Disclaimer: 'Stand By Me' is the work of Rob Reiner and 'The Body' is from the mind of Stephen King.
Warning: This story will morph into something akin to slash. Chris/Gordie. No likey, no ready.
Author's Note: Although there may be a few references to Stephen King's novella, this fic is based more on the film. This is going to be a chaptered fic, one that I have no real story laid out for and I'm just going with the flow and what seems right. I know that's not the best writing method but I guess it'll have to do. Enjoy.
BEYOND BACK HARLOW ROAD
One – Study Session
Certain things in life never leave you. Certain flavours, certain sounds, certain moments, they can stick with a person for eternity. The softly bitter taste of my first freshly picked strawberry, the voices and instrumentals of my first ever rock concert (Jimi Hendrix and his screaming guitar solos at Denver, 1969. I had been a late-bloomer when in came to music) are all still stuck in my mind, held fast on my cerebrum with nails and Krazy Glue.
I can still remember back in the summer of 1960, so well as if it were yesterday. Hell, sometimes it doesn't even feel as far back as yesterday. A few hours ago perhaps, even a few minutes. Maybe I'm still that same kid, twelve going on thirteen with jeans ripped at the knees and dirty blue sneakers on my feet, staring down at the vacant eyes of a dead boy whose life had been knocked—quite literally—straight out of him.
But then I realise that I can't be that kid. Not anymore. I can't be that kid because that kid hadn't seem Jimi Hendrix yet, hadn't even known who the heck Jimi Hendrix was. That kid hadn't gone to high school, or even had his nose—and a number of other things as well—broken by those dickwads Ace Merrill and Fuzzy Brackowicz right outside of Aunt Evvie Chalmers' front porch. That kid still had his best friend there, his best friend right there, beside him. There are no words in the Oxford or the Webster English Dictionary that can explain how much I envy that kid because of it.
My best friend was sitting at the desk in my room, pressing the heels of his hands up against his shut eyes so hard that—for a short moment—I thought he'd pop them well into the back his head. The college courses had taken their toll on Chris Chambers, although not as much as his grammar school years of doing nought squat when it came to the realms of education.
You couldn't blame him though; he was a 'good-for-nothin' Chambers kid'. What was a Chambers kid, whose daddy was drowning in the bottle and whose eldest brother was in lock up for rape and criminal assault, doing in the college courses? Those Chamberses didn't have half a brain between them; he stood no chance with all the clever kids from the View and Brickyard Hill when everybody knew he'd be better off in the shop classes or in juvie. Hadn't he stolen the school milk-money those years back?
Those were the thoughts of the whole town. Nobody knew that Chris was just as clever as the rest of those wet ends in the college classes, probably even more when he really got into it. Unfortunately seven or so years of skiving lessons with Vern Tessio, Teddy Duchamp and the rest of the old gang meant that he was so far behind on schoolwork and comprehensive knowledge that he was pretty much still tying his shoelaces whilst everybody else was halfway to finishing the race. He was trying to catch up though. Dear God, was he trying.
We would spend hours almost every night studying. Chris there, sat at my desk with his head bowed over the notes he had scribbled down frantically during each class in his scruffy and almost illegible handwriting; and me pulled up on a stool beside him, helping him decipher some complicated algebra or Latin verb tenses.
Sometimes he'd study for so long I'd fall asleep, finding myself lying comfortably on my bed the next morning, my shoes off my feet, a blanket lain across my torso and the window of my room slightly open. That open window not only let in a soft breeze but it also reminded me that Chris had in fact been there the night before. He always came and went by the window, as stealthy as a ninja so as not to inform my parents of his arrivals and departures.
'You spelt 'receive' wrong,' I told him quietly, pointing to the offending word on the paper in front of him. He had mixed up the 'e' and the 'i'. It was a mistake that many people would just glance over; not even noticing it was there. But I knew that for Chris Chambers one mistake was a mistake too many. The teachers lapped up his blunders like a stray dog lapped up spilt baloney sauce. Even little things like misplaced vowels and wayward decimal points would mean a barrage of snide remarks. Anything to get his back up and make him say or do something that'll give them reason for a week worth's of detentions or, if they're feeling particularly malicious, a suspension.
With a tired moan Chris crossed out the word and wrote the correct spelling above of it, nodding a thanks to me as he did so. He was writing an English essay on William Shakespeare, a man the two of us had learnt to hate over the past few weeks. I watched him write for a bit longer before turning to finish the conclusion of my own essay. I had offered for him to read it over, maybe use some of my ideas if he was feeling hard up for any of his own. But Chris always said no, telling me that if he couldn't think on his own then he might as well be in the shop classes with the rest of the retards. He also knew that if he had a look at my work the teachers would recognise the similarities in a flash, pegging him as a cheater and slamming him in detentions.
'Mrs Maycombe says Romeo and Juliet are 'spose to be thirteen,' he said suddenly, snapping me out of my thoughts. 'Christ, that's younger than I am.'
I couldn't tell whether he was talking to me or just thinking out loud. He did that every now and then, the thinking out loud I mean. It was like the thoughts in his head were too much that he had to let some of it out in words. Though he only ever did it around me, so at least he could pretend he was talking to someone and not only to himself like some crazy person.
'I mean,' he continued, 'these guys are like… falling in love and shit, and getting married and, right at the end, they both fuckin' die.' He looked forlorn.
'Well, it's supposed to be a tragedy,' I said, shrugging my shoulders. 'And it was—like—set ages ago. People get married and stuff real young back then.'
'Yeah… I guess,' he muttered. 'Just weird thinkin' they're so young and doing all that. Then dyin' at the end of it.'
Those words had immediately got me thinking of Ray Brower. He had been even younger than old Will Shake's hero and heroine when his life was taken, not by daggers or poison but by a speeding train. I couldn't help but think that the Ray Brower story was even more tragic than that of 'Romeo and Juliet'. Romeo and Juliet were in love when they died, and they died together. I doubted Ray Brower was in love, or ever had been, and he had died all alone by the side of the train tracks near the Back Harlow Road. Even his blueberry pail was nowhere near his body.
I turned to glance at Chris, wondering whether he too was thinking of Ray Brower. The look on his face, the way his brows wrinkled and his steel eyes glazed, told me that he was. Both of us would do that sometimes; think back to the summer of 1960 and the dead corpse of a boy who had been our age. Neither of us would actually say, 'Remember Ray Brower?' but the words were always there, right on the tip of our tongues. We never said it because we never needed to, we always remembered.
'Hey Gordie, can you check this over?' he asked after a moment, holding his essay out to me. I smiled and nodded, noticing it was nearly a whole page shorter than my own. What Chris wrote was quick and concise, never straying from the point and hitting it precisely ('Chris Chambers never misses, does he?' 'Not even when the ladies leave the seat down…'). I took out my pencil and quickly scribbled on a few corrections—nothing to do with the essay, grammar and spelling only. He watched me nervously as I did this, teeth chewing at chapped skin from his bottom lip.
'It's good,' I told him, smiling some more. The muscles in his face relaxed and he returned my smile with one of his own.
There is a well-known cliché that goes, 'he smiled with a smile that lit up his whole face'. When I went to college I was told many times by my creative writing lecturer to avoid clichés. 'Avoid them like the plague,' he used to say, and then he'd laugh at his own joke. But it was true. When Chris smiled it was like a spotlight had illuminated his face, lighting it up and making it glow.
'Ya think?' he said, taking his essay back from me and glancing over it.
'Nah, Chris,' I replied, 'I know.'
To be continued...
Where am I going with this? Well you're just going to have to wait
and see because I have no idea. This is a short chapter and
they will most likely get longer as I go along.
Also, not being an American or anything, I apologise for any mistakes I have made. You're going to have to put up with my mistakes in spelling and other things, as well as my overall British-ness.
Reviews are love, remember that.