Chopin cradled the gun in his gnarled hands and practiced working his mangled fingers with damaged nerves on how he would the trigger on Chuck.

That blockhead.

Chopin had poisoned Chuck’s dog, Scopes, even though that damned dog sleeping on his back on top of his little red house had been nearing death’s door anyway. It was the first step in his grand revenge scenario. That blockhead was laughed out of his psychology program when he authored his dissertation on Scopes. Chuck was always a touch obsessed with him, never really having any close friends, except for Chopin and unaffectionate and brutal Lucy, who had been his only lover. Along with having a narcissistic and abusive family, all Chuck could do to salvage existence was project an entire hopeful haven upon that dog just to escape the pain. He even went as far as to inflate Scopes’ intelligence to the level that the dog had been writing the next great American novel Razorville about a teenage girl who gets possessed by the Devil once a month during a special period.

Hope was dead.

This was exactly what Chopin wanted: time to put a bullet in his head. If he couldn’t play concert halls, he would play the lives of others toward an ending he saw fit. No longer was he able to be a decent man with a sensitive soul in an indecent time.

Fate and childhood friendship now turned into an unknown vendetta saw to that.

Chuck sat alone in his room on the floor, contemplating suicide while eating a candy bar. Chocolate covered with peanuts in every bite, but barely any pretzels, with a tiny hint of caramel. The perfect metaphor for his life with the old peanut gallery gang. Bald as a cue-ball before the age of ten. He didn’t even feel worthy enough to stare at the ceiling while lying on the mattress he had on the floor which served as a bed, desk, and couch.

Scopes was gone. How would he recover? Laughed out of school. Working at a pizza shop, not fast enough to work the line or do dishes, all he did was answer phones and fold boxes; he used to deliver until Lucy gave him the devastating news and both he and Chopin got wasted, which led to an accident where he crashed into the tree. Somehow, he just bonked on the head by the protruding steering wheel, and Chopin, who put his hands up to block the oncoming collision, had every bone in his hands shattered.

He was waiting for Lucy. He was always waiting for her. She got to complete her degree, but never did anything with it, thinking she was going to eventually marry Chopin when he became a famous concert pianist. She would never forgive him. When she took his virginity over a year ago, she said as much.

“I wanted to give you a taste of something you’ll never have again nor ever genuinely have. You’re a stupid blockhead, Chuck Blue: repulsive, bald, and annoying. Take a good look at my clean pink clit: you’ll never have this again, not that you were even capable of finding it.”

She had hooked up with Milk Chocolate Mona, gruff bully of their little gang who grew up to be a bouncer at various adult establishments in town. Most people were afraid of the redbone dyke who had a rap sheet a mile and a half long, mostly for violent offenses but living in a state without minimal sentences usually got her off; besides, not long ago, before an actual prison sentence, she was known as the infamous boy pimp of the town and conveniently, certain charges vanished along with a commuted sentence as Mona kept excellent records and multimedia documentation regarding certain escapades involving town elders and officials.

Lucy really twisted the knife with that one.

“She may not be a man, but she’s more of a man than you’ll ever be, and an actual human compared to Chopin since you maimed him. I may not like the taste of her, but Mona is going to be my child’s father figure.”

The child wasn’t his. She claimed the identity of the father was unknown, but if he wanted to experience the illusion of what it was like to invest in a relationship and get some basic acknowledgement, she would allow him to sign the birth certificate and pay child support without any real interaction with her spawn.

Good grief is this what life added up to, about to enter his third decade.

The sugar rush of the candy bar and sixth cup of coffee caused his brain to go into a spiraling overdrive, taking inventory of who was who and who did what in their little clan, how he wanted to call upon the Grand Pumpkin-Head to come down and cleanse his life of this bane, but suicide and a spectacle beforehand seemed the answer.

Those were the days…waiting on the Grand Pumpkin-Head to come down in the patch every Devil’s Night to bestow gifts of sweetness and the secrets of magic. His dad had lied to him, just to get him out of the house in hopes of someone abducting his odd duck son who always spent time with that damn dog.

Chuck would drown himself in the toilet, where he belonged.

Had Sally been right to mark him the way she did when they were kids?

Is that why Barn Door had the singing career with his punk band starting to get attention; was it his lack of talent rather than focus on spectacle which made him more appealing? Would Chuck’s own melodious voice been ignored through his sheer lack of character and lack of emotional depth?

Barn Door’s trademark was the stolen baby blanket of Lucille’s little brother Rusty. He wore it like a cape. Rusty never let go of that blanket until senior prom. Something to do with a blowup doll, whipped cream, and one of their teachers who sounded all garbled when she was excited. Chuck Blue couldn’t be sure, then; he had enlisted in the Marines during that time and was about through the trauma of basic before his mind broke, but he got through a tour of a duty and was honorably discharged after his accident in Bosnia disabling land mines.

Chuck lifted his yellow T-shirt to look at the black star tattoo on his chest; he caressed the scar tissue underneath, which was obviously in the shape of a star.

A star for the star. His sister sang as the bullies gathered around him in the tunnel and at Tunnel Park and used a discarded bottle to mark him. Even though Sally didn’t have any artistic talents, she did have a talent for manipulation and control which benefited her locally growing business empire of nail salons and donut shops.

He rubbed his bald head, reflecting on how his gorgeous golden locks, not unlike Sally’s, fell out in clumps and how a soft velvet voices turned into a grating screeching as glass chewed skin.’

“Just kids,” the adults said.

“Pity it got to that point, but what are you going to do?”

“You should’ve fought back, son; may as well switch your clothes with Sally, she’s more of a man than you’ll ever be. Now pop me another beer; I want to be out like a light before your mother comes home,” was his father’s reaction as he wept to him.

“You’re such a blockhead, son,” he would later go on to say.

“You’re a blockhead, Chucky B,” all his ‘friends’ used to taunt, along with the rest of the bullies in school still never held accountable for what they did.

He showed his dad the new chopping block last evening.

He wasn’t going to be a blockhead anymore. Yes, mere moments ago, he was considering drowning himself in the toilet while waiting on Lucy. but that wasn’t going to happen. A lot of things people had planned for him weren’t going to happen and he was so aware of what they all had planned, including Chopin, who had now entered the room aiming the gun at him.

“Thinking of doing something with that, Chopin?”

“You ruined my life, Chuck Blue. It’s over.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way. I gave you a place to live. Who’s supporting while you wait on your disability to get approved?”

“I had dreams. I had talent. What did you have? Not even looks or even the slightest ambition to see past the horizon of failure. You really are a blockhead, and this is a mercy killing.”

Blockhead. Chopping block. What a wonderful name to go along with his new accessory; this would be his new name, the chopping block his calling, with the Great Pumpkin-Head an overlord of sorts. He could see the fiendish jack o’ lantern grinning in the rear window of the bathroom where, satisfactory with no one around, he’d scream…VENGANCE IS MINE!

“You’re guilty.”

Chuck Blue sighed; he plopped the rest of his candy bar in his mouth and chewed slowly.

Chopin stood there sweating and shaking, his entire body tense, concentrating on keeping his numb fingers along the triggers as he began to pull.

“Well, don’t you have anything to say?”

He raised himself from the floor and cleared his throat.

“Guilt’s a funny thing.”

He removed his shirt, spread out his arms and tilted his head back, thrusting out the star on his chest.

“Makes you believe things that aren’t there. Makes you take pity on those that wronged you for the wrong reasons even if something wasn’t your fault, something down the line enabled. I see that now and I’ve been wearing this invisible crown of thorns for the sinners around me because maybe, I’m just not of this world. Maybe I’m something beyond it.”

Chopin pulled the trigger…there was a click, followed by a clack and a tiny explosion made up of a series of sparks. The shooter stumbled holding his left eye, collapsing into the fetal position as if he were capable of willing himself back into the womb.

Something cold entered his side and splintered a rib, releasing a moist burning sensation. He rolled over but was unable to see his assailant standing over him due to his newly deadened eye.

“You blockhead,” he gasped.

“Yes, Blockhead and I can’t wait to introduce you to my new friend chopping block with the Great Pumpkin-Head watching over us.”

After this, Chuck Blue would wait for Lucy.

Childhood had ended.