Tuesday, April 17, 2007


"Why do you like to hurt people?"

The hardest questions in Matt's life had always been asked over french toast.

He wasn't sure why but it really seemed to be true. His mother had asked him how fast he could pack when he was nine. They had to move out of Phoenix because the police were looking for his father and they'd gotten close again.

He's been asked to give up his lunch money or get a broken arm when he was eleven. That hadn't ended well; he'd actually gotten a broken arm, a broken leg, and a cracked rib for his answer. That was the day he decided that being quiet and staying out of sight was the best way to live his life.

At fourteen he'd been asked by his best friend if he could ever think of a boy in a sexual manner. Said friend was male and, not that Matt knew it at the time, both homosexual and mentally unstable. He found out the first part after answering, "No." Two days later, Matt found out the second part for basically the same reason. His New Year's Resolution that year had been to never appear in anyone's suicide note again.

A year later, his dad asked him at breakfast to help him bury someone. The body had been a state trooper, someone who'd tracked his father across half the country and ignored protocol by busting into the house with a drawn weapon and no warrant. They'd had to move again over that ugliness.

It had been three years since he'd had french toast, long enough that he'd forgotten its apparent curse. Now he was sitting in a Denny's, cooked bread in his mouth, listening to Stay ask a painful question while tasting maple syrup. If his mouth had been empty, he'd have said something vulgar.

As it was, he took a bite, chewed it up and swallowed it with a long drink of orange juice. Stay's bright eyes let him know that she wasn't going to let it drop. She was sitting there, breakfast plate already cleaned off, waiting for him to answer. Damn it.

"Why do you think I enjoy it?"

It was a cop out answer and damn the little cherub, she obviously knew it. The look she gave him was one of 'Not fair!' as he answered her with a question. And a lame one at that.

"Because you laugh sometimes when you do it."

That stopped him. He'd been reaching for his milk but now all thought of food stopped. "I what?"

She nodded, earnest eyes still bright. She didn't seem at all upset talking about death and killing. She just seemed to want to know why he enjoyed it, something he never really thought about, especially in such blunt terms.

"I do not laugh." he sighed and looked down at his plate. Nothing there looked appetizing any more. "Stay, I don't enjoy killing. I wish I didn't have to do it any more. But there are people out there who want to kill me. Should I just let them do it?"

She shook her head. "No. Of course not. I wasn't saying you were doing bad. I just wanted to know if it was fun. I have a gun and I was thinking maybe I should help you next time."


Everyone in the Denny looked their way, even the chef through the little dungeon window to the hell called a fast food kitchen.

Matt looked down and stayed quiet until people started minding their own business again. It took a while but eventually the average American attention span worked in Matt's favor. Within a minute, no one was paying him or Stay any more attention. After they were alone again, he said in a much softer voice, "Stay, you can't hurt people. It's not right."

She wasn't buying it, not that he could sell it very well even if he believed it. He'd left too many corpses in his wake since leaving New Jersey to really believe what he'd just said.

"Okay, okay... there are times when you'll have to, but don't try to find reasons. I don't want you to ever have to use that thing."

She looked confused now, but was self-aware enough to reach across the table and steal a piece of bacon. Munching on it idly, she glanced back up into his eyes and asked, "Why not?"

What was he supposed to say? How could he put it into words? He didn't want her to lose her innocence the way he did at her age? He didn't want blood on her hands? He didn't want to be responsible for turning a little girl into a sidecar killer?

Eventually, he went with another conversational surrender. "I just don't, okay?"

She shrugged and went back to coloring the waffles on her place mat. In the typical fashion of a child, she'd gotten all the answers she was going to get and was bright enough to realize it. As such, she turned her attention elsewhere - namely, blue and yellow crayons.

Matt took a drink of milk, breathed a slow sigh of relief and went back to eating his french toast.

"Oh, Uncle Matt?"

He made a curious sound, his mouth stuffed full. "Whaa?"

"Why do you screw so many hot girls?"

The geyser of egg-soaked breakfast bread was epic....

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