Up comes the two of them, Jew and Roman Catholic, looking for their usual spot of live oak on the creek bank. James I has got a
hickory twig mauled in his teeth and says for James II to hurry up andfetch him the rum bottle.
James the Second is fourteen and just as tanned as hisneighbor. They both have birdie chests and share the juvenile delight in fathers’ liquors. James II had his bar mitzvah when his neighbor first started acolyting and insists that they are of the same age, but James I says that’s not the case at all, because he’s fifteen and two worlds smarter than James II and has the pubic hair to prove it. James II cannot deny this.
Their fathers are just the tanned boys writ large. They both own ancient Jaguars, they both cut their lawns at the same hour and wave to each other while they do it, and they cook fish for each other and then say what good neighbors they are and how God loves His America to the utmost.
James I had to set the younger James straight about this matter of their fathers’ Jaguars early on in the morning. He’d said that when their fathers were off at work, when they were off in their everyday Japanese cars and busy with their computers and textiles, they would drive the navy Jaguar on down to the waterfront. James II argued for the gold Jaguar instead (because, naturally, the gold one was his father’s). James the Original slapped him with dirty curses and refused him till no end; he told him that for one thing, he was the only one who could drive, since he was taller and had read more for his driver’s permit, and that the navy Jaguar was a more powerful machine and looked downright immaculate.
James II was not of the same opinion. He said all the Notre Dame stickers tacky-ed up the back of his friend’s Jaguar, to which James I answered with a hearty laugh as he began to count up the slew of Rutgers alum stickers and Boca Raton decals appointing the gold version.
James the Second decided it stood to reason to have a test on the cars then. The Elder agreed, and the two Jameses set off with expedience and spiced rum and wrangled up the local retard girl, Wendy Duckworth, dragged her from her seat on the park swing and tugged her all the way back to the pair of gleaming Jaguars. Wendy Duckworth farted and screamed and howled, but the Jameses managed. They stripped her of all clothes and placed her atop each hood ornament, five times in due turn, until James II agreed that Wendy did in fact smile and drool more when she was spinning on the navy Jaguar’s jaguar than when she was sitting up on his father’s golden one. It was settled: James the First would drive his father’s car and James II would have to steal another of his own father’s rum bottles for them to pass-and-share.
When the boys get down by the water and leave their footprints in the sand, they begin their whispering.
“They are back again.”
“That’s cause they live in that house right over there, stupid ass.”
“But they do this every day.”
“My bandaddy calls them mooncrickets.”
“My grandfather just calls them nigglets.”
“ Nigglets! That’s fly biscuit, man. I’m using that.”
“Well, I still haven’t decided if they are bathing or working on their laundry.”
“Dad says they’re behind the times. Maybe they’re just swimming, though.”
“I think what you said yesterday is right. Probably is a mother and a daughter.”
“I told you the girl goes to school with us.”
“Varsity girls basketball? Yes, she’s got to be. God, look at them chocolate titties.”
“I want the mother. Bad .”
“No, look at her. Those are big. You see? That’s why their men like the watermelons so much. Reminds them of their wives.”
“Their nigglet wives doing their laundry out in the creek.”
“Pass that bottle, I’ll have me a swig.”
“Made in the shade, man.”
“I got a new war game for my comp. It’s freakin––just owns so much. Oh, and wait till I—.”
“Shut up, man. Pull down my pants, hurry.”
“Hurry up. Jerk me.”
“Hold on, give me a sec.”
“They are getting closer.”
“She’s so tall.”
“She looks like my old Doberman.”
“Do you think they see us?”
“Jesus. Just use the corner of your eyes. Don’t breathe so hard.”
“ Shh .”
“All right. Go. Get down the tree. Hurry.”
“Why? I’m in love.”
“I’m pulling you the hell down, man.”
“Be calm. Maybe they just want to make love. Remember who gets who.”
“ Shh .”
James I and James II gaze up. Their mouths are open and they are aghast. They have been towered over by hair and richness and darkness and they lack speech. In time, the sons of Caiaphas and Quirinius crawl back and shrink from the salt marshes and billowing shade. They motion toward the old navy car. Down by the creek water their footprints still hold on to the sand.
Ric Hoeben, M.F.A. from The University of Florida, lives in Georgetown, South Carolina, by the coast. His most recent work has been found in Tampa Review, storySouth, Glimmer Train, James Dickey Review, Clapboard House, The Monarch Review, Spork, Atticus Review, Hobart, Connotation Press, Burrow Press Review, Pithead Chapel, Umbrella Factory, the Newer York, and Waccamaw.