Charlie and the Golem Pt. 3

Image by Esther Chilcutt from Pixabay

Link to Pts. 1 and 2

Charlie was sitting in the school office when his mother arrived. She took one look at his puffy, just-beginning-to-swell eye and cheek and snapped, “What have you done?”

“I got in a fight,” Charlie mumbled.

“A fight,” she said, shaking her head. “We send you to this school to keep you out of things like fights and here you go, brawling all over the place.” She blew a strand of hair out of her face, a sign that Charlie knew meant her anger wasn’t for dramatic effect. It was real. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t his fault, that he was standing up for himself, but he knew better. When she was like this, there was only one suitable course of action: keep quiet and wait for her anger to die down. “I hope you’re happy,” she continued, “Your little free-for-all interrupted a very important afternoon at the club. I should be playing tennis with Mindy Galloway right now, but instead, I’m here dealing with your rotten behavior.” Before she could upbraid him any further, the school’s admin assistant spoke up.

“Ms. Bell, Principal Abbot will see you now.”

His mother, only just realizing anyone else was in the room, took a moment to collect herself and said, “Of course.”

Dead Ends

His mother’s mood didn’t improve on the ride home. If anything, it got worse, mostly because he’d gotten suspended for three days due to the fight because Garrett claimed that Charlie had started the whole thing by coming up and taking a swing at him. As stories go, it was laughable. But when someone like Brad Carrington vouches for you, that changes things. Charlie wound up suspended and his mother was predictably angry about that situation.

“Suspended, Charlie?” she said. “Seriously? What am I supposed to do with you for three days?”

“I’m sorry, Mom. It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.”

“Like what?”

“Lewis said if you stand up to bullies, they’ll stop,” Charlie said. “But, I guess he was wrong,” he added ruefully.

Cassie puffed at the strand of hair again and said, “He told you that?” Charlie nodded. “Great,” she said. “Something else I have to handle.”

Charlie, realizing that he’d gotten Lewis in trouble, said, “He was just trying to help, Mom.”

“Some help,” she said. “He should have told you to talk to an adult and let them handle it.”

“I did,” Charlie protested. “I told adults a bunch of times and none of them did anything!”

“Seriously?” she said, a hint of disbelief creeping into her voice. “Not one adult took any action on this?”

“No,” he said, flatly.

“Why?” she asked. “Why would they ignore this?”

“Because it’s Brad and Garrett and they get to do whatever they want.”

“Well, that’s still no reason to go around starting fights.”

“I didn’t start it, Mom!” Charlie said. “They did.”

“Whatever, Charlie,” Cassie said. “We’re done with this for now. Maybe I can get Marta to look after you without paying her more.” They spent the rest of the ride home in silence.

Nobody Ever Said Life Was Fair

“It’s not fair!” Charlie said, throwing the stick he’d been using to scratch at the ground. “I get suspended and those two jerks get nothing.” He sighed. “And, of course, Mom doesn’t believe me, because she never does.” He kicked at a root in front of him. “Worse, she treats me like a little kid who needs a babysitter!”

“That is rough,” said Adam. They were sitting on the creek bank in front of his shelter. Charlie had headed out here after his mom returned to the club, hoping to salvage her reputation.

“You should’ve heard her, saying I should have ‘talked to an adult’,” Charlie said, shaking his head. “Even after I said I had talked to adults and they didn’t do anything, she still blamed me.” He dug at a rock, buried in front of him. “God, I hate her.”

“I am sorry, Charlie,” the golem said. “If there is a way I can help, you know you only need to request it.”

“I know,” the boy said. “This wouldn’t be so hard if Brad and Garrett were getting punished, too.”

A crease appeared in the clay forming Adam’s brow. “I am confused,” the golem said. “How would that improve things?”

“I don’t know,” Charlie replied, tossing another stick. “It probably wouldn’t. But, they get away with everything. Just once, I wish they’d get in trouble, too.”

“Hmm,” the golem said. It picked up a stick, examined it, then threw it away, imitating its master.

Charlie sat there, stewing over the situation. Then, he perked up. “Hey!” he said. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we punish them?”

“We?” Adam said. “As in you and I?” Charlie nodded eagerly. “How would we do that?”

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll think of something.

Putting the Plan In Motion

Charlie stood on the bluffs overlooking the creek, scanning the horizon. He’d told Garrett to meet him here to continue their “discussion”. Only Garrett was late. Late enough, in fact, that Charlie wondered if he was being blown off. “God, I hope not,” he said.

“What?” Adam said from behind the rocks where it was crouched.

“I said I hope Garrett hasn’t decided to blow us off,” Charlie replied.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” said Adam. “We have spent so much time keeping my existence hidden, it feels strange to reveal it in this way.”

“Don’t worry,” Charlie said. “He’s not going to say anything.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because he’ll be so scared when he sees you probably crap himself. He won’t want anyone to know about that.”

“How will they know?” the golem said. “No one will be here to see it.”

“Because I’m going to get photos and blackmail him.”

“That doesn’t seem right.”

“Right?” Charlie snapped. “Was it ‘right’ that Garrett started the fight but I’m the one who got suspended? Was it ‘right’ all the times that Brad tore up my stuff or made me give them my lunch?” He shook his head, saying, “‘Right’ has nothing to do with this.” He paused a moment. “Even if he does say something, who’s going to believe him? Imagine the response he’d get talking about a 7-foot-tall guy made out of clay who can walk and talk. He’d get laughed at.”

“They believed him when he said you started the fight,” Adam said.

“That’s because Brad backed him up. Without his master, no one will buy a word of what he says.”

“Why?” Adam asked. Charlie could hear the puzzlement in its voice. The golem had learned a lot since Charlie made him, but things like lying were utterly foreign to it.

“Because Garrett lies. Like, all the time,” he said. “About stuff he doesn’t even need to lie about.”

“I do not understand,” Adam said.

“Me either,” Charlie said. “I mean, wh— Oh, we’ll have to talk about this later. He’s coming.”

Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Cold… Or Hot

“So, you didn’t get enough at school, huh?” Garrett said, dropping his backpack to the ground. “There’s nobody around to save you this time, you little maggot.” He took his school jacket off and laid it on his backpack. “This is gonna be fun.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Charlie said with a smirk. “Come on out, Adam.”

The golem rose from behind the rocks where he was hiding and stepped up beside Charlie. “You will not hurt my friend,” it said.

Garrett went pale, his jaw gaping and closing but no sound emanated from it. Charlie felt a thrill run through him like an electric current. After a moment, Garrett began stammering “Whu, whu, whu,” apparently unable to compose a coherent sentence. Charlie nudged Adam and the creature stepped forward.

“You will no longer harass Charlie, at school or anywhere else. Do you understand?”

This was too much for Garrett and he broke. Turning to flee from Charlie and his creation, he tripped over a rock and fell over the bluff’s edge. Charlie ran over and looked down, only to see Garrett lying almost 50 feet below. Something was off about the way his body was positioned and Charlie knew it wasn’t good. He and Adam made their way down to him using a nearby path. When they got to him, Charlie realized why his body looked so weird: Garrett’s neck was broken. He panicked and said, “We gotta get out of here.”

“Shouldn’t we help him?” Adam said.

“NO!” he yelled. “We have got to get out of here.”

Charlie lay in his bed that evening, thinking about what had happened. He thought he should feel sadness, even remorse. But he didn’t. He felt relieved. No, not relieved. Satisfied. Garrett was an asshole and bully and he got what was coming to him. He smiled to himself and turned out the light.

When a Shock Isn’t Really a Shock

At breakfast the next morning, Charlie walked into the kitchen. His mom and dad immediately stopped talking and looked at him. It freaked him out a bit and he said, “What?” They looked at each other for a moment before his dad spoke up.

“Um, I’ve got some news that might shock you a bit, kiddo.” Charlie hated when his father went all “dad mode”. It did not ring true. “So,” his dad continued, “One of your classmates didn’t come home last night. This morning, they found his body at the base of the bluffs. He, ah, he was… he was, well, dead.”

“What!?” he blurted out, hoping that it came out right. “Who was it?”

His mom looked at him for a moment, then said, “It was the boy you got into a fight with. What was his name, Gavin?”

“No,” he said, “Garrett.” He paused for just a beat. “Do they know what happened?”

“According to the report on the neighborhood website, it’s being looked at as a suicide,” his dad replied.

He wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he looked down, and just said, “Oh.”

His mom reached out and stroked his cheek. If his father’s “dad mode” act was hollow, his mother’s “good mom” schtick was laughable. He struggled to contain himself as she said, “Are you all right, sweetie?” Less than 24 hours ago, he was ruining her life. Now? He was “sweetie”. What a joke, he thought.

“Yeah,” he said, “I’ll be okay. It’s just… kind of a shock. You know?”

“Of course,” she said. “Now, sit down and I’ll make some breakfast.”

It’s Not Over

Later, after they’d gone their separate ways, Charlie was sitting with Adam, outside his shelter. “You should have been there, Adam. They were both in parent mode and it was wild. Mom even called me ‘sweetie’. She never does that.”

“And, what about Garrett?” the golem asked. “Do you think the note you left will work?”

“I think so. I mean, I used paper from his notebook and I can do a pretty good imitation of his handwriting.” He threw a rock toward the creek and heard the splash. “Everybody at school knows his home life is kind of messed up with his parents getting divorced and all, so people should believe it.”

“Well,” said Adam, “I am glad that is over.”

Charlie looked at him and said, “Oh, it’s not over.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean Brad’s still out there, being ‘Brad’. And, we’re going to do something about that.”

Another Heaping Helping of Revenge

Charlie was much more intentional this time. What happened to Garrett had an accident. A happy one, but an accident just the same. This time, however, would be on purpose. He took his time, gathering information and planning assiduously. And now, here they were, in the woods behind Brad’s house about to take care of him once and for all.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Adam said.

Charlie sighed. The golem had been hesitant about this from the moment Charlie had brought it up. “Yes,” he said, “For the fiftieth time, I’m sure.”

“It does not feel right, Charlie. We should not be breaking in. And, we definitely should not harm this boy.”

“Really?” Charlie snapped. “After all the times he’s ‘harmed’ me, don’t you think it’s time he got a taste of his own medicine?” The golem didn’t say anything. It just stood there. “We’re doing this, so get with me, okay?” Adam nodded.

They eased out of the trees and across the yard to the back door. Charlie, wearing a pair of gloves he’d brought, used a brick he’d found at the edge of the woods to break the glass pane closest to the lock. He reached inside and unlocked it, and they both slipped inside. Now, though, came the weak point in his plan: he didn’t know how to find Brad. He wasn’t sure of the home’s layout or where Brad might be. All they could do was look around and hope to get lucky.

Revenge Is Sweet, Hot, or Cold

Eventually, they did. They’d only been searching for a couple of minutes when they found Brad in the home’s theater, playing “Call of Duty”. He was so enthralled with the game that he didn’t know Charlie was there until Charlie reached over his shoulder and snatched the controller out of his hand.

“What the fu— What are you doing here?” he said, recognizing Charlie.

“Oh, we just came to visit,” Charlie said.

“We?” Brad said. “Who’s we? You’re alone.”

Charlie looked back over his shoulder and saw that the golem had ducked around a corner, out of sight. He sighed. “Will you come out?” Adam stepped into view.

Brad’s reaction to the reveal was even more satisfying than Garrett’s. All the blood rushed from his face and he staggered backwards. And, unlike his toady, he made a noise almost immediately. No gaping or stuttering for him. No, Brad screamed. A full-on scream of terror. Then, he tried to bolt past Charlie. But, that couldn’t allowed.

“Stop him!” Charlie shouted as Brad tried to run past Adam. The creature threw out a hand and caught the boy full in the face. Charlie could hear the bones crunch on impact and watch his nemesis fly backward, landing in a heap. It wasn’t how he’d planned it but that could be fixed. He walked over and knelt down beside Brad’s lifeless body. Drawing back a fist, he began to punch the boy who’d made his life hell over and over. He got in several good licks before Adam pulled him away. Brad’s face hadn’t looked great after catching Adam’s huge hand. Now, after Charlie’s blows, it was almost unrecognizable. He shook loose from the golem and said, “Let’s get out here.”

More Than They Bargained For

They hadn’t even made it halfway to the door when they turned a corner and ran into Brad’s mother and a young, very fit man. Both were in workout clothes. Everyone stopped short and each pair stared at the other for a few seconds. Charlie was the first to recover. “Take of them,” he told the golem. Adam nodded and smacked Brad’s mom on the side of her head and Charlie heard the same sickening crunch as when the creature hit Brad. As she slumped to the floor, the younger man tried to run, but Adam, moving with a speed Charlie had never seen before, caught him and broke his neck. Charlie and his creature stood there for a moment, surveying the bodies. Then, without a word, they both made their way out of the house and home.

Things Take a Dark Turn

The next day, they were once again sitting in front of Adam’s shelter. Charlie angrily threw rocks, sticks, and whatever else came to hand towards the creek. After a few minutes, Adam said, “What is wrong, Charlie?”

“They fired him!” Charlie said. “They actually fired him! God, I hate them so much.”

“Who was fired?” Adam said. “And, who do you hate so much?”

“My parents fired Lewis, the only person who ever gave a crap about me,” Charlie said. “Well, except for my grandparents.” After a beat, he added, “And, you.”

The golem nodded. “I see,” it said. “Why did they fire him?”

“They blame him for me getting suspended,” Charlie said. “Mom said it never would have happened if he hadn’t told me to stand up for myself.” He stripped the leaves off of a small branch. “She said his ‘ignorant advice’ had undone all the work she’d done to improve our social standing.” He looked over at his creation, tears forming. “Can you believe that? She’s more worried about how she looks than what her own kid is dealing with.” He threw the stick toward the water as hard as he could. “And, Dad agreed.” He shook his head. “God, they suck.”

“I am sorry you are feeling bad,” Adam said. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Yeah,” Charlie said, his voice devoid of emotion. “There is definitely something you can do.”

Adam’s Moral Side Makes an Inconvenient Appearance

It was midnight. Charlie, having checked that both his parents were asleep, flicked the back porch light off and on three times. He watched the treeline behind his home for a few seconds before he saw Adam emerge. The golem slowly made its way up to the house, keeping to the shadows as much as possible. After a moment, Adam appeared at the door. Charlie let it in. “It took you long enough,” he said.

“I am sorry,” Adam replied. “I thought it best if no one saw me.”

Charlie felt bad about his remark. “Yeah, I know. And, I appreciate it. I’m just jumpy, that’s all.”

“Are you sure we should do this?” the golem said. “We have much blood on our hands already.”

Charlie looked at it for a moment, incredulous. Was this mound of clay actually questioning him? Well, he could fix that. “Yes, we should. My parents have screwed me over so many times. It’s about time they paid for that.”

“But, Charlie,” Adam said, “Killing your parents? That is… terrible. Where will we go? What will become of me?”

“I’ll go live with my grandparents,” he said. “And, you’ll come with me.”

Adam stood silently for a moment before saying, “No. I will not do this. It is wrong.”

“Wrong?” Charlie said. “What, now you’ve got morals? Seriously?”

“I did not want to do the things we have already done but I believed that they were necessary to protect you. But, this?” the golem said, waving its hand toward the bedroom. “This is not necessary.”

Charlie’s anger seethed. “Look, you huge lump of mud. I control you. You do my bidding, not the other way around.” He looked at Adam for a moment. “I made you and I can end you. All it would take is for me to smudge that aleph on your forehead. Now, come on and do your damn job.” He turned and headed toward the room where his parents were sleeping.

An Extremely Unfortunate Ending

They hunkered in the master bath connected to his mother and father’s bedroom. Charlie eased the door open and peeped through. They were still there, dead to the world. They had drunk even more heavily than usual that night, which Charlie took as a sign that all this was preordained. He looked back at Adam. “Okay,” he whispered. “Get ’em.”

The golem shook its head. “No, I cannot. I will not.”

“Fine,” Charlie hissed, “I’ll do it myself.” He hefted the golf club he’d taken from his father’s bag in case Adam needed help and moved to open the door. The golem, hoping to stop the boy, reached and attempted to grab his shoulder. Instead, it caught Charlie’s neck and snapped it. The boy fell to the floor, limp and lifeless. Adam, realizing what had just happened, turned to the mirror over the sink. It flipped on the light and considered its reflection for a moment. Then, it reached up and with its large thumb slowly rubbed out the aleph on its forehead.

If you are the subject of bullying, here’s a site with some resources