all this shit about it I don’t give a shit no more when my man used to get all dressed up for me take me out we just do it back there behind the bar ‘cause I was only 15 he didn’t want no trouble from it like if I got with a baby and all that and I never had no real fun my daddy made us work in the cotton mill and my hands were always sore I couldn’t hardly hear no more from them damn machines like I said I said it already I said it to those police who found him sitting dead on that dock just like I always felt he was going be some kind of trouble to the house just a mouth to feed and a body to clothe and not too smart neither we should have done away with it that night when I squeezed him out and if we lived someplace else that would have been the way too many folks knew I was with a child they could go tell the police and it was just as well he died like he did outside the house so he was beat up yeah I slapped him around some here and there I don’t know what’s this all about something they said in his brain bled itself to death I wasn’t home that night and my man was drunk all right but like I said I just was not there and in the morning the boy was gone so all this shit about it like I said I don’t give a shit never wanted that boy anyway and now what’s done is done not like he was gonna be no scientist or lawyer or nothing like that the boy was lucky he could count to two an like I says to them social services people it was too much to bear ‘cause how was I suppose to give my man all the bedroom time he needed and deserved huh? how I’s supposed to take care him and be looking after that child when he almost twelve and got not even the sense of a dog not enough regard for reason come damnation or salvation that boy just had no way out of his sorry head an’ I deserves more than a life of caring for a thing ain’t hardly human ain’t hardly even able to say his name why God make such creatures I just don’t know it just can’t fathom why the good Lord made that boy just don’t know just can’t see
* * * *
“Money’s no good here tonight, boys. I know it’s your job but it must have been Hell taking that poor child’s dead body away from the dock, beaten to a pulp and all. So you fellas drink up and don’t you worry none about it tonight, you hear?”
“That’s a good heart on you, all right, but let us buy you a few rounds back, won’t ya?”
“No no no! That’s all there is to it now!”
“Can’t thank you enough. Much obliged.”
“That’s right, can’t thank you enough. Still don’t believe that crazy slut finally let that no good son of a bitch boy friend of hers beat that helpless boy like that, leaving him at the edge of death, and no one no where no how to put a stop to it.”
“Shit! We couldn’t of saved him if that hospital were just halfway down the road. Been driving an EMS ambulance most of the last twenty years and I never seen anything like this before. How that boy managed to walk two miles to the dock with that much bleeding going on inside his head is just a plain miracle, not that it did him no good, I mean as far as miracles go.”
“Yeah, I know it. Me too, I mean I been doing this almost as long as you, never saw a head injury case that bad on a child no more than twelve. Like to know where those goddamn social services people were at all this goddamn time. No reason on earth why that boy shoulda been left in that girl’s custody. She never wanted him. Never made no secret of it, neither. Damn system. Just a bunch of offices and forms. Nothing really helps nobody ‘cept when they help one another get promotions.”
“Yeah, I hear that all right. Poor kid coulda been adopted long time ago.”
“Hey...! There’s no one to go to the poor kid’s funeral! Goddamnit!”
“We’ll go! I’ll tell you that for sure! Goddammit! We’ll go all right! We’ll go!”
* * * *
Me anz zasun gots a waize taibee wit itsutter. Ma heads aghentz whazever gits whaarrmm. Gits me taibee likesime wit zasun. Weeze bein like weeze wun thang like Ikan go whitever it go like me anz zasun onsa laik ore onsa baks uv dem birz heds. Dems perti soo perti wit dat sun onsa theres winges too likes da waize da morn nin shoostru sphidar weps. Gold morn nin sphidar weps lite.
* * * *
OPERATOR: 911 What is your emergency?
CALLER: (garbled) ...on the dock. Think he’s dead.
OPERATOR: Where, sir? You’re cutting off. Where are you?
CALLER: Damn it! Over by the bridge, where the dock ends! There’s a—
OPERATOR: Route 333?
CALLER: —young boy here...Yeah, Route 333! He’s sittin’ here all frozen like, seems to be dead. Sittin’ on the dock with his head leanin’ ‘gainst the dock pole.
OPERATOR: Is he breathing? Any sign of a pulse?
CALLER: (exasperated) Well I guess if he’s all stiff and frozen in this one position then he must be pretty much dead! I checked his wrist and there ain’t no pulse neither.
OPERATOR: So you’re over by the dock just under Route 333 with a male child who seems to be dead? Is that right?
CALLER: Yes miss, that is so! That is truly so! Now if you don’t mind maybe we can git somebody over t’here so’s this poor boy’s body can be taken care of proper!
OPERATOR: And there are no vital signs, you say? He appears to be deceased, you say?
CALLER: Yes miss, that is so! I was in the army and I seen my share of combat and I can tell you for sure that this poor boy is stone cold dead!
OPERATOR: Do you know his age or his name or where he lives?
CALLER: Well I can tell you he looks kinda familiar to me but that’s about all. I think he’s that god-forsaken boy that’s not too right in his mind. Lives with that witch of a girl had him so young she weren’t more ‘an a child herself. Don’t know their proper names. She and her man always in trouble always be about abusin’ that poor boy. Nobody wanna have much to do wit ‘em both ‘cept hopin’ the authorities might take the boy away some day ‘an give him a proper home. Too late fer that now.
OPERATOR: Does the body have any bruises or swelling? Does the boy appear to have been beaten or hit anywhere? I may have to dispatch this as a homicide.
CALLER: (garbled) ...on the head. There’s a pretty big gash there. Dried blood all over his neck, shoulders, and his chest, too. He’s pretty stiff now and I ain’t no medical authority but I can tell from my time in the service that he’s probably been dead—
OPERATOR: What, sir? You’re cutting off again.
CALLER: —a few hours. I said blood, dried blood! There’s lots of dried blood on the head.
OPERATOR: From a blow to the head do you think?
CALLER: I seen enough combat wounds to think so, yes miss, that is so! Looks for sure to me to be a blow to the head. With somethin’ sharp, too, cause I can see way into his bone, I can see the space in between the split skull bone.
OPERATOR: All right now sir I’m going to dispatch this call as a possible homicide of a male minor child, already in rigor mortis, dead approximately two hours, presenting a severe head wound, and the body found by you at the dock just under Route 333. Is that right?
CALLER: That is 100% correct Miss. I can’t think of anything else. That is 100% correct.
OPERATOR: May I ask you to remain at the scene until the ambulance arrives? It would be helpful.
CALLER: Yes, Miss. I certainly will. I wouldn’t think of leaving now. I’m a decent man. Be right here for when them EMS fellas show up.
* * * *
His legs ached and he was still bleeding.
It was not sweat. He could not walk anymore, and he sat on the edge of the dock. The blood dripped down across his face and his lips got the metal rust taste of it. His eyes opened and he was still dizzy. He closed them right away. The ocean smelled good. The little waves pounded upon the dock pilings and his body felt their rhythm. He had to rest here. He leaned his head against the railing. The boats looked peaceful. In between the parallel railing bars these four or five sailboats looked like white bar rests on a sheet of music. He kept his eyes closed and enjoyed the womb-like warmth of the sun sunken into the barnacle-laden wood of the dock. He thought of how he tried to make his head join the sun when he was only three or four. On late summer afternoons he would lean his head against something warmed by the sun and with his eyes closed he thought his mind and the sun were doing great things together. They were making forests grow. They were shining on the wrenches of the steelworkers making tall building in cities he had seen only in books. He was shining on the surface of the lake. Snow outside the window could not undo the warmth of his blankets. His shadows stayed up at night telling magical tales of the wonderful things he and the sun had done that day.
The next day they found him sitting in the same position with his head against the dock. Legs crossed and hands folded upon his abdomen, he evoked the classic southern image of a barefoot young boy idling away a summer afternoon fishing, minus the pole, crumpled straw hat, and awkwardly carved wooden pipe.
He bled to death.
* * * *
“Wait, the levels were off. Sorry. Could you read it again, just before the end, from ‘He was shining’...?”
“You mean from ‘...on the surface of the lake’...? From there?”
“Yeah that’s right. Wait...I have to take this call.”
“More Front Office trouble, huh?”
“Shut up! Give me that phone....Hello? Hello?”
“Bet it’s about the budget for the 911 call. They used ten cameras.”
“But we agreed on using all the angles for a more dynamic effect, right? I saw the rushes today. It looks great! And don’t forget, like right now we’re saving a bundle. Remember, he’s doing a voice-over narration, no sets, no production, just him reading it like it was a story being told.”
“That was a good idea he had. Cuts out a whole budget day of production work and shooting costs.”
“All right. All right. Call you tonight. We’ll look at the rushes from today. You’ll see. Bye.”
“Am I reading this again?”
“Fine. Fine. Just from where I said... that ‘shining’ part, OK?”
...he was shining on the surface of the lake...
Born 1956 New York City. Went to Nazareth High School and New York University. Graduated 1978: B.A. Cinema Studies; B.F.A. Film Production. Wrote and directed various short films, including James Joyce’s short story Counterparts which he adapted into a screenplay. Counterparts was screened at national and international film festivals. A freelance writer, Peter has published many 250-1000 word articles on the arts, film, dance, sculpture, architecture, and culture, as well as fiction, poetry, one-act plays, and critical essays on art, film, and photography. Poetry collection “A Box Of Crazy Toys” published 2018 by Xenos Books/Chelsea Editions. He is working on a critical study of Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock’s Cinematic World: Shocks of Perception and the Collapse of the Rational. Chapter excerpts have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Literature/Film Quarterly, Kinema, Flickhead, and North Dakota Quarterly since 2006.
His poetry and fiction have appeared in various literary magazines, including Antenna, Aero-Sun Times, Bogus Review, Pen-Dec Press, Both Sides Now, Cross Cultural Communications/Bridging The Waters Volume II, and The Mascara Literary Review. Dramatika Press published a volume of his one-act plays in 1983. One of these, The Seeker, appeared in an issue of Collages & Bricolages. Peter was a contributing editor for NYArts Magazine, writing art and film reviews. He authored monographs on several new artists as well. He was co-publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Artscape2000, a prestigious, award-winning art review e-zine. He has also taught poetry and art for LEAP. He is an artist himself: artpal.com/fish56tail. His paintings and 3D works offer abstract images of famous people in all walks of life who have died tragically at a young age. He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn.