Jimmy Lay in Pieces

“Is it A, B, C, D, E, E.” The girl jumping rope turned around to the distraction emerging from the other side of the park.

A young boy with shaggy brown hair flopped everywhere as he hurtled toward the general congregation of campers. The girls jumping rope stopped to stare at the boy as he stumbled over his feet. The boy bent over panting, his face red and sweaty from the summer heat. Sounds erupted as the children began to play again, ignoring the shouting from the boy.

“Dead,” the boy shouted out through gasps with hands bracing his knees to stay upright. “You guys have to come look at this. Tommy and me just ran from it. You got to see this.” He stood up patting his hair with one hand and pointing toward the woods with the other. As he pointed, he looked around for the other boy.

Campers weren’t allowed to go into the woods without a counselor, but there were always some campers who sneaked there alone. The trees weren’t dense and the wooded area didn’t lead anywhere. But it was secluded. Making it as good a place for kids to feel mischievous disregarding rules, as well as safe.

The shaggy haired boy reached through the spinning jump rope grabbing the girl’s arm. Her high ponytail whipped around letting gravity take hold of her black hair as she stumbled forward. She let out a yelp as she rubbed her bruising arm and looked to the two girls who spun the rope now resting on the ground. Both girls averted their eyes, but didn’t wander off to the other campers playing cards on the bench nearby.

She placed her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to one side. “Is this the same story that has been going around camp all morning.”

The boy moved closer. Next to the black haired girl he was short and at least two years younger, but it didn’t stop him from hanging out with the older campers. Most thought of him as the annoying tag along, but he did no harm and was eager to please. A good little puppy doing their bidding. The older boys he idolized probably sent him back into the woods to see if the rumors were true. Maybe even set the whole thing up for a good laugh.

Black hair stung her face as she whipped her head to look to the basketball court on the other side of the park where the older boys hung out. Just short of pointing, the older boys stared at the shaggy haired boy. The girl could tell they were having a fit laughing at him. But the shaggy haired boy didn’t care. All that mattered was showing someone his find. It just waited in the woods.

“So are you going to come or what?” He said to the black haired girl and then glanced at her friends briefly. “You guys can come too.”

She smoothed her hair back and moved closer to the boy. His lips turned up from eye to eye as he turned to head to the back of the park. The path he took wasn’t direct. Instead, he weaved over through other campers and walked around the wooded area of the park. The park and the woods were separated by a pitiful stream that was dry more frequent than wet. All of their eyes darted from side to side looking for the blue or green shirts that would stop them from getting past.

They crept through the trees spotting the gap in the plants where a dirt path emerged. Footprints stood out in the mixture of dirt and clay. The boy gazed the area looking for counselors as the black haired girl dipped low into the ground, before rising on the other side. The other girls followed behind. As he started down the ditch his foot caught in the sticky clay.

“Where do you think you guys are going?”

“Girls.” The black haired girl corrected, her hand slipping back to her hip.

The blue shirted counselor walked over to the ditch watching the kids freeze in their tracks. The shaggy haired boy stopped and the chubby biy slammed into him, muttering apologies. A smacking noise echoed upward as the chub child landed on his knees. The counselor looked back at the chubby boy as he pulled himself up from the ground. “Are you alright? Be careful.” The counselor turned back to the campers heading into the woods. “You know you can’t go back into the woods without a counselor. Get back over to this side or I am gonna have to get you written up.”

“Come on,” The chubby boy urged from behind the counselor. “I haven’t been back there in ages.”

The counselor stared at the chubby boy then back at the other children. “Fine.” He turned around and headed back to the camp building.

“Where are you going? The trees are back there.”

“I need to let the red shirt know.” The counselor said hurrying back to the building. A shiver shot down the shaggy haired boy’s spine and the three girls just stared.

In minutes, the counselor was back with the kids on the other side of the stream. Mud stained the chubby boy’s shirt from needing help climbing up from the stream’s ditch. An empty baseball field rested off to the right. But the group turned off to the left. A thin trail of dirt among trees. Light shown down in every direction, breaking through the sparse canopy. The shaggy haired boy led the way followed by the girls.

“It is down this way. Over near the tree house.”

“That is not a tree house,” The counselor shouted from the back of the pack. “You guys shouldn’t be playing on that thing.”

The kids blazed forwards deeper into the trees climbing over a fallen comrade resting across the path. The black haired girl looked around at her surroundings as she eased her way through nature, making very sure not to get dirty. A near impossible feat, but she pulled it off rather well. “So what happened to this kid?”

Brown hair flopped up and down as the boy lead the way. His voice remained low as he tried to prevent it from drifting back to the counselors ears. “I heard Jimmy was this older kid. Fifteen or so and he always picked on this younger kid. Giving him a hard time, but he couldn’t stand up Jimmy like I could. He wasn’t brave. And every day Jimmy would take his money or make fun of him in front of his friends. Then the other day Jimmy rode past the kids house and taunted him again. But it was dusk and all the kid’s friends had already gone home. Jimmy pushed the kid and he fell to the ground. Then Jimmy jumped off his bike and kicked the kid. But he got up and pushed him back. Before the kid knew it, Jimmy was unconscious on the floor with blood dripping out his mouth.”

At that, the girls all let out their disgust, as the chubby boy had a look of unjust triumph on his face. The black haired girl pipped up. She stopped in her tracks looking at him. “Okay so the loser beat up the bully. Then what?”

A puff of dirt flew up into th air as the boy scuffed his sneaker against the ground. “Well its obvious then he went all nutso and chopped the kid up to hide the evidence.”

“Eww.” One of the blond girls said. “I don’t believe that happened.”

‘Well it did.” The boy said spinning around to the girl. She squealed at his sudden movement, but her face soured immediately after. “There is a dead kid out there, and I found him. So I think I know better than you.”

The trees had grown denser and the ground rose and fell irregularly. Plants reached out into the path and the black haired girl gently moved them aside with one hand before crossing.

“I bet I know why he was chopped up,” the chubby boy said not far from the counselor.

The other kids turned to the chubby boy. The black haired girl glared at him. “Keep your voice down idiot,” It came out in a hiss, barely audible.

The boy stammered and tried to collect himself. “Well I think the Jimmy kid must have been bothering someone and then when he got what was coming to him whoever did it had no idea what to do. He had to get rid of the body, so he chopped it up into pieces to move it. I saw it on something. Apparently carrying a whole body isn’t easy. But in pieces its easier.”

“Yuck.”

The black haired girl rolled her eyes annoyed by the chubby boy’s theories. He was moronic. And it didn’t help he was always attached to one counselor or another.

“What are you guys looking for back here anyway?”

“Nothing,” half the kids said in unison, while the rest stared at the counselor in silence.

He nodded and wiped the sap stuck to his hand on the edge of his blue shirt. Campers were always trying to sneak back into the woods and find something. He was one of them a few years back. With a friend he built the tree house kids now liked to rave about. Like everything at the camp, there were rumors. Now they were saying the tree house was made in the night by a scientist and it led to an underground lair. He thought it would be awesome, if it were true.

The counselor threw up his arm, stopping the rest of the campers, as the girl’s dark hair flailed in the wind.

“My brother told me this Jimmy kid tried to do a stunt to impress some older kids. A flip off the top of the jungle gym. He landed on his head instead of his feet. And that was that. Apparently the older kids watching didn’t realize he was dead, ’cause he spoke from the ground. He probably died during the night. Or so sicko came around and chopped him up. I don’t believe any of it though.”

“Then why are you coming to look?”

“To see all your stupid faces, when you see you’re wrong.”

The chubby boy cringed as her glare made it his way. She laughed and motioned for the shaggy haired boy to continue on his way. It didn’t take long before the boy started, almost running to the spot.

As the group got closer, the red couch sat alone. It rested in a mud covered ditch. Dingy red with dark patches and bleached splotches. It looked like it smelled. And it probably did. The boys inched closer as the counselor watched from a distance. He knew where they had been heading the whole time and the kids weren’t exactly quiet.

The dark haired girl kept her distance as the boys prodded the couch with sticks. One of the cushions tumbled to the ground kick up dirt before sticking to the mud below the couch. The boys gasped at the empty couch.

“I told you it wasn’t true.”

“There is still another cushion,” the boys said in unison. Brown hair flopped everywhere as he jumped down level with the couch.  He reached forward to the cushion, when there was a shout.

“Do not dare touch that. You’ll get diseased or something,” the counselor said as he moved forward to get the kids away from the couch.

“Check this out.”

“What?” The skittish girls said as they ran over to him behind the couch. The black haired girl crossed her arms and stood as close to the return trail as possible.

In the dirt behind the couch a thick liquid formed letters, ‘Jimmy Lay In Pieces’, in a semi circle. The kids stared transfixed.

“It’s time to go,” The counselor said, corralling the kids together. He shouted at the shaggy haired boy, just as he attempted to move the cushion again.

“No, We need to find more clues.”

“It was all just a big joke. Trying to trick kids like you. Now let’s go.”

The kid moved in a blur, grasping for the cushion, but the counselor was faster. Too fast to keep his balance and braced himself with the arm of the couch. “We are going back.”

Each of the kids moved back to the trail talking amongst themselves as the counselor climbed out of the ditch. He dusted himself off and watched the kids. He circled back to where the words were scrawled in the dirt. Glancing back at the kids, he stared at the roped off tree house a dark cloud loomed over. The kids continued to talk and explore as darkness consumed the world.

A few stars gleamed in the night sky. A soft voice emerged in the distance. It chattered away about benign topics but never stopping. Two dark shadows appeared on the trail, one large and one small. The voice grew clearer as the figures enlarged.

“Shut up.” The voice echoed through the wooded area bouncing off the trees. The small person cowered backward pausing in his tracks.

“What’s the matter dad?”

A phlegm filled cough came from the man, “Don’t call me that.”

“But mommy told me you are my daddy, and to call you that.”

“Your mother isn’t here anymore,” He said whirling around to face the kid. “And I am not your daddy.”

The boy’s head reared back to look up at the man. He ran after him as the man walked further away. There was a glint of silver reflecting the moonlight as he swung his arm out, blocking the boy from moving forward. The boy crumpled to the ground. A glint of light flashed through the woods again and again. “I told you to stop.”

Light began to flood through the canopy. The counselor looked from side to side, searching for where the crumpled boy was, but there was nothing. Ahead of him, the camp kids were looking back at the counselor waving him to come along.

“Just a minute. You can start down the path, but stay together.” He turned back to the red couch, sitting there innocently. The dirt kicked up into his nose as he dragged his foot along the message, leaving it a mess of dirt and gunk.