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 now
a car accident put him in a
wheelchair for life and had
reduced his mental capacity
to that of a vegetable.
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.
He 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 second passed since she was inside
that 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 he 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 his 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!”
as his hand was crushing my wrist with his
face right in my face now shouting:
“Nothing ever changes! You’re still a little toady toad!
And while your 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!”
His entire face seemed to grow 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?”
His voice scraped through my ears like
unrelenting poisonous sandpaper.
“Ha haaa! Little Toad, I’ll always be here!
I’m at your house 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
like a Japanese schoolgirl losing a pillow-fight.
“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
nobody was there
but somebody had been:
on the patio table there was
a cigarette left burning…