It was Saturday night and there was this new zombie movie that was supposed to be a hoot. I didn't want to see it too bad, but Yo did. I just wanted to go out, and he had the car, so we hit the multiplex. The movie started at like 9:15. We did split a 40 on the drive over, and Yo might have had a couple before, but it's not true that we were all drunk and shit.
It was raining and thundering a little when we got out of the car; had to run for it. Inside there was a long line for the movie—all people in high school, pretty much. All the other movies had short lines because there wasn't anything else worth seeing. There were some kids from our school there but nobody who really mattered. It was noisy like usual, people talking in little groups, bullshitting around waiting for the screening room doors to open, and right in front of us happened to be these three stupid kids, like sixth graders. They were all excited, babbling, squealing when they laughed, mimicking voices from TV, jumping around and shit. Real irritating little homos.
Then these babes got in line behind us. There were three; two of them OK but a little skanky, but the other was this bad little blonde. She was like maybe fifteen, big eyes with that raccoon eye makeup, bare midriff with her jacket open even though it was a little cold out, low riders; made her look like a little slut. Which I like, of course. Who doesn't?
I caught her eye, I could tell. A lot of girls stare at me right off because I look good. Hey, I'm handsome, I admit it. Sounds like I'm bragging, but it's just true. People say it all the time. You know that old dead actor named James Dean? His movies suck, but he looks kind of like me, people say. He even makes expressions like me, facial expressions. My sister has a couple of his movies on DVD, and I can look in the mirror after seeing them and make the same faces. Yo, who's a homely-ass mutt, he tried to call me a 'pretty-boy' once. I mean, just once; he didn't say it again when I whacked him upside the head.
See, Yo—his real name was Josh, Josh Yoder—he was a big strong kid, he could kick anybody's ass, and he liked to, since that was about all he was good at, but I could always handle his shit. He wanted to be popular at school but for that he needed me more than I really needed him, never mind his dad's fucking Grand Am. I don't even like Grand Am's, but my folks didn't have a car at all.
Anyway, this little blonde, she was one to pretend she wasn't impressed, an act I was used to. It means they're real interested. She turned her head after our eyes met for a second, put her long blonde hair behind her ear, pouted and started talking and giggling in a cute squeaky voice to this one girl she was with. Cute and knew it; sure, they always know it. Knew I was watching her, too, primping and skipping around to show herself off, practically shaking her little butt at me.
Meanwhile, one of the dweeb kids in front of us, kid with these little rectangular glasses that are supposed to make you hip, was trying to impress his butt buddies by talking like that old vampire dude from the real old Dracula movies. He said like, "the soon-to-be-dead are among us here and now—there, and there and there, and there!" He turned around when he said that and pointed his finger at Yo. Bad mistake.
One of the other kids, the tallest one, almost as tall as me but scrawny, was grinning and laughing like it was a Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party, but when he turned and glanced at Yo and me, the looks on our faces, he clammed up and looked jittery. And he was the tall one, you know?
I mean, he didn't act that scared, but a little was enough, because it didn't take much for Yo to catch that scent of fear and go for it. Plus I wasn't inclined to discourage him right then, because these girls behind us were watching, you know. I'm not sure these little wussy boys had even noticed the girls; they didn't have dicks yet, if they ever would.
The third kid, the littlest guy, he had a black pixie haircut like the Beatles or some shit that his mom probably thought was cute on him. He looked like the wussiest one, but he was just smiling, watching his buddy with the glasses put on his show. The stupid kid who'd pointed, with the glasses, was still rattling on about vampires or some shit with this big grin on his face like he's Jay Leno.
"Kid's pretty funny, huh?" I said to Yo, but loud enough for the girls to hear. The girls snorted with amusement, or one of them did—the blonde, I hoped—and the wusses heard that and all three of them, even Jay Leno, got real still, like hamsters when a cat's in the room.
"Fuckin' smartass," said Yo in this deep voice he always put on when he was fucking with somebody. He put his second finger to his thumb and flicked Jay Leno on the back of the head, hard. Yo had these big fucking hands.
"Ow! Hey!" Jay Leno said, too loud, like a six-year-old would, rubbing his head where he'd been flicked. A girl behind us shrieked with glee, and somehow I knew that time it was the blonde, and a bunch of other people in the line heard it too, turned around to look and were cracking up. "Dat wuz smart," somebody said in a retard voice, and others were mimicking "Ow!" in a high-pitched homo voice just like the wussy kid.
The tall kid looked like he was going to start crying right there—fuckin' chickenshit—and the little pixie guy looked pretty worried too. They all there of them stayed quiet, like they were sad all of the sudden. There was a lot of chatter going otherwise, not because of Yo and this kid anymore, just the usual shooting the shit.
The doors opened finally, a relief to the wusses I'm sure, but this wasn't going to be the end of it.
We all filed in, past the slow-ass ticket-takers in their white shirts and black trou. A loud preview was showing as we walked into the showing room. Yo was headed for seats down front, but I put a hand on his shoulder and pointed to a spot where the wusses had just sat down. Yo nodded and grinned. He always looked like Goofy from Disney cartoons when he smiled like that, even in the weird light from the movie screen.
We sat, and before long I heard the same squeaky giggling as before from the seats in the row behind us. It was my little blonde and her buddies. I turned my head and rolled my eyes, letting my mouth hang open just a little. It was a look I'd practiced at home with this one James Dean movie. Me and the blonde exchanged glances again. She looked real excited now, but again, she tried to hide it, looked away and put on the fake pout. I kept watching, and after a couple seconds she looked right back at me, smiled real wide like she couldn't help it, but then went back to the pout and looked away.
Yo started to bring up his foot, to put it in the face of the scaredy-cat tall kid who was sitting in front of him, but I said, "Be cool, wait for the movie to start." He grinned and nodded.
The previews went on forever, and the movie finally started up. It was the usual thing, a little boring at first but pretty soon had some good zombie attacks with a lot of spurting blood and shit. The zombies in this movie were fast, and did these evil cackling laughs. I let it run on for a good while before I elbowed Yo to remind him of the wusses waiting to be fucked with. Had to elbow him a couple times, I guess he'd gotten wrapped up in the movie.
He nodded, raised his foot and put it over the back of the tall kid's seat into the side of his face, but fixed on the screen again when as a real rotted zombie chomped into a bonneted baby's skull, while everybody laughed and shrieked and shit. Yo was laughing too. He had a real deep retarded-sounding laugh.
"Hey, quit it!" said the tall kid, with a whine in his voice, pushing Yo's foot away. He put it right back, and the kid got up and moved to another seat, way at the far end of the aisle. Yo looked at me and grinned open-mouthed, bobbing his head in a silent laugh.
A bunch of people chortled, but Yo seemed to lose his amusement all the sudden. Zombies on the screen were now running down the aisles of a nursing home, carrying chain saws and decapitating old folks in wheel chairs, while more zombies came up behind them, catching the old wrinkled up white-haired heads and stringing them together by the hair as they ran, with the heads still screaming as the zombies strung them together. It was pretty cool.
Yo bent over to ask me right up in my ear, "You think heads could still scream like that?"
"Naw," I said, "only in movies."
"Not even for, like, a second?" I just shook my head no, 'cause I wanted to watch the movie myself at that point.
Yo laughed heartily again as a zombie attacked a fat black custodian carrying a vacuum cleaner, backing him into a corner, taking the cleaner away from him and beating his wide-eyed terrified face all bloody with the base of it. Then the zombie used the vacuum to suck the guy's face completely off, his eyeballs too, which came out of the sockets with a pop. Everybody in the theater went nuts over that. The zombie himself did this real insane laugh all through it. It was real funny how Yo's laugh sounded just like the zombie's laugh, only deeper, which got me and other people nearby to chuckling along.
After awhile though, the carnage onscreen all seemed about the same, and I wondered if the blonde girl was still thinking about me. I heard some murmuring, and turned around in my seat to see, to my dismay, that she and her girlfriends were talking to some guy sitting behind them. I turned back around, annoyed.
But then somebody tapped me on the shoulder. It was her. First time I got to look right in her face. She was really cute, close up even, and acted a little nervous. "Scuse me, would you like this popcorn?" She held up a large, half-empty tub of dry, unbuttered corn.
"Don-naaa," said one of her friends, as if surprised at her.
"You don't want it?" I said.
"No we don't want it," said the blonde. Donna.
I didn't want it either, but took it, of course, exchanging smiles with Donna. When I turned back around, I had an idea. "Want some?" I said to Yo.
"Yeah, great," he said, putting the container between his knees and digging a big handful out.
I leaned toward him. "Hey, Yo, we're neglecting the sideshow, man," I said.
"Wha' sho'?" he said, with his mouth full, munching.
"The wusses. Why are we letting them live?"
"Them." I pointed.
"I don't fuckin' care," he said.
"We could decorate them a little." I mimicked taking a piece of popcorn and tossing it unto the head of the Jay Leno kid, who was sitting in front of me. I noticed even as I did this that the pixie kid had gotten out of his seat, excused himself past a couple people and walked back up the aisle. Might have heard me talking and was going to tell on us, but might also just be going to the bathroom.
"Yeah, I guess. Popcorn's greasy anyway." At that, he started tossing the popcorn onto the kid's head. He frantically brushed it off, whimpering a little. A girl behind us squealed out a laugh, but another said, "It's not funny."
"Cool it for now, we might have a little snitch on our hands," I told Yo, but, amused by the wusses' reaction, he kept tossing.
A light went on at the side of my face, a flashlight. One of the ushers was pointing it, a big older guy. He spoke sternly, though in a low voice. "Excuse me, sir. You and your friend will have to leave. Right now."
"Why, we're not—"
"Right now, or we'll have the police here in two minutes. You've disrupted the show enough already. Out." The pixie was standing beside him, with a big snotty scowl on his face. Fuckin' snitch.
"I didn't do anything," said Yo.
"Ahhhh," I heard a girl say, "that's not fair." It was my little babe Donna.
"Good riddance," said another. That was that one friend of hers. Cunt.
"C'mon, let's split. Movie sucks anyway." I got up, and Yo groaned and got up after me, and we trudged up the aisle with the usher walking behind, none too fast so that it didn't look like we were intimidated. We chuckled a little, too, I did anyway. People we passed glanced at us warily, though the movie got loud just then, sounded like machine-gun fire. Yo stopped for a second and looked back at the screen. I could tell he was bummed. I think somebody in the audience said "asshole," up near the exit, but they probably meant the usher rather than us.
Once we got to the lobby, the guy with the flashlight stopped and stood with his arms folded watching us leave, like he was the sheriff running us out of town. A couple of the other ticket takers, girls, came up and joined him, glaring at us. I wondered which girl the fucking jerk was trying to impress. I was going to flip him off, didn't bother, just turned around and smirked at him as we reached the doors.
We went outside. There was a brisk wind, felt good after the rain. The puddles bobbed with light from the tall parking lot lamps. Made me want to do something, get some fucking kicks before the night was over. To see that Donna, talk to her, maybe get her in the car even. Hell, the night was young. I checked my watch, it was after 11. We were in there longer than it seemed, the movie would be almost over.
"Fuck, man, I wanted to see how the movie ended," said Yo.
"Yeah, me too," though I didn't really. "You wanna wait and see if those fuckin' wusses come out? It's about over."
"Yeah, let's do that. I'm pretty pissed off. Fuckin' seventeen dollars to see the movie." Actually, it was eight-fifty a ticket, but he'd paid my way 'cause I was broke. "You know what, man? This fuckin' pisses me off the more I think about it," he said.
"Little fuckin' wusses, man," I said. "Did you see that one who went and got the usher to throw us out? Looked like the mean guy from the Three Stooges. Ever see the Three Stooges?"
"I feel like kickin' somebody's butt, man," Yo said, lighting up a cigarette. "I'm serious. Watch the whole movie to almost the end and don't get to see it. People fuck with me they get fucked up, man. You know?"
"I know it," I said. This was just vintage Yo-man.
"After they come out an' shit, we'll go back to my place and get some more beer," he added. "My dad's got a bunch in the garage."
"That’d be cool. Hey look, here comes some people, must be over." I didn't see the wusses, or Donna, among all the kids coming out the entrance. I looked around the parking lot. "Let's get behind that pickup over there, if they see us they'll just run back inside."
We did so, and pretty soon the wusses came out among the crowd, the pixie, the tall one and the one with glasses, not looking very happy and walking fast. Maybe they figured we could be waiting. And there not far behind them was my little fox Donna and her two skanky friends.
The wusses were probably headed into the mall to get picked up by their mom, but as it happened they walked right by us. "Hey, buddy," said Yo in his menacing voice, stepping out. He was talking to the pixie, glaring at him.
"You guys better leave us alone," said the Jay Leno one, his voice getting high like with helium. They all looked scared, especially the tall one; he was shaking like a chihuahua.
"You didn't have to run and snitch like a little fuckin' girl," said Yo, as if he was seriously scolding the kid. "You could of just said 'quit throwin' popcorn on me,' and I would have."
"We don't want anything to do with you," said the pixie. His voice wasn't shaking, but you could see from his eyes he was about pissing his pants.
"It's not cool to be a fuckin' snitch, man." Yo grabbed the kid by the collar, put his foot behind his ankle, tripped him, and sat on him. "I don't like fuckin' snitches, man." He backhanded the kid across the face. I could see this was going to be bad. Yo was real pissed about the movie, I guess. These kids' parents might be there screaming any minute.
The kid, to my surprise, tried to punch him back. Yo grabbed the kid's wrists, turned his head and said "Didja see that? Tried to suckerpunch me!" People were gathering around the two of them and me, some glaring at us, some smiling because they liked to see a fight, like I usually did, but not now. Yo was getting all carried away.
"Let him up, Yo, we gotta go," I said. "Let's go."
To my surprise, Yo punched the kid in the middle of his face, pretty hard. You could hear a crunch, and the kid started to shriek. His nose looked squashed, there was blood coming out of it. He hit him again.
"Stop it! Stop it!" a girl standing by kept saying, like a tape loop. I started worrying somebody in the crowd might jump in to be a hero. I saw Donna then, in the back of the crowd, craning her neck to see.
"Jesus fuck, man, c'mon!" I grabbed at Yo's arm, and at that moment, the kid tried to punch him back again, a straight-up punch, missing his face and hitting him square in the throat. I guess he was strong for a little guy, or else hit Yo just right. I heard this loud snap.
Yo made a long weird bellow, rolled off the kid and curled up sideways on the asphalt. He put his hands around his throat and pumped his legs real hard, shuddering more and more, and the bellow turned into this awful snorting sound. He snorted faster and faster, couldn't seem to stop.
He looked up at me, his eyes begging, but there was nothing I could do. The snorting got more and more hoarse, 'til it was just a hiss. His face was getting dark, like bluish grey, you could see it changing real fast, just darker and darker. Girls in the crowd watching, maybe guys too, started to scream and cry.
The usher who'd thrown us out was there, talking on his cellphone, putting it flat on his shoulder as he yelled at the crowd to stay back. Then Yo, his face shiny and almost black even under the bright light of the lamps, made another sound, like he was gargling some mouthwash, only harsher. After a few more seconds, it ended.
He still seemed to stare back at me, and his tongue was sticking out of his mouth, bunched up real thick. I hate to say, but he looked even more like Goofy that way. I couldn't look at him anymore. I heard a faraway siren.
I don't know what was happening right after that, it's kind of a blur. There was some old fat guy with a chin beard and glasses yelling at me and crying. I don't know how I know this, but I'm pretty sure he was one of the wusses' dads, probably there to pick them up. I decided not to talk to him.
Somebody yanked me by the arm and led me to sit down in a car. I thought it was Yo's car, but once inside I heard this staticky talk from the dashboard, and thought, when did Yo get a shortwave radio? But it was a squad car. A cop was asking me some questions in a loud slow voice like he was talking to an idiot, but the questions didn't make too much sense. It was like a dream where slow, stupid stuff keeps happening and you get all frustrated.
The one thing I recall clearly was looking out the window and seeing Donna, a little distance away, talking to another cop. "We were there, he didn't do it, it was the other guy," I heard her say a couple times, while her girlfriend who didn't like me was pulling at her, saying "Donna, Donna, my God."
Maybe it was because my heart was going fast, but it was like what I was seeing before me was galloping, like a movie that's out-of-kilter, so that light from the lamps reflected in rain puddles kept jumping around real frantically in a pattern. It felt like I was getting hypnotized.
They left me alone for a minute, and as I sat quietly in the squad car, there was Donna again. Her friend was gone, and she was all blonde and pretty, standing a few feet away right under a light pole so the light shone down on her and brightened up her hair to almost white, just like an angel or something.
She cocked her head to one side, smiled real sweet and waved at me. Damned if I didn't wave back like everything was cool, automatically doing one of my James Dean faces. It's crazy, but I remember thinking that it was just fate, destiny, that this was supposed to happen, my days hanging with Yo were over, and now there'd be Donna. But what would I do for a car?
I was out of my head. It turned out it didn't matter, anyway, because I never did see Donna again.
Pete Risley is the author of the novel Rabid Child, published by New pulp Press in 2010. His short stories have appeared in Thrillers, Killers and Chillers, A Twist of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine. He lives in Columbus, OH.