RICHIE'S BROTHER SHOT HIM
---
Adam Voith

It was in Junior High, when everything was so jacked up that in Physical Science class a girl with a Doors t-shirt and ripped-up jeans put you #2 as "Cutest Boys in P.S." She and Cute Guy #1 both turned up gay five years later. She told this unreal story about her mother insisting that the Doors were all black. She grabs a record cover and holds it up, but her mom sticks to her story. She gets some magazine with a picture. Mom's not budging and thinking of The Commodores. And in gym class we had to take showers before getting into the lukewarm-indoor-lap-swimming pool with floating basketball nets during free time. We had to take showers, and every single kid's little body is deformed. Each one somewhere, awkwardly in the process, and me at the very very beginning. Hairless, I tried not to flinch when Joe Bain, who's four years older, somehow, with no feeling in his thick skull and quarterback... When Joe Bain reaches over and grabs my stick deodorant, swiping it over and over through the clump under his arm, I let it be. Truth be known, I don't think I was sweating yet and I bought the stick cause "Who the hell is that kid in locker 42 that doesn't need deodorant yet?"

Richie Randall was the retarded kid. In Junior High, they were called retarded kids. He was in love with Joe's girlfriend Lindy. He'd given her a plastic ring at the football game, in the bleachers on a Friday night, where my girlfriend dumped me cause I didn't kiss right with my tongue. On one knee, Richie said: "Lindy marry me," and Joe threw for 6 touchdown passes.

When the game was over, Lindy must have told cause Joe came after Richie, pushed him hard to the ground and said: "Fuckin' retard."

All over school on Monday, the kids knew what to say about Joe and Lindy. She's the hottest girl and retard or not, you don't screw around with Lindy. Richie's gotta be smarter than that. Joe's got no feeling in his head, for Christ's sake. I feel sorry for Lindy! Having him on his knee right there in front of you! Awful! I can't even look at him sometimes because I don't know he just creeps me out or something. Joe's a bad ass. Richie's lucky Joe didn't deck him one. He's got no feeling in his head, for Christ's sake. No retard's gonna fight back. He's lucky Joe didn't deck him one. He's such a bad ass.

Richie's brother Carl accidentally blew Richie's head off with their father's shotgun. The funeral, from what I could see, was packed. The newspaper had pictures and right there in the third row on the aisle: Joe and Lindy. The next day, some girls had the photo clipped and in their purses. Everyone's very sorry and serious and haven't we learned a lot from this. But huddled together over lunch tables, pointing at the pictures they say: "See. That's me. Right there." Another one: "There's me. And there's Katie, and I can't believe she wore that dress." Another one: "Did you go look at the body? The way they fixed his face. He almost didn't look retarded anymore."

In the locker room I'm watching Joe out of the corner of my eye and thinking about how Richie sat alone at lunch and up front in class. What the hell was he doing in the bleachers anyway? Joe grabs for my deodorant. I give it to him, but in my head I reach to snatch it back, because this is only deodorant but I didn't go to the funeral. I didn't know Richie.

Adam Voith lives in Seattle. He once authored a novel--Bridges with Spirit--and is headcheese at TNI Books, which you can see by visiting www.TNIBooks.com. He may be contacted: adam@TNIBooks.com.