Monday, June 20, 2016

Week 16 - Chuckie Ain't Right

Michael Salsbury
Chuckie Wilson bent over and his stomach was going all in and out.  Miss Franklin must have known what he was doing, because she started to bring a trash can to him.  Before she got there, Chuckie up-chucked a big mess on the floor.  Miss Franklin told us all to be still while she got the janitor and a bucket to clean up the mess.

When Chuckie reached down into the mess, pulled some peanuts out of it, and ate them.  By the time Miss Franklin and old Mr. Duke got there, just about everyone made a Chuckie mess on the floor.  Miss Franklin told us all to go outside for recess.

I walked with my girlfriend Brenda out toward the swings.  She liked to swing.  I guess I didn't mind it if she was there, but I liked the monkey bars way better.

"Chuckie is so weird and gross."  Brenda climbed into a swing.

I got behind her and started pushing.  "Yeah."

"No wonder nobody likes him."

"Uh-huh."  She was going pretty good now, so I got in the swing next to her and I started swinging, too.  She looked at me and smiled.  I smiled back.  She was so pretty.

I saw Chuckie playing with something by a tree at the edge of the playground, over near the dumpster.  I couldn't tell what is was, though.

Miss Franklin told us to come back in and have lunch.  Brenda and I got our trays and sat down.  I ate a couple of bites of mashed potatoes when I heard a bunch of girls screaming.  They were running away from something.  Whatever it was, it didn't seem to be worrying Chuckie too much.

Marcy and Tammy ran by, their hands in the air, screaming "Lizard! Lizard!  Aaah!"

Just then, I saw them.  Two or three little gray lizards were running around the cafeteria.  Wherever they went, people started running away in the other direction.  Lizards don't scare me.  I laughed.

"Brenda, can you believe they're running from--" I turned to see Brenda had run away, too.

Just me, Chuckie, and a couple of other boys were still there.  Everybody else ran away.

Chuckie got up and started walking around picking up the lizards.

"What are doing, Chuckie?"

He grabbed one and stuck it in his jacket.  "They got out of my pocket when I was eating."

"Why'd you put 'em in your pocket?  That's gross."

"It is?"

I shook my head.  "Yes."

"Oh," he said, stuffing another lizard in his pocket.

"You should let 'em go outside."

He stared at me.  "Why?"

I waved my hand in a circle.  "Look.  They all ran out.  They don't like lizards.  They don't want 'em around their food, either."

I felt sad for Chuckie.  He didn't seem like he was nuts or anything, more like he just didn't know how normal people acted.

"OK," he said, putting the last one in his pocket and zipping it shut.  He walked outside.  A few minutes later he was back, with an empty pocket.

The girls were so scared after that, I didn't think they'd ever have lunch in the cafeteria again.


Miss Franklin took us outside one day to teach us how to square dance.  At least that's what she said it was.  I thought it was just weird.

When she wasn't watching, a couple of us boys who had girlfriends snuck in a little kiss.  Brenda smiled real big at me when I kissed her.

I guess Chuckie must have thought it was a game or something.  He walked over and kissed Brenda, too, right on the lips.  I punched him in the face, hard as I could.  Nobody kisses Brenda but me.

Chuckie stepped back and rubbed his cheek, just staring at me.

"Brenda's my girlfriend," I told him.  "You kiss your own."

He kept staring at me.  "I don't have a girlfriend.  Can I borrow yours?"

"Ew!  No way!" Brenda ran to Miss Franklin.

"You need to find someone else, Chuckie."

"Oh," he said, still staring at me.

"Go away or I'll hit you again."

He walked away.

I kept wondering what was wrong with Chuckie.  I heard Mr. Duke tell Miss Franklin once "That boy ain't right."  Miss Franklin whispered something to him I didn't hear.  Old Mr. Duke shook his head and said, "Is that so?  No wonder.  Poor kid."


One day at recess, Brenda had to leave for a doctor appointment.  I saw Chuckie sitting on the merry-go-round by himself.  I went over and sat down next to him.

"Hey, Chuckie.  What ya doin'?"

"I'm watching those ants."  He pointed at the ground.  I looked down and saw them.  A long line of big black ants carrying pieces of leaves.  It kind of looked like something in a cartoon.

"That's pretty neat."

"Yeah.  Steve?"


"Why does everybody hate me?"

I looked down at the ants. "Chuckie, I don't think they hate you.  They just, well, they just think you're kind of weird."


"You ate peanuts outta your own throw-up.  People don't do that."


"It's gross, Chuckie.  Throw up is nasty.  You don't eat nasty stuff."

"But they were good peanuts."

"No, Chuckie.  They were gross.  And the thing with the lizards, that was gross, too."

"Lizards are neat.  They eat bugs, and they can grow their tails back if they lose them.  I like lizards."

"Well, I think they're cool, too.  But you bring lizards inside, 'specially not where girls are.  Girls think lizards are even worse than throw-up."

"They do?"


"Oh.  Is that why I don't have a girlfriend?"

"Maybe," I said, looking at him.  I could see a tear in one of his eyes.  "Look, Chuckie.  You seem like a nice guy.  Let me help you.  If you stop doin' weird stuff, maybe people will like you."


"Do you have any friends outside of school?  Maybe where you live?"

He shook his head, and watched the ants again.  "No. I live with my aunts."

"What are they like?"

"They're old, lots older than Miss Franklin.  They open a bottle of red juice in the morning and drink it with their breakfast.  Then they sleep until I get home, and have some more juice with dinner."

"What do you do when they're sleeping?"

He shrugged.  "I don't know.  If they leave the TV on, I watch that."

"You could turn it on yourself."

"I know, but they get mad if I wake them up, so I don't do it."

"You have some cool toys or video games?"

"Not really.  Sometimes I draw pictures or read books.  Quiet stuff like that."

"You don't go outside and play with the other kids?"

"No, Aunt Mary says I can't.  She doesn't want to worry about me."

I never went to Chuckie's house, but I could imagine what it was like.  If I had to sit around by myself and quiet all the time, I'd be weird, too.  I kind of knew what it was like, though.  When my older sisters still lived with us, I had to stay out of their way or they'd be mean to me.  I guess it was like that for Chuckie, too.


A few days later, I was talking to Chuckie about girls.  I was telling him how you have to be nice to them, and how they like flowers and stuff - and don't like lizards, frogs, bugs, and snakes.

Brenda looked all mad, and stomped up to me.  "I'm not your girlfriend anymore, Steve.  Not if you're gonna be friends with him!" She pointed at Chuckie.

"Chuckie's not weird, not anymore."

"Then you must be weird now, too.  Goodbye," she said, turning away and stomping off.

I felt a lump in my throat.  I felt my eyes tearing up.

"We don't have to be friends, Steve. It's OK."

"No it's not, Chuckie."

On the other side of the playground, I saw Ted Barker. He was looking at us and laughing.  I didn't know what he was laughing about, but I didn't like it.


Chuckie wanted to show me a huge ant hill he passed on his way home from school.  He got a head start so he could point it out to me when I got there.

A few blocks away from the school, I thought I saw Brenda looking out one of the windows.  When I looked again, no one was there.  Then, Ted Barker stepped out from behind a tree onto the sidewalk in front of me.


"Go away, Ted."

"Make me."

I hadn't been in a fight before, but I could tell Ted wanted one.  He bigger than me, so I wasn't too interested in fighting him.  I didn't like pain.

"No. Please Ted, just move."

"Please, Ted," he whined.  "I wanna go play with my weirdo friend."

I shook my head.  He was such a jerk.

All of a sudden, Ted hits me - hard.  I fall on to my back, and he jumps on top of me.  He hits me in the face, the chest, wherever he can.  I try to block his punches but I don't do so good.

"Brenda doesn't like you anymore!  I told her you liked Chuckie more!"

"Liar," I told him.  He hit me again.

"Everybody thinks you're weird like Chuckie!"

"Chuckie's not weird," I told him, "You are."  He hit me again.

I hear a loud cracking sound, and Ted falls off me.  I turn to look at him and see Chuckie on top of him.  Chuckie has a thick stick in his hands, and he's hitting Ted over and over.

I get up off the ground and walk over to them.  Ted doesn't look good.  There is blood coming out of his nose, big scratches on his cheeks, and tears coming out of his eyes.  He looks at me and I can tell he's scared, as scared as I felt a minute ago.  Part of me is happy to see Ted scared like this.  He's knocked me down, stolen my money, pushed me into mud puddles, and lots of stuff over the years.  He's a bully.  Chuckie doesn't seem to care.  He's just pounding Ted with the stick, over and over.

Chuckie doesn't look like he's going to stop.  Ted looks asleep now, not scared.  I grab the stick in Chuckie's hand.  "That's enough, Chuckie."

Chuckie got off Ted's chest.  Ted's eyes opened, then opened as wide as could be.  He backed away from Chuckie, then turned and ran away.

"You looked like you were gonna kill him.  Were you?"

He nodded.  "Yeah.  He was hurting you. You're my friend."

"Chuckie, you can't kill someone. You'll go to jail."

"Oh," he said.  "Come on. Let me show you that ant hill."


Chuckie was right.  It was the biggest ant hill I'd ever seen.  It was the size of a car hood.

While we watched the ants, Chuckie asked me about Brenda.  I told him how we met at school, how we got to talking and decided we liked each other.  One day I brought her a flower from my mom's garden and she kissed me.  After that we were always boyfriend and girlfriend.

"Until now," Chuckie said.  "Because of me."

"Not you.  I think Ted did it."

"You should'a let me kill him."

"No, Chuckie.  Then you'd be in jail and I'd be all alone."

He shrugged.  "OK.  I gotta go.  If I'm late, my aunts will get really mad."

"Alright.  See you at school tomorrow."


At recess the next day, I sat on the merry-go-round, waiting for Chuckie.

Brenda walked over to me and sat down next to me.

"I saw what happened yesterday," she said.  "Are you OK?"


"You really didn't say you liked Chuckie more than me?"

I looked her in the eye.  "Why would I say that?  You're my girlfriend.  He's just my friend."

"He's kinda weird."

I took her hand.  "He told me his mom left him with his two aunts when he was a baby.  They don't let him outside, and they sleep a lot. So he's gotta just sit there being quiet.  I'm the only friend he's got.  He's not weird, he just doesn't know what normal people do."

"You've been helping him, haven't you?"

I nodded.  She threw her arms around me.  "You're so sweet, Steve.  I love you."

"I love you too, Brenda."

"Can I be your girlfriend again?"

"If you're friends with Chuckie, too.  He needs friends."

"He's not gonna eat barf peanuts again, is he?"

"No.  We talked about it."

"OK, then.  Maybe someday he'll have a girlfriend, too."


We looked across the schoolyard and saw Chuckie.  He was carrying a bright yellow flower toward Connie, the new girl who'd started at school that Monday.  He handed the flower to her.  She smiled and threw her arms around him.

As Brenda and I walked toward them, we saw Connie reach into her purse.  She took something out and handed it to Chuckie.  He looked at it, smiled, and put it on his shoulder.  It was a gray lizard.  Chuckie was grinning from ear to ear.

I think I know what Mr. Duke meant now.  Chuckie ain't right.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


Post a Comment