The rewrite of The Recluse continues…

Billy and Belle spent the remainder of the day at the waterway. They skipped stones and played in the water. Billy and Belle made their way home with the setting sun. Billy walked his friend to the front gate of her ramshackle home.

The lights were off, and her mom’s car was gone from the driveway. Belle smiled at Billy as she unlocked the gate.

“I better get inside,” she said.

“Yeah, I have to get home myself.”

Belle leaned close and gave Billy a peck on the cheek. Billy’s heart raced; his face blushed a bright red. Belle giggled at his obvious discomfort and scrunched up her nose playfully.

“Maybe tomorrow we could go back to see the hermit.”

“I don’t know about that, Belle. He acted like he wanted to be left alone.”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow, okay?”

Billy nodded his head, but he was not in a hurry to revisit the cabin in the woods. He watched Belle walk into the house and waited until her room lamp clicked on. Then, he walked back to his house.

Davy watched the sun go down from his sub-basement window. He had spent the day pecking on the keyboard. For every word he chose, another five got deleted. Writing had become a source of frustration for him this afternoon.

He dug out a box filled with books of movies he collected throughout his multiple deployments. It mattered not where he deployed, someone was selling movies. Davy had thousands of movies that he bought from various markets. He flicked on his television and slid a movie into the disc tray.

The disc whirred and spun. It finally came on. He leaned back in his recliner and watched the film. The quality of the movie was shoddy at best, and Davy quickly lost interest in it.
He went back to his computer and stared at the blank screen. ‘Come on, think of something to write…’

Davy pecked out a sentence and looked at what he had written. “The brown sand of the desert soaked up the blood like a sponge. Life had no value here. It was just another day in hell.”

It wasn’t much but it was a start.

Mondays suck. Everybody said so.

Everyone hated it when the weekend disappeared, especially young folks, but the five days of trials between weekends made people appreciate the brief respite from the work week. Belle waited for the bus and saw Billy walking up. She smiled, and he smiled back.

“Hey,” Billy said.

“Hey, Billy.”

“I hate Mondays.”

“Me too.”

They waited for the bus in silence. Neither Belle nor Billy were morning people. They needed at least another four hours of sleep, a hearty breakfast, and a power nap before they could start their day. Standing at a bus stop and waiting was cruel and unusual punishment to their minds.

The bus pulled up and stopped. The brakes hissed, and they boarded the bus and rode silently to the school.

For some reason Mondays dragged by, it might have something to do with the dread people faced the day. Maybe it had to do with it being the first workday of the week. Either way, the day passed slowly.

At the first break of the day, Billy and Belle decided to sit outside on the steps and talk. Other kids spent time together with their phones and friends. They all conversed in hushed tones, like they were discussing national secrets or the location of buried treasure.

The school bully, Gavin Benson, plopped down between Belle and Billy. He scrunched up his nose and sniffed Belle. Gavin’s friends all laughed and crowded around Belle and Billy, and their presence emboldened Gavin.

“Smell that boys? Smells like whore up in here,” he shouted.

His friends laughed and pointed at Belle, and Billy felt anger rising inside of him, but he did nothing. Belle’s face turned crimson, but she said nothing. What could she say? Her mother had a reputation, and Belle was guilty by association.

“Oh, that’s right, Belle. Your mom is a whore. Is she still shacked up with that drug dealer? Yeah, like mother, like daughter. What do you charge for your services?”

Billy stood up and balled up his fists. Gavin grinned, and his friends closed in. Billy backed down, and the boys snickered.

“That’s enough, Gavin. Leave us alone.”

Gavin laughed and shrugged. “Sure. No problem, Billy.” Billy nodded, and Gavin punched him in the solar plexus. Billy doubled over, and Gavin grabbed him by the hair.

“It’s over when I say it’s over. Now, there are two whores out here.”

The bullies hooted and started up the steps. Belle knelt by her friend, her tears trickled down her face and she angrily wiped them away.

“You shouldn’t have said anything, Billy. My mom is….”

Billy coughed and shook his head and put his hand on Belle’s shoulder. “You’re not your mother, Belle.”

Monday afternoon, Belle and Billy disembarked from the bus. Billy sat on the bench and waited for Belle to say something. She had sat in silence for the remainder of the day since their encounter with Gavin and his cohorts.

Belle felt dirty, not because of anything she had done, but she felt as if the sins of her mother were passed onto her. As if her mother’s drug addiction would soon be her addiction as well. Hot tears stung her eyes when she gave into these thoughts.

She blinked her tears away and wiped them with the back of her hand. Belle did not want Billy to see her cry. She didn’t want him to think of her as weak.

“I’m going to go home, Billy. We can try again tomorrow if you want.”

“Yeah, I am going with you. We will do it tomorrow.”

They said goodbye. Belle turned to leave. Billy watched her go. He waited until she had vanished from his view, and he turned and walked toward the recluse’s cabin.

Davy stood by the window and peeked out the curtain, his paranoia was strong and not misplaced. He’d served with several organizations that did the work no one else wanted to be associated with. Wet work was the name given to it. He sipped his hot coffee and watched as a shadow leaped over the gate.

Davy waited to see who dared trespass on his property. All the readers must’ve vanished from his hometown. Now, people ignored the sign and did what they wanted.

The figure drew closer. It was the boy from the other day. He was alone. “And, I thought the kid had good sense…” Davy stepped back from the curtain and shoved a sidearm into his right jean pocket. Apparently, I need to instill the fear of God in this young’un.

Billy stood in the driveway, looked at the broken angels in the flowerbeds, and wondered if he would join the concrete statues if he disturbed the man inside the cabin. His thoughts ran wild as he thought of every reason not to knock on the door. He stared at the cabin and sought to build up some courage. He needn’t waste any more time. The door opened, and the recluse stepped out onto the porch.

Billy’s breath caught in his throat when he saw the gun jutting out of the man’s pocket, and he knew his life was over. He put his hands up and swallowed hard.

“Please don’t shoot me, mister.”

“Why are you here, boy?”

“I need to learn to fight,” Billy stammered. The words rushed out of his mouth. The man said nothing. “My friend was called a whore today. I need to stop the bullies from picking on my friend.”

Davy said nothing for a long moment. The kid seemed sincere in his approach, but you could never be certain when dealing with people. He crossed his arms and asked, “Is your friend a whore?”

“No, sir. She’s 13.”

A smile tugged at the corner of the man’s mouth briefly and then vanished. His eyes were cold, reptilian even. Billy considered fleeing, but he thought of Belle-and her tears-and Billy decided to stick it out for his friend.

“Where’s your dad, boy? Didn’t he teach you anything?”

“My dad died fighting in the war,” said Billy. “He was a hero. If he were here, he’d beat the brakes of those boys.”

“I don’t know anything about fighting, boy. I’m a man of peace.”

“A man of peace…yeah, right. All the old folks claim you’re a maniac, a killer of children. They say you eat the flesh of your victims and suck the marrow from children’s bones.”

“Is that right? And what about you boy? What do you believe?”

“I don’t believe you’re a man of peace,” Billy said. “Soldiers learn to fight, and you’re a soldier. If you don’t want to help me, just say so.”

The man watched his every movement. Billy stepped toward the porch. “All the old folks think you’re a monster. Is that why you don’t leave your home?”

The man stepped off the porch and walked to where Billy stood. He leaned over until he stared deeply into Billy’s eyes. Billy squirmed and looked away. He was scared, but Belle needed protection. Billy needed to protect her. Davy sighed and motioned for the boy to follow him to the barn.

“Come on, boy. I will show you a couple of things, then you leave and forget your way back here.”

“Deal,” said Billy.

He hurried after the man, and they walked out to the barn. Inside the barn a heavy bag hung from a rafter, and Davy showed Billy how to throw a punch. He had Billy throw straights, jabs, and hooks, until he thought his arms would fall off. Then, he showed him how to throw an uppercut. As he had Billy mimic his movements, Davy instructed him on the mindset of fighting.

“Do not lose your cool when you are bullied. Remember this, the elbows are hard and sharp. His feet are fragile, so are his eggs. Punch, kick, elbow, whatever it takes to win. There is no such thing as a fair fight. You fight to win, and you do whatever it takes to hurt the other guy. If you’re grabbed from behind, bring your foot down on top of his. If you bust his nose, grab it and yank downward.”

“Yes, sir.”

Billy punched the bag. Davy stopped him. “Don’t forget to move. Never move back in a straight line. Hit and move. Make him work. Okay?”


In the heat of the barn, Davy would bark out a combination of punches, and Billy reacted. They kept at it until the sun began to set. Billy was panting hard, but he felt confident he could stand up for his friend. Davy stood at the door of the barn and looked at the waning light.

“It’s time for you to go home.”

Billy stuck out his hand, the man ignored it, but together they walked out of the barn. Davy walked onto the porch and turned to Billy. “You did good, kid. Don’t forget the only fair fight is the fight you lose. There are no rules, other than to win. Do what you must do.”

“What do I call you, sir?”

“You don’t. Remember our deal.”

“Yes, sir.”

Billy started down the drive, and he felt elated that he got to spend time with the man, even though he kept ignoring his attempt to befriend him. When he got to the gate, he turned around to wave goodbye, but the man had disappeared back into his house.

Davy watched Billy go down his driveway from the safety of his window. The boy’s statement about him being a monster had hit home. “The kid has guts,” he thought to himself. “He doesn’t have a lick of sense, but he has guts.”

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