The Audacity of Hope
A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Prejudice"
Originally featured on 03-11-2009
As part of our series "Bursting Into '09"

When you tie up a skinhead and force him to wear clown makeup and a big curly red wig, you’re hoping—hoping against hope, that he has a sense of humor.

This is how we met. Three in the morning, I’m picking up a California Burrito at a twenty four hour Mexican joint near my house. There are a group of boisterous youths with very tidy scalps sharing a corner booth. One of them sees me and drops the magic word. Check out that nigger, is what he said. That’s why he’s the clown.

Three shiny heads turn to look at me. I stare back at them. They growl and try to intimidate. After a few moments, I turn and complete my order. They say things to one another about me, building up their confidence by committee.

A California Burrito now costs thirty five cents more than it used to, pushing it over the four dollar mark—meaning that I have to break a five and in all fairness give the eighty five cents change to the cashier as tip. And that ticked me off more than the things the Neo-Nazis were saying.

I decide to go for broke and order two Jarritos to go with my burrito and break a twenty dollar bill. I tip the cashier five dollars. I know that he won’t call the police. Then, I sit down.

I send a well-worded text to my roommate indicating that his presence would be required in the parking lot in eight minutes, which is how long a California Burrito usually takes when the place is almost empty.

Seven minutes and thirty eight seconds later, my roommate’s minivan pulls into the parking lot. I place the Mandarin Jarrito on the counter and take the Orange Jarrito over towards the boisterous youths. I move fast enough without eye contact that the clown doesn’t know I’m about to break the bottle over his head. The glass shards fly and then I grab the scruff of his bomber jacket with my free hand and put the broken bottle to his neck. I guide him out of his seat roughly and tell the others that their friend is dead unless the all get up and head for the door. They believe me.

My burrito is ready. And somebody better grab my order, is what I said and the fattest one did.

I give the cashier a nod like, Sorry about the mess, and I think about Han Solo—the smuggler.

Once in the parking lot, I order then to get onto their knees and my roommate comes around the minivan with zip-ties. We secure their hands and feet and help them roughly into the minivan. Then, I slam the door and we’re off towards our house which is only a few blocks away.

My roommate is tired. My roommate says he was on the verge of getting a good night’s sleep for once. I shrug.

We drive around the blocks by my house a few times so the youths are disoriented and then pull into the driveway and escort them roughly but quickly into the backyard. The clown is bleeding so we hose off the entire group. Because of the cold, they all moan like bitches and my roommate smiles for the first time all evening. The next stop on the tour is the basement which has its own entrance.

They tumble down the steps in what I imagine turned out to be a big jumble of bruised elbows and shoulders. My roommate gets the Halloween stuff. They wait in a circle while I hold the bottle on them.

We make them up into things like vampires and Frankenstein and a clown. We do this to humiliate them. Then I eat while my roommate holds a bat.

There are a number of risks in ever releasing them. They could remember where we live and come back. They could call the police on us and accuse us of kidnapping, which would be a valid accusation. They could do any number of things.

I sit and chew and think. This wasn’t worth it. They’re all quiet right now, and that could be because of the disgruntled look on my roommate’s face. That’s good for them. I know that the smart thing to do, maybe even the right thing to do is to beat these guys until they can’t do anything close to coming back or talking to the police. Maybe kill them. Then dump them off. But it feels too much like what they would do. So I sit here and I chew and I hope.

I hope against hope that maybe these guys have a sense of humor.

I hope perhaps they don’t hold a grudge.

I hope that there are voices inside them asking when will it end?

Read More By Doug Dean

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