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Fiction Crime

‘It was so lucky we were able to post bail,’ mother says pushing against the police station’s glass door, and I follow behind her, ‘considering your brother’s situation.’

Tommy, my younger brother, was born with a hereditary condition which limits his mobility. He sees a physical therapist two or three times a week depending on how much money there is. You can imagine how that puts a serious financial strain on a part time piano instructor. Her only relief is looking forward to the small pension check of my late father. She is stretched between taking care of Tommy, and teaching piano to the neighborhood’s intolerable little kids in whatever time she finds herself free. Poor woman one day dreamed to be a concert pianist. I guess children ruin parent’s lives, and parents do the same in return.

Inadvertently scratching my nose, the sharp pain reminds me of my broken nose, consequence of earlier excitement in the school yard. A block away mother gets in the driver seat of our old rusty green Ford. Of course that she would not let me drive, I assume for a long while this time. Anything anywhere happens I am to blame, that is the rule. No questions asked.

Though this time around is quite different, it is not just mother assuming me guilty. This morning at school everyone thought I had done it. The different kid, the loner type. The one with the weird hair. Not that it is weird, but you know, when people decide they don’t like you, even your ‘hello’ would sound strange to them.

Hardly, I care about what people think of me at school. Perhaps that is all the more fuel to their attitudes, corroborating their view of me. But honestly I’d be lying if I said I was nonchalant when police is taking them seriously. Those idiot ‘RO’ twins, Ron and Roy, huge and dumb, respectively. How in the world anyone would believe anything out of their mouths, I am baffled. If they say it is morning I would have my supper right then and there.  And of course their horrible bully for a father would back them up, making up stories. Then in span of few hours everyone in school is convinced I’ve done it, and certainly it was obvious for everyone beyond any shadow of doubt. Moreover suddenly all became professional criminal profilers, telling stories about my mad temper, my supposedly wrecked childhood and propensity toward animal cruelty. Rubbish that is.

The drive home is worse than the time mother thought I left the garage door wide open. Next morning garage was all cleared out, and the walls inside were graffitied cuss words, not the most imaginative profanities, your average ‘F’ words. There was nothing worthy in the garage, but few old spare tires, and tools left in there since Dad was alive. She grounded me for two months then, took away my laptop, phone and the broken down PlayStation which froze every couple of hours. In addition she forced me to paint the whole damn garage. Absolute boredom.

Anyhow that was different from this time. Then I had actually done it. Not intentionally. Just slipped my mind to close the door, maybe I just didn’t care. I must confess, I am a little nervous. I feel the whole world had ganged up on me. Even Tommy, wearing his favorite souvenir of Dad, a yellow cap which reads ‘Dreamer’ on the front, looks at me accusatory when we get home.

I am going to tell you something, please don’t assume the worse in me. I usually try to avoid being alone with my brother. Not that I hate him or anything, but it’s just awkward, I never know what to say. I mean I love him and all, but I get flustered when I see him needing us for everything. Then I hate myself for feeling that way, such a pathetic being I have become.

Things were alright back then Dad was around. But since he died, it all just went downhill. Sometimes I think everyone hating me is kind of the karma thing that everyone is talking about. I deserve it. Not for the arson of course, but in general I sort of earned it. I don’t think I am a good person. But regarding the fire incident, I truly have done nothing wrong. In fact I think it’s horrible, the poor dogs. Not that I am a big fan of dogs or anything, but you know, I don’t want them burning alive like a sicko.

When I was a little kid, we had a dog called Alphie. Dad rescued the mixed-breed thing from a shelter. He was dirty brown with the ugliest patches of grey around his body. Alphie bit my hand once, when he was eight and I was ten. Tommy was only a baby, he couldn’t even walk. Back then nobody thought anything was wrong with him. We were a happy little family with an ugly dog.

Mom practiced her piano diligently, going in for auditions. She actually composed few pieces. She was an amazing pianist. I loved listening to her play. I used to hide under the dining table, when her colleagues would come over to hear a piece or do a duet. I think she saw me once, but did not say anything. Back then she loved me so much. I am not sure when exactly everything changed. Every now and then when I am in the kitchen, I hear her playing, and I would linger longer than I have to, so I can listen, pretending to be a kid again.

Dad loved Alphie, so did I. I’ve done anything you can imagine to him. The poor ugly thing never had even growled at me. Only that one time, I came home from Danny’s house down the street. We had been playing some game or other. I was ten years old. When I got home, found Alphie on the porch. I don’t know what came over me. I lunged at him, just amusing myself I guess. I had seen it on a movie or something. The poor dog jumped back shivering. I did not quit though. His reaction was funny to me. Then I ordered him to sit at my foot, so he did as I told him. Then I started teasing him, lightly pinching him with one hand, and with other holding him tight by his collar. I understand now you think I am a monster, but really I was just a stupid bored kid, and honestly I didn’t think I was hurting him, just playing. Then in a flash, Alphie growled, his eyes narrowed. It happened so fast, I did not even have time to process it. Then I just felt the pain explode in my right hand.

It was really an unusual event; I mean Alphie was always kind and docile. I had done worse to the poor thing, but never ever he showed any proclivity for violence.

Second later mom jumped out of the house screaming. She had been watching us through the window. Her screaming was enough to startle Alphie. He instantly reverted back to his usual timid nature. Whoever he became in that moment was long gone. He let go of my hand and fled the scene of crime. Mom took me to the hospital. They cleaned me up. My pinky was badly mutilated. They were able to save the finger, but it never functioned properly again. It was just there attached to my hand lifeless and unmoving. Good thing I wasn’t going to be a pianist I guess.

I was shaking, and trembling. The poor dog slept that December night in the shed. When Dad came home, mom told him what happened, and demanded that Alphie to be put down. Dad refused. He loved the dog so much; instead he took Alphie to a farm at his work. I never saw Alphie again.

Ever since that incident I became frightened of dogs. But I never hated them to do such a horrible thing. They think I am a mad dog killer, and an arsonist on top of it. It’s sad to see mother doesn’t believe me. I wish dad was still with us, I bet he would have believed me.

#

Next morning i meet Jimmy by the Café at end of our street. ‘What happened?’ asks Jimmy.

I shrug. Jimmy counts as my only friend in the school. We’ve been together since middle school. He knows me and my family pretty damn well. He says nothing but I get a feeling that even he believes the stories. I don’t really try to persuade anyone anymore. It’s so exhausting. It’s just easier to take the blame sometimes.

‘You know just a regular day. Handcuffed. Spent few hours in lock-up,’ I said.

We turn a corner to Pine Street, opposite direction from school. Today Jimmy doesn’t even ask if I wanted to go to school. Usually when we cut, we go drinking a bit, smoking a bit, and wasting time wandering in the park and the streets. It’s kind of nice when you think about it, considering Jimmy thinks that I’ve done it, yet still he hangs around with me, being friendly and all.

He is swinging his backpack from shoulder to another. It’s his nervous habit when he is struggling to say something that makes him uncomfortable. ‘Can I ask a question,’ finally asks.

‘Yep, go ahead,’ I say.

‘Why were you there?’ he asks, not in an accusatory tone though, more out of curiosity. ‘I mean it’s kind of odd. They say you’re on a video or something.’

That is true; I had seen the damn video. The smug look on the officer’s face turned into pursed lips, when I still denied any involvement in the fire. I bet he had expected I would break down into tears and confess to all my sins. I guess he watches too many movies. It does not actually show me setting the barn on fire, but it catches me passing with my backpack, around the time they estimate fire was started. It was recorded by a shop’s surveillance camera down the street from ‘RO’ Twin’s house.

Fire had almost burned their whole house. Lucky, Mr. Lying-Through-His-Teeth got back home in time; they (he along with few of the neighbors) managed to stop the fire from spreading to the house. But by then barn was burned to ashes, with the five dogs trapped inside. A total horror show.

‘I’m heading back to school,’ I say ignoring Jimmy’s question. ‘Gotta catch ‘RO’ Twins.’

Jimmy stops walking, stares at me wildly as if I’ve gone insane. ‘Why ever would you want to do that?’

I shrug. ‘I’m not sure, but I’m not going to juvie for those idiots.’ That was what mother said at home, apparently with crime like this, if found guilty by the court; there was the risk to be sent to juvie. If I didn’t set the fire, someone did, and I bet I know who they were.

#

I have one more thing to confess. When the police came to my home and took me to the station, they checked my backpack and found fire liquids. Yes I know how it looks, but believe me I am not a wicked fiend. The fact is I was on my way to ‘RO’ twin’s house to do something horrible. I was going to burn their barn, but not with the dogs inside. But when I arrived there, I changed my mind and came back home.

For few weeks things between ‘RO’ twins and I were escalating. They always had it out for me, teasing me, making snide remarks about Tommy, stuff like that. I usually let it slide as they are bunch of morons, but things got a bit out of hand when one day, on the yard Ron was fake limping and repeatedly saying ‘I am a monster, don’t come near me’. At first I tried to ignore him, and continued walking. Then he walked toward me, screaming in that distorted voice, ‘don’t be frightened of me, I am just like youuu.’ And that was it, I jumped on him, punched his face. Quickly Roy coming from behind pushed me to the ground and beat me half unconscious. 

After we were sent into the administration office, warned and reprimanded, i don’t know why but I told them I would burn their house. In retrospect I can see how foolish I was to say something like that, but I was just so angry. I wasn’t of course about to do anything of the sort. But you can see how I was set up. Adding to the fact the office secretary stated to the police what she had overheard. In spite of my freedom hanging in the balance, I am quite amazed how those two brainless morons set me up like that.

Twenty minutes later Jimmy and I are standing at the school yard, the first period is over. I find the twins behind the building smoking.

The plan is simple; I am going to get those two buffoons to confess while I am recording them on my phone. I can tell Jimmy still skeptic, but have come along anyway.

When they see us coming, Ron buffs his chest, making fists at ready. ‘Why did they let you out?’

I walk up to them only few paces away, Jimmy stands by my side. ‘They know I didn’t do it,’ I say, ‘now they are looking at other probable suspects, who had the opportunity,’ I am going to bluff, that’s the only thing i can do now. At the same time my phone in my jacket’s pocket is recording.

‘No way,’ Roy laughing, ‘you’re on the video. And everyone heard you when you threatened to burn our house.’

I wish I could have punched them both, if it didn’t complicate my situation further.  I stay calm, what matters is to get them confess, I remind myself. ‘True they got me passing the street by your house,’ I say smiling, ‘and in another camera I am seen passing the other side of the street, not a minute later. No time for starting fire.’ I thought that was enough to unsettle them.

Satisfaction is sweet, when I see them doubting, exchanging look. Then it happens, another evidence for my bad karma. For some inexplicable reason my hands just slips out of the pocket for a second, but long enough for them to spot phone.

For a second I think they are going to beat me up again, they lunge at me, but they are taking my phone out of my hand. I stand still watching passively. Jimmy cries out, ‘hoy give that back.’ But I don’t think they even heard him.

‘You snitch, you were recording us,’ says Ron, I expect he would break my phone, but he strangely calm deletes the recording, and hands back the phone to me grinning wildly. ‘I bet you would be in lock-up for a long time.’

#

Once I get home, mother runs at me screaming, hugging me tightly. I struggle to free myself.

‘It’s unbelievable. I just talked to the officer at the station, apparently another surveillance video turned up showing you leaving the street ,’ mother says smiling, ‘with the time stamp, which proves you didn’t have the time to set the fire.’

I’m not sure if I am dreaming or not, maybe I am in a hospital somewhere lying unconscious. But it was the truth after all. I did leave the street immediately. ‘So who they think started the fire?’

‘I don’t know baby,’ mother says, hugging me again, ‘sure glad it was not you.’ I know I should be glad that they ruled me out as a suspect, but it would have been nicer if someone had believed me before the second video showed up.

December 03, 2020 16:49

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