Bum Summer by Gladys Jackson

Three days and the sore’s still coming out of Tyrell.

Behind, so he can’t see. The way it feels, he pictures one of those nozzles at the gas station. And it only hurts when he has to go, it’s sore as Hell and it comes out slow and red.

He knows he should say something but Demarco’s got everybody laughing about how he got kicked out of high school for feeling up the French teacher. He licks his lips while palming his abdomen, “and she was all squealing wee-wee like a pig”

They’re in the food court. Demarco and his friend, D. are slumped back while Malcolm, Tyrell’s friend, is in line for $2 fries and four waters.

Tyrell’s standing, arms folded. He tries to tell them about his pretty gym teacher. About how he wants to feel her up like Demarco would.

But D. jumped in, “-and I’ll bend her over while shorty here’ll go out and play with his marbles”

Demarco laughed and slapped D.’s palm.

Tyrell hates D., he keeps calling him and his friends shorty, always joking about their Moms. He does it to them so Demarco’ll laugh.

Demarco’s great. He’s funny and smart. He shows them all sorts of tricks, like how to hide stuff in your pockets. And how they have to give you water, even if you dont buy anything.

Malcolm comes back with the fries, has a seat. Demarco’s got his handfull and asks for some ketchup.

Malcolm shrugs, “I was just in that line”

D. grins, “it’s on you, shorty”

Tyrell shrugs, “I dont need any”

D. smiles at Demarco, chews.

Demarco stares at Tyrell. Tyrell reaches for the fries, Demarco slaps his hand away, “ketchup”

Tyrell folds his arms, looks away but now they’re all looking, chewing.

He slaps the packets on the table. Demarco nods back.

“Thanks shorty,” D. says, slapping his back.

Tyrell cringes.

“You can have some fries now,” Demarco says, “we just needed some ketcup’s all”

Arms folded, staring, clenching his jaw.

“You should have some,” Demarco grins, “they’re good”

They keep eating while Tyrell wont look. Demarco shrugs, mutters, “fuck you then, more for us” before telling the one about him and that tight little white girl who was working late.

He wanted to be mad. He tried but he could only get through the fries. He began to feel stupid standing there, not laughing or having any fun.

They hang around some more, finish their waters.

Demarco licks his lips, “I want an ice cream”. D. nods, so he turns to Tyrell and Malcolm, “you kids want some ice cream?”

Tyrell, “yeah”

Malcolm shrugs, “sure”

Demarco thumbs his nose and leans in, “thing is, I’m a little short, right? So you gotta go get some cash”

Malcolm shakes his head, “I dont know”

Demarco, “they’re gonna be good”

“I dont want one that bad”

“Come on,” Demarco whines, rubbing Malcolm’s shoulders, “it’ll be great, just a few dollars…”

Malcolm, hops off the chair, away from him, “I really dont like doing it”

D. knocks his empty cup over, “aww, shorty-nooo”

Tyrell looks over, Demarco’s staring at him. He nudges Malcolm, “it’ll be okay, just a few tries”

They walk over to the line ups, away from Demarco and D. Then they split up.

Tyrell goes up to a man with a suitcase, “excuse me sir, but I lost my bus money. I really need to get home and there’s nobody I can call”

After, he walks a couple people up the line, “excuse me, but some bullies…”

The trick is to stay a few people from the front. Customers are usually pretty cool but the workers are dicks and will always tell some rent-a-pig.

He goes over to another line, a young Mom with a baby girl walking around. He tilts his head and pouts, “excuse me, but my Mom’s supposed to pick me up. She’s an hour late and I cant get a hold of her, can I get money for the phone?”

“Oh no,” she says, “that’s awful-“

The kid tugs on her pants, she leans down and murmurs something to her. She pushes some strands out of her face and smiles.

He shrugs, smiles back, “I really dont know what’s happening”

“Alright,” she says, softly, “come with me, I’ll take you down to security. They have a phone and-“

He winces, “it’s okay, if you just give me a quarter, I can-“

Her smile goes away, “Oh. Well-“

He starts looking around, stammering, “you know what, I think I’ll just go wait outside”

10 steps back and she’s still following. He’s shouting now, how “everything’s fine. Really, I swear…”

Her arms are out, kid tailing her, looking him in the eye, nodding her head.

He takes off running to Demarco. She calls after him. They’re leaning against the pay phones in back. Tyrell runs up and points to her. Demarco drops his heel off the wall, looks at her and nods.

She backs away, holding her baby.

Tyrell and Demarco were out all day. Malcolm stayed home. He didnt say but he never liked asking people. Never liked lying to them. Never liked getting yelled at. Never liked handing it over to Demarco. So when Tyrell called saying he wanted to show him the new bike, he said to come back when they’re done.

Tyrell walks up to some young guys with his palms up. He tells them and asks for it, quietly. Wincing. They shake their heads and apologize, sipping their smoothies.

This rent-a-pig comes up to him. The young ones are mean. Not that the old guys give them any breaks but the young ones just say it so that you feel bad.

A big sigh, “listen, you cant beg in here”

“Who’s beggin?”

“You are.”

Tyrell’s looking away, at the doors.

“Hey,” he says, snapping his fingers in his face, “you cant beg in here”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says, waving his hand.

“No,” he says, thumbing the exit, “you gotta go”

Demarco and D. come up to them, asks Tyrell, “what’s up?”

The young guard goes up to them, thumbing his walkie-talkie, “you’ve been told about begging in here”

Demarco gets up close, “who’s beggin?”

“You and your friends need to leave. Now.”

Demarco licks his lips, inches from the guard, “yeah?”

But he doesnt flinch, “I’ve called the police and they know who you are”

Demarco breaks the stare, backs off, looking around, “so what, you got nothing better to do but bully little kids?”

“I’ve called the police”

Louder, “it make you feel good, picking on a little boy”

The guard smiles, waves them off.

Demarco, hand on Tyrell’s shoulder, “a grown man” he shouts, “on a little boy”

The guard leans up against the railing, watching.

They back up and off. Demarco’s still yelling at the guard, “you feel good, you feel good?” and about how they’re gonna report him.

Tyrell and D. are laughing, flipping him off, while Malcolm follows.

They head down to the boardwalk and Tyrell tries some more. It’s hot out and congested with tourists, musicians and barbecues. He makes a little but not much.

Tyrell walks up, Malcolm’s by himself. He’s about to ask where they went but sees them with Sasha and Monique, laughing and leaning against the wall.

Malcolm wont look at him. His arms are folded, leaning against a giant cement lobster. They wait.

” ‘marco, you crazy!” Sasha squeals while he sways back toward them.

“Tyrell, my boy,” he says and they slap palms, “what you get?”

“They’re coming for ice cream?”

“Depends,” he says, running his thumb over his nostril and down his lip, “what do you got for me?”

Tyrell sucks his teeth, pulls out the change.

Demarco shoves it in pants, “not bad, not bad” looking around and down the boardwalk. He’s tapping his foot, waiting a few minutes so it looks like he’s thinking.

“Listen,” he leans in, “we’ll have to get ice cream some other time”

Malcolm gets off the statue, “oh?”

Demarco nods at him, turns to Tyrell, “I got these two honeys over there and…” he groans, elbowing him, “you know how it is, big boy like yourself”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tyrell says, waving him off.

Malcolm, “just give us a few dollars and we’ll go”

“Nah,” Demarco says, waving him away, “I want some too, you know?”

Tyrell’s shaking, “it’s our money…”

Demarco flashes him a scowl, leans down on him, “oh yeah?”

But Tyrell can only stammer, “we-we-“

So Demarco laughs, “you cant spot me, right?”

Tyrell shakes his head.

He laughs again, “come on, we’ll go tomorrow, my treat”

Malcolm steps up, “you got my bus fare, give that back, at least”

Demarco thumbs his nose, speaks low, “come on, be cool”

Malcolm locks eyes with him, “how am I gonna get home?”

“I dont know, why dont you call your Mommy?”

Tyrell grins at Malcolm, “maybe Monique can help us out”

Demarco drops his smile and shoves him, “come on, be cool”

Both of them look at Demarco, who fidgets, looking around. The girls yell for him.

“It’s gone, alright?”

They stare at him, he looks back.

D.’s coming over.

“I spent it, so you can stop asking.”

“Bullshit,” Malcolm says.

D.’s swaying, grinning, “what’s up with the shortys?”

Demarco turns to him, “shortys want ice cream”

“Aww, shortys too big for that baby shit”

Malcolm, “we dont have a way home”

D. looks at him, looks at Demarco. Laughs, points at Tyrell, “well shorty’s got that new trike, right? Just double up”

“Yeah, double up”

Malcolm, “but it’s a two hour-“

“No, it’s great,” Demarco says, as he wheels it over, “did it all the time when I was your age”

“But-“

They laugh, slap palms and walk back to the girls. They chat them up a bit before Demarco turns around, waves and yells, “great seeing ya Malcolm, we gotta hang out more. And Tyrell, we’re gonna talk later”

D. cups his hands over his mouth, “say hi to your Momma!”

The girls squeal and clap.

They walk the bike back to Malcolm’s. Malcolm wont talk and Tyrell figures he shouldnt call him anymore. First Stevie, then Jarred, now Malcolm; that’s all his friends. Now it’s just him and Demarco.

“Are you mad?”

Malcolm shakes his head, staring at the sidewalk, “I’m not mad”

“You gotta be mad”

“It’s just that this is what always happens”

“Yeah, but we had some fun”

“It used to be fun”

“What, it’s not now?”

Malcolm shrugs, “I just got tired of his bullshit, you know,” he looks at Tyrell, “dont you?”

“Yeah, maybe a little, but he’s been good. He’s helped me a lot, remember?”

“I see you helping him more. Besides, I dont remember him being this much of a dick”

“That’s cause me and him hang out more”

“That doesnt make sense”

“I dont know,” Tyrell winces, a shiver in his voice, “maybe he’s getting tired of hanging around me”

“What’s that mean?”

“Let’s just drop it, okay?

“No,” Malcolm says, puts his hand on his shoulder, “what’s wrong?”

Tyrell knocks his arm off and shoves the bike so the handle goes into Malcolm’s ribs.

He stumbles back, “what the fuck?”

Tyrell sneers, “faggot” and takes off away from him.

Downhill on the bike, standing on the pedals.


I live in Dartmouth, NS and work as a night watchman on the waterfront. I make sure no one screws around with the docked boats and keep kids from playing on the rocks.

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