Flash Fiction Challenge 100 – Day 100
“Don’t tease him today, okay, Tommy?” Timmy pleads.
Timmy and Tommy have been best friends since second grade. Now both boys are in fifth grade and walking home from school together. Ordinarily, they walked James Street to school. But for the past two weeks, they decided to walk the sidewalk along Alanis Boulevard. Johnny Kilmer had it on good authority that Patricia Turner’s older sister, Tammy, was home from college and would sunbathe every afternoon in Tricia Hightower’s backyard in a two-piece swimsuit. Both boys wanted to see the coed.
They had been walking this route for almost two weeks now. The school year would be over in another three. They still had had no luck seeing Tammy.
“This is stupid. We’re never going to see Tammy.” Tommy says disgustedly as the pair of them turn away from the two best cracks in the Hightower wooden fence and continue on their way home.
“So maybe not tease him today? Reggie, I mean. Okay, Tommy?” Timmy asks again.
Reggie is the Wallace’s dog, and he is scared of his own shadow. Every time Tommy teases him, he runs and hides behind their shed, shivering, shaking, and peeing the whole way.
“Didja hear? The O’Reilly’s are getting a new dog? Doris is picking it up today, and I hear it’s a big one; a Caucasian Russian mountain dog. That’s what Tracey says anyway,” Tommy says. He didn’t hear or chooses not to answer Timmy’s question.
“So about Reggie, maybe…, “
“Jesus Christ! I heard you. If you shut up about it for two damn seconds, then yeah, I’ll probably leave Reggie alone today. For Chrissakes, you sure are sensitive sometimes.”
That was and had always been true. None of Timmy’s friends or family could ever understand why Tommy, a kid that was well on his way to being a school jock, one of the cool ones, possibly even a grade ‘A’ asshole, ever saw in Timmy. Timmy was a sweet kid, but he and Tommy were very different.
They walk on past the Hightower place, past the Schmidts, and approach the O’Reilly backyard. From the angle of their approach, they can see the side yard with the garage facing that short alleyway. They catch a glimpse of Doris walking an enormous dog from her minivan and into their fenced-in backyard.
Something was off with Doris, though.
“Did she look drunk to you, Timmy? She was walking kinda funny, wasn’t she?”
The boys pause their walk. A few seconds later, Doris O’Reilly exits her backyard.
“Good afternoon Mrs. O’Reilly,” Tommy says.
Doris doesn’t hear the greeting and continues her jerky, likely drunk, walk back to the minivan. She climbs in, backs out, and takes off back down Alanis with a far greater velocity than is strictly legal.
“Huh. That was weird. Maybe Doris fell off the wagon, you think?” Timmy says.
“Don’t know, don’t care. Let’s see if we can get a peek at it. Christ, that was a big bastard, wasn’t it?”
They run across Alanis towards the O’Reilly backyard. Four of the five dogs in the neighborhood immediately start barking at the sound of their shoes pounding across the pavement.
The boys stop a second to catch their breath and approach the fenced-in yard.
“Huh? Does that look like a new fence to you?” Tommy asks.
Something is wrong here; we shouldn’t be here.
“Like I pay attention to fences all of a sudden,” Timmy says. But as he approaches it, he sees that Tommy is right. It looks the same, superficially, but when he touched it, he recoiled. The fence was cold. And it was 90 degrees today.
The five dogs are still barking and howling like mad.
Timmy takes his heavy English book and knocks it against the fence. The hollow reverb sound is weird. As soon as the reverb dies down, the new dog decides to introduce itself. It begins barking up a storm.
Both boys are startled. The barks are unlike any they’ve ever heard – deeper, louder, more penetrating. Apparently, the five other dogs agree; they sense some innate wrongness in the new dog with his ungodly, almost demonic bark, and all but one decides that now is as good a time as any to shut the hell up. The fifth dog, Reggie, the Yorkie in the yard east of the O’Reilly place, begins whimpering and crying.
“Holy shit! That’s a devil dog if ever there was one, huh?” Tommy says.
The new dog barks once more, a deep resonating sound. Even Reggie is silent now.
Perhaps Reggie has dropped dead of a heart attack?
Tommy has begun retracing his steps back towards the western edge of the fence, carefully looking for any gaps through which to see the new dog.
“Maybe we should get home?” Timmy asks.
“Just hold your water man, I want to see this dog,” Tommy says.
Tommy reaches out and touches the fence.
“Christ, that’s cold.”
To this, the new dog barks one soul-wilting, bladder-emptying bark that would’ve sent Timmy running away if he had been there alone. He doesn’t want Tommy to think he’s a coward and forces himself to stay a bit longer. Timmy plans to say he’s bored, call Tommy a wanker, and walk home in a few minutes.
“There are no gaps, Tommy, so unless you’re ready to climb over, I suggest we call it a day,” Timmy says, hoping that Tommy will give this up now. There’s something very not right about all of this, about the fence, about how Doris O’Reilly had moved, and especially about this dog.
Together the two boys walk the fence eastward. Towards the halfway point, Timmy looks up, does a double-take. “That’s weird. Those holes weren’t there before, were they?” he says as he points out three holes that start almost six feet above the ground. Together the three holes form a loose vertical line up to the top of the fence.
Timmy sees the inspiration land in Tommy’s eyes.
Oh, please don’t ask for a boost.
“Come on, give me a boost, kid,” Tommy says.
Reluctantly Timmy interlaces his two hands and squats down, offering his best friend a boost to the three holes above.
Tommy steadies himself against the cold fence as Timmy begins grunting. He is trying to see down through the lowest hole, but the angle is all wrong; he can only see eight feet over into the yard; everything directly next to the fence (namely the new dog) is in this blind spot.
“Hold still, damn it,” Tommy whispers.
But without warning, Tommy leaps and hauls himself up by the first two holes. He still can’t see directly next to the fence. There’s still a sizable blind spot to the geometry. He climbs up and stands with his feet in the two lowest holes, the third hole he uses to hold himself steady.
Timmy walks backward away from the fence.
“Be careful, Tommy,” Timmy says.
But Tommy’s attention is arrested by what he sees on the other side.
“Who’s a good boy?” Tommy asks either playfully or stupidly.
He’s going to get himself killed. Or worse.
“What are you doing, man? We gotta get home already.” Timmy says.
“Hey, if you gotta run home like a little girl, be my guest. He looks friendly, I’m telling you.”
The dog barks again.
There is no way in hell that is a friendly bark. That is not a good boy.
“He is friendly, I tell you; I’ll be right back.” And just like that, Tommy spryly springs over and drops into the O’Reilly backyard.
The screaming starts before Tommy hits the ground; Timmy will swear later. And; it’s an awful sound. Suddenly Timmy’s bladder empties totally, and he’s only vaguely aware of a warm and wet sensation on his thighs. The sounds of his friend’s imminent death push all other senses far into the background.
Timmy is frozen.
Go, get help.
Flag down an adult to help.
But he only stares at the fence, shaking as the screams, the growls, and the moans die down. Timmy is sure the chewing, crunching, cracking, tearing, screaming noises will haunt him for the rest of his life.
He’s dying, and you’re standing here pissing your pants. Fine friend, you turned out to be.
“Are you okay, Tommy? Say something damn it.”
The dog growls, and Timmy finally snaps. He drops his books and his Star Wars lunchbox and runs the entire half-mile to his home.
“Maybe they’re not home,” Walt, Tommy’s dad, says as he rings the O’Reilly doorbell a fourth time.
“I tell you, he’s dead, dad. Why are we even here? We should just go to Tommy’s house.”
“Nonsense, sure he might be bitten, hurt even, but I’m sure the new dog didn’t kill your friend,” Walt says as he looks at his watch. “It’s only 7:55 PM. Surely it’s not too late to visit. Is it? What do you think, dear?” he says as he turns to his wife.
“Something seems off about all of this. That fence was cold. And it’s still almost 90 out. I think we are doing the right thing here. But that’s no reason to worry Francis and John until we know Tommy’s condition. Maybe the doorbell is broken; try knocking?” Alice says as she squeezes Timmy’s shoulder.
Walt opens the storm door and pounds on the wooden door three times.
“Coming. One minute please.”
I can’t believe I came back. But Tommy would have come back for me.
The door opens. Standing there in a blue shirt, black vest, the shirt button is open at the collar, is Roger O’Reilly, a shorter than average man with solid white hair. He is wiping his mouth with a napkin.
“Walt, isn’t it? And you must be Allie?” Roger says as he gestures with his arms that the family should come indoors.
“It’s Alice actually, but …,” Timmy’s mom says.
“I don’t want to go in there,” Timmy says.
“Now, Timmy, let’s not be rude,” Walt says.
“I think we’re fine right here on the porch, Mr. O’Reilly,” Alice says. “We won’t take up much of your time. We are just here to see about Tommy. We heard your new dog bit him.”
“Bitten? By Adolph? No. Adolph would never bite anyone. She is the sweetest dog.”
He’s lying. And who names their dog ‘Adolph?’ for Chrissakes?
You named your dog Adolph, and she’s a Caucasian Russian mountain dog?” Alice says.
“What? No, I mean yes, her name is Adolph, but she’s a rescue; we call her Addy. The previous owners named her. I think they meant to be ironic. Is that the right word? You know? Because she’s a very meek dog. Truly,” Roger says.
“Roger, where is Tommy now?” Walt says. He’s eager to get to the bottom of this, put Timmy’s mind to rest, and get home so that he can at least catch the last quarter of the Saints game. They’re playing the Seahawks, and he’s got a hundred riding on the Saints by three.
“Tommy? Oh, you mean the boy who climbed our fence and fell into our backyard. He was a bit scraped up from the fence and a bit more bruised from the fall, but he’s fine, I assure you. His parents picked him up over an hour ago. He’s fine. Believe me.”
That’s a weird thing to say. ‘Believe me?’ Who says that besides politicians and used car salespeople.
The politicians and used car salesman line was something Timmy’s dad always said aloud when he heard anyone say ‘believe me’ on TV. When someone says believe them, don’t, was Walt’s advice to Timmy.
“Won’t you come in for some dessert? Doris made a torte today, and we were just about to …,” Roger trails off.
“No thanks, Roger. Another time maybe. We are going to get out of your hair now, Mr. O’Reilly,” Walt says.
Dad knows Roger is lying. Well, that’s something, I guess.
“Say hello to Doris for us, won’t you, Roger?” says Alice.
“You sure you don’t want to tell her yourself?” Roger says as he reaches forward and grabs Alice by the wrist.
Walt steps forward quicker than Timmy has ever seen him move in his life. “We said good night, Roger. Thank you,” as he knocks Roger’s hand away from his wife’s wrist. “We are leaving now.”
This situation keeps getting weirder and weirder. Did Mr. O’Reilly try to grab mom? Dad is twice his size and would have knocked him into the middle of next week.
The three of them turn without any more talk and leave Roger there, massaging his forearm where Walt had swatted him.
After much pleading, the three of them drive to Tommy’s house. Tommy’s mother, Francis, answers the knock, but she’s acting weird also. She won’t meet their eyes for one. She insists her son is just fine, but the excitement has tuckered him out.
“Did you folks happen to meet Adolph?” Francis asks, finally looking up and locking eyes with them. “Oh, I suppose you didn’t…”
Well, now, how would she know that?
“But Tommy is just scraped? And bruised? Adolph didn’t bite him at all?”
“Oh, he might have nipped him, but I promise you my son is as right as rain. Well, good night now,” she says cheerily and closes the door on them.
“Has this whole town lost their damn minds, Alice? That was weird. Right? How did she know we hadn’t met Adolph?” Walt says.
Alice just starts humming the theme song from JAWS. And they laugh. It almost works; the laughter almost feels like it wasn’t fake. Almost.
“But Tommy was screaming. Screaming, don’t you believe me? He’s…”
“Oh baby,” Alice says as she hugs her only child. “He was probably just scared.”
Timmy realizes that this is over. For now, at least. That the daily (if not weekly) amount of energy his dad is willing to spend on his son’s needs has just run out. He knows his father is wanting to be at home watching the Saints. He makes a mental note not to ask his dad for anything for at least three days.
Timmy knocks on Tommy’s door. Timmy’s house is further from the school, so he is the one to stop and get Tommy on his way every day.
He steps back and lets the storm door close. He waits a few seconds and is reaching forward to knock again when the door is flung open, and there he is. Tommy. But something is off.
What the hell is wrong with him?
“What’s up, buttmunch?” Tommy says. He is wearing a couple of bandaids on his forearms but is otherwise not at all the mauled mess of meat Timmy had expected to answer the door this morning.
“Umm, hello 1997 called; they’d like their catchphrase back. Could you be any lamer man?” Timmy says.
“Whatever, dude. Let’s go already,” Tommy says as he brushes past Timmy and jerkily skips down the three porch steps.
He’s walking just like Doris did yesterday.
“Did you fall off the wagon, man?” Timmy asks.
Tommy ignores the question and begins jogging, still moving in a herky-jerky manner that Timmy finds weird. Despite himself, Timmy hurries to catch up with his friend. Once he passes him, Timmy turns as if to return to their original route, back onto James Street.
“What are you doing fool? Let’s go down Alanis. Don’t tell me you’re scared,” says Tommy.
“Tammy’s not going to be sunning herself at 7:00 in the morning, you horndog. Besides, James is faster.”
“Tammy? Who said anything about Tammy, Timmy?” says Tommy. “I just want you to meet Adolph.”
I think you mean you want Adolph to MEAT me, don’t you?
“Whatever, man…, just whatever. You do what you go to do,” Timmy says as he continues down the short alley that will intersect with James Street.
Tommy follows a few steps but then starts moaning.
Timmy turns just in time to see his friend double over in pain, throw up into Mrs. Phillip’s rosebushes, and drop onto his hands and knees. He’s clearly in a lot of pain.
Timmy approaches him cautiously. Tommy is giving him a feeble ‘come here’ gesture with his left hand. Drool hangs from Tommy’s mouth nearly down to the road.
“Are you okay, dude?” Timmy asks, dropping onto his knees, offering a tentative hand onto his friend’s shaking shoulders.
Tommy begins shaking violently, and Timmy wonders if it qualifies as convulsions.
Maybe he’s having a seizure?
“Dude, I’m going to get your mom,” he says, but Tommy’s hand clamps down onto Timmy’s wrist.
“Owwww! You’re hurting me. Stop, Tommy.”
“Timmy…, listen,” Tommy moans.
“I don’t know how … ahhh … I don’t know how …, You’ve gotta get away from here, from …. ahhhhh …. me. Don’t go to Adolph, FUCK, that hurts.”
He’s fighting with himself. Hey, that’s what Mrs. Sachs would call a ‘man versus himself’ conflict.
“Run, Timmy. Run. Stay away from …, Goddamn it, stop.”
Tommy is writhing in pain and covering his ears to block out some awful sounds, but Timmy hears nothing.
But discretion being the better part of valor, Timmy breaks free from Tommy’s hand and runs the rest of the way to school. He manages to avoid Tommy the rest of the day.
Timmy almost leaps out of his skin when Tommy comes out of nowhere and puts him in a painful arm lock
“Looking for me butthead?” Tommy says.
Timmy had been doing his best to walk home alone and kept stealing glances behind him to make sure Tommy was nowhere in sight.
“What the hell, man? That hurts! Let me go,” Timmy says.
So much for man versus himself. Tommy lost that fight. That is not Tommy, not anymore it isn’t.
Faux Tommy is much stronger and bigger than Timmy, and so they go where the shell, who was once Timmy’s best friend in the world, wants to go. Of course, the Tommy thing steers them onto Alanis.
“Let’s go see Tammy, man,” Timmy says.
“Screw that. You’re going to see Adolph.”
Timmy tries twice more to break free, but his energy and will to escape have run out.
“It doesn’t hurt, Timmy. Well, it does at first, but then it doesn’t, but before that, it hurts a lot, then it doesn’t hurt at all, you’ll see,” Tommy two point oh says as he shoves him against the O’Reilly fence.
“You’ll be thanking me, well not right away, of course,” fake Tommy laughs, “but within a few hours, the pain goes away, and you’ll feel better than you’ve felt in your whole life.”
They had stopped directly beneath the three holes in the fence.
The Tommy-thing squats down, interlaces its fingers together, looks at Timmy, and says, “Climb.”
Maybe because he realizes that his best is gone, or because he is tired of walking on eggshells around his father, or because he’s tired of still wetting his bed like a baby, but for whatever reason, Timmy hesitates only a second. He places one foot onto his former friend’s interlaced hands and begins climbing.