The next day found us at Chanel’s house. Basic had picked up me and Walleye. Jammy’s mom had grabbed her and Katty. There was still no sign of Harvard, but Chanel had called him and commanded him to come see her. He had fought against it for a while, but she had made her demand. He would be over later, but not while we were there.
We took turns with Chanel in her room, visiting her in groups of two at a time. Her room was not big enough to comfortably fit more than that. Me and Walleye talked to her about a DnD game I was planning, and we talked for a while about Careful and what a bitch she was being. Chanel, usually so reserved about calling people on their shit, was railing about how Careful had talked to Harvard. If Careful wasn’t gone by then, she was now.
When the hour was up, me and Walleye were in the middle of talking about some such nonsense when Katty showed up at the door. “Get out. It’s our turn,” she said with a giggle.
She held her head low, her thick curly red hair in her eyes. She had this thing she did with her fingers, this kind of fidgety thing that made her look as if she were constantly plotting. I stood, grabbed her by the shoulders and moved her. She giggled again. She did that when you touched her.
Me and Walleye shuffled out of the house and out into the angry sun. It was a resentful day. A day that was holding it all against you. The sun was white and hurt the eyes. The air thick with humidity, wobbly with heat. The heat was oppressive and heavy, and when we stepped out into it, we both groaned.
In the field by Chanel’s house, Basic stood in the thick grass with a stick in his hand, swatting at the air. He held his left hand high in the air, the right brandishing the weapon. I grinned at Walleye.
That was when it ended. That moment right there was when animosity began to grow. The entire collapse of the family was locked in that one moment. For me and Walleye had been bitten by the promise of violence.
“What in the hell are you doing?” I asked Basic.
“Practicing,” he said.
“Practicing what?” Walleye asked.
“I did a semester at SMSU. I took a sword fighting class. This is what they taught me.” He swung his makeshift sword my direction and stabbed out at me.
I felt suddenly energized, felt as though a jolt of electricity shot through my body. I looked at Walleye and he grinned. We both split off in different directions. I found an old hoe handle in her yard. The blade of the tool was chipped and rusty. I headed into Chanel’s dad’s shed and found Walleye there with a hacksaw. He had an old broom with no bristles left in it, and he was sawing the handle off.
When I pulled my staff back from the saw a few minutes later, I had my weapon. A weapon I would later use to break my friends and call up resentment. We rushed to Basic and I stepped in front of him.
“Come on,” I said to him. He hit me first, right across the back of the hand, so hard I dropped my staff and cursed.
“Dead,” he said, waving his sword above my head.
I snatched it up and Walleye shoved me away. “My turn.” When he touched me, I felt a sudden rush of anger, hot and bright, run through me. I wanted to hit him.
“No, I’m not done. You hit my hand. You didn’t kill me. You never made contact. I’m still in,” I said. Walleye groaned and I stood off against Basic.
He came in fast. I was faster. My only need right then was to hit something. I smacked his sword away and spun in fast and hard. I hit his hip and he jumped back. He swung and I blocked it. I let him step back and I laughed.
Basic looked at me, letting the idea of continuing soak in before he shook his head. “I’m gonna go check on Chanel.” He walked away, dropped his sword, and never looked back. I spun and lowered my staff at Walleye. He grinned.
He spun his staff in a dizzying display, as if he were a samurai presenting a sword form. He stepped in and smiled at me. “Trained with a sword before,” he said.
I felt a stab of fear in my heart and I nodded. “Let’s see.” I came in. I hit him fast. I don’t know where. He backed away and I let him. He came in again and I hit him again. It wasn’t that he was not as good as me. Walleye moved like liquid. He flowed everywhere he went. Water over stone is how he moved. He was at least as good as I was with a stick. But I wanted it more. I wanted to hit, wanted to be hit. I wanted to be fast and devastating. I wanted him in that moment to be scared of me.
I hit him four more times. When he hit me back, it enraged me, brought out a side of me I could not contain. I came in fast and hard, and he backed away.
When Jammy came out to make room for Basic, she saw us fighting and immediately wanted in. She rushed out into the yard to find any weapon she could. When she found nothing, she came back. “I’m next,” she said. “I want to fight Jesse.”
“Got a staff?” Walleye said.
“No, can’t find one.”
“Then you’re out of luck.” He grinned and stepped back. He spun his staff in another display and smiled. “This is mine. No one touches it.”
She looked at me and I nodded. “Go find your own.”
She was gone for about five minutes when she came back with Providence. That is what she named it. She had sawed it off of a tree in Chanel’s yard. It was thick in the handle, curved in its length. It came to almost a point and she stepped out in front of me and bowed like a fucking samurai.
Walleye stepped aside and leaned on his staff. I bowed back and it began. She was a girl, but she didn’t want to be. She never pulled back from the things we did. She had the heart of a warrior, and she found it that day. I hit her so many times, and every time she came back at me. It seemed she had something to prove to all of us. Seemed she had to make her mark. She was as tough as us. She was as hard. She was as fearless as us and she knew it. She needed us to know it, too.
Walleye had been beaten all his life. He had been the butt of one joke after the next. Had walked through his life taking shit off of anyone willing to throw it. Here he could fight back. Here he could make them all pay. This one thing could be his answer to anyone that ever fucked with him.
And me, I wanted to dominate. I wanted to make them all see that I was stronger. I needed to show them all that I was no longer the broken little beast Dan had made me. When he had beaten me as a child, when he had broken me, he had left an emptiness in me. He had left a hole too vast to be filled with anything but pain and violence. When I had that staff in my hand, I tapped into the part of me that was sick of it, the part of me that needed to make them all pay.
I fought one of my friends one time. That was the last fight I ever had. Every fight leading up to it, I fought the demon from my past. I fought the evil that had been done to me. I needed to pound it down. If I could just hammer that nail down, the thing in me that craved vengeance could rest.