Claremont Montclair sits in his leather easy chair watching Wheel of Fortune on his 24" Magnavox feeling smart. After work he comes home, kicks his daughter off the Nintendo and requisitions the set to watch M*A*S*H, A Current Affair, then Wheel of Fortune. It's ritualistic. He needs the entertainment. Claremont stickies up the sides of his cognate bits with a lukewarm Pabst from the garage and critiques Vanna's dress. It's too sparkley, draws too much attention to itself. Claremont appreciates anonymity in others, and leads by example. He's the head of the Tarradiddle county department of urban development. Recently he approved the installation of the county's first traffic light. Today he cut a ribbon and threw a bladeful of dirt over his shoulder with a golden shovel. There were at least a dozen people at the groundbreaking, mostly city officials. Trimbull Karstenicz, the mayor, commended him publicly for his years of service. All this was too much for Claremont, who thought only of returning to his office to peruse his maps and charts, then head home for a lukewarm Pabst in time to catch M*A*S*H, A Current Affair, then Wheel of Fortune.


It's too sparkley. Pretty woman like that don't need no more sparkle to her. She's already gonna get the whole dang place lookin at her. Sheesh. I say, why can't people see what I mean. Look at ole Pat. He's got a nice, black suit on. He looks sharp.

The doorbell rings. I wait awhile, expectin Shirley or Sheila or Stan to come runnin for it. I don't never have no visitors anyhow. What's the point of gettin up just to miss the end of the puzzle when it ain't even for me? Dadgummit, whoever's out there ain't goin away.

-- Sheila! Shirley! Door!

It's reinforced concrete. Jeezus, ain't these bozos stupid? Why can't they see? It's reinforced concrete! Hell, I coulda figured that out after he picked the O. Hurry up and solve it, honey, there's someone at the door.

The doorbell rings for a third time. I look up and notice a little boy pressin his face against the window, watchin me watchin these idiots fail to solve this puzzle. Well, hell.

I get up and open the door, keepin an eye on the puzzle from the entry. Not really lookin out the door, I usher the fella in, figurin him to be a friend of Stanley's, but when a commercial interrupts the round, I turn to find that he is actually a they. I hardly recognize him from Stan's class at school. He was the kid who threw up in the cement truck when I went for show and tell, Virgil Strobecker. Later, while we were cleanin up the cab, Stan told me they call Virgil "Stroker" and that he was the kid who gave everybody at school head lice.

Virgil looks tired. And pained. His freckles smear down from tears and dirt, and he keeps holdin his shorts out from his crotch. The man steps foreward. He looks profoundly sober.

-- Yer boy shot my boy.

He speaks softly and draws out the five words. In between syllables I hear bells dingin from the tv, and Pat Sajak reaffirms the answer: EL CAMINO ROYAL. I thought the category was "Roads," but I figure now isn't the best time to look away from the gentleman in front of me. I wince from the gameshow, but it fits the mood.

-- Did ya here me say? Should I say it again?

I turn to Virgil, who's tryin to swallow his lips, and I say:

-- Stan shot you?

Stroker nods reluctantly.

-- With what?

Virgil opens his mouth, but his old man cuts him off.

-- Yer boy shot im with is pellet gun.

-- Where?

-- Show im, boy.

Virgil points to his crotch, dirty shorts makin a pup tent over his little tallywacker.

-- I said show im. Drop them britches.

He pulls down his shorts, looks up at his father, who motions with his Champion Sparkplugs ballcap, then pulls down his drawers as well. There's a bundle of guaze and surgical tape attached between his legs, bulging out and supporting his yellowgreen pecker at a near right angle. It looks to be uncomfortable, and truthfully makes me wince again to see it. The man presses his temples with his free hand and mumbles for the boy to pull up his shorts. I can understand his distress. It's the kind of thing a man never wants to see his son have to suffer through.

-- My God, son. Stan wouldn't do that. How'd this happen?

-- The boy won't say cept that it was Stan Montclair. He kep it hid from us til this mornin when is momma found a stain on is bedsheets.

-- Is there any permanent damage?

I say it slowly. Tears begin to form up in Strobecker's eyes, and he wipes his nose on his sleeve.

-- Lemme get my wife. Shirley! Shirley, could you come here?

-- Don't know for sure.

Strobecker sobs out these words. I look down the hall to see Shirley coming with tissues in hand. Somehow she knows things, and it's times like this I'm glad of it. She'd never wear no sequins on her dress.



Oh Lord, what are those men up to? With that boy and his britches all down around his ankles, I don't know if that's decent. I don't even know that man, who is he? He could work for Claremont, I suppose, oh, but I'd have seen him. If not around town, at least at the Christmas Buffet, surely he wouldn't miss the Christmas Buffet. Not a big, healthy, if a little scruffy, man like that.

Claremont and the dirty man stand there in the hallway on my brand new Oriental rug, and that man is fidgeting his feet. He's wheeling his boots around on his dirty heels, just pounding that crap into my carpet. He’s scruffy, yes, but filthy like he works on the asphalt crew. That’s it, he works on the asphalt crew, that explains it. Asphalt crew has their own Christmas Buffet.

-- Shirley! Shirley, could you come here?

I'd better take the tissues, too, because, oh, that man looks like he's about to start crying. Oh Lord! There he goes. He's sobbing into his hands, and Look! Claremont pats him on the back and what's he saying?

-- Now, what's that mean Strobecker? You don't know for sure?

-- The doctor says we goin hafta wait to see if is functions is afflicted, but even so…

-- Who's this, dear?

Claremont gestures towards me, flashing his introducing-my-wife smile, but why’s he worried about that, when this man needs a tissue? Clearly a tissue, or at least a handkercheif is in order here. Sometimes Claremont makes me so upset.

-- Tissue?!

-- Mr. Strobecker, this is my wife Shirley. Shirley, this is Mr. Strobecker and his son, Virgil.

-- What's the matter, Mr. Strobecker?

-- Honey, he says his boy's only got one testicle, and he says its on account of Stan.

My God! What could have happened? He must be joking, he’s joking! Stan would never do anything like tearing off another boy's testicle. Oh, how would you do that? Like an animal I suppose, viscously. He knows that's wrong. He know’s not to act viscous.

-- Are you sure it was Stan? It could have been one of those girls over there. Them girls can be vicious, and I wouldn't put it past them.

-- He said Stan Montclair. It’s all he’ll say.

-- But how?

-- With is pellet gun.

-- Stan doesn’t even own a pellet gun. Does he, Claremont?

-- They had to amputate? It wouldn’t just heal on it’s own?

-- No, sir. Doc said it was infected. Likesay, the boy says it happened a few days ago. He kep it secret cuz he was shamed. Doc said there weren't no way to save it. I asked him, believe me. I begged him.

Oh, I can’t believe Stan is playing with a gun. Strobecker is devastated. He looks so gentle, so sad, so dirty. Of course, underneath it all is a primal asphalt worker, strong and vigoruous. His pants aren't tight enough for me to tell if he’s got much in common with his son, but I think it's a good probability. That boy has such a cute little pee-pee. He takes another tissue and blows his nose. Claremont turns to me.

-- Have you seen Stan, hon? We should get him in here, I think.

-- I'll get Sheila to go get him.

I turn and go to the foot of the stairs where I yell up for our Sheila. I can hear her listening to the soundtrack from Cats, always the soundtrack of Cats. She likes Jezebel and Mr. Mestopholes; I like the Rum Tum Tugger. So I pound on the wall in time to each syllable.

-- Shei * la! * Come * down * here * now! * *

She comes to the top of the stairs in her pink Guess overalls. Her hair is crimped like the girls wear these days, and she's got two pair of socks on with her pants tucked in. She's fiddling with her penny loafers, cramming her feet into them. Oh, I don’t understand. If it fits, it has to be an ugly color; when it’s a little nice, it has to be too small or too big. You just can’t take them out in public during puberty.

-- What?

-- Is your brother up there?

-- Stan!

-- If I wanted you to yell…

-- Nope. I think he went over to Virgil's maybe?

-- He didn't go to Virgil's.

-- Somethin about Virgil. Idunno.

-- Would you go look for him?

-- Yes’m.

Strobecker is still moaning about his son in the hall. Claremont is more sympathetic than usual, once again with his arm across Strobecker’s shoulders, telling him things will be alright. Claremont is so sweet. If only he shoveled asphalt once in awhile, like in the old days.

-- I preciate your kindness Mr. Montclair, but ain’t no way the boy gonna go to God now.

-- Now, you don’t know that.

Actually, in the Bible it says that no man with a mutilated set of genitals is getting into heaven. I read that part twice, I know. God doesn’t want any man who isn’t virile or is somehow otherwise incomplete. I wouldn’t have figured Strobecker for a religious man.

-- I tell you, not God or any woman ever gonna want a one nut mutt.



-- Shei * la! * Come * down * here * now! * *

Christ, what does she want? I ain’t never gonna get my dance routine down with her buggin me all the damn time. Get out of bed. Clean up you room. Set the table. Get off the Nintendo. Change your clothes. Jesus Christ, how do they think I’m gonna get myself on the dance team with all this stuff goin on?

-- What?

-- Is your brother up there?


No response.

-- Nope. I think he went over to Virgil's maybe?

-- He didn't go to Virgil’s.

Well, if you know so much why you askin me about it? Christ, I hate how she’s always doin that. Don’t quiz me, woman.

-- Somethin about Virgil. Idunno.

-- Would you go look for him?

I can’t believe it. Christ, if it ain’t one thing it’s the other. What’d the little brat do now? I go out back and take a look cross the yard. There’s dad’s workshed in the corner, all locked up with a big old padlock. Next to the workshed is the climbin tree. Dad built us a tree fort up there a few years ago, when Stan got old enough to climb up it. Dad said it was good for the kids to have a place of their own. But then Stan said it was a Girl-Free Zone and I wasn’t allowed up there. I don’t care much about that, cuz my time’s mostly taken up with better stuff than sittin in the treehouse, and besides, I can see into it from my bedroom window, so I know if I’m missin anything.

That kid Virgil is crazy. I saw him one time playin with himself when Stan was finishin up rakin leaves last fall. Stan says they call him Stroker, and I can see why. I don’t know why Stan hangs out with that kid. I climb up the ladder dad nailed up the trunk of the tree, and push open the trapdoor. Jesus Christ, the place smells rotten, on account of the dead armadillos Stan’s got piled up in the corner.

In the treehouse is a pair of binoculars, a stool for sittin, a steamer trunk and some sticks. Up on all the walls are drawins that Stan and his friends made. Some are spaceships, some are cars. There’s plenty of nekkid women and people having sex. I can’t believe how immature Stan and his friends are. Most of the drawings have labels or else I couldn’t tell what’s supposed to be goin on in them.

I look over the edge of the fort. I can see out across the neighbors’ yards, and then over into the field out back of our house. It’s all undeveloped cept the big concrete bulbs pokin out where they put in the sewage for future building. Dad says one day we’ll live right in the middle of town, but we’ll probably move before then. Dad don’t want to live smack in the center of things. He says we need to stay over on the outskirts. I’m gonna move the hell out of this town. It’s too small, and there ain’t nothin glamorous or excitin goin on.

I don’t see Stan nowhere, so I figure I can sit up here til he comes along, where she’ll never find me. I open up the steamer trunk, and that’s where he’s got his girlie mags hid along with his BB gun. Every time I come up here he’s got some different magazines up there. Sometimes it’s Playboy or Penthouse, which I heard of before. But sometimes it’s something I never knew existed. It’s amazin how many girlie magazines they make these days. He’s got Swank and Hustler and Cream and Busty and Tush and Gallery and a bunch of others that just got one word titles. I wonder how come so many magazines just have one word titles. Christ, don’t they think anybody could remember more? Some people aren’t as stupid as others, y’know?

So I pull an issue of Hawk out from under Stan’s BB gun, and sit there on the stool where I can keep an eye out for him. Mostly it’s just pictures of nekkid ladies with their legs all spread, but sometimes they have pictures of men, too. In every one, it looks like they’re just about to do it, but they never do. He’s sittin there with his dick all pointed at her pussy, else she’s hangin over his dick with her mouth open, but they ain’t never doin it. I flip through the Hawk, but there’s nothin in it I want to see, just the same old ugly ladies showin off parts only the doctor should ever wanna see. I remember at first I was shocked, cuz I never saw myself from that way before, and I couldn't believe that’s what it looked like. Now it’s just borin.

I drop the magazine in the trunk, and I’m fishin for another when I hear Stan climbin over the back fence. He scrambles up the one side, then jumps down into our yard, and heads over to the tree. I stand on the trapdoor, and wait til he pushes up on it.

-- That you Stan?

-- What’re you doin up there? No girls allowed up there!

-- Now it’s a No Boys Allowed Zone.

-- You can’t do that! I’m tellin mom!

-- Don’t matter. I’ll tell her bout your magazines.

-- You don’t tell er bout those magazines. I’ll tell er bout you an Cephus Dugget down at the lake.

-- Yeah, well you’re already in trouble, doosh bag.

-- What for?

-- Christ, Idunno. Stroker’s in there.

-- Shit.

Stan climbs back down the ladder. I can see him stand there for a second lookin at the back door, then he heads toward the house. He walks really slow, pushin down his hair and tuckin his shirt into his jeans. Before he goes inside he takes off his muddy shoes, and that’s how I know he must really be in trouble.



There ain’t nothin like playin with a pissed off armadillo. Cept killin it. I got this armadillo in my backpack cuz I’m makin some armor. I figure I can get enough so I can sew up some good armor, then I’ll be ready for battle. I can show all those bastards at school how tough I am. They won’t be able to touch me. Sides, I couldn’t find Virgil anywhere. He’s still pissed, I bet.

I head up the ladder, but even at the bottom I can smell flowers and hairspray. When I get to the top, the door won’t open, and I know my goddamn sister is up there lookin at my girlie magazines again. She’s like those women in the pictures who like the women.

-- That you Stan?

-- What’re you doin up there? No girls allowed up there!

-- Now it’s a No Boys Allowed Zone.

-- You can’t do that! I’m tellin mom!

-- Don’t matter. I’ll tell her bout your magazines.

-- You don’t tell her bout those magazines. I’ll tell her bout you and Cephus Dugget at the lake.

We went out to the lake on youth group, and Sheila and Cephus, this kid who dropped outta school already and I heard decked a teacher one time, was kissin all night down by the water. It was gross watchin it, cuz he was puttin his hand all up her shirt and in her shorts, and all I could think about was how my sister always smells so bad on account of her perfume and how ugly she is. I feel bad for Cephus. I hope I ain’t never that desperate.

-- Yeah, well you’re already in trouble, doosh bag.

-- What for?

-- Idunno. Stroker’s in there.

-- Shit.

I ain’t seen him since I shot him in the ding ding. I didn’t mean to shoot him in the pecker, but that’s where the BB hit him. He said he was fine. He said it didn’t hurt. He just punched me in the chest and ran home, but he’s always runnin home to his momma cuz somebody was mean to him. Stroker’s one of those kids everybody’s just mean to. That’s what he’s there for. I try not to be mean to him, but sometimes I can’t help it. He likes good comics.

I better straighten up. Momma will be mad cuz I got my school shoes all dirty. I tuck in my shirt and try to flatten down my hair, then I take off my shoes outside the door. I look through the back window, and I can see Stroker and his dad standin in the hallway. It looks like Mr. Strobecker is cryin, and it looks like my dad is givin him a hug. Fuck, I must be in trouble.

I wouldn’t even have tried to shoot him if he hadn’t been grabbin me in the crotch all day. Stroker’s always grabbin you in the balls and squeezin, and that makes him laugh real hard. I don’t get it. Nobody’s supposed to touch another man in the balls. That’s what girls do, is hit ya in the balls. Guys don’t do that. I was so sick of gettin my balls pinched that I shot him. I got a pellet gun pistol from another kid at school for ten bucks, and we would go out out shootin stuff by the lake. We went out a few days ago, and Stroker kept grabbin balls all day long, so I shot him. In self defense. How much trouble could I get in? Pellet gun can’t hurt nobody.

I look through the window again. Now Virgil's got his shorts down around his ankles and Momma's lookin at his weiner. I always thought nobody could get hurt with a BB gun. Sure, they could shoot your eye out, but they don't break the skin. Shit, I shot Stroker a hundred times in the ass and he ain't got no problems. Ball grabber.




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