Chuckie Wilkes was a dim-witted boy. At fifteen, he had the hormonal drive of a normal teen-ager but the impulse control of a seven-year-old. And he had a thing for fifth-grader Lisa McCauley, a precocious pubescent who lived down the block in a white clapboard house.
No one had hard evidence that Chuckie would ever hurt anybody. He had no suspensions from school, no police record, nothing like that. Yes, he did play too rough and said dumb, nasty things, but everyone chalked it up to “Chuckie being Chuckie ... you can’t really take him seriously.” Still, parents who didn’t lapse into a drunken stupor early in the afternoon remained wary and warned their children to stay away from Chuckie if they were alone. Unfortunately, Lisa’s single mother, Tessa, who was “on disability,” was the oblivious sort.
Staying away from Chuckie did not mean that the neighborhood children wouldn’t taunt him when they could get away with it. They’d chant things like “Chuckie, chuckie, suckie, suckie, fuckie, fuckie” when they walked by him sitting on his front stoop. Thick and awkward, he was slow to rise but would give chase, blubbering unintelligible threats as they ran off laughing, escaping just by a whisker, slamming rickety aluminum screen doors in Chuckie’s drooling face.
Lisa McCauley, in one of her home-sewn jumpers, often sat next to Chuckie on his stoop, chattering about her teacher, her tap-dance class, boys she liked, girls she didn’t. She had no reason to be afraid of him. It made him really angry when the children would taunt her just for sitting with him. “Retard, retard ... you love a retard!”
“Don’t listen to them, Chuckie. They’re stupid and I hate them.”
Sometimes she’d shout back at them and give them the finger. Sometimes he’d lurch up and go after them, mostly to scare them a bit.
One time, he did give chase and returned a few minutes later wide-eyed, panting and sweating. “Rock,” he mumbled. “Picked up ... threw it.”
“Nuthin.” He started sobbing.
The nuthin he hit was Billy Cobbs and, more precisely, right square in the back. Billy had gone sprawling and hit the bluestone face-first. Billy’s hands and face got cut up real bad.
“Gotta go in,” Chuckie said, teary-eyed.
“No! Let’s stay right here and see what happens.”
Turned out, no one from Billy’s house came out to confront Chuckie or his mom, who sat inside on her second-hand La-Z-Boy watching her afternoon shows. If his father found out about it, he was sure to get a whupping. “You can’t go around hitting people!” his father would holler, between slaps and punches and lashes from his black leather belt.
After a while, Lisa said, let’s go ’round back.”
“You’ll see. C’mon.”
She took his hand and led him around to the backyard, and then off into the neighboring woods. They started up the path, a shortcut to Nill’s Country Store.
When they got to the clearing where the kids hung out, she shinnied up onto a wooden swing tied with thick ropes to a branch high up in an oak tree. He couldn’t fail to notice her white cotton panties. “Oops,” she said, and she smiled prettily at him.
Then: “Push me, Chuckie,” she demanded. ”Push me high!”
He started pushing her slowly, and then harder. She squealed with delight but then with pain when her bare legs scraped against some overhanging vines.
“Chuckie! Slow down!” she yelled. But he kept pushing her, higher and higher, her skirt billowing up on the up stroke, her terrified face accusing him on the down stroke.
Higher and higher. Higher and higher. He was laughing so hard his stomach hurt, laughing so hard he was deaf to her cries. And then she plummeted off the swing, landing hard in a thicket of thorn bushes.
He ran to her. She was moaning. There was blood on her blue-and-white striped jumper, blood all over her arms and legs. He reached down and gently lifted her out of the bushes and onto a bed of brown, moldy leaves.
“Sorry, Lisa ... sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry.” And he knelt down and kissed her right on her lips.
She came to, looked up, whispered, “Whatcha doin?”
“Kissin ya. To make ya feel better.”
“Eww, yuck.” But then she said, “Kiss me again, Chuckie. It felt real good.”
He kissed her, harder this time, and this time their kiss lingered.
“Mmm.” She smiled up at him, smoothed down her skirt, reached up to him, embraced him real tight.
Together they rolled around like bear cubs, then hugged and kissed, then rolled around some more.
And then Chuckie pinned her to the ground, and started forcing his hand up under her skirt. He was strong. So strong. She shrieked, “No, Chuckie! Stop it! Get off me!”
Thwack! A branch hit Chuckie on his head. He slid off her as she pushed him away. He lay moaning.
She looked up to see Billy Cobbs holding the branch. She looked at Chuckie; his head was starting to bleed. Artie Meehan and Danny Sanders were also there, standing around them. “Hit him again!” Artie yelled. “Hist the damn retard again!”
“No! Don’t hurt him,” she cried. “It’s only Chuckie being Chuckie.”
Rev 4 / August 18, 2010
August, 2010 Copyright © 2010, Lloyd B. Abrams