Uncle Cherry stole my bike. I asked him where my bike went to and he wouldn’t look at me. His hairy hand was on the girl with the cotton candy. The blue and the pink kind.
I look back at Uncle Cherry, and Cherry became sixteen years old yesterday, and he has pimples up and down his back and up and down his neck. Most days Mom works and Cherry’s the one frying up the bologna and taking me to spaghetti heaven when we watch the police guys shoot the bad guys on the TV. The TV has blood all over it. But I’m not scared no more. Uncle Cherry likes to clap at the TV. Likes to laugh when the police guys hit the bad guys with their sticks a hundred million times. Mom can’t watch it with us when she’s working all the days she works. She says if we want to keep eating food every day, she’s got to clean up the clothes with the chemicals on her hands. And Uncle Cherry’s got to watch me as soon as school gets done, until Mom gets home after bedtime.
I can’t find my bike anywhere. I look back and Uncle Cherry’s disappeared now. And I hear his voice hiding inside the Ferris Wheel.
“You’ve seen my bike?” I ask two older kids. They’re kissing and they don’t stop to listen to me. A grandma-woman and her yellow gorilla say “no” to me when I ask. A boy, the mom and the dad-guy haven’t seen my bike. I follow them and watch them. The dad-guy has American flag tattoos like my dad does in the pictures at home in the box in the closet.
I keep walking everywhere. Everyone I ask hasn’t seen my bike. I want to cry, and Uncle Cherry says only big wet pussies cry.
I hear Uncle Cherry when I move outside the circus fences. I know he stole my bike. He likes to do the tricks every time. Even likes to hide on me when this girl comes to my house. They run into the bathroom and I can hear him screaming at her. Her screaming at him like they’re smashing things up. Sometimes they yell two times and she can be sweaty. But she brings me candy corns and won’t tell me her name no matter how many times I yell at her to. Mom says I should tell her when this happens. Or take a picture of them. Uncle Cherry shouldn’t be “romping no girls over our house when Mom’s not home.”
“Romping no girls?”
“You’re just like your father. Smartass to the bone.”
I look back and hear the circus songs disappearing when I see a skinny orange hair kid hitting a stick against the curb. He’s longer than Uncle Cherry and has a skinny mustache like Uncle Cherry. But he’s not as old as Mom. Mom’s twenty-three. Mom says she’ll be twenty-four and keeps saying it. It just never happens to her.
“What’s that?” I ask. The kid hits the stick at the curb.
“Duckbird,” he says. “Duckbird, duckbird.”
I look at the curb. I see one of those baby squirrels I see on the TV.
“You see my bike?” I ask.
He hits the squirrel dead. He picks it up, and the eyeball’s hanging out loose, and he goes into the road looking up everywhere at the skinny trees. The windy leaves. I don’t hear the circus songs anymore, and I go with him to get my bike. His hand starts to flap fast when he makes this funny humming sound. I never even heard it at school. Not even on the playground.
“Hi, I’m Richter. I’m going to be in fourth grade. What’s your name?”
He walks faster than Uncle Cherry, and I run faster to be around him. We go into the woods where we can’t see our shoes and we can’t see our hands. Then our eyes get good and the trees are tall and smell like wet trees.
We walk by the river pool that glows up from the moon, and the boy’s in the water with his shoes on. He makes that noise and his eyes don’t look anywhere for too long. His hand flaps a lot. He holds the squirrel to me. Looks like he’s going to scream crazy.
I say, “Duckbird,” and laugh a lot. He doesn’t hear me. “Duckbird,” I say again.
I pick up a stick and hit the squirrel as fast as I can.
“Is that good hitting?” I say.
I hit the squirrel out of his hands. He reaches it from the water missing all the eyeballs everywhere.
We walk out of the river pool into the other side of the trees and he takes my hand with his shaky hand and I run when he walks faster. The moon’s bright tonight. We don’t trip on the branches. The dirt holes everywhere. He shakes at my arm until we reach a rock pile where he puts the squirrel next to a pile of dead other squirrels.
“Duckbird,” he says.
I say, “Duckbird,” doing my hand faster like him.
Duckbird takes his stick, hits the squirrel and brings me to a tree by a Batman lunchbox. In the Batman lunchbox are honey bees. The bees’ legs are smashed up against the bees’ chest. Duckbird looks at me with a bee inside his teeth when he runs to pee on the leaves.
“Don’t leave!” I yell at him. “I’m your friend!” I pick up a bee. Bite it in my teeth and spit it out. It tastes like old fish.
We run inside the dirty trees. Smells like wet leaves and we run until there’s no more dirty trees. I go fast on the street, and I see a white and black cat turn up its tail on the sidewalk. A man in his car goes by like a rocket ship. Uncle Cherry won’t find me here and that’ll make Mom cry. I promised her three times I wouldn’t hide anymore. If I did, she said she wouldn’t work no more. We wouldn’t eat no more.
Duckbird runs away to the house across the street. On the porch, there’s a man, fat and orange. He’s got fat hands and a shiny can of something in his fat hand. When he stands, he throws his can at Duckbird. The can spills all over everywhere.
“Stupidass kid. You’ll make your goddamn mother sick all night.”
He slaps Duckbird on the neck. He slaps Duckbird on the back. He slaps Duckbird on the face.
Duckbird flaps his hand faster and I’m not scared. I’ve never seen this on TV. I flap my hand. Duckbird’s mom comes outside yelling up at the moon.
“Michael Doonberg, get your bony butt in the house right now.” She has fat hands. She has ugly yellow hair standing up high and crazy. Duckbird’s hand can’t stop shaking. Both hands. She grabs his ear.
Duckbird screams, “Duckbird, duckbird, duckbird, duckbird!”
“We get it. Doonberg, Doonberg, Doonberg, Doonberg. Now get your Doonberg ass inside or I’ll beat your ass off,” the mom yells. “And stop with that friggin’ sound. I can’t take it no more.”
She opens the screen door. She pulls him by his ear. The fat man smiles. He has no teeth all over.
“Where’s your mom and dad, son?”
“You see my bike?”
“Son, where’s your mom?”
“Where’s Duckbird going?”
“Michael went inside with his mother. Michael did a bad thing. He wasn’t supposed to leave the house alone,” he says. He drinks his can and sits.
“Uncle Cherry knows where my bike is.”
“Uncle Cherry?” he laughs. “That’s right and I’m sure Aunt Banana knows all about this, too.”
I try to hear the circus songs. I hear the TV inside and Duckbird crying and Duckbird’s mom saying she’s going to stuff a bar of soap down Duckbird’s throat.
I want to hit her with a stick until her eyeballs go loose.
“What’s your phone number, boy? We should call your mom.”
He stands and falls onto his seat. He stands and goes. I don’t know if he’s coming back with my drink. Duckbird screams more and the fat orange man comes out with a water cup. I drink as fast as I can.
“I need bologna.”
“Bologna?” he laughs.
He walks inside and almost falls. I can hear the dogs and crickets hiding through the trees. I see an old bike across the street against the house near a yard with weeds everywhere.
I run across the street and hide behind the car and wait for the people to come out of their houses. No one comes. I walk up to the bike. The seat’s taller than my bike. I roll the bike up to the house pipe to grab onto. To climb up the tall seat. I get on it and reach down to the pedals and start moving my legs. The wheel shakes and I keep pushing.
The trees fly by. The air moves my hair. My chest beats. My stomach tickles, my arms, my back. I can’t stop laughing. I can’t stop pushing the pedals.
“Duckbird! Duckbird!” I yell as loud as I can.
I pedal until I turn up and down all the streets near the skinny lights and all the garbage pails. I pedal around the houses where everyone stays asleep. I pedal past Duckbird’s house, and I hear him crying, “Duckbird, duckbird,” and I pedal as fast as I can until I see another street.
I pedal around lots of streets, down one near a place that says HOLIDAY in crazy-blue. The door is open. A man leans on the wall with a can and a cigarette. He goes back inside. I ride over to the door and see a TV talking. I stand at the door and watch the baseball on the TV and my heart stops moving quick. Some grandpa-guys sit at a long table watching the game.
The lady pouring the drinks says, “You can come in kid.”
I don’t know what to say. I walk the bike inside and place it on the floor. I sit on the stool far away from everyone.
One grandpa-guy says, “Why ya riding a girl’s bike there, big boy?” he laughs at me. “Little girls usually aren’t out at ten PM riding their bikes.”
I want to cry and go to sleep. It’s dark and there’s blue light and mirrors and lots of bottles and it smells like cigarettes. Like peanuts and pool-water.
“Leave him alone, Bern,” the drink lady says. “Where’s your mom, kid?”
She sounds a lot like Mom when Mom’s not angry at me.
“I want bologna,” I say.
She laughs. I put my head down on the tall table in front of me. She brings me a water cup and potato chips. I want to be home and I want Mom so much. I hear the circus songs playing somewhere. I close my eyes and the circus songs play louder.
I wake up and mom’s crying all over the carpet in my house and the black police guy rubs her back. Uncle Cherry sits in the corner and he’s watching TV.
Mom looks at Uncle Cherry, “Oh, Jerry, you did this to us. You did all of this.” She looks at the black police guy. “Give me a cigarette. I need a cigarette right now.”
Uncle Cherry says to mom, “Excuse me? Take care of your own kid.”
“I said shut your mouth, Jerry,” Mom screams.
The red nose police guy has a cigarette for Mom and lights it and I don’t like when she cries. I want to tell Mom this. I know what happens on TV. They’ll put Mom’s hands in police cuffs and Uncle Cherry’s. They’re going to shoot us if we don’t listen.
The red nose guy sits next to me and I can see what he’s doing.
“Richter, now where’d you go after the carnival?” he says.
I’m not going to tell them about my bike or how they hit Duckbird and about the soap. I don’t want them to shoot me and Mom and even Uncle Cherry who stole my bike and made everything bad today.
I look at their guns. I’m ready to grab them fast.
“Richter, did your uncle leave you there?”
Uncle Cherry yells, “I didn’t leave him anywhere. He ran away. He always runs away. Ask his mother. He never stops running away—”
“Stop talking, Jerry,” the black police guy yells.
“I’m not talking. I’m just saying, this is all friggin’ ridiculous.”
“You had your turn, Jerry.”
The red nose police guy says, “Richter, when you were at the carnival, why’d you leave?”
I don’t want to get shot. I see how I can grab the big gun right now. I lean closer on him, so I can get it.
“C’mon son. This is the third time now you’ve run away. Now what happened?”
“Richter, just answer the policeman,” Mom says. “Tell them where Uncle Jerry was.”
“Richter?” the black police guy says.
I look at the black police guys shoes.
“Okay, Richter, if you don’t talk then your mom is going to get in trouble.”
“Duckbird,” I say, flapping my hand.
“Duckbird?” the red nose police guy says.
“Richter, just tell me what happened.”
“I don’t know what you’re saying, boy.”
“I told you he’s crazy,” Jerry yells. “Kid’s a nutball, ya see?”
Mom’s crying more. I look over at Uncle Cherry and he’s shaking his head at me. If Uncle Cherry just tells me where my bike is then this will all stop, and mom can stop crying and the police won’t have to shoot us in the face.
I’ve seen it all on TV.
“Richter? C’mon now. Work with me, son,” the red nose police guy says.
Uncle Cherry says, “He’s not going to tell you nothing.”
Mom says, “Shut up Jerry. Just shut up. Let him talk. Richter’s talking now.”
The black police guy says, “Enough! Enough already! Everyone stop!” He slams his hand on the chair. “I’m sorry. It’s just too much.”
Mom looks sad. I’m so sad like Mom. I stand and walk over to Uncle Cherry and look at his stupid face. All the pimples on his neck. I hate his mustache. I slap him across the face and slap him across the hand and slap him across the chest and slap him across his eyes and slap him on his back twice.
“I’ll beat your ass off,” I say.
“Hey!” Uncle Cherry yells. “Get him off me!”
The more I hit him the more I want to hit him, but the red nose police guy pulls me off him.
Uncle Cherry screams: “I told you he’s crazy. Just like his deadbeat dad. Lunatics, all of you really.”
I’m crying and shaking and spitting and the red nose police guy carries me outside over his shoulder to the front porch. He’s fat and he’s breathing all the time and I can hear him licking fast at his fat pink lips. I put my head on his shoulder. I want to sleep and hear the circus songs. I hear the dogs hiding in the houses and trees and hear Duckbird screaming loud far out from the trees. I hear him spitting out the soap and the stars look crazy all over and the moon looks crazy all over.
“Richter, just tell me what happened at the carnival?” the red nose police guy says.
I look at the red nose police guy’s gun. I flap my hand.
I’ve seen the blood on the TV.
I flap my hand faster.