Best Served Cold.
As I fed the pigeons, a man walked up to me and said “Do you know me?”
The speckled little scavengers were jostling and tumbling over one another in an attempt to peck their filthy little beaks at the balled up bread pieces I flicked to them. Well, not so much flicked as flung since my stunted, gnarled little fingers were not engineered for flicking. I slowly took my eyes from the vermin and looked up, and up until neck craned, I could look into his eyes. I was used to that, having to look up at people, but the low bench and his height of six foot four or so made it even more difficult than usual. I locked my black eyed gaze to his blue one. I knew him alright. It did annoy me however, as he had walked up to me with that swagger I remember so well and asked me that question with the cocky, yet slightly naive confidence that can only be attributed to the very vain or the mentally handicapped. I had always thought him vain, and ex jocks like him were usually on the border of mild retardation.
“That’s not the way you attempt to discover if someone is familiar with you,” I said with a small edge in my voice. “The correct term would be do I know you. In fact asking in that fashion sounds quite conceited, you may suffer from a personality disorder called Narcissism.” I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out one of my cards. “Here call my office and make an appointme...
“Jesus Christ, you always were an uppity midget but damn, the past twenty years have made you even more full of yourself hasn’t it?” he interjected.
I frowned in distaste at the word. I managed to pick up many colorful adjectives in my thirty seven years pertaining to my size and condition. Midget. Kick-stand. Munchkin. Halfpint. Wee man. Fun size. Oompa Loompa. Vertically Challenged. Small Fry. Shrimp. Smurf. Gnome. Troll. Hobbit. Shortstop. There was one name that was attached to me in high school, C.F. It stood for Circus Freak. Some enterprising young men just called me Sideshow. This man who stood above me was one of them. Personally I preferred Dwarf. At least that brought to mind one of those bearded creatures of fantasy wielding an axe.
“In the last decade I see you have made leaping strides in the common courtesy department.” I said as I straightened my back and sat up a little taller in a feeble attempt to retain a small amount of dignity.
“Yeah, whatever dude.” He replied as he sat down heavily on the bench next to me. He briskly rubbed his hands over his face and looked over at me. “Look Side…err Thad, I…
“It’s Thadius.” I interjected.
“I mean Thadius. Look, I got a letter saying to come to this park and sit on the bench near the statue and it said some other stuff, stuff about my wife.”
“I received a very similar letter.” I replied. I looked down at my hands, my small hands with their stubby little fingers and thought about high school like I had so many times before. . .
“Oh yeah! Kick-start my heart hope it never stops! Oh yeah, babaaaay!” Motley Crue flew from the speakers of the ghetto blaster, ricocheting off the locker room walls. I stood outside the showers in my overalls gathering up the used towels. I always wanted to play some kind of sport, but of course being the towel boy was as close as I was going to get. At least it would be another notch on my belt when it came time to apply for university. Terrence Browning sauntered up with his towel hung low on his waist, his two lap dogs, John Mackey and Brent Stillson at his heels as usual.
“You smell my jock on there Sideshow?” He said as he threw his towel over my head.
“At his height he’s used to that!” Mackey snorted as he tossed his towel at me as well.
When Brent Stillson threw his towel at me I was ready and caught it right in front of my face. As I lowered the towel I couldn’t help but crack the tiniest of smiles. That wisp of a smile cost me more than I ever could have imagined. Mackey laughed, looked at Stillson and remarked,
“You got burned by a retard.” He doubled over with laughter at the hilariousness of it. Stillson’s face became ugly with anger.
“So you think that’s funny Raggedy Andy?” Browning said as he shoved me from behind.
The towels tumbled from my arms as I threw my hands out in front of me, falling toward Stillson one of my hands inadvertently slapping at Stillson’s manhood as I fell into him struggling to keep my footing.
“Holy shit Brent!” Browning yelled, “I think Sideshow’s in love!”
As I began to push myself up from the floor I felt Browning’s foot in the middle of my back.
“No one gave you permission to get up.” He said with a hint of aggression in his voice.
The three of them looked at each other and then Browning glanced over toward the showers.
“You guys thinking what I’m thinking?” He said with a smile.
“If you’re thinking midget tossing, you must be reading my mind.” Stillson replied.
“Close but no cigar Brent, I’m thinking midget sliding. Brent, get the shower room floor ready.”
Stillson looked at Browning for a few seconds with an oafish look of confusion on his face. Then comprehension dawned on his face. His expression looked to me as if he was a caveman who had discovered fire for the first time. He darted into the shower room grabbing everyone’s shampoo and conditioner to the dismayed cries of the guys showering and began squirting them all over the floor of the shower room, a bottle in each hand. His laughter reminded me of a hyena. I felt Browning and Mackey’s hands roughly pulling my overalls and underclothes off and I went numb at the thought of what was happening to me. I vaguely remember being shoved from one side of the shower room to the other amid laughter, while being struck repeatedly on my rear. I was then shunted to the floor hard enough to knock the wind from my lungs while rough hands gripped me by the neck and leg, tossing me across the slick floor. Every time I slid to a stop I would attempt to struggle to my feet only to be thrust back on my face and then dragged or pushed across the tiled floor. After a while they tired of their game and I attempted to crawl out of the shower room, my nose bloodied and bruises covering my body. Browning stopped soaping up and stared incredulously at me.
“Where do you think you’re going Sideshow?” He said as he moved between me and the exit. I started to raise my eyes to his face and he yelled,
“I didn’t say you could look at me freak.” I quickly lowered my gaze to his feet. He looked behind me with a disgusted look on his face. There was some small brown streaks on the floor. Browning began to laugh, “Look guys, the Oompa Loompa’s making some chocolate!” I had shit myself and never even noticed. I crawled over to a corner and huddled there hugging myself in the midst of the steam and bare feet and mocking laughter. I closed my eyes and listened for what felt like hours for the last shower head to shut off and the noise of bare feet slapping on the wet floor to recede in the distance. When I heard the locker room door slam shut and echo in the solitary quiet, I began to cry.
This was one of many such incidents in which Browning and his two friends instigated. They made my high school years into a living hell which bled over into college and beyond, damaging my mind and my soul.
Snap, snap, Browning’s fingers were in front of my face. I looked up from my hands and at him.
“You were staring off in space buddy.” He said looking down at me. “You okay dude?”
“Just thinking about old times, back in high school. Remember those times quarterback?” I said, squinting my eyes as I looked at him.
“Oh yeah, that shit was a blast...” He started then looked over at me. “I mean, well, you know what I mean, it was all in good fun, right?”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact there were some good times,” I said. “There was a lot of bad times but there were some good times.”
“Yeah, remember when we let you dress up as the mascot for that big game at Sheldon High?” He said laughing. “That was so funny, you couldn’t hardly hold the head of the costume up.”
“Yes, I remember."
I pulled my flask out an worked the stopper off of it. “On that note,” I said as I took a long pull on it and sat back with a sigh. His eyes lit up as he looked at the flask. I offered it.
“Now you’re speaking my language buddy.” He said taking the flask and upending it.
“You know,” he said after a few more drinks, “I do feel like we were a little rough on you back then, but you know, we were kids.” He handed the flask over to me.
“Yeah, I know,” I said taking the flask. That was probably the closest thing to an apology that he could muster, but that was okay with me.
We sat like that for almost fifteen minutes, talking more as he loosened up. He poured a little of the whiskey on a piece of bread and tossed it down to the birds. They began fighting over the piece and he threw a couple more whiskey soaked morsels to them. We began laughing as the biggest one bullied his way through and ate it every time.
“That pigeon is already an alcoholic,” I said, and Terrence guffawed. As we sat, talked and laughed, another fifteen minutes rolled by and I remembered the time. I looked at my watch and began to put my coat on.
“I have to get going Terrence, but it was good talking to you,” I said as I stood up awkwardly.
The pigeon bully began to squawk in a very un-pigeon like way and then fell over on its side. I turned around and looked at Browning.
“I wrote you that note Terrence.” I told him. He had started looking a little pallid in the face.
“What,” he said, his arm cradling his stomach while the other hand still held the flask loosely. The fool took another drink of it as he said a little distantly,”What about my wife?”
“Oh yeah well she’s leaving you for me. She has a dwarf fetish. Don’t worry though, you won’t be around to have to see it, you’ll be dead in minutes.”
Browning leaped from the bench snarling, his arms outstretched and his hands reaching for my throat like claws. He fell straight onto the ground clutching his stomach and moaning.
I looked around the park, the light of the setting sun casting streams of heavenly light through the few clouds. There were two people far across the grass embracing, oblivious to the drama being played out perhaps 300 yards away. I knelt down near his head smacking his hand as he feebly attempted to grab at me.
“Why,” he managed.
“Vengeance est un plat mieux sert froid.” I hissed into his ear.
“Whaa..” he began feebly.
I stood up. “Revenge is a dish best served cold, you primate.” I said and began to walk away. With a surge of strength he lunged forward on his belly screaming, “I’ll kill you, you fucking midget, fuck you Sidesh...” He fell forward on his face, and as the poison coursed through his body his feet began kicking the ground in a wild staccato until suddenly, he was completely still.
I instantly felt a great weight lifted from me. The shadows of the past memories which had plagued me for years fled under the rays of a rising sun. I felt stronger, I felt taller. The birds had scattered when he had begun screaming and now flew high above, but none flew higher than my heart. I laughed. It was time to pay Brent Stillson and John Mackey a visit. We had a lot to catch up on.