This is the story of Stanley Nicholas Smith. He is a young fellow, barely turned 15; small in stature but large in heart. He is a shy, quiet and reserved individual, without a great deal of self esteem. But then, life has not treated him fairly and so this is understandable. Also, buried in his heart is the secret knowledge that he is different from other boys in a way that confuses and grieves him.
Unknown to him, he is about to embark on some great adventures. In doing so he will make some self discoveries and grow in ways he could not have imagined at story's beginning. And as this is his story, we shall see it through his eyes and experience it just as he does. Let's listen in as he explains how his world came crashing down on one fateful morning...
So here I am, fifteen years old and living on my own. That is if you can call being on the streets living. I really don't know yet, since this is my first full day of it. Last night I slept in my own bed at my step-dad's house. Well, it used to be my Momma's and my house, before he married her. And after she died it somehow, magically, turned out to have his name on the title. Anyway, I have no idea where I'll be sleeping tonight. But I suppose I should start working on that rather than let darkness creep up on me and be totally unprepared. Problem is, I don't know anything about this damn city I find myself in. But I did see one good sized park through the Greyhound window as the bus wormed its way through the city streets. I suppose I'll just start hoofing my way in that direction. It's plenty warm enough to sleep outdoors and I just might find some nice, safe bushes to crawl under.
Funny how things happen, innit? Just this morning things had been fine - well, as fine as they could have been living with crap-head. He comes back to the house to collect the lunch bucket he forgot and catches me and the neighbor boy, Craig, kissing on the living room sofa. My step-dad did so much screaming and carrying on that Craig burst into tears. And Craig's no sissy - not by a long shot. Seventeen years old and built like a linebacker: he's not soft by any means. But the step-dad screams at him to get the hell out and Craig hit the door like a rocket.
I'd been tutoring Craig in History for almost a month. And he'd been coming by my house in the mornings so we could walk to school together. This would give me the opportunity to quiz him on what we had studied the night before.
Honestly, I was sorta head over heels for this guy. I'm kind of a loner, not much for making friends very easily. But Craig and I had been thrown together by my history teacher. It seems Craig needed to get his grades up in order to stay in sports. And since he lived rather close by me, and he sort of took my breath away, I went ahead and volunteered to tutor him. There wasn't any money in it... besides, I wouldn't have been able to pay him anyway. I'd felt us getting closer and closer as time went by. That's why I was entirely receptive when he kissed me right there in the living room. It felt like my feet were floating in the air. But they came crashing to the ground as soon as the screaming started.
After Craig left, I spent the next half hour getting slapped, cussed at, spit on and degraded in every way he could think of. Nothing different there though: I've been his punching bag ever since Momma died a year and a half ago. But this time was different. This time he grabs me by the back of my neck and hauls me up to my room. He grabs my school backpack and dumps everything out of it. Then he tells me I've got five minutes to stuff it full of as much of my clothes as it will hold. He just stands there, looking at his watch, timing me. I didn't know what stuff to grab: I didn't know where he planned on sending me. So I filled it with a few pairs of socks, underwear, t-shirts and my only other pair of clean 501s. And that was all I could push into the pack.
No sooner had I closed the flap when he grabbed a fist full of my hair and propelled me down the stairwell and then shoved me towards the back door. He pulled out that big wallet of his, the one with the chain attached to his belt. Since I was standing there, kind of open mouthed, he shoved a hundred dollar bill into my mouth. Then he says, "here - get used to making your money with your mouth, you little faggot. Now get the hell out of my house and don't even think about coming back here."
I was really shaking when I went out the back door. It wasn't just from the slaps and punches I'd received either, I was kinda used to getting those. I just didn't know what I was going to do, where I was going to go. I started to climb up on my bicycle but crap-head jerks it out from under me.
"That, and everything else you own, is mine. It was either given to you by me or your old lady. And I'm selling the bike and everything else you have that might bring in a buck. What I can't sell, I'm gonna burn."
"One other thing," he says, as I start walking down the driveway. I turn back around to look at him.
"You can probably go to the cops and tell 'em I kicked you out. Then they'll just stick you in juvie until they can find a foster home for ya. And you can probably even get me in trouble for throwing you out, you still being under eighteen and all. But think about this - this is a really small town. I don't think you wanna be living here, even in a foster home, once I start passing around the word that you're a stinkin' homo. If I was you, I'd hightail it over to the bus station and head for some big city. You homos can always find a way to make a living on the streets."
Then he gave me an evil-looking grin, turned and walked over to his pickup. He was probably double mad at me cos' I'd made him late for work. He popped the clutch and burned rubber, backwards, till he pulled up even with me. I'd just left the driveway and was turning onto the sidewalk.
"Wait a minute," he yelled at me. I turned around and stared at him.
"Gimme your house key!" And he held his hand out.
Walking back towards him, I started fumbling with the chain around my neck; that's where I carried my key. I was too nervous and shaky to get the clasp undone. He got impatient and just reached over and ripped chain and all off my neck. Then without saying another word, he backed out onto the street and peeled rubber almost all the way to the stop sign.
I heaved a sigh of relief when he sped around the corner and out of sight. Then I glanced back to where he'd set my bike up against the house. To heck with him - I walked over to it and got on. What's he gonna do, I reasoned, call the cops?
It took me a half an hour to pedal over to the bus depot. To be honest with you, there wasn't anything going through my mind: it was just a blank. I suppose I was in shock and was just reacting out of instinct. I was heading towards the bus depot because that's where he told me to go. Not being in any condition to make plans for myself, I just more or less let him dictate my moves for me. When I got there, I leaned the bike up against the side of the building, feeling a vindictive sort of pleasure as I did so. I knew it was gonna get stolen. And somehow that thought made me feel kind of good. Walking inside, I pulled a bus schedule out of the rack and saw there was a bus departure for the state capital in less than an hour. While pulling the hundred dollar bill out of my pocket, I asked the lady behind the counter for a one way ticket. If she was concerned about some little runt like me buying my own ticket, she didn't show it. And so there I was, sitting on a bench waiting to catch a bus, just like crap-head told me to do.
Oh well, I sighed, that's all water under the bridge. By this evening it would be all over town that I was a faggot. That's not a good thing to be in a small, mid-western town. Poor Craig, I thought, he'll be getting a rough time of it too. But at least he's big enough to take care of himself. Me - I'm skinny and not very tall for fifteen. I've never been exactly satisfied with my looks, either. About the only thing that looks decent on me is my blond hair, I figure. That's why I wear it kind of long. I inherited my Momma's curly hair, that's why I like it I suppose. It's the only thing I have left that reminds me of Momma. All my other features, she said, I musta got from my Dad. And I never met him cos' he got killed in Iraq when I was just a baby.
"Ah, shoot!" I thought. The pictures of Momma and of my Dad. I had a wedding picture of the two of them tucked between my mattress and bedsprings. Crap-head had tossed out the family photo album, so I kept this one hidden. I'd completely forgot about it cos' the step-dad had me so flustered. There probably wasn't time to pedal back to the house and get it, either. Besides, the bike was probably already stolen. Oh well, it's not like I planned to be on this earth long enough to miss it anyway. I had kinda made up my mind that I was just gonna see as much of the capital city as I could until my money ran out. Then I'd just step in front of a bus or a train or something. Damned if I was gonna be some pervert's toy to stay alive. I'll just make a fast, clean exit. For some reason, that line of thought gave me a great deal of comfort at that time. It was like I was in control of my own destiny. It was the first time since Momma died that I'd felt the least bit in control of anything in my life.
But here I am in the capital city. And, whoa... here I am at the park already! I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I haven't been looking around or anything. I guess I've been walking on autopilot or something. My mind is slowly coming out of its fog and I can see that it's a pretty park. There's a huge pond towards the middle and I can see ducks and geese swimming around on it. There are even a couple of paddle boats out there. There's benches here and there, surrounding the water. I slowly gravitate towards an empty one, looking around as I do so. I can see an area in the distance that looks kind of bushy. Like, maybe it's worth investigating as a place to sleep tonight. One thing's for sure, there's no way a kid that's fifteen, and looks fourteen, is gonna be able to rent a motel room. Besides, I've only got about seventy five bucks left anyway. All of that is gonna have to go towards food. Either that, or my destiny with a train or a bus is gonna come a lot sooner than I'd really like.
Before I reach the bench, a lady towing a little girl by the hand walks towards me. She stops in front of me and stretches out a hand with a cellophane bag hanging from it. It's a bread wrapper with a half loaf of bread in it.
"You look like the duck feeding sort," she tells me, with a smile. "We have to go. Would you like the rest of this stale bread to feed the birds?"
I just smile back at her and reach out my hand. Screw the ducks - she's just handed me a free meal!
"Thanks, lady," I tell her.
She just waves back at me as she continues on her way. So, sack firmly in hand, I settle myself on one of the benches. I pull off my backpack so I can lean back. I'm deliberately pushing all the occurrences of the day out of my mind. This is kind of pleasant, actually. The June sun feels warm as it reflects off the pond. My mouth is awful dry though as I chomp my way through the second slice of stale white bread. Oh oh... the ducks must recognize the bread wrapper. They're paddling over here in droves or bunches or whatever the heck a bunch of ducks is called. Ha, ha, ha... this is funny. They're waddling all around the bench, quacking up a storm.
"Okay," I tell them, "just one stinking slice. That's all you get." And I commence to tear up a slice into a gazillion little pieces. I fling them into the center of the mob and they all head for it. Ha, ha, ha... look at em go! It's a duck war! This is tooo funny. It's so funny, in fact, that I tear up two more slices and watch a repeat performance. Only now there are some geese that are trying to get into the act. Dang... those are some big assed birds! And one of them is standing right in front of me and eying the bread sack.
Ah nuts... he snatched it - the bugger pulled it right outa my hands! And the other geese and ducks are doing their darnedest to take it away from him. And here I am, right in the middle of the fray, cos' I want it back! Ow... ow... ow! Ah shoot... that hurts! Those beaks are lethal weapons.
"Gimme that, ya stinkin' thief! Ow... ow... ow! Okay, screw it... you can keep it then!"
I back my way out of the fracas and climb back onto the bench. Standing up, I sweep up my backpack and take a quick running leap away from the horde of robbers spread in front of me. Damn... they don't peck - the buggers gouge! And they gouge hard. I check over the red marks on my arms as I quick step away from the site of my humiliating defeat. I don't get very far though before I start giggling. Here I haven't been in the city over an hour and I've already been gang-raped. Snort... well, they did attack me with their peckers! Har, har, har!
Now I'm on the ground, rolling around, laughing like a hyena. My moods have been all over the place. Numb and dead inside one minute; now here I am nearly hysterical with laughter. I guess a shrink could have a field day with me. But the thought of being gang raped by a mob of ducks and geese... har, har, har! They were whacking me with their peckers... har, har, har! I roll over and look in their direction. Whoops... I'm on my feet faster than you can say 'quack'. A bunch of em are heading my way again. Probably figure I still have some goodies left.
A short trot and I'm on an asphalt pathway. There are people riding bikes, roller skating and walking hand in hand here. It seems like a kind of festive spirit and I find my own spirits rising. Heck, it's a warm day, I'm having an adventure and I got about seventy-five bucks in my pocket. I don't think about what's going to happen after the money runs out - my mind doesn't wanna wander there. So I just walk along, watching people throw Frisbees to dogs or each other. There's this old dude, must be at least forty, and he's running towards me on the path and he's dressed in spandex tights. I chuckle to think that if he'd worn that in my town he'd be tarred and feathered. He grins at me as he runs past and I just grin back at him. Crazy old fart!
Ah, ha... a water fountain. I stop and tank up. That bread left the inside of my mouth fuzzy as a wool sock, and this water is cool and wonderful. I wipe the chin drizzles off with my arm and look around. I can see that wooded, brushy area not too far from here. I'd been carrying my pack in one hand cos' I was in a hurry to get away from the dastardly ducks, so I take a minute to put my arms through the straps and get it situated on my back. Then I wander off the path and head for the wooded section. It's way too early to think about sleeping, but I want to have a place picked out before it gets dark.
I push my way through the bushes and try to force my way into the interior a bit. After a minute or two of pushing I step into a small clearing. This is great, I'm thinking, a clear spot to lie in and it's surrounded by low-growing brush. When it gets dark no one will be able to see me in here. I glance down to see what I'm going to be lying on tonight and do a double take. There's a dang blanket spread on the ground! Ah, nuts... someone else has got the same idea I have. This spot has already been claimed - some transient, I suppose. And I don't fancy having some city bum as a bed partner tonight. But then I spy something that changes my thinking. Just off the edge of the blanket I spot a condom, and it's easy to see it's used. This is probably where some picnickers snuck off to have themselves a little private booty time. They probably left the blanket here cos' they plan on coming back later for seconds.
Pushing my way out of the brush, I head back towards the main park. I'll check on it again just before dark to see if it has been abandoned or not. In the meantime, I'll keep looking. It was a swell spot but I might find something better. But first, I decide, I want to find a spot to stretch out for awhile. Too much has happened in one day and now my whole body is starting to feel the effects. My arms and legs are kind of rubbery and I'm not thinking too clearly. I find a spot of grass not too far from the path and where other people are sitting or laying nearby. I wanna stay in view of enough people so that I don't have to worry about somebody trying something with me. I've already spotted a couple of derelict types wandering about. One of them looked at me like I was a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Pulling my pack off, I lay it down to use as a head and back rest. Then I lie back on it and feel my muscles slowly relax. There are a few small, fleecy clouds crawling around in the sky. I watch them and try to make faces outa them until my eyelids start to droop. I'm trying real hard not to think of what's transpired and what little my future holds. I'm opting for sleep to just numb me out. And soon enough I get my wish.
It's a hungry, grumbling stomach that eventually awakens me. It takes me a few seconds to get my bearings and recognize where I'm at. Then the whole day's events come crashing back down on me and I fall into an immediate depression. To top it off, I can see that it's nearly twilight. I must have slept quite a few hours, when I should have been searching for an alternate sleeping spot. It'll be past dark before I find anything else and, besides, I need to think about getting something to eat.
I sit up, hunched over and in a really dejected mood. I'm hungry, depressed and really, really lonely. Most of the people in the park have disappeared. The safety in numbers idea is no longer an option. Then I glance to my right, in the direction of the pond, and nearly shit my pants! There is a kid sitting not three feet away from me. He's sitting with his legs crossed and just watching me. He has a blue bandanna wrapped around his head, covering his ears, like some kind of gang colors. I guess he's about my age or a little younger. He doesn't look exactly formidable or anything, except for the bandanna. And he's wearing some rather strange looking clothing. But before I can make out just what it is he's wearing, he speaks to me.
"There was a rough looking person eyeballing your traveling pack. So I wandered over and sat down to let him think you were not here alone and unprotected. You have been asleep for hours, you know."
It's a strange sort of accent that I can't seem to place, although his voice is melodious and it sets me at ease. This doesn't seem to be someone that means me any harm. I mean, shoot, he's been sitting there watching out for me.
"Ummm... thanks," I reply, not knowing what else to say, really. Just then my stomach decides to send a verbal protest as to its state of emptiness. It speaks for me. I guess two slices of stale bread weren't enough to satisfy it. My new friend's face cracks into a smile when he hears my belly's rumblings.
"It sounds as though you could do with something to eat," he grins at me.
I smile back in response. His voice has a lilting, almost musical quality to it. I still can't place the accent, but I really like the sound of it. I've decided that I like my new friend. I smile back at him.
"Yeah, I haven't had much to eat today. My stomach's saying 'feed me or I'll slit your throat,' I chuckle."
"Ha, ha, ha..." he responds, "well then, perhaps you should feed it before it commits some heinous crime. There are some vendors at the entrance to the park. Perhaps they could put your stomach in a less felonious mood."
I giggle in response, "I could put away a couple of hot dogs, that's for sure. Will you let me buy you some supper in return for watching my back while I was sleeping?"
In truth, I was hoping he would accept just so I would have his company for a little while longer. Evening was coming on and he would, more than likely, be needing to head home sometime soon. But instead of the yes or no response I was expecting, he says...
"Hot Dog? You people eat dogs? Oh my gods, that is barbaric!"
His voice has risen in pitch and volume. His face has started turning red and he practically spits out the word "barbaric". He rises to his feet, eyes the size of saucers.
"Whoa..." I reply, "they aren't made of dogs - honest they aren't. I don't know why they're called that: it's just a name."
I rise to my feet with him, and make a 'calm down' gesture with my hands. Wow, this kid is something else. Where the heck is he from that he's never heard of hot dogs?
"They are made of pork or beef or poultry, not dogs," I tell him. "We don't eat dogs!"
He calmed down considerably when I said they weren't made of dogs. But with my last statement his eyes grow large again.
"You do not eat dogs, but you eat swine and bovines and poultry?"
"Exactly," I respond, "now you're getting it. See... we aren't really barbarians."
He's looking at me like I'd just claimed that pigs could fly. But then he sighs and just looks down at the ground.
"Forgive me," he says. "I knew you people ate animals; I had just forgotten is all. And if it is all right with you, I will just pass up this opportunity to try a hot dog made of the flesh of some poor creature. Perhaps it would be best if I just left now anyway.
Wow, double whammy. I've just been made to feel like I'm the creature from the black lagoon because I eat 'creature flesh', and now I'm about to be left all alone again. I can't help it, but this just adds fuel to my emotional afterburners. I feel the tears leaking out and trickling down my cheeks. I try to turn so that he doesn't see that I'm some little kid cry baby, but I'm not fast enough.
"I am sorry... I am sorry," he tells me. "Please forgive me. It is not bad that you eat animals. Here animals are just dumb things and they cannot think or talk or anything. Look, maybe I will join you and have one of these hot dogs after all. I am not promising I can go through with it, but I will at least try."
I can't recall ever being so touched by anyone's statement before. I mean, here this guy is, obviously opposed to eating meat, and yet he's willing to force himself to try it just to make me feel better. I don't know what he means by animals here being dumb and unable to think or talk; I just chalk that up to his emotional state.
"That's okay," I sniff back at him, wiping at my cheeks with the back of my hands. Then I grin at him and say, "you don't need to eat any creature flesh. Maybe we can find something we can both eat that won't have you puking on my shoes."
He nods his head and smiles back at me in response. Then he walks up and slips an arm over my shoulder.
"I did smell some fermented cabbage coming from one of those carts," he says. "I would not mind eating that and you could have your hot dog."
"Ewwww..." I'm thinking, fermented cabbage? What the heck kind of vendor cart is that? Oh well, I'm glad there's something there he can sink his teeth into. And I'll at least get to maintain his company for a little longer. I'm sure not in any hurry to be alone again. I've nothing to look forward to but curling up for the night under some bushes and, since I slept for a big part of the day, I'll probably lie awake all night anyway. And, I'm really liking the feeling of that arm over my shoulder.
"You got a deal! Uhhh... gosh, you know, I don't even know your name. My name is Stanley Nicholas Smith. But you can just call me Nicholas or Nick."
He gives me another large grin and says, "pleased to meet you, Stanley Nicholas Smith, or just Nick. My name is Minky and you can call me Minky."
"Haa, haa... okay then, Minky. Let's go get something to eat."
I slip my own arm over Minky's shoulder, scoop my pack off the ground, and we commence walking towards the park entrance and the fermented cabbage vendors... ewwww.
"See that rough looking person over there, Nicholas? He is the one that was eying your travel pack."
I glance in the direction that he's looking. It's a pretty unwashed and rough looking individual alright.
"Yeah, Minky, there are a number of transients here I've noticed. This park just may not be the safest place to be after dark."
I'm starting to get a bit of foreboding over that concept. But it's a bit late to go looking around now. I'm hoping my hiding spot is going to be a secure one.
"A transient? Does that mean someone that travels from place to place?"
"Kind of. But it's really just a polite word for bum or hobo. That's someone that has no place to live or a job or anything."
Minky, I notice, is barefoot. And the cloth I feel under my hand has a silk-like texture. Ahh... that's why I thought he was dressed sort of funny. His clothes look awfully like a pair of green silk pajamas. And they clash horribly with that blue bandanna. Oh well, from his voice and accent and his vegetarian ways, he's obviously from a different culture than I'm used to. I'm obviously different from what he's used to also, what with my creature eating ways.
As we approach the entrance I can see three carts or vendor wagons set up. There is the hot dog cart, a taco cart and an ice-cream vendor. I'm beginning to wonder just what in the heck he meant by fermented cabbage when the odor hits me. Sauerkraut... har, har... he smelled the sauerkraut from the hot dog vendor. Of course: dummy me, it's nothing more than fermented cabbage.
I'm in the process of ordering one hot dog with sauerkraut and one hot dog bun with double sauerkraut only. Minky, meanwhile, has his head stuck into the ice-cream vendor's cart. I walk over to him with his meal in my hand. He accepts it graciously and points at the ice-cream cart.
"What sort of animal do they freeze and put in there, Nicholas?"
That darn near causes me to choke on my bite of hot dog. I'm "hehehing" and coughing at the same time.
"That's ice-cream, Minky. And it's made from cream which comes from cow's milk. I guess a strict vegetarian wouldn't want to eat that either."
"Ohhh..." he says, "it is just bovine lactate?"
That has me chuckling. "Yeah, Minky; it's just bovine lactate with a little chocolate if you want and even some peanuts if you want."
He smiles and nods his head. "I can eat that, Nick. You do not have to kill an animal to get lactate. Does it go good with fermented cabbage?"
"Uhhh... you might want to wait for a bit after eating the cabbage, Minky. But I'll get us both a chocolate coated ice-cream bar with peanuts for desert."
"All right. Thank you, Nick. I am liking this cabbage on a roll very much."
We continue to eat, watching one another and grinning. Minky has grey eyes with little gold specks in them. And they crinkle around the edges when he smiles. His hair appears to be as silky looking as his pajama clothes feel. And his hair is a golden blond color, much lighter in shade than my own. All in all, he is one handsome fella. And I would guess his age to be close to mine, about fourteen or fifteen.
We finish our dinners and I buy us a couple of Heath Crunch Bars. He watches me unwrap mine and he does the same to his. He takes his first bite and his face lights up in wonder and delight.
"This is truly awesome, Nick! Do you think you could teach me to make this? I would very much like to take this home with me."
"Ehhh... why don't you just buy a few bars to take home, Minky? That's a heck of a lot easier than trying to make one from scratch, ya know."
"Well, Nick, for reasons I can't really go into right now, that just wouldn't be very practical."
"Oh, I think I get you, Minky. Do you mean you live too far away to get them home before they'd melt?"
"Ahh... yes! Something like that, Nick. Something like that."
Minky stopped talking and is giving me a somewhat pensive look. It's as though he is trying to frame a question and is trying to think of how to express himself delicately. Finally he asks...
"Are you a transient, Nick? Are you a bum or a hobo? Do you not have a home to go to?"
Now it's my turn to give him a pensive look. Just how honest do I want to be here? Would I want to hang out with some street kid if the situation were reversed? Aren't they all supposed to be thieves or druggies or worse? But I've never been capable of carrying a lie very far. I'm just not a convincing liar, I guess.
"Yeah, Minky, I guess I am. I wasn't yesterday, but today I am. I'm planning to sleep in this park, just a short distance from where you met me. And it's okay if you don't want to hang out with a transient. I mean, I'd understand. Actually though, I think we're called street kids. I think you gotta be an adult to warrant being a bum or transient."
"What happened today to cause you to become a street kid, Nick?"
Dang! Just how do I explain this? Do I say my step-dad tossed me out cos' he caught me tongue wrestling with the neighbor boy? Minky would probably disappear so fast his bandanna would fly off.
"Ummm... well, my step-dad has been looking for an excuse to get rid of me ever since my Momma died, Minky. It really didn't take much of an excuse for him to toss me out."
He looks at me blankly for a few seconds. Then a look of total astonishment crosses his face.
"You mean, he just threw you away? He threw you away like you were refuse or something? Like... like you were an object instead of a person?"
I just nod my head slightly, not really knowing what to say. Minky's countenance changes from wide eyed astonishment to red faced anger. I can practically see steam coming from the top of his head.
"Why... that low-life bog lizard!" He shouts, "I would like to take him home with me and feed him to a Whipple. Hopefully it would roast him medium rare first. Ahhhhhh... what kind of people live in your world, Nick?"
First of all, there are a couple of things my mind is trying to digest here. Like, just what the hell is a Whipple? And... and, what does he mean by my world? Minky seems like a really nice kid. And he seems moral and stuff. But I have to admit, it's like he lives in some kind of a fantasy world. Maybe he's played too much dungeons and dragons or something.
"Minky... where on earth are you from? This isn't just my world; it's your world too, ya know? You're kinda creeping me out a little. I mean... bog lizards and whipples?"
Whoa... that seemed to take the steam right out of his boiler. He's wearing an oh-shit expression now, if I've ever seen one. He's blinking really fast, like I do when I'm about to try and tell a whopper.
"I am... a foreigner, Nick. I am from... a foreign land. Things... people, are just a little different there is all."
"What foreign land, Minky? You mean like from France or something?"
"Yeah... yeah! That is it alright. I am from France, Nick."
"Où habitez-vous, Minky?"
"What? Huh? Oh... crap! That's the France language, is it not, Nicholas?"
"Yeah, Minky, that's the France language. And you can't speak it, can you?"
"Ummmm... oh crap!"
He sighs, his shoulders slump forward and he has the most pathetic look on his face. He doesn't say anything for a few seconds then he sort of purses his lips and says...
"Okay, Nicholas," in a soft, defeated voice. "I am not very good at telling untruths. Besides, I think you are a friend of mine now. A friend does not tell untruths to another friend. At least he does not where I come from; perhaps that is different here."
"No, Minky, it's no different here. We don't tell untruths to our friends here, either. So why don't you tell me where you're really from."
He looks at me for a few seconds: who knows what is running through his brain. He gives me an attempt at a nervous, half smile.
"Can we go to the place you picked out to sleep tonight, first, Nick? I have something to show you as well as tell you, and I don't think it should be in front of the fermented cabbage seller."
I return his half smile and nod my head. God - 'the fermented cabbage seller,' chortle. I think this kid's from Disneyland! We start walking back into the interior of the park, silently, each absorbed in his own thoughts.
After a few minutes of walking I feel a warm, soft hand grasp hold of mine. I feel my stomach do a double flip at the intimacy of such a gesture, but I don't make any attempt to pull my hand away.
"Nicholas, I am right, am I not? We are friends?"
I look over towards this boy walking alongside of me, holding my hand. He has a sweet disposition, a body to die for and the lilting voice of an angel. I probably feel the strongest attraction I have ever felt towards another human being right now. Friends? Duh!
"Minky, I've always been a really quiet person. I think my own private thoughts and pretty much stick to myself. I'm the kind of a person that doesn't attract very many friends. So yeah, you and I are friends, for certain. And if you want me to believe you come from France then, hey, that's okay by me. I won't ask you any more questions. I figure you can tell me what you want when you want, okay?"
Minky stops walking when I tell him this. And of course, with our hands clasped together, that pretty much stops my forward momentum. I turn and look at him. His face is lit up in this big, beaming smile.
"You really mean that, do you not, Nicholas? As curious as you must be about this funny guy with you, you would let your curiosity remain unfulfilled just to keep me from feeling uncomfortable, would you not?"
"Well yeah. I mean... you're my friend now, Minky. And if friends don't lie to one another, then they don't cause their friends to have to lie either. If there's something you can't tell me, then I guess I'll just have to be satisfied with that. And I'll just hope that you'll feel comfortable enough to tell me later. In fact, truth be told, there's something I've held back telling you as well, something I'm afraid might change your feelings of friendship towards me."
The whole time I've been answering him, that sweet smile hasn't altered. His eyes have been fairly dancing around my face. And honest to God, those gold-flecked, hazel eyes seem capable of reading me as effortlessly as I could read a Dick and Jane book.
"Oh, I know what it is, Nicholas."
I feel myself draw in a surprised breath of air. He CAN read me. My heart has started to hammer in my chest. This is it. This is where he tells me that he's no fag lover; that he's made a mistake in calling me his friend.
"But you are right: friends do not hide things from one another. I am going to tell you who I am and where I am from because I want you to know this very much. I want you to know me, Nick. I just hope I do not shock you too much. I hope you do not run away."
Shock me? Hell... I'd been expecting to get a kiss off, a "see ya later, pal". But he's still talking to me... still holding my hand with that sweet look on his face.
"This is not it, is it?" He asks me, looking around. "You are not planning on sleeping here in the open, are you?"
This causes me to glance around in response. We are standing just about where I had taken my nap earlier: where I'd woken up to find this blond haired, barefoot, pajama clad boy staring at me.
"No... this way, Minky." And I tug him by the hand towards the bushes where I had discovered the hiding spot and the blanket earlier. Pushing my way through the bushes, I tow pajama boy behind me. We step into the clearing and we're standing on that same blanket. The people haven't come back, they haven't removed it. I guess I get a little comfort for the evening after all.
"Welcome home, Minky. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable," I giggle, settling myself down in the center of the blanket.
"Oh, Nicholas, this is nice. You are surrounded by bushes and you have brought a blanket to wrap yourself in." He crosses his legs and sits next to me.
"Actually, the blanket was already here. Someone must have forgotten it."
I wasn't about to mention the used condom hanging from a bush nearby, the one that had clued me in on the blanket's purpose. I don't quite feel up to discussing used condoms with him. But I figure the blanket has served its purpose and the people have moved on.
Minky takes in a big breath of air and then exhales... slowly. He's looking at me like he's trying to screw up his courage.
"Nick," he says, placing his hand on his bandanna. "I picked up this scarf where a dark skinned boy had dropped it, shortly after I arrived here in this park. The boys were in some sort of a club, I suppose, because they were all wearing these around their heads."
"I wouldn't call it a club, Minky. Scarves, or bandannas like that, are called 'gang colors'; they mark a kid for belonging in a particular gang. Why did the boy drop his bandanna?"
"Well, actually, it was because they saw me, I suppose. The one boy was in the process of tying this around his head when I walked up to them. They saw me, then turned around and ran as fast as they could in the opposite direction, and the one boy dropped this bandanna."
"Yeah," I giggle, "they saw the blond-headed pajama boy and it scared them out of their wits!"
"No... this is why, Nicky." And he pulls the ends of the scarf loose and takes it off.
I've taken an involuntary breath. I don't know what it was I was expecting to see: a tattoo in the center of his forehead, a third eye. But there is nothing there: it's just a sweet, pink forehead running up into a mop of shining, blond hair. The air slowly hisses back out of my lungs: no surprises here. But then he turns his head sideways and once again my diaphragm does its involuntary expansion. The ears... Christ almighty... it's his ears!
I've seen my share of werewolf movies. I know what the pointy ears are supposed to signify! Sweet Jesus God! Who is... WHAT... is this boy?
"Why..." I gasp, "why are your ears like that, Minky? Minky... what are you?"
He turns his face towards me, a sad, sort of begging expression pulling down the corners of his mouth.
"Just a boy, Nicholas. Just a boy... just like you."
And the expression on his face says he fully expects me to leap up and run away from him, just like that gang did. He's shown me his secret and he fully expects to be rejected for it. His look tells me he's simply waiting for the inevitable. But this is no ordinary boy who just happens to have pointed ears. Only a few minutes ago I'd felt his eyes sweep over me: I'd tangibly felt him lift my own secret from the depths of my soul. He knows that my life was shattered from a single, perverted kiss. I'd told him that I hadn't revealed something that might change his feelings towards me. "I know what it is," he had told me.
No, this is no ordinary boy with pointy ears. Minky is no werewolf either; I'd stake my life on that. I had scooted away from him as soon as I'd glimpsed those ears. I can feel the emotion emanating from him; it was the same emotion I'd felt when crap-head tossed me out of his house.
I use my hands to scoot my body towards him once again. I stop when the knees of my crossed legs are touching against his knees. Then I slowly reach up and cup those ears in my hands - those pointy, not quite human-looking ears. The skin is smooth, the ears are warm and they certainly don't feel evil. The smile that creeps onto his face and the crinkle at the edges of his eyes speak volumes to me.
"So... pixie boy, have you got any other surprises for me?" I grinningly ask him.
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