Anthony Neil Smith
"You don't get that sort of sad from clean living." The principal shakes his head at the mother's mugshot on the front page. "Could have at least looked at the camera."
No, she knew better than to do that.
My friend on the force says it was like talking to the living dead. Barely breathed two words after the cops brought her in. Not like they need a confession. She had skidded up to the elementary school's playground in an Eighties' Oldsmobile, rammed the fence with her bumper, and got out yelling. It was funny at the moment, you know. Some batshit loony forgot her kid's permission slip or something. Teachers had seen her around, wearing too short shorts, slipping the gym teacher her number. And we all knew he'd called her, too. Three in the morning, needing relief after a fifth of rum and a dirty dream about his long-dead pet cockatoo. We also knew because one of her twin boys, Freddie (the other was Teddie) was whispering it to the kids the next day:
"They were laughing so loud, it woke me up. They talked about ice. Like they were going to eat it, but not the type that came out of the freezer."
"It made them dance and kiss and stuff, but real rough. Coach started taking Mom's clothes off, and she started grunting like a bear, so I ran back to bed."
Teddie said he didn't know nothing. Slept through it all. But we knew he was lying.
Eight-year-old kids can't understand the context, try as they might, but the teachers eventually find out because "dance" becomes "fuck" because those are the kids whose parents have HBO and don't use the V-chip. It's none of our business, but it sure is fun to tease Coach. He's seven feet tall. He's missing three fingers. He ain't had none since his wife left him for a woman she met online. Give him a break.
But teachers don't have a sense of humor. Most, anyways. I'd like to think I can take it with a wink and a giggle. After all, my husband likes to film me fucking his friends, and we've made ourselves a bit of money on the internet that way. When you can look forward to brand new cock every night, it makes the Social Studies classes zip by much quicker. But enough about me. Most teachers, they live for the tiny things. Those things that let you get the rage out. Some kids makes fart noises in class. Some kid has to keep going to the bathroom. Some kids pass around nasty drawings with stink lines and toilets and all sorts of stuff. I don't yell anymore. The others, they let fly. Detention this, office referral that. They act as if cutting in line is worthy of hanging. So does Coach.
He hauls one of the kids who says "Coach fucked Freddie's mom" to the office, where they ask where the kid heard it. The child might be old enough to know what fuck means, sort of, but he's sure as hell crying like a two-year-old when they threaten him with suspension, with telling his grandmother (the one who's actually raising them) what he said. He spills quick. After that, move them through One Two Three until they're down to Freddie himself.
Now Coach is nervous. It's not a dirty rumor anymore. It's the dirty truth. He's skanking around with a student's mom, snorting crank with her. He's out of the office, in the hall, on his cell phone.
Later, we'll all think, If you'd just calmed down, man.
I mean, where's the proof? Freddie and Teddie's mom could deny it, then Coach could deny it, and they'll be free to rut anytime they like as long as it doesn't wake the kids.
But he has to call her. Neither one has slept in three days. They both smell like sex and burnt plastic. I mean, come on, Coach. Laugh it off. I would've invited you and the twins' mom over for a night of swapping. We could've had fun. But that's the problem with school teachers: they're actually kinky fuckers hiding it behind their tight asses.
Enter Mom: the beat up Eighty-eight clangs the fence and she's a wild woman with wet hair in a bathrobe and Crocs, climbing over the collapsed wire mesh onto the playground. Miss Dempsey, Second Grade, says she was yelling, "Where is he? Where's the little bastard?"
Meth does weird things to you. It actually made her think she had a reputation to protect.
She finds him soon enough. Grabs her son by the back of the neck. Slaps his head with her other hand. And before anyone can get to her, she's slamming the boy's head into the school's beige bricks. Kid's screaming loud enough we all hear. We all run out onto the playground. She's bashing over and over. Over and over. Beige bricks stain red. It's all over the wall, her hands, her bathrobe. The kid's a fountain. He isn't screaming anymore. He isn't saying anything. There's not much left of his face. But inside, the students know the truth—Freddie's just fine because he's still in the principal's office. He missed recess. Teddie was the one on the playground. Their mom's killed the wrong kid.
My friend on the force tells me one thing, though. They ask her how she could make that mistake, can't tell her twin boys apart. The woman says it's because she dresses them the same. She shrugs. "I think it's cute."
© Anthony Neil Smith 2007
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony Neil Smith is the author of Psychosomatic and The Drummer. His short fiction and essays have been published in over thirty magazines, in both the literary and crime arenas, both print and online. For five years, he edited the late noir ezine Plots with Guns. Originally from Mississippi, he now teaches creative writing at Southwest Minnesota State University.