(Already, the colors of my childhood are livening up my stark two-bedroom Los Angeles loft; white-washed walls, naked mattress, and broken vertical blinds caught between my desk and empty sill. Another swig of Two-Buck Chuck. One stanza into the first chapter and the bottles nearly empty. My box of index cards is unlocked and exposed beside my computer; the more I drink, the more I’m taunted by the memories inside. But... back to Roslyn.)
“Write this down,” I demanded, and Whit grabbed his pen. “I want cheesecloth for costumes and latex paint for the makeup. Maybe dark red lipstick for their mouths... would that be creepy? We have a pile of tiki-torches in the garage; the fire'll add killer production value. Got it?”
Whit scribbled the end of my rant. “Got it.”
I looked through the camera's viewfinder and focused on a tree with low branches. “The Girl can escape the monsters here. We need a wooden ladder.”
“Okie-dokie.” Whit wrote it down.
“And maybe the monsters will use fireworks as weapons! I wanna have the camera right above The Girl in the tree. We'll shoot a roman candle beneath her--”
In the viewfinder, something moved. I froze.
“...right beneath her?”
“Shh!” I hissed and tightened my hold on the camera. “I think I see something.”
“What? Who? Maybe we should--”
“Would ya zip it?” I snapped. I gripped the zoom lever and cautiously carried my eye toward the rustling bush.
“I don't know.” I turned the focus wheel... and the bullies emerged from the bushes.
A.J. twirled a grocery bag of aluminum cans.
Danny shouldered a BB gun. “Naughty naughty!” he said. “Fireworks are too dangerous for Fatty and the Gimp!”
“Oh hell,” Whit said and instinctively grabbed his wheels.
I lowered my camera and unzipped the bag, slowly, gently, so I wouldn't excite the approaching wolves. “Hey, Danny,” I said. “Hey, Age.”
“What'er you clowns doin' on our huntin' ground?”
I wanted to yell, to scream, to defend my kingdom and shout “It's not yours!” But all I could muster through the walnut in my throat was, “Sorry, guys. We were just leaving.”
Danny scratched the back of his head and I was suddenly thankful that I couldn't see his nails (yellow, I imagined) scraping the pink and curled flesh of that supposed shark bite. “Leaving?” he said. “But we came here to hunt!”
I wondered what animal two sixth-grade boys planned on killing with a pellet gun, but I wasn't stupid enough to--
“What are you gonna kill with a silly pellet gun?” Whit asked.
Danny smirked at the provocation. “Hey Age, put a can on the cripples head.”
“Are you fa real?” A.J. asked.
Danny sneered and nodded to Whit. “Hey crip, hold still a sec. A.J.'s got a hat for ya.”
“He's already got a hat,” I said.
“Well, Fatty, maybe the gimp wants a new hat. Didja ever think of that? Fatty.” Danny gripped the barrel in one hand and the plunger in the other. He wiped his brow with his camouflage sleeve and cocked the gun over and over like a giant pair of scissors.
A.J. tiptoed to Whit with exaggerated steps and flicked off his cap.
Whit didn't budge, but closed his eyes so tight that his temples pursed.
“Stop it, Age,” I said, “or I'll tell your mom.” It was the only threat I had. It didn't work.
A.J. removed an empty Heineken can from his plastic bag and set it gently on Whit's head. “Don't worry,” he said, “Danny's a good shot!”
I abandoned my camcorder, took three angry steps, and smacked the can from my friend's head. “Leave him alone!”, I said, “We're leaving.”
A.J. planted his hands in the square of my back and shoved. My ankle caught Whit's footrest and jolted my knee against his shin. My stomach rammed into some crooked wheelchair pipe and I keeled, twisted, and landed cheek-first in the thorny stems of the raspberry bush.
Danny cackled and pressed the full force of his biceps into the last squeeze of the plunger. “Age!” he shouted and lifted the sight to his eye.
A.J. snatched the beer can from the dirt, placed it back on Whit's head, and scrambled out of Danny's line-of-sight.
(Although Whit denied it later, I swear I saw a tear pinched in the crease of his eye.) “No!” I yelled.