Preppy the life amp deat.., p.20
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       Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Two, p.20
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         Part #6 of King series by T. M. Frazier
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  Preppy hopped out of the van and I gave Bo’s hand a squeeze when the door was rolled open. “We’ll be right back. Stay with Billy, okay?” Preppy asked, holding out his fist for Bo to bump, which he did.

  I got out and we rolled the door closed. Billy saluted Preppy as we turned toward the crumbling pile of aluminum in front of us. It looked like a junkyard and smelled like an open sewer. Pizza boxes, eggshells, fast food wrappers with flies buzzing over it littered the small sidewalk to the front steps. The smell of urine burned my nostrils as we approached the door.

  “Are you ready for this?” I asked Preppy as he took my hand and raised it to his lips to give it a quick kiss.

  “Fuck no.” He opened the door without knocking and stepped inside.


  Bo’s mother, for lack of a better term, was named Trish. She didn’t stand up when we’d entered and I wasn’t sure if it was because she couldn’t or just didn’t want to. She was tiny and frail, perched on a tattered recliner with a knitted blanket with so many holes in it there was no way it served any kind of purpose. “Hope you two know that you’d be the ones getting a bum deal. Kid don’t even talk. Might even be a retard,” she said, looking from me to Preppy like we were the crazy ones.

  I was FUMING in a way I’d never felt before. Preppy must have sensed my anger because he reached out and grabbed my arm like I was going to lunge at her and I can honestly say that I was definitely thinking about it. I answered her through my teeth, “Have you ever thought that unlike some people who just run their fucking mouths without a single thought behind their words, that maybe Bo’s just waiting for something important to say?”

  “Whatever, as long as you know what you’re getting into,” she said, scratching at the scabs on her arm, a drop of blood bubbled to the surface and trickled down to her wrist and then into the lines of her palm but she didn’t seem to notice. “So how much?”

  “You want us to BUY him from you?” Preppy asked in complete disbelief, although something told me that he wasn’t as surprised as his voice led on. "You've got to be fucking kidding me?" It was his turn to be angry. The chords in his neck tightened. He reached into the waistband of his pants and pulled his gun, holding it with two shaky hands as if it were physically hurting him not to pull the trigger.

  Trish barely flinched when she looked up and saw the silver barrel pointed down at the top of her greasy grey head. He cocked the gun, the click echoed throughout the small room. He stepped forward, glaring hatred down at the ghost of a woman as he pressed the gun to her forehead. “You give him a shitty fucking life in this open sewer of a home. You starve him. Neglect him. And do God-knows fucking WHAT to him and now you want to SELL him?” An evil sounding laugh escaped him. “Fuck, I’ve seen some evil shit in my life but right up there with the likes of my own fucking mother.”

  “And why shouldn’t I get paid?” Trish asked, ignoring everything Preppy said that wasn’t in line with what she wanted to hear. “You want something that’s mine. In my world you gotta pay for what you want, supply and demand.” She lit a cigarette butt with shaky hands and inhaled once before the cherry fell off into her lap, she brushed it off her blanket and it fell to the floor where she stubbed it out with her dirty bare foot.

  “You treat him like a fucking nuisance dog and when we tell you that we’re gonna take him off your hands for you all you can respond with is how much?” Preppy licked his lips like he could taste the kill in front of him. “I tell you what you stupid cunt, how about you sign those papers and I pay you by not blowing your motherfucking head off right now,” he seethed.

  “Prep,” I said, using the calmest tone of voice I could muster. I knew that Preppy identified with Bo and the way he was raised and neglected, but looking down at this frail woman in the throes of heavy addiction I couldn’t help but think that if things hadn’t happened exactly the way they had I could so easily have ended up just like her. “Let me talk to her.”

  “Doc,” Preppy started to argue, but he must have seen the determination written all over my face. “Three minutes, I’ll be right outside,” he said, with a look that said he didn’t like the idea at all. With one last glare down at Bo’s mother he lowered his gun to his side but didn’t put it away before leaving, slamming the trailer door shut behind him.

  “Trish, right?” I asked, taking a step into the living room over a pile of rags. I side stepped the couch and tried not to let the disgust show on my face as I saw thousands fleas jumping up from the rug as I maneuvered around the garbage, my ankles under instant attack as they landed bite after bite. I pushed on.

  “That’s right. It’s Tricia but everyone calls me Trish.”

  “Heroin?” I asked, pointing to the needle on the side table.

  Trish looked up at me for the first time as if she were just noticing I was there. “None of your fucking business. You think just because you’re a stiff that you came come into my fucking home and take my kid for nothing? That you’re some how better than me ‘cause you’re not depending on a fucking needle to get you through the day?” Trish shook her head from and lit the butt of another cigarette from the overflowing ashtray on the side table to next to her chair.

  I stepped closer and knelt down next to her. I pulled up my sleeves and set my forearms across her bony knees. My touch startled her and she sat up as if I’d stabbed her. “I haven’t always been a stiff,” I said, using my eyes to point to the scars on the inside of my arms. “I know a lot more about how you’re feeling then you think I do.” Trish’s gaze roamed my scars. Her eyes met mine. “I’ve been where you are. I know what it’s like to have something so small take all the control when it comes to your life.”

  Trish looked like she was contemplating something. She sat back in her chair and I stood back up, pulling my sleeves back down my arms. She looked at her own arms then back up at me. “So you think because you used to be a junkie that you can bully me into giving you my kid? Is that it?”

  I shook my head. “No, I think that because you’re a junkie you understand why he’d be better off living somewhere where your addiction isn’t what he sees every morning and every night. Where heroin use won’t be his normal. Where the fridge will be full and so will his belly. Where his clothes will be clean and he’ll go to school every day. But most importantly, where he’ll be loved and that love will be more important than anything. It will come first...” I glanced down to the needle and spoon on the table. “Before any needle.”

  Trish scoffed. “My love for him comes before...”

  “Don’t bullshit me,” I interrupted. “That comes first, second, third...and only.”

  Trish’s shoulders hunched over even more. With a growl she grabbed a pen off the side of the table and was about to sign her name to the page when Preppy opened the front door and said. “Wait,” he said, throwing me off. I was about to ask him why when he turned and called for Billy who came in a second later carrying something in his hand. He walked over to Trish without looking around, without saying a word. I think it was the only time I’d ever seen him not smiling. He nodded for Trish to sign and when she was done he grabbed the pen from her hand. That’s when I realized what he was holding was a stamp which he pressed down on bottom of each page. He initialed a few lines under her signature, and with a nod to Preppy on his way out he left without saying a single word.

  I gathered the papers and handed them to Preppy who was still standing by the door.

  “You’re alright, kid. You know that?” Trish called out just as we were about to leave. “I knew you weren’t going to let that one over there kill me.” She flashed me a rotten toothed smile.

  “You’re right,” I turned back around and glared daggers at the reason behind poor Bo’s pain. I stared at her with all the hatred I could muster. “Because if you didn’t sign the papers and do the right thing by Bo, then I would have killed you myself.”

  Trish had the audacity to laugh. “So much for understanding a fellow addict,” she grumb
led. “For a minute I thought you were like me. But you lied. You’re just another stiff making threats to get what you want.”

  I grabbed Preppy’s hand and turned back to Trish. “You’re confusing understanding for sympathy. I understand what you’re going through, but I hated myself when I was going through it and because of what you’ve put Bo through...I hate you even more.”

  Preppy helped me down the crumbling steps where Billy was waiting for us, leaning against the van.

  “Hang on a sec,” Preppy said, heading back up to the door, he opened it and disappeared inside, re-emerging just a few seconds later?

  “What did you do?” I asked, although I was pretty sure he didn’t kill her considering I hadn’t heard any gunfire.

  “She wanted payment for Bo,” Preppy said, with a shrug. He opened the van door and I slid inside next to a sleeping Bo who was sprawled out across the bench seat. His chest rising and falling in slow rhythm. “So I gave it to her.”

  “You gave her money?” I mouthed, not wanting to wake up Bo.

  Preppy smiled wickedly and with his hands on the roof he leaned into the van and whispered in my ear. “Nope. I gave her something she wanted more, and enough of it to almost guarantee she won’t ever be a problem for us.” Preppy kissed me on the cheek and slid the door shut, rounding the van.

  Heroin. He’d given her heroin.

  Preppy was right. As far gone as Trish was she wouldn’t be able to resist. The chances of her surviving until the morning were slim to...she’d be dead by morning.

  I waited for the familiar guilt that used to come all the time, even when it had no reason to. At any second I expected that inner voice of mine to tell me I shouldn’t allow Trish to die.


  By the time Preppy popped into the passenger seat and Billy started the van I couldn’t stop the smile from creeping onto my face.

  As we pulled out of the trailer park Bo stirred so I pulled him onto my lap and softly stroked his newly cut hair. I took one last look at the dilapidated trailer as we pulled out onto the road, grateful that Bo would never have to spend another second there, never mind another night. The thing wasn’t fit for human habitation. Not for Bo. Not even for Trish.

  Bo snored lightly. Preppy leaned back and brushed Bo’s hair out of his eyes and with a loving look in his eyes he gazed down at his son.

  Our son.

  “I could’ve easily ended up just like her,” I whispered, feeling the tears prickling behind my eyes. Relief and happiness filled me with each rotation of the tires that brought us further and further away from that trailer park.

  “No, you could never have ended up like her,” Preppy argued.

  “You can’t say that; you don’t know that.”

  “You would never have ended up like her,” he said again. “Not fucking EVER.”

  “How can you be so sure?” I flattened my hand over Bo’s little cheek feeling the warmth of his skin against my palm. Preppy covered my hand with his much larger one, intertwining our fingers. I looked up to find his eyes glistening as they stared directly into mine. I felt his determination when he said, “Because I wouldn’t have let you.”



  “I’m sorry it took me so long to visit,” I said as I stood above Grace’s grave, feeling my heart smack against my rib cage like it was angry with me for taking it along for the ride it never asked to go on, pounding against my insides to let him the fuck out.

  Too fucking late, motherfucker.

  “I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again, but this isn’t the way it ever went down in my mind,” I stuttered a sigh, my throat tightened painfully— I was barely able to swallow. I shoved my hands into my pockets and pulled them right back out. I kicked at the neatly trimmed grass with my boot then dropped down to my knees. I leaned forward, resting my hands against the low tombstone that was more like a plaque than an actual stone. I needed to be close to her, or what was left of her. I cringed, willing away the image of Grace as a decaying corpse that kept flashing through my mind.

  The sun began to set, casting a shadow over the small cemetery. A grounds keeper in coveralls rolled over a small green shade tent. He stopped a few plots down at a spot with no marking and tossed a shovel into the grass. With the toe of his heavy yellow work boot he clicked a latch at the bottom of each of the four metal posts, locking the wheels in place. When he paused to wipe his sweaty forehead with a rag hanging from his back pocket, he looked over and his eyes met mine.

  “How you doing today, son?” he asked with a heavy Spanish accent. He shoved the rag back into his pocket and picked up the shovel, stabbing it into the ground. He started scraping off the top layer of grass, dumping it into an awaiting bucket.

  I glanced down to Grace’s plaque back then back up to the grounds keeper. “Not gonna lie, man. I could totally be a whole lot fucking better,” I said, my voice shaking with my grief.

  “Was that your mama?” he asked, gesturing with his chin to the plaque as he turned over another shovel full of grass into the bucket.

  I nodded. “As close to one as I ever had.”

  He nodded and continued working. “Sorry for your loss. I know it may not help, but death is just a part of life. We all die. Some before others. After working here for thirty some odd years I can tell you that death is not something to be sad about. It is something to be celebrated.” He put a hand to his chest. “In my culture, when a loved one passes, we throw a huge fiesta and we drink until we can’t feel our faces and then we dance and we make love under the stars and then we drink some more until we can’t feel the rest of our bodies. It’s about joy. It’s about celebrating life, not cursing death.”

  I leaned back and sat on my ass, not caring about grass stains for once. I picked at a few weeds, tearing them apart in my hands—tossing them back onto the ground. “For the first time in my life I can truly say that I’m not exactly up for a fiesta right now.”

  He paused his shovel and turned to face me, resting his chin on the wide handle. ’Diego’ embroidered on the right breast of his faded coveralls. “Grief is normal, but you can’t let it consume you.” Diego pointed off into the distance, where just over the cracked sidewalk that ran through the middle of the cemetery a middle aged woman with short blonde hair wearing a short white dress crouched down over a grave and set down a bundle of blue carnations. “You see her?” he asked. The woman began to openly weep, her shoulders jostling, her eyes shut tightly, her mouth contorting and twisting as she laid down over the grave. The sounds of her sobs were picked up by the wind, spreading her sadness over the already depressing graveyard. “She’s here every day at the same time— lays on her husbands grave and cries for hours and hours before she leaves, only to come back and do it all over again the next day. Always wears white like it’s her wedding day.”

  “So?” I asked. “I mean it would be odd as fuck if she were doing it in the middle of the truck-pulls or at the bingo hall, but isn’t crying kind of an expected thing at this place?” I shielded my eyes from the sudden presence of the sun peaking out from behind the slow passing clouds as it began to make it’s final descent for the day.

  “Her husband died seventeen years ago.”

  “Oh,” I said.

  “Yeah, exactly,” He resumed his shoveling. “Once you let yourself get lost in it there ain’t no returning from grief like that.” He looked back over to the woman and shook his head. “That’s why you need to celebrate and remember that you’re still alive.” He laid his shovel down and reached into a small red cooler, ice spilled over the sides as he pulled out a six pack of beer. “So what’ll it be, son? We celebrating?” He jerked his head toward the woman in white. “Or are you gonna let someone else’s death swallow up what little life you’ve been given on this earth?”

  “Who the fuck are you?” I asked, feeling a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. “You’re like the fucking graveyard Tony Robbins or something.”

bsp; He shrugged. “Or something.” Diego raised the six pack in the air. “Choice is all yours man.”

  I glanced down at Grace’s grave, to my MOTHER’S grave, and thought about what she would want for me and instantly I knew it wouldn’t be sadness or tears. She always said she wanted me to be happy and in that moment I wanted to do anything and everything that she’d always wanted for me.

  I jerked my chin up to Diego and held out my hands. “What the fuck are you waiting for?” His face lit up, a single gold tooth glinted as he underhanded the beer my way. I caught it, but just barely, fumbling with the cold wet cans as they almost slipped free from my grip. “Diego Martinez,” the groundskeeper said, formally introducing himself as he sat down next to me and held out his hand.

  “Samuel Clearwater,” I offered, removing my hand from the beer and wiping it on my already grass stained pants before shaking the hand of my new alcohol providing grave digging life coach.

  Diego and I celebrated that night. And by celebrated I mean that we got shit faced right there on Grace’s grave. Not only did he have beer in that cooler but he also had a sizable bottle of unmarked tequila that I’m pretty sure he’d made at home in his bathtub because it tasted like pure gasoline. We were halfway through the bottle when the world faded away and I slipped into unconsciousness.

  The warm rays of the sun woke me the next day and then proceeded to blind me as I opened my eyes just a sliver, letting in only a small amount of the already much to bright light. “Buh,” I groaned. My own tongue tasted rancid, my mouth so dry it was as if I gargled with sand throughout the night.

  I sat up slowly and blinked a few times to better adjust to the assault on my senses. When I was finally able to open my eyes I discovered that was still in the cemetery, still sitting over Grace’s grave, but I was alone. There were no signs of Diego or his evil bottle of moonshine tequila, shovel, cooler, even the canopy he’d wheeled out the day before. The only sign he’d ever been there at all was the lingering hangover and the agony in my brain that felt as if an angry cat was using it as a scratching post.

  “See you later, Grace.” I whispered, resting my hand for a beat on her plaque and giving it a few taps before pushing to my feet. I took a few steps but then my head spun, the graveyard swirling around me. I paused and leaned on a nearby headstone to calm the spinning. After a few seconds I felt good enough to continue but when I straightened it was the name on the headstone I’d leaned on for support that caught my eye. “No fucking way,” I said out loud as I ran my hand over the name engraved in the stone.


  I rolled my eyes at myself. “It’s a common fucking name,” I
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