I’m the bird that cleans the crocodile’s teeth, hanging with Buddy Boggs, the school bully. Mom says bullies are just kids who feel ashamed and inadequate, like if they’re bullied by their dads, but even Mom gets creepy feelings when Buddy comes over. One morning he ate all the cooked chicken we were going to have for supper.
“You can’t take things from our refrigerator without getting my permission,” she told him. “Yeah, but I just did, didn’t I?” he said back to her. He’s bigger than the two of us together. Anyway, we’re going to have a Halloween party in his basement on Saturday, a few days before Trick or Treat. His idea.
“Get some blood on those cheesy costumes, right, Raj?” He’s going as a butcher. I’m a cat, a costume Mom made me, and I’ve worn for three years. We invited about thirty kids from our class and neighborhood. Most of them said they might come, cause they didn’t want a Buddy ear twist.
Only my other friend, Dev, a Wookiee, and a seven-year-old girl, Nita, a princess, who just moved in next door to Buddy, showed up.
“Cool beans,” he whispered. “I’ll chop her up with my cleaver.” He brandished his cardboard cleaver with red magic marker for blood.
“That’s not funny,” I told him behind my hand. “Don’t scare her.”
He slapped the back of my head. “Bad kitty! See? That‘s funny.”
His teenaged stepsister got us started with Witch Hat Ring Toss and left the four of us alone. Buddy scored a point by moving his foot way past the line.
“Cheater,” Dev taunted. Buddy gave him an ear twist until he was kneeling in pain. “Don’t piss me off,” Buddy told us. “I’ll get out my stepdad’s real cleaver. In that blue tool chest.”
“Don’t, Buddy,” I told him. “I’ll go home.”
“Nobody’s going to leave my party until midnight when the flesh-eating demons fly in.”
“I have to be home by 8:00,” Nita said, “but I want to see the demons.”
“Okay, you can leave at 8:00, but if you have the least points when I win, you’re pork chops.” He whacked each of us with his cardboard cleaver.
Nita got to ten points before Buddy, the rest of us a point or two behind.
“Okay, Nita. You’re pork chops. Chop chop!” He turned out the lights. We could hear him fumbling with the toolbox. “Where’s Nita?” he said in a scary voice. “Where’s Nita?” We heard Buddy stumble into a lamp, which crashed to the floor near us. Nita screamed. “UhOh,” he said. “Dad’s gonna kill me.” He turned on the lights and told her, “I was kidding about the cleaver…”
“I know,” she said, grinning. “Let’s do it again.”
Just then we heard an angry, drunk monster upstairs roar, “Buddy, get your ass up here.” I’ve never seen a bully so scared. He unplugged the remaining lamp, finger to his lips. “Quick, everyone, hide. HIDE!”