The Satan Brothers

When we were a half mile from Troy Spencer’s house Rudy told me to park the car and cut the lights. Rudy had his bayonet out and was etching a pentagram into the dashboard. We sat in the darkness and listened to the radio. I had it on the public station and some nasally voice was reading world news listlessly.

“The UN can suck my dick,” Rudy said.

I turned off the radio and the only sound was the skritching of the bayonet point carving through the plastic. The bayonet was German, Nazi, Rudy bought it off of eBay. He said he wasn’t really into the Nazis’ racial philosophies but he admired their aesthetic, the whole skulls-and-spikes thing. My great uncle had died in WWII but I had to admit it was pretty cool.

I was nervous so I grabbed the Jumbo pop I had filled up at the Quick-Go after picking up Rudy. Once the initial rush hit I felt a little bit better. My gulping drowned out Rudy’s scratching so I was able to put that out of my mind at least.

Rudy told me not long after we met that he was the only Mexican Death Metal fan in the world. I googled it that night and found out that was emphatically not the case, but I never contradicted him. He was definitely the only Mexican Metalhead in Marder, MN, and that must count for something.

“Can you knock that off?”

I put the pop down and apologized under my breath. Rudy was ultra zoned on the Spencer house, his movements so half-heartened he wasn’t even marking the dashboard anymore, just dragging the bayonet across it. I tried to shift my bulk into a less painful position—as usual, a futile struggle. I was pushing 250 pounds, having put on 80 in the last two years alone. Sitting in a car was uncomfortable. Breathing was uncomfortable; taking a shit. Everything. We graduated high school two months ago which was the best thing to happen to me in a long time. No more getting out of bed in the morning, no more hauling my fat ass down the halls and up the stairwells every day.

Rudy finally gave up and slid the bayonet back into his boot. The pentagram was half finished, nestled between a goat head and a cock and balls. Maybe he was tired, but with the gobs of grease paint smeared around his eyes it was hard to tell. Probably just annoyed. It was two in the morning.

There weren’t any other houses around the Spencers’, or trees, or anything. It stood all by itself on a Kermit Frog-green patch of grass in the middle of 10 acres of hard packed dirt criss-crossed with a few newly paved streets. It was the first house in a proposed development out on the edge of town, a place for the few (relatively) affluent citizens of Marder to seclude themselves in, to remove them from the indignity of living with us peasants. The Spencers were the first family to sign up, and bought the completed show house as a sign of confidence in the project.

Rudy had swung a paper sack in the back seat with him when he got in the car. I didn’t ask, waiting for Rudy to volunteer an explanation, but that was an hour ago at this point, so I asked. Rudy shook his head.

“Don’t worry about it. You’re just the driver.”

When he didn’t elaborate I put the straw back in my mouth and quietly nursed my pop.

“Damn! I can’t stand this.” Rudy pulled out his iPod and stuck in the headphones. He pointed up at the house. “See that light?” On the second floor, towards the back corner, a window was lit up. “Let me know when that goes dark.” He hit play and the car was filled with the audio overflow of whatever he was listening to, a never-ending stream of tinny pounding drums in 6/8 time signature. He leaned back and closed his eyes.

Soon I was just about asleep myself, lulled by the incessant pounding of Rudy’s music. I took my phone out and checked the time. My pop would almost be gone in a half hour if I didn’t ration it. I put the phone away and waited.

I took a gulp to wake myself back up then nudged him. After checking on the house, he smiled and pounded me on the back of the shoulder. He twisted his long hair up into a ponytail and pulled a stocking cap on. He put one hand on the door handle and threw up the horns with the other.

“Let’s roll. Grab the bag.”

He was out the car and running. I scrambled to get the bag, and as I grabbed for the handles I fumbled my cup, spilling pop and ice down the front of my clothes and all over the car. Great. Rudy was already to the house so I threw the empty cup out in the street and got the bag out. I jogged after Rudy, my pants sloshing and sticking to my skin. The bag was heavy, and my arms were tired and flopping at my side when I caught up to Rudy. He had his back to the wall, peering around the corner at the front door. I set the bag down next to him and bent over, trying to wrangle my breath, willing my heart not to explode.

“You’re going to wake up the whole fucking house with that racket. Did you piss yourself or something?”

I shook my head and tried to explain, but I no longer spoke English, just Wheeze.

“Useless.” Rudy grabbed the bag and pulled out a can of paint, then three more, shaking each one a little before setting it down in a line. When he was done he pulled out the bayonet and started popping the lids off.

There were no streetlights out here, and the moon was behind the clouds but I could make out the paint in each can was a deep red. When he was done taking off the lids he grabbed a can, went around the corner, and began splashing the paint over the front of the house, focusing on the windows and the door.

When he was done he chucked the empty can on to the lawn and came back to the rest. He grabbed one and pointed at another.

“I’m going to hit the other side. You do the back, I’ll get this last side, and then we get the hell out of here.”

My breathing was back to normal but the wetness of my clothes had started to get frosty, and I fought an impulse to shiver. Rudy was leaving next month to go to college, in spite of the fact that he barely graduated and constantly complained about what horseshit education was. He told me he was going to move out to the West Coast and start his own record label, one that would only put out real Metal, none of this shoegaze or prog shit, and he would smoke a lot of weed and fuck a lot of chicks. That was the plan.

He didn’t tell me he was going to college, I found out through my mom, who found out from his mom. He was getting in on minority and first generation student scholarships, practically a full ride. His parents were thrilled, and knowing them, hoped this would make him knock off the leather trench coats and corpse paint, lose the piercings and spiked collars—make him act more normal.

Rudy took off around the corner with his can. I stood there for a while, not sure what to do. I pulled at the front of my shirt, trying to unstick it from my belly. It was one of my favorite shirts, from an Amon Amarth concert I drove seven hours to see in Chicago. Ruined now. I told my mom if they tried to make me go to college I would kill myself, so enjoy having that on your conscience. I don’t know if she believed me. I used the same threat when they tried to take away my laptop.

I was still standing there when Rudy came back.

“What are you doing? Get going lard ass!” He took the third can and started splashing the walls around me. I picked up the last can.

At the back of the house there was an attached deck to climb up on. It was a nice set up, with some patio furniture and a big two deck grill. I wondered if Rudy would want me to splash the furniture but decided against it. The back wall was taken up by sliding glass doors, and I knew he would want them to be the main target. My palms were sticky from the pop but I tried to get a firm grip on the can’s handle. My hands were shaking. My vandalism career had only previously extended to burning holes in bus seats with cigarettes. I lined myself up and brought the can back into position, flung the can forward and it slipped straight out of my hands and smashed into the door, cracking it right down the middle. I stumbled backwards in shock and tripped on one of the patio chairs, falling over and hitting my head on the deck.

Rudy had grabbed me by the collar and was yanking me to my feet. My head was foggy and I couldn’t quite make out what he was saying at first.

I staggered to my feet as he propped me up. The can lay at the foot of the door, red paint gushed out through the slats in the deck. I still couldn’t hear him but he didn’t respond when I asked him what he was saying.

Once I was on my feet Rudy hopped over the deck’s railing and started running back to the car. I was off the steps and just picking up steam when I heard a shout followed by a bang that echoed through the night. Rudy, a dozen paces in front of me, froze and turned back. I caught his eyes as they flicked from me to the house and followed them back. Troy Spencer was standing shirtless on the deck, pointing a .22 rifle at us.

I’ll spare you going on and on about Troy. If I was the school’s stock-issued fat loser he was the stock pretty boy, football team, homecoming king, on and on. He was actually a pretty nice guy all things considered, at least he always was to me. Dumb as shit, though. His mom was a doctor at the hospital and his dad was management at the biomass plant on the other end of town. In spite of being born with every conceivable advantage this town could give him, he was joining the army. People made a big deal about how brave this was, but in reality, he was too stupid for anything else.

“Come on back here, boys.” Troy kept the gun level as Rudy and I marched slowly back. I looked over and saw Rudy’s hands were covered in paint.

When he got a good look at us Troy lowered the gun and started laughing. He turned back to the house and yelled inside. “Come on out here! It’s ok, baby, come on.”

Melissa Lansing came out, wearing nothing but one of Troy’s t-shirts stretched down to her knees. If you know what role Troy plays, you can guess who she is. She lived a few houses down my street, and I could feel my cheeks, my ears getting hot.

Troy came down off the deck and walked over, keeping the gun at his hip but still trained on us. He chuckled as he looked each of us in the eye. I looked down. I was standing on the dirt, a few feet from the razored edge of the grass Troy stood on.

“What the hell you guys doing?” He scratched his head and looked at the house. Melissa was standing on the deck, her arms wrapped around her torso to keep warm. He must have noticed the red splotches on the side of the house, because he let out a yip. He ran over and touched the still wet paint hit on the house, examined it where it came off on his fingers. He pointed the gun back at us. “Don’t move.” He walked around to the front. I could hear Rudy grinding his teeth. Melissa kept her eyes on us, brow furrowed. I had been in love with her for several years, like most guys in our class. I told myself I was over it but my cartwheeling stomach didn’t seem to be listening.

Troy stormed back around the corner and shoved his face in Rudy’s. “Salinas, you trying to get deported?” He backed up a few steps and brought the gun up. “I am well within my legal rights to shoot both of you bastards right now.”

Rudy spat on the ground. “Go ahead and do it. Pussy.”

Troy looked over at me. “Did Salinas put you up to this, Mark?” I didn’t respond, and Troy just nodded. He swung the gun over at Rudy. “You lucky my dad wasn’t here, he would have shot you straight out. Come here.”

Rudy flipped him off. Troy fired the gun over our heads and slid the bolt back to chamber the next round. I let out a gasp and realized I had been holding my breath. I felt a little bit of piss squeeze out before I could clamp down on it, warming where my wet jeans stuck to my crotch.

Rudy lowered his hands and walked towards Troy. Troy smiled and handed the gun up over the deck rail to Melissa, who picked it up and cradled it in her arms, almost caressing it.

Troy walked forward and met Rudy. He brought his fist up and smashed it down on the top of Rudy’s head before he could do anything, dropping him to the ground in a heap. He picked Rudy back up and smashed him down again. Rudy tried to defend himself, but all he could do was paw at Troy as he kept going, over and over, until Rudy didn’t stand back up, and then Troy started stomping on him. I grew up fetishizing violence but I always found it difficult to deal with when it was happening around me. I knew I should say something, rush forward and throw myself between them, but all I wanted, more than anything else I had ever wanted, was not to be hurt myself. I wanted to shrivel up inside myself, could feel my balls doing their best to do so. I couldn’t look away until the faint sounds of Rudy crying started coming to me over the smacking of Troy’s feet on his body. I looked up to Melissa and our eyes met. The look on her face softened for an instant, and something passed between us. I realize now that I will never, for the rest of my life, be able to fathom what was going on in her mind at that moment.

At the start of senior year Rudy had asked me to start a band with him. “The Satan Brothers.” He held his hands up, imaging the name on a marquee somewhere, or knowing Rudy, tattooed across a pair of tits.

“I can’t play anything.”

He waved his hand. “Learn bass. Even a fat fuck like you could learn it, no problem.”

I put down the cafeteria sandwich I was eating and looked at my hands.

“I’ve got it all thought out. We’ll play in costume, get prosthetic horns and red skin paint for when we play. I already have some goat-eye contacts I could wear.”

“Don’t you think Satan is a little played out?”

”Dude. Satan is never played out.”

I bought a bass online that night, some cheap-o knockoff from China. When it arrived in the mail a few weeks later, complete with a little amp that buzzes every time it’s plugged in, I called Rudy and told him I was ready to start practicing for the band. He had no idea what I was talking about.

“The Satan Brothers? Remember?”

He laughed. I brought it up a few more times but he waved it off. Then he started another band with Jeff and Cody called Death Hexmattica. It was definitely a better name, I’ll give him that. They played a few basement shows that I skipped out on, watching the videos he posted next day. Rudy was clearly the weakest link musically, but the only one with any passion.

I kept the bass and practiced every night, after supper and before my late night snack. My rhythm is terrible but I play with a metronome. It helps. When I started playing my fingers would get raw and painful, but I have little callouses on my fingertips now. I barely feel anything anymore.

I carried Rudy on my shoulder back to the car. His face was a mess, blood and paint smeared together, and he held his left side, wincing when he put weight on it. We would keep quiet about the beating and Troy would make sure his parents didn’t find out who was responsible for the vandalism. No one but the four of us would ever know what really happened that night. For being dumb as shit he sure worked everything out pretty sweet. They watched us go from the back deck, Troy slinging his arm, covered in Rudy’s blood and other bodily fluids, around Melissa’s shoulders, drawing her close to him. She put her hand on his chest, her head in the crook of his neck. I had never kissed a girl.

Rudy wouldn’t go the hospital and didn’t want to go home. Not knowing where else to go I drove through town out to the Quick-Go on the city limits. It was the only place I knew of that would be open at 4 in the morning.

The Quick-Go was a gas station/convenience store/Subway, the kind that spring up in little nowhere towns along the highway. Rudy didn’t say anything when I pulled up and turned off the car, didn’t say anything when I helped him out. He limped in through the automatic doors and I followed him. I never found out why we went out to the Spencers’ that night, what supposed wrong Rudy was trying to right, or if it was sheer madness, one last fit of teenage violence he needed to get out of his system.

The place was deserted but lit up so bright it hurt my eyes. It stunk of diesel fumes and hummed with florescence and neon. A scrawny guy at the counter with bug-eyed glasses and a bad combover watched carefully over the edge of the book he was reading, but didn’t bother us. Rudy walked straight past him. I nodded my head at him in greeting. I had bought plenty of pop and junk food from him over the years but had no idea what his name or deal was. He looked like a pedophile anyways, so I figured I should stay clear.

I went to the bathroom at the back and turned on the air dryer, trying to position myself in its stream of warm air. My belly got in the way but I was able to angle under and dry out the wetness in my clothes, then had to jerk back when it started to burn.

I wandered out into the aisles, picking over the food. Everything was so brightly colored, smiling cartoon faces so warm, so inviting. Unjudging. I picked up a bag of chips and a box of sour gummies, popping handfuls in my mouth. Over the top of the shelving I saw Rudy, sitting in a small plastic booth in the darkened and shuttered Subway in the corner. He was wiping off his face with a wad of napkins, the blood and grease paint coming off in streaks, exposing his acne-scarred skin. Wherever he went, college, the West Coast, whatever, it was only a matter of time until he would find out he wasn’t the only Mexican Metalhead.

He had a small bag of ice he must have gotten from the back of the store. He put it to the side of his face gingerly. I should have told him not to leave. I should have told him he would never be special anywhere else. But I couldn’t. I just didn’t have the heart.  

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