Tyler was the biggest, meanest, toughest
bully there was in our neighborhood
and he terrorized us younger kids
on a daily basis as he lay in wait
in the alleyway,
in his leather jacket,
A decade ago,
a car accident put him in a
wheelchair for life and had
reduced his mental capacity
to that of the local produce section.
Nobody had seen him since then
until I did the other day,
now in my forties.
His sister was wheeling him
across the broken pavement of
the local strip mall and after
some conversation was struck up,
she asked if I could wait with him
outside while she went into the drugstore.
Tyler was silent, small and stared
vacantly at the ground.
“Sure thing,” I said,
wanting to be nice to her.
She still had it.
Not a moment had passed since she went inside
when I felt a sudden cold, steel pressure
clamping down on my wrist.
It felt completely alien, but some part of me
automatically knew that it was Tyler’s hand.
The crushing grip tightened as he
applied even more pressure and
worst of all was that while Tyler was
staring up at me
–where before there was
nothing but blankness in his eyes,
there now was this evil spark,
this glaring, searing manic light,
widening with recognition.
“Hey, look who it is! It’s the Little Toad!”
‘Little Toad’ was Tyler’s nickname for me and
suddenly I was twelve again,
trying not to get pulled into his madness but
compelled by the force of it all the same.
“Little Toad! Little Toad!”
Tyler shouted with glee
as his hand continued to crush my wrist;
his face now right up in my mine.
“Nothing ever changes! You’re still a Little Toady Toad!
And while you’re wrapping your arms around the bottle,
your wife is wrapping her legs around the dentist!
That’s right, I see it all, and it’s all a million laughs!”
Tyler’s entire face seemed to grow out and distort
like a balloon inflating from the stump of his neck
or a twisted medieval gargoyle coming to life.
“What?! You think I was done with you back then?”
Tyler’s voice scraped through my ears like
unrelenting poisonous sandpaper.
“HA HA! Little Toad! I’ll always be here!
I’m at your house every day and every night!
I’LL NEVER BE DONE WITH YOU -IN FACT,
I’M JUST GETTING STARTED!”
It was all coming together like
the worst possible nightmare
in all eternity
and I started to scream.
“My God, are you okay?” His sister was standing
just outside of the shop door staring at me
like I was a complete lunatic and
Tyler was leaning against the side of his
wheelchair, back to normal,
staring away at nothing,
even drooling a little bit.
I didn’t say anything.
I just walked away
to my car then drove to my house and
to my wife and kids.
Later on that week,
I thought myself silly for sleeping
with a baseball bat beneath my bed.
Really, what was wrong with me?
Perhaps because we were sleeping
in different beds now,
or perhaps because of something else.
Later on that night,
I thought I heard a noise
from out back.
It seemed somehow
I went outside and
nobody was there…
but somebody had been:
on the patio table there was
a cigarette left burning…