She smiled at me. That’s the first time she has ever done that. It wasn’t a malicious or vengeful smile either. It was honest, natural, and real. She smiled at me. I didn’t think that would ever happen. I still don’t feel like I deserved the smile, but it isn’t my place to say. It was hers to give and she did. She smiled at me. For the first time in fifty-eight years, I am truly at peace.
Every shred of my being knows that I don’t deserve these few moments of peace before I die, but I am thankful for them. My life hasn’t been a life at all. Not because of her, my pain is my own fault. I earned it with my fear and my cowardice. It wasn’t a lack of caring. A day hasn’t gone by since that day that I haven’t thought about her. In fact, not one moment has passed since that night fifty-eight years ago that she wasn’t on my mind. Like a ghost haunting the halls of an old cathedral, she has been traipsing through my head ever since the moment that I realized what Jack and I had done. That cathedral had been my prison all these years and now I’m free. Her smile has released me from the sentence I gave myself. No, I don’t deserve this peace, but I am grateful for it.
It sickens me to think about the things we did, the things I did. I remember it as if it were happening right at this moment. It was my birthday. At seventeen years old I knew everything, had it all figured out. At that age I guess we all pretty much think we have it all figured out. Well, most of us or at least some. If not, just me then. I had it all figured out. I also had a full beard that was thick enough to not look like some scruff I had grown to make me look older. It was a man’s beard. And it did make me look older. Even still, I paid Ricky Miller from down the road ten dollars for a fake I.D. just in case the beard wasn’t convincing enough. The bartender at Vern’s never asked me for it.
“What can I get you stranger?” he asked like I was just any other guy, any other guy old enough to be in there drinking beer.
Even though I had planned it all out for a week, I almost blew my response completely. I paused awkwardly for a few moments. I tried to play it off like I was thinking. Finally, “Pabst please,” flopped inelegantly from my lips. A classmate of mine named Chet who was an expert at underage drinking had warned me off of just asking for a beer. ‘You gotta’ ask for a specific kind,’ he told me, ‘and act like your pissed if they don’t have it.’ My dad always drank Pabst, so I went with that.
The bartender – who I learned later was named Barney – nodded and replied, “Coming right up fella’.”
I drank that beer and two more while I made idle chat with Barney. It took me a while to warm up. The beer helped. At first I was afraid if I talked too much everybody would figure out that I wasn’t old enough to be there. Nobody seemed to care. It wasn’t long before we were trading jokes and I was shooting the shit with the old-timers like I belonged there. Happy birthday to me. That’s when I met Jack.
Jack Robbins had a fresh face and sharp hair. He didn’t look like he belonged at Vern’s. He was too clean and his clothes were too nice. “Hey buddy,” he said to me, his cadence made me think he was a salesman.
“Who me?” I asked.
“Yeah you,” he waved me over to the table he was sitting at by the Jukebox. “Come here and have a beer with me.”
He had a pitcher sitting on the table in front of him, so I shrugged, walked over to the table, and sat down across from him.
“You drinking Pabst?” he asked as he grabbed my mug and topped it off without giving me a chance to reply. Then he asked, “What’s your name kid?” as he poured.
“Danny,” I replied and then corrected myself, “Dan…Daniel.”
“Well which is?” The middle of his brow dipped as the corners of his mouth raised. “Do they call you Danny, Dan, or Daniel?”
“Danny,” I quickly grabbed my mug and took a big tug off of it. Then I added, “Everybody calls me Danny.”
“Nice to meet you Danny,” he said as he reached across the table to shake my hand. “You can call me Jack, Jack Robbins.”
He didn’t let go of my hand right away. He just kept shaking it. His smile started to look less friendly too, kind of slithery. I didn’t say anything as the handshake lasted far too long. I tried letting go a few times, but he held my hand tight. I had almost found the courage to say something about the long, awkward handshake when he spoke again.
“You’re not really old enough to be in here, are you Danny?” his eyes squinted and his voice lowered as the words came out of his mouth.
My soul sank down into my boots. I tried to appear defiant but I’m fairly certain I failed. “Sure I am,” I said. Then I asked, “What do you care anyway?”
He finally let my hand go as he sat back in his chair and scratched his chest. His features lost their snaky expression as a more genuine smile crawled back onto his lips. “I don’t,” he paused, “really. I just wanted you to know that I know.” He took a drink of his beer and added, “I don’t give a shit that you aren’t old enough to be in here. I just want you to understand that I’m not like the rest of the dumb shit kickers in this place so you can drop the act. You know, I know, so we can stop pretending. I don’t like fakers Danny. Don’t be a faker.”
I knew right then that I didn’t like Jack Robbins at all. I would have gotten up and walked away from him right at that moment and I really wish I would have. I was kind of afraid of him though and I didn’t know what he would do to me if I did that. “You got it Jack. I won’t be a faker,” I said instead.
He mellowed out after that and became downright friendly. After three pitchers it felt like we were old friends, laughing and telling old stories. I wasn’t sure if I liked him at that point, but I definitely admired him. He was so cool. He was twenty-five and had a Corvette. He had been to college and didn’t have to do anything because his dad was rich or something like that. I honestly can’t remember all of the details exactly. I wasn’t an experienced drinker and reality had become far from lucid for me. The details about that conversation aren’t really all that important anyway. What matters is that Jack Robbins was achieving legendary status in my head. If the rest of the night hadn’t gone the way it did, he probably would have become a hero of mine.
By the time he said, “I know a girl that will suck your dick for five dollars,” I would have robbed a bank with him.
I laughed and asked, “What?”
His expression became more than serious. He looked downright sincere as he repeated the statement, “I know a girl that will suck your dick for five dollars.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Nobody had ever done that to me. I said, “Bullshit.”
“It’s not bullshit at all,” he shook his head and took a drink of his beer. The serious expression remained on his face as he added, “She’ll do anything for five dollars.”
I scratched my head, “Anything?”
“Anything,” he smiled. “She’ll suck your dick or stroke it if you want. You name it, she’ll do it.” He shrugged and added, “She’ll fuck you too for the same five bucks and even let you put it in her ass if you want.”
I was still giggling like an idiot, but I was kind of intimidated. I had never really done any of those things by that point. Sure, one time when I was thirteen Carrie Milner played with it enough to make me ejaculate during a game of Truth or Dare, but that was in a room full of other awkward teenagers and far too clumsy to be considered sexual. It was more like childish exploration. It felt good, but I was too anxious to truly consider it my first sexual encounter.
“I’m not kidding,” Jack looked serious again. “She’s back at my cabin waiting for us. Her name’s Suzy. She’s sixteen and she’s gorgeous.”
My giggling stopped, “Sixteen?” I asked. “You said you were twenty-five.”
He shrugged and waved it off, “Everybody in town has stuck their pork in her. So what? She likes older guys.”
I shrugged. “I guess,” was all I could come up with.
He slammed the rest of his beer and said, “Come on. Let’s go. I’m ready.”
I wasn’t ready. If this girl was everything Jack said she was, she would know right away that I didn’t have a clue. Then Jack would know. What would he think of me then? I didn’t have a lot of friends. Carrie and the rest of them stopped hanging around with me when we got to high school. They all came from families with lots of money. Mine didn’t have any. That’s why I was sitting in a bar in the next town on my seventeenth birthday. I didn’t really have anybody. Finally, somebody was interested in me, and he wasn’t just anybody. He was twenty-five and he had a Corvette and money and a cabin. I couldn’t let Jack know how scared I was so I said, “Hell yeah. Let’s go!”
Jack’s car was the coolest thing I had ever been in. It was a brand new 1956 convertible Corvette, red and white. The world spun around me as we peeled through the dark, country roads. Luckily he had the top down. I think the fresh air was the only thing that kept me from throwing up. We drove for a long time. My condition being what it was, I couldn’t say how long. I may have slept a little bit too. When we finally pulled up to a cabin in a clearing at the end of a long wooded drive, I had no idea where we were.
“This is it” he said as he jumped out of the car. “Come on. She’s in there waiting for us.”
I still had a pretty good case of the spins, but the urge to vomit had passed. I think I said, “I’m coming,” but I may have imagined that.
By the time I had figured out how to get myself out of the car, Jack was already up on the porch of the cabin. The sound of his foot tapping made me think about time, like a giant clock ticking. Time wasn’t making any sense. It felt like we had been driving for a week but it was still really dark outside. Morning must have been hours away. I remember wondering how that could be. We had been at the bar for hours and then we drove for so long. The sun should have been coming up by then. On the other hand, I was so drunk that a lot of things didn’t make any sense. I stumbled up to the porch and almost lost my footing as I did my best to navigate the four stairs it took to reach that summit. Finally, I stumbled passed Jack and leaned against the logs that made up the front wall of the cabin.
“You okay buddy?” he asked as he patted my back.
I think I may have answered him, but I’m not really sure at this point.
“Come on,” he said as he opened the door and guided me into the place. “Suzy is waiting for us.”
I can’t remember much about the cabin. There was a kitchen off to my left and a living room off to my right. I’m pretty sure it was nicer than any house I had ever been in, but with everything spinning and blurring together it was hard to tell. Passed the kitchen there was a hallway. Jack led me down that. It felt like I was moving through Jell-O – or at least what I assume moving through Jell-O must feel like. There was an odd resistance when I moved my head around, like I was a muscle with tendons attached to me that moved when I did. Finally he led me into a bedroom at the end of the hallway.
When Jack flipped the light on in that room, my impression of both he and Suzy changed. Suzy wasn’t some willing tramp just waiting to let us shove our business in her. In fact, she didn’t look willing at all. He arms were tied to the headboard with what looked like neckties. She was naked. Based on her puffy, red eyes and glistening cheeks, she had obviously been crying for quite some time. The gag tied firmly in her mouth kept anything more than low moaning from coming out of her.
It took me a moment to process everything I was seeing. Shock, mixed with my extreme drunken condition, made it even harder to figure out what I wanted to say. By the time I did, “What the…” was all I got out before Jack interrupted me.
“You’re finally awake beautiful,” the mock sweetness in Jack’s voice was so fake that even in my debilitated state I was able to discern sarcasm and condescension.
Suzy – if that was even her name – moaned louder in response. Her puffy eyes pleaded with him as she pulled herself up by her bonds.
From that moment on, everything that happened in that bedroom is as clear as my mother’s face in my head. I still felt like I was going to throw up, but I became acutely aware of my surroundings. I’m embarrassed to say that I couldn’t take my eyes off of Suzy’s body. Even in her bound and hysterical condition, she was beautiful. A part of me wanted to leap across the room and punch Jack Robbins in his jaw. Unfortunately, a bigger part of me was scared shitless of what he would do to me after he shook it off. I just stood there, staring at Suzy, and wishing I wasn’t such a big coward.
Jack put his right finger up to his lips as he approached the bed. “Now listen Suzy,” he said calmly, that snaky smile I remembered from the bar back above his chin. “I’m going to take the gag out of your mouth so Danny can stuff his pork in there. If you scream or yell or anything stupid like that, I’m going to knock your lights out. Do you understand me?”
Suzy just stared at him. I have never seen eyes as wide as the ones she looked at him with.
“Don’t be a dumb broad Suzy,” Jack continued. “Nod your head if you understand me.”
Suzy nodded and Jack undid the gag. As soon as it came off she started whimpering, “Please don’t. Please don’t hurt me. I never did anything to you. I don’t want that boy to put his thing in my mouth.”
“You got in my car Suzy,” Jack was unmoved. “You’re a whore a Suzy, a tramp. Aren’t you?”
She shook her head as fresh tears began streaming down her face. “I’m not. I thought you were nice. I’ve never done anything like that before.”
“Jack, I don’t want to,” I interrupted.
Suzy looked at me, her big, bright, puffy eyes still pleading. She looked so small and afraid. I could have killed Jack right at that moment if I wasn’t terrified. I don’t think that I was probably as scared as Suzy just then, but it had to be close. As Jack scowled and stormed over to me, I couldn’t get any of my limbs to move. I just stood there staring at Suzy.
Jack grabbed the skin on the back of my neck and growled in my ear, “Get your pants off Danny and get your little prick in Suzy’s mouth!”
Suzy started sobbing as I did what Jack told me to do. I watched Suzy as I took my pants off. She didn’t say anything else. She just laid there sobbing and shaking her head at me with those puffy, pleading eyes. I’ll never forget those eyes. They burned right through me into my black soul. We both knew what I was going to do. She couldn’t do anything about it and I was too afraid to.
Jack slapped my penis hard enough to make it sting and said, “What the hell is this? Where’s your boner? What are you a faggot?”
I shook my head and said, “I’m not a faggot. I just don’t want to.”
“Go put it on her tits,” he said. “Go put that limp thing on her tits.” Then he slapped me in the back of the head and shoved me toward the bed.
I did what he said. I looked at Suzy’s pleading eyes as I laid my limp thing on her right breast. Her sobs grew louder as her body started to convulse with them. I thought about taking it off of her but I could feel Jack breathing on my neck. I didn’t mean to, but I got hard. It grew as her breast bounced with her sobs. It shamed me that I could get aroused at a time like that, but it happened.
Once I was erect, Jack slapped the back of my head again and said, “Now shove that pork in the pig’s mouth.”
I started to move toward the head of the bed and Jack slapped me again, “No you idiot. Climb on top of her.”
I did what he said. Suzy clamped her mouth shut and shook her head. I looked over at Jack and said, “Jack, please. I don’t want to.”
Jack’s head drooped and he shook it. He remained like that for several moments before slapping me across the cheek with a roundhouse that made me see stars and almost tossed me right off the bed. “I thought you were cool Danny, a tough guy. Seventeen years old and you went to a bar to drink by yourself. That takes balls Danny. And you don’t even have the guts to shove your pork in some pig’s face? I’m really disappointed Danny.” He paused for several seconds and then stared deep into my eyes, “You’re going to do this Danny…or you ain’t walking out of here.”
I shivered slightly and said, “Okay.” Then I looked at Suzy and said, “I’m sorry.”
I moved my body up closer to her face and put it on her lips. She still had them closed so tight that they were white from the pressure. I looked over at Jack – my eyes pleading now – and shrugged. I was hoping he would tell me to forget it. I was hoping he would lose that snaky look, start laughing, and say it was a bad joke. That wasn’t going to happen, but that is what I hoped. Instead, he grabbed Suzy’s hair and put his face so close to hers that my penis almost went in his mouth.
“Open your mouth Suzy,” he said, “or I’m going to break your pretty, little face.” He gave her hair a harder tug and continued, “Danny’s going to put his pork in your face and you’re going to suck on it like a good, little whore.” He let her hair go, stood back up, and asked, “Do you understand me? If you don’t do it, I’m not just going to beat you so bad that your mommy and daddy won’t recognize you, I’m going to beat you so bad that your mommy and daddy won’t recognize you and then I’m going to kill you.”
She let out a loud cry and then did what he said. I wanted to die, probably not as much as Suzy did, but I did want to die just then. The worst part was that it felt good. I didn’t want it to. I didn’t want it to happen at all, but it was. I felt like a monster. I’m not sure how long this went on. It seemed like forever.
Things must not have been going fast enough for Jack or perhaps he was just never satisfied, but he put his hand in the small of my back and began thrusting my body at Suzy’s face. “Get in there Danny you big faggot!” he shouted in my ear as he rammed me deeper into her mouth.
She gagged and tried to pull her head back but the headboard was right behind her. Jack kept doing that until I finished. I tried to pull away from her, but Jack pressed me tightly against her. She gagged and spit. I thought she was going to choke to death. Jack said, “Swallow it pig.” Then he waited a few more seconds and released his grip on me.
Suzy just wailed as I got off of her. I couldn’t look at her anymore. I was a pathetic worm, Jack’s tool, too scared to do anything to help this poor girl. Instead I helped that son of a bitch torture her. She spit at me as I backed away. By this time I was crying too. Jack backhanded me and called me a faggot again. I wanted to kill him so bad. I didn’t do anything though. I fell down on the floor and threw up. Then I sat there slumped over and crying.
I couldn’t watch but I couldn’t block out the sound either. I heard everything. I could hear him ramming it into her, the headboard slamming against the wall. I heard Suzy gagging and choking, muffled screams laced over the top of that. Then I heard Jack scream and four loud pops. I looked up to see Jack holding his penis in his left hand while he pounded Suzy’s face in with his right.
“You fucking bitch!” he screamed in her face. “I can’t believe you bit me.”
Suzy was barely moving. She looked like she might be unconscious. Jack quickly untied the neckties Suzy had been bound with and flipped her over. I didn’t look close enough to know where he penetrated her, but he was merciless. He slammed into her like he was trying to kill her with his erection, like it was a weapon. I could only stomach watching it for a few moments before I turned and threw up again. I’ll never forget all of the rage on his face though. I still can’t imagine where rage like that comes from.
Jack’s fury only lasted a minute or two more before he yelled at the top of his lungs and then let out a “yee-haw,” like a cowboy at a rodeo. I imagined that his exuberant shouting marked his climax. When I looked up again, Jack’s face was right next to Suzy’s ear. He wasn’t whispering though. He said very plainly, “I ain’t done with you yet bitch.” Then he left the room.
I looked over at Suzy. She wasn’t moving at all. I could see that she was breathing. As faint as it was, her back was expanding and contracting with each breath. A few moments later, the movement was accompanied by a slight wheezing. I looked up at the ceiling and sighed. The room had finally stopped spinning. It still felt like I was in a dream though, like none of this could actually be happening. I didn’t want to think about what Jack was going to do next. I didn’t have to contemplate that idea very long. A few moments later he stalked back into the room carrying a broom. I threw up again.
Jack looked over at me and chuckled, “Faggot.” Then he spread Suzy’s legs and slammed the broom into her anus.
I’m not sure if she had been unconscious or in shock, but Suzy screamed like she had been stabbed in the liver. Jack laughed and shoved it in farther. Then he pulled it out and slammed it in again. He did this repeatedly. Every time Suzy screamed louder. She didn’t try to move at all. She just laid there and screamed like she had given up, accepted her fate. Damn me.
Jack just kept going. I can’t even say how many times he pounded that broom handle into her, but by the time he was finished, it, the bed, and Suzy’s backside were all covered in blood. Suzy had stopped screaming minutes prior. She didn’t look like she was breathing anymore. Jack rolled her over. As her head flopped toward me, her eyes bored a hole right through my skull. I was fairly certain that she was dead at that point, but there was contempt in that stare. Those wide, dead, blue eyes, still puffy from all of the abuse she had taken while she clung to life, accused me, convicted me, and sentenced me to the cell I would occupy for the rest of my days. And I deserved it. All of the pain I have suffered, the mental anguish, the hatred for myself, were nothing compared to the pain she suffered as Jack and I ended her life.
The rest of that incident is a blur for me. Jack’s dad owned two-hundred and fifty acres and the cabin was smack in the middle of it. I helped Jack bury Suzy’s body under a big tree. Oddly enough, that spot in the woods, I have always remembered. I could still lead you to it, although now it isn’t in the middle of the woods. Now it’s directly in front of the peanut butter halfway down aisle two in the Walmart Supercenter they built over the top of that spot.
When Jack dropped me off at home that morning, he looked me dead in the eyes again with that snaky look and said, “If you tell anybody, they’ll lock us both up. They’ll know what you did and you’ll go to jail for the rest of your life.”
I didn’t say anything to him or anybody else. I never spoke of the incident again. Jack Robbins never crossed my path again. I’m not sure what happened to him. I hope he died a horrible, painful death. I hope he suffered half as much as Suzy did. I hope somebody hurt him bad.
Suzy was a different story. I saw her every year on my birthday for the rest of my life. Sometimes she checked me out the grocery store. Sometimes she looked back at me from the mirror. Sometimes she rode by me on a bicycle. It was never the same and I never saw it coming, but I always saw her. Always she wore that same accusatory expression. For fifty-eight years she punished me and I deserved it. In fact, I deserved much worse. Not that my life was anything spectacular. I never married, never went to school, got a job at the local factory, and lived out my days in a small, rundown trailer. Thanks to that night, I’ve never had a normal sexual encounter either. I never had a girlfriend or anything. My sex life consisted of hookers mostly and I always ended up crying and begging Suzy for forgiveness. It never ended well.
When Walmart bought the land where we buried that body, I figured that I owed it to Suzy to give a name to those bones I knew they were going to find. After fifty-seven years, I knew they would never connect me with it – or Jack for that matter. After everything we did to her all those years ago, I owed her at least that much. Don’t get me wrong, I owed far more, far more that I was too chickenshit to give her. At this point, this was the most I could do. I turned myself in on my birthday. Suzy glared at me from behind the counter at the police station. I told her I was sorry. She didn’t care.
I pled guilty and I was convicted. They were going to give me life, but I after I recounted the deplorable events of that night the judge was sufficiently swayed to end my worthless existence with lethal injection. It took exactly one year before my number was called and here I am ready to die.
The chemicals should be moving through my bloodstream by now. I can’t imagine I have much more than a few minutes left and this is the best I have felt in fifty-eight years. Thank you Suzy. A big part of me regrets that I am going to pass away so peacefully after the way I terrorized that poor girl. I don’t deserve this peace that she’s given me. I deserve torture and pain. Maybe I’m selfish, but I’m going to keep that smile she gave me. I’m going to remember it until my last breath. Suzy smiled at me.