wo young boys, up to their thighs in the summer wheat, stare at each other. One stands limp with his jeans sagging around his ankles. The other squints into the sun. I lie flat on my back, so as not to be seen, and listen for their voices over the summer itch of rattlesnakes and horseflies. Above me the sky is pure and blue as unspilled blood. One speaks.
â€śPut your hand on it.â€ť
More an order than a dare. Seconds of silence and then laughter from the boy that spoke, nasal barks of it like goose calls. â€śCome here.â€ť he says to his friend, or victim; both relationships transitory. I hear his shoes drag through the wheat just feet in front of me. â€śCome here,â€ť he says again, softer now, and I wonder who heâ€™s addressing and consider he might have seen me. Theyâ€™re only boys but itâ€™s a precaution of mine to face any aggressor on my feet. Survival and gambling coexist most brightly in these decisions. I rise.
He hasnâ€™t seen me. His back is near enough to spit at. The other boy is five yards further still and rubbernecks as I stand, his dick held tight in a meaty little fist.
The laughing boy repeats himself again, heâ€™s maybe a span taller than his friend and his clothes are armoured in muck. I can smell his sweat and my tongue feels out the corners of my mouth with the promise of its taste. Heâ€™s a trick baby waiting for his juvenile hall ticket: heâ€™s not going to be mourned or missed and is too busy laughing to hear me sidle up behind him.
I hit him with a rock. He stops laughing but doesnâ€™t fall down so I hit him with it again. Thick bone, the skull, itâ€™s less like cracking an egg and nearer digging through wood. Again, and blood is into the air like sparks. The no-longer laughing boy calmly slides to the ground. Iâ€™m excited and about me is the noise of flies and the brilliance of the sun, alone in the sky and filling it.
The smaller boy, who I expected I would chase, stays still, and cups his dick with both hands. His eyes have spots of the laughing boyâ€™s blood on them but he doesnâ€™t blink. Horseflies dance around his thighs. Heâ€™s silent. I suspect he might be frozen in fear, but then he sniffs and looks from me to his dead friend, giving his balls a lazy tug. He isnâ€™t overtly perturbed.
â€śPull up your trousers.â€ť I tell him.
He does so. I donâ€™t eat while faced with genitalia. The boy still stands there, hands now inside his pants. His face is almost vacant. It occurs to me that he may be deficient, and this realisation stumbles out of my mouth.
â€śYouâ€™re a retard.â€ť
The boy smiles at the familiar word. It may have passed into such common usage about his person that it was adopted as his name. He tentatively removes one hand from his pants and places it inside his mouth. I ate a retard once, in Wisconsin, she tasted like dog food.
Flies gambol about the laughing boyâ€™s wound. His hair is greasy now with blood and Iâ€™m forced to peel a rubbery scab from it to get at his brain. This I offer it to Retard but heâ€™s mute and seemingly content to suck the dew from his fingers.
â€śAre you hungry?â€ť
He doesnâ€™t reply. The scab breaks around my teeth like soft elastic. I cringe and Retard smiles in appreciation. Some skin is loose around the laughing boyâ€™s wound and I it peels back in wet cracks and pops. Loose splinters of bone I throw to the field and chew the thicker pieces.
I donâ€™t often sweat but itâ€™s a warmer day than Iâ€™m used to and my shirt feels woven out of goat hair. Snakes are still rattling but that noise might carry for miles in this country. Retard seems unafraid and I follow his lead.
He sniffs again and looks at the sky, obstinately blue, both hands now back in his pants. He shuffles towards me. I hold out a piece of skull for him, a small one glossed with burgundy clots. He sucks it and spits out the bone. I widen the wound and gesture for him to dig out more. He kneels beside me and dips two exploratory fingers into his friendâ€™s head, pinching out some brain and placing it into his mouth. We share the dead boyâ€™s eyes and I leave Retard the tongue. In times past I might have smoked after a meal like this but my dinner guest seems preoccupied with his friendâ€™s jeans and I have no cigarettes besides.
Retard drags the pants off the laughing-boyâ€™s legs. As if heâ€™s practiced, he delicately places his mouth around the boyâ€™s penis. Anchoring his teeth behind the head and pulling it taught, he bites. Like a dog eating pig guts.