So this kid, mine, whatever, he's sitting on the loveseat like an ugly girl waiting to be picked up for a date. Says he's going trick or treating, only he doesn't have a bag and as the silver pick up truck pulls up on the side street-- it never comes in the driveway-- he tells me it doesn't matter as he dashes out the door. Part of me supposes he's going to get a bag somewhere else, but given that he doesn't have a costume, the bigger part of me knows it's bullshit. That he's not going trick or treating at all. He's going somewhere with the guys in the silver pickup truck. The brand new one. The driver's parents bought it for his 16th birthday, on account of being blind, deaf, and dumb, to who their own kid actually is.
Which is the neighborhood dope dealer. I've been soft peddling it in my head, but there it is. This little wanker, he avoids my eyes when I look at him. This kid, mine, whatever, he sidled up to the passenger window of this truck yesterday, maybe the day before as well, like a snake crawling up the backyard wall. If I'm cool and flat enough, the wanker, the one with the silver pickup truck, will like me, thinks this kid. And that's all he really wants of course. Same thing every teenage kid wants, to be liked. To fly under the radar 24 7 and still be noticed for something ineffable yet at the same time solid.
This, of course, is impossible. But this kid, mine, whatever, he doesn't know that yet. And this night, Halloween, he gets into the truck with no hesitation. No sidling required at all.
Seven, 8, 9. Late by my estimation on a school night, but what do I know? Ten, 11, long past the time the sweet goblins and ghosts have been tucked into their beds. But this kid, mine, whatever, is nowhere to be seen. At least not if "nowhere" means our house. He's definately not to be seen anywhere around this particular nowhere. I ring the cellphone and after 4 or 5 rings, no one picks up. The next time I call it goes straight through to voice mail. Same the next time, and the next time. I leave a text message. Says, "Call me." Nothing. This kid, mine, whatever, he has checked out.
I worry. The last time this happened, he got his father evicted from his apartment. Long story, but believe me when I tell you, it has something to do with the wanker in the silver pickup truck. I don't know if he had the silver pickup truck back then. Probaby, his parents bought it for him as a reward for getting my husband thrown out of his apartment. "Aren't you clever, little no-eye-contact-wanker." "Here, have a pickup truck and while we're at it, let us light that bongload for you. The fact that you exist, sure enough, is proof positive of our parenting skills."
"Here, maybe you can run yourself over with this shiny new pickup truck. And while you're at it, go ahead and run over this kid, her's, whatever. The one that sidles up the side by the passenger window like a cobra stoned on Mexican dirtweed from Guadalajara."
Parenting has very low standards these days.
Me, I'm trying to keep cool. Reading a page turner by Greg Iles, a capable enough page turner writer I guess, but no sense of humor at all. How do such people survive day to day, that's what I'm wondering. Don't they know that what they're writing is trite? That all the death and rape and sadism has been done a million times before? So what if they come up with a new way to kill people. Death is boring. So fucking boring. Death is the most boring thing ever. There's so much of it around. Mud is more interesting. Dirt, dust, laundry is more interesting than death. I could feel more stimulation watching motes change trajectory when my eyes blink, than I do hearing about more death.
I ring the cell phone again. It's 11:35. This kid, mine, whatever, answers all chirpy-like. Hi Mom, what's going on, having a smashing game of pingpong and drinking Mountain Dew spiked with cough syrup, thank you very much.
Course by now, I've left several nasty messages along the lines of, "this turning off your cellphone doesn't work at all. If you don't call me back in 15 minutes, you're losing it." The 15 minutes has long since passed. He's already lost it.
"Do you know what time it is?" I say.
"It's Halloween!" he says.
"On a school night! You still have to get up in the morning at the regular time."
"Okay, I'll be right home."
Minutes later, a truck pulls up in the driveway. I want to pull down my boxers and moon all the little bastards, but of course that will only get them all worked up and they'll never go away. Eventually, after much gay banter, no doubt along the lines of, "you're so busted, dude," the truck drives away. This kid, mine whatever however, is nowhere to be seen.
Close to midnight and I want to go to bed. He's sitting in the gravel on the driveway, and when he hears the door open, gets up.
"You been smoking pot?" He's got no candy. Not a Snickers, not a Butterfinger. Not a candybar to be seen.
"What the fuck? You said you were going trick or treating. It's nearly fucking midnight!" He's slinked in, is pouring apple juice from the pitcher, cap pulled low over his brow. "Who were you with?"
"Perry." Perry the wanker. Perry the Pear. Perry the punk with the sway and the dough. The cut-off kid and I don't give a fuck. Not anymore than I give a fuck for scabies or a persistant case of ringworm.
This kid, mine, whatever, he says he's sorry. Comes over and hugs me. He never does that. I can count the number of times he's hugged me on one foot, even if I'd blown 4 of my toes off with a pistol, I could still do it.
I figure he must be on acid or something.
Greg Iles is waiting in the bedroom, with his flat dead prose and his hundred ways of killing somebody. He ain't much, but he's all I got.