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The Corsage Sharp Shooter

I’d not seen it coming. Afterwards I asked around but nobody else had seen it either. I guess you can’t see it, or you’d have seen it, and then you’d just be a smart-arse telling everyone what happens next. Everyone says they never knew Bo had it in him, like he’d been a stranger living in their midst. He was no stranger to me though, I knew Bo better than the scar on my knee, and even I couldn’t explain it.

The question was, who was worse? Jake for asking, or Martha for accepting. There were no bagsies for the prom but Jake knew Bo had his eye on Martha, and Martha knew it too. It wasn’t as if she cared either way. She hardly knew Jake, and nothing either of them had ever said or done made it likely they’d pair up. No, he asked because she was on a list of girls without a date, and she said yes because she didn’t want to be last on that particular list. Y’see we call the last girl to get a date Catfish Caitlin, on account of she must smell like a dead fish to have taken so long to find a beau. Last boy on the list is called Skunk. I only say this so you can see Bo’s side – he lent her his coat to go outside when it was raining, and Martha’s side – nobody wants to be Catfish Caitlin. Jake’s got nobody on his side, Jake’s just a rat doesn’t want to be called Skunk.

 

What’s worse of it, though only I knew this, was that Bo’d already paid for a posy. He didn’t want anyone to see him buy it, especially not a member of his crim family, which is how come I got let into the secret. He got it mail order from Millie’s Flowers on the high street, and used my address. Ma’s too sick to get outta bed, she only sees the post I take in to her, so we agreed that when the package turned up I’d take it to his house and whistle for him.

‘It’s a corsage for Martha,’ he said to me when me ‘n’ him were throwing stones at the dead dog down by the old iron works, trying to get it to pop.

 

‘A what?’ says I, not paying attention. I was squinting and my hearing was affected cos of the smell of the beast. Boy it did honk.

 

‘A corsage, dumbass.’

 

I bridled at being called dumb. He’s got no call to call me dumb. I do better ‘n’ him at lessons and everything. He still wanted to be my friend, and maybe he knew he needed me in this whole corsage nonsense, so he explained. I said ‘you mean like a posy,’ and his expression said a corsage was much more than some dumb posy and I’d best not be confusing the two.

 

We left the dog and said we’d go back Wednesday. Bo said he’d bring his rifle and if the dog wasn’t popped he’d pop it then for sure. I really hoped it hadn’t popped, I was looking forward to see if it would explode.

So that was how we left things. That was Monday. Wednesday I didn’t see Bo. He wasn’t in school and I don’t like to go round his place if he’s not in, on account of his insane family and their insane dogs. Sometimes we hear those dogs hollering through the night, yowling like werewolves at the moon. Ma says she doesn’t know why they keep such savage beasts. I said it was for protection (because I’m hoping she’ll let me have one of Bo’s dog’s pups), but she said they were stupid because the things most likely to kill them were the damn dogs theirselves.

I went to the iron works on my own to see if the dog had popped. It had. I don’t know why I worked my way upwind of the smell and got closer, it was just a stray, but it was when I was near enough to spit on it that I saw the holes in its body. Somebody had shot it to hell. That got me to wondering even more about where Bo was, because it couldn’t have been nobody but him shot that carcass. Nobody but me ‘n’ him even knew it was there.

Thursday evening, day before the prom, a whole bunch of people were going over to the little fairground pops up each summer on Pa Waverley’s land. It’s not much of a fair. Ma said calling it a fair was like calling the hair on a baboon’s ass a toupee, but there’s not much else happens round here so it was a fair to us. Bo’s crim brothers work on it every year, probably just collecting money with menaces while pretending to work, but I figured if he was just skiving off school I’d find him there.

It was the glint of early evening sunlight on metal caught my eye. I knew those shoulders, the way they scrunched up the neck so’s you couldn’t see it beneath the back to front baseball cap. For some reason Bo was in his second favouritest shirt, the yellow one with checks. His crim Pa and crim brothers call it a woman’s blouse and give him stick for wearing it, but I only know so cos Bo told me so when I admired it. They’d never call him names in public, that would damage the family rep, or maybe even big crims know not to push a baby crim like Bo too far. The boy always did have an un-pre-freakin-dictable way of exploding with rage.

I crept up on him while he was lining up the shot, though I could have rustled up a stampede and he wouldn’t have noticed. When Bo concentrates on a shot, he concentrates. He takes a deep breath and exhales real slow. It’s to slow his heart so his hands don’t shake none. I spotted Jake over his shoulder, looking all bug-eyed. He had his arm round Martha’s neck though she didn’t look none too comfortable with it there, probably because her Pa was in the vicinity and if he saw them she’d not be going to any prom Friday or anyday thereafter till hell froze over. Bo had them in his sights, I could tell that. From the way he’d muttered about not caring if Jake took Martha to the prom I knew he intended to find a way to make them pay. I just figured he was going to poison their pets.

 

Bo squeezed the trigger, the rifle made a loud and sudden pop, and a little girl let out a shriek that made Martha jump and lose her ice cream from its cone.

‘Bo!’ I called. He lay down the rifle and turned. He was smiling, which was a surprise. I don’t know why he was smiling; I figure shooting things takes the tension out of him.

 

‘Hey buddy,’ he said.

 

‘What you doing?’

 

‘I just won you a teddy bear on this here rifle range.’

 

‘Me?’

 

‘Yeah you. If you don’t want it, give it to your Ma. Listen, since I see you ‘n’ me are level Skunks and there ain’t no catfish on the list, how about we go to the prom together?’

 

‘You mean like a date? What will your folks say?’

‘Aw don’t bother about them, they know plenty of gay people. If you weren’t all right with them they’d have fed you to the dogs by now.’

 

‘They know I’m…?’

 

Bo looked at me like he just caught a dog reading a newspaper and smoking a pipe.

 

‘You a retard too? Course they know. Now you going to be my prom date or what? C’mon man, I got a corsage and everything.’