by Robert S Dawson
When they stepped up onto the sidewalk she gripped his arm as tightly as she could. The crowd was just off the property line, shouting and waiving their black leather bound bibles over their heads in broken halos. As Jessie gripped him tighter, feeling the sting of their words in her heart, he stood up straighter and looked out at them in an unwavering glare. They called them names and spat at them, but Jack kept his even glare on them all the way to the only door in. When he turned to hold the door open for her, he could see in her face that it was hurting her inside; words sometimes cut deeper than any sword ever could.
“We don’t have to do this,” he said, caressing her cheek with his hand.
She smiled at him through her tears, but pulled her cheek away and walked inside. Before he followed her in, he gave one last look to the crowd as they shouted and cursed and damned them. “Baby killer,” they shouted. “Murderer,” they screamed. He looked into their faces and for a moment thought he saw his own mother in the crowd. It would not have surprised him, but this crowd appeared to be Baptist or some other type of Protestant denomination, and his mother was strictly Catholic.
Inside was warm compared to the chill from the crowd outside. A woman was handing papers to Jessie from a window in the wall. He walked up behind her and heard them discussing the crowd outside.
“Awe, honey,” said the woman. “This ain’t nothing. You should see them on Sundays. You’d think they’d all be in church if their so good, instead of out here tormenting these poor girls.” Then the woman wised up to what she was saying, how she was calling Jessie a poor girl, and fell silent.
“Fill out both sides of the form and bring it back, please,” said the woman.
Most of the chairs were occupied in the huge, three-part lobby. Jessie sat down in the first part of the lobby. Jack had to stand next to her.
“No, no. That’s small potatoes. I want to do blockbusters, man. I want Nolan, Gibson, and Spielberg to drink at the bar with me.”
Neil laughed. “That’s bullshit man. You can try. But you ain’t getting out of this shit hole.”
“Watch me,” said Jack.
Again Neil laughed. He sat forward on the tie and sipped the beer he had still wrapped in the brown paper bag. “A’ight, then. We’ll see.”
The lake sat frighteningly still as they dangled their feet from the trestle. It was nearly a thirty foot drop from where they sat in the middle of the half mile structure. All along the sides of the lake, youthful green leaves whispered with the wind that swept through the aged trees. Houses and boulders were scattered amongst the old oaks and pines. On the stone faced cliff to their left were the Furr boys who jumped from it one by one, wailing all the way down, then climbing, smiling, up the jagged rock face to do it all over again.
For one random moment the world was still, there was not a single sound.
“So what are we doing tonight, Jack?” he asked.
“I don’t know, man, I got a lot of homework and shit.” Jack sipped his beer and kept his eyes off at the curve of the lake, the sun burning in deep reddening clouds over the treetops. The wind’s breath became quick and cold.
“Since when do you do homework? Come on man, let’s go get a blunt and kill some Terrorists.” Neil tilted his beer up taking several gulps.
Jack took a little sip. “I can’t man.”
“Don’t be a fucking pussy, Jack.”
Neil finished his beer and tossed the bottle down the track about twenty yards where it smashed against the railroad tie and rained glass against the massive steel beams below. He dropped the bag which fell faster than they expected to the water below.
“Whoa, watch your beer, Jack!”
Jack had leaned forward tipping his beer allowing several sips to escape to the lake bellow.
“Oh, shit, my fault.”
“No shit, your fault. You’re holding the fucking beer.”
Jack shrugged and sipped his beer again.
“And why are you drinking like a pussy?”
Houses sat somberly amongst the trees around the lake, looking out at them. Their windows appeared as eyes, dark and vacant, yet still judging and harsh as their makers had been. He wondered if anyone had seen Neil smash that bottle. People in small towns are quick to call the police on young boys, for whatever reason. One cloud of marijuana at McDonald’s and they think the world is going to hell and the only cure is a Jesus enema.
“Why you sippin’ that beer like your momma’s tit?”
“A’ight, man, chill. I’m going to a girl’s house, man. I can’t be drinking and driving.”
Neil’s face, which was scarred but at least happy, went cold. “What girl?”
“Don’t worry about it, man. You don’t know her.”
“Maybe not,” Neil said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re blowing me off for her.”
“Whatever,” Jack said, “you ditch me for girls all the time.”
“But I still drink and smoke up with ya.”
Jack nodded. “I’ll smoke,” he said. “But I can’t drink, man. Really.”
“Come on dude. Don’t fucking do this,” said Neil shaking his head in dire sorrow. “Don’t be whipped, man.”
“Don’t worry,” Jack said. “I’ve got this under control.”
“You can’t even keep yourself under control,” Neil said. “How do you expect to control something like pussy?”
Jack grimaced at the last, warm, spit filled sip of beer and tossed the bottle down the track. It hit a tie then bounced into another tie, bounced off it into the bent, into a beam and into the water unbroken.