Preppy the life amp deat.., p.17
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       Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Two, p.17
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         Part #6 of King series by T. M. Frazier
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  “Uh. Yeah. Of course. As a cookie connoisseur myself I can recognize a fellow man who appreciate amazing baked goods.” Preppy smiled and took a seat on the deck, his legs dangling down over the side. “Go ahead, man. Have at it. They’re all for you. Surprised it took you this long to get here.” The boy reluctantly lifted his arm, his sleeve falling to the crook of his elbow as he lifted the cookie to his mouth and took a small bite. His eyes never left Preppy’s, as if he were asking permission during the entire time he chewed and swallowed that first mouthful.

  “See? What I tell ya. Pretty damn good, right?”

  The boy nodded enthusiastically and took another bite, this time managing to shove almost the entire cookie in his mouth in one shot, and then another and another until he’d downed at least four more in quick succession.

  Preppy picked up one of his own and mimicked the boy, his teeth coated in chocolate when he spoke. “I’m Samuel Clearwater,” Preppy introduced, extending his hand and swallowing hard. “But my friends call me Preppy.” The boy looked at Preppy’s extended hand like he’s just produced a rattlesnake from his pocket. His eyes went wide and he took a step back. Preppy withdrew his arm and casually scratched the back of his head before and folded his hands together on his lap. He swung his feet like he was running in place.

  “You got a name or am I just supposed to call you the cookie kid?”

  The boy shrugged and my heart broke right then and there. I felt gutted. Whoever was supposed to be caring for this child wasn’t doing much caring if ANY and immediately I felt the rage burning in my lungs because when Preppy asked him his name he didn’t shrug like he didn’t know it.

  He shrugged like his name didn’t MATTER.

  I felt my eyes start to water. “You know what? I forgot to bring out the milk. I’m so sorry. You two boys chat for a second and I’ll be right back,” I said, standing up and running back inside.

  When I was back inside and out of view of the boy and Preppy I took a second to lean over the sink and collect myself. Then I made several sandwiches with whatever I could find in the fridge and stacked them on a tray with two large glasses of milk. When I went back outside I set the tray on top of the step and took a seat next to it. “You know, Preppy. It was pretty funny how we made way too many sandwiches for lunch today.”

  Preppy immediately caught on and shot me a grateful smile. “Yeah, it’s too bad they have to go to waste. Or hey,” he turned to the boy who’d just polished off the last cookie. “I mean, I don’t know if you’re a sandwich guy too but these are just gonna go to waste so if you want...” the boy was already nodding.

  I could see him eying the tray and thought he was going to make a full body lunge for it when he stopped and pointed at himself. He looked around the yard and then pointed to the lawnmower we’d parked next to the hose beside the deck.

  Then he did it again, slower this time.

  “You’re trying to tell us your name aren’t you?” I asked. He nodded and added a crooked toothed grin.

  He again pointed to the lawnmower.

  “I mean lawnmower is a strange name, kid. I’m not gonna lie. But we’re in the south and I hate to tell ya, but I’ve heard stranger.” Preppy leaned in and whispered with his hand on the side of his lips. “My third grade class had three Bubba’s and I was in gym class with a kid named Bird Dog and his older brother White Zombie. We’ll just call you Mower, or Mo.”

  The kid waved at us, jumping up and down.

  “That’s your name isn’t it?” I asked. “Mo?”

  He shook his head and positioned his ams so one was outstretched and the other was by his cheek like he was about to shoot an arrow. “Nah, his name is Bo!” Preppy exclaimed like he’d just won Jeopardy. The boy jumped into the air and Preppy held up his hand for a high five but the second he saw the hesitation in his eyes he lowered it but kept the smile on his face.

  Bo looked at me and then the tray. “Go right on ahead, Bo. Have as much as you want.”

  While he tore up the sandwiches Preppy and I shot each other “What the fuck are we gonna do about this poor kid” looks. I thought maybe he could be lost and we could help him find his way home, or maybe his family was down on their luck and homeless, migrating to towns like Logan’s Beach in order to avoid the harsh weather further north when escaping the elements wasn’t an option. I had a hundred reasons in my head why a little boy who presumably couldn’t speak and who cowered at human touch, wandered into Mirna’s backyard, dirty, starving, and completely alone.

  His too big shirt fell off to one side exposing his collarbone and every indentation of his rib cage. My breath caught in my throat. There was no mistaking the mean looking purple and yellow bruise in the shape of a closed fist on his chest.

  Preppy’s eyes met mine and his nostrils flared. I saw the anger burning inside him that steam might as well have been coming off the top of his head. “So, where do you live?” I asked and suddenly Bo looked from me to Preppy and something about the expression on his face shifted. He grabbed the last sandwich and darted across the yard, scurrying through a hole in the fence like a scared bunny being chased by a dog.

  Preppy stood up and ran back into the house.

  “Where are you going? We should go after him!” I shouted.

  Preppy emerged a few seconds later with a gun in hand. He loaded it from the bottom, smacking the cartridge in place with his palm before cocking it to set one in the chamber. “I am going after him,” he said, tucking the gun into the waistband of his pants. “And the cocksucker responsible for him.”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  DRE

  Preppy came back looking defeated. He wasn’t able to find Bo but he was able to find something else. Bitterness.

  I thought he was in the backyard but when I peeked out the window and noticed he wasn’t there I went looking for him. I found him all right.

  Sitting on the train tracks.

  “Don’t worry. We’ll find him,” I said, coming up behind him and wrapping my arms around his waste.

  “We? That’s fucking funny,” Preppy muttered.

  I released him and stood in front of him with my hands on my hips. “What the fuck is your problem?”

  “Me?” He shook is head. “I don’t have a problem. Oh, unless you mean these.” He flung a stack of papers at my feet. I didn’t need to bend down to pick them up to see that they were divorce papers. The return address was from a law office in New York.

  Dad.

  “What do you want me to say, Preppy? I didn’t send these but apparently you think I would. They’re from my dad. I told him what was going on. He jumped the gun. He thought he was doing the right thing.”

  “Maybe he is,” he spat.

  “Why would you say that?”

  “Because I can’t save him!” he shouted, jumping to his feet. “I can’t save Bo. He’s out there somewhere cold and he’s alone or taking a beating and I can’t save him. I can’t take care of him and I can’t take care of you.”

  “That’s bullshit.”

  “No, that’s fucking life. And you should go home, Doc. Go back to your dad before you realize there’s nothing for you here.”

  “You don’t mean that.”

  “I don’t give two fucks what happens to me. I don’t even know who I am to care about so how the fuck am I supposed to take care of you?”

  “Samuel Clearwater, I might have needed you to take care of me once and you did. You saved my life. But I’m not that girl anymore. I can take care of myself. I can save myself if I need saving and if you need me to then I can save you too.”

  “Oh yeah? Just like you saved our baby?” he asked bitterly just as the lights of the train lit up the tracks and the side of Preppy’s face. He looked to the train then back to me. Shaking his head as if I disgusted him.

  “Take that back,” I shouted as the train approached and the ground beneath us vibrated. The light grew brighter.

  Preppy stood up but didn’t step off the trac
ks. The train was seconds away. “I can’t save you unless you want to be saved,” I said. “Get off the fucking tracks! I won’t have you die again! I won’t!”

  “Go home, Doc,” Preppy repeated. Instead of stepping forward off the tracks he stepped backward onto the other side, the train missing him by inches. By the time it rolled by and I could see to the other side of the tracks, Preppy was gone.

  Days went by with no sign of him. I let King and Ray know what happened and that he was missing again. We searched for him everywhere with no luck. My only hope was that he wasn’t hurting himself or playing dodge-a-train again. Little did I know the decision to stay or go was going to be made for me. My phone rang and Edna was on the other end, sounding panicked.

  “Edna, what’s wrong?” I asked.

  “It’s your father...he had a heart attack.”

  “Is he...” The possibility too painful to even speak the word.

  “They took him back a while ago. I have no idea.”

  “I’m on my way,” I said, ending the call and grabbing my suitcase. I scribbled a note and left it on the counter just in case Preppy came back to the house.

  I came to Logan’s Beach for closure. Instead, I was leaving the same way I left the first time.

  With a broken heart.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  PREPPY

  “Ray said you were back,” King said from the doorway of the garage apartment. “She also said you were shit faced.”

  “She’s goooooone,” I sang. “Dre left and she’s not coming back.”

  “I figured as much.”

  “So lemme ask you an important question,” I slurred. “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could...fuck chuck.” I held up my index finger. “Wait, who is Chuck and why is the woodchuck fucking him?” I slurred, sloshing amber liquid around in the bottle, missing my mouth entirely as I attempted to raise it to my lips. It dripped down my chin into my already liquor soaked beard. “I mean I’m not hatin’ cause Chuck should be free to fuck who he wants to fuck, and all that jazzzzzz."

  King folded his arms over his chest, the buckles on the thick leather belts he wore around his forearms clanked together. “Prep, you’re fucking drunk.”

  I clucked my tongue. “That ‘tis not be true, boss-man.” I squinted after another fuzzier version of King appeared beside him looking identically as irritated.

  “Bullshit,” he scoffed, raising a scarred eyebrow down at me. “Don’t fucking lie to me. You’re off your ass wasted. I can smell you from here.”

  “Nopers, you are wroooong, sirrrrrr.” I giggled, sounding like fucking chick, spilling more whiskey down my throat. I pointed toward my best friend with the neck of the bottle, it slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. I made an O shape with my mouth and my childish giggling turned into a fit of laughter as I slid down from the recliner and fell ass first onto the carpet. Deciding that the carpet, although now wet, was the softest and plushest thing I'd ever felt, I continued to slide down until I was flat on my back. I don't know how much time had passed, but when I finally looked up I found myself staring into two very angry sets of green eyes spinning around above me, like in one of those old cartoons where Bugs Bunny gets hit on the head and is suddenly being circled by little spinning blue birds.

  "Yeah, not fucking drunk at all," both King's said sarcastically, crossing his arms over his chest. The belts around his forearms clanked as the buckles connected.

  “Listen you two motherfuckers,” I pointed between solid King to fuzzy King. “You're both wrong. I’m not JUST drunk.” I placed a finger over my lips and lowered my voice to a whisper. I looked around as if someone might overhear me. “I is also very VERY fucking high.”

  “Pull your shit together, Preppy. We got kids around here now. I can’t have you high at eight in the morning or stumbling around while they’re fucking playing in the backyard.” King pointed to the blow on the table. “You can’t leave that shit around either. There is a safe in my shop and another hidden in the back closet. You can keep your stash there.”

  I sat up, his mention of the kids finding it’s way through the haze and waking up a small part of my brain. “I’ve missed so fucking much,” I said, suddenly feeling a sadness wash over me. I wiped my runny nose with the back of my hand and realizing there was white powder residue on the back of it I licked it off. I shook my head. “I’ve missed everything.”

  “Not everything, Prep,” King said crouching down next to me. “But you can fix that. Look out that window. Look at those kids. Go meet your nieces and nephew. Go talk to Bear’s girl and get to know her. Go insult Bear for fuck sake. I thought he was all torn up when we thought you were dead but I think he’s more torn up now that you’re back because you ain’t you.”

  “What the fuck does Bear know. I’m me. I’m fucking fine.”

  King ran his hand over his hair and squinted as if he were in pain. “You know I really told myself that you were okay. That everything was going to be fine. I think I told myself that because I wanted it to be. But shit’s not fine, Prep. You need help or time or something. Whatever this shit is that you’re doing isn’t working. You need to be able to get through whatever it was you’ve been through. If you can’t talk to us and tell us what happened, then you need to talk to someone to help you get through it.”

  “I don’t want to talk about it. Not with you. Not with anyone. I don’t even want to talk about it with myself. It never happened. It’s over,” I slurred, reaching for the bottle and sticking my tongue into the neck to reach the last speck of un-spilled liquor clinging to the top.

  King grabbed the bottle from my hand and slid it across the room, out of my reach.

  “Give that back, motherfucker,” I demanded, reaching my hand out and wagging my fingers at my lost bottle of booze.

  “You think you’ve been through some shit? Well, you’re not the only one. Ray was raped by Isaac right before he, or one of his men, shot you. She was kidnapped by her ex who played a round of ‘burn off this tattoo’ on her with a motherfucking blow torch. I was shot four times trying to save her. You want to hear some more shit? Just ask Bear what the fuck’s been going on since you’ve been gone. Ask him about what Eli and his men did to him. I realize that you’re fucking hurting but get your head out of your own fucking ass long enough to understand that you have people around you. Family. And we’re here to help so stop fucking pushing us away.”

  “What the fuck happened to Bear?” I asked, sitting upright.

  “Ask him your fucking self,” King snapped.

  “I would but everyone’s been tiptoeing around me and no one fucking tells me anything!”

  “Then get your ass up and come outside. Breathe some fresh air and at least try!”

  I shook my head. “I want to. I really do. But I can’t, man. I just can’t. Every time I try to leave the light outside is blinding as fuck. Every time I convince myself it’s all okay my chest seizes up and I...I just can’t. And you’re right. They don’t need to be seeing me like this, so I’ll go.”

  “Prep, that’s not what I’m fucking saying and it’s not what I want. That’s not what any of us want. You been through hell. We get that. Let us help you through it. Come outside. Breathe some fresh fucking air and do something other than work on your uni-nostril.”

  I chuckled. “Was that your attempt at a joke?” I asked, lighting a cigarette and leaning back against the recliner. My temples started to ache with the beginnings of a headache.

  “I guess,” King said, scratching the back of his neck.

  “It was fucking awful.”

  “Fuck off.” King smiled, grabbing my face in his hands. “At least try, Prep. Try for us.”

  “I don’t know if I can,” I said honestly.

  King surprised me by stomping back across the room and pulling me up by my arm. “Come on,” he said dragging me into his shop and pushing me down onto the couch. He walked over to a picture on the wall and shifted it aside to revea
l a safe. He entered a few numbers on the keypad and when the door opened his arm disappeared into the wall and when he pulled it out he was holding a notebook in his black gloved hands.

  A familiar notebook.

  He tossed it to me and I caught it. I didn’t need to open it to know what it was. I ran my hand over my eleven-year-old doodling on the cover. SAMUEL CLEARWATER written in graffiti style letters over the top. “I can’t believe you still have this,” I said.

  King reached over and turned to a dog-eared page, revealing the stilt home drawing we drew that first day on the playground. The day we met. The marker ink had barely faded. The drops of red from my bloody nose from being beat up minutes before were still visible over stick a figure version of ourselves. “Of course I fucking kept it. I don’t want to forget where I came from or where I’m going.” He pointed to the page. “THIS might have been two fucking kids making a plan, but I still live by what we wrote that day and god willing, far in the fucking future, I’ll fucking die by it someday too. I want to know if you’re still fucking with me.”

  I looked from the notebook to him. “We were just kids, Boss-man. We were just fucking around,” I said, closing the notebook and tossing it up onto the tray.

  King blew out a frustrated breath. “Preppy, since we were kids
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