Smitty is a character from my story, “The Summer of the Homerun,” (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/299057).
I’m using his story as the centerpiece of another work so far called “Three Rivers.”
For reference, there is another sample available on this site at http://wp.me/p1mc2c-aa.
We’ll see where it goes.
Dan and me always talked about girls. Their hair and faces, how they giggled when they stood together. Their voices, how they walked. The ugly girls. The ones who thought they were better than us, stuck-ups. The girls we wanted to ask out, but never dared. The girls we liked as friends.
He seemed way ahead of me as far as girls went. I think he even did “it” or at least he talked like he did, always throwing in the words snatch and boobies into the conversation, saying how soft her skin was, whoever “she” was.
Me, I was like most of the kids I knew who didn’t want to be within three miles of “it.” I didn’t like the word snatch. It was a violent, nasty sound. It was like a lot of words we used as boys when we were together just to make it seem like we had more experience in that area than we did. Which for most of us was none at all. They were words that covered our shyness, the awkwardness. They were outsider words, things we said among ourselves, declarations of our independence from the rest of the polite and settled world.
But Dan used the words differently. They kind of melted off his lips like he had just tasted a new exotic flavor. Then he’d raise his eyebrows once or twice and smile slyly.
This conversation usually took place when we were at the gravel pit campground we had kind of carved out of the woods. After that first campfire with me hanging off the tree branch forty feet in the air, we decided it would be safer for all concerned of we had some tools. So after some poking around in my garage and in the dark, musty cellar at Dan’s house, we acquired an axe, a large knife and found some old boards that we lugged up to the gravel pit. And with some large rocks, a few big branches and the boards, we built a lean-to shelter. It wasn’t closed in, and wasn’t even rain proof as we found out during one hellacious thunderstorm, but it was a place, a thing that we could claim as our own. We even scratched our names in the backside: Dan and Smitty. It said we were here. That we lived.
The other thing we found in the cellar of Dan’s house was an old pistol and three bullets. They were in a small, wooden box wrapped in a dirty red cloth. The box was under a pile of lumber and boxes in the darkest corner.
“Hey, Smitty, look at this,” Dan called out.
I looked up to see him pointing the pistol at the opposite wall. He spun the cylinder and pulled the trigger. The firing pin closed with a soft clank. Then Dan rolled the pistol around his index finger a time or two and stopped the spinning by grabbing the handle firmly and then with his left hand he fanned the firing pin and pulled the trigger like they did in cowboy movies. The first two times were successful and in sync, but by the fourth time, the rhythm was off and he pulled the trigger just as his hand fanned the firing pin and it slammed shut on his little finger with enough force to break the skin.
“Damn it,” Dan cried out. “Crap, I’m bleeding.”
I looked for a towel or something and found an old rag, which I tossed to Dan.
“What’s that doing here?” I asked.
Dan wrapped the dirty cloth around his finger and pressed the cut for a moment. Then he unwrapped his finger, dabbed at the wound a couple of times and tossed the cloth on the bench. Then he pointed the pistol at the far wall, closed one eye and used the sight to zero in on a target. Then he pulled the trigger. “Pow.”
He had a look on his face, a slight smile and a darkness around his eyes, like a need had been met, a hunger filled.
“I don’t know,” Dan said, very pleased with his discovery, which he replaced in the box and tucked deep underneath the bench. “Not a word,” he said.
I met Katina sometime after the thing with Dan happened.
Everyone knew about it, and would stare at me with either suspicion or pity.
It was a confusing, horrible thing and I didn’t want to talk about it.
I had a paper route that had me delivering the afternoon Herald to homes along one of Three Rivers’ swanky streets. Years ago the large, turreted homes had been built by the town’s industrial elite. They had long driveways, old carriage houses that had been turned into modern garages and some had sets of poles at the street corner that once held gates. Over time the homes had become owned by doctors, lawyers or bankers. There never were toys or bikes in the front yards, and I never delivered the paper to the front porch, only the side door that led to a dark, narrow set of stairs that had a big door at the top before it opened on the kitchen.
When I collected once a week, they’d let me stand in the dark unlighted hallway while they retrieved the dollar for a week’s worth of papers; some places tipped me a dime.
Katina lived with her grandparents, stern old Germans, Gustav and Margaret Swartz. Gustav Swartz was an engineer and worked for a local company that had factories around the country, so he traveled a lot. Her grandmother was a part-time nurse at the local hospital.
Katina said they had escaped Germany before the war, and I guessed that accounted for their suspicious, protective nature. Her grandmother would say , “Wait here,” while she retrieved her payment; sometimes Katina would lean on the upper door and say, “Hi,” while I waited. “Back to practice,” her grandmother would say when she returned to the door, and Katina would roll her eyes and slide away and I would climb the three stairs to take the dollar and change from the outstretched hand of Margaret Swartz..
“Thank you, Mrs. Swartz,” I’d say.
“Yes,” she would reply. Later, after we got to know one another better, I asked Katina why she lived with her grandparents, and she just shook her head as a sadness came over her eyes.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but it was late in the spring, I guess. I went to Katina’s house to collect and instead of her grandmother, Katina opened the door.
“I’m here to collect for the paper.”
“Oh, yes. Grandmother left an envelope.”
The door shut and I was left standing in the driveway along the side of the house while Katina retrieved the envelope. She opened the outer door and leaned shyly on the frame.
“Thank you for delivering the paper. My grandparents really enjoy reading it,” she said.
I laughed at looked at the ground. “Sure. Thanks. I appreciate their tip. It’s one of the bigger ones I get.”
There was a silence.
“You don’t go to our school,” I said.
She smiled briefly. “No, I go to a private academy for musicians. I’m training as a pianist. “
“Wow,” I said, just cause it slipped out. I mean, Wow.
“My grandfather is working out of a state for a few weeks on a new plant, and grandmother has assumed the administration of nurses at the hospital,” she said, by way of answering the unasked question. “I’m sort of on my own.” She laughed. “But not really, Grandmama checks my schedule every day to ensure I am putting in my practice time.”
There was another silence.
“It’s James, right?” she asked.
“Smitty.” I laughed. “Yes, James Smith. But no one calls me James or Jim or Jimmy. It’s just Smitty.”
“May I call you James?”
She smiled softly.
Wham! I didn’t know what hit me.
“Sure.” I stood unsure that to do. I knew what I wanted to do, but I also knew that I wanted to be able to continue to deliver the afternoon Herald to her house.
“Thanks, again,” I said and shook the payment envelope. I’ve got more collections to make.”
“Of course. When you deliver the paper on Monday, please knock.”
I was backing away, then walking sideways, and I nodded my head. “I will.” I didn’t want to stop looking at her. She slowly closed the door.
Out front, on the sidewalk, I saw her standing in one of the tall windows in the front room, her dark figure blurred by the white, lace drape.
She was tall and dark. Her deep brown eyes were framed by even darker brown hair that draped around her shoulders. Her skin was like porcelain, so white as if it it had never been touched by sunlight.
She wanted to call me “James.”
And she wanted me to knock on the door when I delivered the paper on Monday.
So began what would be the most incredible summer of my short, up to then, meaningless life.