My mouth was full of pennies. Copper fell from my mouth in pregnant drops, each splash a work of art on concrete. A Pollack study in red. My eyesight was failing, but I could still see them. Laughing. Drinking cheap whiskey from paper cups. Mixed with whatever it is privileged kids drink on Friday nights during football games. They really should have killed me, it would have been much less painful for everyone involved.
It took almost three months to heal. I became restless waiting. I’m not very good at waiting. Already the principal and both deans had been at me, alone and in pairs, picking apart my story. They asked their questions, but I’ve years practicing ignorance.
"No, sir. I didn’t see them. No, I have no idea who they were or what they wanted. Yes, sir, you’ll have no trouble from me on school grounds."
I’m not a good liar, but most adults never like to think what kids are capable of when they put their minds to it. I had a four part plan. That there were four people responsible for three broken ribs, a broken nose, two black eyes, a broken hand, and the hairline fracture along the zygomatic bone of my left eye was just a coincidence. Bad news travels in threes, but like airlines, revenge apparently doesn’t like empty seats.
Lucky number one folded the moment he turned and saw me standing at his side at the arcade. He begged. This wasn’t surprising. I knew they all would, thats what cowards do. Unfortunately, compassion was one of many emotions that had long since absconded along with my innocence. I stopped when he passed out. That, at least, was something.
The second took a little longer. Luckily I wasn’t on a schedule. Time was on my side. Sometimes a plan falls together and he fell into my lap. Movie theaters are dark and not watching where you put your ass can be hazardous. Over quickly, word spread then. There could be little doubt what was coming and who it was coming for.
The third was ready for me. A two by four can lay waste to healed ribs. In the end it wasn’t enough though. Without someone to hold my arms behind my back while he beat me senseless, he folded rather quickly. I didn’t care. Like the merchant of venice, I took my pound of flesh, no more, no less.
The fourth was the hardest and the one I wanted more than Oprah wants cake. Took the rest of the school year. He was just trying to lay low. He knew it was just a matter of time and every day that I left him untouched was one day closer to getting away with it. I made promises, but promises are made to be broken aren’t they? I caught him alone in the bathroom. My friends closed off the exits to prevent anyone from interrupting us.
His family moved that summer after he got out of the hospital. I hear he drank out of a straw for six months since his jaw had been wired shut. I had to work painting the school bathrooms all that summer to pay off the cost of replacing the porcelin urinal I had damaged. The piece that broke off is still somewhere in the attic of my father’s house.
No one ever made me taste pennies again.