Monday, March 14, 2011

A Twist Of Noir 662 - Pete Risley

JUNIOR WENT FIRST - PETE RISLEY

Back down in Lyleton when we were kids, I used to tag along after my brother Sandy a lot. He was a year older than me, and was always running around with his best friend Bill Bonner, and for one summer, with Billy's cousin Junior Coe along too. I’d go places with them sometimes, when they’d let me.

I was in second grade then, and Sandy and Bill were in third. Junior was in fourth grade, held back once, but in a different school across the tracks, plus he was pretty close to eleven. Sometimes he'd say he was already eleven and almost twelve, but he was just bragging like usual.

Junior always had to try and act big, and say he'd already done stuff, already hopped a train or seen a shrunken head somewhere or put his hand up some girl's skirt on the bus or whatever. Sometimes it would be true, but he just made a lot of stuff up, I think.

He always wanted to climb stuff, so we always had to do that. At first it was just trees, but he'd always have to climb up higher, if it was possible to do so. I wouldn't want to climb as high as him, especially up into the skinny branches that might not hold your weight, but I think sometimes Billy and Sandy would just let him climb the highest to be done with it, when they could have climbed that high too. He wasn’t satisfied unless he was first all the time.

After that it was rooftops, usually the roofs of abandoned houses, which we had more than a few of there once the radiator plant closed and people started moving away. I'd climb up too, but I was chicken to run on rooftops. One time Junior noticed me walking real careful and slow, said “we can cure him of that,” and got Sandy and Bill to pick me up by the arms and legs and swing me back and forth like they were going to throw me off the roof. I didn’t cry, but got down off the rooftop right away when they quit. I never wanted to get on another one. And in fact, that was the last one for a long while.

Soon after that, Junior wanted to climb more rooftops one day when it was raining a little but not that much, and they tried to climb on this one tin-roofed house out there way off the road. I didn't try. It was way too slippery, so both Billy and my brother gave up and climbed down.

“You guys are all such babies,” said Junior, and bounded across the roof, trying to stop and sliding toward some wires overhead that were attached to a pole. He grabbed the wires and then he did stop, and after that just held there real still. There was something weird about it, that stillness all the sudden, and it was even weirder the way he didn’t immediately start bragging and taunting us. In fact, he didn’t say anything at all, just stood there on the roof holding the wire.

“OK, you done it, Junior, c’mon down,” Billy said. But Junior didn’t answer, or even look around. He didn’t move either, just stood there on the roof holding the wire, like he was looking at something off in the distance that was so fascinating he couldn’t be bothered with anything.

We stood there calling to him for what seemed like a long time and he never turned around. It’s a good thing they didn’t try to climb up again after him. I guess they didn’t because, in a way, we knew. Sort of knew. Though it wasn’t until we went home and told Mom, and she started to wail and called Dad, and everything else happened, that we knew completely.

So Junior was first again, for the last time. But he never did get out of the fourth grade.

BIO: Pete Risley is the author of the novel RABID CHILD, published by New Pulp Press in July 2010. Check it out at 'Rabid Child' by Pete Risley—New Pulp Press. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

11 comments:

Jim Harrington said...

Sometimes being first isn't the best thing. Good one, Pete.

Naomi Johnson said...

Why do I get the feeling it's just as well Junior didn't make into the teen years?

Nice job, Pete. This has the feel of stories my little brother used to tell me about the stuff he and his friends would get up to when we were kids.

Jimmy Callaway said...

Man. That was really fucking good.

Michael Solender said...

zzzip..toasty tale of youth that had a nice close!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Perfectly done.

Joyce said...

This was really good. A very moving tale, a snapshot from younger days of a dark dark time. You live, you learn. Well, unfortunately not all do. Well done.

Julia Madeleine said...

Great story. Really well written!

Katherine Tomlinson said...

I found myself wanting more.

ajhayes2 said...

Had a cousin called Junior, hell most every rural town's got five, six of 'em. My cousin Junior got hit by a train when he was twelve. I'm beginning to think kids named Junior ought'a take more care than the most of us. This story only confirms that thought. Thanks, Pete. I was there the whole time, neck deep.

Pete Risley said...

AJ, sorry to hear about your cousin. I knew a couple Juniors myself when I was a kid, but don't know whether they survived into adulthood. Come to think of it, one of them used to claim (unconvincingly) that his dad brought a shrunken head back from the Korean War, or something like that, so maybe I had him in mind here.

Thanks for the generous comments, folks. -- pr

M. C. Funk said...

'The Body' has nothing on you, man. Way to bring the quiet beauty of down home childhood tragedy. Your stories often don't slap the reader around so much as they sit down and whisper something upsetting. I enjoy that.