Five months after I made that call, I was at Mumble and Horrid’s house walking to the kitchen when I saw Star coming out of the bathroom, shielding her eyes from the door to her right. I saw this look of emotional turmoil and stopped her with a hug.
“Okay, my dear sister, what is wrong?”
She looked up at me with a smile. “Nothing. What do you mean?”
I looked at the door, then down at her. “Nothing. We are going to get ice cream. Your levels look a little low. Go get your sisters.” Star smiled and I looked behind me where Bekah was playing dolls with Whippy.
“We are taking the girls to get ice cream,” I said. “Meet me in the car.”
Bekah nodded, gathered up Whippy, and they all headed off for the car.
I walked into the kitchen to Mumble and Horrid. “What is that room?” I said, pointing in the direction of the door.
“Fucking useless now. Until he comes by and gets his shit. I keep telling Mumble to get off his ass and tell that little bastard of his to move out but nothing comes of it. I should just take it all out and burn it,” Horrid said.
Guardian popped up, furious. “That is Grasp’s room?” he snapped.
“Yeah, he has not come over yet to pack it up and get it out of here,” Mumble said.
“Nor should he be allowed to. You never have that fucking monster in this house again. If the girls ever have to be in the same room as him again, I am going to burn this place to the ground.”
Mumble looked up at me. He had the look they were all getting now. The holy shit he is on a tear again look. I was seeing it everywhere but with Rose. That was a different shit storm, but we will get there.
“I’ll move him out. It’s Sunday now and I have class tomorrow, but I’ll do it next weekend. Have boxes here,” I said. “I’m taking the girls out for ice cream. Before I go, though, let me ask, is there anything else I am missing? Any other way the girls are being tortured about or by this fuck?”
“What do you mean tortured? No one is torturing those girls,” Horrid said.
“That room is the room. They can’t even look at the door because they see it as his room. Until that door is open and nothing is inside of that room, the door is torture every time they walk past it. They are reliving a nightmare every time they go to the bathroom. What else am I missing? How else are we letting him get away with horrible things?”
Guardian saw them look at each other. They did not speak, and after they shared a look, Mumble would not look at him.
“Nothing else. He is not being helped by this house. You can take his shit and burn it if you want to, I don’t care. I’ll get the gas,” she said.
“We are not going to burn his stuff. That would add fuel to Rose’s arguments and Grasp’s pity party. He gets his stuff taken to him by me, and don’t let me hear of you ever letting that bastard back in this house for any reason,” Guardian said. “We are headed to Dairy Queen. I’ll be back.”
“I know,” Horrid said.
That next week I called Rose. “I’m coming down Saturday and moving all of Grasp’s stuff out of Mumble’s house and bringing it to you.”
“No, you are not. I will not be here, and Grasp works Saturday,” she said.
“I know he works Saturday. That is why I chose Saturday.”
“You two are going to have to talk eventually,” she said.
“No, we will not. I have nothing to say to him until he is behind bars.”
“You’re just a monster, aren’t you?” she snapped.
“I sure am,” I said. “I’ll bring his stuff by late Saturday.”
“Don’t. It is not a good weekend for it. Do it next weekend.”
“No, absolutely not. Every time those girls walk past his room, they flinch. They relive the terrible things he did to them. It ends, as of Saturday. I am bringing that shit of his to your house. Deal with it.”
“The house will be locked and I will be gone,” Rose said.
“Good thing you have a porch, then.” I hung up.
I got a call early in the hangover section of my morning. I picked it up and heard a voice I had not heard in years.
“Jesse?” A girl’s voice, stressed.
“Yeah. Who is this?”
“Shit, Chanel how long has it been?”
“Yeah, like three of them. What’s up. Where are you?” I said. I dropped to my knees and grabbed my broom fishing out my bottle and reaching with one hand still holding the phone.
“I’m in St. Louis. Listen, it doesn’t matter where I am. You can’t go this weekend,” she said.
Guardian had his bottle by this time, and he unscrewed the cap and tipped it back. He was getting good at drinking it now. The burn was getting easier to deal with.
“What do you mean I can’t go this weekend?” he said. “I’m going. I guess you heard what happened.”
“Did you really make the call yourself?” she asked.
“Good for you. That is amazing. I’m proud of you.”
He tipped the bottle back again. “Why should I not go this weekend?”
“Grasp knows you are coming. He took the day off work. Olive, my little sister, overheard him and his friends talking about how they are coming to kick your ass on Saturday while you are at that house. You can’t go. There are four of them,” Chanel said. “Four, at least.”
Guardian felt the heat of his hate and the heat of the whiskey burning in his gut and he shook his head. “I’m stuck. I promised the girls I would move him out this weekend. I don’t know how to let them down. And if he didn’t catch me this weekend, it would be next. I’m going.”
“D lives in town. Call him. Have him go with you, if you have to go, but you shouldn’t go either way. Don’t do this.”
“My love for you is pure. I gotta go,” Guardian said. She said a few more things then she was gone again, not to come back for about a year. But then we would have her every day, thank God.
My first call was to D.
“Hey man, I need a favor,” I said.
“What’s up?” He sounded distracted and I knew he played a computer game with most of his free time.
I told him I had to be in town Saturday. I told him there would be a fight. I said I needed him.
“Oh man, I can’t,” he said.
“I’m busy this Saturday. I’m doing a thing with my mom.”
Guardian stepped out hard and furious. “Cancel. I need you.”
“Can’t do it, man. I can maybe help out next weekend but even then, I don’t know.”
“What can you give me this weekend?” I said. “What time can you do?”
“I can give you about an hour at around five,” he said.
“Fine. I will need someone to drive the truck.”
“We will just use my dad’s truck. You sure you want to do this this weekend, dude?”
“Every time those girls walk past that fucking room they flinch. They were abused in that room. They will relive it every day that it remains his room. They are not even safe from him in their own house. This has to happen now!”
“I can see you at five, but only for about an hour,” D said.
I hung up.
That night I went to Johnson. I told him what was happening and he shook his head. “Any weekend but this one. I am meeting with her parents this weekend. I have a thing with them on Saturday.”
I walked away from that meeting knowing how this was going to go. I knew exactly what was going to happen when I got to the next stop, but I did it anyway.
When I got to Steak and Shake, I saw Clean and I told him, Danee, and Rasha what was happening.
“I need you. I am going to get jumped by at least four guys when I get there. I need you, man.” I looked at him and he looked at me and I saw him thinking. I knew I was going alone.
“Punch is building a house for himself and his pregnant girl,” he said.
“Yeah I know, he has been working on it for months now.”
“Yeah, well, he is working on it again this weekend and I am helping him,” Clean said. “Sorry.”
“You have to be fucking kidding!” Danee said. She jumped to her feet and stomped to the bathroom.
I looked at Clean, and stared him in the eye. “There will be at least four of them. Maybe more.”
“I wish I could help you, man. I do. But I am helping Punch with the house this weekend,” Clean said.
That was when he died to me. That was when he became just some dude I knew.
The next night he would come back and tell me that he had talked to Punch about what was going to happen, and Punch’s advice as a seasoned fighter and martial artist was to not get into that situation.
I walked away from him and I got ready for Saturday.
I had Bekah drop me off. I didn’t drink that day, but I didn’t want my car there in case they got me down and started to beat on my car. I figured they would have weapons. I didn’t want to chance it.
Bekah begged me to let her stay and help but I didn’t. I jumped out of her car and ran to the garage. I grabbed a hack saw and I went to a tree. I cut off a branch big enough to work as a fighting stick and I set it by the door, to the room. I called on my little cousin and I pulled him in close.
“Listen, Little Man, I need a favor. I need you to play out in the front yard today. Keep a look out for Grasp and his friends. Do you know what they drive?”
This kid had lived next door to Grasp and had seen all of his friends come and go.
“Good. If you see the car you yell for me, then you run. Do you hear me? You get Dewdrop. You get Star, Gem, and Whippy and you run,” I said. “You take them all and you run into your house and you lock the door and you don’t open it for anyone. Not even me. And you don’t let anyone out, no matter what you hear. Do you get it, Little Man?”
I walked to his house, but Uncle Ball was mysteriously not there. Seemed the world had opened up and swallowed every person I thought I could count on. I was alone.
Guardian didn’t care. He still wanted this fight.
The door had been locked. I picked it with my credit card. I am not sure who locked it at all, but no one had a key.
The room was a sty. The kid lived like a slob. I sorted through all of it and threw out everything that was garbage. I had to clean the room before I could even start packing it up. Then, I gave it the best packing job I could, making sure that nothing broke or was scratched.
I didn’t want to give Rose anything to complain about, or throw pity at Grasp over. I worked, and every half an hour I walked out to the front to look around and make sure my lookout was still on task.
He always was.
About three thirty in the afternoon, he yelled my name. He sounded scared. I grabbed my stick and out I went into the front yard. Little Man was staring at a car that was stopped up the road. It was filled with guys. They were looking at me. I didn’t know the car but I could see the way they were hunkered down and I knew the sentiment.
My lookout had gotten all the girls, and taken them to his house. I thought he was safe, when I saw him walk up to stand beside me with a baseball bat.
“Get in the house,” I said to him. “Please. I can’t protect you.” But I looked at him, standing in opposition. For the first time in years, he was more than just a victim. He was standing with a bat on his eleven-year-old shoulder ready to fight grown men, beside the one who stepped up for him. This was the very moment. This was his moment. The first time he could stand up for himself. The first time he could stare his attacker in the eye, and defend his honor, his life, and what little innocence he had left.
Guardian nodded to him. “Aim for the side of the knee with every bit of swing you have. Keep moving. Don’t stand still for a second.”
He was crying now. He blinked the tears away and nodded.
“I love you, Little Man.”
“I love you, too,” he said.
And that is one of the greatest moments of my life. Me, the defender, standing side-by-side with the one who would be a victim no longer. Doing, at eleven, what I could never do. Ready for blood and screams. I was so proud of him and so ready to bleed beside him.
The people in that car stared at the two of us in the front yard and they slowly backed that car up the street and drove away.
Little Man drove the head of his bat into the ground and crossed his wrists on the end of it. He looked at me scared, overwhelmed, crying a little bit. I didn’t want to shield him, didn’t want to make a kid out of him. I nodded to him and patted him on the back and said, “I gotta finish up, kid. Keep a look out to see if they quit shitting their pants and want to try to be men again, will you?”
He laughed and nodded to me.
I finished packing Grasp up, and D showed up with the truck. He drove it to Rose’s house and unpacked the truck onto her porch. Honed showed up at the end. I looked at him and said nothing. The man looked like he wanted to get in the truck with me and drive away.
He knew he was on the wrong side of this war. And as we pulled out of the driveway he stared at me with a doomed sort of look on his face.
I didn’t say a word to him. I had D drop me off at Bekah’s grandparents’ house. It was the first time in the entire time I had known him that I didn’t want to hang out with him.