frank – 4

by underswansea

Frank walked out of the Food Basket. He had an ice cream sandwich. The days were getting shorter. He could smell smoke and the sky was hazed and heavy from forest fires. His dad told him a helluva fire was burning up Dutch.

His bike was gone. He had leaned it against the side of the building. He knew right off who took it. While in the store looking over the ice cream treats in the cooler he saw Ronny and Jimmy Arnold buying pop.

Ronny and Jimmy lived near the river where it left the lake. Their house was on stilts to avoid high water come June. They were tough bastards. Especially together and that was most of the time. Jimmy was in Frank’s grade. Ronny was a year above them.

Frank walked around the building, eating his ice cream sandwich. He thought they may have just moved it, but it wasn’t there. He looked across the street down the alley beside the magazine shop. But it wasn’t there, either. A red moon came over the mountains. The sky was cobalt.

He knew their path home. They would have to pass near his house on their way. Maybe they would leave his bike at his drive.

Frank finished his sandwich. He hadn’t noticed eating it. He started for home, pissed off at Ronny and Jimmy, but hopeful they left his bike where he could find it.

He found his bike near the gate. It had been thrown down and was lying twisted. His front tire was flat and the rubber was off the rim. He picked it up and walked it down the drive. The handlebars were bent.

He leaned it up against the house. The truck was parked near the Mountain Ash. His dad was home early. He opened the truck door and found the crescent wrench between the seats.

The water was down. Frank caught up with Ronny and Jimmy at the end of the lake about a half-mile from their house on stilts. They were pitching rocks at a bottle floating in the lake.

Frank walked down the coal dust bank. Jimmy saw him first and said, “If we hit this bottle before you, we beat you up. If you hit it first you can beat us up.”

They were laughing and started furiously picking rocks and throwing them at the bottle that was floating further out into the lake.

Frank considered his options and decided to hit Jimmy first. He was younger, but had always been the one who picked on him. He had bloodied his nose a year earlier just before school. Frank hid his face from everybody running to the washroom as the bell rang. He was late for school and the teacher scolded him in front of class. Jimmy just sat smirking while Frank stood at the door, humiliated, hoping he had washed off all the blood.

Jimmy saw it coming and tried to duck it. The crescent caught his ear and the side of his jaw. Ronnie didn’t even try to fight and ran away. Frank had him. He sat on his chest. Jimmy’s ear was bleeding badly.

Ronnie was on the bank watching, but he didn’t come down. Frank made Jimmy put his hand in the sand, saying he would hit him in the head if he didn’t. Frank aimed the wrench at his thumb and smashed it on the first try. Jimmy screamed a sound frank would never forget.

He let him up and he ran, holding his hand, towards his brother. Ronnie yelled, “We are going to get you.”

Frank knew Jimmy would never look up to Ronnie again. He had taken that from them because they stold his bike.

The moon was well above the mountains. The lake was glass. Frank would be late coming home. The old man would be pissed when he got there. The crescent was heavy in his hand. He didn’t take shit from no one.