Patrick Hockstetter was curled up on Henry’s front porch, a single hand trailed into the dirt, chasing the poor ants who just wanted to get to his candies. It was the first time Henry had allowed him to visit his home. To be perfectly honest he was ashamed –– ashamed of how poor he is in comparison to Patrick, embarrassed of his insane father, and painfully aware of how dirty and small his rundown farm actually is. Luckily his father was out downtown doing Lord knows what. It had taken a whole lot of nagging, begging and blackmailing for Patrick to finally walk the organised-chaos of the Bowers farmhouse. Instead of being angry Henry was simply on edge. Watching Patrick absentmindedly crush the ants, Henry’s brow was furrowed; he smoked a cigarette to calm his nerves, which he seemed to be getting a lot of lately.
A crudely-sewn red and white gingham picnic blanket was spread across the porch, courtesy of Rena, Oscar Bowers’s fat, filthy and 40-year old girlfriend. The boys were listening to Elvis Presley followed by Buddy Holly followed by Cliff Richards, otherwise known to Patrick as ‘that British guy’. The tiny radio sat precariously balanced on the window ledge upon which, Rena was sat watching the world go by whilst listening to the boys talking about pointless boy things.
Finally Patrick unclenched his mouth full of salt water taffy with an unbecoming smack, ‘Henry, I really do think we should go about our mission today.’ He may be thick, but he certainly was careful not to disclose any information with Rena hanging around so closely.
Before Henry could reply, Rena had stuck her big nose in things. ‘What ‘mission’ is that, boys?’
‘Oh… We’re um, playing a red Indian-cowboy game with our summer school friends,’ Patrick murmured, not quite making eye-contact, ‘We’re the cowboys.’ He added for extra assurance.
‘Yeah~ Our mission is to shoot down all the Indians before they get us. With a toy gun of course.’ Henry grinned, flashing his teeth at Rena. Nosey bitch –– just mind ya own business!
‘Interesting.’ Rena said, not an ounce of interest in her tone. She added a nonchalant nod of her head, as if to make herself seem more involved. Greasy strings of mousy hair fell into her eyes. Truth be told she just wanted to listen to Elvis on the radio. He was her celebrity crush.
‘Well, just don’t hurt anybody, Henry. Ya know how your dad hates that.’ After staring for a while into the hazy crazy lazy daze of summer, Rena jumped down off the ledge with a heavy thump. Patrick bit back the urge to giggle when clouds of dust exploded around them as a sign of Rena’s obesity. ‘I’ve got some errands to run. I’ll see ya later, kid.’
Patrick waved a cheerful hand in Rena’s direction whereas Henry could hardly raise a smile, much less say goodbye.
‘Thank God she left!’ Henry let out a moan, collapsing backwards to the blanket with his eyes closed against the sun.
‘She ain’t that bad, y’know.’ Patrick said out of politeness, ‘She makes a mean cherry pie. My mom sure could learn somethin’ from her.’
‘Mmm-hmm. Mom’s no good at baking, she just burns everything – we’re actually thinking of getting a maid. Now are you just gonna lie around or are we gonna go get those Losers!’
Henry whipped up at this, ‘Oh shit, Patrick. I can’t come today!’ He shielded his eyes from the sun and gave Patrick a winsome smile to combat his burning look of disappointment. ‘Look, Pat… I said I have to pick corn with my dad. He’d kick my ass otherwise!’
‘Fine,’ Patrick averted his eyes, ‘I guess I’ll do it alone.’ With one last glance at Henry, Patrick smirked with a malicious glint in his eyes. He knew what he was about to say would keep Henry up until the early hours of the morning; ‘Don’t go blaming me when Pennywise comes and eats you. And believe me, he will.’
Henry’s eyes widened at this. His heart started to beat just a little faster finding he couldn’t spit out a reply. Patrick was already leaving.
Trudging down the road with a sullen smile, Patrick found himself distantly mad at Henry for not being there when he needed him most. It was as if his emotions were surrounded by a thick fog – he couldn’t feel anything all that extreme, as if he were trapped in some kind of dream (or nightmare. You choose.) where feelings were numbed by slumber. His movements were slow. Slower than usual anyhow – and everything felt misty and far away. The winding dust road away from Henry’s barn seemed to stretch on and on, and Patrick began to sweat, fearing he’d never reach his objective. Everything seemed to last an eternity and Patrick knew exactly who was to blame. Pennywise the dancing clown. Fucking-A clown on the moon! He does it to scare us into doing what he wants. I can just tell.
Every night he’d have the same dream over and over. Usually Patrick would tell his mother anything but this time he was too frightened to talk. When he’d mentioned it to Henry, his friend had simply thrown back his head and laughed superciliously. ‘That’s nothing compared to the things I have to deal with, Pat!’
Fine, Patrick thought, If I want things to get back to normal I’ll just have to do as he says. I’ll kill the Losers… even if Henry isn’t here right now.
It seemed vaguely to Patrick that in the end, his story will have a happy ending. The Losers would be dead; Pennywise would leave him alone and maybe, just maybe, Henry too. However something was stopping him. He wasn’t quite sure what. Perhaps the thought of killing a human disturbed him somewhat. He had never felt this kind of aversion towards killing before, especially with his test animals. Or maybe, it was because he didn’t feel as strong without Henry by his side? Whatever it was, Patrick was determined to overcome the anxiety. Somehow, he felt angry at himself for being so useless without Henry. Henry was bold and coldly self-sufficient. Henry was big and strong. Henry was great. Henry was so blah blah blah. Why can’t I be Henry? Nobody’s ever scared of fat, five-foot-five Patrick.
In the late afternoon, looking up from where his thoughts had stopped him in his tracks, Patrick had turned around to see Henry staring at him from a few feet away, still relaxing on the picnic blanket.
‘Patrick? Look, I’m sorry. Dad’ll have my hide if I don’t help him. Why did you just stop like that? I thought you were going to get the Losers?’
Eventually Patrick found that he had got nowhere at all. He was still stood where he had about five minutes ago, and Henry was looking worried. He had been too lost in thought. Sweat dripped down his face and both boys knew it wasn’t entirely the humidity’s fault. ‘Shut up Henry! I was-‘
Patrick stopped mid-sentence, mouth agape. Oscar Bowers was pulling up, his green ford’s tires crackling against the gravel, kewpie doll swinging from the rear-view mirror like the worlds’ youngest lynch victim. ‘I’ll see you around, Henry.’ Patrick muttered darkly.
Stanley Uris. Stan. The Jew. He is weak. Almost as weak as Kaspbrak. I could take him down. I could kill him. Henry ain’t here but I could still beat the shit out of him.
Patrick was sat down on the park bench near his home. His hands were clenched and he was muttering the evil thoughts under his breath. You could just hear the dusty cogs turning and churning inside his poisonous mind, cobwebs, spider carcasses and all. It took all his concentration to form this plan to kill Stan, and his head was beginning to ache. His complexion turned a dull red with a sudden feverish feeling. Instead of tracking down Stan where he mostly hangs out (either at the main park near the big houses, bird watching, or down in the barrens with those Losers) Patrick decided to simply go home and drink iced tea with his mother.
He had begun to notice lately that Josephine Hockstetter didn’t seem that well. She was obviously thinner and paler, her face gaunt and her wrists just beginning to get spindly. Patrick was mildly worried. He had asked her just the other day if she was coming down with something (summer flus can be the worst, huh) but she had shook her head with a sad smile, and Patrick had been relieved, skipping off kittenishly to go about his fridge-business. Yet, he felt he had been lied to. He knew for a fact his mother went to Dr Stein’s clinic every second Wednesday of the month.
‘Mommy, I’m home.’ Patrick called to the empty hall, closing the door gently behind him and locking it for good measure. He found that his mother flinched at loud noises such as a door slamming, and that it’s best to do everything as quietly as possible. Patrick cocked his head but still couldn’t hear any sounds of life. He jogged into the open-plan kitchen/dining room/parlour, afraid his mother might have collapsed somewhere whilst he was out. His father, Ronald, wouldn’t be getting home from work until six, and it worried him that there was nobody to watch his sickly mother whilst they were both out.
In the kitchen, both his mother and father were sat in stony silence. By their body language and the lack of conversation, Patrick could tell something was up. ‘Hey, daddy. Hello, mommy. Why are you home so early, dad?’
‘Sit down, son. We need to talk.’ Ronald said, his face devoid of any expression. By his tone, Patrick could tell whatever they were going to discuss wouldn’t be good. Not. At. All.
Patrick sat. Not on the barstools, on the floor. There wasn’t enough room for him to sit too and everyone knew it.
‘Patrick…’ His mother began with a trembling voice, ‘Your teacher called. We’ve had calls from her in the past but…’ She sighed, ‘We tried to overlook it, your father and I.’
Patrick’s green eyes widened.
‘Now you know that homo-‘ Josephine coughed, her face beginning to flush. Patrick could tell it was shame and felt himself blush too. ‘Homosexuality is wrong… Don’t you, sweetheart?’
‘Mrs Reichs, she told us that at first it was just girls, but now you’re harassing boys. Patrick, why is this?’ Ronald whispered, not quite meeting Patrick’s sullen gaze.
‘We don’t want you to feel ashamed, Patty. Really we don’t! It’s just… You’re sick. Aren’t you? You can tell us anything you know, my boy. Anything at all! And we’ll always love you.’ Josephine garbled, her eyes alarmed and insincere.
‘There’s this special type of tea on the market. It can help you, I promise.’ Patrick’s dad tossed down a cardboard box containing 50 ‘sexual-correction’ tea bags. The wrapping was a hot pink with anti-gay slogans that Hitler himself could have wrote. Great, just great.
‘This will be our little secret. Don’t you worry! I won’t tell all your friend’s moms!’ Josephine chirped cheerfully. Yeah, I bet you won’t. You’re too ashamed about having a homosexual son.
‘Well,’ Patrick’s dad said, stretching out and raising from his seat, ‘I’m glad we’ve got that sorted! I’m off to the office again. Call me if you need anything, dear.’ He quickly pecked his wife on the lips and Patrick watched him speed off in his work-car through the kitchen window. He stared out the window for a while, not quite sure why or how this was happening all so fast.
‘Patrick…’ Josephine lingered in the doorway, making Patrick jump as he was 110% sure she had left, ‘This was all daddy’s idea… The tea I mean. Silly, isn’t it?’ She offered a tight smile and started the washing up.
The fine china saucer slipped between her frail fingers and shattered at her feet, causing her to whimper in fear and shield her eyes with her fists.
Between her fingers, Patrick could see a lone tear slip down her hand and drop to the china-shards on the ground. ‘Mommy? Are you okay…?’
Sobs wracked her thin, almost skeletal body, and Patrick swayed on the spot, unsure of what to do or how to comfort her. He had never seen his mother break down like this before.
‘No, Patrick. I just want to go to bed. I’m tired,’ She cried, hiding her face. For a while it was just Mrs Hockstetter sobbing openly in the kitchen with her son watching her helplessly.
‘C-come here, mommy. I’m going to help you up the stairs and you’re gonna get your nightgown on, and I’ll tuck you up in bed.’ Patrick heard himself say, his voice hardly above a whisper. ‘Then, you can try and have a little sleep, okay?’
‘You’re a good boy. I don’t care what Ronald says.’ Mrs Hockstetter whined, backhanding the mascara tracks from off her cheeks.
Patrick stared at this. He was halfway up the stairs with his arm wrapped around his mother’s waist. One gentle push and she’d be gone.
‘Not that he doesn’t love you!’ His mother added quickly, ‘He loves you desperately, Patty – he… He just thinks homosexuality is a disease.’ She giggled weakly, then muttered, ‘It’s a whole load of bullshit, Patrick. Oops! Sorry for swearing! Don’t tell your father!’
‘Yes, mother.’ Patrick agreed this situation reeked of bullshit. I should be allowed to fuckin’ love anyone I want! Why does it matter Henry and I are both boys? If homosexuality is a disease, then I should be getting time off school for it!
After helping his mother into bed, ensuring she was fast asleep and comfortable, Patrick planted a kiss on her forehead. ‘I hope you feel better soon, mom,’ he whispered and shut her door to as silently as he could possibly manage. Seeing her so vulnerable and timid had made him feel downhearted. Usually she was so petite and lively. It made him feel almost sick himself.
It was late afternoon and Patrick Hockstetter decided to take a stroll in the park by the big houses. With a quick glance at his wrist-watch, Patrick could see he had little time left if he really wanted to catch Stan Uris. Usually he hung around from noon ‘till three pm, just watching those stupid North American birds.
He had been wondering around aimlessly for the past half hour until he eventually caught sight of the boy, sat primly on the edge of the water-fountain, binoculars poised, lost in his own little aviary-world. Luckily he was all alone - not a damned Loser in sight! Patrick felt he could certainly take on a Loser if they didn’t have their friends by their side.
Deciding on a calm, friendly approach Patrick slipped down besides Stan and wrapped his hands firmly over the edge of the fountain; ‘Afternoon, Stanley Uris~’
As Hockstetter was a quiet member of 6L, he didn’t have much reputation or recognition to Stan, ‘Oh, Good afternoon, Patrick.’ He offered a handsome smile and went back to his bird-watching much to Patrick’s annoyance.
Underneath Patrick’s sweater vest was the small bulge of his father’s pistol in case of an emergency. He had to admit it must have looked suspicious wearing winter clothes in the middle of July, but the metallic cool of the gun reassured him it was all for a good reason. Maybe even the reason he was born!
‘I’m really grateful for the weather we’re having right now. It hasn’t been this hot since May!’ Stan said, obviously feeling a little awkward with the lack of conversation, ‘It’s good for the birds too. Would you like a look?’
‘Uh, yeah. Sure, Stan,’ Patrick smiled complacently and took the binoculars from Stan’s outstretched hand. He held them gingerly in front of his face, not really interested in watching some turtle dove doing a mating dance or whatever. ‘Pretty~’ He added, his tone slightly mischievous as he slipped his hand over Stan’s.
Stan blinked in surprise, ‘Um, Patrick? What are you doing?’ To Patrick his tone was level, yet he had an uncomfortable aura about him. Apparently this was very funny to Patrick and he tittered as he stroked his hand, slipping his fingers between Stan’s long, slender ones. His nails were very clean and neatly trimmed – almost like a girls’.
‘This is inappropriate, Patrick,’ Stan said level-headedly, suddenly remembering those many spring days in 6L where Patrick had been sent to the Guidance Counsellor for touching people, ‘Please could you st—‘
There was a loud crunch as Stan saw his own wrist break before his very eyes.
The couples walking leisurely in the park heard a howling noise as if little kid had fallen over and scraped his knee, however they thought nothing of it - but they of course couldn’t see a 12 year-old boy being wrestled to his knees by his peer.
‘Pat! Stop! Please!’ Stan croaked, feeling too weak to speak above a whisper. The pain in his wrist was unbearable and he felt himself almost collapsing in Patrick’s arms.
‘That’s what you get when you mess with Henry,’ Patrick lulled into Stan’s ear, pushing him into a kneeling position on the grass. Patrick crouched behind him with his thumb and forefinger pinching and grinding into his carpels, bringing his broken arm behind his back. Stan distantly felt Patrick’s clammy hand brush through his dark hair before his head was underwater. He attempted to cry out but it was all in vain as water filled his lungs.
By a stroke of luck, Stan managed to free his head from under the fountain’s water, ‘No! HELP! Patrick stop! Sto-‘ The cries didn’t last long as he was soon pushed firmly back under, the speech turning into inaudible bubbling noises.
He felt himself fly into full-blown panic as his limbs started to numb. Even his broken wrist felt disconnected from his struggling body. Thinking of the birds that he loves, his favourite being the robin that he had spotted with his father last Hanukkah, he grew calm once again. After all, his birds had gotten him out of many sticky situations before. Many of which he had barely just survived. Being drowned by crazy Patrick Hockstetter wasn’t considered a highly dignified way to die in Stan’s honest opinion. Yet, neither was being eaten by the dead boys from the rich houses. Thinking of all the birds he had yet to spot, Stan gained a sudden burst of energy.
Bursting free once again from the water he choked and spluttered, spitting the thankfully clean water out of his mouth. Patrick was stuck in a daze, breathing heavily and still flush behind him. Stan could feel something weird pressing against his back. With a weak swipe of Stan’s hand, Patrick’s nose spurted with blood for probably the third time this summer.
Breathing shallowly, Stan’s lungs burned as he found himself fainting once again. Desperately glancing to his left for help as the world turned grey, Stan’s eyes fell on the shadows of six people before they rolled back into his head.