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“Thanks, boys.” I lifted the box onto my lap and started tinkering with the parts. “And Bear?”

“Yeah, Man?”

“There is no fucking way in hell I’m ever going anywhere near your taint.”

“Noted.”

That day, I tattooed for the very first time. I didn’t do the ones the boys had picked from my sketchbook. They were too elaborate and although I could draw, I’d never used a tattoo gun before so the full back piece Bear wanted with intertwining snakes, The Beach Bastards logo, would have to wait until I knew what the fuck I was doing.

Instead, Bear got a small shamrock behind his ear, although I’m not quite sure if he was any sort of Irish. Preppy settled for PREP on his knuckles. The lettering was thin and crooked. They were the worst tattoos in the world. Blown out edges, a bloody fucking mess. But the boys loved them, and I couldn’t wait to practice on them some more.

“I’m so gangsta.” Preppy said, admiring his newly tatted up knuckles.

“You’re about as gangsta as my ninety year old Grandma,” Bear said.

“Bear, doesn’t your grandma have a full chest tattoo and purple hair?” I asked.

“Sure does,” he replied.

“Then, I actually think she’s way more gangsta then ole Preppy here,” I said.

“You guys laugh now, but you’ll see. King here is gonna tattoo my neck next. I’m gonna look real mean.”

“Are you still gonna still wear button down shirts, bow ties and suspenders?” I asked.

“Fuck yeah. Always. That’s my style.”

Bear chuckled. “You may not look tough, or mean, but you might confuse the fuck out of people.”

“Fuck this shit man,” Preppy said, standing up. “I gotta go get the last of my shit from my stepdad’s. I’ll be back. Feel free to laugh at my fucking expense while I’m gone, shitheads.”

“You want me to go with you?” I asked.

“Nah, I got this shit. It’s past nine. Fucker’s either at the bar or passed out on the couch. I’ll be back in an hour.”

Preppy never talked about it, but I was sure that his stepdad was still beating him up until the day he moved out. He was always slightly limping or clutching his ribs. When I asked him if he was okay, he usually told me he was working out. “Nah man, did chest today, hurts like a bitch when you do it right.” He was a shit liar, but his pride was all he had besides me and Bear. Although we joked around with him, the last thing we wanted was for Preppy to be hurting at the hands of some drunken asshole.

When I hadn’t heard from Preppy for two hours, I got on my bike and peddled over to the trailer park his stepdad wasted his life away in. As soon as I parked my bike, I heard a commotion inside.

“Prep?” I called out. No response.

“FUCK YOU!” I heard Prep roar from inside. His high-pitched voice cracking with his strained scream. With one kick, I knocked in the flimsy door.

What I saw beyond it would haunt my dreams for years to come.

His stepdad, Tim, had Prep bent over the end of the old corduroy couch, thrusting furiously into him while holding a pistol to his temple. When I sent the door flying into the room, he turned his attention my way, along with his pistol. Preppy turned and knocked him on his side, the gun slid across the floor. Preppy lunged for it but his jeans, which were still wrapped around his ankles, caused him to trip and fall forward against the wall.

“Get the fuck out of here, boy. You two think you’re better than this place? Well, you’re fucking wrong. I was teaching Samuel here a lesson. He belongs here. He ain’t no better than me and needs to know it.”

I kicked over empty beer cans and made my way to the gun. It was the first time in my life I remember seeing red. Seeing red isn’t just a saying, I found out. My vision was tinted the color of the rage boiling inside my veins. I flexed my fingers. My joints itched with the need to release the pressure building within my bones. I wanted to hurt him, but the want was secondary to the need to hurt him.

“What, are you gonna do? Fucking shoot me?” Tim asked, sitting up against the kitchen cabinets. Pushing off the floor, he went to stand, but before he could, I raised the gun and knocked him in the temple with the butt. Tim went flying across the tiny kitchen, landing head first into the door of the refrigerator.

“Fucking shoot him!” Preppy called out, righting his jeans. Blood dripped from his nose. His cheek was already yellow and purple. Apparently, he’d taken one hell of a beating before Tim decided that anal rape was a more appropriate way to teach the kid a lesson.

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