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"What did Mom say about wearing that stuff inside, Junior?"
The boy didn't look at him. He said, in a pathetic John Wayne impression, "I've come to kill Mom."
"Well she's not upstairs. She's out picking up dinner. Take that off and come watch the game."
Junior did not take off his gear, but he did come sit on the sofa. He ate a Frito and glared at the Dallas defense. He stroked his plastic gun in the holster.
After a few disappointing downs, Bob examined the boy.
"You know that thing doesn't shoot real bullets. This plan's not liable to work out for you."
"I couldn't find a real one, and this is loud. Loud noises give old people heart attack sometimes."
"She'll love to hear that."
Dallas fumbled for the first, but likely not last time today.
"Why are you going to kill her?"
Junior talked at the screen, like the play-by-play analysts already knew and commiserated on this.
"She told Linda Waldemaar that I like her."
"Sharing feelings." Bob ate a Frito. "Vile."
"Now everyone at school knows. They made fun of me. I'll be unpopular forever."
"That is how it rolls. A girl found out I liked her in the second grade and no one has liked me since. I only got your mother through elaborate negotiation and bear traps."
"When she comes home, I'm going to kill her. Then I'll probably kill myself."
"Well the cap gun is half-assing it. You're getting big. You can wield a bludgeon."
"Do you still have that baseball bat we got for your birthday? That's one."
Junior wandered out through the patio. He returned with no cowboy hat, the bat in both hands. He held it up for approval.
"Yeah," assured his father. "That's a strong bat. Louisville wood. Your mother picked it out."
Junior grimaced. He slid his hands down to the grip and wound up, perhaps imagining his mother's face being pitched down the plate at sixty miles an hour. It looked like he bunted.
"I'm going to use it to kill her."
"It'll hurt. But on second thought," Bob deliberated, looking to the fire place, "what about those pokers? They're metal, swing easier, and pointed at the end. You could really hurt someone with that."
Junior looked at the rack of fireplace tools. When he didn't take one, Bob got up, selected the cast iron poker and tossed it to him. Junior barely caught it.
"Go on outside and whack a couple trees. Get the feel for it."
Junior exited via the patio again. Bob sipped his beer as the Dallas defense continued to give up first down after first down.
At the twenty yard line, he heard a clang and a yelp from outside. He stuck his head out the glass door and saw Junior standing by a tree, clutching his fingers. The poker lay in the grass.
"That's no good," Bob chastised. "How can you kill a full grown woman if you can barely assault an overgrown plant? Imagine your mother lying there on the dirt, blood oozing from her cheek, the job unfinished. How disappointed she'd be in you."
Junior pouted furiously down at the poker.
"Why did she have to tell Linda Waldeamaar?"
Bob collected the poker. He brushed the dirt off and asked, "Is this the Linda you've been pining over all year?"
"You keep writing her notes and not sending them? You go down to her bus stop but never say hi? Keep sitting behind her in class?"
"Junior, do you know what a stalker is?"
"Well Linda's got the internet and she does. She and Mrs. Waldemaar started thinking you were one, and your mother talked to Mrs. Waldemaar to keep them from doing anything drastic. Linda probably found out that way, when her own mother tattled."
Junior kept pouting at the ground where the poker had been. He reached to his holster, cap gun still hanging there in full loyalty.
"I probably shouldn't kill her for that."
"Use your better judgment. But before she gets home, how about you put this poker and that gun away, and go call Linda? If she already thinks you're a weirdo then you're free to say whatever you want. Tell her how you feel. Can't take more guts than killing your mother."
Junior took the poker and waddled off on his duties. Bob took another beer and resumed his life in front of the television. Dallas took the ball eighty-three yards and kicked a field goal.
Junior grabbed the cordless and started up the stairs, for the privacy of his room. He paused on the third step.
"I'm sorry nobody likes you."
Bob frowned at the screen. This kickoff was important.
"I get by."
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