Jody runs across the patio and pushes over the terracotta flowerpot filled with Mom’s petunias. It makes a deep earthy popping sound and explodes a quiet blanket of peat-soil out onto the patio. Some of it gets in between Heather’s toes because she is wearing her pink rubber flip-flops. I scream out a laugh at first, but then I see Jody squat. He pulls at the crotch of his diaper and lets his pee loose just a few feet away from the broken flowers.
“Jody! What are you doing?”
The three of us giggle at him knowing that Mom is going to freak when she gets back from having coffee with Lynn Johnston. The kid is on a rampage and Heather, Carlo and I are just watching him and not believing what he is up to.
Heather lives two doors down and after Carlo leaves we will show each other our privates behind the green and white aluminum shed in her back yard. Then after a good look, I will run home to watch Gilligan’s Island. But it’s still early, hardly even close to when Dad gets home. It’s just a few minutes after lunch, and Mom just went over to Lynn’s.
Jody stops taking a leak and runs out off of the patio and onto the lawn. His pink fat legs move pretty quick and his feet sink deep into the grass. I am sure he will step in some dog shit any minute and then we can play run away from Jody. Sometimes he’ll even grab a chunk and chase us around with it, glaring at us with his crooked eyes.
The kids in the neighbourhood like to come over and goof off with Jody and me. They like to tease him for fun or just watch what he does. He does most things a lot different than other kids his age.
Heather feels sorry for him sometimes, but usually she just giggles and covers her mouth with small hands tipped in broken pink nail polish. Carlo runs over to the back of the house and I get an idea as to what he’s got in mind. Jody is out on the grass running in circles laughing at the top of his lungs. Carlo grabs the green garden hose with two hands, pulling it up from the deep grass. Jody has no idea and it crosses in front of his pink squishy legs. He’s still laughing as loud as he can when he starts to flip forward.
“Jody look out!”
Heather screams this in between giggles and I look at the sun outlining her thin legs and the flat space of her crotch underneath her sundress.
Jody lands face down on the grass and everything goes quiet. Our hearts are in our throats as we wait to see what happens next.
He pushes himself up with his arms and his head bobs a little as he tries to get his bearings. His face moves to each one of us: me first, then Carlo, and then Heather.
“Jody, whatcha doing?”
We act like there’s nothing wrong and it works. My freaky kid brother starts to laugh as he slowly staggers to his feet.
Carlo cheers for him and Jody just starts running around in circles again like nothing happened.
Next, Carlo goes over to the side of the house and grabs a handful of white rocks, the pretty ones that Heather says sparkle in the sun. He starts pitching them at Jody and, at first, I get mad at him because Dad hates when rocks get stuck in the lawnmower. He’s afraid one will hit someone and take out an eye.
“Shut up Heather. You made him fall off the teeter-totter yesterday.”
“Carlo, no rocks.”
Carlo pitched his handful of white stones back near the side of the house.
Jody stopped dead out of his run when the sharp white chunk of gravel hit the back of his thin-skinned head. From the distance I was standing at I heard it impact his skull. Jody blinked a few times more often than usual and it seemed like he was trying to decide how to react. We had all pitched rocks at his head on numerous occasions before, and we all knew how much Jody hated it. But he hadn’t seen the rocks flying, he only felt the one hit him and he was trying to process what had gone on. Jody had a low level of comprehension. It took him longer to get the wrapper off of his candy apple. It took him longer to finish puzzles and make something out of building blocks. My friends called him a retard, my mom called him slow. I didn’t mind the fact that he was slow, but it was the way he looked that gave me the most uncomfortable feelings. A trip to the grocery store with Jody in tow was like escorting a chimpanzee. He walked with a wide gait in his stride and almost wobbled from leg to leg. I had to hold on to his hand to keep him from things.
My parents always dumped him on me. He was hard to wrangle and much easier to manage when let loose in the backyard like today. Most times I was A-OK with Jody, but once in a while I wished he were dead. Like when Suzi Maziotti saw me with him at McDonalds; I was feeding him french-fries and caught her staring at us like we were some sort of horror movie.
All this went through my head as we waited to see what Jody would do about Carlo’s rock to the back of the head. Then Heather pulled him out of his confusion by hiking up her dress and farting.
“Whaaaaa! Heather blew one!”
I threw myself out and onto the grass ignoring the chance of landing in dog shit. Jody started to giggle in a baby giggle voice that only he could do. If you had heard it behind you, you might’ve thought he was choking on a glass of milk. None of us were sure Jody knew what a fart even was, but he thought they were hilarious.
Carlo grabbed a few clumps of dirt that had fallen from the broken flowerpot and he launched one right into the middle of Jody’s face. It exploded into a puff of brown dust, filling his mouth and eyes with the semi damp peat. Carlo screeched with excitement and yelled:
Jody staggered back a few feet and as Heather and I ran towards him he fell backwards over the lawn sprinkler.
“Go home Carlo, you jerk-off!”
Carlo crawled under the chain link fence into the neighbours yard and didn’t even say goodbye. It was nothing new. It always came down to this. Someone around was always trying to take a good shot at Jody. Someone was always trying to pick on him or make him do stupid things.
When we got to him Jody was trying to clear the grit out of his crooked eyes, but he was just rubbing it in more. His spit had mixed with the dirt in his mouth and he was leaking mud out of his mouth and down his chin. Heather and I dragged him back to the patio and washed his face and mouth out with the hose. We cleaned him up the best we could and sat him in the chaise lounge to try and calm him down.
Heather gave him the last of her SweetTarts® to help him stop shaking. There was still sand in his nostrils but they were too small to try and clean out. Heather bent over and started to clean up the knocked over plant. One side of her underwear was caught up the crack of her bum and as I watched her try her best to clean up the mess I knew that I loved her. I knew that if Jody were our baby we would love him and live happily ever after.
illustration by Matthew Daley
Derek Lowes writes fiction and makes art in his spare time. He lives and works in Toronto and blogs at explainital.com