Vignette: a brief evocative description
Warning: Some may find this disturbing. I wasn't going to post it but was talked into it.
For a different take on the same topic check out +Adam Guerbuez's post here: http://goo.gl/YfKel _\


I met my next victim today at Thanksgiving dinner.

I know you think I'm going to make a wry joke about the turkey or a snarky comment about my flatulent table-neighbor but you're wrong. He was 14, piercing brown eyes, dramatic dark eyebrows, and a thin neck that looked like something from a porcelain figure. He didn't smile when we met. Why would he? Everyone there hated him, he said so himself, "This side of the family doesn't have much use for me." I smiled then, the hook had been set before I even got there; all I had to do was reel him in. I love it when families do all my work for me.

I'd heard about him from other family members, troubled kid, bad decisions, driving too young, hit his mom once, they all warned prospective girlfriend's parents he was a bad idea for their daughters. This kid was trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with V and that stands for Victim right here, in River City.

We talked. He talked. I listened. He continued to not smile.

I got called into the other room and I told him I'd be back, he said I didn't need to if I didn't want to. I said “Wild horses couldn't keep me away.” He smiled then, briefly, but it was a foot in the door. I got butterflies in my stomach and went and mingled, helped set the table, talked to people told them where I was and who I'd been talking to… all of them just shook their heads when they heard his name. You think I'm making this up. You think I've got a disconnect between what really happened and what was happening. You think my perceptions are colored by my memory of him. He looked to be made of glass. I just wanted to touch him… but I'm not making any of this up. He had ever right to feel like they didn't like him. I couldn't wait to get back out there to him.

"I thought I heard a can pop open!" I said as I returned to the sun room in the back of the house.

"Am I not supposed to have these?" He said looking instantly guilty. "Great. Now I feel like a jerk."

"Not at all. They're here for us." I grabbed one too, opened it and took a drink, I don't like Pepsi, but if he drank Pepsi I'd drink Pepsi and like it. "I was just making sure you weren't sneaking a beer and not telling me." I don't drink beer, where's he fall on that spectrum though. Time to find out.

"I only drink on holidays." He said.

"Well, it is Thanksgiving." We both smiled. He had a great smile. One of his eye teeth stuck out a little bit from the others, a soldier not dressing his line properly.

"My friends drink more than I do. I'm the driver. That's why I got in trouble that time but nobody cared what I thought. Yah I was driving but would they rather have me in the car with a drunk? Is that what they want?"

"I bet they said you should have called and I know how that would have gone over," I did a falsetto, "What're you doing hanging out with kids who are drinking? You know you shouldn't be with them. They're bad kids. You are in so much trouble." I returned to my normal voice. "Sucky choices, maybe die or maybe get grounded for the rest of your life. I'd rather you didn't die."

"Yeah. Me too. They never ask me anything." He whined… but it was an angry whine. Yeah. There's a lot of anger at authority figures there. No chance he'd tell them anything. They'd just make it his fault, his bad decisions that had gotten him in that situation. I wanted to dance. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to kiss his mom on the mouth, but I was out of Listerine.

"They just think you're still a little kid and obviously you're not any more."

"Exactly. I'm not," He said a name here, it was a girl's name. His sister's probably. I suck at remembering girls' names. Who cares? I'll just pick one, they're all interchangeable, "Mary. I'm not the one that's six."

"Tell you what. I'll treat you like you're not six if you'll treat me like I'm not a hundred years old."

"You're not a hundred."

"We're off to a nice start. It's time to eat. Let's go eat."

"I'm not hungry."

"They have you at the kids' table don't they."

"Again!" There was so much frustration in that one word.

"That sucks. What if I bring you a piece of pie at least. You like pie right? Everybody likes pie, and with them all in there who's to know you ate pie first?"

"Pumpkin."

"Is there any other kind?" I said going to get him some pumpkin pie with great gobs of whipped cream on the side in case he didn’t like it on the pie itself.

So, we ate. I ate at the grown up table. His spot was empty at the kids' table and nobody tried to get him to join in. After lunch I sat at the table talking for a while and then went back to the sun room. He was gone. Where'd he go? Had his dad come to get him? He didn't say "bye." Damn it! I was sitting on the love seat on the sun room when he came out and slouched onto the couch again.

"I thought you'd left." I said.

"Nah, just went upstairs so they wouldn't catch me eating dessert first."

"Nobody here drinks coffee. I'm gonna go get some. You drink coffee?"

"Yeah."

"I'll get you a cup." I said, standing.

"Can I go with you?"

"If your Mom says so, sure."

"You better ask her she tells me no to everything out of habit." He stood and put his phone in his pocket.

"OK. Come with me" Was it going to be this easy? Really?
As we entered the kitchen his mom was coming in from the living room. She and I have mutually disliked each other for years. This was going to be touchy, and I was ninety percent sure she'd say he couldn't go. "I'm going to run to the 7-11 and grab a cup of coffee. You want one? I didn't see a coffee pot around here."

"No thanks." She said.

"Can I go?" he piped up. Wow… he was as eager as I was to be out of here and go be together somewhere. I know. I'm probably reading more into that than there is. I'll go slow. Don't want to spook him. Give me some credit. This isn't my first rodeo.

"We're going to the one right up there. Be five minutes there and back again. I promise to bring him back in one piece." This was risky, if he heard me talking about him like a kid he wouldn't like that. But maybe he'd know I was just handling his mom, speaking her language, assuaging her doubts.

"OK." She smiled at me her winningest fake holiday smile. I smiled mine back. We were old hands at pretending to like each other at holidays.

We got in my car, it's a crappy car but it gets me where I'm going and it looks OK from the outside. It's better than nothing right? "What's your name again?" He asked.

I told him.

"I thought so. Just wasn't sure,” he said.

"And your name's Mike."

"Yep. Did you ask somebody?"

"Nope. How could I forget the name of the guy who eats pie for dinner?"

"Thanks for the pie." He said.

"You're welcome."

When we got there he sat in the car as I got out. I leaned in, "You coming in?"

I got coffee. He got a Gatorade. They were two for a special price so I told him to get a second one. He looked at me as if to say "Are you serious?" I nodded and jerked my head towards the coolers. He did.

As we got in the car, "Thanks for the drinks. You didn't have to."

"You're welcome, any time. And next time you're with a bunch of drunks and don't want to drive back and get grounded forever give me a call. I'll get you home and you won't catch hell for it. I don't want you to be dead. We're only just getting to know each other." I handed him one of my cards & he put my number in his phone. "I'm going to drive around the block the long way. I'm not ready to get back yet."

"Me neither." He allowed, taking a long drink of his Gatorade.

"We're going to wind up playing Apples to Apples again. You going to play?"

"No, they won't want me to."

"Tell you what. You play and I'll play." I offered.

"Fine." He grudgingly agreed.

"Thanks. I don't like the game much and wasn't too excited about playing with a bunch of old women by myself."

So, we played Apples to Apples and they were sort of snide and snarky to him and he sat beside me and when they'd be jerky to him I'd kick his foot under the table. It got to be a game. If they'd say something snide he'd kick me first by the end of the Apples to Apples game. But that wasn't the most important game happening at the table. He was OK with some limited physical contact and was initiating it… and we were allies against the THEM at the table.

It got to be time for me to go. I had another place to be, and coincidentally it was right at the same time as he was leaving. Maybe that wasn’t as much of a coincidence as I made it out to be. The good-bye Gramma and old Aunt line was at the door. I snuck in at the end as he did his duty hugging those people who hadn't had three words for him all day. He made his way towards me and, seeing me he laughed, an actual laugh, and gave me a hug. I could have cried.

His immediate family left and I hung around a little more gathering up the ham I'd made and helping sort the dishes with the rest of the extended family.

"Mike was good today. He said please and thank-you a couple times, and even played Apples to Apples with us. You're a good influence. It's good that he have a role model. His dad's such an ass."

I nodded. They always shot down his dad around him and trash-talked him. I didn't though. I took him seriously. I knew that even if his dad was a jerk he didn't think so. It was his Dad. We were allies, and now… now I was a good influence on him. I could still smell the Axe body spray he'd been wearing and my nostrils had filled with it when we'd hugged. I was going to have some of it by the end of the day, guaranteed.

So, yeah. I met my next victim today and his family is going to make sure it all happens just the way I want it. It was an outstanding Thanksgiving, and for that I am very thankful.
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