FOREWORD: "Little Bastards" was my first experience with complete absurdity. It was also a part of the "Stories from the 20s" collection in 2001. I have penned a few absurdist pieces since this initial one. "Sam the Savior Bet on Old Lucy," written in the spring of 2000 appears in the same book immediately following this story. We'll get into that one at a later date. The names of the faculty are in no way related to actual people or events. West Hickory is NOT Ingram Sowell Elementary in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.... you're going to have to trust me on this one.
Scotty Berrington lived close enough to West Hickory
Elementary to walk to school every day, but today the first snow of the
year was falling and therefore it was fairly cold out. Mrs. Berrington
drove Scotty and dropped him at the front door where his friends Mike
Balls and Winchester Gunn were waiting on him with grins spread across
“Thanks, Mom,” Scotty said waving good-bye to his mother.
The fourth graders were in a bad mood since their little Southern
town usually freaked out at the first warning of snow and canceled
school, but today they had reported it would be a light flurry all day so
school would remain in session.
“Thanks, mommy!” Mike Balls said in a mocking voice. “I’ll be a
good boy today, mommy!”
Scotty rolled his eyes and walked over to complete the usual trio.
“What are you bastards grinning about anyhow?” Scotty asked.
“You look like a bunch a fuckin’ retards.”
“Shut up, Scotty,” Winchester said. “Ain’t we allowed to be in a
“Yeah, dickhead,” Balls said. “Ain’t we?”
“Why should you be?” Scotty said. “Damn school board usually
lets us out for this shit, but here we are.”
“Ah, hell. If we wasn’t here we’d just be home alone today
watching television,” Balls said. “Might as well be here.”
Scotty turned and started walking toward the gymnasium.
“Come on,” he said.
Balls and Winchester followed Scotty, watching their shoes make
prints in the powder-covered grass. As the three fourth graders
approached the gym Winchester spoke up.
“I’d be home lookin’ at tit mags,” he said. “That’s where I’d be.”
“You would not,” Scotty said. “You don’t have any.”
Winchester stopped and the others turned to look at him.
“What?” Balls asked.
Winchester looked his two friends over and then started walking
again around the corner to the backside of the gym, out of view from the
“My dad has pornos stashed in his closet,” Winchester spoke up
with a hint of brag. “They ain’t mine, but I can go look at ‘em while my
parent’s ain’t home.”
“You shittin’ me?” Scotty said. “And you never let us get a look?”
Winchester threw his hands into the air.
“How in the fuck am I supposed to show ‘em to you with my
mom or dad at home? They’d kick my ass.”
“I bet they would,” Balls said laughing. “I bet...”
Balls broke into a laugh for no apparent reason.
“What’s so funny, Mike?” Winchester asked.
Balls kept laughing and finally explained himself, rubbing the
tears that were welling up in his eyes.
“I could just see your parents walking in from work one day and
you sittin’ there beatin’ it with one of your dad’s Playboys in one hand
and your pecker in the other.”
Scotty started laughing now, hysterically. Winchester didn’t find it
“I don’t do that, man. You’re gross.”
Winchester looked offended - and guilty.
“Right, Chester. I believe you.”
Scotty and Balls laughed together for a full minute at least.
Winchester’s face was as red as a beet.
“Come on back here guys,” Scotty said motioning toward a group
of bushes. “I need a drink and a quick smoke before class.”
The three boys looked around cautiously and went behind the
thick brush to hide their activities from any onlookers. They knew that
what they were doing was against the rules, but they had made it a semi-
routine over the last couple of weeks and today was no different.
Scotty dug into a pile of dead leaves for a few seconds before
pulling out a pint bottle of Old Crow. Under the bottle lay a half pack of
Virginia Slim Lights and a book of matches in a zip lock baggie. The
bottle was almost full and it was very cold. Balls grabbed the bag out of
Scotty’s hand and opened it up to get a cigarette and the matches. He
fired one up, coughing hard.
“Yeah,” Scotty said. “The woman cigarettes are all long like that
for some reason. I’ll try to get my brother to buy us some regular ones
when these run out.”
Winchester Gunn stood stiff and shivering, looking over his
shoulder every few seconds. Winchester had never smoked or drank, but
he wanted to at least try the drinking. He was just a little hesitant about
“Shit, Chester, just take a swig,” Scotty said, offering up the
bottle. “It ain’t going to kill ya.”
“I’m sure it won’t kill me,” he replied.
Winchester looked over his shoulder again.
“Nobody knows we’re out here,” Balls assured him. “They never
know where we are - and we got quite a bit of time before home room.
Like, fifteen minutes, man.”
Without so much as a warning, Winchester grabbed the Old
Crow out of Scotty’s hand and gulped down more than half of its
“Holy shit!” Scotty said. “Are you crazy? That’s like three dollars
worth! I didn’t eat lunch half of last week just to get Carl to buy that for
“Ugh!” Winchester groaned. “Fuck me! Jeeeeeeez!”
“Burns don’t it, bitch?” Balls said laughing. “Whadda you think?”
Winchester covered his mouth with his gloved hand and tried to
block the cool air from getting into his wide open, burning lungs. He was
crouched in a fetal position near the ground. Finally he looked up at
Scotty and Balls.
“How do y’all drink that stuff, man?” Winchester asked. “Awful,
man - Awful!”
Scotty was still in disbelief that most of his bottle was now empty
and Balls just stood there laughing.
“Whew-eee!” Winchester said, as if he had just finished the
Boston Marathon. “Give me a smoke, will ya?”
“Since when do you want a smoke?” Scotty asked, still a bit
shocked by it all.
“Since now, Scotty. Come on, Balls. Gimme.”
Scotty looked at Balls and nodded in approval. Balls then reached
in and got a cigarette from the bag and handed the book of matches to
Winchester after he lit his own. Scotty reached over and got his own
Virginia Slim and waited for the matches to make the full circle. Scotty
took a swig.
“I can’t believe you drank all that whiskey, Chester,” Scotty said.
“That’s a big drink for me, and I’ve been drinkin’ for weeks. You’re gonna
be messed up.”
“I’ll be all right,” Winchester reassured. “I feel fine right now.”
The truth was, none of the boys had ever really drank much at all.
For the past few weeks they had been experimenting with different cheap
liquors and beers and had only taken a tiny sip before class and one more
afterwards. Most importantly, they were not familiar with the fact that
one does not get drunk immediately after taking a drink. They didn’t
know the difference.
The boys stood behind the bush just long enough to take a few
puffs from the cigarettes and they stomped them into the wet mud
beyond recognition. Scotty bagged up the smokes and hid them back
under the leaves with the bottle of Old Crow.
“We better head that way,” Scotty said. “About time to be in
“Yep,” Balls agreed.
Winchester wasn’t saying much at all.
Balls passed around a few sticks of cinnamon flavored chewing
gum to mask the smoke and drink on their breath. When Winchester
started chewing, he also started drooling.
“What the hell, Chester?” Scotty asked. “You look like you got
As the boys entered the front lobby of the school, Winchester’s
snow-wet shoes flew out from under his body and he hit the floor
accompanied by a hard thud. The saliva running out around his lips flew
out like buckshot from a .20 gauge and hit Balls on the back of the neck.
“Chester!” he yelled. “You spit on me.”
“Didn’t mean to,” he said. “Sorry.”
The students who happened to be in the lobby at that time,
which at five minutes until eight is a large number, all pointed and
laughed. Winchester should have been humiliated, but instead he stood
up and looked around red-faced - extended, and waved his middle fingers
in everyone’s direction despite the presence of faculty.
“Uh-oh.” Scotty said, whispering to Balls. “Sumbitch is drunk I
“Reckon he is?”
“Hell, man. Look at him.”
Winchester started jumping up and down and yelling incoherently
at no one in particular. He ended his rant with an extremely loud “FUCK
ALL Y’ALL!” That silenced the room.
From out of the office doorway emerged a tall, fat, burnt orange-
haired man with glasses and a large round nose that was as red as
“Oh shit,” Scotty whispered again. “It’s Ed-Ball!”
The two boys left Winchester behind to fend for himself and they
headed down the hall to escape connection with their buddy.
Mr. Brian Edwards was usually a nice guy, but his temper was
short. Anytime a student, no matter what their prior record was, got out
of line, principal mode kicked into high gear and heads would roll.
“Mr. Gunn!” Edwards said. “What do you think you’re doing
Edwards stood there with his hands on his hips, staring down
hard on Winchester. Winchester looked at his reflection in Edwards’
thick glasses and smiled.
“Nothing,” he said.
“Nothing?” Edwards didn’t like to be bullshitted, that was for
sure. “Well, that was some very colorful nothing, Chester. You better
explain yourself, son.”
Winchester smiled even wider. The Old Crow had kicked in and
taken over the little 80-pound body.
“You ain’t my daddy, motherfucker!” Winchester yelled. “I ain’t
your son, Ed-Ball!”
Ed-Ball was a name given to him by the students, but he never
understood it - he just figured it to be disrespectful. Motherfucker,
however, he did understand and didn’t like too much at all.
“What did you just say to me?” Edwards said before thinking.
“What did you say?!”
The nose got redder.
“I said you ain’t my daddy - - - Motherfucker.” Winchester just
laughed out loud.
Edwards looked around the lobby at all of the children’s faces.
They usually looked like angels. Today they looked like demons.
“All of you get to home room right now!” Edwards yelled.
“Faculty too. I’ll take care of Mr. Gunn.”
A giant “oooooh” arose from the crowd of children and bodies
scurried down the halls every which way. Edwards grabbed the collar of
Winchester’s jacket and pulled him into the office, shutting the door
Edwards got up in his face.
“Now you listen to me, Gunn. You -” Edwards paused. “What is
Winchester just stared around the room not knowing what to
“You been drinking, boy?” Edwards demanded to know. “Where
have you been drinking?”
“Outside before school,” Winchester said. “Do it all the damn
“What? Where did you get it?”
“Scott gets it for us, man. Don’t worry, I’ll show you where it is if
you want a swig.”
“You boys are in big trouble, Mr. Gunn,” Edwards said, trying to
ignore the swearing and calm down. “Who drinks with you before
“Well, let’s see,” Winchester pretended to think long and hard
about the question. “Okay... There’s your momma, your daddy, your
greasy granny - got a big behind like Frankenstein, goes tweet, tweet,
tweet down Sesame Street!”
Winchester started laughing and that’s when Edwards lost it.
“Listen up, you little punk!” Edwards yelled. “I’m fixin’ to tan
your hide with that paddle over there and your buddy Scotty too!”
The liquor was still in his veins, but the yelling made Winchester
realize that something was wrong and that maybe he had just done
something very stupid.
“Scotty who?” Winchester said. “You mean Berrington? What’s
Edwards tried to control his temper, but was struggling to do so.
“You just said he got you the booze, Chester. He’s in trouble for
“I said Scott,” Winchester said with a grin. “Not Scotty
Berrington. Scott is a guy you don’t know I’m sure. Don’t think you can
buy beer and stuff when you’re in the fourth grade.”
“Well,” Edwards said in a huff. “I can’t believe you drink when
you’re in the fourth grade. My God, what has gotten into your heads
these days, boy?”
Winchester somehow felt the victory of getting Scotty back out
of trouble and the inhibitions flew away once again. Unfortunately, he
remembered an old rhyme his big brother in high school used to say.
“Boy, hell. I’m Billy the Kid. Fucked your momma ‘fore your
Winchester nearly fell out his seat he was laughing so hard, but
the good Mr. Edwards did not laugh. He grabbed Winchester by the arm
and in a rage slung him against the cinder block wall face first with one
hand, and grabbed his paddle from the desk with the other, letting
Winchester have ten hard licks on his buttocks. By the tenth, Winchester
was lying on the floor, rolling around with tears flowing down his face.
Edwards would have probably hit him some more, but the
assistant principal, Mrs. Rosewood ran in with the janitor and pulled
Edwards off of the boy.
Edwards slung his arm back as if to say ‘let me go!’, hitting the
janitor in the jaw with his elbow. Winchester rolled behind the desk just
in time to get out of the way of Edwards falling body as the janitor that
the students all knew as ‘Thumber’ (because he always gave the kids a
thumbs up) landed a blow to the side of Edwards head, breaking the left
frame of his glasses.
“Crazy sumbitch,” Thumber said. “Hittin’ little boys like that.”
Winchester got up limping from the soreness of his backside and
had instantly sobered up from the beating. Mrs. Rosewood took
Winchester down to the nurse to be checked out and to call his father.
Meanwhile Thumber noticed Edwards still hadn’t got up from
the fall he took.
“Oh well,” Thumber said to him. “Lay there and rest awhile, ass
Balls and Scotty sat in homeroom wondering what
happened after they left. They both sat in silence thinking of the worst-
case scenario, having no idea what had actually went down. Fifteen
minutes later Mr. Seeds, the homeroom teacher, got an intercom page.
"Mr. Seeds, we have an emergency with one of your students in the office -
could you come down here, please," the voice said.
“Sure, Mrs. Rosewood,” he answered. “Class, you behave
yourselves. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.”
Mr. Seeds walked out the door and down the hall. When the
students in his class could no longer hear his footsteps clicking down the
hall, the classroom erupted in conversation about Winchester Gunn and
his cussing spree in the school lobby.
Among the conversationalists, of course, were Scotty and Balls.
“He’s fucked, man,” Balls said. “I bet they killed him.”
“They can’t kill him,” Scotty said. “I bet he got his ass paddled
though. Man, I wish they’d outlaw that paddling stuff. It’s not right for
strangers to beat the shit out of you, you know?”
“Yeah, man,” he said. “After all, this is 1983, not the freakin’
The class grew louder and louder and stopped only when Mr.
Seeds opened the classroom door.
“Scotty, Mike,” Seeds said. “You boys come with me.”
Another ‘ooooh’ rose from the class and the boys looked at one
another in horror.
“He squealed,” Scotty whispered. “I’ll kill him.”
When the two boys returned to the lobby and saw an ambulance
and paramedics rushing into the office, their jaws both dropped and they
feared that Winchester gun had been killed.
“What in the world?” Mr. Seeds said looking toward the office.
“Mrs. Rosewood? What’s happening in there?”
There was no answer and Mr. Seeds walked over to the door and
looked in, placing a hand over his mouth.
“Oh, God!” he said out loud.
Scotty and Balls were scared, but they had to see for themselves.
They crept up behind Seeds and looked around the door facing in total
“Ed-Ball is dead!” Balls yelled. “Holy crap!”
“Did Chester kill him?” Scotty asked. “Did he?”
Mr. Seeds looked around at the boys, having forgot they were
“Boys, don’t be silly,” he said turning back toward Edward’s body
as the paramedics pulled a white sheet over him. “What did happen?”
“Looks like heart attack to me, buddy,” the paramedic said. “He’s
gone though. No doubt about that.”
“My Lord,” Seeds said.
“Are we in trouble, Mr. Seeds?” Scotty asked. “Did we do
“I don’t know, boys.” he said. “Let’s just go down to the nurse’s
“What for?” Balls asked.
“Because the office is kind of tied up right now.”
Scotty wanted to giggle, but he didn’t.
In the nurse’s room the two boys and Mr. Seeds found
Winchester, complete with red circles around his eyes from crying, Mrs.
Rosewood and Nurse Jackson, the school nurse and health teacher.
“What are you guys doing here?” Winchester asked.
“You got me, man,” Scotty said. “They won’t tell us.”
Mrs. Rosewood broke in.
“Boys,” Mrs. Rosewood said. “Chester’s parents can’t be reached
and he needs to go home. We figured that maybe one of your parents
could come pick him up. Are either of your parents at home right now?”
“My mom might be,” Balls said. “I can call her. I want to tell her
that Mr. Edwards is dead anyhow.”
Mrs. Rosewood’s eyes widened.
“What?!” she yelled. “Dead?!”
“Dead?” Winchester repeated.
Mr. Seeds looked at the assistant principal in confusion.
“I thought you knew about that,” he said. The paramedics are in
there with him now. They said he died of a heart attack.”
“Oh my God,” she said. “Mr. Edwards.”
Moments later the fire alarm sounded.
“Good grief,” Mr. Seeds said in an airy exasperated voice.
Mrs. Rosewood motioned toward the door.
“Let’s get outside boys. You know the drill,” she said. “Mr. Seeds,
go get your class.”
“Yes, of course,” he said and took off in a jog toward the boy’s
Within five minutes every classroom was empty and there were
lines of children all across the playground of the school. Every child in
attendance that day was in a neat row, except for three.
Scotty, Winchester, and Balls took off during the fire alarm
confusion and met behind the bush out beyond the gymnasium. Scotty
went directly for the Virginia Slims.
“Fuck,” he said. “I can sure go for a smoke right now.”
“Me too,” Balls said.
“Me three,” said Winchester. “I could eat one right now.”
The wild morning had taken a lot out of the boys and they stood
there not talking too much about what had happened, but instead staring
at the ground and taking in a full lung of nicotine and tar and listening to
the faint sound of the fire alarm ringing.
Finally Winchester spoke up.
“I’m in deep shit,” he said. “I said some awful things to Mr.
Edwards and did some crazy stuff in there, man. That drinkin’ makes you
do weird things. I don’t know really how to explain the way I felt. I just
didn’t care what I said. I wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody. I don’t
know, man - weird.”
The boys stood in silence a few moments more.
“Sounds great to me,” Scotty said. “Not being afraid. Being able
to say what you think. Shit, man. That’s about the best feeling I can think
“Yeah,” Balls spoke up. “We should start drinking more.
Anyways, you ain’t gettin’ in serious trouble for this shit today.”
“How do you figure that, Mike?” Winchester said, hoping he had
a good point.
“Number one - you’re in the fourth grade. It ain’t like nothin’ you
do now is going to screw up your life or anything.”
“Is there a number two?”
“Yep,” Balls said smiling. “The old Ed-Ball is as dead as a door
nail. He ain’t going to get you in no kind of trouble being dead.”
The three boys laughed for a few seconds and got quiet again and
the snow started falling hard, in big sticky flakes.
“Hell yeah,” Scotty said. “I bet they let us out early.”
“I hope,” Winchester said just as the fire bell stopped. “Hmmm.
Must have been nothin'. I was hoping it would burn down.”
They laughed again.
“Give me another stick of that gum, man,”
Scotty graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1996 with a
degree in mechanical engineering. He still drinks Old Crow.
Mike Balls didn’t finish high school. He was arrested for
possession of marijuana in 1991 by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. He
was later arrested for vehicular homicide and was eventually beaten to
death by his cellmate in the Florida State Penitentiary for taking a pack of
his cheese crackers without asking.
Winchester Gunn was never reprimanded for his actions on that
cold day at West Hickory Elementary. His life was never affected by the
events and his parents never knew the difference. However, Mr. Edwards
was criticized after his death for using excessive punishment on students.
The State outlawed the use of the paddle five years later. He went on to
college after high school and attended Middle Tennessee State University
until he realized his dream by dropping out and opening his own liquor
store near campus. He makes a ton of cash.