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Blown to Smithereens (standard:humor, 1962 words)
Author: stevetAdded: Feb 15 2001Views/Reads: 3677/2074Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An old man watches through his living room window as a teenage boy blows up his mailbox.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

"What's your name, high pockets?" Abe asked. 

"Richard." Nothing more at first, then he added, "Just Richard." He
stared through Abe's bottle-glass lenses at the magnified eyes behind 

"Well, haha, just Richard," Abe said, anxious to keep the talk light,
"somebody destroyed my mailbox yesterday." He held eye contact with the 
boy while nodding at the demolished box. "See, it's blown to 

"Tough." The boy's attention was now fixed on the top of the old man's

Abe, trying to keep sarcasm out of his voice, felt his throat tighten.
"I don't suppose you know who did it?" 


"You sure? Absolutely sure?" Tapping him on the chest, Abe felt nothing
but bones beneath the tee-shirt. The boy shook his head. "Well, I saw 
who did it. He looked a lot like you." It was too close to a direct 
accusation; Abe was immediately sorry he had made it. An experienced 
man-a  grandfather, for Godsake-should have known better than to push 
so hard. He said, "Well, hey, maybe it was your twin brother." 

The lanky boy shrugged and allowed the possibility to hang in the air. 

"You think I was born yesterday?" Abe demanded, goaded to an angrier
tone. "You don't have a twin brother. Well, do you?" 

The boy shrugged again. "Nope." He seemed to find Abe's thick lenses too
fascinating for words. 

Abe, who always tried to imagine himself in the other guy's shoes,
thought it looked awfully uncomfortable without socks in those dirty 
sneakers. His anger drifted off like the smoke from his blown mailbox. 
"We'll have no more accusations," he said, reaching into his trouser 
pocket. "Here, a twenty-dollar bill. Take it." The boy blinked, his 
impassivity slipping for an instant. "Go ahead, take it, that's it. 
Have your mother or father drive you to K-Mart, someplace like that. 
Buy me a new mailbox-letters, numbers and all. You'll bring it here on 
Sunday and I'll help you install it. How will that be, eh?" No response 
from the boy. "You and your, haha, twin brother didn't do the damage? 
So okay." Abe shrugged. "Who needs a confession? You'll just be helping 
an old man. Okay?" 

Without a word, the boy turned and walked away. 

Abe called after him, "You won't forget the numbers and letters? Kohn,
with a 'K' not a 'C', okay?" 

Even before the boy was out of sight, Abe imagined the twenty-dollar
bill sprouting wings and flying away. He had never doubted a kid 
before, but there was something very different about this one. Or was 
he just getting stingy in his old age? * * * Later that week, Abe got 
information about the boy from the man who drove the delivery van for 
Waugaman the Butcher: the boy had recently lost his father in an auto 
accident. What a rotten break. Abe, who had lost his own father at a 
young age, wanted to clutch his stomach as memories of feeling hurt, 
lonely and abandoned washed through him in waves, like nausea. 

At least it was finally clear: the boy had blown the mailbox to get
Abe's attention. With no father, he needed someone else to talk to, and 
of course his mother wouldn't do. She would be fine when he needed a 
meal or a button sewn on his jacket, but for serious talk, a boy needed 
a father. 

He had to admit he was relieved. God knew, Abe was habitually dropping
his guard and leading with his heart. That didn't mean, however, he was 
used to getting socked on the chin. But he had been right to give this 
boy a chance to vindicate himself. There was no such thing as a bad 
boy, after all. 

Why had Richard chosen Abe, an old man? He shrugged. It had been ages
since Abe had been a boy's confidant. The last time his youngest son, 
Danny, sought his advice, little itchy things were crawling in Danny's 
pubic hair. What a sheepish expression on that boy's face-Abe smiled at 
the memory. That was a long time ago. Still, for whatever reason, 
Richard had chosen him. Abe said, "I'll be damned if I'll let him down, 

"You said something, Abie dear?" Emma called from the kitchen. 

", never mind, Em. You know old men, always talking to
themselves." * * * Sunday came and went and the lanky boy never 
appeared. That boy-Abe breathed deeply to calm himself. He resolved to 
face the boy again. The incident had gotten beyond juvenile delinquency 
and become a twenty-dollar grand theft. 

As the hands of the clock passed three, he tried to steel himself to
face that impassive, freckled face. He walked the length of his 
driveway toward the confrontation, still hoping to seen the boy's eyes, 
in the way he carried himself, somewhere hint of regret or contrition. 

There was none. When they faced each other in front of the wrecked
mailbox, the only visible change in him was a lessened interest in 
Abe's glasses. 

"Whatcha want now, mister?" He slapped his sneaker sole against the
asphalt. "Whyncha lemme alone, huh?" 

"How can I?" Abe pointed at the twisted box. "Look at that awful mess."
The boy stared at it and shrugged; Abe felt goaded again. "I gave you 
money," he declared skyward, "twenty dollars. It was so hard to admit 
you were the culprit? So okay, Abe Kohn isn't a hard man. I gave you 
the money-twenty dollars-so at least you could replace the damn thing. 
But did you?" Another impatient sneaker slap. "I say, did you?" 

"Didn't ask for none of your dirty ole money, did I?" 

Abe thought he saw a pout beneath the obdurate face. "Ask? No," he
conceded, "you didn't ask, but you certainly took. So what's it to be, 
gangster? A new mailbox or my money back? Well?" 

The lanky boy searched Abe's eyes. "Aw, fuck you, ole man, and fuck your
mailbox, too." He sneered in Abe's face and walked away. * * * The 
following afternoon Abe deliberately sat facing away from the window. 
His head was pressed against the chair back, his eyes were closed and 
the newspaper in his lap was ignored. He was out of his depth in these 
foul-mouthed times, when violence could erupt anywhere, when kids took 
pleasure in howling curses, and the mailboxes of innocent victims were 
blown to smithereens. Though the prospect exhausted him, Abe vowed to 
abandon the lanky boy. 

The familiar growling engine of the school bus halted, idled then
labored away, followed by the cacophony of liberated kids, a sound Abe 
couldn't ignore. He slammed down the paper and went to the window. 

The lanky boy had not dawdled as usual. He was waiting at the mailbox
for Abe to appear. There was a white envelope in his hand. He made a 
gruesome face at Abe-cheeks scrunched up and tongue stuck way out like 
a furious frog-and gave him the finger. The boy placed the white 
envelope in the mailbox wreckage, let his face smooth out to blankness 
and walked away. 

This time Abe hurried to the mailbox. No more sympathy for young
gangsters; he would nab him this time, if he could. Puffing from the 
exertion, he retrieved the envelope and tore it open. It contained a 
handful of one-dollar bills and a scribbled note: 

Old man, Shove these dollars up your fat ass. One at a time. Richard's
twin brother 

And a face had been drawn beside the signature: Kilroy, but with his
tongue stuck way out. The little bastard! 

But then again...that awful face the boy had made, the gesture, the
drawing. Impassive? Not on your life. Abe began to count the dollar 
bills, but gave up -of course there would be twenty. He stood beside 
the wrecked mailbox, tapping a finger against the note. In a minute he 
began imagining a possible next move. 

The end. 


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