By Kevin Wilson, Jun 09, 2009

They had a plan to get even. Chipper’s parents were finally asleep, the sound of the TV muted and the lights off. While Chipper finished filling up the backpack with the supplies, Lamont covered his face with black shoe polish, the sharp smell burning his nose, the polish heavy on his skin. When they were ready, one step before they could not turn back, they opened the window to Chipper’s bedroom, kicked out the screen, and slipped into the night, unsupervised, unafraid, ready to blow something up.

It was because of the comic book. Chipper had come up with the premise and Lamont had drawn each panel according to Chipper’s directions. It was called Alien Sex and it was about a bunch of Martians who landed their spacecraft in Dougwood and proceeded to have sex with the most desirable girls at the high school. Lamont would pencil a black-eyed alien standing behind a bent over cheerleader, lines of movement surrounding their bodies, suggesting fucking. “Make her tits bigger,” Chipper said, over and over, every panel, and Lamont obliged.

That they were doing this at all was juvenile. That they were doing it during lunch, hunched over a table by themselves, was stupid. That they did not hear Mr. Blackwell, their Tennessee History teacher and lunchroom monitor, walking toward them, standing behind them, staring over their shoulders, was tragic. “Boys,” Mr. Blackwell said, “this isn’t proper.” Lamont’s pencil stood over the paper, hovering above an act he had never seen, only imagined, but was doing a pretty good job of accurately portraying. “Give it to me,” Mr. Blackwell said, and Lamont handed the pages over. Mr. Blackwell stared at the images, flipped through the few pages, not saying a word. “Is this it?” he asked. The boys nodded. Without saying another word, Mr. Blackwell folded the pages and slipped them into his back pocket. “Ridiculous,” he said, and walked away. “Are we in trouble?” Chipper asked, but Mr. Blackwell didn’t respond.

The next day, Mr. Blackwell sat down beside them at lunch, his hands flat on the table. “Boys,” he said. “I want the rest of those pages.” They didn’t have any other pages, had abandoned the project, but Mr. Blackwell only shook his head. “I want the rest of the comic book by tomorrow,” he said, “or I call your parents and tell them what’s what. Understood?” Chipper watched as their teacher left the table and muttered, “Pervert. He’s jerking it to your pictures.” But they had no choice. They had to be creative.

Nine pages later, the cheerleaders were saved by the UFO Squad, and, grateful for having been rescued from the sex-crazed aliens, proceeded to thank the UFO Squad by fucking them in even stranger ways than the aliens had dreamed of. Lamont and Chipper handed the new pages to Mr. Blackwell, who smiled and then said, “Don’t do this again, boys. Don’t ever put things on paper that shouldn’t be there.”

Now, pitch black night, Lamont followed Chipper through the backyards of their neighbors, dogs barking at their passing scent, each of them crawling on hands and knees over the wet grass until they were at Mr. Blackwell’s house. The two boys stared at the dark windows of the house, each of them loaded down with awful things, pain to inflict, and then steal away like it was all a dream.

In the planning stages the day before, they had begun tentatively and then they surprised themselves with their imagination. Toilet paper in the trees, gasoline spelling out dirty words in the lawn, car windows smashed, rat poison in the cat’s food dish, dead squirrels in the mailbox, fire everywhere, starting small and building, burning down the house. They went onto the Internet and at their favorite search engine, they typed in the word revenge and read through each entry, a pencil and paper at the ready, awakening to possibility.

Lamont let the air out of the car’s tires, the hiss so loud it seemed the car was in pain. Chipper took off his gloves and then opened his backpack to remove the complicated pieces of his device, copied from the Internet, warnings in all caps. Lamont did not understand how it worked and Chipper did not want to take the time to explain it. So Lamont continued with his list, smearing dog shit under the handles of the car doors, sugar dumped down the gas tank, a small penknife skidding across the length of the car, digging into the paint. Lamont was amazed, after so many years of being bullied in the cafeteria, not smart enough to even earn the safety of teachers’ admiration, no friends but Chipper, how much unhappiness he was capable of creating.

He heard a small pop, the sound of glass sprinkling the pavement, and he turned to see Chipper, the apparatus that was in his hand now exploded, gone off too early, a small, weak flame burning at his feet. A light went on in the house and Lamont ran to Chipper, who was on his hands and knees, searching for something. They had to run, to get out of there, and then Lamont saw Chipper’s right hand, the tips of two of his fingers missing, the remaining fingers deformed, bent at strange angles. There was one of his fingertips, half burned by the fire, and Chipper reached into the flame and plucked it out, holding it in his good hand. Lamont saw the other piece of finger next to the lawn and directed Chipper to it. Chipper placed the fingertips in his backpack and they ran through the yards, tree branches whipping their faces, trying to catch their breath, things going wrong.

Lamont boosted Chipper through his bedroom window and then climbed in after his friend. Chipper was sucking his teeth, unable to say anything, his hand shaking. It was a mess of blood and broken bones and ragged stumps. “I need to tell your parents,” Lamont said, almost sick at the sight of his friend, but Chipper would not let him do it. “We’ll get in trouble,” he said. “Just get me some towels. Help me fix it.” Lamont looked at his friend, who was crying soundlessly, the tears smearing his face, and noticed the shards of glass embedded in Chipper’s face, sparkling against the black shoe polish.

Lamont walked to the bathroom, careful not to make a sound, and vomited into the toilet, the liquid pouring out of him like a scream. He got some toilet paper and Band-Aids and tweezers and some hydrogen peroxide, and crept back into his friend’s room. Chipper was on the bed, a pillow covering his face, his hand raised in the air as if he knew the answer to a question.

There was too much wrong with Chipper’s hand so Lamont simply wrapped the toilet paper around and around the appendage, the blood already soaking through the thin tissue. He kept wrapping until the toilet paper was gone and Chipper’s hand looked like a mummy’s, a white stump. “Does it hurt?” Lamont asked and Chipper’s face moved under the pillow but Lamont couldn’t tell if he was saying yes or no. Lamont got on the Internet and looked up severed fingers and they all said the same thing. Ice. But he did not want to risk going back into the hallway. The fingers were not going back on Chipper’s hand; they were burned, blown off, already dead.

He slipped under the sheets of the bed, beside Chipper, and listened to the sound of Chipper’s breathing, soft hiccups. He knew they were in trouble, that something awful had happened, but he could not stay awake. This was the last time he would see his friend, the awful things that would come, the punishment unceasing. He closed his eyes, waited for sleep, and hoped that things would be fixed in the morning, knowing as soon as he thought this, that it would not be true.

Kevin Wilson is the author of the story collection Tunneling to the Center of the Earth (Ecco/Harper Perennial, 2009). His fiction has appeared in Tin House, One Story, Ploughshares, Wigleaf, Lamination Colony, and elsewhere.