McDougal had a blood disease or some pituitary dysfunction bullshit that made him a little sissy runt. He wasn’t the kind of sissy runt fuck that would cower and not fight when the bigger kids kicked him around, he just had that pituitary shit that made him little and weak. One spring day in the 9th grade when I was making my way through the transition hallway from the old building to the new building of South Park High School this red-headed moron gorilla 10th grader, Talty McManus kicked McDougal into me and the little shit got tangled in my legs causing both of us to fall and my books spilled all over the floor. Now, I didn’t really give a shit about that little runt fuck McDougal, people could kick him all they wanted as far as I was concerned, but as I lay there all twisted up with him, like always I got really mad, especially at the sound of that fucking moron gorilla McManus and his friends laughing while I was on the hallway floor with McDougal.
Once untangled, I scooped up my heavy Literature Today book, jumped to my feet and with both hands cracked McManus right upside his giant red moron head causing him to stumble back into the hallway wall. His friends grabbed me and locked me up and when McManus regained his equilibrium, he proceeded to bash the shit out of me until the shop teacher, Mr. Pierson came and broke it up, Still really mad and not giving a shit about consequences, the second I was released I threw a punch at McManus, which just grazed his jaw and eventually landed on the chin of a very angry Mr. Pierson. What did I care? Five days off... maybe I’d punch ten more of these fucking morons and slide right into summer vacation.
The four of us, the flame headed gorilla McManus, his two friends and myself were sent to the detention room. It was determined that McDougal was the victim in all of this and was sent along to class. Mr. Franklin the imposing security guard babysat us as we theoretically waited for our parents to pick us up. Over the next hour or so McManus’ friends were escorted out leaving just the two of us there separated by Mr. Franklin. I settled in with a Nick Hornby book I was reading knowing my dad, if they could even contact him, would tell school officials to fuck off, I was their problem from 0745-0245.
Sitting there, McManus would occasionally draw my attention from the Hornby book and mouth the words ‘I’m going to kill you!’ to which I responded with a sarcastic smirk and then some kisses blown in his direction from my hand. Constrained by the presence of Mr. Franklin, he was like a big dumb Irish Setter tied to a parked car and taunting him was almost better than cracking that stupid fuck upside his moron head. When he was finally called to leave he shouted, “You’re dead Jackson!”
I left school later with a sense of liberation, five days’ worth, and decided to walk home rather than ride the bus. I almost missed McDougal leaning up against the green street light in front of Rite-Aid in his little puke green jacket calling out to me in his tiny voice, “Jackson...Jackson.”
But I just kept walking, fuck that little asshole. He didn’t get the message though and in a voice that was probably yelling for him said, “Thanks for helping me today.”
Normally, I would’ve just let this pass, but there were other kids around who may have heard him and I didn’t want anybody getting the impression that I was some kind of fucking good Samaritan. So I turned around, took five steps in the direction of McDougal and said, “Listen you little fuck, I could give a shit about who kicks you around, just don’t get kicked into me. Got it?” Then, to make sure he got it, I slapped him upside the head and the little fuck crumpled to the ground like a toothpick house folding in on itself.
Wincing in pain he got into a sitting position and looked up at me with his pathetic, tiny pain filled eyes and fucking got me, “McDougal, goddammit, get up, stop being such a little shit,” and I picked his meager little ass from the ground and started to brush him off and straighten him up.
“Get off of me,” he said trying to push me away
I stepped back and looked at him and was filled with...I don’t know what I was filled with, but I wanted to say something and when nothing came to me, I turned to leave.
I hadn’t taken a two steps when McDougal’s tiny little voice called out to me, “Hey Jackson, you want go in the Rite Aid and steal some beer with me?”
Walking, I called back to him, “I just got a five-day vacation, I’m not about to spend it in fucking juvie.”
When I turned to leave he grabbed my hoodie sleeve and said, “I know you’re thinking there’s cameras everywhere in there, but I got a way around that shit, ” and he pulled an iPhone 7 from his jacket pocket.
Hearing McDougal curse was funny and funnier still was the difficulty he had holding iPhone 7, his little fingers straining to grip the device. But with dead seriousness, he said, “I can shut down the security cameras with this.”
Looking skeptically at him he walked to the front of the big plate glass windows that were covered with this week’s specials on foot powder, lawn chairs and feminine hygiene products.
“C’mere,” he said. “Watch this,” and he punched some shit up on the phone and the lights blinked on and off in the store.
Impressed, I said, “Holy shit, McDougal, you’re some little Jimmy Neutron nerd fuck.”
“Jimmy Neutron?... what is this 2003?”
“Yeah, well, I was flipping the channels the other day… Wait a minute, fuck you McDougal,” I said and slapped him on the head, but light enough so he didn’t crumple to the ground like before.
He smiled up at me with teeth too big for his tiny mouth and like Elon Musk or something said, “Let’s do this.”
We stood there for like fifteen minutes waiting for all the foot traffic from school to pass and to make sure there were no customers in the store. During that time we also mapped out a plan: McDougal would go in first, draw the cashier to the back of the store where the pharmacy was located to look for some special kind non-existent vitamins and when they couldn’t find them he would suggest they enlist the the manager’s help. Once the manager was engaged he would jam the security cameras and then signal me by blinking the lights on and off. I would come in and lift the beer from the coolers on the side wall at the front of the store.
It was all set, but as he was about to go through the front doors I became anxious and unlike at school, thought about the consequences, “McDougal, you sure you can do all that?”
Looking straight at me he twitched his fingers on the screen of the phone and the overheads fluttered for a few seconds like a strobe light. Impressive as that was I still wasn’t completely sold and asked, “What if they won’t go to the back of the store with you?”
McDougal gave me a big eye roll and then walked over to me, got up on his toes and slapped me upside my head and with a big smile said, “Normal people feel sorry for me and want to help me. They’ll do whatever I ask, trust me.” Walking away he said, “Make sure you get tall boys.”
And, you know what, that little hobbit motherfucker was right, it worked like a charm. The lights flicked, I went in and could see the back of cashier head and the manager moving to the rear of the store where the closed off and busy pharmacists were engaged in their work, leaving the front of the store wide open. It was almost too easy. Besides a six of Rolling Rock tall boys, I grabbed some Fritos, Tortilla chips and a tin of Altoids. Out on the street cars whizzed by, but luckily there was no foot traffic and with a cool urgency made my way to the side of the building,
On the side of the building I dispatched the Rolling Rocks from their plastic rings and barely was able to jam them in my backpack and waited on McDougal. I had a momentary thought of ditching him, but I don’t know, the little fuck had gotten to me or something. Instead, I got my flip phone out and sent a text to Lexi, that said, ‘Meeet mee.’ The extra e’s were code for her to meet me behind the closed down Fiberglass Plant that was next to Okell Field.
Okell Field butted up against the back of Rite-Aid and South Park on one side and the closed down plant on the other side. Playing softball during gym class one day while looking for a foul ball in the shrub that grew along the six-foot-tall fence separating the field from the plant, I noticed an opening in the fencing. This led to a small space between the back of the Fiberglass Plant and a stockade fence that ran along the perimeter of the property and out beyond the weedy uninhabited parking lot. There were houses on the other side of the stockade fence, but they were far enough away that as long as you weren’t crazy or there wasn’t a softball game going you could hang there in relative peace and fucking tranquility. You could even enjoy a fire in the steel drum that was there while relaxing on some plastic milk crates I nipped from the 7-Eleven. I called it The Spot and sometimes I went back there with a few X-games biking dudes, but mostly I brought girls to neck with back there. Lately, it had been Lexi.
I was growing anxious waiting on McDougal, but eventually he showed with a big grin on his face asking, “Did you get the tall boys?”
“Hell yes, and these too,” I said and holding up the chips,
I turned and at a moderate pace walked along the side of the Rite-Aid and headed to The Spot. McDougal quickly fell behind and my appeals for the little fuck to hurry up were useless. Even at a moderate pace the kid couldn’t keep up. Why, we needed to move fast, I didn’t know. Adrenalin, I guess. But we fell into a pace that was good for McDougal, talking with great excitement at how easy the whole thing had been.
Going against a stiff April breeze with angry dark clouds looming down on us we crossed the field, which was spongy in spots from the spring rains, negotiated the fence and sat down on the milk crates. Facing each other. I set my backpack between us, unzipped it and pulled out two tall boys. Handing one to McDougal, which he had trouble gripping I asked,, “Why tallboys?”
“I don’t know, they look cool.”
With the beers in our hands we both hesitated till McDougal asked, “You ever drink before?”
“Let’s go,” I said and we lightly tapped cans. We both took a slug and I could see McDougal’s face and feel my face wince in pain at the taste of the beer.
After talking about my suspension and how I was going to try to keep it from my old man we both took another cautious drink. The bitterness of a the beer lessened a bit and would continue do so with each new sip.
“I know your old man,” McDougal said out of the blue.
“Poor fucking you, how?”
“Black Dogs. Talty’s. Sometimes when I spend the weekends with my Dad he drags me to all those joints up and down the Avenue.”
“They don’t give him shit bringing you around?” I asked
“Nah, but I don’t go so much anymore, not since the accident.” he said casually.
“Not really an accident, I was driving my dad home from the bar and cut the wheel too hard and scraped the back end of a Chevy Cruze on my dad’s street,” he said.
“You cut the wheel too hard?... McDougal, you’re eleven years old and three fucking feet tall, you can’t drive.”
“Hey, I’m fourteen and 4’ 8,” and I can drive,” he protested
“Jesus Christ, three hits on that beer and out comes the bullshit. You should put it down right now, this drinking thing is not going to work out for you,” I said laughing.
“No, really,” he said still protesting. “My dad is kind of a drunk and a goof and after he got a DWI he taught me to drive so he wouldn’t get another one.”
“Yeah, well my dad is a drunk too and all he taught me was how to shut the fuck up and block punches. So, just quit it, McDougal.”
“Seriously, we would pull the seat way up and I would sit on some old phone books so I could see over the dashboard and we tied a coffee can to my foot so I could reach the pedals and then we practiced in the mall parking lot. I was pretty good. I probably got him home twenty times before I sideswiped that Cruze.”
While I’m not all that smart in a school way, I am pretty smart in the street way and as that little puke sat there with his dumb fucking Harry Potter haircut and his tiny eyes fat with excitement I believed the little fucker. The only thing I thought to ask was, “What’s a phone book?”
As he explained that a phone book was a big thick directory of phone numbers that came out every year before the internet was invented, pretty Lexi made her way through the fence opening and sat down next to me, nodded at McDougal and said, “Where’d you get the beer?”
“Rite Aid,” I said. “It was a big heist,” then I pulled the tab on a beer for her and explained the day’s events.
When I was done she looked at McDougal and said, “I know you, Mr. Fundalinski’s art class. He lets you use the Bluetooth, right?”
“Yeah,” McDougal said, “I have sensitive ears and he lets me listen through this.” and he pulled a mini Bose Bluetooth speaker from his backpack.
Looking at me she said, “You should hear the crazy shit he listens to.”
Lexi had the prettiest blue eyes and the softest lips that were eternally glistening with strawberry supreme lip gloss. I had necked with a bunch of girls and even felt up a few and none of them had the technique down like Lexi. Those other girls would slobber all over your face, but Lexi kept it nice and tight and clean. Like me, she was a little messed up and didn’t do so well in school but she could kiss and she liked good music. None of that Twenty-One Pilots ot Imagine Dragons bullshit, she liked good stuff—Silversun Pickups and Modest Mouse.
Taking her first wincing sip she pulled a pack of menthol Seneca Joe’s from her jean jacket and said, “You got beer, I got these.”
Surprised, I said, “I didn’t know you smoked,”
“I don’t, but my mom was being a total asshole this morning so I stole them. It was her last pack. Now she’s going to have to drop a ten on Newport’s at 7-Eleven to tide her over till she can get to the reservation. Got a light?”
None of us had a light but we all took one and pretended to smoke. As the beer started to kick in McDougal punched up some shit through Google Play on his phone called Foxygen and then some Bon Iver. After that he went old school with the Boy With The Arab Strap by Belle and Sebastian. Lexi loved that song and got up and started to dance with McDougal. I guess these tunes were okay in a genderless college radio type of way and at first it was funny watching McDougal dance with Lexi. After a little awkwardness McDougal found some semblance of rhythm and I could see the way he was smiling at Lexi, he was falling for her and it made me mad. I kind of knew it was stupid to be mad and was going get up and butt in, but instead, I took his phone and dialed up some Slack Motherfucker by Superchunk. They continued to dance but the Superchunk tune was a really up, fist waving high energy song that made you want to bounce around on your toes. Finishing my first beer and feeling a little drunk I even got up and bounced around. I followed that with some motherfucking Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Spread Your Love and McDougal hearing the first heavy notes was like, “Oh yeah, I like this.”
Standing there, he fixed the unlit cigarette to his lips and started to play air guitar. Lexi took out her aviators and wrapped them over his ears. They were too big for his tiny head and he looked like a bug, a bug with a menthol hanging from his mouth playing air guitar. Lexi sat down next to me, took my hand and put her head on my shoulder. I felt stupid for getting mad while she danced with McDougal and was about to descend into the pit of self-recrimination, but it was so funny watching that little runt fuck McDougal sway and bend and do leg kicks like some badass rock star I thankfully didn’t go there.
When he was done he sat down to our applause as we chanted “McDougal, McDougal, McDougal.” We opened the Fritos as he asked questions and searched Google Play for more BRMC.
“I found them on Pandora like last year. Their sound isn’t as heavy these days, but they’re still really good,” I said.
We listened to some more BMRC, while we ate the chips and talked about music. McDougal slurring a little said he heard a lot of new music on the satellite radio station XMU and with a bit of cockiness added, “I knew about Lana Del Rey when I was seven-years old.”
“I love Lana Del Rey. She’s like a rainy afternoon,” Lexi said.
“Eh,” I chimed in, “she’s okay. I mean, she’s pretty funny when she talks about fucking her way to the top, but all her songs go at the same pace, never up or down. They just drone.”
Then in a moment of panic McDougal said, “I forgot to text my mom,” and stopped the music and started to tap furiously at his phone with his thumbs.
I took this opportunity to lean in and kiss Lexi. Even with the beer and Fritos she was a delicious freak of nature with her shiny strawberry lips.
Still kissing Lexi a minute later McDougal said, “Yeah, don’t worry about me, just kiss away there while my mom has every cop in South Buffalo out looking for me.”
“School’s only been out for an hour.”
“Yeah, but she’s scared of stuff and I have all these medications. She worries,”
“What’d you tell her,” Lexi asked.
“Knight’s Blade Gaming,” he said while he looked up something on his phone.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s miniature tabletop gaming. Forget that, check this out,” he said finding what he was looking for on his phone. “This is Mitski, she’s my favorite.”
And from the mini Bose poured a voice with that rainy afternoon vibe similar to Lana Del Rey’s, backed though by a broader range of instrumentation that included some ass kicking guitar. The arrangements and Mitski’s voice also had more range, ticking methodically upward from despondency to resourcefulness to onslaught. It was really good shit and you could see McDougal totally lose himself in it. We all had stuff we got lost in, but there against the gloom of the closed down plant, under a lousy grey sky, McDougal brought it to another level when Your Best American Girl started to play. Sitting there, he began to sway to her moody voice over a slowly picked acoustic guitar and then as the song gained momentum with the addition of bass, drums and a bed of buzzing atmospherics the swaying turned to gentle rocking and you could see in his methodic movements how the music permeated every molecule of his being. Then, as the momentum of the song reached its breaking point, there was an explosion of electric guitars and Mitski’s voice went from moody and vulnerable to a towering sort of muscular righteous. Jumping to his feet with a sudden burst of energy, McDougal threw open his arms like some sort of miniature Jesus on the cross and with his head bent upward to the sky and closed eyes he radiated on the spot. And, with each change in the music his little body convulsed and contorted while violently opening and closing his arms. It was fascinating to watch him become more than lost in the music, the music was of him and he was of it, and it transported him to some higher dimension where he looked like a motherfucking true believer willing himself to God. It was spectacular and when the song ended like a fading electrical storm, I turned to Lexi and her blown away face was all the confirmation needed as to what we just witnessed.
McDougal, slowly lowered himself back into sitting position on the crate and said, “Wow, I’m really drunk.”
But he wasn’t drunk, at least not from the tall boy. Neither were Lexi or I as we finished our beers. We decided to call it a day and after stashing the remaining two tall boys deep in the shrub along the fence and loading up on Altoids we walked home in relative silence. McDougal turned off at West Woodside and I walked Lexi to her house on Tift St. As I made my way back to Lockwood, where I lived, it started to rain a bit and even though I had to come up with a way to keep my five-days off from my dad, I couldn’t get little fucking McDougal and all that had happened today off my mind. I mean, what the fuck was that?