Arnie was the kind of guy everybody loved to hurt. He was practically asking for it just by being himself. In fact, he was the poster-boy that proved the mainstream media’s relentless “Just Be Yourself” mantra was full of shit. This is one guy who would have benefited tremendously by not being himself.
He was such a wuss that it was offensive. Everything about him was supremely annoying: the way his left shoulder was permanently hunched higher than the right from holding his school bag by one strap; his chronic lateness at school; his moronic drawl whenever he dared to speak; his really really bad breath; his curly heap of sissy-brown hair, his strawberry-field patches of pimples riveted to his puffy face. Each aspect of his being required prompt and constant retribution - which we were always glad to deliver! Respecting him was impossible and humiliating him was so easy; you could do it without even trying. And the best thing was he’d never fight back. Never. After all, we were his best friends...
There were tons of things we did to make his life miserable and, in the process, made spending our days in school more enjoyable. For fun, we’d often use a lighter to heat up small balls of rolled-up foil from our packs of smokes and throw them at his neck so the teacher would shout at him when he’d cry out. Sometimes, when the teacher left the class for some kind of errand, we’d lift Arnie while he was still sitting and put his chair on top of the hallway lockers. Being such a sap, he was too scared to come down by himself. The teacher believed that he just wanted to be the class clown and sent him to the principal’s office every time for a dressing down.
Once, we stole his backpack and hid it in the trash bin outside the school. Somehow, he figured it out and managed to get it back before the garbage truck came to pick it up. So the next garbage day, in order to teach him a lesson, we emptied his backpack in the trash container and used a broken hockey stick to stir his stuff into the leftover crap from the cafeteria. The look on his face was hilarious. He even had to find some kind of story to explain why he “lost” his books and had to pay for the new ones from his own pocket.
Of course, his parents were too busy to make him proper lunches themselves. So, every day, we’d make him give us his lunch money and we’d waste it all on smokes and beer. The stupid fuck had to roam around the cafeteria and beg for somebody’s leftovers. He was too shy to ask the girls and the guys wouldn’t share their scraps with such a world-class loser - they’d rather chuck it all in the trash right in front of his starving face! Eventually, he just learned to get by without lunch. He got so skinny his folks gave him more money so he could eat better. More smokes for us!
His parents were a piece of work. They were part of some fucked-up Christian sect. Don’t ask me which one. Their worship place was some kind of square blue-painted cement bunker in the middle of a cornfield outside of town. It had this huge, tremendously thick, boxy metal cross on the front lawn. You could see this bird shit-covered fake gold monstrosity for miles around. About three times a week, more during religious holidays, Arnie’s parents would go to this weird church to worship or whatever it is these freaks do. Even so, they’d still make a big deal out of it every time. They’d groom themselves so much their hair and skin looked like plastic - like some sick Jesus-freakish middle-aged Republican Ken and Barbie dolls.
His dad was a dentist and his mom worked in a brokerage firm. I heard that his dad had this huge crucifix with a bloody Christ hanging in front of the dentist’s chair so the poor guys having their jaw butchered had to watch this pitiful, suffering Jesus smothered in painted gore the whole time. I don’t know, maybe it helps some people, but I think it’s so fucking creepy that I’d never set foot in there.
As for his mom, she’s some kind of local celebrity. She had been a hot cheerleader in high school and a jealous teammate caught her having an affair with the gym teacher. They were doing the naughty in the gym supply room when they got discovered. They were bouncing around on top of a heap of pom-poms and loose basketballs were rolling around everywhere.
The story got splattered all over the local papers: “Depraved Instructor Defiles Cheerleader.” Of course, once the school board promptly fired the pervert, he got a trial and was sentenced to do a bunch of years in prison where I hear he made a lot of “special” friends. As for Arnie’s (future) mom, she got the grounding to end all groundings, a (secret) abortion and weekly appointments with a shrink.
When Mister Pervy-Pants finally got out of prison, his wife had already filed for divorce and didn’t want him back in the house or anywhere near their children. Of course nobody in town would hire him after all this fuss, so he lived on welfare in some fleabag motel, drinking hard liquor and watching pirated cable TV all day long.
After a while, the jailbait-lover started calling his favourite cheerleader at home. Of course her folks wouldn’t let the slob speak to their poor, traumatized princess. That pissed him off big time, so he called again and again. He called so often that they had to get a restraining order and change their phone number. He was so pissed-off that he began stalking her after school. She complained to the police, so they got undercover cops following her at a distance. Soon after, the perv tried to approach her as she came out of one of her psych appointments. When he saw the cops running towards him, he pulled a gun out of his coat and shot her in the arm. The police immediately pumped the bastard full of lead. He got hit four times in the back and died in a pool of blood, cursing her to the very end, calling her a slut and so on.
The papers happily ran stories about that for weeks and weeks. They interviewed anybody that had anything to do with it and then some. They tried to pass tougher laws, but they couldn’t agree on which legislation they needed to toughen. Eventually things got back to normal, like they always do, but even now people still talk about it. All the new kids at school eventually get to hear about the chick that got laid by her teacher and how he got killed for it. It’s what you’d call school lore. Of course everybody knows it was Arnie’s mom and more than a few suspect he might be a product of that sordid liaison...
So anyway, Arnie’s the spawn of a World Famous Super-Slut and we never let him forget it. We’d ask him if he’d like to fuck the foxy biology teacher, or even blow the smelly old football coach, to keep the family tradition going. He would get so embarrassed about it, his face would turn blood red and he’d stutter like a maniac.
Sometimes he’d argue with us about stupid things. Like how he can’t be the son of the dead teacher since that happened five years before he was born. Poor chump, he never understood that arguing was pointless. We didn’t care about the truth. We only cared about making his life suck. What else was there to do in this lousy town?
Being his best friends, we would often hang out at his place. His parents always seemed to be either working or going to church-like activities. It meant that most of the time the whole house was ours to loot and plunder at will.
We’d usually start out by locking Arnie out of his house and helping ourselves to the beer in the fridge. Then we’d play some pool downstairs and have fun looking at Arnie knocking on the basement windows, trying desperately to convince us to let him in and stop making a mess of his house.
His dad was a home entertainment freak. One of the house’s many rooms was used exclusively as a hub for his leisure activities. He had this huge TV with speakers reaching all the way to the ceiling. Arnie told us once that he wasn’t even allowed in this room at all and had to watch TV in the living room instead.
His dad’s movie collection had hundreds of titles. There was a whole lot of religious crap, fishing shows that he taped from TV and a bunch of boring black and white stuff we never touched. He did have a whole row of cool war movies that we got to enjoy.
One day we stumbled on a secret stash of hard-core porn tapes that were camouflaged as dentist training videos. That man had weird taste, believe me! So from then on we’d watch his dad’s sex tapes all the time while making Arnie wait outside, rain or shine, sitting awkwardly on a rusty old swing set much too small for him. To enhance our viewing pleasure, we’d pass around one of his dad’s fat, smelly cigars and sample his fine booze that we found hidden in a cabinet behind a bunch of accounting books. After a while we’d let Arnie inside and laugh as he scrambled all over the place, trying to erase the many, messy traces of our visit. He’d put all the furniture back in its proper place, top up his dad’s liquor bottles with water, reset the pool table and pick up all the cigarette butts we had left in the many sinks and flower pots around the house. He’d even rewind all the movies we had watched and left lying around on the carpet as his dad was very anal about this. Arnie suspected that his dad made sure all his movies were rewound to see if anybody watched them while he wasn’t at home, so, of course, before Arnie came in, we’d put the porn movies back, not rewound and into the wrong cases...
Of course, our messes were so extensive that his dad was bound to notice. Since openly accusing Arnie would expose his own dirty little secrets, he would simply punish Arnie for little or no good reason, like not cleaning the tires when he washed the car or for not articulating properly when saying grace at the table. Arnie didn’t understand why his dad was such a hard-ass and it was fun to see him so sad about it all the time.
Arnie wasn’t just a world-class loser; he was also a sick motherfucker - literally. One day, after we had locked him up in an upstairs closet, we proceeded to rampage through his personal effects. First, we walked all over his carefully made bed with our boots. Then we messed with his schoolbooks, you know, tearing off pages, drawing pictures of dicks and cunts on his report cards, and so on. But you’ll never believe this: hidden within a beaten-up three ring binder, we found a used pair of women’s panties. They were crusty and stank of cum. There were even streaks of shit, proving that it was either fished from a pile of dirty laundry or had previously been worn by the prince of pervs himself, our good ol’ Arnie.
This was way too much for us to handle. At first no one wanted to touch the thing but then I had an idea. Using a big red marker, I wrote “I love you mother” on the panties, imitating his child-like writing style from his school papers. We ran upstairs to his parents’ bedroom and found his mom’s underwear drawer. There, we found other panties of the same brand, proving the origin of the defiled garment. Maybe our joke wasn’t so far off after all! We hid the soiled panty in the drawer, but not too well so it could easily be found. Proud of our accomplishment, we proceeded to the kitchen to reward ourselves with more beer before we finally let Arnie in for his cleanup.
A few days later, Arnie told us that he couldn’t see us as often as before because his parents had decided to put him in therapy with their parish’s minister. He didn’t really know why. He said that when he asked, they told him he was a hypocrite and a sick, dirty boy. We laughed all through biology class. When the teacher asked us what was so funny, we told her it was Arnie’s fault and we all got a suspension, Arnie included. Because of this he missed his first therapy session and had to get his parents to sign a paper saying he was disruptive in class. The fun just never ended.
Arnie was right. We hardly saw him after school anymore. He wouldn’t even let us go into his house, so we had to threaten to break the window with a brick. But he wasn’t as much fun as before. I’m not sure why. His parents even had his hair shaved real short and made him wear suits from his father’s freshman years that were one or two sizes too big for him. He looked like a geeky convict on parole. Maybe they thought this would help him be more serious and quit being such a fucked-up goof.
We’d ask him about his therapy but he wouldn’t tell us anything about it. One day, we ganged up on him and tried to make him admit that he was having sex with that priest. We pushed him on the floor and told him he wouldn’t be getting up before he admitted to everything. He cried like a baby and didn’t say a thing. He cried so much that snot flowed from his nose to the pavement in one long booger. It was pretty gross. The weirdest thing is that without his old fucked-up hair, seeing him cry wasn’t as much fun as usual.
After that, we kinda left him alone in his own private hell. But since we weren’t speaking to him anymore, nobody else was. Eventually, his hair grew back and he stopped coming to school late, so his marks actually improved slightly.
Eventually graduation came and that was the last I saw of him until just before the end of summer. Out of the blue, he phoned me at home and asked if I could come to his place right away. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. He said his parents wouldn’t be home until tomorrow and there was lots of beer left in the fridge. I thought what the heck and went.
I arrived at his place and knocked. When he answered the door, he looked like shit. He was wearing a worn-out, butt-ugly gray and red bathrobe, which likely once belonged to his dad. His face was pockmarked with even more zits than usual and his lips were caked, white and blistered. He looked like those explorers who came back from climbing the Everest or something. He kinda smiled and said he was surprised I had actually knocked. I didn’t know what to answer so I said he looked like shit. He stopped smiling and asked me to come in, so I did. I don’t really know why - his breath alone was reason enough not to enter.
It felt awkward to be at his place by myself. It just wasn’t the same when the guys weren’t there. When I asked what the hell he wanted, he handed me a beer from the fridge and said he had an experiment to show me. The beer felt weird in my hand. he noticed my hesitation and snatched the beer from my hands, cracking-it open in one swift motion, then handing it back. “Drink,” he said climbing up the stairs. “Drink and follow me.”
I looked at the door, wondering if I should leave. Then I said to myself, what am-I scared for? I mean, fuck, this is Arnie for Christ’s sake! What the hell can he do? Whine me to death? Shit! I took another sip and followed him up.
He was waiting for me in front of the bathroom. I hesitated as he invited me to go in and he asked if I was scared. I said hell no! I just didn’t need to go to the goddamn bathroom. He said that I really have to come in because that’s where the experiment is. An experiment? What the fuck is he talking about? I had to look inside.
Of course, I had seen that bathroom before. I had even puked in it a couple of times. It was a pink room that smelled of perfumed disinfectant and had stupid cute pictures of birds and shit hung all over the walls. Everything was always obsessively neat and in order. It was the kind of bathroom where you’re expected to feel bad using the sink because you’ll get water all over it. So it was always great fun messing things up, pissing on the walls and watching Arnie clean it all up in a hurry.
This time, Arnie had made a mess of his own. He had managed to get the living room TV inside the bathroom using an extension cord plugged in the hallway. A wire was sticking out of the back of the TV but I couldn’t see where it went from where I was standing. This was so fucking loopy I just had to go in to see more. In fact, the wire reached all the way to the bath and was tied to this big metal crucifix at the bottom of the water.
“What the fuck is this?” I asked.
“This is a redemption machine,” Arnie answered behind me. I turned around and saw his bathrobe, now lying at his feet on the carpeted floor. The crazy fuck was now completely naked! I could see his bony chest, his fuzzy belly, his sprouting belly button and, ugh, his stupid, ugly, tiny, tiny dick! I was so startled I almost dropped my beer on the pink carpet.
“What the fuck are you doing, man!” I yelled in disgust. “Get the fuck away from me, you freaking fag!”
I tried to leave, but he stepped in front of me to block my exit, which totally freaked me out. He pushed me back in until I hit the toilet bowl and stumbled down on it. So I just sat there, my beer in my hand, too shocked to react.
He ranted that the world is full of sin and that television feeds on it and uses it to corrupt our minds. He knew that it probably sounded crazy, but he tried to convince me that if I really thought about it, it all made sense. He said that he found a way to cleanse the world of sin, or at least as much sin as he could. He said that when he turns on his TV, this “redemption machine,” the wires and the crucifixes will channel all the sin right into the bath. He stepped into the tepid water and, still standing, he said that what he will now do is absorb these sins into his body to help redeem the world.
The guy was so nuts, he was in a whole different food group. I tried to tell him off but then I saw his ugly dick again and had to look away. I couldn’t believe he was really about to do what he had said. Jesus fucking Christ, this priest therapy was messing up his mind, big time. I didn’t know what to say. The weirdest thing is that, all the while, I was thinking about how I would tell the guys about this. This shit is so far out that they won’t believe any of it!
But what the fuck does he need me for, anyway, I ask, all the while trying not to look too directly at him. He didn’t answer right away but took this really deep breath, let it all out slowly and said “I need you to turn it on.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I answered.
He said that he wanted me to... no, that I HAD to turn on the TV so his machine could work. I told him that he had fucking flipped and that there was no way I was gonna do this! Did he understand what this means? What will happen if I do this? And why me? Couldn’t he just use the goddamn remote?
He yelled that I didn’t have to do it if I was a chicken. What he was asking shouldn’t be too much for me. Turning on a TV is all I can do right anyway, isn’t it? He said if I was friend enough to fuck up his life I should be friend enough to finish the job. And then the pathetic fuck cried like a baby.
“Screw this!” I yelled. “I don’t need this fucking shit!” This asshole has no fucking life and I should be to blame? This fucking stupid dipshit has the fucking nerve to ask me to turn on his fucking stupid TV for him? “You can fucking shove this fucking beer up your fucking ass and drink it!” I screamed as I threw my beer, hitting him square in the chest. He let out a scream of pain, clamped his hands over his bruised thorax and slowly sat down in the bath, sobbing.
He was crying so hard that he wasn’t making any sound, just the occasional gasp. His mouth was wide open and drool, tears and snot mingled and dripped off his chin. The can of beer was bobbing up and down up between his skinny legs, slowly emptying itself over the drowned crucifix like some sacrilegious holy water bath-time piss.
“You never loved me!” he raged, his eyes red with tears. “You stupid fuck,” I yelled, “of course I never loved you, you fucking jerk! Why do you think I’ve always been on your case? Why do you think I’ve made you starve, made you cry, made you stay outside? I don’t love you – I HATE you! I hate your fucking dipshit loser face! You make me sick, you fucking freak!”
He looked down into the yellow water and mumbled between two sobs. “I thought I was special. I thought you liked being with me.”
“Special?” I screamed, “I hate your guts! You’re such a fucking pathetic loser that I can’t stand looking at you! You think you’re so special? You really think you’re so fucking special? Here’s how fucking special I think you are!”
That’s when I turned on the TV.
I can’t tell you what happened then because my eyes were closed. I know I should have switched the TV off right away, but my hands were busy covering my ears so I wouldn’t hear Arnie thrashing in the water. I guess I’ll never know how somebody looks like while he’s redeeming the world.
It’s a funny thing, this point of no return. Sometimes, the little things you do can become this huge big deal, and there’s nothing you can do to fix them. You start off doing really nasty stuff to somebody for years and the next thing you know, you’re switching on some deranged lunatic’s suicide machine. And all this for what? Free beer, smokes, Kentucky Fried nuts, and a busted Toshiba. You may wish everything could somehow be back to normal or that the level would start over like in a video game. Then, you could do it a different way - or - go home and forget about it.
What can I say? Feeling bad wouldn’t bring Arnie back and, well, he did ask for it. I looked at the poor bastard as I tried to figure out what to do. His body was all slack and contorted now, lying face-down in the water. I did check for bubbles but there was nothing coming out of his clenched jaw. Well, that was enough redemption for one day, so I stepped out of the bathroom, taking care not to touch the TV or the wire that was crossing over to the bath.
Man I needed to pee, but I sure didn’t want to go in front of Arnie!