|Donny and Chip. Terry, Donny, and Chip (Donny's lap)|
note: previously, Donny [author] and friends Rupe and Tommy pulled off a
rather ballsy heist of returnable-for-cash soda/pop bottles from a gang of
bikers. After waiting for the heat to subside, the kids are now on their way to
Kroger’s to cash in on their spoils. Donny’s little dog, the ever-faithful
Benji, accompanies the merry band of juvenile thieves. A review of Betty's Child: a memoir [available on Amazon] follows the excerpt.)
This was a shitload of
bottles. Rupe was standing guard on the first three carts we’d hauled to the
back of the Kroger, and Tommy and I had barely managed to get the rest of our
treasure in the last two we were trudging along with now. So far we’d dropped three
bottles. Their shattered remains lay in the roads behind us as a testament of
our passage, along with the echoes of Tommy’s vehement cursing. Tommy told us
those broken bottles had our names on them, every time one shattered against
buddy was an extreme penny pincher until he actually had the cash in his
pocket. Tommy would probably be a collector for Candy one day. He could be
persuasive when it came to getting money out of you, whether you owed it to him
or not. He was definitely worse if you owed him. So far, he’d never paid back a
dime he’d ever borrowed from me, but never forgot to get back a single penny on
the rare occasions he had to float me a quick loan. If he’d stay in school,
he could be one hell of a tax guy, I imagined.
Second Avenue was tricky, due to traffic and the greater risk of a cop catching
sight of us with stolen—we’d call them borrowed, if we got busted—shopping
carts and more pop bottles than a… Well, than a house full of Harley bikers
could go through in a month. These were more bottles than we’d ever brought in
before, way more. My end of the payback was going to push my stash of hidden
funds to well past fifty bucks. I was practically rich.
glad we’d left Rupe back at the Kroger. Tommy wouldn’t stop riding him about
not going out on our little missions anymore. Rupe had stayed true to his word.
He was done stealing, and Tommy could pound sand. I had to admire Rupe for
standing up. He wasn’t talking back to Tommy, but Rupe wasn’t giving in,
either. He just shook his head and said he was done every time Tommy brought
the subject up.
wasn’t that Rupe wasn’t getting on my nerves a little, too. He’d kept on
griping about getting the bottles out of his dad’s garage until I’d almost lost
it on him. I’d been for taking them in a little at a time, but Rupe wanted them
all out as soon as possible. He was afraid his dad would find them and figure
out what we’d been doing. Knowing that was possible didn’t make Rupe’s constant
bitching any easier to take.
when Tommy had started pushing to exchange the bottles, too, claiming he needed
the money, I gave in. I needed to keep those two apart. Rupe was a coward, but
even he had his limits. I didn’t want him popping off to Tommy, getting
something started that he couldn’t finish, and I couldn’t delay. Tommy was
taking our friend’s decision to cut out as some kind of betrayal, making it a
going to be an interesting school year,
I realized. Tommy kept guys off our backs. It went without saying that he
wouldn’t protect Rupe any longer. In fact, I was pretty sure Tommy would
probably send some grief Rupe’s way, as sore as he was. I would have to do my
best to help my more hapless friend any way I could. How? The last thing
I needed was to relive those dreadful days I’d spent running home after school
every day, dodging enemies, and ducking fights.
waited for a lull in the traffic and darted off
the curb. “Stay close, boy,” I told Benji, but I didn’t need to remind
him. He kept right on my heels all the way across, with Tommy just behind him.
Some asshole in a long, expensive-looking sedan beeped at us. Tommy flipped him
off and told him where to go, so we were cracking up as we reached the other
side of the road and the nearest parking lot of the Kroger.
was with me because I was afraid to leave him alone after the row with Tony and
Betty. That dude really hated me, and I couldn’t depend on my mother to protect
my dog if her Italian hump buddy decided to be mean to him. It was a rare thing
if she actually stood up for her children, much less a dog. It was making my
life more difficult, constantly worrying about that Dago, but I didn’t have a
good plan for dealing with him. Yet, I promised myself.
about Tony got me to thinking about my brothers. Dwelling on them made me feel
guilty. I was old enough to take off when shit got hairy, but they weren’t. Maybe
that’s why Terry keeps sneaking down to the apartment playground on his Big
Wheel? I wondered. Could be the kid was learning to avoid Betty already.
baby was taking all this especially hard, clinging to me more and crying if he
spotted me trying to leave. Lately, he’d taken to sleeping on my mattress
instead of in his own room. The baby was crowding me when I tried to sleep, but
I didn’t mind. Benji complained more than I did, grumbling and huffing during
the night. Sometimes I’d wait until the little guy fell asleep and then carry
him off to his own room, but lately he’d been waking up and coming right back
to bed with me. Just this morning I’d woken up with one of his feet practically
in my mouth and pee from his diaper leaking onto my mattress.
we veered around to the rear of the store, the paved lot sloped downward, and
we had to strain to keep the carts from getting away from us. Tommy laughed
when he noticed me struggling, but I was concentrating too hard to say anything
back. He would kill me if I lost control and wasted any more money. Or take
the losses out of your end, I told myself. But I wasn’t sure he’d think of
something like that, or be able to calculate the deductions.
lay off Rupe, okay?” I asked him as we reached the area where the pavement
snorted. “Fuck Rupe, that daddy he’s so afraid of, and his sexy little
mom. And fuck you, too, you start taking his side and not mine.”
not taking any side,” I told him. “I’m just trying to keep you two from getting
into it. Just let it go. We’re supposed to be friends.”
that. Friends don’t cut out on one another.” He wasn’t just annoyed at this
split. Tommy was really pissed off. This is going to get ugly, I
realized. “I’ll tell you something else. We get that money, and we cut it in
half. He wants out, he’s out. You like the kid so much, you give him half your
shit. But it’s a two-way split today, baby.”
wasn’t fair. Tommy was just using his irritation over Rupe wanting out to take
money from him.
And from me! I couldn’t think of anything safe to say.
Tommy couldn’t count very well, but he was an expert at the
one-for-you-and-one-for-me dividing of money. My worst fear was that Rupe might
speak up when Tommy informed him of his underhanded scheme. Are you kidding?
I asked myself. I figured that was a pretty stupid concern; Rupe would keep his
mouth shut and get this over with, relieved to let Tommy get one over on him
and be rid of the guy.
was sitting against the concrete steps as we rattled up, but he stood to greet
us. Benji trotted over and started sniffing at him, and he even let Rupe pet
him without showing his teeth. Maybe he feels sorry for him, too.
go get Freddie,” Rupe announced as we arrived, eager to be away from Tommy and
have this deal done.
you do that,” Tommy grumbled.
banged on the large metal door until Freddie finally opened it. Freddie was a
middle-aged dude who ran shipping and receiving. He had tufts of hair above
both ears and a missing front tooth.
Freddie was always asking Rupe about his
mom. She shopped at this store, getting the perv revved up about once a week or
a load,” Freddie mumbled around his tooth, leaning on the rail and surveying
our goods from the top step.
it is,” I agreed.
wasn’t about to offer anything more. One of the most intricate tricks of the
art of lying was not lying when you didn’t have to. Until he asked where and
how we’d come up with so many bottles, I wasn’t about to tell him. I had a good
story ready for when he did ask.
surprised me. “Totaled them up yet?” was his only question.
always do that,” I reminded him. And you never give us a nickel more than we
bring in, and dock us for chipped bottles, I wanted to say, but didn’t. “You’ve
never trusted us to count them before.”
but this is a lot of bottles, and I’ve got a truck to unload.”
pointed at a trailer docked in one of the bays, as if we thought he might be
lying. Freddie thought a moment, scratching at the wisps of hair above his
right ear. I didn’t think he had much longer to be scratching any hair at all.
He looked like Larry from the Three Stooges.
about that reminded me of the wisecrack I’d used on Betty, and that reminded me
of my brothers being home without me.
man,” Tommy grumbled. “I got shit to do.”
ignored him. “Tell you what,” he finally said. “Sort them for me, and I’ll
count them out. Stand all the loose bottles up here divided by size.” He
pointed to the top of the steps. “Put all the full cartons at the bottom of the
steps, also divided by size. And make sure they’re full and not partials.
on the door when you’re done, and I’ll come add ‘em up.”
Tommy cursed as Freddie left, the heavy metal door thudding shut in his wake.
wasn’t going to get anything done. I told Tommy to start setting aside the
cartons while Rupe tossed me the loose bottles. Rupe and I got into a pretty
cool rhythm. He was flipping them up as I set them down, keeping it challenging
for me. We were grinning and making a game of it. I wasn’t going to drop a
single one. Unless Rupe throws one too fast, I thought, wanting him to
try it. “You clowns drop shit, and it comes out your ass,” Tommy told us. Rupe
ignored him but slowed his pace.
should have caught on. Later that day, I kicked myself more than once for
missing the clues. There were telltale signs something was up. For one, Freddie
never had us sort anything before. He’d always pushed our carts into the
nearest bay and had a stock boy unload them. For another, there wasn’t a peep
coming out of that trailer he was supposed to be unloading. There was no
forklift banging in and out of it or pallet jack bumping around. In fact, there
weren’t even footsteps echoing off the walls in that trailer.
the biggest clue of all? “Hey, Rupe?” I called out as the thought occurred to
was bent over in the last of our carts. We were nearly finished. Tommy was
already done sorting cartons and was sitting on the steps having a smoke. Benji
was sitting close to him, but watching me at my work.
didn’t ask about your mom,” I told him.
tossed me another bottle, and I bobbled it due to my lack of concentration. We
both glanced at Tommy, who thankfully had his back to us. “Good.” Rupe’s
response was curt. We were all tense. “I don’t need that snaggle-toothed freak
worrying about her anyways.”
but he always asks about your mom,” I mused.
we heard the Harleys, and everyone exploded into action. Everyone except me,
that is. A pair of bikes came thundering at us from either side of the back of
the store. Rupe ran right past the ones between us and the way toward home, his
limp barely discernible as he churned for freedom, arms pumping wildly. One of
the bikers spun around and gunned the throttle. Rupe wasn’t going to reach the
street before that dude had him.
dropped his cigarette and bolted straight across the lot, leapt as high as he
could and grabbed the top of the tall concrete divider between the store and
the backyards of some houses on the other side of the wall. He hooked his foot
on the top of the wall and flipped himself over, leaving behind only a pick
that fell out of his hair before he completely vanished. One of the bikers
roared on toward the street, meaning to head him off and catch him. That dude
might as well have been chasing dandelion fuzz in a tornado.
stood in place, only moving enough to get my dog to climb the steps and stay
closer to me. One of the bikers stopped right at the base of the stairs,
shutting off his engine and removing his gloves. He looked up at me, but I
stayed calm, thinking things through. I did pretty well under pressure, even
when I was scared. Naturally, I wanted to flee, but where was I going to run? I
wasn’t about to risk my dog getting run over, and they were on bikes while I
was on foot. I decided to stay where I was.
guy near the steps had a receded hairline with dark curly hair, striking blue
eyes, and a square jaw. He was clean-shaven, which made him look younger than
he probably was. He had a deep scar near the cleft of his chin that only added
to his rugged appeal. He was the kind of guy my mother swooned over but never
figured out how to get noticed by. I thought the guy looked like some kind of
movie star, like Marlon Brando in that biker movie.
other dude who was still here was big as a grizzly, with bare arms so hairy you
could hardly see the tattoos beneath his fur. He was bearded, but when he
pulled off his German-looking spiked helmet, he was bald as a newborn baby. His
bike was a chopper, with an extended rake attached to the front wheel and a
real high sissy bar off the seat. The big bastard glared at me with open
contempt. He flipped down his kick stand and rocked his bike backward into a
balanced, parked position.
cracked open the door and peeked out, but he slammed it shut again when he saw
me on his landing. I heard him turn the lock. Nobody spoke, and it wasn’t long
before one of the dudes came back, hauling Rupe by the back of his shirt. My
friend looked like a kitten being carried by the scruff of the neck. The biker
puttered along, half-carrying Rupe with one strong arm while the kid stumbled,
tears in his eyes.
still didn’t say a word. In the distance, the only Harley still running faded
in and out of hearing, but eventually grew loud and constant. I sat down next
to my dog and waited, with my heart pounding and the guy at the base of the
steps still eyeing me. He wasn’t as big as the others, and he didn’t look that
old. He was wearing an army green bandana that he readjusted on his head, and I
was positive I’d seen him before. But where?
was still sobbing when the last of the bikers came back empty-handed. He had
shoulder-length, rust-colored hair, and a drooping mustache. He wasn’t wearing
any protective gear on his head or face, and he looked sheepish as he
explained, “I couldn’t catch him. That nigger runs like a nigger.”
it hit me: these guys had noticed they’d been ripped off and warned the nearest
stores to alert them if anyone hauled in a massive amount of bottles. Freddie
must have called them. If I hadn’t been so close to pissing myself, I might
have screamed out loud. You are so stupid! I yelled in my head. I was a
dunce for not recognizing this. Still, there was no reason to drag Rupe down with
didn’t do anything,” I told the guy holding Rupe. His parents would flip on
him. All I had to worry about was Betty. And the four bad asses surrounding
you, I reminded myself. “He’s just helping us haul the bottles. You don’t
have any beef with him.”
think we’ll be the ones to say who we have a beef with and who we don’t, you
little asshole,” the bear growled at me, swinging his bulk off the bike and
standing. He wore a jean jacket with the sleeves cut off. Harley Davidson wings
proudly covered the back of his denim vest. His arms were kind of flabby, but
they were bigger around than my legs.
your waist. “You don’t tell anybody
Chick,” the guy nearest me warned.
Jesus! The grizzly’s name is Chick!
What kind of shit was that? “I’m just saying, if you’re going to have the fuzz
after you for beating on children, you might as well make sure you’re smacking
around the ones who deserve it,” I offered.
guy holding Rupe started looking around like there might be a cop nearby. “Hey,
I didn’t hit the kid,” he muttered, letting him go. Rupe stumbled back a few
steps, unsure if he should try to run again. “You ain’t hurt, are you, kid?
Nicky, I swear to God, man. I didn’t hit the kid.”
sweat it,” the guy close to me told him. He tugged his bandana a bit lower on
his forehead and smiled at me. He had an okay smile for a biker. “That was
pretty good, kid.”
was the truth. I stole from you, not him,” I said.
you fucking admit it!” Chick growled.
should I believe you, kid?” Nicky asked. “I already know you’re a thief. Why
not assume you’re a liar too?”
shrugged. “I am a liar, but I’m not lying right now. He couldn’t tell you jack
shit about your garage, but I can. I can tell you about the spare bike parts,
the old tires, the can of Jack Daniel’s bottles, the old calendar of naked
chicks”—careful with that chick word, dumbass—“and how the floor near
the back of the building stays a little wet. I can tell you this because I
was in there and he wasn’t. You saw the way his ass ran. You think a kid
as slow as him would climb into a garage with all you dudes just a few feet
away? What chance would he have of getting away? If I’d of took off when you
guys showed up, you wouldn’t have had a chance in hell of catching me. I’m
telling you… I stole your shit, not limpy over there.”
you could have got away, why’d you stay?” Nicky asked me, just like I’d hoped
pointed at my dog. “I couldn’t climb the wall with him along, and I’m not going
to risk him getting run over by one of you or getting hit by a car trying to
cross these busy streets.”
not going to matter much when I kick the little fucker to death,” said Chick.
That was my biggest fear, that they’d come at me and Benji would bite. I didn’t
want them to hurt my dog. Chick tapped a chain he had wrapped around the back
of his seat. “Or bash his head in with this.”
you stole all this by yourself?” Nicky asked me. I didn’t answer. “I asked you
a question, kid,” he said, his tone not mean but serious. I didn’t want to
throw Tommy under the bus, but Rupe’s ass was on the line. I shook my head. “The
black kid help you?” I nodded. He’d said black kid and not nigger.
I took that
as a good sign. “Anybody else?”
a guy named Mike Collins who lives over on Sunset,” I threw in. And I hope
one of you break his legs. God, I was good at this.
rubbed at a leather wristband, musing. I could see some kind of Japanese symbol
burned into the leather, and maybe a name. But he eventually said, “Go on, kid,
scram.” My buddy stared at him like he’d told him to strip and dance a tango
instead of leave.
looked to me, and I nodded. “Go on, I’ll be all right.”
I would be. If Nicky was letting Rupe go, he’d bought my story, and would buy
more. Nicky was in charge, and he wasn’t stupid. If he was letting Rupe go, he
wasn’t going to hurt me. Rupe had seen them, and would be a witness if anything
serious went down. After a last glance at me, Rupe trotted off, looking back
more than once before he went around the corner and I lost sight of him. I was
hoping he was smart enough not to go after any cops.
was smart. A lot smarter than I’d first thought. “You probably think you’re
going to get off free and clear, huh, kid?” Nicky asked. Well, yeah, but you
weren’t supposed to know that. “I got news for you, boy.” Oh shit. “Just
‘cause I let your friend slide doesn’t mean you got away with shit. I’ve seen
you around, and I’m going to introduce you to an underage friend of mine in the
not-too-distant future.” Nicky smiled again, and this time there was nothing
nice about it. “Think about that on your way home.”
I’m still going to kick your fucking dog,” promised Chick.
shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Nicky pushed
his bike back a little and waved his arm in an invitation for me to leave. “Be
seeing ya, kid,” he told me. And there was that smile again. “Real soon.” Think
think think think. Chick moved closer to the stairs, moving into position
to possibly hurt my dog. He had big boots with metal studs and leather straps.
It was crunch time. Either start crying or say something, I told myself.
on, kid, get moving,” Nicky said soberly.
about a deal?”
got nothing to deal with, kid,” Nicky returned. “We’ve got the bottles, and we’re
going to get the money for them—and you’re going to get an ass-whipping.” Nicky
leaned out a bit and spit on the Kroger’s pavement. “End of story.”
don’t know you from Adam, boy,” added Chick. “Now come on down here.”
I remembered something.
friend Harry knows my mother.”
does your mom know Harry?” Nicky asked, taking the bait.
took her to some picnic you guys had out at the fairgrounds just before school
let out,” I explained. Keep them talking. Get them involved in your
problems, I heard Betty telling me.
all laughed. One of the guys sitting back said, “If she was with Harry she must
be a real winner. Dirty Harry only fucks porkers.”
wasn’t laughing as hard as the others. “You sure your mom was with Harry, kid?
Harry isn’t exactly a mom kind of guy.”
not even a guy, he’s more dog than man,” the other biker said. They all laughed
remembered Harry fairly clearly. He had a gut and bad pock marks on his cheeks
and neck, with a bulbous nose full of more craters than the moon. He wasn’t an
easy dude to look at, and he’d scared the living shit out of my brothers.
screwed around with way worse than him,” I informed them.
your mom’s name, kid?” Nicky asked.
Just saying it made me feel dirty. I knew they would remember her.
yeah,” Nicky said, snapping his fingers. “She was with that tub you were
wrestling around with, Chick. What was her name?”
kept struggling to remember, so I filled him in: “Ruby.” Saying her name was
worse than uttering Betty’s, but at least I wasn’t related to her.
Ruby!” the redhead crowed. They were losing it now, and Chick dropped his head,
I didn’t know if I was helping myself or writing my own death
warrant. “You were with her in the back of that little pickup and the camper
broke loose!” Even Chick cracked a grin. “You got to remember her!”
fucking remember!” Chick yelled at him, and that had them all laughing
wiped tears from his eyes. Behind me, Freddie poked his head out again, but
shut and locked the door after a quick look-see.
guess that’s a little something, kid. You got a fucked-up mother. But why
should I listen to your deal?”
you helped me out this summer, and the Chinese believe you’re responsible for
someone when you save them,” I explained, almost hating myself for using Tony’s
helped you out? When?”
goose was cooked if my memory had failed me. “You were jogging by when I was in
Your buddy wiped my face and told me to keep my dukes up.”
opened his mouth slightly and nodded. “I remember. But that wasn’t a fight,
kid. You got blasted, and I didn’t save you from anything.”
helped me,” I pleaded.
shook his head. “Not enough. Got anything else?”
was my last hope. I glanced at Nicky’s forearm. He had an Army tattoo very
similar to my stepdad’s. “You were in Nam. So was my dad. Well, not my dad, but
my brothers’ dad. My stepdad.”
do you know I was in Nam?” I had his attention now. I had everyone’s attention.
dad had a tattoo like this?” He held out his arm and touched his ink.
exactly.” I explained the differences as best I could.
Chick pronounced, and Nicky nodded.
happened to your dad?” Nicky asked.
helicopter got shot down, and they sent him home with multiple shrapnel wounds.
He had a medal shaped like a purple heart, and he was nominated for a star of
some kind, but I don’t know if he ever got it.” All of that was true. I could
tell my story fit what they knew about my stepdad’s tattoo. “I have a picture
and a letter he wrote me. I’ll show you if you want.” That was true, too.
your dad now, kid?” Nicky asked.
split.” I swallowed.
had been good to me. I had memories of Christmas with lots of toys, of playing
with him and wrestling on the bed when he’d wake me up in the morning. But
those good times had been long ago and were hard to recall.
was hooked on drugs when he came back, and my mother had been fucking around a
lot. They couldn’t work it out. He split.”
was rubbing that wrist band again. He got off his bike and stooped down,
snapping his fingers and motioning for Benji to come down. I nearly shit myself
when my dog scrambled down the concrete steps and let a stranger rub on him. “You
a good mutt?” he asked my dog.
were in Nam, right?” I asked.
all were,” Chick told me. His voice had changed. It wasn’t quite as gruff. “You
don’t ride with us unless you were in country.”
kid, we’ll listen to your deal, but no promises,” Nicky said, rubbing behind my
Great, they’ll kill me and keep my dog. “That much we owe,
but for your dad, not your stealing little ass.”
was taking anything I could get. “I was thinking I could pay you back. If you
give me a break, that is.”
how would you do that?” asked Nicky.
could come by once a month and haul your bottles here, only instead of keeping
the money, I’ll bring it back to you.”
we could trust you,” Chick muttered.
me. Count the bottles if you want. I ever short you and you can still have my
ass already is whipped, junior,” Chick promised.
on, Chick, I kind of like that proposition. In a way, we’d be doing our part to
raise the kid right.
You know, teaching him something.” Nicky gave me the grin
I’d seen earlier, the smile that had given me hope. “Only it’ll be every two
weeks, kid. And you don’t miss. And you do it alone.”
bring a nigger around our place again, and I’ll whip your ass, fuzz or
no,” the redhead who’d let Rupe go told me. There was that black-and-white
thing again. Maybe Tommy was right, and there was more going down against
blacks than I was aware of.
Monroe,” Nicky said. “You do this alone, kid. You understand?” I nodded. “This
is between you and us. Nobody else is involved, or else we end our deal and see
what happens after. You in with that?” Oh, I was in. I was most definitely in.
I nodded again, trying to stay cool and not let them see how relieved I was. “Good.”
your name, kid?” Nicky asked.
almost lied but thought better of it. I was skating on ice that started melting
an hour ago. “Donny.”
Donny, I’m going to give you a free piece of advice.” He pulled his gloves back
on. Benji realized the petting session was over and hopped up a couple of steps
closer to me. “You seem like a smart kid, so take this for what you will. When
you steal from the Kroger, they have to call the police.
They have to follow
the law. Follow rules.” He let me soak that up, watching me closely. “But when
you steal from the street, there’s a whole different set of laws to be leery
law of the jungle,” Chick chimed in, like we were in school and he was proud to
know the answer to a teacher’s question.
laughed. “He’s right. You steal from somebody, or step on them any old way, and
you better know what they’re capable of.” His face hardened. “What they’re
willing to do in return.”
nodded because he looked like he wanted some kind of response from me. “Okay,”
I said. “And thanks for giving me a break.”
threw a leg over his bike, getting saddled up to leave. “Donny, the next time I
go to court, you’re pleading my case. Stay in school and think hard on being a
lawyer. You’re already a thief, so the transition should be pretty smooth.”
was thinking that I’d pulled off one of the greatest escapes in the history of
mankind when Chick said, “I’m still going to slap you one and kick your dog.”
wasn’t sure if he meant it or not. I looked to Nicky, and he only shrugged. “Sorry,
kid. He’s too big for me to tell what to do.”
off, Chick,” Monroe urged. “Let the kid and his dog go home.”
need to shut up before I wipe my ass with a wad of that red hair,” Chick
buddy,” Monroe told me, sighing. “Like Nicky said, he’s just too big to fuck
of me was sure Chick was only messing with me, trying to give me a good scare. You
hope. But another part was truly terrified that he was going to hurt my
dog. “I thought we had a deal,” I said directly to Chick.
for the bottles, boy,” he said. “I still owe you for sneaking around my place.”
take your medicine, kid. It won’t be that bad,” the biker whose name I’d yet to
“Take it easy, Chick. They’re both kind of small. You might kill
one of them.”
now I was pretty sure they were fucking with me. I held up my fingers and made
the play gun out of my hand. “Hey, Chick, can you do this?” I asked him.
scowled at me. God, I was praying this wasn’t a huge mistake. “Why the fuck
would I want to?”
just do it. Trust me, you’ll like this. If you don’t, you can hit me twice as
much as you were going to.”
on, tough guy,” Monroe urged.
are you afraid of?” the other guy asked. “Go on. Do it.” Nicky was watching me
as Chick hesitantly obliged. “Now point your gun at the dog,” I instructed.
Chick made a face, but slowly did as I’d asked. Benji saw him and stood
expectantly, tail wagging. Come on, old buddy. Save my ass.
didn’t follow instructions very well. Instead of bang, he made a noise like a
shotgun going off, jerking his hand like his fingers had a recoil he could
barely control. Still, Benji fell over right on cue, like he’d been laid to
waste. The hair covering his eyes even made it look even better, since they
could hardly see that the dog was still watching Chick.
act cracked them up, and as menacing as Chick tried to appear, he kind of
looked like a little kid when his fat head was split by one of the biggest
grins I’d ever seen.
Betty’s Child: a memoir (available on Amazon) is copyright © 2013 by Donald R. Dempsey. All rights
reserved. No part of this post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or
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This excerpt has been posted
with the permission of the author and his publisher.
First Dream of Things
edition, February 2013
Published by Dream of Things,
Downers Grove, Illinois USA
Originally published by
Donald R. Dempsey in 2009.
Review of Betty’s Child: a memoir
Highly Recommended! Five
just finished reading this book, and I’m speechless in the face of this
terrific writer. Donald Dempsey opens an artery and spills his childhood trauma
onto the page. It is a delicate dance between detail and emotion when one
writes a memoir about childhood abuse, and Dempsey dances like a pro.
Dempsey offers some graphic detail, it is accompanied by the emotion felt by
12-year-old Donny—no gratuitous BS. Every detail is absolutely necessary for
the progression of his life during this time.
will be shocked by Betty (the author’s mother) and her atrocious behavior, and,
yet, there seems to be a part of Donny/Donald who loved and still loves her. At
best, his mother was a neglectful parent, at worst an abusive mother who
invited abusive men into her life, and, yet, the author offers glimpses of her
have I read such a wonderful characterization of an animal (the author’s dog
Benji) in which the animal was not the main focus of the book (like in Marley
& Me). Dempsey also creates rich characterizations of his brothers
Terry and Chip (who were only six and three at the time).
have I experienced such seesaw emotions when reading a memoir: horror,
laughter, and sadness.
book may not be for everyone; if one is seeking a fast, action packed
narrative, this isn’t it. It’s long (438 pages), with lots of interior pain and
book DESERVES to be a best seller, and I have a feeling that the literary
community will be hearing from Donny/Donald Dempsey again.