Short Fiction - Dent Says

Benjamin Britworth

The sun sweltered high in the sky, pouring mid-afternoon heat onto a great expanse of crispy parkland. Trees oozed sap, and their leaves burnt brown, while the park's flowers shriveled and died. People wilted in the heat, roasting themselves on the mottled grass without a care. The only movement came from a couple of kids, who listlessly kicked a football. Their hearts were elsewhere, their dreams turned to ice cream and pools.
Sat in the shade, watching the park's goings on, were two boys - not men. Their eyes fixed on the ground and their mouths downturned in frowns. The sunshine baked their expressions, frying their thoughts in their skulls. Something untoward had happened in their clumsy lives; the same something that had caused them to meet. Nobody was near the boys, nobody of any significance at-least. After a long pause – followed by a callous huff – one of them spoke.
“I don't like it. Not one bit,” he muttered. His name was Dent. His bushy eyebrows shuffled with his words. Though dim-witted in appearance he carried rich expression.
“You don't like what?” his friend, Will, replied. Will was the lesser of the pair, in physical form at-least. Somewhat a specter he was a guiding wing man to Dent's whims.
Dent chuffed, brushing sweaty hair from his eyes, “I don't like the whole stinking mess, that's what! It ain't right.”
“Oh,” Will nodded, tittering – It was not a happy laugh, rather an uncomfortably shallow sound.
Dent hacked a wad of spit onto the dusty tarmac, turning it a mucky shade of brown. “It just makes me sick to the back of my teeth knowing the truth. Knowing about that witch. Knowing what she did.”
“I can see that,” Will replied, a man of many words.
“Yer, that's right and all,” Dent said, agreeing with himself, See now, what do you think we should do about it? What should I do, Will?” 
After a significant pause Will responded, “Do what you think is correct.”
Correct, eh? 'Correct' is a very particular word, a word that can be construed with significant subtly. It is a word as wide as a jack-knifed grin.
Dent rubbed the stubble on his chin, “What I think is correct? Huh...”
He squinted up at the sun, sweat beads clung to his forehead. He was feeling the heat. With a sudden jab of one finger he leered over Will. His menacing features filled Will's vision with malice, “You know what I think is correct, huh?! I think we should kill'er! Kill the witch! Kill the conniving worm for what she did and put several fat, dirty holes in her chest!... That's what I think.” He turned away, the pressure getting to him. Labored breath matched his heaving back.
A nearby bird muttered a whistle before falling quiet.
Will questioned, “But you won't, will you?”
“I won't what, kill'er?” Dent replied. His hands conducted along with the words, knotting and breaking as he fumed.
“Exactly. You won't kill her. You just want her to know what she did was unacceptable, right?”
“Right?...” Dent said, but appeared confused.
“Well, why not teach her a lesson.”
“Really, Will? You want to do something that simple to her; just teach her a lesson after the evil she pulled?”
“Yer,” Will replied, honest.
“I don't know... I don't think a lesson teaching is harsh enough. I think she deserves worse.”
Will's voice was far away, almost as though he were somewhere else entirely, “If I thought you'd have the guts to give it to her I'd be standing right alongside you. I'll always stand by you. But you don't. Plain and simple. You're too kind, and you still love her.”
“Still love her...” Dent mulled, “Could I truly still love her after how she behaved? You know the seriousness of what she done. It wasn't like she'd just slept around, no, an-eye-for-an-eye is what the bible says and an-eye-for-an-eye is what I should take.”
“That would be a strong action, Dent, too strong for you. Saying that, could you honestly do the correct thing? I seriously doubt it. No, the most I see you doing is what I've suggested. Teach her a lesson. Even doing that you'll feel the hurt long before she does and you'll stop. You'll pull back, inadvertently let her attack you, and she will win.”
“Oh, and what makes you think teachin' her a lesson will be any different? What makes you think I could handle that, especially seeing as you think I can't strike her out, eh?”
“It's a matter of principle. Teaching her a lesson will settle more easily than murder.”
“You think?”
“Certain of it,” Will replied.
“Let's do it then,” Dent said, and stood.
He stretched his hands to the sky, knotting his fingers and pressing his palms away. Twisting his head, it rung an audible crack.
“You shouldn't do that, it's bad for you,” Will said, casually checking his phone for messages.
“Funny, it feels good to get the knots out. How can something that feels good be bad?” Dent said, and started to walk.
Will drifted alongside him like a ghost, his form faint. On putting his phone back in his pocket he said, “Something feeling good and something doing good are often very different.”
“I'll say,” Dent voiced, “She felt good for a long time before this all blew up around us.”
“I told you, you still love her,” Will replied, his tone glimmering with a mocking undercurrent.
Dent rounded on him, “I don't! Stop saying that. It's not true. It's a lie... It can't be true. I can't love her after she screwed up so bad. She's evil.”
“Don't you mean 'won't' - You won't love her after she screwed up so badly?”
Dent contorted through several bleak emotions before he said, “Whatever smart-arse. Come-on, let's keep going.”
He swiveled away and walk off along the path. Will followed slightly behind and to the side. He was pushing his luck and he knew it.
The dust licked their trainers, little clouds of the gritty-stuff puffing up around the bottoms of their shoes. The thought of where they head held heavy and they were quiet for a time. By the park gates the two boys squeezed round an ice cream van handing out choco-pop lollies to an array of small children. The tinkle of the van's music ground in the Dent's ears and he winced at a particularly high note. Without stopping to listen the two passed onward. Soon the park faded and they approached the center of town. All around mothers were out with buggies, perambulating along the pavements. All had mobile phones glued to one hand with the other clutched on pram handlebars.
Dent's expression was one of brooding fire as he observed these women. A hissing snarl escaped his lips and he said, “That's what could have been.”
Will responded from a dream. “Could have...” he said and watched a fly circulate his hand.
The fire buried in Dent erupted into volcanic rage as he swept round to face Will, “Stop taking the micky, mate. Seriously! It's starting to grate with me.”
Will halted, narrowly avoiding bumping into Dent's chest. “Taking the mick?” He blustered.
“Yer, mocking me like. It's been hard enough and you know it.”
“Not everybody is out to get you, Dent.”
“-So, some people are?” Dent spat through gritted teeth.
“Some people are what?”
“Out to get me?!”
Will looked taken aback before saying, “Don't be stupid. I merely meant that I'm on your side. I agree with you. I agree with what you're doing.”
“Oh yer? Don't feel like it. It feels like you're against me. Like she was.” Dent towered over him, his face red and anguished. 
Will was non-responsive, he didn't even blink. The pair stood-off, face-to-face, nose-to-nose. One of the mothers wandered past and gave Dent a turned-up look of disgust.
Dent broke away and punched his own fist. “Sorry... I'm jus' angry,” he croaked in a hoarse whisper.
“That's fine. I understand,” Will replied.
“Come-on,” Dent said with a wave of one hand, and the pair moved through the town center and out the other side.
Dent puffed with the effort, not of walking but of anger. Will didn't even break a sweat. The presence of other people faded away as they entered a more suburban area of the town. Quiet, leafy lanes stretched off in all directions. Dent made his way on, treading a route he knew well.
A significant enough time passed since Dent's angry outburst, so Will risked a conversation, “This'll be the first time you've seen her then... Since she-”
“You haven't spoken to her since-”
“No,” he grunted.
“Oh. I see,” Will replied, continuing to pace along.
Recognising the anger that fumed through Dent he decided to hold of his tongue of further words.
The two boys took a right and turned down a small alleyway. Honeysuckle and creepers lined the slatted fences to ether side and a grossly sweet smell taunted their nostrils. A bee buzzed, launching from one of the flowers. It made its way across Dent's path and he swiped viciously at it. The bee grumbled before flying away.
“She doesn't know you're planning on coming, does she?” Will muttered.
“I don't know how-in-the-hell she would. Not unless she's got magic powers or something.”
Dent halted to peer over a fence. Will stood idle, watching the wildlife.
“She's in,” Dent said with a lick of his lips.
“So you're actually doing this-?”
“Course I am.”
“Just checking.”
A few seconds passed. Nether boy moved.
“Any time you like...” Will said.
Dent responded with a wave of one hand, “Give me a minute, darn it.”
He breathed deep.
“It's okay if you don't want to-”
“I said 'give me a minute,' didn't I?! I need to steel myself.”
“Fair enough,” Will answered.
A minute passed. A dog barked. Another minute.
Will tutted a tune, the sound coming out as a whistled squeak.
Finally, unexpectedly, and with a heavy sigh, Dent crumpled with his back against the fence. His hands rose to his face and sobs escaped his lips.
“I can't do it... I can't...” he cried.
Will said nothing. Will was silent, and stiff, and far away.
With each sob Dent seemed to shrink in on himself. He wailed and sniffed and heaved.
“Why... Why did she have to do it?! It could have been such a beautiful thing.... Such a waste. Such a stupid waste.”
“It was her choice to make,” Will muttered.
Dent raised his head. His eyes were red with salt and his nose was slick with snot. He howled, “Yer, nothing to do with me, was it? Not a damn thing to do with me. She didn't even ask. I didn't know until the sick deed had been done.”
“...The correct thing to do?”
Dent continued to cry. The dry leaves rustled in the trees.
From the other side of the fence another person could be heard. A female sob. She was crying too.

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