Bobby by Barry Lyga

Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl and Boy Toy, loves Figment so much that he’s posted a short story exclusively for us! Read it below, or see it in our library here. Also, visit Barry’s verified author page to get to know him better!

 

Darkness

Bobby.

Do you remember what it was like, Bobby?

Down in the dark?

Under the ocean floor?

Bobby?

Do you remember?

It was better down there, wasn’t it?

Better.

Do you remember?

Bobby?

 

California

Pacing in your hotel room, unable to sleep even though it’s so late that it’s early. California is too important. Numbers could come at any moment, and you need to know the numbers because it could all end or begin right here, right in California. And you want it. Not for ruthless reasons, though no one would ever believe that about you. No, for compassionate reasons. You want it for the whites in Pretoria and the blacks in Indianapolis, for the memory of four children who were better than you, Bobby, better but now dead, each and every one of them.

You’re alone except for the loud silence and the memory of the darkness and the same knowledge that has haunted you for five years, the certitude. You killed your brother, Bobby.

Do you remember?

You live in hotels without guards at your door or even down the hall or even in the lobby because you found out about the guards and you made Bill send them away.

You’ll never ride in one of those Detroit tanks with the bulletproof domes, will you? No. You’ll never do that. Not even in Dallas. To hell with them all. Let them take their best shots. Let them fire their goddamned magic bullets.

 

Washington, D.C.

You’re leaving the office with Pierre late at night, or is it early in the morning? Either way, the sun’s long since died and the moon’s bright, and there’s a light on across the way. The window in Hoffa’s office. Even though it’s one a.m.

And you look at Pierre and you say, “Well, if he’s working, we should be working, too.”

 

Darkness

Down under the ocean floor. In the mine. With the Reds and the fear and the coal dust in your lungs. Down here, there’s no war, no President, no eternal flame.

Down here, it’s all darkness and hell, but it’s better, isn’t it, Bobby? Down here, you can pretend. Pretend that the world makes some kind of sense. That you aren’t guilty.

When you come out, you say, “If I had to work in there, I’d be a Communist, too.”

But deep down

(deep down like the mine)

you harbor that secret.

It’s better down there.

Do you remember, Bobby?

 

California

Ruthless. Coming into the primary the way you did. So goddamned ruthless. Like always. They trot out pictures of you with Joe McCarthy, paint you in black to Gene’s white. But that’s OK. Black is OK.

 

Indianapolis

And the cops won’t come any further. The cops are afraid to go further into the ghetto, and they say that they won’t be responsible if you go on.

That’s fine. Let them take their shots.

Yeah, it’s black here in the ghetto. No blacker than the mine, though. The mine, back in Chile. And that was better, like this is better. You remember, Bobby?

You stand up before a crowd, and you’re the only white man in America who wouldn’t describe it as an “angry, black mob.” You have to tell them what you’ve just heard. This crowd. The cops won’t come any further.

You tell them that Martin Luther King, Jr. has been shot and killed.

 

California

Numbers. Numbers are important because even though they can’t form words, they can still say things. These numbers say: The state is yours. You’ve won it. Gene doesn’t matter. Johnson sure as hell doesn’t matter. Johnson blinked, Bobby. You stepped into the ring and that old cowboy blinked. He could have taken the war away, could have stopped you dead in your tracks, but he didn’t have the guts, did he? No. Because Lyndon was never down in the dark. Lyndon doesn’t understand, and he never will.

 

Washington, D.C.

You ask John McCone: “Did the CIA kill my brother?”

 

Where Were You When You Heard?

Home at Hickory Hills, taking a break during a long work day, and the phone rings inside while you’re sitting by the pool on an unseasonably warm day, a damn fine day, really, the phone rings inside

and Ethel says

and one of the workers painting the new wing of the house suddenly

Ethel says that it’s J. Edgar Hoover

worker comes running

Hoover on the telephone what could he want

comes running holding up a transistor radio

don’t don’t don’t pick up the phone because maybe then it won’t

 

Pretoria, South Africa

You listen as the white men eat their food and tell you how difficult it is to be white in South Africa, how misunderstood and put upon they are. “We are beleaguered,” they say.

You’ve finally found the one place that makes you more ill than America.

 

Where Were You When You Heard?

Ethel says that it’s J.

worker running with a transistor

 

Darkness

Cool and damp and dark and endless down there, right, Bobby?

Do you remember?

 

Certitude

You ask John McCone: “Did the CIA kill my brother?”

You went after the CIA. And the FBI.

Made Hoover answer his own phone. Until Lyndon flew back from Dallas. His own phone.

The mob. Broke the back of the mob. Ruthless. Ruthless Bobby. Picture in the paper and Hoffa and the others and taking them down, down, down into the darkness.

And the Cubans. Bay of Pigs. Damnit. Leave Castro alone. Just leave him the hell alone.

But the CIA won’t.

And the FBI

And the Mafia

And the Cubans

Won’t leave anyone alone.

 

Jackie Says

There are a lot of people in this country who hated Jack, Bobby. But there are more people who hate you.

 

California

No guards at the door or in the hall or in the lobby.

 

Dallas

You pull the trigger, Bobby. You’re the spooks and the mobsters and the pissed-off cubanos and

Shooting Jack, but aiming at you.

 

Certitude

Shooting Jack, but aiming at you.

Did the CIA

 

Where Were You When You Heard?

Sitting by the pool at Hickory Hills and the phone and Ethel and a transistor radio.

 

California

To your supporters, you say: We are a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country. I intend to make that my basis for running.

You believe it. You truly do. Numbers have spoken to you, and now it is time to translate those numbers into words and deeds.

You take a shortcut through the kitchen on your way to the press conference.

 

Where Were You When You Heard?

A shortcut through the

Even this late at night (this early in the morning) a bustle of activity and the after-scent of frying grease and the sticky, cooked air not like the mine, oh no, it was cool down there, even though you sweated, cool and black

Muzzle raised toward you

No guards in the lobby or the hall or

Muzzle

Darkness of the muzzle

Down into the dark

Under the ocean floor

Where were you

When they shot

When you pulled the trigger

The muzzle a great gaping hole a mine with darkness and death inside, down deep. Like a mine in Chile, a mile out to sea, under the ocean floor.

It’s better in there.

 

Darkness

Do you remember, Bobby?

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