There were three of them, at first.
They called themselves Communists, but then again, they weren’t communists. They were three white suburban guys from
Wilmette, Illinois trying to stand out, trying to be different at a pretentious public high school that boasted to have graduated scientists and literature greats.
These three guys would become neither, but the summer before their junior year, as they sat together
in a booth at the local diner, sipping cold coffee from porcelain cups, they hatched their plan to become communists.
“We are going to slaughter the white suburban trash,”
Todd informed his cohorts.
“Lower your fucking voice,” Glen snapped, taking quick sips from his coffee.
Only one of them was rich, Charles.
He came from a wealthy white family that traveled to Europe every summer, and had two black Mercedes Benzes parked in a two-car
garage next to a manicured lawn.
Charles started to carry around in his leather briefcase, the works of Karl Marx, and a bent-up, used
copy of Walden that he’d purchased at the local thrift store for twenty-five
cents each. Neither of the books had been cracked open to be read by him. He never read books, only comic books. But he liked
to carry these bits of manifesto for show, hoping it would get him some “trim.” All he thought about was getting
laid. He was not the leader of the group.
“Dude, I so want to do that blonde
chick in my Biology class,” Charles said, lowering his voice as he looks around the diner.
“In your fucking dreams, douchebag.” Todd laughed and looked over at Glen for affirmation.
Glen ignored both of them. He scribbled in his notebook a picture of Charles mounting the chick from
their Biology class from behind. He drew Charles with horns, and a horse-like dick.
He showed the picture to Charles. “Here you go, picture this in your dreams, asshole.”
Todd started to crack up, and side-punched Charles, who was not amused. “Fuck you, Glen,”
he said, without looking Glen in the eye.
and Glen were not dirt poor, but poor enough to know they didn’t belong in the affluent suburb on the North shore of
Chicago. Poor enough that they needed a scheme to rebel against the stuck up, self- centered pricks they attended high school
with. The preps, the jocks, and the others, who scoffed at them, or looked down at them as they walked the halls of their
great high school that boasted geniuses, but only if the geniuses came from money.
The plan of becoming communists was
clearly the defining moment in their relationship with each other and to all the other students in their high school. Charles
did not know what it meant to really be a communist, but he went along with it, anyway.
At the diner, the three of them and Glen’s girlfriend, who would in a couple of days become his
ex-girlfriend, whispered back and forth about a plot.
The girlfriend grew bored with the whole scene, and got up to leave.
the hell are you going?” Glen said and grabbed her arm.
guys are weirdos, talking about orbs, and talking forks.” She pulled away from Glen.
“Whatever. You will see soon, all of you!”
Glen turned away from her.
They sat in silence, Glen trying to
regain his composure after his girlfriend had just walked out on him. It looked bad in front of Todd and Charles, but Glen
believed that if he didn’t make it a big deal, then it wasn’t. It was better to say nothing, ignore the facts,
and pretend that nothing really happened.
“Your chick is psycho!” Todd told Glen.
“Fuck you, dude.” Glen slapped Todd across the head.
The three of them sat, blowing spit
balls at each other. Then Todd, the most obnoxious of the group, stood up in the vinyl booth and yelled, “Just be careful
of what you say! I think this fork has a listening device.”
The pudgy, middle-aged blonde waitress asked them to leave. As they rushed out of the diner, they shouted
in unison, “Communists are everywhere!”
One old man grumbled that the youth of today were idiots. His wife, a housewife all her life, sat there
nodding along with his discourse about today’s youth and their funny spiked hair. He
used to make the same grumbles about their own children and their long hair, she thought, but keeps her thoughts to herself,
as she had for the last thirty-two years.
the degenerates raced down the tree-lined streets in Glen’s beat- up Impala, Todd informed Glen, “Now we all have
to become communists. If we don’t, we’ll be slaughtered with the rest of the non-communists when the USSR finally
invades the USA, and the only way to be saved is to join the party.”
“Listen, douchebag,” Glen said. “It’s
not about anything political, we just have to pretend it’s political. We
don’t really believe in this shit.”
Todd feeling rejected, didn’t
say anything. He sat in silence, wondering what Glen was thinking.
Charles said nothing as he sat in the backseat, watching Glen drive; how his white hands grabbed at
the black steering wheel. How Glen’s shaggy unwashed hair fell right below his eyebrows, and every once in awhile he
had to brush it aside.
Charles was pissed at Glen for drawing the picture of him with horns. He really disliked Glen, but
still he never questioned Glen. He had no real opinion of Todd. He thought he was dull, and brainless, but again, since Charles
had no other friends, these two were better than having none.
Soon, everyone at their high school
knew they were communists.
Todd and Glen accumulated various pins and buttons proclaiming
the virtues and support of the communist party. Charles sported his manifesto, and declared that he was the group’s
But, actually, Glen, the quiet one; the one who scribbled in his notebook obscene comics of Charles
fucking his pretend girlfriend, was the leader. Glen wore the Green Beret and the old army jacket with a sewn tapestry of
Karl Marx on the back of it. When people asked who it was, he either said Jerry Garcia or Walt Whitman, depending on how gullible
the person was. Glen had more communist pins on his jacket and Green Beret. He
pissed off Charles the most with his self-righteous swagger and his ballast disdain for the rich.
Charles mumbled his complaints to Todd
whenever Glen wasn’t around, which was rare since Todd and Glen were always together. Charles took liberties to mouth
off to Todd about Glen.
“He thinks he is so goddamn above
everyone, walking around as if he owns the damn school,” Charles said. “But in reality, he is so hated. Even the
punks want to take him out!”
“That is so fucking cool, don’t
you think?” Todd was checking out some chick who wore tight-fitting, faded jeans and a Polo shirt. Todd imagined fucking
her from behind.
“What do you mean, cool, what’s so cool about it?”
be hated so much that someone wants to fucking kill you.”
Todd, on the other hand, perceived
everyone at his new high school as being very stuck-up and unreceptive. He was 6’6,” a gangly adolescent who didn’t
fit in easily because he didn’t do sports and he wasn’t very smart. He developed a negative attitude due to insecurities
about his manhood. At sixteen, he was still a virgin. This bugged him. He masturbated
three, sometimes four times a day. At first he thought he was abnormal, but in reality, he was a normal teenage boy because
Glen admitted that he sometimes masturbated three or four times a day especially
after gym class, in the upstairs Boy’s bathroom.
“I like the smell of bleach when
I am getting off,” Glen admitted to Todd.
“I like to feel as if I am in a sterile environment when I choke my load in my gym sock,”
he said as he washed his hands, not looking at Todd. He never really liked looking at Todd. He found Todd to be disturbing,
and a bit twisted, not quite right in the head.
Two months into Todd’s sophomore
year, he’d met Glen. Charles was already friends with Glen. Glen and Todd quickly became fast friends because Glenn
disliked everyone as much as Todd did.
was infamous at their high school way before their plan of becoming communists. And
soon too, Todd became identified with Glen, and their animosity toward their fellow schoolmates grew to such proportions that
it was all they could talk about, at times excluding Charles from the conversation because they believed he represented everything
they were against.
“The problem with this school
is that it’s a ‘Jew School,’ ” Glen remarked over lunch.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Charles hissed.
Glen ignored Charles, and continues lecturing Todd about the problems with the whole idea of high school
in general. “The real problem is, you got a bunch of people who really don’t like each other all in the same place,
and . . .” He pointed his plastic knife at Todd. “That just breeds
an arena of hostility. Not a place to learn in.”
“I still don’t understand the Jew comment.” Charles looked around the cafeteria,
hoping no one was listening to Glen’s sophomoric rants.
Again, Glen ignored him and continued
lecturing Todd about educational disillusionment on the part of the United States government.
just nodded, as he stuffed his face with the greasy cafeteria pizza.
Glen propped his long legs up on the chair in front of him. “Garbor, go get me a Coke, will ya?”
he asked Charles.
knew that if he didn’t put up with their cruel and obnoxious banter, he would not be welcome in their little group.
He tolerated them calling him “Fat Ass,” or “Garbor,” a nickname he earned from picking a perfectly-good
sandwich out of the garbage and eating it. It was still in its wrapper and it was a ham and cheese sandwich, his favorite.
But Todd and Glen mercilessly teased him about eating a thrown-out sandwich, especially since he came from a wealthy family.
Charles wanted to tell Glen to fuck off, especially because of his remark about “The Jew School,”
but he didn’t say anything. Instead, he walked off to get Glen a Coke,
and then left in silence for his next class.
Neither Glen nor Todd said good-bye
They continued to complain about the retards at their school. Glen lectured Todd, and Todd sat and
listened to him, really wanting to talk about the girls in their history class. “Dude, there is this chick, I so want
to do. Have you seen her in our gym class?”
“Listen, douchebag, are you listening to what I have to say? I don’t give a flying fuck
about some Jew girl. They all look the same, anyway, around here. That’s another problem with this school, everyone
looks the same, cookie cutter, the same,” Glen spat out as he downed his Coke and got up, leaving Todd to follow him
The concoction of the “Communist
plot” fit perfectly with the persecution, real or unreal, that Todd and Glen felt at school. It had become their common
bond, which continued to develop through the year. In their minds the persecutions from their peers were real. They felt the
glances, heard the snide comments about their outfits, and sometimes someone yelling, “Communist!”
They didn’t mind being seen as freaks—it only fueled their hatred.
Todd and Glen gloated whenever a teacher showed any negativity
towards their costumes of communist propaganda, and their smug behavior. They
often came to class late, and spoke out of turn, sometimes shouting communist slogans, sometimes just shouting.
“We are of a unique eschatological
aspiration!” Glen liked to shout when he was asked to leave the room, after one of his belligerent rants.
the communist plot was a fun distraction from the routine of high school life, but Glen, the leader, felt more passionate
about it than the others.
He believed that it tapped into his creativity, and helped separate him from those he didn’t
like; and he didn’t like a lot of people. In fact, he didn’t really like Todd and Charles, but he put up with
them because he was bored.
But, in his head, the Communist plot was real, as real as him scribbling down notes and bursts of perceived
political insight on the demise of his petty suburban township. To make it more fun for himself, Glen invented more and more
myths about himself—like how he owned a motorcycle, and dated several older women outside of high school. There were
no older women, but he did nothing to dispel the myths he created. He believed that any good communist would have a slew of
women at his beck and call, and of course ride a Hog!
“Dude, I can’t believe
the chick in our Biology class believed you, when you said you rode a motorcycle, Todd said.
“Yeah, well, some people will believe anything regardless if the truth is staring them straight
in the face.”
“I know. The other day, I was telling this girl I had a ten-inch dick.”
“What did she say?” Glen asked, as he scribbled in his notebook.
“She said she wanted to see it.”
“Did you show it to her?”
“No, dude, I got all embarrassed. I didn’t think she was going to call me out.”
Charles thought this was funny. He
liked that the girl had called Todd out. But if he said anything, he knew Glen would defend Todd, and then both of them would
start making comments about his dick. And he didn’t want to go there today.
He was in a funny mood.
“Who was the chick?” Charles asked.
“The one you have the hots for,” Todd said with a goofy, dog-like grin.
At that moment, all Charles wants to do is punch Todd in the face, but he stops himself. “Really, I showed her my dick just the other day.” “Did you also show her your horns
as well?” Glen asks without smiling.
Charles doesn’t really like Todd
and Glen, but he is constantly trying to fit in. Charles’ parents observed
that even as a young boy, he had a strong impulse to belong to a group and to conform to its norms. Charles knows this to
be true; his so called need to be accepted by Todd and Glen even though they were real ass holes. Even though they were the
lowest on the totem pole at their high school because they didn’t do sports and they really didn’t fit in, they
weren’t punk or popular or even nice. They abused Charles with their harsh jokes and caustic remarks, not including
him in all of their after school activities. But still, Charles kept coming around; still he was always in the shadows. But there was one particular incident that caused the tables to turn on Glen. Charles got a gun.
Glen’s girlfriend had broken
up with him two months after he had hatched his plan of becoming a communist. She no longer wanted to be associated with him,
not so much for his political views, but for his lack of interest in her. When they were together just the two of them, he
didn’t talk at all. And when she confronted him on this, he said, “I don’t have you around to talk to, but
to look at.” She was pretty, and he liked her company for that reason.
Plus, he said “Talking is overrated.” He also began to smoke a lot
of pot. She believed this was the main reason why he stopped talking, and for his crazy ideas of yellow orbs and talking forks.
Glen wasn’t that upset when his
girlfriend broke up with him. In fact, he was glad about it. That is what he told Todd the day after his girlfriend called
him and said simply, “I no longer want to see you in private; at school is fine. We can have lunch, but I don’t
want to be known as your girlfriend.”
you are so better off without her,” Todd replied when Glen told him that his girlfriend broke up with him.
Todd was secretly glad Glen no longer
had a girlfriend. It made him feel better about himself, knowing now that all three of them weren’t getting laid. He
suggested that they get drunk that night, celebrating that Glen was now a free man.
Todd’s mother was out of town and there was plenty of liquor in the liquor cabinet. They decided
on rum because they wanted to pretend they were on the beaches of Jamaica. Todd had seen an advertisement for some rum that
came out of Jamaica and he always wanted to go there. Plus, there were pretty girls in the advertisement and he thought all
the girls in Jamaica had to be prettier than the chicks at his high school. And these pretty Jamaican girls would want him
because he drank their kind of rum.
He kept all these thoughts to himself as he and Glen got drunker and drunker. At one point in the evening,
they got hungry, and Glen suggested they walk to the corner store and get something to eat. They hadn’t invited Charles
to their little drunken party because they didn’t want to share the rum with him. So, as they walked, they joked back
and forth what they would say to him if they did run in to him on the way to the store.
“Listen, if we run into Charles,
just say we got hungry from studying so hard for those fucked-up ACTs,” Glen slurred to Todd as they walked down the
tree-lined street to the main road.
“Yeah, better to lie than to hurt his feelings,” Todd agreed, tripping over the uneven
path they’d taken to get to the main street. He thought he wasn’t walking very straight.
“Dude, I think I’m drunk. I can’t seem to walk a straight line,” he told Glen’s
back, watching the image of Karl Marx stare at him. In Todd’s drunken state, he thought for sure the image winked at
“Lower your fucking voice,” Glen hissed.
They ran into Charles halfway to the
store, but for some reason Charles didn’t ask them what they were doing. He just suggested they all go to McDonald’s.
Both Todd and Glenn thought Charles was acting strange, but they weren’t sure if he was acting strange or if they were, since they were drunk. Charles
offered to buy them food, which was a strange act because Charles never offered to buy them food even though he always carried
a wallet full of money, and boasted that he had money, and neither Todd and Glen ever did. They all took seats in the back.
“Be cool, you guys. Don’t start anything, tonight,” Charles warned as he looked around
the McDonald’s crowded with jocks and preps. The punks never hung out at this McDonald’s. They preferred the Seven-Eleven
down the road where they could hang out in front of the store smoking cigarettes.
Neither Todd nor Glen knew what he
was talking about because they were just sitting, waiting for Charles to buy them something to eat. Finally, Charles got up
and walked toward the counter to order food.
There was a crowd of jocks and cheerleaders at the far end, whispering and pointing at Glenn and Todd
as they waited patiently for Charles to return with their food. They sat in quiet contempt, resembling Cuban communist militants
with their green berets slid to one side of their faces and their military fatigues tucked into their combat boots. Glenn,
to be different, wore silver spurs on his boots to indicate to outsiders that he was the leader of the group.
Usually, when finding themselves in a situation like waiting for food at lunch or walking through the
halls of their high school, Todd and Glen would ignore the stares, pointed fingers, and muffled laughter. But tonight, being drunk, they both turned to the table filled with their adversaries and shouted,
“What the fuck are you looking at?”
Todd secretly wanted to get into a
fight that night, so he stood up, showing off his6’6’’stature, and walked over to the table. He grabs a
handful of fries and some ketchup and smeared them around the middle of the table then flicked some at the girls who hid behind
their jock boyfriends.
Glen shouted to one of the boneheads,
“You want to take it outside?”
And then Todd, backing him up, said, “You got a problem? Let’s take it outside.”
The rum made them feel fearless, invincible, and superior to the three heavyset jocks that stared back
at them. As the jocks started to get up, their petite cheerleader girlfriends tugged on their varsity jackets and begged them
to sit down.
Charles was nowhere to be found. Todd
and Glen flipped off the table and went out the back entrance of the McDonalds.
They were still really hungry and now pissed at Charles for not buying them any food. They started
to head back to Glen’s hoping to find some leftovers in his mom’s refrigerator.
“I can’t believe that fucker left us without even feeding us. What the fuck’s wrong
with him?” Glen grumbled.
“Dude, I think there might be some leftover meat loaf in my fridge,” Todd said.
“I hate fucking meatloaf!” Glen said.
“Well it’s better than nothing.” Todd walked in front of Glen.
“Fuck you, Todd!” Glen yelled.
“Lower your fucking voice,” Todd said.
But before Glen could say anything back, he heard a car coming up behind them and without saying anything
to Todd, Glen began running.
Todd followed, not turning around because he assumed it
is the jocks from McDonald’s.
But it was Charles, waving a gun from
the driver’s window. “Get in!” he yelled. “Get the fuck in the car!”
Glen shouted at Todd, “I think he has a gun, the fat ass has a fucking gun!”
believed it was only a BB gun, but Glen insisted that it was a real gun. They kept running, not believing that Charles would
shoot them, not believing that their friend could drive and shoot at the same time.
Then the car abruptly stopped, the car door slammed, and Charles shouted, “Take that, you fucking
communists! Take that, you fucking freaks!”
The shots rang out and Glen’s last thought before he hit the ground was what a good shot Charles
was for a fat guy. Charles had aimed right between Glen’s shoulders, right between Karl Marx’s eyes.
Todd, mouth agape, stood there, stunned, that his comrade has fallen.
But he wasn’t going to wait and see if Charles was going to take a shot at him. He took off running.
Charles walked over to Glen’s crumpled figure and tapped Glen’s
shoulder with the toe of his freshly-polished combat boot. Charles saw the trickle of blood at Karl Marx’s upper lip
but Glen was still breathing.
For a second, Charles had the most bizarre desire to finish Glen
off, if he had a real gun. Instead, he rolled Glen over, and pointed the BB gun
in Glen’s now sober face, and hissed, “Stop calling me ‘Garbor.’ ”
And with that, Charles turned around and walked back to his father’s
Mercedes, cranked up the radio, and streaked off, leaving Glen lying in the road.
At first, Glenn thought he couldn’t
move, but there was only a slight numbing feeling between his shoulders. He got up from the sidewalk, dusted himself off,
and walked home.
He was pissed at both Charles and Todd. “Worthless sperms
for human beings,” he mumbled under his breath as he tromped up his front porch, letting the screen door snap behind
him, waking his mother and not really caring.
Tomorrow those fuckers would pay. Tomorrow, he would teach them
both a lesson, but right now, with his brain banging against his head, and the middle of his back throbbing with pain, all
he could think about was getting something to eat.
Jennifer Houston’s fiction has appeared in Battered Suitcase, Word Catalyst
Magazine, Gloom Cupboard, Indigo Rising, Barrier
Islands Review, South Jersey Underground,
and Toasted Cheese. She lives in Placitas,