the story of the time i killed The Three Boys.


What do you mean you don't drink? You have to drink. I pour shot after shot. Let me tell you about life says the youngest one doing an impression of me. A man should be able to do three things: Take a punch. Throw a punch. Hold his liquor. We laugh all night and hardest when one of them pukes. It's ok man, everybody pukes. The sun is rising. Birds are singing. We fall asleep making plans to get fucked up again.

The Birthday Girl is upset that her friend isn't there yet. Nobody knows it, but we're thirty seconds out from Bad News. Or maybe we all know, because we're making the best of those thirty seconds: laughter, arguments about the song I chose, and dirty jokes about why The Birthday Girl's friend is late.

You're horrible, she's not like that. I know. I used to have a thing for her you know. Yeah, everybody knows. She hates me though. She doesn't hate you. No, no, it's cool she hates me. You do too.

For the record, you two were right to hate me. I'm dangerous and not in the romantic way: A thief that sold poison to your friends. The kind of guy who would lay hands for any reason, or for no reason. We didn't ha-

Time's up.

Here comes The Birthday Girl's friend. Her hair is matted. Her face is wet and bitter as the beer on my lips. The Birthday Girl leads her down the hall.

Lets don't tell anyone anything is wrong.

Hey, where's The Birthday Girl? I turn up the music. Don't worry about it. Have a beer. Dance. Have some fun for once in your life.

The Birthday Girl comes back out and takes me by the hand. I stop in the doorway. The Three Boys stop behind me. The Birthday Girl's friend is sitting on the bed staring at the floor through the space between her knees. She is-

Shaking. Shaking. Shaking.

Really I'm lucky when you think about it. It could have been much worse.

Nobody knows who she is talking to.

The Birthday Girl gives me an address and I'm off to go see about Bad News. The Three Boys file out behind me. They are always behind me.

There are five of us in the car. Four of us are telling lies. The closer we get to nowhere the less convincing the lies seem.

How do you know about this place, again? Man, you don't want know.


Out of the car cocksucker.

The three boys push him to the earth. They're kicking so hard one of them breaks a toe. And they are laughing just like that night we all got drunk. And they are looking up at me in between blows.

You know you have this coming.

I know.

He is so much smaller than me that it's hard for him to breathe.

I swing for the fences until my knuckles break. There's so much blood. The Three Boys are all still laughing but it's nervous now.

Let me tell you about life. A man should be able to do three things: Take a punch. Throw a punch. Hold his liquor. We laugh all night-

Hold him down. What are you going to do? Just hold him down.

-and hardest when one of them pukes, It's ok man, everybody pukes,

The Three Boys shove him in the back seat and pile in next to him, except for the boy who smells like puke. I fuck back there man, and you're covered in puke, that means you've got shotgun.

We pull back into town some time later. Bad News is pale and nursing a broken arm. If you go to the cops, if you even tell anybody- I won't. I've got friends you don't want to meet. I know. Tell her I'm sorry, tell her- I'm not telling her shit. Put it in a note if you have to, but leave her alone. The car door shuts.

Tonight didn't happen. He nods. The car rolls away and my pager goes off. Find a phone, man.

Did you take care of it? Yeah, that book is closed. Come by my house then. On our way. I hang up with my finger, three times and fast, before checking the slot. I hold its contents up in the moonlight. Got my quarter back! We all laugh as we pile back into the car.

The Birthday Girl takes me into the bathroom. I'm covered in dirt and blood. She takes a warm wash cloth and tries to wipe me clean. In the hall outside her bedroom she kisses me.

Tonight didn't happen, ok? I nod.

In her bedroom she gets loud. One of The Three Boys yells out: That's why you're the fucking man! The Birthday Girl laughs. They love you. I know.

Some birthdays later I get into an argument with the boy who puked over the matter of some heroin.

Why won't you help me out with this? Because you take the shit too far.

A man should be able to do three things: Take a punch. Throw a punch. Hold his liquor.

Three days later he's dopesick in the back of my car while I drive around trying to find something to help him take the edge off.
We lose touch.

And wouldn't you fucking know it, it's The Birthday Girl who tells me he OD'd. Let me write down the address. I'm not going. He loved you. I know, that's why I'm not going.

A few years after that The Birthday Girl and I are catching up over a cup of coffee when we hear the news. He thought the place was empty. The guy must have scared the shit out of him and the gun went off. How much time did he get? Fucking, all of it, man, all of it.

I wrote him once, but he never wrote back. I don't blame him.
Have you heard? No, what? His mother found him. Suicide, they're saying. Can you fucking imagine? Oh Jesus, I'm so sorry, I know you were like brothers. When's the funeral? Thursday. You want company? I'm not going. You can't keep doing this to yourself. I didn't to anything to myself, that's the fucking thing of it. I did it to them. They were grown men you can't- They were just, you know, just The Three Boys when I met them. Where are you? The Apartment. I'm coming over.

In my room The Birthday Girl starts to get loud. This must be why I'm the fucking man.

Tonight never happened. Imagine if that could be true? I'd miss your body making love to mine, but The Three Boys would still be alive. You don't know that. Yes I do. The Birthday Girl lays her head on my heart and I imagine that it isn't beating, not that I'm dead, just that it isn't beating.

You didn't kill them. Yes I did.

Brian Shaughnessy