This one is an exercise in setting up suspense.

Red-Handed



     Willy walked into the dorm bathroom, his arms and hands covered in blood, his face splattered and clothes tacky, just as I finished shearing the whiskers from my chin.
     He sat on the tan speckled sink counter. I washed the aloe rich Barbasol from my face and mopped up stinging cuts with course paper towel. The blood on Willy blackened his wool sweater/pullover thing, slicking the fuzz down in the severely wet spots. He traded stares between his hands and his mournful sighs cut holes in the restroom silence.
     I brushed my teeth and asked through a mouthful of minty baking soda toothpaste foam,"Whatsup?"
     He waited exactly ten seconds before saying,"Nummuch."
     I scoured the bottom teeth and spit out ruby spit. I squeezed the minty blue toothpaste on my brush. "Either you slapped a major frigging mosquito or killed somebody."
     "Yep," he said.
     Willy liked to think of himself as some superhero, a Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, or even a Dr. Jekyll. He waited anxiously for trouble to happen so he could leap into action and save the day and the girl. He didn't stoop to causing trouble though, which was good; God knowing, he probably had many chances to.
     I figured if he was meant to be a hero, he would be one. For now, he had to drive everyone crazy with the story of the time he saved a drowning duckling.
     Dark rusty flakes cracked off his arms and hands. He slid his hand against his soiled pants. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Do you have any 'Lava' or something?"
     "Sorry dude. I've only got 'Ivory.'"
     He stiffly nodded, jumped off the counter and rolled up his sleeves. He pumped the black soap dispenser and it ejaculated on to his hand. Lather oozed from his frictioning palms and the water swirled the suds and blood down the drain.
     Willy scraped his fingernails under others, prying blood from the close skin. He wet his wrists and forearms, then sauced up the dispenser again and washed the blood off. He sniffed and wiped his nose with a damp thumb.
     "I told Marie I couldn't, but she insisted," he said, drawing a razorblade across his voice. "She pushed me and this is what happened."
     I grabbed a large white T-shirt from my room right across from the bathroom. I placed it near his sink and he silently thanked me. I heard his breath, but not his words.
     "I had the knife, y'know. You see it in the movies. Drawing it neatly, the flesh separating like fabric, the death instant. It's not like that at all." He scrubbed his elbows red. "Not at all."
     I took my turn to sit on the sink counter. The back flush of the toilets streamed throughout the heater blown currents. Shampoo drifted from the mildew laden showers. Willy, instead, concentrated on the water and suds and blood spinning down the rusty drain. The hot steam from the sink feathered around his cheeks.
     He washed his face, rubbing his fingers into the creases around his nose, behind his ears and in the pit of his eyes. "The kicking, the fits, jerking. It's hard. I thought all I had to do was be quick, thorough and strong, y'know. I got kicked in the stomach, butted in the jaw." He washed suds away with scoops of water. He looked up to the buzzing fluorescent lights looking over the sinks. "I complain when I get a paper cut."
     He pulled his sweater over his head, then removed the maroon T-shirt underneath. He balled them up like dough and set them on the sink.
     He sniffed and avoided my eyes as he put on my shirt. He would do that when he knew I proved my point. I told him he couldn't handle killing anything with a knife, that he'd puss out and cry like a deathrow inmate. He scoffed at my interjection, hitting his chest and decided that if he had the chance, I would barbecue my sentences.
     Then he met Marie.
     Marie shoplifted Willy's heart from the selection of boys on campus. Something about his neck, she said, running her finger along the length of the bottom lip as she talked. She liked to press her lips against his throat and blow hard, a faux-flatulating blurp echoed. He laughed and giggled like a mad junky.
     Despite those memories of fun, they argued for what seemed like the rest of the time, biting off each others ideas like carrots. She wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant; he'd rather masturbate with razorblades. He wanted to see a Van Damme movie; she preferred salad tong abortions.
     "She laughed at me, saying you were right." He snorted. "She called me a puss boy. I've never even looked at another guy." Willy massaged his jaw. "The knife felt good in my hand until I started cutting through the neck."
     "Betcha' didn't know that blood would squirt like that." I barely shook my head."
     "It squirted all over," he said. "Remember that scene in the first 'Freddy' movie?"
     "Yep."
     "Just like that. Even after the body died, the nerves still jumped everywhere. It's like spider legs, y'know? You can pull them off, but they still keep moving. Like some of that zombie shit you see on TV." Willy picked up his sweater and T-shirt. "I caused a death. It's not like trapping mice, or squishing bugs. You don't see blood, y'know, squirting around like a firehose." He sighed for ten seconds. "Marie had blood all in her hair, all two feet of it soaked and sticky. She had blood all over her clothes, her T-shirt clung to her boobs like a Satanic spring break beach party. She had it all over. It splattered all over her face."
     "I bet she won't forget that."
     "Fuck hell she won't. Fucking laugh at me again." He folded his sweater and T-shirt. "I proved my point."
     "You dealing?"
     "I'm dealing. Just thinking about other things too." He circled his hand around a horse-shaped blood splotch on his pants. His fingers didn't touch the crimson stain. "God knows what strange germs or diseases I'll get."
     My friend stared at his hands again, flexed his fingers and then placed his knuckles to his closed mouth. I had no advice to give him. He was a guy who wanted to be a superhero, but superheroes don't kill, not even for the good of mankind. Instead, he faced a challenge of ego and in the process soiled a hand-knitted sweater, made by his arthritic laden grandmother. If he learned anything, he'd eat hamburger with more respect from now on.
     "I'm going to take a shower," he said. "Then I'm going to the cafeteria. I don't want to let the thought of Marie bother me. I've had enough trouble for today. I'm never doing that again." He rested his hands on the sink and looked deeply into the mirror. "Good God, Willy," his alternate said,"what have you gotten yourself into."
     Marie peeked her head into the bathroom door. "There you are." Blood covered half of her round Navajo features, and her hair strung in clumps of sticky red. Her denim jacket turned purple in the front, aligning itself with the crimson splashes drenched into her white Beatles T-shirt. Willy was right; I could see the lace detail of the bra. She walked directly to him, leaving behind a scent of CK1 and fur, and put a bloody palm on his shoulder. "You alright?"
     "Jesus, Marie," Willy scolded.
     "Where'd you go? We're about to start skinnin.'"
     "I want to shower first."
     She grinned like a madman. "Oh c'mon. Everyone stopped laughing. They said you can have extra mutton for being so brave."
     "There's an incentive."
     "We'll mix it with some hot pasole', have some frybread...C'mon! Tradition!"
     Willy glanced at me and I shrugged. He sighed, lowered his head and nodded. "Get rid of that sheep's head first. Anyone one makes a Satanism joke, I resort to cannibalism."
     "OK," Marie said. She looked at me, mouthed a hello and winked.
     She put her bloody arm around his waist and led him to the door. His arm reached around her neck and down to her chest. He threw his sweater and T-shirt in the trash. "Later dude," Willy said to me, then walked down the hall with Marie.
     "Keep the shirt," I said to him. I jumped off the counter and reached into the garbage and shook off his soiled clothes. I thought I'd surprise him later. A little cold water, some detergent and his clothes would be good as new.


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1996-98 Sam "Dickens" Sandoval.
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