Oliver of the Adirondacks

by Dashiell Walraven

Chapter 43

The next day, Christmas Eve, all the kids wanted to go out into the newly fallen snow, and have a snowball fight. I hesitated, remembering that the events of the previous year, as if they were yesterday. Garrett, for his part, came barreling up the drive with a snow plow attached to his truck, and cleared the drive and parking areas of snow, while guests moved their cars around for him. It had snowed nearly a foot and a half overnight, so by the time he was done, there were some decent berms ready to endure the most fevered of battles.

Garrett participated in the melee, stopping here and there to rescue the odd little one who had fallen over and found it difficult to regain their feet in their snowsuits. There were tears, of course, when the occasional, errant snowball went directly into somebody's face or down their collar. Even Eddie seemed to be having a good time.

That is, until I pelted him with a fluffy white bomb that seemed to explode right behind the glasses. He stood up, his eyes comically blotted out like an enormous Li'l Orphan Annie by great big clots of snow between his lenses and his face. Eddie whipped off his glasses and dug the snow out of his eyes, his face a picture of white-hot rage. He came pounding down the snow after me, roaring like a highlander.

At first, I thought he was play-acting, but he tackled me with a full head of steam, knocking the wind out of me as we fell together into a snow berm. The next thing I knew, Eddie was screaming and throwing fists. I dodged most of them, as he was just flailing, but he did manage to connect with a couple of them; I felt my glasses crunch against my cheek. Moments later, Eddie seemed to levitate as Garrett pulled him up and away from me. Enraged, I came up swinging, my vision tinged blood-red. Before Garrett could stop me, I swung a haymaker Eddie's way, connecting solidly with his left temple. Eddie's eyes turned glassy for a moment, his cage obviously rattled.

"Whoa, Oliver stop!" Garrett shouted. I didn't listen, I was going in for the kill when Garrett put his palm against my chest and pushed me down into the snow. I looked up at Garrett, holding the sobbing Eddie up by his collar, and realized I was crying too.

"What the hell, Eddie?" I hollered.

"Let me fucking go!" Eddie hollered back, trying unsuccessfully to squirm away from Garrett's tight grip.

"Calm down, Eddie," Garrett gave him a little shake, "Relax, don't make me get your father out here." That seemed to take the fire out of Eddie's belly for the moment. He slumped, letting his fists fall to his side, and Garrett let him down. "You done being a ding-dong for now?" Eddie gave a defeated nod. "Good," he said sternly, "Stay right there until we get this sorted out." Again Eddie nodded and made no move to escape. My breathing was still coming in hitches and gasps, tears streaming down my face. Neal, seeing all the commotion in the distance, came bounding over.

"Oliver? Eddie? Garrett, what's going on?" he panted, I could hear him wheezing.

"Not sure," Garrett said, calmly, "but we're about to find out. Do me a favor, and keep the other kids occupied while I take Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier here, over to the wood shed and hash this out."

I looked over and saw the pathetic remains of my glasses glinting in the snow. One lens had been smashed, and the frame bent into crazy angles. I moaned aloud, knowing how pissed-off my parents were going to be about that. Garrett held out his hand and help hoist me up. Then, with a hand at both of our necks, escorted us to the wood shed, where we all knew a reckoning was to be had.

Garrett opened the door of the wood shed for us, I walked in, but Eddie looked like he was fixing to bolt. Garrett collared him, and Eddie gave up any thought of running. We each sat our morose butts down on a log, while Garrett lit a kerosene lantern and shut the door.

"Okay lads," Garrett said with this hands on his hips, looking rather fatherly, "What gives?"

An awkward silence ensued as both Eddie and I took turns looking at each other and then glancing away.

"Oliver," Garrett barked sharply, impatient with the two of us.

"I, uhm," I started, upset with myself that my voice sounded tremulous and child-like, "I just got Eddie with a snow ball, and... and he got all mad... and he starts... (sniffle) he starts hitting me!"

"Shh, Oliver, stop," Garrett said, putting up his hand to me. I realized I'd been shouting.

"You hit me in the face on purpose, you... you fucker!" Eddy blurted out, newly enraged.

"TAKE IT EASY BOY!" Garrett raised his voice. I'd never heard him do that before, "Don't make me have to clobber the both of ya's." I looked up at Garrett's serious face, the veins in his neck were standing out, he looked REALLY angry. "Alright, I saw what happened and that was a little fluff-ball of snow, there was no need to go ape-shit."

"Yeah" I mumbled.

"Shush, Oliver," Garrett snapped. I shushed. "You've been a sour-puss since you got here, Eddie. You and Oliver have been friends for a while now, and this isn't like you. What's really eating at your ass?" Eddie was silent for a beat, staring holes in his snow boots. "Well?" Garrett prompted.

"Uhm... well... I been having some trouble at school."

"What kinda trouble?"

"His Dad says some football jock beat him up," I chimed in. Garrett turned to look at me, and then back to Eddie, who face was twisting in a mixture of rage and embarrassment.

"HE TOLD YOU THAT?" Eddie yelled, seething. He looked like he wanted to jump across and pound me again.

"Eddie, chill," Garrett put a calming on Eddie's shoulder, which seemed to help. Eddie lowered his head into his hands and started sobbing. Garrett sat down next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and pulling him close. Eddie sagged against Garrett and continued bawling.

"He knocked out all my teeth," Eddie wailed, "and he broke my glasses." I looked down at my own mangled glasses and worried anew what my Mom was going to have to say about that. "He called me a homo and pulled my pants off in front of the team in the locker room and made me run naked down the hall."

"Whoa," I whistled softly. I surely knew what it was like to be humiliated at the hands of a bully. I suddenly felt pity for poor Eddie, I got up and sat next to him, putting my hand on his knee to offer my apology and support. I never got the chance to say anything because Eddie reared up and pushed me away roughly, causing me to fall to the ground. The edge of a log dug into my chest as I fell with my whole weight on it. I heard a crack and a bright stab of pain burned through my side. I rolled over, moaning in agony, unable to catch my breath.

"What the hell is the matter with you?" I heard Garrett shouting. He was standing, shaking Eddie like a rag doll, by the lapels of his snow suit. "He was trying to be nice, for Pete's sake! Why are you taking it out on him? It's not Oliver's fault you got beat up!"

"IT IS!" Eddie screamed into Garrett's face, spittle flying from his lips. Eddie's color had gone a distinct shade of purple. "IT IS OLIVER'S FAULT! HE DID THIS TO ME!" Eddie dissolved once again into wracking sobs. Garrett looked stunned. I managed to sit up with difficulty, a new wave of pain searing through me.

"What?" I gasped.

"I'M NOT A HOMO!" Eddie howled, now rocking himself like a madman, "YOU'RE THE HOMO OLIVER! YOU MADE EVERYONE THINK I'M A HOMO AND I'M NOT A HOMO!" Garrett and I were nonplussed, exchanging looks back and forth. He turned to Eddie and put a hand on his shoulder again. Eddie tried to shrug him off, but Garrett took a good hold of Eddie's trapezium and applied steady pressure.

"You've got to get a hold of yourself there Eddie, and start explaining," Garrett said sternly, but quietly, "because nothing you're saying is making any sense. Nobody thinks that about you, so come on, let's stop all this nonsense." Eddie seemed to calm down some after that.

"It IS Oliver's fault," Eddie insisted, glaring down at a very confused me.

"How?" Garrett asked, simply.

"I was coming back from gym class one day, and the guys from the football team were there. Billy Van Der Voort, was telling everybody who would listen that he'd fucked Valerie Glenman, one of the cheerleaders."

"Sounds like standard locker room talk to me, Eddie..." Garrett tried to interrupt, but Eddie continued.

"He bragged about all the stuff they did, how she sucked him and how he stuck it in her ass and her pussy."

"A real charmer, that guy," Garrett quipped, "But what the devil...?" Eddie glared at him as if to say "May I continue?"

"So anyways, everybody knows he's lying, but they don't wanna say boo about it." Eddie beat his breast, "I know he's lying because Valerie is beautiful and nice and she wouldn't do that kind of stuff with anybody, let alone the likes of him." Garrett raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, so Billy's a jerk, but I still don't understand what this has to do with Oliver."

"We all knew Billy was lying, but I thought, if I could prove it, people would see him for what he is."

"A real asshole," Garrett interjected.

"A MAJOR asshole!" Eddie declared.

"So how did you go about proving it?" Garrett asked. The tone and meter of his voice had the effect of keeping Eddie on a more even keel, he was shouting a lot less now. Somewhere, beneath the pain in my side, I had a sinking suspicion I knew what Eddie was going to say next.

"I told Billy, in front of everybody, that I knew he was lying about Valerie, and that he shouldn't do that because she's a good girl. He turned on me, and says 'Oh yeah? And how would you know, you little twerp?' So I told him, 'you couldn't have had sex because don't have no skin on your dick yet.' And that's when the whole team started laughing. He got mad, called me a homo for looking at his dick, and beat me up."

I'm certain if I had eaten recently, I would have thrown it all up right there. Garrett had this look on his face like he was doing a difficult math problem.

"So, wait..." Garrett said, "You think guys grow skin on their dick after they have sex?"

"That's what I USED to think," Eddie said, turning a cold stare toward me. I glanced away and started studying the floor.

"Where'd you get a stupid idea like that?" Garret asked, incredulously.

I looked up to see Eddie pointing an accusatory finger at me. Garrett's eyes grew wide as he followed Eddie's gaze, to look down at me. I gave a half-hearted smile.

"Oliver?" Garrett asked, "Is that true?" I couldn't raise my eyes to meet theirs. "Ollie?" he asked again.

I shrugged, "it, uhm, seemed funny at the time?" I looked up to see Garrett trying to hide a smirk from Eddie. He recovered himself nicely.

"Oh man, Eddie", he breathed out, "is that what happened? Oliver messed with you a little bit and you took him for gospel truth?"

"HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?" Eddie howled, "I AIN'T NEVER SEEN NO ANTEATER DICK LIKE HIS BEFORE!"

"Anteater dick?" Garrett snorted, unable to suppress his laughter, he cocked back his head and bellowed. I wanted to giggle a little myself, but the sharp pain in my side made it impossible.

"STOP IT!" Eddie cried, "IT'S NOT FUNNY!"

"No, you're right," Garrett composed himself once again, "I'm sorry Eddie, it's just that I've never heard somebody with a foreskin described that way before and it made me laugh."

"Well, it does look like that..." Eddie mumbled.

"So now you know better, right?"

"Yeah," Eddie said, "and now the whole fucking football team wants me dead on account of Billy got expelled because of me."

The enormity of what happened to Eddie weighed heavily on me, it seemed like I was responsible for everything. Guilty tears began to fall from my eyes again, spilling down my cheeks. My gasping breaths were made worse by the stabbing pain in my ribs.

"Oliver?" I heard Garrett say, echoing softly over the buzzing in my ears, "You alright? Oliver?"

I couldn't answer him. I couldn't breathe and my head felt all swimmy again. I looked up to see both of their concerned faces as a cloud of shimmering, silvery numbness descended onto my consciousness.

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