The Cuckoo's Progeny
05: Childhood Tormentors Revisited

Copyright© 2016 Vincent Berg. All rights reserved.

“Dang it!” Betty complained. “Where the hell are we going now?”

“Sorry, but there’s another disaster I’m trying to prevent,” Al said.

“You promised you wouldn’t do this again without backup. Can’t you at least wait until Delilah and Gary arrive?”

“If I do, she’ll die. What’s worse, it’s someone we know. I can’t ignore that.”

“All the more reason for letting our bodyguards come home with us!”

“You’re the one who insisted we’d be fine without them,” Al reminded her.

“Then we should call the police instead of jumping in.”

“You can hardly call the police about something which hasn’t happened, but I’ll try to remember asking Gary and Delilah along the next time an unexpected emergency pops up,” Al said, flashing her a cheeky grin.

“So who is it this time?”

“It’s a whole group. I recognized a couple faces, but I’m not sure who’s in danger. Ah, here we are, at least it wasn’t far.”

“The Burger Barn? Hardly the place for breakfast.”

“Can’t you forget about food long enough to save a life? You can eat when we meet at the restaurant like we planned.”

“I’m phoning Delilah. With luck, they can arrive in time to intervene.”

“Hurry, I don’t have time to waste.”

He trotted past a few cars before assuming a casual stroll. His sister followed, trying to complete her call, but all she got was a busy signal. “Delilah, Al’s at it again. We’re at the Burger Barn near our arranged meeting. Gotta go!”

Shoving her phone in her pocket, she trailed after her brother. It was easy to catch up, as it was more natural for her to jog after him without looking like they were heading anywhere in particular. As they approached, she recognized several of the people and groaned. It was a group who’d tormented them both during high school. Most graduated before her, but she still remembered their torments. She wasn’t sure she wanted to rescue any of these people, but realized she couldn’t refuse to either.

Rather than sitting at the tables reserved for patrons, the group sat on the wooden fence at the edge of the Burger Barn lot. Al walked up behind the kids facing away from him, conversing with their friends who faced them. He stopped behind an attractive girl, though Betty couldn’t identify who. So far, they hadn’t attracted attention, but that didn’t last long.

“Is that Alfonzo the Bean Pole?” Freddie Mac asked, peering around those blocking his view.

“The name’s Al,” her brother said, not bothering to give his full first name, refusing to be baited.

Freddie laughed. “That’s what I said, Alfonzo. Hey, look, Roberto. Alfonzo’s back, looking for some fresh abuse!”

As Roberto turned, someone beside the girl twisted around, nudging her. She toppled backwards directly into Al’s arms. It was clear to Betty the girl’s head would have struck a broken piece of concrete if Al hadn’t been there. As usual, his intuition was spot on. Hopefully they could slip away without any trouble.

“Hey! You feeling up my girl?” Roberto demanded, leaping over the fence as if it wasn’t there.

“Nah, she’s not my type,” Al insisted, setting her on her feet and backing away.

“Keep your friggin’ hands to yourself, creep!” she hissed.

“You alright, Angeline?” Roberto said.

“I would’ve been fine without this cretin trying to cop a feel.” She spun around to confront him. “My buzz protects me from falls. I just bounce,” she said, giggling.

“So you just welcome yourself to join us and make a pass at my girlfriend?” Roberto demanded, approaching Al.

“I only caught her when she fell. No harm, no foul.”

“Funny, I smell something funky, and I believe it’s you.” He stopped, surveying his old foe. “You still drawin’ those stupid doodles on your arms?”

Al backed up another few steps, tugging his sleeve down. “I didn’t draw them. They’re birthmarks.”

Roberto chuckled. “They were too detailed and intricate for birthmarks. Instead you spent hours doodling on your arm, with permanent markers no less.” He partially turned to his audience. “They never even washed off during showers after gym. That’s a dork with dedication!”

“I just stopped by to say hi, but I can tell I’m not welcome.” Al took another half-step back, but the ground behind him was broken, making walking treacherous if you weren’t paying attention.

“Show everyone your friggin’ doodles, dork. You want to join our group? We may be more welcoming if you give us a good laugh?”

Betty recognized the behavior, it was his typical spiel: heaping abuse on someone while holding out the hope they might relent if their victims played along. They both realized how it would end.

“Sorry, Roberto, I’m not interested in playing. Try playing with yourself.” Al turned his back on his enemy, walking away.

“Don’t you turn your back on me, jackass!” Roberto bellowed, balling his fists and rushing Al.

Just before his fist connected, Al turned and stepped to the side. Roberto couldn’t adjust, overshooting and falling on the concrete parking lot. He landed with a splat, the wind knocked out of him.

Realizing the odds weren’t in his favor, Al began slowly backing up, never taking his eyes off Roberto’s posse.

Roberto growled, leaping to his feet. “You trying to make an ass of me, jerkwad?”

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