The fourth story for my collection Middle of Nowhere is up! In “The Silver Bullet,” a high school stoner becomes obsessed with a socially inept girl after blinding her with a beer bottle that he chucked out of his homeroom window.
THE SILVER BULLET
THE COORS LIGHT BOTTLE SHOT DOWN FROM THE GRAYING SKY LIKE THE SILVER BULLET FROM ITS ADVERTISEMENTS. Logan, however, saw it differently. After he released the cold and wet bottle from his jittery hands, it sprouted wings as it swept the clouds away and spiraled along with a gentle breeze. A girl was walking on the street below and caught it. She looked up and gave him a beautiful smile, followed by a blown kiss.
His nose tingled as his buddy Derek finished another Coors and stumbled over. Derek’s eyes had drifted to the back of his head. Everyone had left school hours ago, but he and Derek still stunk up their homeroom classroom with Marlboro Reds and were doing some blow.
“Throw another one,” Derek said, attempting to hand Logan a fresh brew.
Logan nodded, fiddling with his tongue ring as he pressed his face against the window. He looked out of it every day during Ms. Weitzheimer’s boring history lectures and saw nothing but the meth heads who congregated in the skate park across from his school. His warm breath fogged the glass as screams floated up from below. He aimed to toss another Coors down four stories when he noticed that the same girl he thought had blown him a kiss was now lying in a pool of her own blood. She was crying loud enough to give him chills. A few of the addicts had crowded around, poking and prodding her.
The street became a dumping ground for the girl’s possessions. A clarinet spilled out of its felt case, rolling from side to side. The meth heads were leafing through scattered Physics and Calculus textbooks. Bad clarinet music filled the air as a skeletal junkie brought life to the solemn scene, drowning out the girl’s wails.
Logan fired up his machine gun laugh, pointing at the girl and the broken Coors that rolled around her face as if it was taunting her. Derek also snorted at the scene and then had an appealing suggestion that sounded better than what was happening below.
“Let’s jet and do another line on the back fire escape,” he smirked, and Logan nodded.
In history class the next day, Ms. Weitzheimer had finished her lecture on the Battle of Hastings and turned her attention to school related matters.
“Wanda Shiner is blind!” she shrieked.
“In one eye,” Logan whispered, over to Derek.
Ms. Weitzheimer shifted her weight over to the other side of the classroom. She wore a muumuu that resembled an enormous potato sack turned upside down and painted with flowers. Lipstick had smeared across her already coffee-stained teeth.
“After band practice yesterday, Wanda Shiner was innocently walking when a bottle…a beer bottle none-the-less…” She hissed the word beer as if it was a sin. “Struck her in the eye, blinding her in it permanently. She was on her way to buy a prom dress. Who knows if there will be a prom for her now?”
She paused to let the dramatic impact of her speech connect with the students. Some covered their mouths in shock; others shook their heads sadly. Logan blew a raspberry.
“And the faculty believe that this was caused by a student at this school. At this school! I think that is what saddens us the most.”
Logan knew of Wanda Shiner; Derek did, too. Greenland High was small enough where everybody knew everybody, but he never really thought about her. She sat up front in his Algebra class, launching her flabby arm to the ceiling whenever the teacher asked a question. Either that or she’d be frantically scribbling notes. She wore reindeer and Christmas sweaters in the middle of May and had tight stretchy pants that were always a size too small. She kept her stringy hair in a messy ponytail, and her skin had a gluey consistency and color. She used to wear dorky glasses but must have gotten contacts recently. Logan only noticed her because she sat next to Debbie Marks, who was a double D.
A week after Wanda’s unfortunate accident, she still sat in the front of the classroom, but with a huge bandage wrapped around her head that supported the other huge bandage, which covered all of her left eye and some of her nose and cheek. This weighed her head down to one side so much that at random it’d just give up the fight and come crashing down to her desk. She’d answer a question full of embarrassment, fighting not to cry. This annoyed Logan because he found his boner softened whenever Wanda got in the way of his view of Debbie’s chest.
After Ms. Weitzheimer’s class, Logan saw Wanda walking down the hall. Derek was telling him a story, which always involved people fucking, and he pretended to be interested. They headed to the bathroom to do what they always did, and Logan’s nose ached for it. He found himself thinking about an old “Twilight Zone” episode that dealt with the idea of spaces. If no one occupied a space, did it truly exist? The other kids all seemed to pass through him without a glance until his eyes finally locked with Wanda’s good one and his thought ended abruptly.
“Hey, Wanda Shiner,” Derek called out. “Wanna another shiner?” He cackled and clenched his fist, punching at the air repeatedly. Wanda exhaled loudly, full of defeat, and then dashed to the ladies bathroom. Logan laughed, but then a wave of nausea rushed over him.
“C’mon, man,” Derek said, his eyes moist. “It’s snortin’ time.”
Logan followed him, holding back the bile building up in his throat.
Logan hated suburbia. He hated that he couldn’t have any fun sober. He hated the sad sight of his house, painted a vomit yellow, and he hated his mother, too. He’d come home and she’d be smiling, hopped up on Percosets and boxed wine. That day when he walked in, she sat on their old sofa watching Maury, her lips stained wine-dark. She gave him a half-wave and he blinked back.
“Hi, hon,” she said to the television.
He joined her and Maury Povich, who bobbed up and down with a microphone in his hand and a cause to remedy. His mother drew him close to her and left a wet kiss on his cheek.
“It’s teenage pranks,” she hissed.
“On Maury, baby. Two teenagers with nothin’ better to do, probably on drugs, threw a bowling ball off a highway pass. It crashed through a windshield and killed a toddler.”
Logan sucked at his tongue ring, wishing he had a Coors.
“And two other kids made a third one suck on an air conditioner exhaust pipe. As a joke! Why someone would want to poison their own body so?”
She lit a Doral 100 that she held between her long, plastic nails.
“It reminded me of that girl,” she said.
“Which girl? Who you mean?”
“The blind girl, Wanda Shiner. Oh, if she was my daughter, God almighty help the little shits that threw those beers. Lo, you got some people in that school of yours that should be in prison. And here you think that a nice small town community in Indiana would be relatively safe…”
“Baby doll, you got some white stuff under your nose. Been eating them powdered donuts again?”
“Yeah, ma, donuts. Lots of donuts.”
She patted him on the cheek and kissed the air. He sulked towards his vomit-yellow bedroom.
“Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate? Yeah! Yeah!” Logan’s girlfriend Melinda squealed, her pom-poms flailing around her.
Logan leaned back against a beat-up Pontiac with a Coors. Melinda was wearing a Greenland High T-shirt a couple of sizes too small. She had cemented her bleached blond hair with tons of hairspray that kept it standing inches above her head and bounced around Logan with way too much energy for him to handle.
“I got my prom dress yesterday. Did your mom give you the message?”
“Wha…no…no,” he said, spacing out and focusing on the sky, clouds, and trees that looked like a painting. She was the only thing that felt out of place.
He spit a glob of phlegm and beer on the cement that she giggled at. She placed her pom-poms down and weaseled over to him, curling up in his arms.
“It’s sexy, real sexy…the dress I mean. I know you’ll like it.”
Derek walked by and Melinda loosened her grip.
“Wannadosomeblowbeforeclass?” Derek asked.
Logan nodded, he always did. Later, after doing lines, all three of them walked back to class, and Logan could have sworn he saw Derek squeeze Melinda’s ass. One long, affectionate squeeze that she giggled at like he’d done it a thousand times before. But maybe Logan just imagined it; he did that occasionally.
Derek and Melinda wandered into Chemistry together as Logan roamed the halls too messed up in the head to deal with the blurry faces that shot by rushing to get to their next class. He didn’t care. He had some stupid foreign language class to go to, but he preferred to have a cigarette outside instead.
The smoke tasted pure and delicious. He savored each drag, staring at his reflection in the glass doorway and realizing that he hadn’t combed his hair, or even washed it in a while. It looked confused, each clump of hair twisting up in a different direction, unsure of which way to go. From behind him, Wanda’s reflection appeared in the glass doors as well.
She walked slowly down the path towards their school. The heavy bandage around her head was making her lopsided. Her sneakers made a light pitter sound as they skipped up the front stairs. As she watched him with her good eye, he couldn’t imagine anyone looking more retarded.
Logan could feel the machine gun inside of him ready to fire up a round of laughter, but a smile appeared on his face instead. An inviting smile that she didn’t know how to respond to. Awkwardly, she managed to nod at him, the edges of her lips creeping up from a permanent frown so slowly and unsurely until finally she relented, releasing every torment inside of her. It seemed as if she hadn’t given or received anything in a long time.
She kept that smile down the hall to her class and even maintained it when she got home, momentarily forgetting that a huge bandage covered an eye that would never see again and soon be replaced with a glass one.
Wanda’s father lived and breathed guns. He traveled to auctions in the surrounding counties and spent fortunes on antique rifles and pistols. He kept them in a glass case in the living room for all to view and remark about the rarity of his collection.
When Wanda returned home that day, her head hanging to the left with a pleasant smile on her face, it didn’t surprise her that the glass case was open and he was cleaning a gun with a dishrag. He even named them. Always girl’s names. She recognized Hope in his hands.
“Hey, darling.” He glanced up from Hope and then made a move to embrace his daughter. He was careful with her head, supporting the bandage and placing her good eye against his shoulder; but the hug felt false, like he did it out of courtesy.
“Has your date gotten his tux yet? I remember my prom…” His voice trailed off down a long lane of memories while Wanda slipped into her own stream of consciousness. She hadn’t spoken to her prom date since the accident, too embarrassed by her appearance and hesitant to find out how he’d react.
“Wanda,” her father beamed. “It’ll be a night you’ll remember forever. Promise.”
She had lost her smile but nodded anyway. Her father returned to cleaning Hope with more of a caress than he ever gave to her, or her mother, but that was a long time ago.
“I figured since you were in an accident that you didn’t wanna go…I mean, that it wouldn’t be possible…or something,” Wanda’s prom date said, but he was lying. He stared at her bad eye the whole time without even a look of pity on his face.
“I’m not dead,” she said, but it was so much to herself that he didn’t hear.
“Sorry, Wanda. I’m going with Gretchen Healey. Since you didn’t call or anything I just figured–”
“Yeah, I get it. Whatever.”
Her fingers clenched her books that she gripped for support, finding solace in them like always. The girl that did her homework on Friday and Saturday nights while everyone else had a good time. Now she would pretend to do the same on Prom Night even though she had no homework to do.
He shrugged his thin shoulders and turned away. Her lips pressed into one another so hard that they began to ache. With a soft cry, her books fell from her fingers. The bell rang as students blurred by her. She knew she had class but remained in the same spot up against a few lockers for the next forty minutes.
“Forty minutes! The limo is gonna be here in forty minutes,” Logan yelled to Derek on Prom Night, loud enough for Melinda to hear since she locked herself in the bathroom perfecting her make-up.
They sat on the couch with Derek’s date who didn’t speak much, surrounded by empty beers and fresh lines to sniff.
Wanda sat on her own couch shivering in her lime green prom dress held up by nothing but the slight amount of fat around her underarms. She could feel and smell the sweat pouring down her arms and soaking her dress.
Her father came out with a camera, begging her to do him a favor and pose for pictures, but she hid her gaze behind her bandage and prayed that he wouldn’t see her cry.
“Where’s your date, honey?”
“I’m meeting him there,” she mumbled.
“You kids today. I’ll never understand.”
He snapped a picture.
The power window sunroof went SNAP as it opened and Logan launched himself up into the night sky. The wind shot by him, distorting his face. He slipped back down as his eye caught Derek’s hand inching towards Melinda’s thigh and then yanking it away once Logan came back into view. Melinda gave him a coked-out grin. He held a finished Coors in his hand and was aching to let it go.
He kept a Coors in his inside jacket pocket throughout the whole prom and until the after party at some rich kid’s house. Derek had taken Melinda’s hand and led her into the bathroom licking his lips. Logan found himself on the couch, momentarily forgetting where he was, his mind filled with too much blow, his stomach bloated from a six-pack of beers. A lime green presence sat next to him, alien and glowing, but after a few blinks he realized it was a girl. A pillow sat between them, but he wanted their bodies to be touching. Her hand had cupped around her chin and she seemed to be looking at nothing in particular but whatever happened to be in front of her. He could tell that her hand was supporting her head up. The bandage covering her eye had become sopping wet with tears.
He stared at her small breasts, barely able to fill out her dress, and a stomach that filled out too much of it. She had pale legs, laden with birthmarks. Her hair seemed like she had attempted to do it nicely at a beauty parlor, but the bandage limited the styling, and the whole thing became a poofed-out mess.
Logan moved the pillow away and slid close. Her throat closed up, hands trembling. He let go of the Coors and placed his cold hand on her shoulder. She sweated so profusely that she was slick to the touch. He found that arousing.
“Where’s your date?” he slurred.
“I don’t have one,” she said, as the bandage over her eye became wetter.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You need a drink…”
He rolled his tongue around searching for her name.
“Yeah, right. I’m…”
“Logan. I know. I know who you are.”
She allowed herself to smile. He passed a Coors into her hand. She was so focused on him, this boy, the attention, and the flutters in her stomach that she didn’t even see the irony of what she pressed to her lips, a cold silver bullet, the right beer now.
Wanda had never been drunk before other than a sip or two of champagne at a wedding or some Maneshevitz at a Bar-Mitzvah. She’d never known the effects of alcohol before, the way it warmed her body normally shivering out of nervousness in her lime green dress. After a few beers she thought she resembled one of the scary and unusual fish her mother had pointed out at the aquarium when she was young. Something she’d never seen before and was afraid of, but still, she pressed her face against the glass and stared with awe. While inebriated, the trauma of the last few weeks remained on land while she floated out to sea. At one point, she kind of remembered sniffing white powder and tasting Logan’s tongue, feeling surprised when she licked his tongue ring, but liking it.
All the other kids became her best friend as she glided past. Her hand wasn’t clammy when Logan took hold and led her into a bedroom, feeling up her breasts as he pulled off her fishy dress, threw her on the bed, and fell into her.
“Can I have one too?” she asked, and he handed her over a cigarette after flipping one between his lips.
Her smile was so wide that he wanted to break her teeth. She’d been a lousy lay and he wished he could just roll off the bed and out of the room. The drugs and alcohol were wearing off, and her face and body grew uglier by the minute.
“That was my first time,” she said, glancing over at her fishy dress all balled up by the bed.
“I guessed so.”
“Was it yours?” she asked, secretly wanting to do it again.
He fired his machine gun laugh that shook the bed and made her stomach turn.
“I’ve always wanted to connect with someone, like have an impact on them,” she said.
“What?” Logan wasn’t listening. In his mind he stood in front of Ms. Weitzheimer’s window with the Coors in his hand. “Smack,” he smirked. “That was the sound it made.”
She stuttered for the right way to continue her passionate thoughts.
“The way that you were looking at me. I’ve never had a guy want me in that way before.”
“You’re like…so weird,” he laughed.
“You like that?” she said, full of confidence for once. “When we made love,” she continued, her voice rising to a squeal. “I felt you…and I felt like I mattered…”
Her mind replayed thoughts of accomplishments, all too insignificant to be more than blurs. Her clarinet recital where she shut her eyes to truly hear the applause, and then by the time she had opened them, it had already silenced. Or winning her school’s spelling bee in third grade but only receiving a tiny trophy that her father never offered to display. Only his guns held that high honor.
She ran her finger across Logan’s cheek wanting him to breathe inside of her again and tell her all of his deepest thoughts, but he was barely thinking about her. The whole night was getting old to him. He wanted to tell her that they didn’t make love, that they fucked and she was lousy. That he pictured fucking Melinda in the ass the whole time with his eyes shut tightly so he didn’t have to see Wanda’s busted face with its one good eye. But he didn’t say anything that he wanted to, and he didn’t know whether it was the coke, or the beer, or something else. He rolled over, looked her straight in her good eye, and ran his fingers through her stringy hair.
“It felt special to me, too,” he said, barely able to get the words out without cracking up, but he held his cool as a stream of bullshit spilled out. “I love you.”
“Oh, Logan,” she said, her stomach full of wonderful butterflies.
“I’ve never felt this way before about anyone and I can’t describe it, but you’ve changed me,” he said, not even attempting to mask his smirk, but she ate it up. She kissed him for what seemed like hours. Whether she actually believed him, or just really wanted to, he didn’t care. He took her face in his hands. Tears weighed down her bandage again.
“When I was blinded, Logan, I didn’t feel like living anymore. I wished it had killed me, but not now, not with you. Not because of you.”
Those last words slapped around in his mind as time rolled back and she lay in a pool of blood, but now those words had become angry curses.
“Because of you!” she yelled in his imagination, one eye hanging out of its socket and blood spewing like vomit from her mouth.
He had liked it, especially the smacking sound as the Coors knocked her out, and he turned her pain into his enjoyment while his own disintegrated. He usually felt like his life was someone else’s dream that’d be forgotten once they woke, but not that day, he felt alive, awake and alive.
“I meant it,” he said. “You really changed me.”
Now he wanted to do something to her again. Whether that meant rolling back on top of her or blinding her other eye, it didn’t matter. More importantly he wanted her to know what he had done; he wanted to be the most influential person in her life.
“It was all because of me,” he said, in the sweetest voice he could muster. She nodded, probably imagining them at their church wedding with all of his friends that would become hers as well. But he shook his head with a mocking grin and placed his fingers over her bandaged eye, pressing gently at first, but then increasingly harder.
“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice shaking.
“It was me. All me, baby. The Coors bottle. I launched at you and wanted to launch another. Cyclops,” he whispered to her, nice and smooth, even more soothing than when he told her he loved her.
“Sunny day sweeping the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet,” Logan hummed, in an upbeat mood on his way to school. It was the last day of high school. No more work, no more teachers. Life was going to be cool from here on. Everyone else would be excited to find the perfect place in their room for their diploma, while he imagined a bonfire in his backyard and it stoking the flames.
“Asshat!” Logan yelled over to Derek, who sat on the front stairs smoking a rolled cigarette.
“What’s up, man?” Derek called out and launched a phlegm glob that landed on his sneaker. He shrugged it off. “Have you heard the latest word? Seen Melinda?”
Logan ignored the second question.
“What’s the latest word? What are you talking about?”
“Uh, that you fucked Shiner, the one-eyed hot mess?”
“You touched that beast’s vag?”
“I wanted to feel her pain.”
He slapped Derek on the back and walked up the stairs to the school before turning back around.
“Oh yeah, thanks for taking care of Melinda by the way. I hope she gives you a fucking STD.” He stuck his middle finger up at his former friend, content if he never saw him again.
The bell rang, class began, and he was all alone. The last time he’d walk down Greenland’s halls in solace. He lit a cigarette and leaned up against a locker when he heard soft footsteps behind him. As they came closer, he swiveled his head over and saw Wanda crying.
“What’s up?” he said, as if nothing between them had ever happened.
“What’s up?” she screamed, supporting her head with her left hand as her other one reached down her pants.
“Yeah, what’s up…?”
He had always wanted to fire a gun, even shoot someone, but the reality of a gun in his face made his bowels rumble, his breaths short and heavy, his ears close off all sounds….
BANG BANG BANG
There were screams and students darting out of classrooms, bodies sliding to the floor, and everything jumbled together. He didn’t know what had happened but he knew he was bleeding. He could feel it, but he couldn’t see it, he couldn’t see anything.
Months later, Logan sat in front of the television with the volume turned way up. His arms flailed about searching for the remote. His little brother was watching Sesame Street and he needed it to end. A hand with long, plastic nails touched his shoulder. The smell of nasty cigarettes permeated the air.
“Oh, Lo. I can’t even believe this. Can you hear me okay, sugar booger?”
“Mom, I’m not deaf!” He knocked her hand off his shoulder.
“No, you’re right, my sweet baby, but God, Lo, if I was that Wanda Shiner’s mother, God help the spanking that I would give that troubled child. And the fact that she’s only in a juvenile hall for what she did to you. Well, her soul will have to live with what she’s done.”
She gave him an over-eager smile that he was lucky he couldn’t see because he would’ve responded to it with his fist.
“I don’t give a fuck about her soul!”
His eyes burned again. Out of instinct he grabbed at his bandages to soothe them any way possible, but his mother stopped him.
“No, no, Logan, the doctor said to leave those bandages alone, you’ll only make it worse.”
“But they burn!”
“I know, son, I know.”
“You don’t know shit.”
He jerked away from her and immediately pitched over to the floor, the bandage wrapped around his eyes and head too heavy for him to hold up. He felt like a mummy. He tried to pick himself back up but had lost coordination.
“Oh, Lo,” his mother cried, and picked him up but he fell down again.
“Leave me,” he wept into the floor, tasting wood in his mouth, the only part of his face not wrapped up. “Just leave me.”
No one answered.
“Mom?” he called out to no response. “Mom?” But she had gone and so had his little brother when he called for him, too. “Mom!”
Nobody answered in his world of darkness. He replayed the image of Wanda’s smiling and sobbing face as she aimed the gun. The bullet spiraling towards his eye was the last thing he’d ever see. With that thought, he felt a gurgle from the back of his throat and heaved and heaved for what seemed like forever.