My name’s Michael but everyone calls me Squeal. I fucking hate it, so please call me Mikey. I just turned 8 years old… physically. I’m much older mentally. I have to be, otherwise I’d be dead by now, like my mother. My dad killed her. He’s a fucking asshole. Oh, he’s still around, he didn’t go to jail or anything. It’s not like he killed her with his own hands or a gun or anything. No, he made her do it herself like he did everything else. It kind of makes sense if you really think about it. He made her do everything for him, even cut up his god damn steak. Only fitting that his constant mental abuse drove her to parking her car in the garage, turning on the key, and turning off her life.
Mommy loves you. I’m sorry I have to leave you but I think it’s best. Don’t hate me. I know you’re stronger than me and much smarter. I know you’ll find your own way out.
It could have said the same thing in as few as three words, “Fuck You Michael”.
She did leave me a note. At least.
How can an 8 year old possibly talk like this? you’re probably asking yourself right now. I’m sort of a genius with an abusive cocksucker of a father who only ever taught me one thing… excessive alcohol consumption leads to vomit on his 8 year old’s bedroom floor and subsequently the before mentioned 8 year old son cleaning it all up the next morning. Like I said, Cocksucker.
Squeal was the nickname given to me by Fred Cooper the first day of 7th grade. Yep, genius, remember? He said I looked like a tiny little piglet compared to everyone else. From that moment forth, everyone squeals and oinks like a little pig when I come into a classroom. The name stuck, unfortunately, and I was forever dubbed, “Squeal” by my peers.
Being so young compared to everyone else, I don’t have many friends. In fact, my only friend is Elphie, my Boston Terrier. Elphie’s 8 years old and never leaves my side. She’s the best dog in the whole wide world and has gotten me through the toughest moments of my life. Without Elphie, my existence would be pointless.
My birthday was yesterday. My father forgot. My grandma did not.
When I woke up I was first reminded that it was in fact my birthday by the brand new metallic blue 3-speed Huffy on the front porch, wrapped in a big red bow. A note hanging from the handlebar read, “I love you Michael! Happy Birthday - Nanny”. Immediately Elphie and I left my rundown 20 year old Schwinn behind the barn and took off, breaking in the new bicycle, cutting through the farmland and saying our good mornings to the neighboring cows. We took the long way around, partly to enjoy my birthday preset.
As we came into town, I rounded the corner and went though the park to avoid the woods that lead to the gravel quarry. The Cooper brothers hung out in those woods making forts and playing commando. Yes, you read that right, playing commando. They’re in middle school and still role playing. It’s sad really. Kinda pathetic too. Even though it was a straight shot to the school through those woods, I avoided them like the plague. The quarry was scary as hell and the Cooper brothers were mean as shit. Besides the fact that they seemed to get such great joy in kicking my ass.
Steering clear and following the bike path through the park instead, I popped out in front of the elementary school where Elphie and I planned on checking out the playground. I parked my new Huffy at the bike rack and started skipping toward the monkey bars.
“Hey guys, lookie here… if it isn’t Squeal and his lil’ mutt…” floated to my ear, carried on the breeze behind me, tip toeing up my shoulder and biting my ear.
I turned around just in time to see the dirt crusted to his knuckles before Fred’s fist connected with the soft flesh on the bridge of my nose, bringing water to my eyes, pain to fucking everything and me, crashing to my knees. Elphie started barking and growling as another Cooper’s fist followed, connected with my left temple. Immediately the world drained away, spinning down a black tunnel until the ground came rushing upward… smashing into my bleeding face.
When I finally came to, my bike was gone, along with Elphie. I rolled over, blinking up to the sky through dried blood. What happened? I started playing the last few moments back through my mind’s eye… gound, black hole, temple, nose, barking Elphie….
I jumped up and hobbled back toward the park entrance.
Not 10 yards from the entrance and I heard shouting coming from the park. Instinctively, my legs rushed me the last few steps and diverted the direction of my sprint toward the woods entrance. Running as fast as I could with a pounding head and still bleeding nose, I followed the dirt path toward the sound of Elphie’s barking. The trail was a narrow maze of forks and dead ends.
I tried to navigate the trail as best I could with my pounding head, but I kept running in circles and ending up on the same path that ran along the edge of the quarry. One slip and a 30 foot fall to the limestone rock bed below would fuck up an 8 year old’s chances of ever seeing 9 in about as many seconds. A few times, I had to resort to ducking behind a sticker bush to avoid various Cooper boys. Eventually, however, I found the street that ran toward my house.
Upon reaching my porch I was greeted by a bouncing, grumbling Boston Terrier, licking my face and knocking me backwards down the stairs, “I love you Elphie! I’m so glad you’re ok! You’re such a brave dog outsmarting those stupid assholes…”
Elphie and I enjoyed the afternoon in our own backyard sitting under the sun until my headache drove me to the couch. When my father came home, he took one look at me, shook his head, threw me a washcloth and called me a pussy for not fighting back against the boys that outnumbered me 4 to 1 and were all twice my size… Like I said, Cocksucker.
The sun sporadically smacks me in my face through the branches as the trail flies by beneath my churning pedals. The Cooper boys are only feet behind me, screaming and shouting my nickname. If I slow and they catch me, the nose that was still bleeding when I got up this morning will surely end up being the least of my problems.
As if to read my mind, Elphie takes the fork to the left as I take the path to the right. “Meet you at the porch Elphie!” I yell to my brave little partner in crime. She barks her approval.
This morning, Elphie and I had decided the Cooper boys needed to pay for stealing my bike. We got up and rode my old Schwinn directly to the police station. After explaining the situation, Elphie and I were introduced to Detective Jones who took my statement but hardly believed that the Cooper brothers would ever do anything like that. An hour later, we were on our way to the park, hopeful we’d eventually get my new bicycle back.
Our fun and games were stopped short when Fred Cooper rode up on my Huffy. “So Squeal… try to get me arrested, huh? My Dad’s the Sheriff dumbass.”
I looked up just as Elphie’s ears dropped back and a low deadly growl started in her throat. Fred just stood there laughing as I grabbed my old Schwinn and started for the park. As I got close to the entrance, I was cut off by the remaining Cooper brothers. The next few minutes they’d corralled us and herded Elphie and I into the woods, heading straight for the quarry.
“Meet you at the porch Elphie!” I shout once more as her barks fade off in the distance. Her idea to divide and conquer had obviously worked as I pop out onto my street without a single Cooper chasing. I make my way home and plop down in the afternoon sun, waiting for Elphie to arrive.
After an hour and no snorting Boston Terrier, I decide I’d better go back just in case she was hiding or lost. Making my way cautiously through the woods I spend what seems like a lifetime calling her name and looking up and down each and every trail. Not a Cooper brother in sight.
I finally find her, curled up under a bush near the edge of the quarry cliff. I bend down to see if she’s sleeping, but as I get close, Elphie turns and snaps my hand. Her tiny little teeth break the skin and the blood starts to trickle down my fingers. “What the hell Elphie? It’s me, Mikey.”
Elphie’s breathing slows and she tenderly rolls her head back toward me. It’s at this moment I see what’s wrong. Elphie’s front leg is covered in blood and matted fur reveals a paw twisted unnaturally skyward. Tears start to flow freely as she rolls over and I see the tiny tree branch sticking out of her innocent face where her left eye used to be.
“Oh God… Elphie…” I whisper between sobs as my crying completely takes over. Elphie crawls on her good paw, dragging herself toward me, whimpering with every inch. I reach down and carefully draw her body close to mine. Her breathing is shallow, ragged and slowing further as she puts her head in my lap. I pet her brow, my lip quivering and my hand shaking. With one last exhaled breath, Elphie’s head relaxes against my thigh and I feel her body go limp. I look into her eye and the spark of life that was there just a moment before vanishes behind a glossy haze.
A month ago, Fred Cooper and his brothers tortured and killed my best friend. Today I exact my revenge.
I ride through the park toward the elementary school where the Cooper boys are sure to be beating up 6th graders for fun. The bag on my shoulder full of eggs bounces with every shift of my body as I pedal hard left, then right and back again. Slowing to keep the eggs from cracking, I muster every bit of courage I have left. “This is for you Elphie.” I think to myself. It drives me forward.
I park my old dusty Schwinn at the entrance to the woods and make my way on foot to the bike rack where my metallic blue Huffy rests, mocking me among the broken and smashed pieces of shit belonging to the rest of the Cooper boys. I open my bag and start smashing eggs on all of their seats.
“Hey! It’s Squeal! What the fuck is he doin to our bikes!?!” Fred yells.
“Get him!” someone else shouts.
“You’re so fucking dead Squeal!”
Looking up from my work, I see the gang running at me like stampeding buffalo. I stand and hurl the remaining eggs their way, connecting with half. It slows them enough to see me grab my crotch with my left hand and flip them the bird with my right. “Fuck you Cooper! Your mother takes it in the ass like the cum guzzling queen she is for a fucking quarter behind the 7-11 you pieces of shit!” I scream at the top of my lungs, throwing more gasoline on the fire.
With that I turn and run as fast as I can for my old bike chanting, “FUCK YOU!” with every stride. The eggs on their bikes slow them enough that I get a free break into the woods. I pedal as fast as I can putting some distance between us, making my way effortlessly through the familiar maze of trails…
As soon as I can see Fred catching up on the trail behind me, I speed up. Left at the first fork. Right at the second fork. Looking over my shoulder, they’re still right behind me. Right at the big boulder. Right at the next fork. Left at the oak stump.
I see the end of the trail ahead, coming up fast. I take a sharp right at the last second onto the narrow trail I’d been riding up and down every day the last three weeks. Looking back, Fred nearly misses the corner. His first brother does and runs into a sticker bush. One more glance back and the whole gang has corrected and is right behind me in a conga line of angry adolescent testosterone.
Time slows in my mind and I think back to the day Elphie broke off and went left while I ventured right. If she hadn’t lead them away, I would have surely received the worst beating of my life. Maybe they would have shoved a stick in my eye instead of hers. I miss her more and more every day. The thought of her never again curling up in the crook of my leg under the covers as I drift off to sleep starts a fresh stream of tears down my cheeks and brings me back to the mission at hand.
Just in time I might add. I make a hard left at the giant oak tree and see the large sticker bush approaching fast. I brace, and leap off my bike into the bush. Hundreds of thorns poke through my flesh and pin me into the roots as my bike continues up the path between the bush edge and over the small dirt mound. I pull myself tighter into the bush and duck my head as bicycle after bicycle passes by… up the path I’d carved in the woods… over the mound… and out of sight.
My sobs slowly turn to shakes and the tears turn to giggles as I hear blood curdling scream after torturous cry as one by one, each of the Cooper boys launch off the dirt mound, into the blue July heat and fall to the quarry bed below with a thudding crash of metal and snap of limbs… My crying stops and turns to full fledged laughter as I realize, no matter what I’m never getting my Huffy back in one piece now.