My neighbor had a potato-shaped head and saggy skin beneath his eyes, showing way too much white. Rashes of angry acne rimmed his jaw and forehead. If you saw him in the dark you’d probably get shivers, but in daylight he was just ugly and odd.
I watched his father turn the water hose on him once. Another time, his dad tossed stones at him because he wasn’t weeding the garden fast enough.
At school it was just as bad, the taunting and bullying. A pack of juniors jabbed and kicked and pushed.
One day I was bored, walking in the woods behind our two houses, when I ran into him. He said he knew a cool place, perched high above a cliff.
It made me dizzy, we were up so high.
He had a rabbit foot on a chain and asked if I believed in magic. He said he wanted to hypnotize me.
I let him. I pretended to be unconscious. When he snapped his fingers, I asked what had happened.
“Who’s your best friend?” he asked.
I didn’t hesitate. “You are.”
He flashed a crazy grin, lips dripping milky saliva.
I said, “Nah, just kidding.”
He looked stunned.
When I turned to go, he grabbed my arm. I hardly remember jerking.
I only see him falling now, in daydreams and nightmares. But I always tell myself it was an accident, his fault as much as mine, that he wouldn’t have had much of a life anyway.