HE WOULD DO this little shimmy waist down, inching closer unbeknownst to you what the hell he was setting you up for, and by the time you realized it, it was already too late. He’d anchor the weight of his lead foot and mash it down on your helpless toes, and you were stuck there like a bug in mud, unable to retreat, and he’d take that sharp knuckled middle finger of his and bend it in his fist and drive that sucker right into the hollow point of your bicep and he’d dig a little at the end, twisting it as if a key opening a door, as he locked and loaded another round in the chamber.

We were lucky at least, his friends. Slap boxing, a knuckle in the arms—that’s the most we ever got. He was a natural fighter, no more than 5’10” tall, with the pressurized power of a pneumatic nail gun.

He gave you this invisible confidence when you were around him, because you knew, as gentle a nature as he had, he could destroy anybody in his path if he ever decided to wage war. It didn’t matter how big they were. He’d drop them like a giant hit with a stone between the eyes.

There was this one boy from a town over, a real loudmouth, that never knew when to quit, that wasn’t so lucky. He had some mass on him from lifting weights, but that didn’t matter none to Brian. Brian was country strong, his biceps shaped like oversized eggs, his muscular frame a slab of cut meat and gristle and bone and guts. Every morning he’d do 250 pushups before he took his skateboard under his feet and rode into town to join us for the day.

I never once saw the son of a bitch bleed in all my years knowing him, and he’d do some things that would make the rest of us bleed like a stuck pig. Physical pain, we’ve had the conversation, that he couldn’t feel physical pain. He had this crooked finger pointed to two o’clock from when he fell off the halfpipe one evening skating and drinking. Cracked ribs where you could see the separation in bone. Not a word. He just breathed a little funny for a few weeks. That’s all.

One day, when we were about fifteen, that boy came up the pool hill running his mouth sideways to Brian with some epithets, and Brian told him to be easy, but he had it in him to keep going and so he did. Brian just casually walked over to him on the other side of the court and asked him to clarify, and when he laughed in his face and looked at his buddies to see if they were paying attention, Brian did that little shuffle action with his feet he liked to do, and by the time that boy realized what was about to happen, he was choking on a Dum Dums lollipop stick, the one that had just a few minutes before been sticking past the bottom lip on that fast mouth of his.

Brian held him there like one of those inflatable punching bags for kids with the sand at the bottom that will bounce right back before you; and he’d popped him three good times in rapid succession right square in the Adam’s apple. And that kid, you couldn’t see the lollipop stick any more. You could hear the fear blocked in his windpipe, trying to escape, his hand around his own neck, reaching in his mouth to recover the paper stick.

Taking his foot off the boy’s toes, Brian shoved his hand into the boy’s mouth and jerked with one swift pull the lodged lollipop stick, and the boy, a ball of stocky mass and useless muscle, collapsed to the ground, holding his throat, sucking in new air like a baby out the womb, looking back up at his well-trained counterpart in the opposite corner.

“You talk too much,” Brian said before he turned and walked away. “You need to not talk so much.”

If you enjoyed this, read “El Chupacabra on a Friday night at 1 a.m.

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Ana Ulin. “Lollipop.” Licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

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