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“Frank” by Fishspit

Yeah, I felt like I was thrown away, tossed to the hyenas.

When I experienced my first bout of mental illness at age 13, I lived in a place where mental health treatment wasn’t looked upon with favor, or not looked at in any manner. There certainly weren’t any school counselors, not like today. I’m bitter about that.

Where I grew up they put the likes of me, with the misery on my brain, in the special education department. In grade school, being put into such a classroom was pretty much putting the Mark of Cain on me. You get put into special ed., you are an instant pariah, you’re not worth touching. The mean kids bully you and the nice kids avoid you for fear of social repercussion.

There were always threats of beatings, which were acted upon. It was never a fair fight. I was small to begin with. There were always three or four on one. Poor little me, getting a shellacking all the time. Oh joy – the delight of living as a child. I learned how to scrap, though. Other than that, I mostly crept about, trying to make myself as invisible as possible . I was always on edge, wondering from which direction my tormentors would arrive. It usually started with a shout out, words that still hurt. “Hey faggot!” or “Look here boys; we got us a ‘tard.”   A marked soul, surely. It wouldn’t have been a fair fight one-on-one! I was so little, but three-on-one? How about four-on-one! Shut up and take your shellacking! Good golly, Miss Molly! Not a chance in hell.

Yet, fortune favors the brave. My fortune came in the form of  a very large hoodlum kid by the name of Frank. Everyone was frightened of Frank. His father beat the hell out of him and he came to school to return the favor. The authorities didn’t know what to do with the mentally ill louts, and the same went for those who were in trouble with the law, and so we were all grouped into the special ed. department. We were down there in all sizes, shapes, and forms; it felt like a strange circus world.

I thought I was Frank’s mark when he hit me up for my fifty-five cents. It was my lunch money, fifty cents for the grub and five cents for the little carton of milk. My mama doled it out to me each morning. I wasn’t actually too bothered that he took my money. I was too depressed to eat. I was certain Frank was going to carve my entrails out and eat them raw! Misery was no stranger to me.

“Just take my fifty-five cents and leave me be.”  That was my plea: “Go away Frank, please. I have nightmares in my head to chase.”

But that filthy pillock came back,  Beelzebub in the shower! My portion of dread and fear! Absolutely unfair! I was scared. What did this cretin want now? And looking so sheepish? He sure was acting strange. He had a bottle under his coat; something purple. He called it Maddog. My heart sank; my people had always warned me about such things. Alcohol was absolutely taboo. Temperance was the name of the game in my Baptist family.

“Christ!” I moaned, “Couldn’t the world just leave me alone!”

Frank wanted to share it with me. He told me the score of this vino cost him one dollar and ten cents, his fifty five lunch pennies added with mine. His older brother, another hoodlum, had bought it. It was technically half mine. Frank’s generosity! I loathed Frank. The dipso was only friendly when he wanted something, surely he hadn’t lost that evil grin of his. All I could think of was my family and the Baptists. I’d seen the old howlers down at the courthouse, the old hobos and vets that didn’t adjust well, passing the bottle. I had one chance though, I figured. Take the sip, make that scowling cretin happy! Then maybe he’d let me off with a small thrashing. Just a sip, and I might be relinquished.

I took a pull from the bottle and something electric spizzled me as that wine went down! Vibrations hit every cell! Yowza! It was fantastic! Paradise opened its gates to me right there and then. This juice was the elixir of the gods. For the very first time in my life, I felt safe, my misery evaporated.

I looked at Frank with love, my best pal! I decided this right there and then that I’d follow this dude to the ends of the earth as long as he kept supplying me with this wonderful elixir. We became inseparable. Frank was wise in my eyes.

Frank’s father was a mean drunk, and a cheap fucker. He’d wail on the kids. Frank’s mama was almost as vicious as his father. We all lived in the suburbs. A man named Angelo, cheaper and meaner than Frank’s father, bought barrels of whiskey, cut them in half himself, and sold them to the housewives. It wasn’t cheap.

The following day Frank came up to me, sitting there amongst the shenanigans, and he held my nose.

He said, “We’re going to see Angelo after school.”

“Why?” I asked.

“To get jobs,” he answered.

Frank had learned something very valuable cutting that a whiskey barrel in half for his mean old papa – there was still whiskey left in those barrels. Frank was going to go right to the source.

Angelo was vicious. He hired us alright! We were far too young to work legally. He paid us spare change, hollered at us, called us every name in the book. I was patience at this abuse at the advice of Frank.

I was perfectly miserable, cutting those hefty halves. Frank? Must’ve been! Yet he did it all with a twinkle in his eye. Why he didn’t clue me in on what he had in mind, I can’t tell you. Frank had an unfathomable evil depth, part of which entailed being the master of a scheme, letting it all unfold.

Angelo had given us a key, not to the shop or the greenhouses, but a key to the yard. That was enough for us. It was well past midnight when we raided the tool shed, Frank’s papa’s shed. We took an old hand crank drill and a good-sized bit. Frank had to show me how to use it. He had also somehow gotten a ten-gallon water tank.

Our plan was to drain ten gallons of dregs from those whiskey barrels, sneaky Pete’s! Frank clued me in as we unlocked the gate. We’d run the whiskey through coffee filters. I had my doubts. It was a huge chain and a huge padlock, but Frank’s ape-like stature had no problem conquering it.

The barrels, though empty, were very heavy. He’d heave-ho and swing one of those bastards up on top of another barrel. He’d hold it steady while I put a hole in it with the hand drill. After I’d get the hole drilled, I’d grab the ten-gallon water tank. Frank would cock the barrel up at a steeper angle. Ah, the muck! Whiskey and charcoal would glub-glub into our tank. We’d got nearly a gallon of whiskey out of that barrel and we moved on.

I was the opposite build of Frank’s, scrawny, arms as skinny as spaghetti. It was no joke lugging that water jug as it filled. I was getting the jitterbugs. I’d have been happy with a half filled jug.  Fearless Frank wanted it filled to the brim, though. It got there too. We were chipper, whispering tidbits of elation. The two of us lugged it off, Frank doing most of the lugging. We stashed it in the woods near school.

The next day at school, we brought a fellow named Brandon to come see.  Frank brought along a coffee pot and the part of the coffee maker that holds the filter. To pleasure that cannot be described, I watched as those coffee filters caught the dregs. The whiskey that arrived in the pot was clear and beautiful. I can only say that the gates of paradise opened with that much whiskey, I concluded that they had opened permanently. We started passing it, the coffeepot full. It was good whiskey, which meant it went down easy. I was no whiskey expert; I knew Maddog and all I longed for was that it go down easy, not disrupt my virgin stomach. Brandon was impressed. He was much older than us and had his own place, he agreed to keep our ten gallons at his pad.

We had done it. “Take This Job and Shove It.”  It was a song on the soundtrack to the new movie about monster trucks. Frank loved monster trucks. We put the movie on, cranked the sound up, called Angelo, and let him hear it from the source. Our voices echoed: “Take this job and shove it.”  A royal beating from Frank’s father ensued. Frank moved into Brandon’s place.  I was thirteen going on fourteen and I was placating this brain, my misery-making factory, on a daily basis. I sopped it in whiskey every afternoon.

My name is Fishspit . . . I’m up all night waiting for my morning electro convulsive treatment. I can’t sleep before I get one. I spend my days on disability, getting shock treatments, spinning records on my little record player, and writing little stories.