I was peeing against a hedge in Mr. Rivers yard when I
heard a girl crying in the street. I stood on my tiptoes for a look. It was
AnnieAnnie Turner. Her car was parked right by the hedge. Make-up ran down her
cheeks, black-and-blue, and her hair, for once, wasnt clean. She was upset like when
her brother died, was reading some kind of note
I pissed like a champ. I hadnt gone all day, and
drank so much soda at the parking deck I thought I was gonna pop. Theres no place to
pee at work except in the County Courthouse. Screw that. It wouldnt matter if it was
an arcade though, really, because the truth is I cant pee indoors. Not even
in private stalls. They call me "stage fright" at school but Im not afraid
of anything. Its the splatter sounds.
Annie watches my little sister Kate after school. Even
though I dont need a sitter, I still hang out over there. The Turners have movie
channels, plus her brothers video games. But Annie is the real reason I gowho
the hell wouldnt? I saw her naked once. Totally. I was playing Tomb Raider
when she walked by after a shower. She didnt turn, cover up or anything. Just smiled
and went into her room.
I didnt want her to see me by the hedge, so
stayed down. Being there felt weird, like a terrible secret. When she suddenly drove off I
scrambled over the hedge, actually fell pretty hard onto the street. It was about eight
oclock when I smelled Annies exhaust.
She headed straight at the sun. It was blinding. I
tried to watch but all I could see was burned-out sky and I had to look away. I heard: crushing
metal on metal and shattering glass followed by terrible stillness
Annies car was struck by a big, white truck. It
rammed into her at the intersection of Broadway and 24thbroadside. The
trucks hood looked like a stomped can. It was still in the intersection, awkwardly
twisted towards Annies red Civic. The Civic had flipped, and leaned up against a
utility pole. It was starting to get dark. No sound but a faint buzzing coming from the
truck. One of Annies tires was still spinning.
I approached the truck first. The driver was an older
guy, bald with a coarse, gray beard. His blood was everywhere. He wasnt
wearing his seat belt and the impact rattled him around the cab. Something hit his jaw
pretty good (the wheel?) because it had nearly come off. It dangled like meat from one
side of his face. And he had a chunk of glass stuck in one eye. That eye creeped me out.
You couldnt tell what color it was.
I noticed some smokes on the floor"cowboy
killers" (thats what my dad called Marlboros). I had to yank it pretty hard but
I managed to get the drivers door open. The buzzing sound was coming from the dash.
Theres no telling what it was because everything was smashed. I reached over the
driver, and depressed the lighter. Then I sat on the edge of the seat and waited
was everyone? I stared over at Annies car.
Shit! I nearly had a heart attack when the lighter
popped out. The driver didnt flinch, but I had already figured he was dead. I lit up
and hurried back to the curb. I smoked slowly, waiting again. Still nobody
I climbed onto Annies car from the trunk. She
had two bumper stickers: one said "Princess" in glitter, the other said
"Boys Lie." I didnt really get either one, but Annie had a strange sense
of humor. When a pipe burst at her house, she said "its a real pisser"
when she called her boyfriend and told him about it. Stuff like that.
The back of her car looked alright. But man, the rest
was fucked up. You could hardly tell it was a car. I crawled slowly towards her door,
shaking like I was cold.
Unlike the other driver, Annie was wearing her seat
belt. But the truck had exploded into her door. She didnt have a chance. She was
dangling, limp, hunched towards the passenger seat. Her T-shirt was soaked with blood and
there was a bone sticking out of her shoulder. Her hair mostly covered her face, but I
could see her lips: not the slightest shiver. Blood trickled over her chin, and dripped
off her nose and the ends of her bangs. The way her right arm dangled, it was like she was
pointing at the pool of blood that was collecting below. But heres the strange
thingher left hand was still holding the letter.
I stared at it for a long time before I tried to
snatch it. She held it so tight that at first all I did was tear off a corner. I heard
sirens, at last. I tried a second time for the note but once again I couldnt get it
free. Then, almost like you climb rope, I took hold of the edge and cinched my hand closer
until I touched Annies hand.
She was really warm. There was blood there too but it
only made the skin more soft and smooth. I shut my eyes, tingling all over. I stiffened my
finger and slowly, easily, worked it into her palm. With the blood it glided right it.
Somehow her grip seemed to tighten around my finger, so I moved it around, trying to
loosen her hold. I thought I heard
No. It was my imagination, she didnt say a word.
She couldnt have. I let out a huge gasp of air when she suddenly released
the letter. I nearly tumbled off the car. Immediately I jumped down and sprinted into the
nearest yard, where I stuffed the letter deep into my jeans pocket. I was crouching
there when Annie died.
The emergency crews seemed to arrive all at once. The
sirens were deafening. There were police, firemen, ambulances
The intersection was
blocked off, and the cops set up orange cones and hissing red flares. Everything flickered
from their spinning lights.
The bald guy was laid out first. They covered him with
some kind of plastic sheet then lifted him into a van on a stretcher. They seemed more
desperate with Annie, and she was much harder to get to. The firemen had to cut her door
off with a torch. Everyone was waiting anxiously
A woman from the ambulance tucked the hair neatly
behind Annies ears and wiped her face clean of the smeared make-up and blood. She
was shaking her head as she covered Annie. They put her in the same van as the bald guy.
The emergency vehicles left quietly. Two policemen
stayed and swept up broken glass, talked to the tow-truck drivers while the flares
sputtered out. I had to pee again so I went aheadpissed on a chain-link fence. I
dont know whose house it was but it seemed like a shell. The sky, which had once
been so intensesoft darkness. I couldnt have cared less about that fucking
I could hear my mom and stepdad fighting from our
neighbors yard, so I crept around back and rapped on Kates window. In little
spurts, the curtain parted. Then Kates tiny hands pressed the glass, and her head
peeped over the sill.
"Hey, Billy," she whispered, "do you
She stood aside as I climbed into her bedroom. Once
inside I embraced her. I wanted to tell her about Annie, but I couldnt do it. Kate
Then I noticed how tightly Kate was holding me.
Kates a tough girl. It takes more than yelling to upset her.
"I wish I had your daddy." She looked to the
I grabbed her shoulders, perhaps too firmly.
"Nono you dont. Trust me." I lifted her chin and stared into her
eyes. "What did Jack do, Kate? Tell me."
She shook her head. She was frightened, about to cry.
I knew then I had to kill Jack. "Dont worry, Kate. Its over. I
promise." I embraced her again, gently rocking. "I took some money from the deck
today. Lets go out for ice cream or something. Okay?" I felt her smile against
my chest, which nearly brought me to tears. "Dont worry, Kate. Its
There were magazines spread open across the
floorVanity Fair, Vogue, Cosmo. I asked her to show me what she had been
working on. She was cutting out pictures. She glues them onto big sheets of paper, then
copies them. Kate can really drawanything you want. Some day shell learn to
paint. Not kid stuffreal painting. She already draws better than most
artists, and shes only eight years old.
"See BillyIm drawing dresses. Annie
gave me all these magazines yesterday and theyre full of them." She pointed
proudly at her latest. It was a blonde girl in a strapless summer dress, lying on a black
"Its remarkable." It was. I could have
said how it resembled Annie. I could have told her about the crash, about how I saw Annie
lying just like that but dead. I could have assured her, Ill never let anybody
hurt you. But I was choking on truths and lies.
"Ill be right back. Im going to get
something from my room. Dont worry, Ill be right down the hall."
There was a loud thud in the living room, followed by
the sound of breaking glass. Kate scribbled over the picture until the lead broke.
"Listen to me, Kate. Tomorrow well go to
the art store, the fancy one, and Ill buy you more supplies. Lots of those pencils
you like. What are they called? Charcoal?"
Her eyes momentarily gleamed. I mussed her hair,
forced a convincing smile. Then I snuck down the hall to my room.
Jack chases mom all over the house when they fight so
I made sure to close my door. He says its because mom is a "flighty
bitch." And maybe so. My real dad chased her, too.
Thats the whole reason I cant pee
insidethat stamping around the house. I wasnt even Kates age when it
started. My real dad did a lot more than yella lot more. So my mom would run into
the bathroom because the door locked. It didnt matter if I was there or
noteven if I was trying to crap. "Its alright, honey," she
would say, "just pretend Im not here. Im your mother. Its
But then she kept screaming at my dad through the
door"You bastard! Go fuck yourself!" It was impossible to piss
with her right there, crying, sometimes even bleeding. And with my dad beating on the
door. "Open it before I break it down! Or I swear it will be your head two
I quit using toilets altogether. I decided Id
rather have shitty underpants.
I started thinking about Annie again, about the crash.
There was so much blood. I went to my closet, and retrieved the box where I hide my secret
things. I opened it, then fished under the Playboythe one with the college
girlsand the pictures of my grandparents and Kate. I took out the small pair of
I quit wearing underwear when I was twelve. My dad
called it "the cowboy way" but Im no cowboy. I just got tired of scrubbing
shit out them. When I had to go I would sit on my ankle and hold it. But no matter how
much you try to hold something in, a little always gets out. My mom would put my dried
dirties in the toilet, then make me scrub them until they were clean enough for the bleach
bucket. And if I didnt finish before my dad got homeif he found my underwear
in the toilethed piss on them. Then hed hit me so hard Id nearly
pass out. I wished I would pass out, because if I didnt I would have to scrub them
in his piss. He left when mom got pregnant with Kate.
Suddenly I remembered the letter. I pulled it from my
pocket and uncrumpled it. It was covered in Annies blood. Messy letters, black ink.
Word for word:
Its over. Done. Quit calling.
I dont want to talk and dont
want to see you again. Ever.
Get the abortion. Dylan
I dont know how to say what I felt. I folded
the panties around the letter, and stuffed them into my pocket. I walked straight to
Kates room, without first checking the hall.
Kate was in her closet, but came running out when she
"Come on, lets go. I cant stand the
racket around here." But now the noise was in my head. He killed her. Dylan killed
her. He killed them.
The next day at work was miserable. Every single car
that left the lot reminded me of the crash. Usually Im pretty lax about tickets.
People whine all the time about paying"I was only here ten minutes" or
"Come on, I dont want to break a fifty." And usually I let them go.
But not that day. Nobody got away without paying. I took plenty of abuse for it, too. The
worst was some dick in a yellow Mercedes. He didnt want to pay a dollar. One
fucking dollar in a Mercedes.
Dylan Marks was Annies boyfriend. I saw him at
her house sometimes. His dad is a judge and his family lives in a huge brick house with a
pool. Dylan went to Catholic school until he was kicked out for drinking in class. In
class. He had a Mercedes. I doubt he expected to pay.
When things slowed down I took out the panties and
note. "Done." Who the fuck did he think he was? I couldnt remember
what Annie looked like without blood and make-up running over her face.
That night mom told me what happened. She told me
Annie was dead, and how the Turners were ruined with grief. She told me how Mr. Turner
hadnt stopped banging his head against the table since the police arrived with the
news. She told me how Mrs. Turner had been yelling at her dead sons picture. "How
could this happen, Bill. Youre her guardian angel. Why didnt you protect
Bill Turner was older than Annie. He died of testicle
cancer two years ago. Ever since, the Turners have been especially nice to me. I guess
because my name is Billy. They liked it when I came over and played games in his room, or
listened to his CDs and stuff. Last year they gave me $100 on his birthday.
I couldnt imagine what they must have been going
through. Mom kept saying stuff like, "Nobody should have to bury their
babies," and "Why did it have to happen to their little girl?" I
knew why. And it didnt have to happen.
Annies funeral was horrible. It lasted too long.
Everyone had a story to tell, and a lot of the older people said stuff like, "God
always has a plan," and "His ways are beyond this earth." I
wanted to scream back, "Dont blame God you fucking fools! He didnt do
Annies coffin was closed but there was a
picture in front of it. It was the first time since the accident that I saw her as I
always had. She had a beautiful smile, such perfect blue eyes. But the more I looked at
that picture, the more I felt like Annie was staring at me. The panties and note were
burning in my pocket. She knew I had her secret. She knew
Mom told the story about the time I thought I had
killed Kate. Annie was watching us. Kate was only two at the time and I accidentally
dropped her on her head. I ran right out of the door, hollering I killed her! I killed
her! And I kept on running, too. Annie eventually found me in Veterans Park, almost a
mile away. She had Kate with her and took us for ice cream on the way home.
My mom never knew what Annie had said when she found
me in the park. She told me, "Babies are toughespecially little girl babies.
But youre her big brother. And just like my brother is there for me, you have to be
there for Kate. Protect her, okay? No more running away." She smiled and I
promisedI promised. Then she told Kate, "Now arent we both
lucky to have our Billy around?"
I thought I was going to piss my pants in the
church. As soon as mom sat down I excused myself. I went outside. The wind was really
whipping the trees, and my stream scattered all over the red gravel alongside the
cemetery. Clouds were blowing in, the color of Kates pencils. I knew it would storm
I waited outside for the service to end. I
couldnt face Annies picture again. I kept thinking about how her hand felt
while I was taking the letter. I thought about how it grabbed my finger, about how tight
her grip had been. And I thought about what I had heard. She did say something. I lied
when I said it was my imagination. Annie said my name. She held me and whispered, "Billy
There were a lot of people at the reception: teachers,
friends of the family, friends of Annie. It seemed like the whole school was there, and
for once nobody teased me. But I still felt out of place, like I was naked or something.
Everybody was grieving. I was so fucking mad I was shaking.
Mr. Turner was still at the kitchen table, his head
lying on his arms. He was totally limp. Mom comforted Mrs. Turner in the study. I just
stayed out of the way. I stayed outside.
A group of Annies classmates came into the front
lawn. It was dark so I couldnt see their faces but I could hear alright. And I
heard Dylan Marks. I heard him say something about lunch the next day with the
Turners. He said Annie was his soul mate. He even said he thought they might have been
married some day.
That night I couldnt sleep. I held Annies
panties, pressed them against my face and tried again and again to smell her. She
I didnt just play games in Bill Turners
room. Often I snuck into Annies room next door. I loved how it smelled in
therelike lotion and flowers and new clothes. It was always really clean, really
girlynot like anything in my house.
I would dig through her closet, under her bed, even
through her drawersespecially her underwear drawer. I wanted secrets, her most
intimate things. She had the same kind of underwear as those models in her magazines.
Little bikinis and matching bras made of thin, smooth fabrics. Sometimes I would take some
into the bathroom. I would lock the doormake sure it was lockedthen take off
my clothes. And I'd put on Annies underwear.
It wasnt kinky. That wasnt it. I just
wanted to be closer to Annie. I would rub her lotion onto myself and look into the long
mirror on the door. I wasnt touching myself. I was touching Annie.
The next morning, mom took Mrs. Turner out for
breakfast. I got out of bed once Jack finally left. I called LucyKates best
friend. I spoke to her mom and arranged for Kate to spend the day. Then I helped Kate get
her things together.
But first we went to the art store. I bought her a set
of acrylic paints and brushes, and a lot of heavy paper. Even one of those stands for her
to put her paintings on while she works. Ive never seen Kate so excited. I just kept
telling her how much I loved her, and how she would be a famous artist some day.
She wanted to go home and paint, but I told her since
I had already talked to Lucys mom it would be rude not to go. It was hard for me to
leave her there. I know she thought it was weird, but I kept making her promise to paint
When I got back to our house, I put together
Kates easelthats what those stands are calledand set it up in her
room. Then I went into my moms bedroom. I went into Jacks underwear
Dylan answered the Turners door. He was talking
on a cellphone and dismissively waved me in. He was complaining to somebody that Mrs.
Turner wasnt home yet. I went over to Mr. Turner, who was still at the kitchen
table. I put my hand on his shoulder but he didnt even flinch. He was wearing the
same clothes from the funeral. Without thinking I whispered, "She didnt mean
to hurt the baby."
Dylan kept yakking on the phone. I went downstairs,
and into Annies bedroom. I breathed as much of the smell as I could. It was already
vanishing. I went to her dresser and slowly opened her underwear drawer. I took the black
panties out of my pocket, and held them to my face for the last time. Then I neatly folded
them and set them back into the drawer.
"Heywhat are you doing in here?"
I slammed the drawer shut, suddenly aware that I was
"You little freak. What kind of fucking pervert
I glanced over my shoulder to make sure Dylan
couldnt back out of the room. He was approaching me. I pulled Jacks revolver
from my waist and shoved it right at his head.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Easy kid"
"Shut up. Dont say a word." It
surprised me how cool I was. I wasnt acting like a kid. I motioned Dylan
towards the bed. "Sit."
He yelled a couple times for Mr. Turner, so I cocked
the gun. "He knows Im here. And he knows why. So you better shut the
hell up and do as I say." He sat on the bed, confused.
I threw the wadded note at him. He picked it up off
the floor and smoothed it on his thigh. Horrified recognition erased the slickness from
where did you get this?"
"I said eat it." I put the barrel
right between his eyes. He started speaking gibberish, shaking his head. But eventually he
wadded the note up tight and put in into his mouth.
He gagged. His throat contorted, chest spasmed, and
his eyes began to water. I suppose it was the blood. He swallowed the letter after only a
few reluctant chews. Then he gagged some more. When it stopped, he opened his mouth,
waiting pathetically for instructions.
"Why?" He became slightly agitated.
"Where are we going. What are you going to do?"
"Just move." He knew I was dead
serioushe moved. "The bathroom." I waved the gun at the bathroom door. For
a moment I thought of movies, of how that same gesture with the gun played out a thousand
times on film. Dylan was hesitant, perhaps recalling the same scenes. "You look like
you need a drink of water," I told him.
"I swear I swallowedlook." He stuck
out his tongue. It was rashy red. "Come on, you can let me go now. See?"
"MOVE!" It was the first time I yelled at
anybody. It felt perfectly natural. I was both repulsed and mildly pleased with myself.
I stayed right behind Dylan, never lowering the gun
for a second as we walked towards the door. Then his cellphone started ringing: it was on
Annies bed. Dylan didnt turn around, neither did I. We both stood motionless
until it stopped.
Once we were in the bathroom I directed him into the
shower. He started whimpering again, saying he didnt mean to call me a pervert, that
he was only kiddinglies. "Look, kid, my family has a lot of money.
Ill pay you, whatever it takes"
Thats when everything went red. I turned away
and pressed my eyes shut. The strange thing is that I didnt mind the splatter sound.
It sang in my mind like glorious chimes
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was
Annies toilet. Clean white porcelain. I placed the gun by a bottle of perfume. Then
I raised the lid and released myself into the clear water.