‘Hey! You’re that Hockstetter!’
Patrick pivoted on the spot to see who his harasser was. He hadn’t recognised the voice, and certainly didn’t know the boy’s face.
‘Yeah. So what? How do you know my name?’
The older boy scoffed in malice, ‘Pfft! Everybody knows you!’ He came a little closer and Patrick could tell he wasn’t someone to mess with. Tattoos snaked up his burly tan arms and he had to be somewhere around 6 ft. 5. Even taller than Belch Huggins!
‘You’re that boy from the theatre. Heh! If you can even call yourself a boy, that is.’ Smirking, he added, ‘How’s ya boyfriend, huh? Crazy son of a gun, right?’
Without warning, the older boy was suddenly on top of Patrick, kneeling on his back and pinning his arm down in front of his face. Patrick couldn’t even cry out. If he attempted to, gravel would surely fill his mouth and make him sick.
I’m not gonna give him that satisfaction- I’m not gonna let him think he can hurt me, because he can’t! I’m not gonna scream for help because-
A very faint pain skimmed against Patrick’s forearm. I can’t see what’’s happenin’ but I know he’s got a blade. Small beads of blood ran down Patrick’s pasty arm. He could feel an ‘F’ …An ‘A’-
‘Rogers! What’s goin’ on?’
Patrick heard a slight tone of discomposure in the boy’s voice, ‘Bowers, umm-‘
‘Let him go, man. Cruelty to animals, huh?’ Henry’s mouth twisted into a half-smile, ‘Wouldn’t expect a guy like you to go after pansies! Leave this cocksucker to me, alright.’
‘Sure…’ Rogers scratched his head anxiously, ‘He’s all yours.’ Henry grabbed Patrick’s hand and dragged him roughly to his feet.
‘Good. I’ll see ya around.’
Henry turned as if to ask the younger boy if he was alright, but Patrick had already fled the scene.
‘Good morning… You’re…Henry, right?’ Mrs Hockstetter had answered the door upon the first ring, gorgeous and heavily-perfumed per usual.
Henry beamed, ‘Yes, ma’am. Is Patrick home?’ Today he was wearing rolled up Levis and his pink leather jacket – the one with the patriotic eagle spread across his shoulder blades. Josephine Hockstetter raised a speculative eye brow.
‘Yes, I’ll get him now!’ Josephine chirped, clasping her hands to her breast delightedly and calling up the stairs. ‘Patrick! Your friend’s here.’
Patrick trailed down shyly, holding his tender arm in his left hand. Upon seeing Henry, he winced and looked as if he wanted almost anybody else to be standing on his doorstep. Even Mrs Reichs!
Relaxing against the balcony, Henry offered his trademark smirk. ‘D’ya wanna come out and play?’
Mrs Hockstetter could tell her son was about to refuse his offer, so quickly jumped in, and a good thing she did, too. ‘Patrick would love to, wouldn’t you, sweetheart!’
‘Umm, yeah. I guess so…’ Patrick shrugged. It didn’t matter to him if he went out to play with Henry. Either way, he’d still wind up bored and frustrated. ‘Well, bye mom. I’ll be back soon.’ Wrapping his arms around Henry’s neck, Patrick grinned. Henry noticed a brief look of confusion on Patrick’s mom’s face, and shifted away slightly, embarrassed.
'Remember, your father and I are going out for the night. Be careful and get back home before curfew. That goes for you too.' His mother shot back, and turned towards Henry in hidden sadness. She knew Henry had nobody to care for him. Everybody knew. It was any mother’s worst nightmare to think that somebody could neglect their own child like that. 'Lock up before you go to bed and don't do anything too stupid.' She said jokingly, and stalked back into the kitchen.
‘So, are you okay?’ Henry gently twisted Patrick’s arm to see an ‘F’ and an ‘A’ carved lightly into his pallid skin. Pussy. Couldn’t even do it hard enough to leave permanent damage.
Patrick grunted in reply. Disinterested.
‘Not talkin’ to me, huh, candy ass? Well listen, fucker. I’ve got a place to show you.’ Henry drawled, stopping to poke Patrick lightly in the chest. ‘Belch, Vic n’ I sometimes go there when we’re hungry. They got nice shakes.’
‘So like a date?’ Patrick giggled, poking Henry back.
‘Huh?! No way, man! I don’t go on dates with other boys!’ Henry exploded.
‘But you’ve never been on a date with a girl.’ Patrick teased, swaying giddily on the spot.
‘Yeah?’ Henry grinned, ‘But no need to tell anybody that. Or… I’ll kick your balls so high you can wear them as earrings!’
Patrick gazed up at Henry, contemplating. Then, after planting a kiss on Henry’s forehead, Patrick smiled genuinely for the first time in a long while. This time, Henry didn’t mind the gesture so badly. However he still rubbed at his forehead to get rid of Patrick’s ‘cooties’.
‘Thanks for helping me out earlier. I mean, what would my mom and dad think if they see ‘fag’ written all over my arm!’
‘Um, well it’s okay. I just didn’t want to see you cry like a girl. It would be painfully embarrassing – for both of us!’ Henry winced, feeling heat creep under his collar, his cheeks threatening to flush.
‘Henry… This place is full of girls,’ Patrick stared in amusement. Sure enough, it was. This was where the elementary and high school girls went to gossip (presumably about boys and school work) and hang out together.
‘Well, duh, shit for brains! Seeing as we both like girls, this is the perfect place for us dudes to hang out!’ Patrick could practically hear the sarcasm drip thickly from his voice. This satisfied him immensely.
Henry flung himself down on one of the red bar stools, patting the one next to his, Henry grinned. Patrick cautiously picked his way through the crowd. On a Saturday noon, this place could get pretty busy! Feeling eyes stabbing into his back, Patrick felt rather self-conscious. This really was a first!
‘There’s too many girls here.’ Patrick complained, weakly grabbing Henry’s arm and averting his eyes.
‘What’s the problem? You practically are a girl.’ Henry jested. Seeing a look of hurt in Patrick’s green eyes, he quickly added, ‘I’m just kiddin’ don’t look so bummed out, man! Jesus!’
‘Good mornin’.’ Henry and Patrick both turned. A woman dressed in a pink waitress garb, and covered with a white, lacy apron stood above them, notebook and pen poised. ‘It’s not often we get boys in here!’ She laughed, but not unkindly. ‘So what would you boys like?’
'Strawberry milkshake... please.' Henry muttered, feeling slightly awkward, as if everyone is staring at them. 'Just one?' The waitress smiled, a glint of amusement in her wrinkled face. She backed into the kitchen chuckling and returned rather promptly with a large milkshake topped with a single red cherry. A group of high school girls were watching Henry and Patrick closely, Henry could tell. Twisting around to glare at them, the girls got back to their conversation on the Civil war.
Taking a sip of the milkshake, Patrick sighed, ‘Pennywise is mad at us, Henry… I know. I could feel him watching me all night long.’
Henry leaned closer to Patrick and whispered softly, ‘Yeah, he really is.’ Hesitating, he placed a comforting hand on top of Patrick’s. ‘Next time, we really better kill those fuckers. One of them, at least.’
Seemingly changing his mind about the milkshake, Henry slid it across the counter to Patrick. ‘This is yours, man. Don’t want anyone thinkin’ we’re together or something gross like that!’ Instead, he pulled a cigarette out his jeans pocket and lit it with his father’s lighter. Smoke swirled around Patrick’s face as Henry exhaled.
Twirling the contents of the sundae cup with his straw, Patrick began to relax. The thought of killing the Losers both thrilled and disturbed him. I’ve never killed a human before. I wonder if it’s as exciting or easy as stabbing a beetle with my mom’s needles, or locking a dog in my Amana?
Half an hour had passed, and Henry and Patrick had made small talk, light-hearted jokes and smoked tobacco, trying their best to ignore the girls’ annoying chatter. Out of boredom, Henry browsed the menu, wondering if the food at Sundae’s was any good. Almost spitting out his cigarette, Henry trembled in surprise; something about the menu had changed disturbingly. Written in the ‘main course’ section was a neat cursive, different from the rest of the printed text.
Henry’s reading ability was far behind the rest of his class, being a loud and destructive member of Derry Elementary, however the following entrée didn’t fail to make his heart freeze with terror; Patrick Hockstetter: our fresh boy meat won’t fail to please! Served rare or medium rare with a side order of fries, leeches or maggots. Accompanied by the writing was a small black and white Polaroid of Patrick beaming into his parents’ camera on a summers day.
Eyes widening, Henry sighed and closed the menu firmly, placing it far out of Patrick’s reach. ‘Y’know, Pat, I’ve heard the food in here ain’t that great anyway. Let’s just finish our drinks and hit the road.’ Patrick noticed Henry’s grimace despite how calmly he had spoken.
Patrick slurped the remainder of his drink and hopped off the bar stool, ‘Okay, let’s go.’
Swinging an arm around Henry’s waist, Patrick led them to the door. As the little bell tingled, signalling their departure, the waitress caught Henry’s eye. Instead of the kind old face from before, a clown’s ridiculous head took its place. Made up with red and blue paints, white greasepaint and black stencilled eyebrows, Pennywise’s livid yellow eyes bore into Henry’s.
‘Would you care for some food, bucko?! It’s on me!’
Repressing a scream and gritting his teeth, Henry seized Patrick’s hand and raced out into the street and onto the road, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a passing car.
‘Hey! Watch it, kid!’ the car’s owner yells angrily, shaking his fist and spitting on the pavement.
Giving Sundae’s one last terrified glance, Henry noticed a sign pasted across the newly boarded-up front door; ‘Closed for renovation’.