Published on August 6th, 2009 | by TLV News0
“What the Faulkner Presents: Adventures with Pinecone” by Charles Hale (From TLV #86)
I’d seen Pinecone a couple of times since I hung out with his mother and each time I tried to pry information about his parents’ relationship with no avail. If there had been big fights and if Pinecone was walking around with any emotional baggage I had yet to see it. But I was worried about him, worried that a divorce would make little Pinecone grow up too quickly. But when I heard the slight tremble in his voice when he called and asked me to pick him up in front of the library I was expecting to hear about his parents when I got there.
I wasn’t up to anything important so I got in my car and drove over to pick him up. He was sitting on the steps with his head sagging when I pulled in so I didn’t see the blood that had trickled out of his nose and the quickly forming black eye until he opened the door to my car. The first time I asked Pinecone what happened he didn’t say anything and started making some sounds that made me think he was about to cry. I was heartbroken and did everything I could to remain calm in those first few moments. I counted my breaths and tried to figure out if Pinecone had gotten between his parents or if one had taken out their aggression with the other on their son. I asked Pinecone again to tell me what happened and he started mumbling.
“I, I, I,” Pinecone tried to spit something out and I reached over and put my hand on his shoulder. “I was over at the skate park just talking and messing around and this older kid jumped me.” Pinecone didn’t look at me while he talked; his head was hanging almost all the way to his lap. I turned and watched him for a moment. I didn’t know if his family situation had anything to do with this incident but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. He didn’t deserve this, even with his smart ass mouth he didn’t deserved to be beaten like an unwanted puppy.
“Is he still over there?” I asked as I began to lose my cool. “Cause I’ll beat his ass, I don’t give a shit.” When I put the car in drive and put my foot on the gas I noticed Pinecone out of the corner of my eye. He had turned and was staring at me; I couldn’t help but look at him. It was almost as if what I said was making things worse. “Point him out, Pinecone. What is he—15, 16? I got no problem beating down a kid that age.”
“Don’t Charles,” Pinecone said and I knew immediately that it was a bad idea. “I just want to go home.” He was as somber as I’ve ever seen him. It was almost as if the smart ass little kid I met on the bike path at the beginning of summer wasn’t there any more. He looked defeated and my biggest fear was that it wasn’t just the fight at the skate park that had him down, but he wouldn’t say anything about it.
On the way to his house I asked him if he wanted anything to eat. I was expecting him to ask for a McRib and I was planning to break my rule and get him one, but he shook his head no and I kept driving. When we pulled into his driveway neither of his parents’ cars were there. I got out of the car and walked Pinecone to the door. I was planning to leave a short note for his mother to tell her what had happened, but Shelia, Pinecone’s sister, was home. She saw Pinecone’s face and asked him what happened but Pinecone went straight to his room without saying a word. Then she asked me if I knew what had happened. I started talking and then Shelia motioned for me to sit down. We talked for nearly an hour, first about Pinecone but then about other things. It was an effortless conversation and I wanted to ask her if she’d have dinner with me sometime but it didn’t seem the time or the place. But she was smart and had keen insights about people and what motivated them. And countless other things about her impressed me. Eventually she thanked me for bringing her brother home and I stood up to go. I was disappointed that there was no lingering conversation in the doorway, no comment from her that made me think she saw me as anything more than her brother’s babysitter. And I resigned that it would always be like that.
This is part 5. To read part 4, click here.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #86. (published August 6, 2009).