While doing sixty on a packed dirt road, Dad mashed a raccoon with his front tire and didn’t flinch. He took a cold glance in the rearview mirror at the pile of pelt and guts then snarled. 

    “You’re gonna roll her if you don’t slow down,” said Hemi, who was sandwiched between me and Dad in the cab of the pickup.

    “Who are you, my wife?” Dad said. “Next, you’re gonna tell me to clean the fucking garage.”

    Hemi glared at Dad. Although he’s not a big guy like Dad and me—Hemi is built like a crow bar, long and thin and solid—he’s no slouch with his fists. When I was twelve, I watched Hemi bust a guy’s nose at a backyard barbeque. Blood spouted from this poor bastard’s nostrils as if shot from a hose, and Hemi continued to pound his face like raw meat. Dad later told me it was about a girl.

    “This whole thing is stupid, Wayne.” 

    “What are you talking about?”

    “This whole thing,” Hemi said. “Just call the cops. She’s only your stepdaughter. Let the cops deal with Mr. War Hero.”

    Dad’s eyes widened. “Only my stepdaughter? She’s Darla’s girl, and this is a matter of principles.” Dad slammed his palms into the steering wheel. “And you don’t know me from Jesus H. Christ if you think I’ll let this punk make a whore out of that girl.”

    “We’re going to end up in the clink,” Hemi said under his breath. Then he turned to me. “I hope you got enough money for bail, D.J., because your old man and me are gonna end up in the clink. Stuffed and cuffed. Mark my word, boy. Stuffed and cuffed.”

    I told Hemi I only had a five spot, a couple of singles, and nothing in the bank. I blew almost all my cash subscribing to a porn site earlier that week. This all happened over a year ago, and Dad and I have been through hell and back since, but to this day, I haven’t told Dad about subscribing to that site. I don’t suppose I ever will.

    As we zipped past a dairy farm, I stared out the window at the motionless cows in the tall grass, a full moon stamped in the night sky behind them. Everything outside the truck was still, like objects in a picture. Sometimes, when the night is like that, still and quiet, I don’t want to move. I want to fade into the background, disappear in the trees.

    Dad slowed as we approached the intersection at Folger Road, where the dirt meets the pavement of Route 106 in Loudon. He blew the stop sign, then barreled left toward Concord.


I’m going to fess up, since everything that night at the movie theaters was—in an offhand way—my fault. Not that I did anything personally to Jenny. Not really. However, I told Dad about the website with her on it—three days after I subscribed—and set this mess in motion.

    But I had to tell him. If I hadn’t, none of this would’ve happened, and Jenny would never have left New Hampshire and vanished. But I had to tell him. I had no choice.

    When Dad got home that Friday afternoon, Jenny was on the couch, her hand wrapped in a dishtowel packed with ice. She’d been crying on the couch, off and on, for almost a week. At first, Dad and I figured it was because Darla was back in the hospital, which was understandable, and had to be on Jenny’s mind. The cancer had returned and spread to Darla’s stomach and lungs. We started to realize that, as hard as Darla was fighting, she wasn’t going to win the battle. The doctors gave her six months, but she didn’t make it that long.

    With Darla in the hospital, Dad had been trying to hold it together at home, but he had no idea what to do about Jenny. One night, he offered to take us to Applebee’s for dinner, but Jenny didn’t want to go. Then Dad went into school to get the work she missed, but Jenny didn’t want it. Jenny didn’t want to talk to Dad or anyone else. She just wanted to sit on the couch and cry. That afternoon, when Dad tried putting his arm around her, Jenny leaped up from the couch and bolted to her bedroom. Stunned, Dad rubbed his face like he’d been slapped with a glove. At that point, I couldn’t watch it anymore. I had to tell him.

    The next thing I knew, Dad was telling me to get in the truck.


I found out Tuesday at school. Jeff and I were in the back of the cafeteria, trying to ignore the chicken nuggets being launched—complete with missile sound effects—from the jock/hot chick table across from us, where Jenny sometimes sat, but she was at home on the couch, crying.

    Our own chicken nuggets, watery peas, and half-frozen potato tots lay on our trays like chew toys. While lifting my brownie to my mouth, a lacrosse player with clubbed ears and a blond flattop stood and snapped a picture of me with his cell phone. “Call The National Enquirer. I got a picture of Sasquatch eating a brownie!”

    Sasquatch. That’s what they called me.

    The guys laughed, and the chicks covered their mouths and pretended not to, their eyeballs popping from their sockets. It was the same damn joke, every day. True enough, I am six-eight and heavy-set, hairy as a buffalo—an easy target. And despite the fact that I was twice the size of those guys, I would sit there, still and quiet, and try to disappear. Freshman year, Coach Gallo asked me to join the football team, but I made up some lame-ass excuse about a heart condition. If I could go back and change anything, I would’ve gone out for the team. Then, just maybe, I would’ve been at the other table and not ducking nuggets. But it doesn’t matter much now. I’m not in public school anymore. I’ll finish my high school diploma here at the youth detention center in a few months, right around the time I get out.

    The truth is, I didn’t play football because I was content to blend into the bleacher crowd at home games. Until last year, my junior year, when I first saw the white flame behind my eyes, I hadn’t realized that, with my strength and size, I had the potential to be dangerous.

    As Billy approached our table, he was tagged in the head with a chicken chunk. Billy is a hemophiliac, so pale you can see blood running in blue streams beneath his skin. After being hit with the nugget, he fell to a chair and clutched his head. Slowly, he turned and spit a pained look at me. “I heard something,” he said. “About your stepsister.”

    “I know what it is, I know what it is,” Jeff said with a jack-o-lantern grin. When Jeff smiles, his fat cheeks scrunch around his bucked teeth and you want to smack that look straight off his face. Jeff got a late jump on puberty and, at sixteen, he was still as hairless as a clenched fist. “I heard it, too,” he said. 

    “What the hell are you two talking about?” I said.


Before I go any further, before I disclose everything, you have to know this: Jenny is hot. Smoking hot. Drag-my-balls-through-ten-miles-of-broken-glass-just-to-smell-the-fumes-of-the-truck-that-took-her-dirty-panties-

to-the-laundromat hot. She was still hot when she left, nine days after everything happened, and I assume, wherever she is, she’s still hot today.

    Now before you go judging me, which some of you will be inclined to do, try to remember that I was sixteen, not blood-related, living in the same house with this chick. And it is not like we’d lived together all our lives, like real siblings. Jenny and Darla had moved in with Dad and me only the year before. It happened fast. Dad met Darla during my freshman year, and a few months later, they married. All of a sudden, this hot chick from school was prancing around the house in slinky tank tops and skintight shorts. 

    Listen, I’m not proud of this, but let’s just say, I could still draw you a full-color diagram of her underwear drawer.


Jeff and Billy stared at each other, both biting their bottom lips. I’d had enough games. I saw the white flame. “Tell me what you know, or I’m going to bust open your mouths,” I said. 

    The guys stiffened like they were bracing for a punch, then Billy coughed weakly into his sleeve. “You know that guy your stepsister has been dating,” Billy said, “that Marine-guy who works at the movie theaters?”

    “Mike.”

    Billy nodded. “Well, apparently, I heard he put some, um, videos of your stepsister on a website.” When Billy blushed, his entire face and neck turned bright red, like a fresh blood stain on a hospital sheet.

    My face, on the other hand, was a blank screen, all the expression disappeared. The only thing I could think about was getting to that website. I know, I know. I’m sick and perverted. But that’s what I thought. I’m being honest. “What’s the name of the site?”

    Billy frowned. “How should I know? It’s not like I sit around looking at that stuff.”

    “Black Market Sex Tapes,” said Jeff. “You have to subscribe to see the whole thing, but you can watch the trailers for free. I heard she takes it from two guys at the same time.”

    I didn’t doubt any of it.

    Although it pains me to think about him, I suppose I should tell you about Jenny’s ex-boyfriend Mike, who just a couple of weeks ago, finally, got out of the hospital. The newspapers, which have been covering the story since it happened, say there’s a chance he’ll walk again, which is good, I guess. Mike went to the same regional high school Jenny and I attended, graduating five years before I got there. But that doesn’t matter; we all know his type: the handsome, popular guy who is in all the yearbook pictures, the one who dates the chicks no one else has a chance with. You know him—the King of Cool, the big man on campus, smooth as an oil slick. He had it all until at the end of his senior year, when one of the hot chicks accused him of date rape, and the next thing you know, two other girls came forward. One was underage, so with the statutory charge tacked on, Mike was looking at forty years in the pen when, all of a sudden, the three chicks refused to testify. Without them as witnesses, the charges were thrown out.

    As soon as he was cleared, Mike enlisted in the Marine Reserves and did a tour in Iraq, where he earned a Purple Heart in Fallujah for running into insurgent gunfire to save one of his buddies. When he returned, the town gave him the hero’s welcome. He walked in the Fourth of July parade in his dress blues. He was, again, The King of Cool and went back to work as a manager at the movie theater. A year ago, when the newspapers were first running those articles on Mike—when he was “the local hero fighting for his life”—the date rape accusations were never mentioned, nor was the fact that he sold his sex tapes of him and his buddy tag-teaming my inebriated stepsister to a porn site. Those stories had utterly and completely vanished.

    Another chicken nugget was launched at our table, but this time I reached up and caught it in the air, crushing it in my hand. The white flame flickered. I stood up with my arm cocked, ready to shove that chicken down someone’s fucking throat when Mr. Nagle, the vice-principal, tapped me on the shoulder.

    “What are you planning to do with that chicken nugget, Mr. Briggs?” he asked. He was this small leprechaun-type with two tufts of reddish hair and pointed ears. I could’ve broken him in half.

    “Nothing,” I said.

    “Give me the nugget, son,” he said and held out his hand. I dropped it in his palm. “I don’t want to see any more trouble from you, you hear?”

    “Yes, sir,” I said. Billy and Jeff’s jaws dropped like guillotines. “Were you really going to throw that at them?” Jeff asked.

    “Shut up, Jeff,” I said and flicked a frozen pea at his head. 


“I’m gonna feed this guy his fucking teeth,” Dad said, reaching into his coat pocket and removing a pint of Southern Comfort. After a swig, he passed the bottle to Hemi. “It’s been awhile since I’ve given a good ass-kicking.”

    “How long has it been since we’ve scrapped, Wayne?”

    “A couple of years, at least. The last one I remember was in that dive bar in Manchester, when those kids with the spikes through their faces started up with us.”

    In the dull glow of the dashboard, Dad’s lips relaxed and a small smile formed. If I could go back and freeze that night, it would be right there: Dad smiling in his truck’s dashboard lights and maybe, for a second, considering turning around.

    As we stopped at the light on Loudon Road where the two left lanes turn into the cinema complex, a blue sedan pulled up beside us. Inside, Jimmy Racine, the fullback for the varsity football team, was driving with his chick, Amber St. Lawrence, in the passenger seat, her arm hanging out the window with a cigarette dangling from her fingers. Jimmy turned, looked at me, then nudged her.

    “It’s Sasquatch,” he said and pointed. Amber didn’t bother to turn her head. But that didn’t stop Jimmy from getting out his cell phone and snapping a picture. “Sasquatch, smile.”

    I rolled up the window. Behind my eyes, the white flame flickered and I ripped the pint from Hemi’s hand. I wasn’t used to drinking, so the liquor, as I poured a mouthful down my gullet, made me cough and gag.

    “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Dad asked.

    “Sorry.”

   “What did that guy call you?” Hemi jerked his thumb in the direction of the blue sedan.

    “I didn’t hear him.”

    Dad tilted his head to one side and looked at me like he was doing math. The light changed, but we didn’t move. The cars behind us started honking. I stared at the floorboards, the pint still in my sweaty hand.

    “Pass that bottle over here,” Dad said.

    As I handed him the pint, the man in the car behind us stuck his torso out the window and threw the middle finger at Dad. Without turning around, Dad launched the near-empty bottle out the window at the guy’s head, missing him by a bunch as it smashed on the concrete. Dad hit the gas.


I went straight home that Tuesday. Most days, I’d stop at the Hess station after school and pick up a two-liter of Mountain Dew and a grab bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Sometimes I’d stick around the store and flip through magazines or play some scratch tickets. They never carded me, even for beer. Before she started dating Mike, Jenny used to ask me to buy booze for her and her friends before they’d go to parties. To tell you the truth, I liked doing it. While I was putting those cases of beer and bottles of liquor in the trunks of their cars, and the girls were thanking me and brushing my arm with their bird-bone fingers, I was a part of their world. But it never lasted. Since my purpose was singular, my presence in their company strange and slightly awkward, I’d quickly vanish from the picture. Seen for an instant then gone.

    When I got home that afternoon, Jenny was lying on the couch, holding the remote control with her arm outstretched and a pile of crumpled tissues scattered like shotgun shells on the carpet. I stood in the living room, as still and dumb as a bear rug, the website’s name scribbled on a torn piece of notebook paper in my pocket.

    “Are you all right?” I asked Jenny.

    “Let me guess. You heard.” She stared straight into the television, pale and zombie-like, surfing the channels.

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    “You wouldn’t.”

    With my head down, I went straight to my bedroom, locking the door behind me. After booting up my computer, I went to the Black Market Sex Tapes website. On the homepage, in a still-frame from a grainy home video, a drunken Jenny forced a smile. My heart stammered, my erection throbbed, my breathing became labored.

    I took the bankcard from my wallet.


Friday night is a big movie night for high school kids in the Concord area, and the parking lot was packed like a box of bullets. We found a spot in the back row, beneath a floodlight. Dad cut the engine.

    “Let’s fuck him up,” he said, his voice watery. Being a large man, it takes a lot of booze to faze Dad, but he had been drinking since coming home that afternoon, even before I told him about the website.

    A few parking spaces down from us, Jimmy and Amber got out of the blue sedan. When I looked over, Jimmy snapped another picture. Maybe that sip of Southern Comfort hit me harder than I realized because I slung my middle finger at Jimmy and snarled like Dad snarled when he ran over the raccoon. And wouldn’t you know it—Jimmy put the cell phone in his pocket and looked the other way.

    “What’s that all about?” Dad asked.

    “Some asshole from school.”

    The line to buy the tickets wrapped around the side of the building.  As we walked past, a couple of guys yelled out, “Sasquatch!” and snapped pictures with their cell phones. 

    The white flame burned as I balled my fists.

    When we got in the lobby, Dad stopped me. “What were those guys calling you?”

    “Sasquatch, Dad. They call me Sasquatch.”

    “And you put up with it?”

    I shrugged. When Dad looked at me, it was as if my skin was made of glass and he could see through me into the hollowed-out shell where my guts should’ve been. For the first time, it was as if he understood that he had failed to raise a man.

    Hemi clamped me on the shoulder. “I’m not sure if you know this or not, D.J., but you could wipe the shit off your shoes with those guys. Crack one skull and the rest will back off.”

    “There’s that motherfucker.” Dad pointed at a muscular guy with short black hair, heavily gelled and spiked, and a tribal band tattoo on his left bicep that I recognized from the website, collecting ticket stubs from a long line of people. With Hemi and me behind him, Dad pushed through the crowd. When he arrived at the entrance to the theaters, cordoned off by a thick purple rope, he positioned himself in front of Mike, dwarfing him by at least half a foot. Dad stared down at him like a boxer receiving instructions, breathing through his nostrils.

    Mike watched him as if Dad were a skinny bird flapping its wings. “Back off, big fella,” Mike said.

    “You don’t know who I am, do you?” Dad said.

    “I know who you are,” said Mike.  

    As murmurs of a fight caught fire in the lobby, everyone’s attention shifted toward Dad and Mike. That’s when something started to grind inside me, waiting to explode from my skin. My legs shook. The white flame pounded behind my eyes.

    “Is there a problem?” Mike asked in a flat, steady voice.

    “Yeah,” said Dad, bumping him with his chest, “there’s a big fucking problem.”

    Dad pulled back and swung at Mike’s head. Mike ducked it, and before anyone could blink, he had Dad’s arm bent behind his back, ready to snap it. Dad screamed.

    That scream was the last thing that registered.


When the cops pulled me off Mike, my fists and forearms were covered in his blood. Mike lay like a sack of sand on the ground, his spine snapped. I remember a lot of screaming and shouting. As I was being wrestled to my stomach, the cold cuffs slapped around my wrists, I looked for Dad, but couldn’t find him.

    “What the hell got into Sasquatch?” I heard someone say. And someone else said, “I don’t know, but I think he fucking killed that guy.” Then another voice said, “You had to see it coming.” 

    I closed my eyes and made myself real still, careful not to move, then disappeared.





Nathan Graziano lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.  He is the author of Teaching Metaphors (sunnyoutside, 2007), Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2004), Frostbite (GBP, 2002) and seven chapbooks of poetry and fiction.  His work has appeared in Rattle, Night Train, The Coe Review, The Dublin Quarterly, and others.  For more information, visit his website: www.nathangraziano.com.







Back to Freight Stories No. 2

 

Nathan Graziano

Sasquatch