off the essence and smell of apple pie, fresh baked.
I’m fifteen and Mike is three years older than me. He was just named a “Bean Scholar,” which means he’s getting a free ride to Holy Cross for his Latin skills. His girlfriend is going too, but she’s not on Mike’s level in terms of Classical scholarship, although she is quite intelligent in her own right. He’s happy, and I’m happy for him. In all the old photographs, I look identical to Mike, except for my fat teeth. I still have six baby teeth in my mouth—three bicuspids (all upper), one pre-molar (left side), a bottom incisor (far right), and one canine (top, right). My canine is very rare, according to Dr. Brown, my dentist; it’s also the only tooth that visibly looks a little off, when I smile. I try to eat soft things, so that I don’t jostle it too much. It’s my favorite physical trait, except for being rather tall. Side by side, I started to pass Mike out, in terms of height, by the age of nine.
I know when I beat Mike, because my dumb mother marks the height of us on the doorframe of the pantry. She still does it to this day, and Frank, my other older brother, is in freaking college! He’s a sophomore at Loyola in Chicago. He’s the shortest out of the three of us, and he might be the only person who finds the tradition more annoying than me. He’d never say anything though, because Frank’s like Mike—he’s good too. My mother doesn’t like me. She knows something’s up. She’s always known, but I got unlucky recently…she caught me electrocuting a bird in the basement last week.
We had a trap for a rogue chipmunk that had found its way into our living room about three years ago. Full metal cage about the size of a breadbox, with doors that collapse once the animal gets inside. In the middle of the trap, there’s a little bait tray on a metal platform, which balances on a sensitive spring connected to both doors. The animal moves the tray, which triggers the spring, which snaps the doors shut. We used the trap once for the chipmunk, and then for the next three years, it just sat on top of piles of junk in the unfinished section of our basement, next to the washer and dryer. I thought that I was being rather innovative when I put the dead Cardinal inside of the trap and clipped it to the electrical box. I used regular birdseed from the feeder out front to lure it in. Once I caught the bird, I brought it downstairs and submerged the cage, with the bird inside, in the washbasin. The Cardinal’s wings flapped the entire time. I had already filled the tub about half way up with water, so the whole deal didn’t take very long. I really don’t dawdle much. I put on rubberized gloves and then attached the red and black voltage clips. It went “pop” not “zap.”
After playing with the guts and feathers for a reasonable amount of time, I looked up and saw her. She was coming downstairs to put another load of laundry in. A load of whites. She dropped the basket—to be dramatic—and the dust got everywhere. This all happened right as I was about to remove the Cardinal’s beak with the periodontal probe that I lifted from Dr. Brown the last time I got my teeth cleaned. I never got to finish. This all happened about a week ago and since then, she’s been colder towards me. Looking back, I don’t think the event was worth it. It didn’t merit the inconvenience of her current attitude towards me—especially since I didn’t get to use my new instrument. But, whatever…I never cared much for her anyway. I think I might even get Mike’s car when he leaves, because he’s cheap and doesn’t want to pay for parking in Worcester. There’s an Amtrak right there if he gets “homesick.” So, luckily, I’ll see less and less of her very soon. She can be quite irritating. Even that measurement thing. The day I passed out Mike, she almost messed it up. How hard is it to hold a freaking pencil? I was nine. I remember being nine. I remember what I did from my new high place of authority. It’s the perfect age to do what you want to do, which, remember, in my case is always something “bad.” I did what I wanted that day and it was a little bit bad, but it was also incredibly brilliant.
I was in fourth grade—I had just seen The Terminator for the first time, and I wanted to know what a lot of “real” blood looked like. The biggest rock I could find wasn’t very pointy, but it did the job. It was the end of the day, and Chip Greenberg was clapping erasers on the back steps of Sacred Cross Elementary. He was waiting for me, or at least he was supposed to. From the roof, where I stood, rock in hand, I could see that he had started without me. Little Shit.
The first smack of erasers is obviously the best. Like two felt cymbals, slamming them together yields a magical cloud of dust that wafts around your face. Kids actually love breathing this in, at least I did. It’s a flat inhale that stops dry in the back of your throat, like swallowing the yolk of a hardboiled egg. One cough later, and it’s over. By the time you get to the third or fourth clap, you can’t suck anything out of it. The act is just for show. The cloud dissipates and the high vanishes.
Chip looked like a wind-up toy monkey banging those erasers together. He was a weird kid; he had glasses, of course, and his hair was a dirty salad with too much oil and a sprinkling of dandruff. When he ate lunch, he always brought corn flakes in a small Tupperware container that his mom probably purchased off an infomercial. He refused to use milk or a spoon. As if preparing to look under a microscope, he would remove his thick glasses, rub his eyes, and place his frames on his lunch tray. Then, similar to a snake whose venom was being collected, Chip would bite into the side of his cup. His mouth expanded so wide over the clear plastic lip that if it weren’t for his nose, his tongue could have touched the bottom of the container. Like a spoon undergoing the first few stirs in cookie batter, his tongue didn’t have much control. Rough and fat from being fully extended, it crunched the cereal back and forth and side to side. A few flakes would stick to his tongue, he’d swallow and repeat. That was how Chip Greenberg ate his lunch every day.
I dropped the rock. Chip must have decided to look at the sky at this exact moment, because instead of hitting the top of his skull, the rock smashed into his forehead. If it wasn’t for his glasses, he probably would have lost one or both of his eyes. I peeked one more time over the ledge, before turning and walking down the stairs. Resisting sliding on the railings and jumping flights, I made it to the first floor without making a lot of noise. Then, I ran down the long hallway, flanked on either side by colorful bulletin boards, covered with glue-stained construction paper creations. I kicked the archaic drinking fountains on my way, letting out a metallic “Clang!” with each pass of my foot. I was trotting swiftly and the finger paintings outside of Mrs. Tolerico’s Kindergarten class waved as I went by. By the time I had gotten to Mrs. Culick’s classroom, my running on the tiled hall had made so much noise that her door was open when I arrived. She stood there with her caterpillar eyebrows raised, anticipating the worst.
“What’s wrong, Vincent?”
“It’s Chip. He fell down the steps. “
I took off, anxious to finally get a closer view. Mrs. Culick was severely obese. It was a difficult task for her to patrol our spelling tests, much less keep up with me. In a relay-race, I was a God. If it wasn’t for the damn “V-sit-and-reach,” I would have gotten “Presidential” in the fitness test every year, but I’ve never been flexible. I still can’t touch my toes. In addition to the trouble of her having to thump rather than run out of the building, she would never leave our class unattended. I had some time to view the half-granite and half-human splatter of a masterpiece that was Chip Greenberg.
I thrust myself through the door that lead out to the playground. Chip was on his back. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. A third of his forehead was a pit of trauma. The center of the gash was a dark grainy splurge of popsicle red amidst a spray of wetness. Scarlet tributaries spider-webbed across his face. He wasn’t unconscious anymore. His mousey eyes blinked under rusted eyebrows caked with dirt, chalk, and blood. The erasers were scattered across the cement steps. I picked up the rock next to his head, and chucked it into the bushes. Then, I stood over Chip and watched him regain consciousness in a puddle of himself. He looked odd. Not because he had a hole in his head, but because he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
Four Eyes, One Rock
About The Writer
Kate Scarpetta is a professional golfer, who currently resides in Orlando, FL. In 2011, she graduated from Princeton, where she obsessed over John Keats and the etymology of words for four years. She attributes the definition in her arms to a childhood spent climbing trees in Crystal Lake, PA. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, The Coachella Review, and Word Riot. More of Kate's writing can be found here: www.katescarpetta.com.