|Sound but no picture
( This story was short-listed for RTEs Francis MacManus competition.)
God didn’t like Poindexter. At least he didn’t think he did. When God made others handsome, he made Poindexter smart. When God made others athletic, he made Poindexter smart. When God made others tall, he made Poindexter smart. All Poindexter wanted was to be tall handsome and athletic, but he was short, thin and wore wire-rimmed glasses.
At fourteen when God was giving girls breasts he gave Poindexter acne and braces.
Poindexter was the fifth in the continuous lines of Poindexters in the family. The first was killed at Verdun. The second met his end at Dunkirk. His great grandfather served in Kenya against the Mau Mau. No one was sure if he was killed or not he just disappeared one day. The military classified him missing, presumed dead. Poindexter figured he just deserted and was living happily under an assumed name. After all who wanted to be stuck for sixty or seventy years with the name Poindexter. Poindexter’s father never made it back from the Gulf War. Poindexter vowed that as soon as he was old enough to make decisions for himself that, if he ever got married he would never name his son Poindexter and he would never join the military.
Poindexter felt there were two lessons his family hadn’t learned in the past hundred years, not to join the military, and not to name their male offspring Poindexter. The combination of both caused the untimely death of all concerned.
And, if Poindexter not having a father wasn’t enough for God to smite him with, a mother, a grandmother and two aunts brought him up. His mother never even looked at another man so there was no chance of a stepfather. “You’re all the man I need,” she often said.
Every morning his mother kissed him on the forehead before he went to school. “Be good. And for my sake Poindexter, if you can’t be good, be careful. I’ve lost your father, and I don’t want to loose you too.”
Then it was his grandmother’s turn, on the nose. “Have a nice day Poindexter.”
His cheeks were the property of his two aunts. “Your such a handsome lad,” Aunt Olive said. “Just like your father,” Aunt Agatha replied and they planted simultaneous big sloppy kisses on his cheeks. After all that kissing was giving his face nappy rash as well as acne.
The women decided that Poindexter’s overbite needed to be corrected, and of course that required braces.
His mother pinched his cheek. “You are Dex, well you almost are. And in a year you will be. A year with braces isn’t long for the perfect smile, is it? It’s only twelve months.”
“Mother it is three hundred and sixty five days.” And then, he remembered, that it was a Leap year. What else could God throw at him.
He looked at himself in the mirror. The braces seemed enormous to him. He felt they were as big as bull bars on the front of a truck. With his luck he would probably run head first into a deer, or worse a kangaroo.
The day after got his braces was hell for Poindexter. The girls teased him at school. And the bullies decided to take pity on him and only hit him in the arm, and not in the face.
“If we punch you in the mouth,” one said, “they’ll probably just replace those braces and find another way to fix your teeth. And we don’t want to do anything to ruin that stupid look of yours.”
Dex hid in the loo for twenty minutes after school let out. He knew he would be found in the boy’s so he had to hide in the girl’s. He heard through the wall the boys being searched by the school bullies. The girl’s loo was a good choice. He found a locked stall that had an ‘Out of order – do not use’ sign on it. Dex crawled under and stood crouched down on top of the toilet so his feet wouldn’t be seen by anyone peering underneath. He heard the door open. He held his breath. Someone was walking down the line of stalls and pushing the doors open. They pushed on the door of the stall he was hiding in but it was locked from the inside.
“He’s not in here,” he heard a female voice say.
Then she was gone and his foot slipped off the seat into the toilet. .
After escaping he turned left after exiting the school and saw one of Ainsley Cassidy’s gang walking parallel to him across the road. Ainsley was a name as bad as Poindexter but Ainsley was tall, handsome and athletic and insisted everyone call him Butch. Anyone who didn’t got thumped, hard.
As Poindexter walked along, he noticed that another of Butch’s gang joined the first, which soon became three and increased as they walked to the bus stop.
He turned the corner and bumped into Angelo Rossi of a rival school clique. Angelo didn’t take kindly to being bumped into. He grabbed Poindexter’s shirt with one hand and drew back his fist. “Are you in love with me,” he snarled, “cause I’m not in love with you. So don’t bump into me, again, ever.”
“Don’t you touch him,” Butch yelled from across the street.
“What, are you protecting him now,” Angelo yelled back? “Is he one of your lackies now?”
“No! But nobody thumps Poindexter except me.”
Butch crossed the street and squared up to Angelo. Poindexter couldn’t believe it. It was all a blur. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, screaming and yelling. Poindexter never saw who threw the first blow. But he couldn’t believe it. The two biggest bullies in the school were thumping each other for the right to thump him. He didn’t need to wait around to see who won. He decided to beat a hasty retreat. As he turned to run he tripped over his own feet falling heavily cracking his jaw hard on the pavement. He felt a bit woozy and thought he heard voices for a second. He shook his head to clear it and got up and ran to the bus stop. He reached the bus before the thugs could catch him.
“Tomorrow’s another day Poindexter,” someone yelled aftert him.
He got off the bus and rambled through the streets of the estate to his house. He heard someone moaning. “Ohhhhhh.” He stopped and listened closely. He thought someone was hurt. The moaning continued and he realised t was a woman. “Ohhhh.” Then, he heard a man moaning, rising in pitch with the woman’s. ”Ohhhhh.” Were they were having sex, Poindexter wondered? Being at that curious age he looked around to see where the voices were coming from. He wanted to see what was going on, if only to satisfy his curiosity. He looked at the nearest houses and peered over the back fences but could see nothing. But the moaning still continued.
“Liebling,” he heard the man say. The woman answered. She was nearly breathless. “Liebshen.” Then the moaning continued. Poindexter knew it was something foreign but didn’t know what it meant. No foreigners lived on the estate that he knew of. The sounds continued all the way home. He wondered if the couple had a loudspeaker in their home and had accidentally switched it on. The sounds stopped as soon as he entered his house.
“Mom, have any foreigners moved into the estate?”
She thought for a moment. Then she shook her head. “No dear, not that I know. Why?”
“I think that’s German. It sure sounded German.”
The next day the sounds started as soon as Poindexter walked out of his house and continued as long as he was outdoors, but stopped in buses and buildings. He checked a German dictionary at school but couldn’t find any of the words. Not that there were many words, mostly moaning, screaming and panting, the universal language of lust.
Being a warm spring, the windows in the classroom were open. Poindexter thought that it was strange that the sounds continued only when he sat near the open windows.
He finally realised that for some reason he was picking up a porn channel, a foreign porn channel, the audio portion. It must be the braces acting as an antenna or receiver, or the bang he got yesterday. He wondered how he could get the video portion.
He talked to some of the school’s audio-visual geeks. Trying to explain in a round about way what he thought was going on. They had no idea how to get the pictures. Neither did the computer geeks; even with the promise of money and a chance to view the pictures if they could figure a way get them. He even told them he would forego the audio if only he could see what was going on.
As he sat through a double period of history he was convinced that God hated him. He had given him private access to a porn channel but only the audio not the video and it was driving him crazy. If he couldn’t see what was going on then he wanted it to stop. If a bump on the head had started all this maybe another could stop it.
After school he sought out both Butch and Angelo. They would be the best way to give his head a jolt. He didn’t have the courage to run into a building or the back of a bus. “Thump me,” he begged.
Butch just pushed him away. “You’ll get thumped when I want to thump you, not when you ask to get thumped.”
Angelo just laughed and called him a nutter.
Poindexter suffered through the sounds for a week. He never went out after school. He just stayed in his room. His mother wondered what was going on. She asked him what was wrong but what could he say. He was too embarrassed to fully explain, pointing to his mouth. But he was too embarrassed to fully explain. He just pointed to his mouth, but couldn’t explain anything.
She took him to get his braces adjusted. After a bit of tweaking Poindexter could now hear the audio, much clearly now, and he could hear it indoors. God really didn’t like Poindexter.