You're Disgusting

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: The Imaginarium

Words are a slow poison.

You’re Disgusting


Age: 9


Arnold snuck past mum, who was on the sofa watching some reality show containing screaming guests and an exasperated host. When she watched such shows, she would snicker and snort with laughter, boo when the audience booed and cheer when they cheered. Arnold liked it when she watched TV, because she didn’t pay attention to him. Like a ghost he phased past, sneaking through without making it look like he was sneaking through - his mum would call him out for that. He managed to slip by, tip-toe upstairs and switch on the TV in his bedroom. He turned the volume down low and enjoyed about an hour’s worth of cartoons, before he heard his mother coming up the stairs. He switched it off, ran to his bed, got a random school book out of his bag and started reading. His mother opened the door and watched him read.

Level Four Mathematics: Fractions, Angles and Measuring,’ she said.

Arnold didn’t respond.

‘Can’t you be a normal kid? What kid reads stuff like that in his spare time?’

‘You said I need to do my homework when I get home,’ said Arnold.

‘Don’t talk back to me,’ said Arnold’s mum. ‘Go out and make some friends.’

‘But –,’

‘Now! Go, get out!’

Arnold stood up and walked past her. Her eyes were unflinching. ‘You need to give me less attitude, Arnold. I’m trying to turn you into a normal person, not the kind of kid who reads maths books all day. Nobody wants to hang out with a maths nerd.’

‘When can I come back in?’ asked Arnold.

‘You can come back when you’ve made some friends!’ She grabbed his arm and dragged him to her bedroom and propped him up on the windowsill so he could see out the window, which looked out onto the street. On the corner was a gang of older kids, all teenagers. ‘Look. You can go and play with them. They look about your age.’

‘They’re teenagers, I’m only nine, they won’t wanna hang out with me.’

‘Well, you never know until you try,’ she told Arnold. ‘Go and try to be their friend. You need friends, you’re a kid and they’re kids, you’ll be fine. ’

‘But mum, they’ll make fun of me.’

‘Everyone’s making fun of you,’ she said, now angry. ‘It’s because you’re always hanging around me in this house. You need to get out more. Go on, I’ll be watching from the window, so make sure you become their friend, or I’ll be very angry.’ She dropped him back onto the floor. ‘Off you go.’

Arnold’s mum pretty much pushed him out the front door and Arnold felt his legs carry him towards the group of teenagers, his mind a blank void as he approached. Before he got near them he looked back up towards his mum, who was watching from her bedroom window like some preying carrion. He turned back to the teenagers and approached. They stank of smoke and alcohol and they were all laughing as one told a story complete with numerous expletives and vulgar gestures.

He stood outside their circle and it was a few moments before one of them even noticed.

One of the hooded teens stared at Arnold through what looked like a hundred burning red eyes. His skin was splotched and torn up with pulsing pimples and he smiled crookedly at the new weird kid. ‘What does that thing want?’ he said, pointing at Arnold.

The other teenagers looked around. Three of them were grinning, not welcoming but amused. The other four had expressions akin to disgust. Nobody said anything, the group just stared down at Arnold, and Arnold said nothing. He opened his mouth, then closed it.

‘Looks like we got an autistic,’ said one of the girls. She bent down and looked him in the eye. ‘What’s wrong, little boy?’ she asked loudly. ‘Are you trying to make new friends?’

The whole group laughed and Arnold felt his face burn.

‘Do you speak English?’ a boy with a black cap asked, louder than the girl.

Arnold said, ‘I, uhh –,’

 ‘What?’ said Black Cap. ‘Say something! What do you want?’

‘Leave him alone,’ said a blonde girl. ‘He’s obviously been touched by daddy or something.’

Several of the teenagers sniggered.

‘Is that true?’ she asked, focusing on Arnold. ‘Has daddy been touching you?’

‘No,’ said Arnold.

‘It speaks,’ said the pimply one.

‘Seriously, what do you want?’ asked Black Cap. ‘Are you special or something?’

‘I’m not special,’ said Arnold.

‘Don’t say that, of course you are! Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not special,’ said Black Cap.

The teenagers howled with laughter, Black Cap loudest of all.

‘I just wanted to know the time,’ said Arnold.

‘He just wanted to know the time,’ said Black Cap.

‘That’s all he wanted to know,’ said Pimple Face.

‘It’s time for you to fuck off,’ the blonde girl told Alex.

Arnold fucked off, to the jeering and hollering of the teenagers, who obviously missed their toy now that had it wandered off. Arnold walked back to the house and looked up at his mum’s bedroom window. She looked down on him and when they made eye contact she drew the curtains.


When Arnold sat down to his microwave dinner later that evening, his mum sat opposite and watched him eat. She lit a cigarette and inhaled.

‘I actually did make a friend today,’ he told her between slurps of lasagne. ‘I met this kid a couple streets over. He likes Battleforce too.’

She watched him speak through mouthfuls of churning tomato and cheese.

‘I saw him on the street, waiting for a bus. That’s why I was gone for two whole hours.’

She continued inhaling.

‘I introduced myself to him,’ he continued. ‘He goes to Sparrow Hill over on Lexus Street. He’s in year six. We played his gameboy, he had this cool strategy game where you have to fight back against warlocks and giants. It’s even got a two player versus mode, but he beat me every time because I never played it before. He boasted every time he won, but it was still fun.’ He shovelled more meaty gloop into his mouth. ‘He says he wishes he went to my school because everyone makes fun of him at Sparrow Hill, but I thought he was a nice guy.’

Arnold's mum took the fork out of Arnold’s hand and put it on the table. She looked into his eyes. ‘You’re disgusting,’ she said. She stubbed out her cigarette and left the room.


Age: 14


‘Hey, Arnold.’


‘You can do it, buddy.’

Arnold turned around and looked at Gary. He and his two cronies were sitting behind Arnold, and the cronies were grunting with laughter.

‘I can do what?’ asked Arnold.

‘You can make friends with those guys,’ said Gary. He gestured to the three boys sitting at the same table as Arnold. The three boys looked up, alerted to the fact they were being discussed.

Gary looked at the three boys sitting opposite Arnold, as they flicked through their collectible cards. ‘’Scuse me,’ Gary said to them. ‘Would you mind being this boy’s friend? I think Arnold wants to be your friend.’

‘Huh?’ one of them said.

‘He likes nerdy shit too, don’t you Arnold?’ said Gary.

Arnold said nothing.

‘Arnold doesn’t have any friends,’ he told the boys. ‘Not even one. Not one single friend. He was watching you all because he’s jealous of your friendship, can’t you see he just wants to be part of the team?’

None of the three boys answered. Arnold stood up and walked away.

‘Where are you going?’ Gary yelled, loud enough that all the other students in the lunch hall could hear. ‘Arnold! You could have made friends! Arnold, please be their friend!’

Arnold power-walked out of the lunch hall and went to the library, where he sat at a desk and opened a random book. He didn’t read the words, but simply allowed the sadness to wash and swirl him around in its chaotic sea. He didn’t let the tears manifest, and he never would. Most of the shame came from Gary’s on-point perception. He had been working his way up into trying to start a conversation with the three boys who happened to sit at his table at lunch. They were a year below him, but from what he understood from their conversation, they seemed like friendly guys and they were interested in the same collectibles he was. They were some of the only kids with whom he shared a common interest. He had wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to initiate himself into the conversation without looking like a weirdo. He knew he was a weird kid, everyone told him so all the time, and he didn’t know how to speak without people recoiling. He reflected on his mum’s words, You’re disgusting. How disgusting he must look now, as he snivelled and sniffed. How could anyone want to ever hang out with him? Gary was a prick, but he was perceptive, and the fact that he announced Arnold’s most inner thoughts further illuminated the disgusting, embarrassing human that he really was.


Age: 21


Lily spun for Arnold in a circle. ‘Do I look ravishing?’

Lily’s dress was a reflection of her – elegant, fragile and pale. Both she and the dress looked soft and beautiful, like the petals of a delicate flower. Her hair was a cascade of lemonade and her eyes rainwater blue. After she spun, Arnold probably felt more dizzy than her. ‘Yes, ravishing.’

She smiled. ‘You always know just what to say.’ She held out her arm, and he took it.

Together the two of them walked to the barbecue. John and the others were already there, dishing out steaks and burgers. The two of them accepted their meats and began chowing down. They enjoyed beer together and the more alcohol they chugged, the more Arnold began noticing all of Lily’s small perfections – the freckles across her face and cheeks would seem to increase in size when she smiled, and the dimple on the left side of her face was deeper than the one on her right. John came over and the three of them chatted and drunk. In a few hours, everyone was nice and bladdered.

‘So,’ said John. ‘Arnie, you got a girlfriend yet?’

‘Arnie’s too much of a player to have a girlfriend,’ said Lily, tickling the back of Arnold’s neck.

Arnold laughed, and it was genuine, because of how far it was from the truth for a virgin like him. ‘Exactly.’

‘And you, Lily? No boyfriend?’ asked John

‘No, I’m doomed to be a spinster,’ said Lily.

‘How interesting,’ said John. ‘You two are both single.’

‘That’s interesting, is it?’ asked Lily. She took another sip of beer, her eyes flicking to Arnold.

‘It’s very interesting,’ said John. ‘You’ve been friends for nearly two years. Arnie, why haven’t you made a move yet?’

John watched Arnold, and so did Lily.

‘Oh, me and Lily are just friends,’ said Arnold, keen to sew up the awkward gap.

‘“Just friends”,’ said John. ‘Well you’re a fool, she’s beautiful.’

‘Thank you John,’ she said.

Arnold seethed in silence as Lily and John chatted and chortled their way through the evening, and when John put his arm around her, and she blushed and looked at him in a way that Arnold could only dream of, he excused himself and went to the bathroom, to drunkenly sit on the toilet and hold his head in his hands. Why didn’t Lily want him? But he already knew why – he was an ugly, weird guy and he was nothing more to her than a pity friend, a charitable donation to surrender her time to out of moral obligation. You’re disgusting, he told himself, and he went back outside to do some shots alone. On noticing that both Lily and John had disappeared, he went back into the bathroom and threw up.


Age: 44


Arnold spat out something grey. It hit the floor and festered. He got up from the couch, his brain smacking hammers into his skull. His mouth felt like it had been gnawing on tree bark all night, and his spluttering throat demanded water. He stumbled over to the sink, kicking away glass bottles and stuck his head under the tap, where he drank sloppily like a drugged dog. When he was done he wiped away the droplets of water on his mouth with his stained, yellowed T-shirt. He looked at the chaos around him. The place was littered with broken bottles, chunks of spoiled food and layers of trash. None of it worried him, what worried him in that moment was that he didn’t care. He didn’t care about the state of his home, and the reason he didn’t care was because nobody except him would ever have to suffer it. It wasn’t as if anyone would ever come to visit. People didn’t just visit Arnold. He collapsed back on his couch and sat in the dark like some underground worm and allowed his hangover to crash and suffocate him like an incoming tide. He sat there for a long time, his mind blank but his heart racing. He knew today was the day. He felt like he was sitting at the bottom of the ocean, looking above and seeing nothing but darkness, for miles and miles. Yes, today was the day.

It felt strange standing up, knowing for what purpose he stood. Every step he took towards the bathroom was a command made by a mind that was panicking, wanting the legs to stop, but unable to make them do so. He reached the bathroom and switched on the light, which buzzed angrily. He looked in the mirror and stared at himself, for the first time in a long time. Arnold had learnt to avoid mirrors, but he knew this time he could look as hard as he wanted. He looked into his sunken, red-lined eyes, dim and crushed. He looked at the wrinkles, cutting their way through his face like strokes of a knife, especially hating his forehead, which had wrinkles that formed into the face of an old man if you looked hard enough. He hated his bristly eyebrows, the hairs jutting out from within his nose, the receding hairline and the overall, sagging appearance of his whole deflated body. He looked hard, and he looked for a long time. He smiled, to see if it made a difference, looking for any angle or expression he could pull that made him less gross. There was nothing to be done, and the realization that this is what people had to look at when he intruded in on their lives let him know that what he was about to do was the right decision, not just for him, but everyone else.

You’re disgusting,’ he told the mirror, and finally he understood why his mother said that to him all those years ago. It wasn’t just that he was eating like a pig at the time, or that he was unattractive, but that he was ugly on the inside. He had nothing to offer, nothing to show off, he was a background character of other people’s lives, and he was sorry for uglifying their world. His mother was a harsh woman, but just like Gary, everything she had said to him was right. He opened the bathroom mirror and looked at the Walther P99. He always kept it loaded for just such an occasion, and he looked at it as he would an old friend, and it looked back at him; stern, authoritative, approving. His smile in that moment was beautiful, genuine, and never to be witnessed by either himself or anyone else. 



Submitted: May 08, 2017

© Copyright 2021 Reagle. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



Wow, Reagle, this one was actually very painful to read, with similarities to my own life.Arnold never had a chance, did he, being doomed to be an outsider from the beginning. And there's always plenty of people looking for a victim to pick on. Excellently told as always!

Mon, May 8th, 2017 5:05pm


Cheers, Hully. I'm sure you're better off than Arnold :p

Mon, May 8th, 2017 11:23am

Teddy Kimathi

That's deep..... I love the plot and tone of your story!! ;-)

Tue, May 9th, 2017 12:43pm


Thanks, Teddy. I'm all doom and gloom.

Tue, May 9th, 2017 8:47am

Karen Lynn

Very powerful and sad write; well penned!

Sat, May 13th, 2017 5:27pm


Thanks, Karen - I like writing about trauma!

Sun, May 21st, 2017 7:33am

Oleg Roschin

Very well-written, emotionally powerful, and uniquely touching story! It is quite horrible that many people (especially today!) see themselves as "nobodies", not realizing that each one of us was created in God's own image and is connected to everyone else. My heart goes out for Arnold, I wish he wouldn't have made that terribly wrong choice in the end... :(

Tue, June 6th, 2017 7:41am


Thanks again, Oleg. I like your thinking!

Fri, June 23rd, 2017 1:15pm

Keke Serene

You did a great job with your pacing here. How upsetting to read.

Sat, December 22nd, 2018 10:40pm

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