Eight.

Little Mad Mann

The contest was all they talked about for days. The stories grew so big that I became a full-fledged gangster madman shooting up houses just for kicks. They started calling me “Little Mad Mann,” everyone but Jeff, who didn’t talk to me at all. He was pissed that he looked bad in every version. All the stories had him either diving to the ground like a scared bitch, or marked as the intended target. Of course it was drunken bullshit but that’s when reputations were made…and destroyed. And a muddle-headed junky with a sketchy reputation didn’t need any bad publicity. Good reputations got you respect. And they got you laid. And Jeff needed all the help he could get with that.

The more he stewed over the shotgun incident, the more convinced he became I tried to kill him. It was paranoia of course, but probably not fully unfounded. Killing a person got you respect. Everyone knew that. If you were crazy enough to kill someone, then you were Crazy. And being Crazy was what it was all about. No one fucks with Crazy. And Jeff thought I was Crazy. He just didn’t know how crazy. So he never trusted me again. He was cool about it, but he kept an eye on me. I’m not joking. Every time I looked at him he was watching me. It was creepy, but it was cool: a grown man scared of an eight year old, even if he was just a paranoid junky.

On my tenth birthday, Duke asked Celeste to show me her tits. In a flash she lifted her shirt and said “Happy Birthday.”  She was sitting on Duke’s lap on his sofa and they were getting high. I was kneeling on the floor in front of them. I was staring at Celeste because she was the prettiest woman I ever saw. She had long red hair and freckles, and when she smiled the corners of her eyes crinkled and her green eyes sparkled. And she had thick red lips.

When I told Duke she was pretty, he said, “Oh yeah,” and lifted her shirt again, “what do you think of her now?” He reached around, cupped her breasts, and made them jiggle. When I looked at Celeste she was smiling at me. I couldn’t speak. I just sat there looking from her chest to her eyes to her mouth and back again.

“Come here,” she said. I moved closer, almost touching her knees. She took a huge hit from the joint and held it in her lungs, then leaned toward me. I thought she was going to kiss me. I wanted her to kiss me. Oh God, I wanted her to kiss me. I could taste her mouth getting close to mine. She kept smiling while slowly leaning forward. When she got an inch away I went into puberty. I felt a shudder in my balls. It traveled up my spine and burst out the top of my head. It was a feeling I would seek the rest of my life. And I think Celeste noticed, because a big smile lit her face, and her eyes started sparkling. She cupped my head in her hands and gently blew her sweet pot-filled breath into my eager mouth.

For a moment we were joined by the smoke, locked in a union of giving and receiving. When she finished, she sat up straight on Duke’s lap and they both looked at me and smiled. “That…, Little Mann,” he said, “is called a shotgun.” I exhaled what was left of the smoke, turned and sat on the floor, and melted against the sofa beside them. Suddenly, I could hear Led Zeppelin in the background. Celeste stroked my hair while she and Duke kept smoking weed. I stared at the ceiling and watched the clouds float overhead.