Jimmy wanted to forget but all he could do was remember.
He felt like a shuffling deck, his heart was flipping, his vision blurred, playing all kinds of Matrixy tricks on him. Freezing. Speeding up. His skin was a swarm of bees, buzzing, lips tingled.
“This is some good shit,” he told Gilbert.
Gilbert had supplied the meth. Jimmy called, told him he wanted to forget his name tonight, forget about getting fired, getting dumped. “I know what you need,” Gilbert said. He always did.
Every inch of him hummed. Fingers swollen, close to bursting. His breathing was ragged.
Gilbert was doing handstands against the wall. Jimmy’d seen him do that for hours when he was high. He did a lot of weird things. Once, he put out a lit cigarette on a man’s eyeball.
Jimmy’s body sat on the floor in his shabby apartment, on the awful orange carpet, but his mind was far away, flashing back.
Sophomore year. Mr. Thornton’s biology class. The exact moment his life turned to excrement. It came swinging back, punched him like a fist in the jaw.
Biology baffled Jimmy, all those systems, skeletal system, digestive system, nervous system. So much to remember. Too much. He needed to ace that final exam. Ten of them had been in on it. The answers, bought from a kid who took the test in second period, scribbled on an index card which slowly made its way to Jimmy.
The other kids were so obvious about it, Thornton had to know, had to. He was just waiting, until Jimmy had the card.
The joy in Mr. Thornton’s eyes when he asked, “What you got there?”
No one else got caught, just Jimmy. He’d been fucked ever since.
An ‘F’ on his report card. An ‘F!’ A scarlet fucking letter. Summer school. That’s where he’d met Gilbert. Sensing Jimmy’s rage and humiliation, Gilbert had known just the thing. Weed. Ounce after ounce. Gilbert supplied most of the school with drugs. Nothing heavy. Marijuana, speed, a little coke on occasion, mushrooms, ecstasy, acid.
It made Jimmy’s life much easier to bare, to ignore. He just stopped caring.
That was it, he thought. One mistake had completely screwed up the trajectory of his life.
After that summer, everything slipped. Grades, friends, family. Seemed like he spent the rest of high school cruising around town in Gilbert’s big ass Pontiac. Like he was watching his life from the passenger seat.
He recalled Mr. Thornton’s smug expression whenever he saw Jimmy in the hallways, like the goddamned cat that ate the canary. Like Jimmy was right where he wanted him.
The meth was like venom pulsing through his body, turning his thoughts violent, murderous
Gilbert was still upside down, his arms vibrated.
“What? Fuck!” He fell.
“You remember Mr. Thornton?”
“That asshole? Sure, he lives on my parents’ road.”
“Yeah. Him and his hot wife.”
Mrs. Thornton. That’s right. How that toad of a man ever landed her… But ain’t that the way of the world? Jimmy mused.
“’Cause we’re gonna pay that fucker a visit.”
On the ride over, it rained dopamine in Jimmy’s head. The road changed without warning, turns appeared out of nowhere, then morphed into straightaways. He didn’t know how Gilbert kept his car on the pavement. He seemed to enjoy the rush, oohed and aahed and laughed like a child on a rollercoaster. Jimmy covered his eyes but the darkness there was filled with boogeymen. He hung onto the nylon strap above the door as though an abyss had opened beneath them.
They parked a few houses down from Mr. Thornton’s. Jimmy gasped, his limbs were possessed by tremors. Above them the sky exploded with Van Gogh stars.
A white house, white picket fence, well tended, nondescript in the middle of the sleeping street.
There was one light on.
Where had this baseball bat come from?
Jimmy squeezed it, pictured Mr. Thornton’s face, the crack of wood and bone.
They sneaked. Tiptoed. Shh. They crept. Gilbert gently, expertly popped the back door lock. They went slow down the hall. Drawn, like moths, toward the light.
Inside, there was something sad about the house, dark and lonely, like bad things had occurred there, and still echoed in the air. Like the house had witnessed things it would rather not have seen.
Butterflies, a riot of them, in Jimmy’s gut.
At first, it sounded to his tweaking ears like laughter, but no, it was sobbing. Sobbing and moaning like fingers squeezing his insides.
Jimmy’s wits were long gone, along with his buzz. Felt like he was on a ship in a stormy sea. The banshee wails continued to crash like waves on the bow.
They stumbled towards the only light. In the kitchen, at a table, a figure sat with their head down, motionless. A splash of blonde hair. A woman.
“Mrs. Thornton?” Jimmy whispered just as the sobbing stopped.
The cries turned into stuttering, rasping gasps.
What the hell did they just walk in on?
“Is someone down there, dear?”
Mrs. Thornton slowly lifted her head. They both looked away. She looked like something out of a horror movie. Bruised, scabbed, undead.
Footsteps above them found a staircase. “Some unexpected guests? How nice.” His voice was Mr. Rogers cheerful.
“Boys,” her voice was a whisper of a whisper, like she was summoning her last strength. The sound of chains made Jimmy turn, see that she was bound to the chair with thick chains, “Get out of here.”
Gilbert had vanished. Was that the sound of his car driving away already?
Jimmy wanted to run, wanted to free Mrs. Thornton, wanted to kill Mr. Thornton, a bottleneck of emotions paralyzed him, as Mr. Thornton shuffled closer and closer.
The abyss was here. They’d broken in.