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by Phil Temples

A bully threatening a scared child

Phil  grew up in Bloomington, Indiana but has lived in and around Boston for the past thirty years. He works as a computer systems administrator at a Boston area university. For over ten years, Phil has written flash and short sci-fi/fantasy primarily for his own enjoyment. His stories have appeared (or will soon appear) in several online journals, including: Bewildering Stories, The Zodiac Review, The World of Myth, InfectiveINk, Daily Frights 2013, Bleeding Ink Anthology, and Stupefying Stories. Phil recently produced a full-length murder-mystery novel, "The Winship Affair" that will be published by Blue Mustang Press in 2013.

“I did it. I’m the one,” said Stinky to the cop.

Actually, Stinky wasn’t the guilty party. I know, because I did it. I let Stinky take the fall.

I should explain that these events transpired almost thirty years ago. Stinky and I were teenagers then—I was seventeen and Stinky was a mere fifteen years old. Stinky and I were “friends”—well, friends in a manner of speaking. While I had other pals I hung out with, I was Stinky’s one and only friend. Except that our friendship was not one based on trust and mutual respect, as friendships should be. No, you see, Stinky was my ‘whipping boy.’ I kept Stinky around so that I could feel smug and superior—so that I could feel good about myself. Stinky craved companionship so much that he never figured it out. He never realized my hidden agenda. It was cruel and sadistic on my part. But I suppose that a lot of kids were cruel and sadistic at that age.

Stinky used to hang around me like a little puppy dog, seeking my attention and approval. Overweight for his age, Stinky earned his nickname because of his tendency to bathe at irregular intervals. Sometimes he didn’t bathe for weeks on end. He reminded me of the character ‘Pig Pen’ in Charlie Brown. The smell was so bad that sometimes I could hardly stand it. I expected to see flies circling overhead Stinky. “Keep the hell away from me,” I’d say to him.

On days when he didn’t smell so bad, I’d make Stinky do evil deeds that would get him into trouble. Like, I’d tell Stinky to throw a rock at Mrs. Richards’ cat and see if he could hit it. I didn’t have anything against cats. I just wanted to see if Mrs. Richards would be looking out the window to see Stinky committing the dastardly deed.

Another time, I dared Stinky to sneak up behind old man Crosby and knock the walking cane out of his hand. I told Stinky that Crosby wasn’t really a crippled war vet at all—that he merely used the cane in public so that he could pretend to be crippled and receive his disability checks from the government. It was a big fat lie, of course. Stinky crept up real quiet-like on Crosby. He grabbed the cane from Crosby’s hand just like I told him. Their eyes met for a brief instant: Stinky looked scared and embarrassed; Crosby’s face showed an expression of sadness, perhaps even desperation. Stinky lit off towards the alley with the cane. Crosby just sort of stood there for a minute. Then he lost his balance and toppled over. At the time, I thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

My manipulation crossed over the line one night in March. It was during the Jewish high holy days, and the neighborhood synagogue was lit up and displays were put in the windows. I have nothing against Jews—in fact, at that time I didn’t even know any kids (or so I thought) who were Jewish. I hatched a plan. Stinky and I would spray paint Nazi swastikas on the back door, and write awful things like “Filthy Jew Go Home.” I had this vague notion that “home” for Jews was somewhere in Europe. (I wasn’t even thinking of Israel. I guess that goes to show you how much I knew about Jews and Judaism at the time.)

An hour after midnight, Stinky and I snuck around to the back of the synagogue armed with cans of spray paint. I wanted Stinky to actually do it, of course. I even accused him of being a coward, but he kept shaking his head ‘no’ and refusing. (Later, at Stinky’s trial I learned that Stinky and his family were, in fact, Jewish.) Undaunted, I sprayed while Stinky watched. A few minutes into the operation, someone with a flashlight walked around the back of the building. I dropped the spray can and ran like hell. But, for whatever reason, Stinky stayed behind. He took the rap for both of us.

Despite the fact that it was Stinky’s first juvenile offense, the authorities decided to punish Stinky in a harsh manner. He was sentenced to the juvenile facility in Bakers City to serve time until his eighteenth birthday. It was in there that Stinky met up with a really bad crowd. He was forced to learn all sorts of new tricks in order to survive. Stinky grew tough. Stinky grew mean. After a year or so, Stinky no longer needed an older juvenile to look out after him and to protect him. Stinky looked out after others—a lot of others—who sought his companionship and his approval. Stinky earned a reputation as the “top dog”—albeit a smelly one. After he was released, Stinky continued a life of crime. His rap sheet was filled with B & E’s, larcenies and other minor offenses.

Flash-forward thirty years later: Stinky has tracked me down to the law office uptown where I work. It’s after dark and the street is deserted of pedestrian traffic. There’s no one in the vicinity to hear my cry for help, even if I could manage to utter some sound. Stinky has me down on the ground, a crowbar pushed up against my throat. The effort to try and breathe is excruciating. I’m terrified. In fact, I’m so terrified I piss in my pants. I’m thinking back over our years together: all the horrible misdeeds, and the terrible manipulations I perpetrated upon this human being who now appears hell-bent on exacting his revenge. During the attack, Stinky hasn’t said a single word, like “Do you remember me?” or “I hate you, you bastard.”

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, Stinky says, softly, “All I ever wanted was to be your friend.”

Stinky gets off of me. He drops the crowbar and walks away.

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