The Boys

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


We were mean, little shits. I realize these words may seem offensive to some but this sentence described us best. We were young, we were angry, and we had way too much freedom. But when we got together, we were something to behold. We were young teen-aged boys from southwest Missouri, aging from fifteen to seventeen, and together a force.

 It was summer, it was hot, and annoying bugs were everywhere. Mosquitoes, gnats, and blow flies drove us nuts, and the humidity made us sweat like crazy. Ticks were commonplace and they came in all sizes around the river. Some were as huge as dog ticks and others were so small that you could barely see them. These really small ones came in swarms. The ticks, that were of a size in-between the large and small, had the dots on their back and they gave you Tick Fever, although we had only known one person to have had it. We just picked them off when they stuck, and went on with it.

 This particular day we had assembled together and were going swimming at the creek.

There were about seven of us. All were from dysfunctional families. I think that I was the only one who had a step-father. My parents never spoke to each other in a normal tone, they yelled. Bob had an older brother, about seven years older, and he was always kicking Bob’s butt. Of course he deserved it. The Troubled Toad was there also. We called him “Travellin”, for short. As a child he had been sexually abused by a friend of his fathers’. AJ was there too. Man, he was a piece of work. He was the shadiest out of the whole bunch, yet he might have been the most likable. We remained life-long friends. His father was an alcoholic, as was my absent biological father. There were always us four, AJ, Travellin, Bob and me, but also there were always others among us.

 Crazy Bob, TT, and Skimp, AJ’s brother, were with us today. Crazy Bob was the youngest. He was a few years younger than the rest of us but he seemed to fit right in. He had been in and out of foster-homes and his mother had claimed that Elvis might be his dad. She wasn’t sure, but maybe. He thought that was cool but we just couldn’t leave that one alone. Like I said, we were hep to flaws. The word “hep” was our version of “hip” but hep was more accurate as most of us would wind up with Hep C. in about twenty five years. When TT talked, he held his head to the side and shook it like a spaz, but boy, could he sing Rag Doll. He had a beautiful voice, something you would have never guessed. Skimp had taken too much acid when he was fourteen and that was a life-long problem but we did not mind. He could play Hendricks licks and was an excellent mechanic. Just because he couldn’t express himself real well was no biggy. He just kept his head down and didn’t say much.

You wouldn’t know that any of us were friends by the way we mouthed each other. Nothing was sacred and if you had dirt on someone, it came out. Embarrassing each other was funny, it was normal, and if you could not take it, you were in the wrong place. We all had filthy mouths. To this day, I cannot believe how trashy we talked. Just about every third word had something to do with the act of procreation. Matriarchal, animalistic, genital, and LGBT verbs and adjectives accompanied that much regarded slang word. It just felt good coming out of our mouths. When we were together the filth flowed out of our speech in abundance and in all directions. We were absolutely disgusting and the lower our minds sunk the merrier. We celebrated our failures when we were together and it was fun to laugh at ourselves and each other.

When we jumped into the spring-fed water from out of the sweltering heat, it was a tremendous rush. Our problems seemed to disappear as soon as we hit the water. Wow, it felt good. It was stupid to dive before checking out what was beneath the surface and all of us had scars to prove it. There were tree roots that reached out from the banks and some places were not as deep as they were yesterday. The water was not clear; after all, we shared it with cows, fish, snakes, and many dead animals; but the water was flowing and we were not there to drink it.

 We were there to catch a break from the heat. We were there to enjoy each other’s company. We were there to talk trash and let off steam. We were there to get stupid under the influence of weed and liquor, if we were lucky enough to have any. Smoke was so cheap, someone usually had some. It was the late 60’s, maybe early 70’s. The music was rockin, it was loud, and we dug it. Eight tracks were in, cassettes were around, and there were boom-boxes. We all had god-awful expressions on our faces; the air-guitars were flying; and we were mocking rock stars. With Ten Years After, Pink Floyd, Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan, Allman Brothers, Zeppelin, Spooky Tooth, Spirit, Janis Joplin, to name a few, we imagined ourselves in their glory. We heard the political noise of these times but our jams contained our truths.

So here we all were. The water was exhilarating. It washed away all the misery of the day the moment your body disappeared under the surface. When we came up, we were new. Life sucked just a little less. We finally could breathe, and the music, the company of each other, all losers in our own particular ways, made the day tolerable. And anyways, the nightlife was ahead and man, could we spread havoc after dark.

There was a rope perfectly dangling from an overhanging limb and swinging from the shore, where we had made a muddy, slippery platform. We could lunge out to the deeper part of the river and let go to hit the cold water all at once. It was over our heads there and little chance of danger when one dropped in the proper spot. Of course, that wasn’t always possible. We were not exactly trapeze artists. We usually had copped a nice buzz before attempting the feat, although there were among us some pretty good divers; it just didn’t always go the way we imagined when we let go of the rope. There were projectiles to dodge and you did need to let go of the rope at a proper distance. The area was pretty large where it was safe to enter the creek while exiting the rope but for numerous reasons someone might not let go. You might want to swing back and make a larger arc to get up higher with your next swing and do a one-and-a-half. Sometimes it worked but mostly turned out less than artistic, which was hilarious for everyone else. At times one of us would be turned in the wrong position and could not see where we were precisely, so it was advantageous to hang on until you got turned around to see where you were. Sometimes that would be in the middle of the tree trunk. This usually was a bad scene, but hey, we got over it, and what were you going to do, cry? It had to be hospital mode for that to happen. Besides, it was extremely funny for everyone else and there was always the next guy. You simply licked your wounds and did something crazier to remove the spotlight.

After swinging on the rope awhile, and swimming around, we would get cold and lay around on the bank to let the sun bake us again. Then the trash talking began. We were growing up during the times of mini-dresses, R-rated movie chicks, fast cars, and cheap gas. Vietnam was what we had to look forward to, when we turned eighteen, and since the times when we were really young we had to practice for nuke attacks at school because communists were out there trying to kill us. We talked about girls and what we would do to this one and how we would like to have some of that. And remember, there were no adults around, so our mouths were garbage. This was how we spend a hot summer afternoon if we were lucky enough to all show up at the creek at the same time.

You had to watch out for snakes because occasionally they would appear swimming down towards us. When we saw one the rocks flew, either killing them or sending them on their way. Of course, on occasion one would slither out of the weeds behind us and freak everyone out. But that was part of it.

 Poison ivy, poison oak, wasps, bees, and hornets were lurking too, but that was everyday stuff and did not keep us away. Sometimes someone would get bit, or stung, or get poison ivy, brush against sting weeds, ticks, and chiggers, but that was part of summer. It didn’t kill us and quit hurting after a while. Sun burns hurt like hell also, but you had to burn before you tanned and everyone had to have a tan. It was just part of being cool, and cool was what it is.

Now on one particular day that I will never forget, that day that all of these friends that I have mentioned, had showed up at the creek about the same time, a really strange thing happened. Here we all were. A bunch of losers by choice: by the music we dug, by the long hair that we were all starting to sport, our filthy speech, and the company we kept, (our parents hated our choices) each other, and of course we all got high. Everybody drank, that was no big deal. But we liked to smoke weed and trips, on occasion. Almost everyone did, from the little farm towns around our area, and in this part of southwest Missouri there was a small town about every fifteen miles or so, in every direction.

 A national movement was happening and our parents, the greatest generation, were convinced that this musical, happening thing that was sweeping the country was directly out of hell, so foreign was it to their sensibilities. Our parents had been born during the depression and lived through World War II. Long hair and drugs were as foreign to them as the music we listened to, and it caused tremendous static. It was, at the time, an insurmountable generation gap with neither side giving ground. Of course, as usually happens, all of that changed, but not at this tumultuous time. I am getting carried away here but I speak the truth. Anyway, back to that one particular day; a day like so many others, except for a very disastrous occurrence that shaped up like this.

After playing like idiots in the refreshing cold water, and swinging onto the rope from the muddy, slippery bank, trying as usual to copy diving feats we had seen on TV, or at least to imitate an earlier one by another co-Olympian, cooling ourselves from the hot, humid afternoon, we found ourselves lying around on the opposite side of the rope swing, on a gravel bar. As usual, we began to discuss the world we lived in and how it related to us. We bitched about everything that did not suit us and were generally in agreement, as most friends of a like manner tend to be. The mosquitoes, gnats, blowflies, and other bugs were starting to have their way with us as we began to dry off and heat up again. Bob had crossed back to the other side and had grabbed firmly onto the rope, preparing to swing out and get wet again.

That is when we all saw it but him. A huge, Dean Koontz, Steven King type monstrous cotton mouth, with a little serial killer sprinkled on top, just seemed to float up, not swim, or give any notice, but appear right in the vicinity that Bob was going to land in. And he had already taken off. Still, he did not see it. I was so horrified that my breath was stolen in one gasp. Everyone, in that single moment, saw what was going to happen. That is, everyone but Bob. He saw our faces when he swung out but it happened so quickly that the headlights that were our eyeballs and our inability to communicate anything but terror made him look down as he let go of the rope.

 What happened next happened in the blink of an eye. We knew it was a cotton mouth because when it opened its gigantic mouth to bite his ass, we saw two ominous fangs and that familiar cotton white on the inside of its mouth. Bob’s eyes met this purveyor of death’s at the same moment and then we witnessed a circus feat, or at least athletic ability that none of us were familiar with. Bob had already let go of the rope and right before the serpent and he were fixing to collide, he grabbed back ahold off the rope and turned completely upside down, a millisecond before his demise, and wrapped his feet tightly around the rope. Within a foot from the water, he was back safely clinging to that rope.

 His face was a foot away from that awaiting disaster. Complete silence ensued. I still could not breathe. The breath had been sucked out of my lungs. I looked around. Everyone was in the same shocked stupor. What in the world had we just witnessed? The cotton-mouth disappeared back under the surface as silently and suddenly as it had appeared and we never saw it again. I would bet all of this hadn’t taken three seconds. It was then that we noticed Bob’s face.

His face resembled someone’s in a movie who had just witnessed murder. The silence was thick but finally broken. The rest of us laughed until we cried. Not so with Bob. He could not even muster a smile. It still tickles me the way he reacted. He was beyond terrified. He wasn’t in the zone, he was zoned out. He could not quit jerking and twitching. His nerves owned him.

At that moment we all realized that for just a brief pause in time we were not mean little shits. In a beautiful collection of thoughts, in our own particular time and space, we had all pled for goodness to happen. At that precise moment, none of us were angry. And at the same time, we had all lost the monumental chips on our shoulders.

 For at least fifteen minutes afterwards, we were as pumped as brothers who had shared a forbidden parental secret. We all were especially thankful for Bob’s good fortune; and we all realized that we had witnessed a miracle; and it felt really good. But Bob, Bob had been granted grace!

As for me, I listened but could not yet filter out the painful pangs of this downward spiral we all embraced. I still hate snakes and the night called.

Submitted: February 06, 2018

© Copyright 2021 johnnyrex. All rights reserved.

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