Friday, October 7, 2011


    That morning, the boy took a short cut through the alley. His head was down, his thoughts on his math homework. His route didn't save him much time, but it took him past the big windows of the pool hall where grown men with tattoos used their sticks with precision to whack away at balls. The boy liked the imagery. In a small town, this was as close as he could get to phallic stuff. Phallic. It was a new word to him. He liked it.

    It was a mixed bag in the pool hall, all the races showed up here eventually. His private school was not integrated, but the pool hall was. He liked the mix. White men perspiring, Mexicans sweating, niggers gleaming in their chocolate masculinity. He liked them all. He liked real men, men like his dad.
     He hated sissies. Just like his dad, he hated queers.
     He resented the occasional women that hung out with the men. They didn't belong in that room with the big  men leaning over the pool tables.  Sometimes, it was a loud “smack” when they broke apart the balls. He could hear that from outside. Sometimes, they gave the balls a gentle nudge.  Later in the day he would stand there and watch.  But it was too early for him to stop. He would take a longer look on his way home this afternoon.
     A figure in the alley caught his eye. Some wino laid out from the night's carousing. He had seen them before, usually huddled against the wall for shelter. This guy was sprawled, not fetal. Dark hair,but not kinky. Must be a spic.
     It was late for a guy to still be laying there. Must be close to eight now.  He carefully stepped closer. You never knew.
     The body was sprawled on its back. The dark eyes stared up at the overcast sky. A fly wandered over and began to check out those eyes.
     His eyes moved lower. A dark brown line led across the man's throat. Leaning over, the boy examined it. The line was pulled open. The muscles of the neck were exposed. To the left of the body there was a drying pool of blood. Not on the right, the boy noted. The throat had been slashed from the guy's right to his left. If the dead man had been attacked from the back, it was by a left-hander.
     He wanted to puke, but he kept making observations. He was a witness.
     He squatted down and took a better look at the Mexican. He took in the whole body. The legs were in a tangle, pulling the tight white pants even tighter. He could clearly see the penis and balls outlined. He thought about that for a while and almost touched them. He thought better of it.
     He picked up his book bag and kept moving. The police station was next to the pool hall. He shoved open the door and walked up to the desk.
     “Where's the Chief?” h asked the receptionist.
     She waved him in, never taking her hand from the phone.
     The Chief look up. “Hi, Chuck.” The Chief knew everyone in town, but he sure didn't know that the boy hated to be called Chuck.
     "Charles,” he said automatically. “There's a body in the alley.”
     “Oh,” the chief said. Nothing dramatic, just “oh”. Like it happened all the time.
     “I can show you.”
     The chief didn't move, didn't show any surprise. He already knew the body was there.
     “Aren't you going over there? Don't you have to get the crime people here? Maybe the FBI?”
     “Tell you what, Chuck. If I do, there will be reporters and the rest.”
     “So?” Charles could hear himself on the radio, see himself on television, telling how he discovered the body.
    “They'll start asking questions.”
     “So what?”
     "They'll want to know what a spic is doing here in this town.”
     “He was working at the canning company.” Everyone knew that. Charles' dad was a foreman down there.
     “Right. And illegal.”
     Charles thought about that.
     “You're a bright boy,” the Chief said. “Feds come in, investigate, and pretty soon they close down the plant. Not a good time for that, with this economy. Kid, it's an election year. I want to keep my job, too.”
     “But you have to investigate. You can't just leave the guy there!”
     “I can until his friends come looking for him. Fact is, if those spics figure it out, they'll take care of it on their own. They'll get the body, bury it somewhere, and maybe bury some other guy with him. I save the taxpayers a bundle.”
     “Kid, you report this and your dad is out of a job. You can kiss college goodbye. You'll be stuck here for the rest of your live.”
     “You'd never get out of this town, got that? Do you know the hell you'd be in for?”
     “I'd survive.” The boy was desperate, wanting to do the right thing.
     “Not when everybody figures out you're a fag.”
     Clutching his bag, Charles back out of the door.
     The chief knew. Did his dad know? Did his teachers know?
      It didn't make much difference. At that moment, the boy accepted the truth. His life would never be the same. 

     At 3:00, school let out. Charles took the shortcut home. The alley smelled of bleach. The body was gone.

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