He cocked back his arm, making us now mere milliseconds away from Bennett’s demise. Fortunately for us, right then Mr. cole seemed to sense the fear in both of us and perhaps got a little too cocky. In a moment of spontaneity, he decided to say something vengeful and horrifying to preface the blow—something those super badass moth- erfuckers do in shitty, low-budget action movies before they blow up a building and walk away all slowly, unaffected by it.
Unfortunately for him, his brain was so overwhelmed by anger and frustration, that when it was time to hit us with his deadly catchphrase—he malfunctioned worse than before. Ramping up his emotional radiator to such egregious levels, the stutter shut his entire body down.
He began rapidly making weird noises, and instead of proclaim- ing something undeniably macho, he just stood there gurgling horrifically.
“F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-faaaahhhhh . . . !” he burped. I stared back down at Franklins’s balls, clenching my teeth, holding my laughter in for dear life. Mr. cole’s lower jaw zigzagged away from his upper jaw. his eyes rolled into the back of his head. “Flaaahhhhhhh.”
Every second was an eternity in which I might fall to the ground, laughing my ass off. he was just convulsing, making gut- tural noises, his entire body in stutter-induced paralysis, unable to be moved by his brain.
Bennett and I took the opportunity to step back out of harm’s way, relying on the waist-high chain-link fence for protection in case he regained control of his body and lunged.
The stutter only got worse. the vague letter F sounds gave way to a strange whistle. horrendous, cacophonic squeaks and hums filled our yards. his eyes crossed; he was foaming at the mouth; his jaw stuck open. I could see an amalgam cavity filling in the back of his mouth.
“Vvvvvvhhhhhhhhhnnnnnn,” he . . . uh . . . said? Moaned? I don’t know how to describe it.
Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. Don’t laugh. I tried to think of atrocious things to erase any frivolity. I started thinking of hitler. I started thinking of Mao. I started thinking of hitler and Mao, in bikinis, on the beach, frolicking and skipping, while holding hands.
Wait, shit, that’s going to make me laugh.
Okay, back to Franklins’s balls. Nothing funny about Franklins’s balls.
Meanwhile, Bennett had little regard for the fact that we were minutes away from being bludgeoned to death by a bowling pin. Nonchalantly, with a smirk on his face, he looked at Mr. cole and, with genuine curiosity, little respect, and zero fear, asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you, homie? You choking on something?”
Flabbergasted by Bennett’s irreverence, a calm, killer instinct came over my neighbor. he stopped making noises. his eyes opened to the size of oysters, and he stared directly at both of us. One eye on Bennett, one eye on me.
“Fuck. You.” he finally got out in two clean, decisive stabs.
Which was oddly satisfying for me, maybe satisfying for Ben- nett, and definitely satisfying for Mr. Cole.
“Fuck you, you racist kid.” But his tone had changed. his voice cracked and became a little more nasally. there was disappoint- ment and confusion in his larynx. his swagger was less predatory, and it seemed like his feelings were genuinely hurt by something.
What had Bennett done?
“Okay, hang on a second.” I interjected, “Mr. cole, wha—”
But before I could ask him what the problem was, he turned around and stomped back toward his house, Franklins in tow. I stood there silently, giving him time to walk back into his house, before turning to Bennett.
“What the fuck was that about?” I asked Bennett, half-whisper- ing. “Seriously! Dude? What the fuck did you do?!”
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼“I don’t know! Fuck! that dude is a dick, mane!” Bennett pleaded.
Now, my cousin had a way of saying things that most people are uninitiated to. he spoke with a pure, midwestern ghetto twang. Words like man came out “mane.” Words like dude became “doo.” and words like reciprocity weren’t pronounced at all. People like Bennett don’t know what reciprocity means.
“how he gonna get mad at people jus’ like him?” he said.
I turned around and walked to my back patio, reservation and anger battling inside me. I was sealing my mouth and holding in any hostile accusations until I knew the whole story. I had been borderline verbally abusive to Bennett and his family for the past few weeks and wanted to exhibit patience and tolerance.
But, Jesus, my house was a fucking mess, I thought as I walked inside. excessive partying, psychotic damsels on designer drugs, and my white-trash family tree branch had performed a coup d’état on my once very clean and organized home. In order for me to even sit down in my favorite chair at my kitchen table, I had to scoop a basketball, a magazine covered with crumbs of marijuana and cigar guts, and an empty bottle of actavis promethazine cough syrup with codeine (an oddly popular drink among the gangsta community).
I plugged my phone into the wall closest to the table to let it charge.
“Uh, why did Mr. cole just try to kill us, Bennett?” I asked my cousin, only to realize he hadn’t followed me into the kitchen. I could hear him rapping to himself in a distant room.
after a few minutes of quietly decompressing, my phone turned on. I had missed several texts but quickly skipped all of them as they popped up, to locate my conversation with Bennett from earlier.
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