Donny Fluke fingered his step-sister’s Britney Spears key chain while he waited for the ping of the microwave oven. He turned the key chain over and over in his hand taking notice of the tiny seductive picture of Britney encased in the small piece of plastic. Donny tried to imagine Britney without her top which was stretched tight over her swollen breasts. He loved the way her head was cocked one way and her ass the other. He wiped the back of his sweaty hand across his pimpled forehead. It was greasy and wet. His sixteen year-old body ached from the tension and adrenaline racing through his awkward frame. The microwave counted its last second and the bell echoed throughout the cramped kitchen. Donny ticked and turned toward the microwave and fired the key chain off the wall. It shattered into pieces as Donny raced out of the house, leaving his nuked corn dog sizzling and popping.
Donny’s mother Tammy was turning her Plymouth Neon onto Margarita Ave when she noticed her only son blow past her and turn right onto Claremont Mesa Boulevard into the late afternoon traffic. Tammy leaned hard on the horn in an attempt to turn Donny around. Dogs began to bark around the neighborhood of small ranch houses and cluttered yards.
“I’m going to kill that little bastard. I swear to God,” yelled Tammy over the music pumping out of her radio.
She stuffed her cigarette into the crowded ashtray knocking a few old ones on the floor and immediately lit another one.
Donny pedaled harder and harder until he could feel his leg muscles burn into knots. He steered his bike off the road into the parking lot of Carl’s Jr. He turned to look behind him and was relieved to find his mother did not follow. He figured she didn’t care what he did as long as he stayed out of her way when she was drinking. Donny walked his bike to the pay phone at the far end of the parking lot and sat down on the curb and quickly lit a joint. He sucked hard and held it long and deep in his lungs until he could feel the burn. He laid back on the grass feeling stoned and immediately began thinking about his mother.
Tammy had Donny when she was fifteen. She didn’t know who the father was. It could have been one of any number of men. Tammy’s step-father had numerous biker friends who had their way with her many times during stretches of hard drinking at her house. Her step-father was rarely around and when he was he was drunk or using heroin. He was gone for good by Tammy’s seventeenth birthday. Tammy’s mother died of a drug overdose the year before. Tammy bounced around in the state’s youth service agency for a year until she got on welfare. Donny has been the only man in her life since her step-father left. Donny was told his father was killed in an accident when he was young.
Donny had his eyes closed. He listened to the F-14s scream overhead as they approached Miramar. Donny imagined his father a Navy pilot - a strong handsome man who kept a clean house and ran a tight ship. Donny pictured his young father coming home in his Navy dress uniform and bouncing him up and down on his knee and putting him to bed. Donny had asked his mother many times about his father.
“It doesn’t matter. He is dead and that is all you need to know,” was the typical response.
Donny pictured him as everything from a race car driver to a Navy pilot. He preferred Navy pilot the best. Donny was dreaming of F-14s and military parades when he was startled by the loud crackle of a cops voice over a radio.
“Get up punk!” yelled the young cop to the amusement of his partner. “Do you know what loitering means?”
The cruiser was pulled up against the curb just inches from Donny’s ratty high-top sneakers. He sat up squinting into the sun. The cop riding shot gun leaned out the window and answered his partners question.
“It means no losers can hang out here. Now beat it before we haul your skinny ass in.”
The cop smiled as he shouted this to Donny. Donny was still trying to get a look at the cops as they ripped out of the parking lot throwing sand up in Donny’s face. Donny stood up brushing himself off. He picked up what remained of the joint and laughed to himself about the incompetence of the two cops. He smoked it down to a roach and headed back in the direction of home.
Tammy was mixing a vodka and cranberry juice when the phone began ringing on the wall just to the left of her head. Tammy jumped back and knocked the glass into the sink. She watched the last ounce of vodka disappear down the drain.
“Shit! This better be important,” Tammy yelled as she turned to pick up the phone.
“Hello,” she barked into the receiver.
“Yes, um, can I speak with Mrs. Fluke please.”
“This is Tammy. Who the hell is this?”
“Ah, this is Brenda Temple. I live over on Page Way.”
“Yeah. What the hell do you want?”
“Your boy. Donny? He..he hangs out with my boy Doug sometimes.”
“So what. What the hell does this have to do with me?”
Tammy was staring at the empty bottle of vodka.
“Well, its about your son and my Doug.”
“What did that little fuck do now?”
“Well, I’m not sure if he did anything. Its just that….ah,” Brenda stammered.
“Its just ah…what? What are you trying to say? I just spilled my god damn drink because of this call so would you mind getting to the fucking point Brenda,” Tammy yelled emphasizing Brenda’s name.
“I think Donny and Doug are planning to blow something up,” said Brenda with a little more conviction.
“Blow something up! Are you kidding me?”
“Ah, no I am not Ms. Fluke”
“My name is Tammy and please don’t bother me with this sort of crap ever again. Do you understand?”
“Ah..yeah…but…Doug said that…”
Click. Tammy slammed the phone down. She grabbed the keys to the car and headed out the door.
Donny sat on his bike at the end of Margarita Ave. He watched his mother burst out the front door, her big bag swinging wildly around her body. Donny laughed to himself as he watched her fumble with the keys. Donny was teased often by Doug and some of the other kids in town about his mother. They would tell him she was a “yummy mummy” and a “real piece of ass”. Doug would always ask Donny if he ever saw her naked.
Donny noticed his neighbor across the street watching his mother. Tammy was dressed in tight black pants that stopped at her knees. She had a hot pink sweater that hugged her small breasts. Her hair was cropped short and highlighted. She looked like Madonna in her “Papa Don’t Preach” days. Donny saw the look of perverse pleasure on his neighbor’s face as his mother bent over to pick up the keys. Donny’s neighbor, Toby, was a strange old man who rarely left his home. He lived alone in a house that sat crooked on the foundation.
Tammy climbed into the car and jerked it into reverse until it stopped just in front of Toby. He smiled showing his stained rotten teeth and gave a little wave to Tammy. Donny was strangling his handlebars as he witnessed this. Tammy raised her middle finger and raced away. When she was clear around the corner Donny rode his bike onto his lawn and dumped it at the stairs. He turned and gave Toby a hard angry look. Toby just stood there smiling at Donny like he smiled at his mother a few moments before. Donny looked down at Toby’s filthy brown pants and noticed he had just pissed himself.
“You freak!” Donny yelled across the street before he hopped in his house and slammed the door.
“Katie! Are you home!”, Donny screamed through the house.
The house was small and cluttered with furniture that was bought at various swap meets and yard sales. Donny was happy to be alone; the man of the house. He grabbed a bag of Doritos off the counter and launched himself onto the couch. Donny ran his hand across the cigarette burns in the couch cushion. The couch felt cold and damp. Donny pulled what was left of his joint out of the pocket of his Marlboro T-shirt and smoked it until he burned his thumb.
“Shit!”, Donny yelled as he snapped his hand back in an instant.
He grabbed a handful of broken Dorito chips and shoved them in his mouth. He knew this wasn’t going to help clear up the painful white heads that crowded his lips, but he was stoned and just happy to be alone. He used his right foot to move the remote off the table and onto his left foot. His left foot jerked toward the couch sending the remote into the air. Donny snatched it with his greasy Dorito hand and hit the power button all in one motion. He was quite pleased with this seemingly adept maneuver. The picture tube in the nineteen inch Magnavox was close to burning out which forced Donny to wait a minute before the picture developed on the screen.
“Find out how her children are coping with his tragic death,” came the measured but sexy vice from the darkened tv. “later on Entertainment Tonight.”
Donny started laughing out loud. He was sure his mother and step-sister would have missed the perverse nature of the statement. He kicked off his sneakers and settled into the couch.
“Are you smoking pot in here? You better hope mom doesn’t get home and smell that, zit face.”
Donny’s step-sister was standing behind the couch with her hands thrust hard on her hips. Katie’s friend Mindy was standing behind her looking nervously around the room. They were both dressed like typical boy crazy fourteen year olds; tight jeans, In Sync T-shirts and lipstick.
“You call me that again and I’ll throttle you right now,” Donny said without turning around. The picture finally appeared on the tv and Donny was clicking furiously through the channels.
“Oh are you saying you don’t have a zit mustache?”
Katie and Mindy giggled.
“That’s it. Your dead!”
“Donny jumped off the couch and turned to face his step-sister slamming his toe on the coffee table.
Donny doubled over in pain. Katie and Mindy laughed uncontrollably. Donny looked up and noticed Mindy for the first time. His face felt swollen and red. He swore every pimple on his face doubled in size. He could feel the grease and sweat oozing and gathering on his face. The hormones and rage were welling up inside of him. Donny thought of the corn dog that popped repeatedly in the microwave. His mind was racing; the key chain, the corn dog, cops, Toby, explosions, Mindy’s breasts.
Donny let out a vicious roar and leaped at his step-sister with amazing quickness. He cocked his fist back in mid-air and brought it forward with all his momentum catching Katie square in the face. There was a loud crack. Donny’s body crashed through Katie knocking Mindy over against the wall. The three bodies settled in a pile of arms and legs.
Fat Boy Slim’s “Praise You” was coming from the television. It was the only thing Donny could hear for a few seconds as he laid on top of his step-sister who wasn’t moving.
“You killed her!”, yelled Mindy who was frantic and pulling her legs out from under Katie. Donny pushed himself up on his knees and looked at Katie. Her eyes were closed and blood was pooling at the corner of her mouth. Her bottom lip was split open wide and her nose ring had badly cut her left nostril. Mindy pulled her knees up to her chest and rocked back and forth with her mouth dropped open. Donny just stared into Katie’s face. He placed his hand softly on her chest and leaned closer. Her cheeks looked soft and her eyebrows were a shade darker than her hair drawing attention to bent eyes that framed a hauntingly attractive face. She was a portrait. Donny studied the perfect dimple in her chin. She bore absolutely no resemblance to Donny. Donny was staring through her face and into a past that held nothing but emptiness.
A car door slammed outside and Donny snapped up and felt tension pouring into his shoulders.
“Oh my God your mothers home,” cried Mindy.
Katie began to moan and roll over on her side.
“Donny! Come move this god damn bike. How many times do I have to tell you!” Tammy’s voice pierced the house bringing a sudden and cruel reality to the scene just inside the door. Donny’s heart was racing. He looked into Mindy’s tear soaked eyes for a long second. A trail of terror crossed Mindy’s back when she looked into Donny’s pale blue eyes and saw nothing. Tammy reached for the door with one hand clutching a brown paper bag in the other.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
“Mom,” Katie cried as she rolled her throbbing head over.
Donny bolted upright and raced for the door knocking his mother to the side sending a bottle of vodka smashing to the ground. Donny was on his bike and riding half way down Margarita Ave before he heard the rage in his mother’s screaming voice. He couldn’t hear what she was saying and he didn’t care. Donny couldn’t hear anything. He pedaled toward the sandy hills and burning sky at the end of his street.
The sun had slipped below the mountains and into the Pacific beyond by the time Donny arrived at the formation of rocks that hid the box of explosives. A subtle chill filled the air as the desert spread into darkness to the east. Donny walked toward the box that he and Doug had stolen from the county sheriff’s storage bunker. Donny could hear the wind coming from the east, silent and cool. It blew through him chilling the sweat on his back. He looked at his hands and noticed they were shaking. He reached down under the rock and dragged the aluminum box toward him. The box scraped hard over the small rocks and sand creating an unsettling noise. The box was the size of a small suitcase and it surprised Donny that he moved it with little effort. It felt lighter. It felt empty. Donny carefully turned the two latches on the side and slowly opened the box. There was very little light coming from the early evening sky. Donny moved his head closer to the box looking for the grenades and pipe bombs. He reached his cold hand inside and moved it around confirming what he didn’t want to believe. Everything was gone.
When Donny and Doug had stolen the box there were enough explosives to blow the K-Mart on Claremont Mesa Boulevard into the next county. Donny worked at K-Mart. He despised K-Mart. He hated the bright lights and the greasy odor of the Little Caesars Café inside the store. Donny would complain to Doug about the hard flat plastic furniture in the café.
“There was no consideration for the human spirit Doug. We’re supposed to feed off this sickening capitalistic by-product that was scraped together for the enjoyment of people living far from the cosmopolitan mainstream and close to the Mexican border!”
Doug would laugh at Donny’s insane observations. But Donny would keep at him until he agreed that stores like K-Mart were built for poor uneducated people in stretchy pants who bought Britney Spears key chains, Stone Cold Steve Austin posters and great big plastic containers to store all of their fantastic crap.
“You're right Donny,” Doug would say.
“We should blow up K-Mart.”
But now it was gone. There would be no great explosion. There would be no plastic fantastic super store blowout as Donny liked to call it. Donny fell back and dug his bare feet into the sand and hung his head low. He wept. Donny’s heavy sobs soaked the harsh desert floor under him for what seemed like hours. Donny finally laid back and searched the sky with swollen eyes for answers; answers to something. Anything. It was an insatiable intangible longing for an elusive and slippery meaningful insight that plagued Donny’s mind, body and spirit for so long. He absolutely suffered for life. A real life. A kind and textured life that offered as much as the brilliant speckled sky that hung over Donny like a beautiful dream. His eyes fell closed. The tension disappeared as Donny fell into a heavy sleep in the wide open air of the California desert.
It was nearing dawn when Donny arrived at his house. He didn’t have much time. He would have to gather his things quickly without waking his mother or step-sister. He grabbed a back-pack he had stolen from K-Mart and began filling it. He took bread and peanut butter, a buck-knife that was Doug’s, one hundred and twenty dollars he had been saving for over a year, a notebook, some clothes, a copy of Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie and a Navy wings pin he bought at an Army Navy store. Donny was heading for the door when he stopped suddenly and went into his step-sisters bedroom. Katie was sleeping on her side facing the wall. There was a small towel dripping water on the floor on the table next to the bed. Donny picked up the icy cold towel and laid it on the floor. He dried off the table and pulled out a piece of paper and a pen. He looked over at Katie and back to the table. He wrote:
I am sorry about hitting you. I hope it doesn’t hurt. You have a very nice face. I wish you were awake so I could say these things to you but I must go. I don’t think I will be back. There is nothing here for me. Please tell mom that I am sorry. She will probably be happy I am gone but tell her I am sorry anyway. I hope you leave someday too Katie.
Donny took a piece of paper out of his wallet and copied what was written on it onto the note.
“Knowledge of ourselves is the bedrock of all other certainty.” - Augustine
Good luck Katie,
Donny took one more look at Katie and left the room. He quietly walked past the couch where his mother was sleeping. There was a bottle of vodka on the table. He slowly pushed open the door and closed it softly behind him. Donny walked up Margarita Ave and turned onto Claremont Mesa boulevard. He walked for a couple of miles until he reached the interstate. He walked up onto the east-bound side. The sky to the east was showing the promise of a bright morning sun. Donny felt the warm light on his face and smiled as he threw his arm out for a ride out of town.
back to the Short Story Page.Plastic Fantastic Super Store Blowout, 13 January 2001