The little boy raised his dark glasses. His eyes were glassy and pale. Then he pulled his glasses back down. What happened to you? said Jones. I burnt my eyes out looking into the sun, said the boy. Jesus! said Jones. Was it that little twerp who held you down? Huh? said the boy. When I was walking over here I think I may have seen you being bullied by a smaller boy, said Jones. Oh, little Ralphie? said the boy. Fuck no. What you saw on your way over here was a function of what some call karma. Karma? said Jones. In what way? You see, I used to be the bully in this here neighborhood. I used to terrorize all the kids from around here for years. And now everyone terrorizes you? said Jones. Well I certainly had it coming, but there’s a little more to it than that. You see once I started getting older I realized I’d never be good at school. I also realized that most of the people I’d picked on were smarter than me and I figured it was only a matter of time before they’d try to get back at me by calling me stupid, which would make me get back at them by messing with them even more. OK? said Jones. But through the example of my old man, I learned that this sort of bullying inevitably leads to physical violence, which in my case leads to jail. You see my dad’s been in and out of the joint his entire life, and personally it doesn’t sound too appealing. He was your typical repeat offender destined to die in a cage. But then something happened that changed his life. Really? said Jones. Yeah, said the boy. One day he got injured on a construction job he had when he was out on parole. Now he collects disability and lives like a king. No kidding, said Jones. And the way I saw things, if I was going to follow in my old man’s footsteps that would entail decades of physical violence, psychological torment, and recurring incarceration. You really are quite an insightful young man, said Jones. So I figured why not just cut to the chase and get myself my own disability while I’m young and still have a chance to enjoy my life. I’m sorry? said Jones. You see, the boy continued, burning my eyes out staring into the sun was relatively painless. My old man only got disability after a whole truck full of bricks fell on him and now the fucker can hardly walk. And even though it was an accident, the fuckers at the disability bureau had the nerve to suggest that his injury may have been deliberate because he didn’t want to work. But with me, I’m just a stupid little kid and stupid little kids do stupid shit all the time so no one’s going to question me. But how badly is your eyesight damaged? asked Jones. It’s fucked up, but not entirely, said the boy. I can’t really read anymore but I never liked reading all that much. I’ve always been more of a movies/television kind of guy. But that’s insane, said Jones. Is it? said the boy. You said you blinded yourself to get out of having to endure a painful life, said Jones, but just today I saw you getting your ass kicked by a little twerp. So what? said the boy. Well, that must have been painful, said Jones. It’s got to be difficult for you to let yourself get pushed around like that? Man, I know this will sound sort of ridiculous, said the boy, but it’s calculated karma. Calculated karma? said Jones. Listen, I’m 13 years old right now. I could potentially get hassled by the kids I fucked with for the next five years. That sounds shitty, but it’s not that bad when you consider that I’ve been fucking with them for the past eight years. And it seems even less shitty when you figure that a lot of kids lose interest in vengeance and all that crap as they grow up, and less shittier still when you consider that once I turn 18 the state hooks my motherfucking ass up. Well I guess I didn’t think of it like that, said Jones. Well glad to have broadened your horizons, brother, said the boy. And besides what you saw today with Ralphie, man that’s all show. Sometimes I even let him think he’s hurting me. Really? said Jones. Yeah, said the boy, because I mean it’s all nothing to me. Fuck the present and the past. The way I see things, it’s all about the future. Good point, said Jones. Unless you don’t have one, like these fucks, the boy continued, pointing to the elderly couple. Look, I think she’s trying to give him a hand job. He nodded toward the old man’s pants. Jones looked over to the couple. The old woman had her hand inside the man’s pocket. The man’s eyes were shut tightly as if he were trying to concentrate on something far, far away. Dare me to fish it out? said the boy. Before Jones had a chance to answer him, the boy stood up and started tiptoeing toward the man.

- The Illiterate

JIm Freed

The Illiterate is available through Thought catalog books Now!!!

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