Fish Hook by Hector Duarte, Jr.

My school is small, so everyone knew and wouldn’t shut the fuck up for the longest weeks until I had to practically beg them to stop talking about my dead sister. You ever had to convince someone you were okay? That you weren’t going to blow your head off or mow down the entire school with an AR? That shit’s more likely to drive one to madness than the original problem.

My dad was stalking the hallways of a psychiatric unit, which they used to call asylums and they still should. Mom was barely holding it together. She was going to join Dad soon and what the fuck’d happen to me? Stay alone in that house? Ask me again if I was okay.

*

Dad was the one who found Amy. The way he obsessively talked about it, I couldn’t close my eyes at night without seeing my little sister hanging from the end of her school belt. Sometimes I wish I would’ve been the one to find her. I guarantee you this, I wouldn’t have been so vocal about it like him. Respect for the dead, you know. But Mom and Dad said we had to speak out for her so it wouldn’t happen to others. Who gave a shit about others? It was my dead sister, no one else’s.

Amy was amazing. You’d think me being a senior and her being a sophomore would make me kind of embarrassed to be around her. Turned out being related to her got me status. She was funny, so smart—always on the honor roll—and, man, could she sing. I mean, every year she shone at the school’s choral competition. No doubt she was on her way to a performing arts college.

Here’s the rub. My sister had an innately amazing personality, which developed because she was viciously picked on during her early years. Amy was born with a harelip, which my parents corrected with surgery early on. You know kids, though, they’ll find the smallest difference in someone to make them feel better about their own shitty lives. My sister understood that quick, so it didn’t bother her. It took me a while to get with it. And I’ll be honest, I had a few months freshman year of high school where I was embarrassed we were related.

I was an asshole, but my sister didn’t care what anyone else did because she knew who she was. By the time she was a sophomore and me a senior, everyone wanted to somehow be connected to her.

She came into my room one day, broken down. You know when you look at someone and just see defeat? Like they’ve been thinking about life too much and it’s exhausted them?

“You think I’d be this popular if I didn’t have this?” she asked, tracing the fish hook scar that ran from under her left nostril and curved into her mouth.

“People don’t see it because they’re so focused on who you are.” As a dutiful older brother should, I lied.

She smiled, then cried a little bit on my shoulder. The next day was like nothing had happened.

Amy kept on her amazing track after that. Until Mauricio Guerrero came in and fucked her all up.

*

The kid wasn’t the most popular but he wasn’t a fucking mook either. He took her out every so often. You know how fifteen-year-olds do. Mom and Dad would drop them off at the mall. They’d hang around and tell them to meet back at the fountain in three hours. Things were good and he treated her right.

Turned out, Guerrero was a typical fifteen-year-old after all. He was trying to get in the pants of Carolina Villareal, who hated my sister for being popular for her personality and not just her looks. Guerrero would do anything to stick his dick in queenie, so he convinced Amy to send him nude pics. My sister was so high school in-love, she did it. That faggot and Carolina passed that shit around like Mono.

Amy was suspended for a week and Guerrero took the fall for his new chick. They didn’t kick him out because Amy sent the pictures willingly.

She was never the same after that. They bullied her like The Elephant Man. Second day from her return to class, Dad found her swinging inside the closet, blue as deep-ocean water.

The house fell apart while I had to keep reassuring everyone I was fine and wouldn’t blow my brains out. Tributes came and went, so did all the events my sister missed: the choral competition and junior prom. Soon enough, everyone started living their lives again while Mauricio and Carolina walked down the hallways like the happiest couple on Earth.

My school is small so they don’t have metal detectors or security patting you down in the morning. It wasn’t hard to sneak Dad’s pistol. I knew exactly how far up in his closet he hid it, and the box of bullets. During the last lunch before graduation, I walked up to Mauricio and shot him twice in the heart, then pointed the gun at Carolina, about where Amy’s fish hook scar was, and shot her in the face. Maybe in Purgatory, it’ll help them empathize with having a physical imperfection.

Want me to say I’m sorry? Sure. I’m sorry that my sister hanged herself. That Dad found her and is dying a very slow death in a place where people lick windows and scream for their relatives. I’m sorry Mom has to live in that empty house until someone comes for her too. Long or short, there’s always someone coming to pick us up.

Ask me again if I’m sorry.

*

BIO : Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer out of Miami, Florida. To keep himself financially stable, he teaches English to seventh graders. To keep himself mentally stable, he reads, and writes, as many stories as he can. His work has appeared in Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Foliate Oak, Shotgun Honey, Shadows and Light: An Anthology to Benefit Women’s Aid UK, The Whimsical Project, Spelk Fiction, and HorrorSleazeTrash. Hector is a flash fiction editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. He has lectured at The Crime Fiction Here and There and Again Conference in Gdansk, Poland; the second and third Captivating Criminality Conferences in Corsham, England, and Theorizing the Popular at Liverpool’s Hope University. He loves his cat, Felina, very much.  

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