Today, we welcome “Mercy” by Carla Diaz to our New Voices catalog. “Mercy” follows William, a young boy desperate to gain the approval of a group of viscous schoolkids he calls his friends. What abuse is he willing to suffer through, and what abuse is he willing to dole out? Read on.
“I knew what they wanted. I, too, had wanted it. Because of that, it was easy to hand it to them. It was easy to let my body give in—do the movements they so badly wanted to see. So I dropped my jaw, unfurled a slackness across my face. I brought a hand to my chest, let it flop over like a dead fish and wagged it around, slapping my thumb against my body.”
The Pottingers lived next door to us for years, but it took until seventh grade—those carpools home from soccer games—for our moms to realize they needed each other. They tried to make friends by making us friends. “Such a nice boy,” my mother said absently, searching her purse for a Rolaid. We were staked out in the car again.
We dropped Mickey off at home after our scrimmages. Each time, he shut the door looking apologetic for having to slam something, then made his slow-dash toward the house—a flash of his green jersey disappearing into a mudroom. It was a horrible sight: his forward-thrusting hips, drawn-back shoulders, spine resting slightly on the air behind him as if his upper half was in a recliner. Coach put him on defense on account of what we called his idiot feet. One time he got possession of the ball, dribbled it down the field in the wrong direction and scored. The other team cheered, coach threw his clipboard, and after the game, we yanked his pants down in the locker room and took turns whipping him with towels. From then on Mickey spent games getting shoved face-first into the mud. We might have stopped if it seemed like he minded, but he didn’t. Mostly, Mickey laughed and went along.
“A very nice boy,” my mother said again. Who cared if he was nice? She told me not to be fresh and we both peered inside and waited. It was a known fact that Mickey had a disabled brother, Jared. He went to a school that was a ways away and could accommodate his needs. My mother told me this one day as she drummed her fingers on the steering wheel, and I wondered what Jared’s school was like—if they covered the same chapters in History and if they even had a soccer team. I wondered these things every time we dropped off Mickey, every time my mother and I waited in the car for Mrs. Pottinger to come out and say hello. And the two of us would sit there quietly as I squinted into the dark windows of their house, hoping to see something shocking.