The biscuit is light in my hands, as I ponder it and all the bacteria that travel its face. Its like holding a small world in my fingers. I know most people don't think about the small things that eat away at our food before it ever gets to our mouths, but I am not most people. Perhaps this is how God feels, I think, as my teeth push through the brief tension taking a bite.
It is not often I get this respite. Customers coming and going, wanting just the right shoe to accent their outfit, to make them taller, make their foot skinnier. The right accoutrement can make the outfit, can make the person feel beyond themselves and their station. I never fancied myself a shoe salesman, but it has afforded me much.
Looking out the window, I watch people scurrying here and there. Many are heading to restaurants for dinner. A family walks by, hand in hand, two boys bouncing playfully between the outstretched arms of their parents. It aches my hearts to see such love.
My early life can be summed up in three words. Poor white trash. I am an aberrant son of the trailer park on the west side of a small town, where I lived with my mother. I never met my dad, but I figure he had to be a scarecrow of a man, long lanky limbs with barely enough skin to cover the bones. That is what he gave me, all he ever gave me. Needless to say, I was a runt which made me an easy target for the dogs that roamed the cut throughs between trailers.
Their leader was a twelve year old boy named James. James was crude and had the muscle to back his mouth. He also had a willingness to do just about anything to make sure other kids knew who held the reigns. His crew consisted of three boys; Bob, his thirteen year old enforcer, Mikey, another twelve year old that spent a year in detention and Sam, his ten year old brother. Together they made life hell.
My mother never saw it as she rarely left the trailer, working out of her bedroom on Friday nights, expecting me to stay out playing until the trailer stopped rocking and headlights no longer cycled into our parking spot. I often wondered if one of these men was my father. Some weekends I just curled up by a tree in the scant strip of woods, too tired to wait until mom was done, and wondered if he took the time to look at my picture on the mantle before stealing a bit more of her from me.
One of those nights, shortly after my tenth birthday, changed my life. I lay next to a tree, when I noticed the dogs had captured their prey for the night. They were dragging Billy, a nine year old they had been hustling for his lunch money, every day at the bus stop the last year, behind a trailer to teach him a lesson. I heard their hushed words and the sharp exhalation as the first blow caught Billy in the stomach. I knew how that felt.
Fist after fist pounded him, each one leaving a stinging memory on my own skin. Before the thought crossed my mind, I had a rock in my hand and let it fly at the mass of shadows. I had a pretty decent arm for my age and was a starter for our little league team, so when I heard the squeal pierce the night, I knew I had wounded someone. I did not wait to see who it was, I just ran.
They caught me in the shadows between two trailers, looking for a place to hide. Their fists felt like hammer blows. I lost count after they went into double digits and let gravity do its job pulling me to the earth. Copper filled my mouth, creating bubbles with every exhale. That was not good enough for James.
His cohorts uncurled me, flat on the ground and James sat on my chest, pinning my arms. My eyes were already swelling shut but I heard the jangle of his belt coming loose and the growl of his zipper descending. Fear squirmed into my bowels at what was coming next.
"You stupid fuck! No one, no one, fucks with us! You got that?"
I felt the heat of his groin again my face, then hot piss streamed up my nose. Gagging I opened my mouth to inhale and he laughed taking the new target with glee. My eyes burned as I choked, death's cool hand touching my forehead, under a steaming barrage of acidic urine. Survival was my only thought, and when my teeth tore through his cock, severing a good portion of meat, James launched off of me.
He rolled in the dirt, blood spurting through the fingers that tried to hold himself together. The rest of the crew stood frozen in shock as I rose to my feet. I spit the lump of flesh at his writhing form and listened to their footsteps retreating, leaving their wounded behind. Cowards.
With that much damage, it was not a secret that could be kept, so the authorities were called. They tried to blame me, but when the question was asked about how his member came to be close enough for me to bite, they caved. One after another recanted their statements, leaving James standing alone.
James ended up in the detention center, along with a new moniker, 'Stumpy', which I am sure did wonders for his reputation among the other inmates. Often, under the trees on Friday nights, I would think of his as their whipping boy and smile at that promise in the stars.
I got a counselor to evaluate me for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He was a nice man, taking me out to do therapeutic activities, giving me small glimpses of life outside of the trailer park. Three months later, he diagnosed me as healthy and stable and for the next six years, I worked my ass off to get out of that park.
(to be continued...)