Dormant Past, Vegetable Future

I spoke with my Uncle Ben yesterday. He was so stiff with me that I had to hold a mirror under his nose to see if he was breathing. Whatever. Zero love lost. It all boils down to this: I have my windshield court date in two weeks. I’m cool with it, I have no fears. I will do my time on the community service chain gang and become a real man of the people. Next thing you know, I’m Harry Truman, baby, making the highway a reality. The deception of Uncle Ben shall activate the course of his own destruction as he is crushed under the weight of my political machine.

I’ve had so many conversations with responsible elders regarding the new chapter of my action-packed life that it makes my head spin. The problem with many of these dependable people is that their lives are so void of risk, it’s a wonder they get laid at all. I don’t want that. I don’t want a sexless existence void of passion. My dry mother wants me to take on a mailroom position at my uncle’s law firm. Yeah, like THAT’S gonna fucking happen. I’ll take my own life before I submit to Uncle Ben’s plan to “whip that punk into shape”. My dad has a harebrain scheme concocted where I become an air traffic controller. Brilliant. He mentioned it to me and I said wha…? I turned to Google and typed it in, and was immediately presented with numerous lists of the most stressful jobs in the country, all with air traffic controller in the top ten. One site put it right behind ‘miner’. Fucking perfect. My dad threw his hands in the air, exasperated. “Well, you’re not just gonna get your life handed to you, Pendel! You’re gonna have to work someday, damnit!” I said fine, I’ll jump right in and defuse BOMBS for a freaking living. Would that make you happy? “I’m sure whatever idea you come up with will be better,” he said, in dickishly sarcastic overtones. Of course Mr. Hanson and Dr. Duchenheimer are still laboring under the delusions that college is still within my reach, if only I would reach out my sullied hand and grasp the cleansing light of knowledge…wrap it desperately in a lover’s embrace…

It’s simply not going to happen. Two years of Clark State Community College rubbing elbows with even bigger assholes than the freaks in my summer school classes; working the night shift at some pestilential hole-in-the-ground; another couple of years (or more) studying my pretty fingers to the bone at some rock-bottom, no-name little college until I earn that coveted BA. And then what? The rest of my life offered up for sacrifice at the alter of shady capitalism, my blood spilling into the coffers of nameless giants; giants with torsos thick with muscle rent from solid granite and kept strong with dreams wringed cruelly from the hearts of lesser men; featureless faces towering above me in the clouds, blanketed in mist, anonymous forever as they casually roar and shake the ground with thoughtless steps as heavy as mountains. I won’t fucking have it. I’d never last anyway. I doubt very highly that many in middle management—heavily scarred from merciless battles in the daily pit—would tolerate being told to go fuck themselves on a daily basis. Besides, none of those little college bitches are ready for a dick like mine. Pendel ‘The Hammer’ Haight.

Dear old dad stopped by the room the other day to say that he spoke with Benny the Hun’s father “man-to-man.” My old man is painfully archaic at times, but he is growing on me. For whatever reason, he stays in my corner, slitting open my blind eyes whenever they swell too shut to see. So anywho’s, he tells Benny’s dad that he’s terribly sorry for the pain I’ve caused everyone in their household, and he knows how horribly embarrassing it must have been for them to have to have such violence target their family in their own church parking lot. It’s so bizarre to me how everyone links church and embarrassment. Seems to me there is very little shelter to be found in this house of cards we call God—but I’m not gonna digress. Dad also tells the guy exactly WHY I did what I did, what Benny said to Clare and the insults endured by both of his children at the hands of Henderson. My dad tells the guy that if charges are pressed, he’s gonna be forced to talk about that, and he also tells the guy that Clare just hasn’t been the same after such insidious slander (Clare is WAAAAAY past it), and he’d love to avoid pressing charges for verbal assault (is there even such a thing?), but that Mr. Henderson was gonna have to meet him halfway. Amazingly, this flimsy dam of reasoning is holding for the moment. If I pay for the hospital bills arising from the broken nose (YES!) and cover the loss of the crappy sandal ($85!), the Henderson’s will most likely not press charges. Also, they apologized to Clare, and Benny the Hun’s got to attend a few weekdays of pew cleaning to make up for his sins.

I would, of course, have rather gotten off scott-free, but I guess this will do.

In other news, Sugarbear seems dead-set on living with me and Benji as soon as I get out of my summer classes. His dad has a house we can rent on the cheap in the shadier section of town, and Sugarbear has promised infinite fun in the form of weed and acid until we all mature or the house burns down, whatever comes first. This news, at least, pleased my father. I didn’t tell him about the drugs—I’ll probably keep that to myself. Sugarbear’s gonna stick close and attend Wittenberg University. Not a bad place to go for such a fuckup, really. Bear’s dad is an alumnus, and so Bear didn’t have to break his back getting in. Whatever. Take what you can, burn the rest.

More to come soon. Any suggestions on what an anti-social and overly-aggressive young man can do for a living would be most welcome at this point. I don’t know why I never thought about such matters before. I think I’m so pessimistic about anything that the future has in store that I’d rather lower the blast shields and keep my head down, barreling through the world without much thought, claiming to be ignorant of any trampled in my wake. But I felt them under my feet, and I stomped harder as they passed under.

Maybe landscaping?

Dad’s Gone Over

You think you know a person…

After the Benny Beat Down, I slunk home under the cover of nothing to find my house in utter disarray. My mom was screaming from behind the safety of her tears at my sister Clare, who was crying on the living room sofa and hugging the pillow like a teen-aged mother. My father was pacing the rug off the floor, exclaiming how a man works hard for nothing (which in fact makes perfect sense and is right on the money) to absolutely no one at all. Many of my father’s exclamations, which in the long run turn out to be 95% true if not 100% wise, fall on deaf ears. The human mind’s ability to reject the truth is at its strongest when the source of truth is flowing from the mouth of a friend.

For myself, I was fucking hungry. I marched languidly into the kitchen as all conversation came to a halt, and I took advantage of the silence to pick out a slice of cold pizza and eat the fucking thing. I turned to return the stares I was being given, paused in the middle of chewing, held out my right hand and said that my knuckles really hurt. “Well…of COURSE they do,” said my dad, and then stopped short of saying more, a confused look on his face.

“Why did you DO that, Pendel?!” wailed my mother. “How could you hit that boy like that? How could you embarrass me this way? How could my son be such an ANIMAL? You’re just a rabid animal, Pendel!” Blah blah blah. Clare stared at me blankly. I looked my mom square in the eye and said to her that the miserable little prick got what was coming to him, and that maybe now he’ll think twice before saying shit about how Clare likes to fuck her flunky brother. HEY NOW. Those sure were the magic words, and my, how they shut my dear mummy’s mouth. My dad leveled a finger at me. “We know all about what that punk said, Pendel, but you don’t just go pummeling people in the middle of the church parking lot! For Christ’s SAKE, Pendel! What were you THINKING!?” I said I was thinking about kicking some ass and taking some goddamned names, and then I excused myself to my bedroom. I then promptly turned back and stuck my head out and yelled for Clare. “What?” I hollered for her to bring me some ice, and to come alone.

A few minutes later she was there with cubes wrapped up in an old dishtowel. It had a fish on it as well as many random stains. I took it from her hands and thanked her. “You shouldn’t have done it.” she said. I shrugged and said so fucking what. It’s done. Whether or not I should have is moot now. She sighed. “You’re just begging for more quality time with Uncle Ben, you know.” So be it. She turned to leave, but looked back at the last second and said, “He’s coming.”

And immediately, my father was in the doorway. He looked at me blankly. With barely a glance to Clare, he said, “Leave us.” Formal. Humorous. Dreadful. My dad makes me like him sometimes, and at the strangest moments.

Clare left and my dad sat down on the edge of my bed while I iced my knuckles at my desk. “Does it hurt a lot?” he asked. Well, sure. “Good. It should. I don’t want you to forget what it feels like to hit another man.” I said nothing, because I couldn’t read into his words. His face was enigmatic. “Pendel, what you did today…son, you just picked the wrong time and place to make your stand. It’s one of your main problems.” That kind of took the breath out of me. It had the indisputable ring of truth. It made me angry and so sad. Everyone’s always telling me what my problems are, they’re always right, and the list keeps growing; an impossible punch list and I have no skills. I stared at my hand. I had nowhere else to look. The skin was pulled tight and was shiny, it looked like the skin of an irreparably fat person, a person who had taken on too much weight and was helpless to turn the tide and throw it off. Because he is a weak person. A person with very little self control or respect. Maybe it is in fact me; maybe I am simply fat inside…my soul needs a diet.

My dad then turned the rare trick of reaching out and placing his hand on my shoulder. “You made the wrong choice today, but I don’t know. I’m just as confused as you, I guess…but I’m proud of you, though, I think. I’m not sure.”

WTF. I was floored. PROUD?!? That certainly WAS NOT a turn I expected this lecture to take. “Pendel, that fool said something very toxic, I know. Your mother is embarrassed to her core, but I’m not.” Why not? “Hell Pendel, I don’t know. I DO know, however, that there’s some hope for you. There’s a brother down in there somewhere. That’s more than I believed yesterday, I can tell you that.”

So hey, I can only take so much love, and truly, I DID NOT earn all the mush that was oozing forth. I told him I did it more for me than for Clare, and he says, “Maybe, maybe not. I’m holding on to what I think, though.” Neat.

He stood up and said he would go because he knows how little I care for love-ins. True, but the whole display had left my head to spin. But then on his way out, he says, “There’s going to be trouble from this. I know the Henderson’s. They’re combative pricks. I’ll help you, but there’s gonna be trouble, Pendel.” I said hey, whatever. He then drops another bomb: “I’m going to make sure you graduate this summer, Pendel.” I said yeah, yeah. “Then I think you should probably move out, son. If it’s not college, then you just need to be out. You’re killing your mom, and I just don’t think you’re interested in learning any more from me. So when the summer’s done…” I said nothing. I had nothing to say. Was this the best or worst news possible? “I’ll help you find a place. I’ll help you get settled. You need to look for a job, son.”

And so he left my room.

It was by far one of the strangest conversations I had had in years. Once again, a person in my life has done and said the very last thing I would have expected. And once again it has left me feeling completely bereft of worldly comprehension.

My Love for Clare vs My Desire to Destroy Benny the Hun, Part 2, Suckers

First off, I would like to apologize to Clare. I think she’s completely right. My desire to jump on Benny the Hun’s head was completely for my own fulfillment, and seeing as she feels worse about things now than she ever did before I KICKED BEN’S WRETCHED ASS from one side of the fucking WORLD to another…well, sorry Clare. Some things in life you simply cannot change. I feel to the very depths of my tepid soul that I was meant to pound Ben Henderson into the ground, and then, as soon as he regains his tiny feet, beat him right back down again.

Benny the Hun has yet to get back up. I will be there when he does. I have cold inside that threatens to drown me, and so I must let it swallow Ben so that I may live on another day. Even you, Clare, would agree that I deserve more time on this lonesome earth than he.

Most of you know how this saga started. If you don’t, click here. Anyway, it continues along these lines: I ended up going to church again for the first time since I fingered that sad pie-hole Camile in the back pews several months ago—check that pointless day out here. It was one of the best freaking moves I have ever made in my life; since that glorious Sunday morning, I have never been asked to accompany my ridiculatory parents back to that heinous pit of hell-spawned ninnies again. Fucking loser jerk-wad tit fucking assholes. Every last one of them. They could all receive better guidance from an Ikea instruction manual, yet they choose to follow the word of an imaginary, celestial tick. BAH! Best of luck to them all as they spiral uncontrollably towards the sun. I had one reason and one reason ONLY to go back, and it wasn’t because my spirit needed a colonic. It was the only place I knew I could find Ben.

You see, my parents not only make me and my sister go to a school where we are not wanted, they themselves go to a CHURCH where THEY are not recognized. Yes, the church they attend (that I USED to attend) is in the same northern neighborhood as the fucking high school. The Church of the Slightly Affluent. The ceilings are gabled, the pews are padded, the ministers are young (so handsome!), and the collection plate has a felt bottom. Fancy fancy. Opulence on a budget, electroplated in Christ. Anyone looking can find the Hun’s family there, knee deep in worship, on every day of rest.

You could have knocked my mom over with a feather when I walked out of my room on Sunday morning and announced my intentions to accompany the family to church. I said, hey man, don’t question shit, or I’m back in my room like a flash. My mom was beaming with elation (am I an asshole or what?), and was like, “I’m not saying a word, I’m just going to enjoy this.” My dad looked at me like I was a used car salesman, but said nothing. Clare GLARED at me. When I passed by her to go outside she grabbed my arm and asked, “What are you doing, Pendel?” I told her I was on my way to say hey to the Lord and to get off my fucking back about it, because I was self-conscious about my beliefs anyway, and she was just making it worse. She fretted; she’s smart.

So let me go on record right now by saying that I am in no way some great fighter. I’ve only been in a few in my whole life. I don’t know if I can say I won these conflicts, but trust me when I say I left my mark. And I planned on leaving one FUCK of a mark on Benny the Hun that morning. I had in my pocket a roll of quarters that I had exchanged from a ten spot the day before on the way back from Dr. Douchenheimer (who had interestingly useless things to say about the whole Clare/Benny run-in, but more on THAT later), and I planned on introducing Benny’s nose to it in just a few minutes.

As the Dorkmobile steadily edged down the street towards destiny, my whole body sang with voltage. I honestly had no clue if I would win or lose, but I wanted to get my shot in. I had to let him know I heard him; I wanted him to know I had an answer. My dad drives like old people fuck, and it was making my scalp itch. I was getting so hot that my eyes felt like liquid-filled balls of fancy soap, the electrolytes were building in my armpits like Mayans. We had only gotten half-way there and I was ready to jump out the window and run the rest of the way. I imagined a long line of insanely enraged drivers pulling up beside us, horns blaring and fists shaking, spittle and curses spewing from their lips like chewed tumors as they told my dad what a fucking pussy he is. I wanted these daydreams to soothe me, but they did not. I wanted Ben Henderson. I wanted to see his lip split. I wanted to see his eye swell. I wanted to watch as he lurched crookedly away from my fury, arms wrapped around his cracked ribs. Man, I wanted to see this fucker cry like a goddamned baby. How DARE he fuck with me? How DARE he fucking SPEAK my NAME when I am MILES AWAY and shrouded in darkness?

Hell hath no fury like a Pendel scorned.

We reached the parking lot. My mom hooted merrily: “Here we are!” I was already out of the car and scanning the parking lot. My dad was like, “Pendel, for God’s sake, let me get the damn car stopped!” Fuck that. Blood.

I saw him. Halfway between me and the church. I was off like a shot, running to meet him before he was able to get through the big oak doors. Clare screamed my name—she had seen Ben too—and heads craned to see what the fuck. Benny the Hun heard it too, and he turned to look just as I was 50 paces from him. He saw me coming, and I swear to fucking god, the surprise on his face alone was almost worth the price of admission. I mean, here it was, the DAY AFTER he says shit about me, and already here I come. Clint-fucking-Eastwood, mother fucker. A falling hammer. A swinging chain. A thrown brick. Then the glass of his shock shattered, and he turned to get the hell out of my way, but baby I was already there. He was almost to the steps of the church when I connected with him. BAM. I used my shoulder to slam into his body (my collar bone still fucking kills), and just as my body stopped freaking cold, his shot forward, and he was off his feet and flying into the bushes planted under the windows of the church foyer. I was jarred to the bone, my head already aching from violent contact, but I knew there was no time at all to think about what I’d done or the consequences. He could still really mess me up deeply if I didn’t take advantage of the situation.

I grabbed him by his smug ankle, noticing—crazily—his shoe; an expensive and maturely square-looking sandal, so on a whim I took it off his foot and threw it into the nearby trees. I then drug him by the foot out into the parking lot and quickly sat on his chest. I slapped him once meatilty with my left hand as I searched out the roll of quarters with my right.

Shouts now, some calling my name, some Ben’s, others asking what in the name of hell did I think I was doing. I could hear Clare above it all, or at least I imagined I did, but then before I knew it, the roll of quarters was sitting squarely in my right fist and I brought down the whole fucking farm right there on his nose. It splatted. That’s the best way I can explain it. Finally I looked into his eyes, and they were fucking HUGE and PANICKED, and for a brief moment there was cool relief to flood my tired mind.

And then the hands clamped onto my shoulders and drug me off. Mystery hands. I still don’t know who did it, but as they did it, I lashed a foot out and connected with Ben’s knee, and he cried out. Sweet ear candy. I screamed out and wrenched free of the hands that held me, and without looking back, ran for the trees and the alleyways between the lawns of the surrounding neighborhoods. The cries were at my back, “Are you crazy?” “Come back here!” Probably some woman cried out little Benny boy’s name, but I was past hearing distinctly. The blood thundered in my head as I jumped this fence and that until I was able to climb a heavily shaded tree, and I sat there like a child who is scared senseless of the neighborhood German Sheppard, loose from the yard again, and sniffing me out.

Two hours or so later, I climbed down from the tree, stopped in at a Kwik Shop for a hunk of jerky and a Mountain Dew, and wandered home. I noticed my knuckles were swollen to about twice their normal size, and I smiled to myself.

My Love for Clare vs My Desire to Destroy Benny the Hun, Part 1

My sister Clare is a being of light. Her face is small, and her slight hands are taxed with the continuous chore of smoothing her dark mane of hair. You could thread the eye of a needle with her ego, and somehow this has usually held her above ridicule. If there’s one thing I regret whenever I think about my half-baked efforts to stamp out hope, it’s the impressions I’ve left upon her. I can’t change the way I am, and I’m powerless to view the world any differently than I do (i.e., tons of random, smug, bone-smoking assholes needlessly making everything harder for all the other useless bastards of the world), but I wish she didn’t have to be a party to it.

Clare came back from high school graduation ceremonies the other afternoon. She has more friends in my stupid class than I do by far. She’s a fairly popular sophomore (I guess a junior now, technically), which on one hand makes me proud, and on the other hand drives me up a fucking wall because a lot of her friends end up being complete ass puppets. She one way or another keeps herself elevated above the din of these soul-chomping maggots, and I have to say I am in awe of her abilities, but I don’t know why she would choose to let such tit bugs feed off her like that.

The only reason I’m thinking about all of this is because when she got home, she made me feel like shit. She walked into my room while I spaced out on a Mayhem fan site, sat down on my bed, and said nothing. On my worst days I simply think of Clare as inert, so I have no problems with her hanging around, and thought nothing of it. She says, “I went to the graduation today.” I said oh joy. She asked if I wanted to hear about it, and I said I didn’t really have an interest, but if it keeps your mind off suicide, then gab away. So whatever, she drones on endlessly about a bunch of malevolent fucks that could drop dead today and the world wouldn’t skip a beat, but then she says, “Ben Henderson asked about you.” This made me turn from my computer and look at her. I asked what the fuck that spineless hunk of nasty foam could possibly have to say that I would care to hear. What she said made me more pissed than I have been in about a hundred thousand years.

“He said he bet I was excited to see you get your diploma.” Ha fucking ha. I said wow, you know, he’s a fucking comic GENIUS. I hope I’m there when he finally wins his long deserved Emmy. Fucking putz.

Clare went on: “Yeah, I didn’t play along with his shit at all, though. I told him so what if it’s taking you longer? I told him you have things he could never have, no matter how good he thinks he is.” Yes, I have a plethora of dead ends to choose from.

“And then HE said that the only thing you’ve got going on that he doesn’t is a sister to bang.” WHAT?!? “I said for him to take that sad, sick bullshit back, but he said he would only take it back if YOU had the balls to make him. Then he said if we didn’t like what he’s saying, then we should have never come to his high school to begin with.” HIS high school—what the fuck does THAT mean? That smug son-of-a-bitch has always felt he’s got more of a RIGHT to that fucking piece of shit school than we do. I will fucking KILL him one day in the very near future. I can feel it. OH GOD. My fingers ACHE to wrap around his throat.

I suppose some background at this point would be helpful: Benny the Hun Henderson is a fucking spoiled turd born with a silver spoon full of rancid dogshit in his rotten fucking mouth. His family has lived for a couple of generations in the northern part of this COMPLETELY INCONSEQUENTIAL town, and for whatever reason, they feel that this makes them some kind of half-bred, podunk royalty. What a misbegotten frame on which to drape a legacy. I mean, forget the fact that you’re sadly mistaken about your place in the world, but to do so in a place like THIS? It adds insult to idiocy. If you include the high probability of NEVER being able to explain to these people the sad state of their existence without them completely shutting down in cold denial, bubba, you’ve got a reason to go postal that no jury could fault.

My nerd family hails from the central part of town. Not so nifty—just a bunch of middle-class fuck-faces. Since my parents are a couple of self-loathing jackwads with their hearts set on a social status that they should neither desire or envy, they applied for us all to attend North High School. It was a no-brainer for Matty. He’s a complete brainiac with his head so far up the academic ass that he could never see the pissy looks he got for attending a school for which he was socially ineligible, and he thrived. But for me and Clare it was never so easy. Clare fares better, because she is a chick blessed with grace, but for yours truly there have been constant battles. Pendel the Great and Terrible has fought on the battlefield of the mind with Benny the Hun countless times.

But now Henderson has crossed a major fucking line with me. I mean, what the fuck…who cares what he says about me. I know what I am. The winds of waste are already blowing across my unmarked grave. But Clare is new. Her soul is freshly pressed. And now Benny the Hun is talking shit about HER—nasty, weird shit that can scar a person if they aren’t well equipped to handle the rigors of class warfare—and he is fucking DARING me to step out and take up arms against him.

I got no problem with it.

I told Clare not to worry. Ben will never make another off-color remark to her. I will take care of it. She can make book on it. She then scared me by getting all teary-eyed. “Pendel, don’t do anything, please. I only even told you because Sugar was standing right there and I wanted to tell you before he did so I could make sure you didn’t go all ape-shit about it.” I told her fuck that. He’s a bug. I’m an angry windshield. She got really upset and talked about how sad she is that everything has gone wrong for me, how she knows what’s in me, and how it breaks her heart to see life turn against a person she loves. “I don’t want you getting in more trouble than you are. I’m afraid if you beat up Benny that things are just going to get so much worse.” Then, to my horror, she HUGGED me and said she MISSES me and that she KNOWS I am still inside somewhere and can she please have me back. “It made me so angry not seeing you graduate, and that is YOUR fucking fault, Pendel. If you make it worse by fighting Benny, just know that it’s got nothing to do with me. I’m out of it. It’s just for you to keep fucking up YOU. And I’ll know you LIKE it, too.”

Fucking sisters, right?

She broke my heart with some of that. Clare’s the only person I’ve never wanted to reach out and crush. She’s the only human worth a squirt of piss on this whole radiation-blasted fucking rock, and I’ve hurt her.

And Benny the Hun’s gonna pay for it.