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The stream had a good flow to it, calm enough to skip rocks atop, strong enough to power through it large sticks imagined to be battleships. We had promised Ma and Pa to stay along its banks and not venture off too far, this camping trip being a first for me and Billy. I was a couple of years older, getting accustomed to my first year as a teenager, hoping we’d come across a girl or two as we followed the steady water and lost track of both distance and time.
Something caught our eye about ten yards out on the opposite bank, bright orange with no one around it. We took off running to get a closer look.
It was an old Gatorade cooler tilted over on its side, close enough to the flowing water to where its edges were tickled by it but nothing more. Probably close enough to dislodge and set sail with a few strategically placed strikes. and so we started trying to hit it loose with the rocks at our feet.
“Just a little more,” I said to my kid brother, “on the left side, towards the bottom.”
We both were a good aim, so after about a dozen hits the chest was losing its shoreline traction. Like stealth bombers locking in our target we fired the last few, the big ol’ orange vessel now taking off downstream, as were we.
This is where the fun really began, chasing after it while pelting it with rocks, the thin skin of plastic giving way to show us some of the styrofoam guts of its second layer. Like sharks drawing blood we were now feverish in trying to tear it apart, testing our skills of running while taking aim and shooting upon our moving target. A few pieces broke off, and like wrecking balls we slam into it over and over again, the destruction left behind like floating islands of different sizes. Every now and then it gets hung up on one of the secured islands, rocks sticking up out of the water as the constant stream rushes by. Only once does it refuse to budge, until I hurl a huge stone, what I call a barrel bomb, the once strong Gatorade cooler now a shell of carnage. loose again as the hunt continues.
Lighter in weight it’s now picking up speed and so do we, our relentless air assault mostly being of sharp stinging strikes, as this is all that’s really needed now as we work on taking apart its last stronghold.
With the foundation being all that remains we don’t show any mercy, still hunting it down, still destroying. But it begins to slow, coming to a rocky area in the stream until it comes to a stop. With our endless supply of ammo we intend to finish it off when we catch up to it, but something else stops us in our tracks…
Two teens, a guy and girl, lying across a big rock by the water, naked, fucking.
Like a deer in headlights all I can do is stare, not even able to tear my gaze away long enough to check on my little brother.
Then all of a sudden, what seems out of nowhere, the guy is struck in the temple with a rock, blood immediately dripping from the instant gash and onto the bare perky breasts of his girl.
Like me the two are in momentary shock, until it occurs to me, the only place, the only person it could have come from…
My little brother stares with thirsty eyes, already reloaded with another rock in his hand…
I yell, but it’s too late.
This time it’s the size of a barrel bomb, Billy’s adrenaline still pumping hard and fast from our hunt allowing him to heave it with relative ease, knocking out the teen cold before his body even slumps off of the now screaming girl.
It seems the horrific scene is in slow motion until Billy enters it in fast forward, his arm like a machine gun, spraying the girl with rock after rock, some making their way between her defensive forearms and cutting open her pretty face, others tearing the flesh of those round fruit-like breasts.
Her screams are now caught in her throat, her body probably numb in shock but eyes still able to see as Billy continues his ferocious attack, rock after rock after rock, splitting her open with every strike as he tries to tear her apart like the Gatorade cooler. Until my slow motion movements finally catch up to him, now having to use all of my strength to hold him back.
They’re both heaving, Billy’s ravenous panting coming from a side of him I’ve never seen before. Those eyes still so thirsty, sharing the same kind of blank wideness as one who is out of their mind.
The guy was left brain dead, to stew in his bed as a vegetable for the rest of his life, the girl a bride of Frankenstein with her many scars. Billy was sentenced to ten years in a mental facility, his new home state being where the crime was committed, travel time keeping me and Pa away most of each passing year due to school and work.
By the time I hit eighteen I stopped going all together, going on with my life through college and the first couple of years of my career while my little brother grew into a man behind cushioned walls and steel bars.
Then came the date of his release, on his twenty-first birthday, Ma and Pa asking me to go with ‘em to pick him up. At first I told them of my reluctance, of feeling guilty that I had abandoned him, but they assured me he didn’t feel this way at all, understanding that I had been young and had to find myself, wanting me there so we can all celebrate finally being back together as a family again. And so I went along.
In a way he still looked the same as the last time I saw him, only stretched out to the young adult he now was. Same smile, only bigger. Same voice, only deeper. Same eyes…
As on that fateful day, wide, intent, deep in darkness as if reflecting a part of his soul that now took precedence over the rest.
Didn’t they see it? Despite the decade of counseling, of drugs, of trying to reprogram the brain, didn’t they see the obvious in his eyes…?
He was still thirsty.