Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Penny Dreadful Part One
Little Gregory knew not to play on the railroad tracks. His folks had always had a macabre streak, and were not above using fearsome grotesqueries to hammer home important lessons.
“Gregory, never talk to strangers. Especially strangers offering candy. They’ll try to steal you into their cars with promises of candy, and then they’ll take you to their castles, tie you up, and let their pet bats nibble your eyes out.”
“Gregory, you must always, and I mean always, look both ways before crossing the street. If you don’t, a giant truck will drive right over you, spreading you all over the pavement like jelly on toast, and I’ll never know what happened. You don’t want to make your poor mother cry, do you? Wondering where you went, not knowing that she’s walking over you every Thursday on her way to the post office.”
“Gregory, you better be home in time for supper. The only folks out during dinnertime are nasty monsters with no families. Werewolves that’ll eat the meat right off your legs, right down to the bones. Vampires that’ll peel every last inch of skin off your body until you’re all pink and wet. How will you hold your fork with blood seeping out from between your fingers? A boy needs dinner to keep his skin on, young man. You be here. Or else.”
For the longest time, Gregory was a terrified and obedient boy, a well behaved kid with bulging eyes. This earned him daily mockery from his peers, adventurous children who shot squirrels and broke windows.
Like many such children, Gregory was thoroughly gullible and easily bullied. When the first day of third grade began one late summer morning, Gregory suffered a great misfortune. He was assigned to sit next to Clay.
Clay was taller than Gregory, and louder, too. He was the most frequent recipient of ruler spankings from Miss Criss, usually for uttering ill-conceived insults about Miss Criss’s ample posterior at a volume Clay thought could only be heard by his classmates. Other times he was punished for yanking hair, shooting spitballs, and farting with gleeful enthusiasm. He was a natural born buffoon with a bully’s tendency for cruelty.
Recess arrived on the first day.
"Hey shrimp! Yer parents squeeze you in a bottle at night to keep you small, or were you just born little?
"Everybody is born little, Clay."
"Shut up! I know that! You just never got bigger. I could throw you like a football."
Gregory walked off to the swingset. Clay followed.
"Hey shrimp, wanna see my fort? I got dead squirrels."
"What, you got other friends to play with?"
"No. I have to go straight home after school."
"I need some help today. I'm gonna try something."
"I'll get in trouble. I can't."
"Oh yes you are. If you don't, I'm gonna rub sand in your eyes. You ain't got no choice."
"I really can't. I'm sorry."
When Gregory swang forward, Clay grabbed the seat and held it. Gregory fell backwards off the swing, striking his head against the hard ground under the set where the sand was thin. His eyes watered. He tried not to cry. Clay straddled him, scooped up some sand, and held it over Gregory. He pulled Gregory's jaw open and held his handful of grit over it.
"Change your mind. Say yes. Say yes or I'm gonna feed you lunch right now."
Gregory gave a slight meek nod.
"Don't shit out on me, shrimp, or it's gonna be long year for you."
Gregory knew it would be a long year anyways. He wondered what awful mischeif Clay had planned for the afternoon activity. He dreaded the end of the schoolday. 12:17 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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