Authors: Tanya Ronder,D. B. C. Pierre
Tags: #High School Students, #General, #Drama, #Literary Criticism, #Fiction, #Mass Murder
Vernon God Little
It's hot as hell in Martirio, but the papers on the porch are icy with the news. Don't even try to guess who stood all Tuesday night in the road. Clue: snotty ole Mrs Lechuga. Hard to tell if she quivered, or if moths and porchlight through the willows ruffled her skin like funeral satin in a gale.
Either way, dawn showed a puddle between her feet. It tells you normal times just ran howling from town. Probably forever. God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that's happened, the inkles ain't easy anymore. I mean - what kind of fucken life is this?
Now it's Friday at the sheriff's office. Feels like a Friday at school or something. School - don't even fucken mention it.
I sit waiting between shafts of light from a row of doorways, naked except for my shoes and Thursday's underwear. Looks like I'm the first one they rounded up so far. I ain't in trouble, don't get me wrong. I didn't have anything to do with Tuesday. Still, you wouldn't want to be here today. You'd remember Clarence Somebody, that ole black guy who was on the news last winter. He was the psycho who dozed in this same wooden hall, right on camera. The news said that's how little he cared about the effects of his crimes. By 'effects' I think they meant axe-wounds. Ole Clarence Whoever was shaved clean like an animal, and dressed in the kind of hospital suit that psychos get, with jelly-jar glasses and all, the type of glasses worn by people with mostly gums and no teeth. They built him a zoo cage in court. Then they sentenced him to death.
I just stare at my Nikes. Jordan New Jacks, boy. I'd perk them up with a spit-wipe, but it seems kind of pointless when I'm naked. Anyway, my fingers are sticky. This ink would survive Armageddon, I swear. Cockroaches, and this fucken fingerprint ink.
A giant shadow melts into the dark end of the corridor. Then comes its owner, a lady. As she approaches, light from a doorway snags a Bar-B-Chew Barn box in her arms, along with a bag of my clothes, and a phone that she tries to speak into. She's slow, she's sweaty, her features huddle in the middle of her face. Even in uniform you know she's a Gurie. Another officer follows her into the corridor, but she waves him away.
'Let me do the preliminaries - I'll call you for the statement.' She slides the phone back to her mouth and clears her throat. Her voice sharpens up to a squeak. 'Gh-hrrr, I am not calling you a moron, I'm explaining that, stuss-tistically, Special Weapons And Tactics can limit the toll.' She squeaks so high that her Barn box falls to the floor. 'Lunch,' she grunts, bending. 'Only salad, poo - I swear to God.'
The call ends when she sees me.
I sit up to hear if my mother came to collect me; but she didn't. I knew she wouldn't, that's how smart I am. I still wait for it though, what a fucken genius. Vernon Genius Little.
The officer dumps the clothes in my lap. 'Walk this way.'
So much for Mom. She'll be pumping the town for sympathy, like she does. 'Well Vern's just devastated,' she'll say. She only calls me Vern around her coffee-morning buddies, to show how fucken tight we are, instead of all laughably fucked up. If my ole lady came with a user's guide it'd tell you to fuck her off in the end, I guarantee it. Everybody knows Jesus is ultimately to blame for Tuesday; but see Mom? Just the fact I'm helping the investigation is enough to give her fucken Tourette's Syndrome, or whatever they call the thing where your arms fly around at random.
The officer shows me into a room with a table and two chairs. No window, just a picture of my friend Jesus taped to the inside of the door. I get the stained chair. Pulling on my clothes, I try to imagine it's last weekend; just regular, rusty moments dripping into town via air-conditioners with missing dials; spaniels trying to drink from sprinklers but getting hit in the nose instead.
'Vernon Gregory Little?' The lady offers me a barbecued rib. She offers half-heartedly, though, and frankly you'd feel sorry to even take the thing when you see the way her chins vibrate over it.
She returns my rib to the box, and picks another for herself. 'Gh-rr, let's start at the beginning.
Your habitual place of residence is seventeen Beulah Drive?'
'Who else resides there?'
'Nobody, just my mom.'
'Doris Eleanor Little …' Barbecue sauce drips onto her name badge. Deputy Vaine Curie it says underneath. 'And you're fifteen years old? Awkward age.'
Is she fucken kidding or what? My New Jacks rub together for moral support. 'Ma'am - will this take long?'
Her eyes widen for a moment. Then narrow to a squint. 'Vernon - we're talking accessory to murder here. It'll take as long as it takes.'
'So, but …'
'Don't tell me you weren't close to the Meskin boy. Don't tell me you weren't just about his only friend, don't you tell me that for one second.'
'Ma'am, but I mean, there must be plenty of witnesses who saw more than I did.'
'Is that right?' She looks around the room. 'Well I don't see anyone else here - do you?' Like an asshole I look around. Duh. She catches my eyes and settles them back. 'Mr Little - you do understand why you're here?'
'Sure, I guess.'
'Uh-huh. Let me explain that my job is to uncover the truth. Before you think that's a hard thing to do, I'll remind you that, stuss-tistically, only two major forces govern life in this world. Can you name the two forces underlying all life in this world?'
'Uh - wealth and poverty?'
'Not wealth and poverty.'
'Good and evil?'
'No - cause and effect. And before we start I want you to name the two categories of people that inhabit our world. Can you name the two proven categories of people?'
'Causers and effecters?'
'No. Citizens - and liars. Are you with me, Mister Little? Are you here?'
Like, duh. I want to say, 'No, I'm at the lake with your fucken daughters,' but I don't. For all I know she doesn't even have daughters. Now I'll spend the whole day thinking what I should've said. It's really fucked.
Deputy Gurie tears a strip of meat from a bone; it flaps through her lips like a shit taken backwards. 'I take it you know what a liar is? A liar is a psychopath - someone who paints gray areas between black and white. It's my duty to advise you there are no gray areas. Facts are facts. Or they're lies. Are you here?'
'I truly hope so. Can you account for yourself at a quarter after ten Tuesday morning?'
'I was in school.'
'I mean what period.'
'Uh - math.'
Gurie lowers her bone to stare at me. 'What important facts have I only now finished outlining to you, about black and white?'
'I didn't say I was in class …'
A knock at the door saves my Nikes from fusing. A wooden hairdo pokes into the room.
'Vernon Little in here? His ma's on the phone.'
'All right, Eileena.' Gurie shoots me a stare that says 'Don't relax' and points her bone at the door. I follow the wooden lady to reception.
I'd be fucken grateful, if it wasn't my ole lady calling. Between you and me, it's like she planted a knife in my back when I was born, and now every fucken noise she makes just gives it a turn. It cuts even deeper now that my daddy ain't around to share the pain. My shoulders round up when I see the phone, my mouth drops open like, duh. Here's exactly what she'll say, in her fuck-me-to-a-cross whimper, she'll say, 'Vernon, are you all right?' I guarantee it.
'Vernon, are you okay?' Feel the blade chop and dice.
'I'm fine, Ma,' now my voice goes all small and stupid. It's a subliminal plea for her not to be pathetic, but it works like pussy to a fucken dog.
'Did you use the bathroom today?'
'Hell, Momma …'
'Well you know you get that - inconvenience.'
She ain't so much called to turn the knife, as to replace it with a fucken javelin or something.
You didn't need to know this, but when I was a kid I used to be kind of unpredictable, for 'Number Twos' anyway. Never mind the slimy details, my ole lady just added the whole affair to my knife, so she could give it a turn every now and then. Once she even wrote about it to my teacher, who had her own stabbing agenda with me, and this bitch mentioned it in class. Can you believe it? I could've bought the farm right there. My knife's like a fucken skewer these days, with all the shit that's been added on.
'Well you didn't have time this morning,' she says, 'so I worried that maybe - you know …'
'I'm fine, really.' I stay polite, before she plants the whole fucken Ginzu Knife Set. It's a hostage situation.
'What're you doing?'
'Listening to Deputy Gurie.'
'LuDell Gurie? Well, tell her I know her sister Reyna from Weight Watchers.'
'It ain't LuDell, Ma.'
'If it's Barry you know Pam sees him every other Friday …'
'It ain't Barry. I have to go now.'
'Well, the car still isn't ready and I'm minding an ovenful of joy cakes for the Lechugas, so Parn'll have to pick you up. And Vernon …'
'Sit up straight in the car - town's crawling with cameras.'
Velcro spiders seize my spine. You know gray areas are invisible on video. You don't want to be here the day shit gets figured out in black and white. I ain't saying I'm to blame, don't get me wrong.
I'm calm about that, see? Under my grief glows a serenity that comes from knowing the truth always wins in the end. Why do movies end happy? Because they imitate life. You know it, I know it. But my ole lady lacks that fucken knowledge, big-time.
I shuffle up the hall to my pre-stained chair. 'Mister Little,' says Gurie, 'I'm going to start over -
that means loosen up some facts, young man. Sheriff Porkorney has firm notions about Tuesday, you should be thankful you only have to talk to me.' She goes to touch her snatch, but diverts to her gun at the last second.
'Ma'am, I was behind the gym, I didn't even see it happen.'
'You said you were in math.'
'I said it was our math period.'
She looks at me sideways. 'You take math behind the gym?'
'So why weren't you in class?'
'I ran an errand for Mr Nuckles, and got kind of - held up.'
'Our physics teacher.'
'He teaches math?'
'G-hrrr. This area's looking real gray, Mister Little. Damn gray.'
You don't know how bad I want to be Jean-Claude Van Damme. Ram her fucken gun up her ass, and run away with a panty model. But just look at me: clump of lawless brown hair, the eyelashes of a camel. Big ole puppy-dog features like God made me through a fucken magnifying glass. You know right away my movie's the one where I puke on my legs, and they send a nurse to interview me instead.
'Ma'am, I have witnesses.'
'Is that right.'
'Mr Nuckles saw me.'
'And who else?' She prods the dry bones in her box.
'A bunch of people.'
'Is that right. And where are those people now?'
I try to think where those people are. But the memory doesn't come to my brain, it comes to my eye as a tear that shoots from my lash like a soggy bullet. I sit stunned.
'Exactly,' says Gurie. 'Not real gregarious, are they? So Vernon - let me ask you two simple questions. One: are you involved with drugs?'
'Uh - no.'
She chases the pupils of my eyes across the wall, then herds them back to hers. 'Two: do you possess a firearm?'
Her lips tighten. She pulls her phone from a holster on her belt, and suspends one finger over a key, eyeing me all the while. Then she jabs the key. The theme from Mission: Impossible chirps on a phone up the hall. 'Sheriff?' she says. 'You might want to attend the interview room.'
This wouldn't happen if she had more meat in her box. The dismay of no more meat made her seek other comforts, that's something I just learned. Now I'm the fucken meat.
After a minute, the door opens. A strip of buffalo leather scrapes into the room, tacked around the soul of Sheriff Porkorney. 'This the boy?' he asks. Like, fucken no, it's Dolly Parton. 'Cooperational, Vaine, is he?'
'Can't say he is, sir.'
'Give me a moment with him.' He closes the door behind him.
Gurie retracts her tit-fat across the table, turning to the corner like it makes her absent. The sheriff breathes a rod of decay at my face.