by Foster Trecost
The soft couch encouraged recollection; Johnson faced upward, and also his past.
“What’d you do next?” The question came from behind a thick beard, grey to the tips.
Johnson tugged at the memories, but the memories tugged back. “I can’t recall.”
“You can’t, or you’d rather not?”
Johnson continued: “It was supposed to be a joke, we were just kids. We took him in the woods behind the school. He tried to fight, but he was too small. We made him hug a tree and then tied his hands together.”
“How many were there?”
“Five against one?”
“We didn’t see it that way. We had a slingshot. Nothing fancy, just something we made.”
“But it worked?”
“Yes, it worked. We took turns shooting rocks. After each round, we’d move a few feet back. Finally, we got so far away that everyone missed but me. I was the winner.”
“Did you feel like a winner?”
“Do you still?”
A nostalgic smile graced Johnson’s face, and then melted away, but not before the bearded man saw it. “No,” he said.
“Well, that’s something, that’s progress.” The bearded man took his glasses and placed them on a desk, then pinched the part of his nose positioned between his eyes. The memories were difficult for him, because they were his memories, too. “Do the ropes hurt your wrists?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Johnson.
“As much as they hurt his?”
“I don’t know.”
“What happened next, after you were declared the winner?”
“We walked up to him. He was bleeding, his back, his neck, but he wasn’t crying, and that scared us more than the blood. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t crying. I thought you were dead.”
“He!” yelled the bearded man. “You thought he was dead.”
“Yes, he. I thought he was dead.”
The bearded man fell silent, and saw no need for further questions. He opened the desk drawer and pulled from it a slingshot. The opening shot caught Johnson on the temple, the one after, his cheek. Johnson wondered how many more there would be, how many more he could take. While waiting for the next, he understood something all these years later: full with fear and humiliation, as much as he wanted to, he also could not cry, not even a single tear.
Foster Trecost writes stories that are mostly made up. They tend to follow his attention span: sometimes short, and sometimes very short. Recent work has appeared in Peacock Journal, New World Writing, and Eunoia Review. He lives in New Orleans.