Death by Skater Feet
A story by Nathan Keeffer
Nov. 19, 2004
It was a cold, wet day in April when I heard the news about my childhood best friend James, and how he had just died. Freezing rain pelted from the sky, splashing my face, hiding my tears as I stood on the corner reading the newspaper. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but there it was in crisp black and white:
Local Attorney Killed by Cute Skateboarders with Smelly Socks
My first reaction was to laugh, but then I read more… “James Donni, 34, was found dead in his home yesterday evening… a video camera mounted on the wall filmed the entire hideous scene…at least a dozen young punks were seen by the neighbors…”
“No! Nooooo!” I screamed, spilling coffee on myself as I stood in the rain. An old hag in a green polyester pant suit rushed past, giving me the evil eye. I didn’t care. I was an attorney myself, and while James and I had seen each other less often since we both graduated from law school and started families, we had started out as the best of buddies, way back in 6th grade. Now, in the rain, I read the paper, feeling myself tottering on the brink of an invisible chasm… because I knew what the paper was talking about. It was something from the past. It was almost a curse! I read on, not that I needed to--- I knew what it was going to say.
“…according to the victim’s wife, she heard him begging and pleading for mercy from behind the locked door of the bedroom. She ran downstairs and called the police, but it took them 45 minutes to show up, and in this time, James Donni was murdered by the as-yet-unnamed skate boarders…the coroner says that cause of death was suffocation, caused by having sweaty, smelly socks held over the face for at least 5 and possibly as long as 15 minutes. Sock lint was found in the victims nose. A slight bruise in the shape of a foot was found on his chest also. The videotape shows the victim being held down on his huge bed, and covered by evil boys with green and purple hair They stood on the bed in a circle around their victim, mostly blocking him from the camera’s view, but at one point you can clearly see that two of the boys are pushing their feet cruelly down into the man’s face, while another boy sits nearby and holds his head in his strong hands, keeping him from turning away… the only thing lacking is a motive…”
“No!! Eeeeeeeee!” I screamed, then dropped the paper into the gutter and fled for my Mercedes. When I made it downtown to my office, I slumped at my desk, moaning. I yanked open a drawer, produced a bottle of Bushmill’s, and took a long pull. The smooth, malty warmth of the fine whiskey filled my mouth, warmed my belly. Thus fortified, I picked up the telephone and dialed a number by memory. It was picked up on the third ring.
“Hello?” a voice asked.
“Robert? It’s me, Chip. Have you read the paper!?”
“Yes, I have. Listen, Chip, we just need to stay calm… it has to be a coincidence!”
“Like hell it is!! Jamey is dead!! And the way he died…” I reached for the whiskey bottle again. Robert’s voice came back—“Chip, stop drinking your goddamn whiskey and get a handle on your fears! Are you saying that Norman Quistpincher is somehow responsible for this!? He’s been dead for 20 years!! Nobody knows what the three of us did back then, back in 1984… how could anyone know!? And Norman was a goddamned GEEK anyway!!”
“Robert, for the love of Jesus, shut up!” I hissed, spraying whiskey out of my mouth in a fine mist. “My goddamn secretary could be listening!!”
“Okay… right. Well, how about you and I meet at the Black Bean Bistro for dinner tonight after work and discuss this? Okay?” Robert asked.
“Sure. Okay. Just… be careful. What if you and I are next? It only makes sense.”
“Bah. Superstition and paranoia. For a lawyer, you certainly are weird. Why, you and James used to laugh at me because I was an accountant. Who’s laughing now, buddy? The rational lawyer has become a basket case, while the supposedly. Nerdy accountant remains calm. Ha!”
“Okay Robert, I get it. Please shut up. I’ll see you at the Bistro, after work.”
I hung up… not knowing that we would never have our meeting. Robert and I would not survive the workday, and it had nothing to do with the rigors of the job. It had everything to do with our past catching up with us.
I sat at my desk, looking over legal papers, but my mind was far away, as the cold rain continued to wash down from the sky outside, bathing my office window in a grey liquid pallor of light and turbulence.
In 1984, my friends Robert, James, and myself, had all been 14 years old, filled with the optimism and casual cheery cruelty of early adolescence. We were together in the school hallway like the three musketeers on that fateful day when Norman Quistpincher crossed our path. He was smaller than we were, and wore thick glasses. He was the school nerd. James always made fun of him. Well, on that day, James did more than that… he stuck out his foot and tripped him. Norman fell to the floor in the hall, books flying all over. His lunch fell to the floor also, a paper bag containing a ham sandwich. We laughed at him as he lay there.
Normally, it would end there. Scenes such as this had happened at countless schools throughout history, and would continue to happen forever more, because it was normal. But we didn’t let it end there. I still don’t know why, but I jumped on Norman’s lunch bag, smashing his food under my white Nike basketball shoes. James, Robert and I were all on the basketball team, so we were athletic, strong, confident… and evil. I admit it now to myself in my lonesome office… that we were evil on that day. And not just because of the fucking sandwich.
When Robert saw me smash the sandwich, he jumped into the air and landed… on Norman! With both feet. Smashing down on the smaller boy’s back, driving him flat to the green floor. Something snapped in Norman’s back. His arms flew out straight to the sides, and a high, thin scream escaped his lips.
“Shit, man, you broke his back!” James blurted in surprise.
“Robert, what’d you DO that for!?” I yelled… and then realized that I was still standing on the flattened sandwich. It had been a dumb question. He did it because we were buddies and we imitated each other, and because we were 14, and we were basketball players, and lived in Gary, Indiana…. All factors that combined to make us more likely to do what we did…
There was nobody else in the hallway. Norman was crying, his face screwed up in a tight grimace, cheek pressed to the floor, tears spattering onto the dirty tiles.
“Let’s take him in the broom closet…” James said. And so we did. And what came next…
“Huh!? What!? Oh… Cindy. Yes, what is it?”
My secretary had spoken to me, startling me out of my remembrances. I sat up straighter at the desk, then noticed that she was looking at the half-empty whiskey bottle sitting next to my computer. I didn’t even bother to try explaining why I was getting drunk at my desk at 10 in the morning. Instead, I said “Cindy. What is it. You came in for something, right?”
“Yes.” She finally said, taking her eyes from the bottle. “The Smith Meeting has been cancelled again. They just called.”
“Crap!” I thundered, beating on the desk.
“What? Oh my goodness!” she gasped.
“No, not the Smith meeting.” I clarified. “I just remembered something important. Can you do me a favor and run down to the courthouse and pick up the files for our next case? I was going to do it myself this morning but I… forgot.”
“Certainly, Mr. Frankengurch.” She said, then left. I knew she would be gone for 45 minutes, but didn’t pay any heed to this knowledge. But I should have.
I returned to my remembrances…
“Hey, look, I think he’s mostly paralyzed.” Robert said, prodding Norman with his shoe. Norman only quivered and cried. “I’m gonna tell the teacher!” he moaned. “Oh, you wait and see! You’ll go to jail for this!!”
“No we won’t.” James said slyly. I noticed that he was unlacing his sneakers. Since we were best friends, Robert and I both sat down and took off our own shoes too, not even caring why we were doing this. Maybe it was just so we could walk around quietly.
James walked over to Norman and lifted his right foot, holding it less than an inch from the boys face, right over his nose and mouth. “You’re not going to tell anybody.” James said, smiling. Then he laughed outright, and pushed his white, sweat-damp socked foot down firmly over Norman’s mouth. Norman moaned in horror. Robert and I both sat down and without even talking about it, lifted our own big, warm adolescent feet and completely covered Norman’s face…
I remember the next 45 minutes as a series of disjointed scenes--- the feel of Norman sucking tiny breaths of air through and around my toes, the sight of my pal James smiling at me, his orange hair shaggy on his head, his blue eyes happy.
I remember Robert saying “I think he’s going to pass out.” And I replied “good, this is so fun.”
In the end, Norman lay dead--- suffocated to death under our feet. His face was blue. We realized what we had done, and we vowed to keep it secret forever. Then we simply put our shoes back on and went back into the hallway, resuming our lives at school, playing basketball, meeting girls, going to college, and law school,. and that brings us up to date…
I opened my eyes, dragging in a great, ragged breath. I was on the floor of my office, laying on my side. The Bushmill’s bottle lay next to me, empty. The rain sluiced down the outside of the window unabated… but something was different… what was it? Was the secretary back? No. And then I realized what was different… my hands were behind my back, and they were tied together with rope!! I lurched in a sudden spasm of terror, and found my ankles were also bound.
I vomited then in my terror and drunkenness, heaving a sour soup of whiskey, bile, mucus, and scrambled eggs onto the rug next to my head. The ghastly stench filled my head, and caused me to puke again. When I stopped barfing, I noticed that there were over a dozen young teenagers gathering around me. They must have found me drunk on the floor, then tied me up and waited in the shadows for me to wake up!
And then they came for me, drawing close, then closer still. None of them had shoes on. The shoes were all on top of my desk in a big pile of leather, canvas, plastic and rubber, with laces hanging this way and that, tongues hanging out as if to mock me.
I watched in morbid fascinated horror as the owners of these shoes now casually clustered around me in a mob, and I was lost then, lost from sight and lost from the world, lost in a forest of big baggy blue jeans and slender young ankles, lost in this dark place, this forest of oncoming airless death. I felt the first feet on my belly, as a boy stood there. I tensed my muscles to resist his weight, but so soon after my vomiting spell, I had very little muscle strength to use, and so his feet sank cruelly into my guts, and I cried out in broken pain as I gagged and wretched again, spewing thin bile down my chin.
“Chip. Poor Chip, the stupid drunk lawyer.” One of the boys lectured me. I saw him standing near my head, leaning over, with his hands on his knees to peer down at me. He was wearing a backwards baseball cap, and his eyes were bright and sexy in the shadows under his eyebrows. A string of beads hung around his neck. He was shirtless, and his chest was smooth and strong. His baggy JNCO pants hung halfway down his hips, revealing three inches of his bright yellow boxer shorts.
I wanted to ask “who are you?” I wanted to ask “how did this happen, after so long”… but I had no need to ask WHY, for that was obvious. Robert, James and I were being killed because of what we had done to Norman 20 years ago. It was too obvious. I could ask this cute boy nothing, because I was in pain and couldn’t breathe… a second boy was standing on my body now.
The skater who was leaning over me answered my unasked questions anyway.
“Poor stupid dummy.” He said. “You know you’re gonna die, right? Your secretary will be back in 30 minutes, but by then, we’ll be long gone… and so will you. Gone, gone, gone. Like, check this out, man...” And then he told me.
“Norman had a hidden tape recorder in his pocket, and it recorded everything that happened that day when you killed him. His mother got the tape after the funeral, but she was too sad to listen to it for 19 years… and then finally, last year, she listened to it and she figured out the names of you and your friends. Like, she told the cops, but they didn’t believe her. So she finally came down to the skate park where me and my boys hang out, and she told us she’d give us each five hundred dollars if we killed three men in town by smothering and choking them with our sweaty smelly skater socks and skater feet. And we were like, bitch, that’s fuckin’ weird. So she was like, okay, a thousand bucks! And she told us the reasons and everything. So we finally said okay, sure. Why not.
And you’re the last one, poor stupid Chip Frankenfucker, or whatever your dumb-ass name is. We killed your old buddy James in his house yesterday, and we killed your accountant buddy Robert just half and hour ago--- man, you should’ve heard how he was just snorting and, like, gurgling, he got spit and blood all over Tommy’s socks, but Tommy don’t care cuz he’s fuckin evil. But hey, if it makes you feel any better, after we leave here we’re gonna go and strangle that lady who paid us, just so she can’t turn us in if she feels guilty later. But, now it’s your turn to die!”
He looked up to his eager friends and said “Okay guys, just like before.”
And the boy took his hands off his knees, straightened back up, and lifted his foot. I saw the boys smooth white socked sole rush into my field of vision, blocking out the view of the ceiling, and coming down steady and swift, covering my eyes, blocking all sight, holding my head to the floor. I can no longer tell the tale myself, for I’ve gone mad and lost my life. I trust the Narrator will relate my sad end…
Hello, call me the narrator. Chip has totally lost his ability to think properly, so I suppose a little third person narration is called for. I ask you to imagine this scene. A young lawyers office on a rainy mid-morning. An empty whiskey bottle. Two dozen smelly, battered skater shoes piled on the lawyer’s desk. One dozen sexy, stylish, baggy-pants wearing skater-boys gathered around a man tied up on the floor. They are laughing and talking. They are going to smother him to death with their feet!
“No!” Chip managed to cry out. “You don’t have to do this! I used to be just like you! I’m on your side! I understand!! I USED TO BE LIKE YOU!!!”
“Maybe you used to be. So what. You’re a grown up now, so you suck. Plus we’re getting paid to do this, remember.”
Chip smelled the skater’s socks, a light pungent tang, a slight ammonia odor. The boys had been skating all morning, sweating, their warm, smooth skater feet cradled in smelly leather and rubberized fabric shoes, their short ankle-length socks were slightly damp. Some were dirty, others were clean.
“Boo-Ya!” one of the boys said, stepping closer, pushing a big heavy foot down on Chip’s upper chest.
“You gots to die, homey.” An evil 16 year old skater said, his purple-dyed hair hanging in his face like a sheepdog, and then he stuck out his tongue and panted, because he was a doggy-boy with a woven friendship bracelet around his ankle, and he stood on Chip’s body with his big sturdy size 11 feet, and Chip felt the air go rushing out of his lungs… and he never really managed to get his breath back after that moment.
First, they stood on him, treading him mercilessly into the carpet, circling around and mocking him. A boy with short brown hair and big eyes slid his foot along Chip’s jaw, teasing him, and then pressing the jaw upward so he couldn’t open his mouth. Chip could still open his lips and breathe through his teeth, so he did, but not for long. Another boy, this one around 12 years old and blond, wearing shorts with stripes down the sides, sat down nearby and lifted both of his feet, settling his smelly socks firmly over his mouth, covering his face. Another foot, this one bare, was placed on top, covering his nostrils, and Chip hummed and bucked in sudden wordless panic and desperation, trying to breathe through his mouth, his nose, and only getting the tiniest sips of air.
The skaters began to smile, holding onto each other for balance, and also out of friendship and companionship with each other. Some of the boys sat, others stood. Some had clean socks, others dirty. Chip couldn’t tell the difference anymore when he finally died, his nose snorting desperately for air against the side of somebody’s bare foot, his mouth covered by a wide, smooth, soft teenage boy foot, his jaw forced shut by a heel. The ropes burned his wrists as he struggled helplessly. His mouth was sour with vomit, sweet with too much saliva, his nose hurt, and as he desperately sucked for air, he felt his ears pop and a horrible squeaking from the corner of his eye, and he imagined that air was leaking from his eye socket. The lights went out. The last thing he heard was a young teen’s voice saying “Hey, the secretary’s coming back! Break his neck and let’s get outta here!”
The pressure increased suddenly, shifting from his jaw to his throat as a big strong boy stood there, balanced on one foot. Chip’s jaw dropped wide open in an uncontrollable grimace of pain and death, his teeth dragging on the soft cotton still pressed brutally over his mouth, even as he felt his throat flatten and then give way with a pop, and then his neck broke, and it was the end for him.
The secretary walked in the door just in time to see a rough and rowdy looking young skater boy, carrying his shoes in his hand, going out the window onto the fire escape, following his friends back onto the rainy streets of the city. Then she saw what they had done to Mister Frankengurch, and she began to scream.