Abel was always a wiry fellow. His hands hung low and brushed the pockets of our older brother Hosea’s hand-me-down jeans so much that when they got to me, I could only use the back pockets to keep my possessions safe from stealing. They were worn like our parents faces.
Abel was born with a hooked left foot that didn’t give him a propensity for sports. But because he wasn’t any good on the farm or the field, it gave him a bunch of free time on his hands that resulted in an education for me. I was closest in age in the younger sense and was more gullible than our big brother, so I was an easy pupil and mark just the same.
We were all ornery as all get out. We threw, ran and squirmed like nobody’s business. All of us were naturals for football and the taller ones great at basketball. If it involved one ball and a single purpose that included physical contact, we were dirty in it smelling like the sweat of summer. We were what they called children reveling in sweat of the brow while others were rich kids bathed in water that was chlorine and pristine.
After Abel's first breath in '68, it was the last time daddy allowed momma to write a name down on a birth certificate or even consciously choose to create one via the state. My brother name was misspelled as Abel, but I was the one that was capable. Our momma had dyslexia and she named me after him or wrote down what she wanted to write down for him in the first place. His future begat his idea of his congenital physical condition. His failure at birth justified his unwillingness to succeed later in life. He wasn’t able. Hooked foot said so. When I was born my father was going to get his brood right where the Bible got it wrong. If Abel was so capable then he could’ve handled Cain. I was named in his version of the spelling and my life started so.
Abel in his boredom took to throwing rocks and breaking shit in the general sense of the work. I remember this one time where we sat out front of this abandoned trailer in a park down the road that was full of trailers that weren’t full and he must of chunked at least 20 through the aluminum siding and windows and even bounced one off the tires that damn near took both our eyes out before someone started shooting us with a bb gun. That hooked foot could really get going when it wanted to.
One day he was kneading this clay he’d stolen from school into all types of inappropriate shapes. Once it was a dick, another times a set of balls and others a vagina and any combination left to be imagined. He got bored easily; so when we went by the Hatcher house and the mutt started yapping his mind started turning. What once made a perfectly good set of clay dick and balls became a totally different avenue of entertainment. Abel became able. It didn’t take long for him to talk me into climbing the horse stalls to land in the back yard of the Hatcher’s passageway. As soon as my feet hit the dirt I was already on the fence again as he laughed and laughed while the dog was on me like the dirt on my elbows. I reached up and caught my breath and Abel handed me the clay. He’d stolen a few firecrackers from the rich folks in the trailer next door and fashioned a makeshift explosive. Most of his ideas didn’t work. He was good with a lawnmower but shitty at this type of thing. He must’ve spent more money than I had ever seen on firecrackers tearing them apart and putting them back together so they would be better than they were. For this reason he’d lost a thumb early on.
He tried to hand it to me, clay in palm, sticking his clenched fist through the bars while my hands laid sweat on the rusty poles. I smelled the iron and rust that always made me think of blood. He missed my grasp, maybe on purpose, but I tried again. I picked my hand up above my head while he fished it through and gripped it with similar fingers fitting into the grooves of the indentations that turned it from stolen property to the trailer park grenade.
I wasn’t old enough to buy a lighter yet but Abel always had one. Fires were his friends. He’d lost a thumb but never a singe of hair to a fire. He burned our trash and started our fires. Oftentimes he pissed himself while he did it. He lit the fuse as I tried to get the claytraption into the dogs mouth. The dog didn’t want to take it cause the fuse was smoking. It didn’t take me long to see that it wasn’t going to happen and Abel saw the same cause the asshole started laughing hysterically…again.
I forgot about the dog-menace and flipped over to scale the rusty bars when I started to yell but lost my breath as he was doubled over in fucking fits. I let out a scream in sheer frustration of him being an idiot and another in the heat that was developing in my spine. My shirt was on fire and my hands were heating up and the dog was going fucking crazy.
I fell to the ground as the mutt scratched, pawed and barked. The fire subsided but I was pretty badly burnt. I rolled underneath the bottom rung and ran as fast as I could hoping that I was still on fire and jumped my flames all on top of him. He kept laughing and I kept burning and that was the end of that. I itched and rubbed butter on the burns to make them go away for the rest of the summer. He was throwing rocks and I smelled liked grease.
Because I couldn’t move and he wasn’t worth a shit we had very little to do except clean up around the house while mother slept. There was a girl next door that was a year older than me but one less than Abel. I knew she was up to no good cause she talked too much. Always this and that. I got a herd of bees, she’s got two. We were gonna get to ride the neighbors go-kart, her daddy was gonna buy her one. She was a Mexican anyway.
Hosea had done some stuff with her but Abel was sure he would too. So one day we went over to her house and he turned her water hose on full blast. Before you knew it there was a puddle under her porch bigger than the Grand Canyon. She wouldn’t have even noticed had it not have been for the generator outside charging to work the air compressor for her old man’s tires. He was sleeping like momma but she came bouncing out nonetheless. She traipsed through the screen door letting it slam ever so gently making sure she didn’t wake him. She sucked on the freezer pop like she was so goddamn rich even though they never had any fucking cherry ones even though the flavors were random. We knew her father ate them all but she asked a simple question. Probably the most direct thing I ever remembered as a boy. She said,
“you boys ready to get wet?”
My brother’s feet splashed to turn off the hose to see if he was hearing what he thought he was feeling.
The slosh of water and the twisting of the iron made a weird noise for me seeing as I was only hearing the back and forth of air and tongues and lips on a shitty lollipop. She wouldn’t shut up and after she said that and he cut the water, he wouldn’t stop talking.
He talked about go-karts and moons and better doublewides that his friends knew about and a place where you could just runaway and she just kept on looking. Her toes got skinnier as she removed her shoes and socks and her feet ventured to the water. She kicked it around and giggled and he did as well.
He asked her if she wanted to see that bee’s nest or maybe it was a hornets nest under the trailer and that we had one but she had two of. Seeing as she had more and knew more, she might be able to tell us how to get rid of them.
He told her if she’d come he’d show her that and a bottle of liquor that looked like water. He said if you put a peppermint in it the smell would be like a dirty cigarette and her folks wouldn’t know she’d been drinking. He said, “You might as well come swimming over here if you wanna get wet.”
She obliged and came down.
Now, hand in hand, a naked set of tiptoes went with my brother’s. His feet were mudsoaked and bounced toward the place where the bees were supposed to be.
As soon as we got out of earshot, he showed her what he wanted her to see.
With this he presented a lighter and lingered too long on the flame before he brought out daddy’s cigarette. He was captivated by the maintenance of fire and she was intent on smoking what he had lifted from daddy. When she reached for the cigarette he thought she was going for the flame and he ducked like daddy taught him to and kicked her really hard in the dick. Cept’ she didn’t have no dick.
She fell down and didn’t move.
Abel told me that if we stirred up the bees enough they would bite her and we wouldn’t get in trouble. He said that if he went on top of the porch and held onto the railing and moved his hips back and forth and I pushed Sola toward the wooden 4 X4 it would be easier to make it look like an accident. Shit didn’t work.
We took out a garden hose from the back of her trailer and Abel started spraying the hive. They went nuts. Water and bees and honey don’t mix. She just laid there. I ran all over the place. I had acne scars later and was supremely fucked up. We hid behind a tree to see what would happen. Nothing did.
The bees ran off and we had a can of silver rust-o-leum in hand and were spray-painting her shoes. Abel was pushing down her shorts to make an arrow when her father came out.
Her father beat the shit out him. He had his face in the dirt and there wasn’t anything that hooked left foot could do, I tell you. Both mothers were sleeping but her father was going to town on my brother.
Sola hadn’t moved when my father rolled up covered in El Camino and roofing tar. The first thing he saw was Abel in the dirt and the second thing was a broken handrail on the porch of the trailer.
Last he saw was Sola’s pappy and shit got heavy. I was young, but I wasn’t dumb. They screamed back and forth and got buckwild like mountaingoats. I really think my dad drug his head across every beam on that porch. Both kids laid in the ruins as they duked it out. I watched cause I couldn’t look away. I wandered if I was as fascinated with ass-whoopings as Abel was with fire. I hoped not and then remembered how much I hated getting my ass whooped and thought of it as a done deal.
The police finally showed up but my father had already left. Her dad and my dad had sparred and he won. Mine I mean. We had one lawn mower, she had two. She had a doublewide, we had a single. My dad kicked the shit out of her dad cause she had two mothers and I had none. Her dad got all the moms. I just wanted to ride the fuckin’ motorcycle.