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Retribution


by Foster Trecost


The soft couch encouraged recollection. Johnson faced upward, and also his past.

“What'd you do next?” The Asker had a thick beard, greyed to the tips.

"It was supposed to be a joke, we were just kids. We took him in the woods behind the school. He tried to fight but he was too small. We made him hug a tree and then tied his hands together.”

“How many were there?”

“Five.  

“Five against one?”

“We didn't see it that way. We had a slingshot. Nothing fancy, just something we made.”

“But it worked?”

“Yes, it worked. We took turns with it. After each round, we moved a few feet back. We got so far away, everyone missed but me. I was the winner.”

“Did you feel like a winner?”

“Yes.”

“Do you still?”

A nostalgic smile graced his face and then melted away, but not before it was seen. “No.”

“Well, that's something, that's progress.” The Asker took his glasses and placed them on a desk, then pinched the part of his nose positioned between his eyes. The memories were difficult, also for him, especially for him. “Do the ropes hurt your wrists?”

“Yes.”

“As much as they hurt his?”

“I don't know.”

“Then what, after you won?”

“We walked back to him. He was bleeding everywhere, his back, his neck, but he wasn't crying, and that scared us more than the blood. I couldn't understand why he wasn't crying. I thought you were dead.”

“He!” yelled the Asker. “You thought he was dead.”

“Yes, he. I thought he was dead.”

The Asker fell silent; he saw no need for further questions. He opened a drawer and pulled out a slingshot. 

The first caught him on the temple, the one after, his cheek. He wondered how many more there would be, how many more he could take. While waiting for the next, he understood something all these years later: full with fear and humiliation, as much as he wanted, he also could not cry, not even a single tear.

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