It was too late in the month for Margie's phone message to be an April Fool's joke, so when Kevin read the note Old George had taken down he really started to worry.
That's probably a little confusing. so maybe some background would help. Kevin was a writer and an artist. To be perfectly honest. he'd have liked to be able to say he was only in artist, but despite the pleasure he got from his art work, nobody was buying it. On the other hand, he was doing quite well with his writing. Kevin struggled for along time as a novelist. and everyday he puts in a few hours on one of three he's got going even now, but he's made his money through "writing" of a different kind. Kevin writes for the National Star, a supermarket tabloid featuring stories that are so outrageous as to defy the imagination. And of course. Kevin's writing knew no limits--only the seemingly endless limits of his own imagination.
About three years ago, when Kevin was only 23, he used a small inheritance from his grandmother to purchase a tiny island in the bay off Chesapeake Point. He didn't have to pay very much because the island was completely undeveloped--no phone, no electricity. no running water. But Kevin was pretty handy and within a few months he had hooked up a generator for electricity, dug a well and managed to pipe water into the cottage he had built, and he did some nice landscaping work and built a small dock for the power boat he purchased second-hand. The only problem remaining was mail and telephone service. The post office refused to add his island to its daily delivery route, and Kevin didn't have the huge dollars necessary to lay an underwater phone cable to hook up his island to the rest of the world.
But these problems were more on the order of inconveniences and didn't bother Kevin too much. He arranged with Old George, who owned and operated George's General Store over on Chesapeake Point to have a post office box installed and Old George agreed to take phone messages at the rate of fifty cents per message. Kevin didn't receive all that many messages anyway, and the system worked well. Furthermore, Kevin was pretty much of a loner. Kevin lived alone with his cat, Fido. That was Kevin's sense of humor. But he cherished his privacy, the fact that he could work at his own pace and set his own hours without anyone else commenting or the like. No ringing phones would interrupt his work or sleep. and he basically did what he wanted when he wanted. And every week or so he'd motor over to Old George's and pick up his and messages. He'd then use the public phone and return whatever calls he had to.
And the call from Kevin's sister Margie was certainly one that had to be returned immediately. The message said, simply, "Kevin. big problems with Tommy, please help me. Call soon. Love, sis."
Even such a short message was enough to worry Kevin. First of all, Margie was not one to complain lightly. She was tough as iron and she'd already been through a lot. Her husband, Tommy's father, had abandoned the two of them when Tommy was only six--eleven years ago. They hadn't heard from him since. That left Margie with a son to raise all by herself, and try as she might, Tommy was not easy to handle alone. Everyone knew how difficult it was for Margie, but she never seemed to complain or ask for help. And that's why her message made such in impact with Kevin. Kevin was especially close to his sister; she was so much older than he that, growing up, she was more like a mother than a sister. He called her at once.
Kevin walked down the hill from Old George's and untied the lines holding his boat, and he motored off into the harbor. And even though he knew in his heart he had done the right thing, he couldn't help but think, "You asshole, how could you do this to yourself?"
Kevin had called Margie, and Margie had started to cry the minute she began to tell her tale to Kevin. It seems Tommy had been getting out of hand even worse than usual, and a few days ago it had really gone too far. Tommy had taken his mother's keys and "borrowed" her car for the evening. With a couple of pals they had driven in a bad part of town, and they got in trouble when they mouthed off to a gang of kids in the city. A fight followed, and Margie soon got a call from the police. Not to mention the fact that Tommy had been drinking. Not to mention the fact that this was not Tommy's first run-in with the police. And as a matter of fact, one more incident and Tommy would be off the a detention center for troubled youth--or worse. Margie couldn't get off her job and she dreaded the thought of the coming summer, when Tommy be home alone, completely unsupervised with nothing to do but get in more trouble. He was not longer a boy, but not quite a man. This was the opportunity to reform him, or -at least this was Margie's fear - he would be going down the wrong road for the rest of his life.
Kevin could hear it coming over the phone, and a voice inside of him was yelling, "No way, no way," but even as Margie's request was being made, Kevin could hear himself saying "Yes."
"Yes, it would be okay for Tommy to spend the summer with me. I'll see if I can't set him straight." You idiot, Kevin now thought to himself.
Now, as his boat glided toward the dock on his own island, Kevin could only shudder in horror at the thought of his peaceful existence about to be ruined by the presence of in obnoxious, ill-mannered. adolescent. But it was too late to back out. Tommy would be arriving in six weeks. as soon as school was over.
It was the end of May, and Kevin motored over to Chesapeake Point. As he neared the dock, he saw the blond hair and the slight frame of a youth who was certainly his nephew Tommy. Even though he hadn't seen Tommy for two years, he recognized the golden hair. Tommy hopped on board the boat and he was pissed. He clearly didn't want to be there, any more thin Kevin wanted to have him there. The two spoke hardly at all the whole way back to Kevin's island, and only as they walked up toward the cottage did anything even approaching a conversation take place.
"'Listen, Tommy. I know-" Kevin began, only to be cut off by Tommy.
"Listen yourself. First off. if you got to call me anything then call me Tom. Second, I don't want to be here and I'm not planning to stay around for the rest of the summer. So you just pretend like I'm not here and we'll got along just fine."
Kevin soon learned that Tommy was making a special effort to be extra polite that first day he was on the island. In fact, Tommy was, put simply, impossible. He was arrogant and more self- centered than anybody Kevin ever known.
Now, that's not to say that Tommy was without a reason to feel good about himself. He was very popular in high school, considered very "cool," and he was on the varsity swim team even though the coaches didn't like him very much. From his swimming, Tommy had developed very much a classic swimmer's build, although Kevin noticed that though Tommy was firm and had a well-defined body, he was not overly muscular at all. He had that striking blond hair and the most penetrating blue eyes. His skin was a golden brown even this early in the summer, and Tommy didn't even work at his tan. His body was virtually hairless, with small tufts of dark blond hair under his arms and thin blond hairs growing on his legs. He had a thin face and a slightly turned up little nose. Kevin figured he must be very popular with the girls back at school.
Kevin and Tommy had one run-in after another, and more than once a day it seemed Kevin felt on the urge of belting Tommy right in the mouth. The kid was unbelievable--rude, uncaring, and totally into himself. Kevin tried to talk with him but Tommy would have no part of it, and whenever it got to the point where Kevin was about to kill his nephew, he'd take a deep breath and go for a long walk around the island. Kevin knew that deep down Tommy had never really gotten over being abandoned by his father.
Still, Kevin had had it and enough was enough when the balloon incident took place. Kevin had bought a weather balloon that would fly from a long piece of strong string attached to a large nail in the dock. The balloon would be kept afloat by hot air, which an internal generator would churn out, heated by the warmth of the sun. Each morning Kevin would take the balloon out and send it up much like a kite in the sky, and it would float and blow all day until Kevin brought it back in shortly before nightfall. One day, when Kevin went down to pull in the balloon, it was gone. The string had been severed.
Kevin went into a rage. That damn brat, he thought, I'm going to kill him. How dare he. I'm gonna... Kevin was so angry, angrier than he'd ever been in all those years on the island. He stormed up to the cottage, where Tommy was napping in just gym shorts on a couch just off the kitchen. Kevin grabbed Tommy around the torso, waking him from a deep sleep and carried him off before Tommy could even begin to realize what was happening.
With two pieces of rope, Kevin lashed Tommy's wrists to two stakes in the ground. The stakes had been placed there as part of a crude sun device Kevin was working up, but now they served a different purpose as Tommy cursed and thrashed and demanded to be let up. Kevin quickly grabbed two more stakes that were laying nearby and he pounded them into the ground near Tommy's feet, and as he reached for one of Tommy's ankles, the kid kicked him--hard. This infuriated Kevin even more, and with great force and strength he subdued those legs and bound them to the stakes. Kevin worked up quite a sweat, but finally he had done it. The kid was now tied down, spread-eagled and completely helpless. Tommy thrashed around for awhile, but finally he realized he couldn't get away. Then the two of them sat there, speaking not a word, as both of them caught their breath.
Finally Kevin spoke. "Why'd you do it? That's all I want to know."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know, I didn't want you here to begin with. But I did everything I could to make it okay for you. And you've been an asshole from word go. And now you go and destroy one of my prize possessions. All I want to know is why?"
"What are you talking about? I didn't destroy anything."
"You're lucky I don't just slug you right--"
"--go ahead, slug me. I don't give a shit what you do."
"Why I ought to..." Kevin caught himself. This wasn't right, wasn't the way to handle things. Kevin knew he was too angry at that moment to try to punish Tommy; he might just kill him. Instead, he simply said, "I'm going for a walk. When I come back, I'm gonna teach you a lesson."
Kevin took a walk, a long walk, and he cooled down quite a bit. But what was he going to do with Tommy? Kevin was almost chuckling to himself, and he smiled as he thought of Tommy staked out like he was in nothing but gym shorts. Kevin playfully toyed with the idea of just leaving him there--that would keep Tommy out of his hair--but there had to be another way. But how to get through to that kid? He was so full of hate, so full of hostility. That's the one thing he had noticed right from the start: Tommy was so unhappy. He had an awful lot going for him, but still he was not a happy person. Tommy had been on the island for nearly a month and Kevin didn't think he once saw Tommy crack even a smile.
Kevin headed back toward where he had left Tommy tied up, and as he got closer to the clearing, he thought he heard something. It wasn't an animal. He kept walking, and pretty soon he recognized Tommy's voice. "Get the fuck away," he was saying. "Stop it. Get away." And between these statements Kevin thought he heard, well, almost like little giggles. As he got closer, he could hear Tommy giggling. But why? Not Tommy. Surely his present predicament didn't strike Tommy as funny. No way.
Then Kevin got to the clearing, and he parted two bushes and couldn't believe what he saw. Sure enough, there was Tommy, still strapped down spread-eagled just like he was when Kevin had left him. But at his feet lay Fido. Kevin's cat, and he was licking poor Tommy's foot sole. And Tommy was laughing. Laughing!
Could it be? Could it? Could young, arrogant, stuck-up Tommy be ... could he possibly be... ticklish? Could this tough little guy be ticklish? Kevin just sat there and watched as Tommy twisted and tried to move his foot out of Fido's reach. But Kevin had tied the ankle right to the stake, and there was no wiggle room. There was nothing Tommy could do but lie there and curse and giggle. And boy was he giggling.
Finally Kevin couldn't take just watching from afar. He broke through the bushes and walked over to Tommy. "Fido, go away,"' he said. Fido fled into the bushes. Kevin sat down next to his young captive.
"Ya know, I just don't believe what I was watching. You were laughing, and I think I know why."
"Let me the hell go."
"But I want you to tell me. Tell me why you were laughing."
"Go fuck yourself."
"Why were you laughing, Tommy? I want to know."
"Just let me go, okay?"
"Man, Tommy, you know what I think. I think you're ticklish. You're ticklish, aren't' ya?"
"Fuck no. Let me up. Untie me right now."
"Listen my friend, I don't think you're in any position to be giving me orders, do you? Besides, I want to talk to you. Now, you haven't wanted to talk about the other things I've hoped to discuss this summer. so why don't we talk about how ticklish you are. How ticklish are you?"
"Man, just let me gooo." The punk-edge was out of Tommy's voice.
"Tommy, you sure--oh, it's okay to call you Tommy, isn't it? Somehow, it just seems natural to call a ticklish little boy Tommy. Now Tommy, do you know how much grief you've given me in the last month? And that's not even to mention what a pain you've been to your mother?"
"'What's your problem? Just let me up and I'll buy you a new fucking balloon."
"Oh, so you also admit that you cut the cord holding my balloon. Well, it seems to me like you're a young man who really needs to be punished. You've been so bad for such a long time that you've got one hell of a punishment coming your way. Hmm, let me just think here a minute. What type of punishment should I inflict?"
Kevin smiled to himself as he surveyed his young captive. Tommy was stretched before him, his arms and legs nice and taut. His tummy was gently sunken in beneath his ribcage, and his ribs gently poked against the golden skin of his sides. His armpits were little hollows sprinkled with light brown hair, but otherwise Tommy's body was smooth as a new born baby. As Kevin eyed Tommy's body, Tommy began pulling against his bonds. In his heart, he knew what was coming, but he didn't want to admit it to himself.
"You know Tommy, I just don't think an everyday punishment is enough. I think you need to be tortured. And do you know what kind of torture I have mind?"
"No. Why don't you just tell me."
."Oh, you still want to be a feisty little guy. Well, how's this. I was thinking of the tickle torture. Have you ever heard of it?"
"C'mon, I'm sorry about the balloon."
"I said, have you ever heard of the tickle torture?"
"Well, here's how it works. You take somebody who's really ticklish and tie 'em up just like I've got you--nice and helpless. Then you tickle the shit out of him. Sound fun?"
Tommy twisted in his bonds, struggling to free himself in light of this terrible threat. Nobody knew Tommy was so ticklish. It had always been his most closely guarded secret.
"C'mon, Kevin, please let me loose."
"Oh my, how polite all of a sudden. Now, I was talking about the tickle torture. See, first you gotta find out all the most ticklish places on a guy. So I'm going to have to tickle your feet, run my fingers up and down the soles of your feet, gently stroke those smooth soles, run my fingers across the tender skin between your toes, rake my nails across those sensitive feet bottoms. Oh, and your tummy. I'm going to let my fingers spider-walk all over your stomach, and I'll take a finger and massage inside your belly button. And I'll poke and prod your belly flesh..."
"--No, please let me go--" Tommy interrupted.
"...And then I'm going trail my fingers over your ribs, gently run my fingertips up and down your ribcage, testing each rib, finding where your most ticklish. You'll be screaming, pleading for mercy. Then I'm going to dig my fingers into your ribcage, really hard, and tickle the hell out of you. And after I've played with your ribs, I'm going to explore your armpits--"
"NO! C'mon, I'm sorry, just let me go, please, c'mon, don't do it--"
"What did you just say? Don't do 'it'? What's it?"
"You know, man, what you've been saying."
"Yea, but I want to hear you say it. I want to hear you beg."
"Let me gooo, c'mon..."
Silence, so Kevin continued to talk.
"Your armpits. Look at those soft little tufts of hair. Man. your pits look damp already. But by the time I reach them, after tickling the rest of your body, man. you're going to be sweating something awful. Ah, let's talk awful. Tickle awful. I'm going to take my index fingers, and just dangle them over your armpits--"
"--Yes, and then you'll feel my fingertips as they brush back and forth over the hairs, touching them so lightly. And then I'm going to move my fingers lower, making contact with the tiny smooth patches of skin in the area just under the hair--"
"And I'm going to twist in tiny little circles, and you'll start giggling and laughing and begging for mercy. But they'll be none. Not during tickle torture."
"NO. Please don't do it!"
"Don't tickle me. Don't. Please."
"There you go. You said it. Say it again."
"'Don't tickle me. Please. I'm serious."
"So am I" With that, Kevin placed his hand on Tommy's chest, and he could feel the kid's heart pounding at a very quick pace.
"Tommy, you've got to learn your lesson. I'm going to teach you right now." Kevin began rubbing his hand in a small circle on Tommy's chest, and he raised his palm so that only his fingers were running around and around. Tommy burst out into a fit of giggles.
"So, you're pretty ticklish, aren't you." Kevin then brought his other hand into play, and moved both down to the upper portions of Tommy's ribcage. "Tickle, tickle, tickle," Kevin said as he lightly tickled up and down those upper ribs.
Tommy was laughing now, and between breaths he pleaded for mercy.
"No, ha, ha, no!!! Ha, ha, pleeease..." But Kevin was only beginning. "Tommy, I'm gonna tickle you to death for all you've done."
"No. Please, stop....ha. ha, ha." screamed Tommy. "Don't tickle me..."
Kevin now started digging his fingers into the kid's ribs, rubbing them in circles along each rib. massaging and digging into the tender flesh, twisting his fingers against the bones of Tommy's ribcage. Up and down, up and down. Tommy was going crazy, laughing so hard he couldn't even plead for mercy.
Finally. Kevin slowed down, and then he stopped. Tommy lay panting so hard it was like he had just finished running a marathon. Finally he spoke.
"Okay, okay, please, no more. No more tickling. I'm just too ticklish. Please."
"Oh, man. I haven't even begun yet, old pal. Like I told you, this is tickle torture. "'
"No, please, don't tickle me any more. I beg you."
Too late. Kevin placed his hand in the middle of Tommy's stomach, a lone finger dangling into Tommy's shallow belly button. Slowly Kevin begin to wiggle that finger around and immediately Tommy burst into new rounds of laughter. "GOD NO!! PLEASE STOP TICKLING ME!!" screamed Tommy.
Soon Kevin brought all fingers into play, ten digits dancing over Tommy's sensitive flesh. Tommy was going crazy. He twisted and screamed but was unable to get away.
"Yea, you're a pretty helpless little guy, aren't ya," Kevin said as he tickled down around Tommy's loins. Tommy's thighs were also tickled, and soon the poor kid was yelling and screaming for Kevin to stop.
"STOP! PLEASE!!! I BEG YOU!!! DON'T TICKLE ME!!!" But Kevin didn't stop, and soon he had gone all the way down Tommy's legs to his feet. Momentarily, he stopped the tickle torture.
"Oh my god, thank you, thank you. I'll do anything, anything, only please, please don't tickle me any more. No more, I beg you."
"Aw, poor baby. If you don't like this, how come you're laughing so much?"
"'Cause you keep tickling me, only please, no more."
"No more. You mean, you don't want me to take my fingers and slowly run them up and down these sensitive foot soles?" As he spoke, Kevin began running his fingers up and down the soles of poor Tommy's feet.
"AH!!! NO!!!!" Tommy screamed as he began a new round of hysterical laughter. Kevin stroked up and down those smooth soles, and the kid thrashed about like crazy. "God, you're the most ticklish kid I've ever seen," said Kevin. "I really get a charge out of tickling you."
"No, please, don't tickle me. I'm begging," Tommy said in a struggled voice as he lay laughing like a helpless little baby. Soon Kevin started pulling on the individual toes, saying "this little piggy went to market," and the whole time Tommy screamed and gasped and begged for mercy--anything, if only Kevin would stop this horrible tickle torture.
Finally Kevin stopped tickling Tommy's helpless feet.
"God, thank you. PLEASE DON'T TICKLE ME AGAIN!!! Let me loose, I swear I'll be good, I'll do anything you say if only you don't tickle me any more. Please!!"
"'You know what? I think you like it when I tickle you." And as he spoke, Kevin straddled defenseless Tommy, his knees even with Tommy's pelvis. Kevin looked Tommy right in the face and said, "Tommy, how would you like me to tickle your armpits!!"
"GOD NO!! PLEASE!! NOT THERE!!!"
"Don't tickle my armpits, please, anywhere but there, please."
"Don't tickle me, don't tickle me, don't tickle me, oh please, don't tickle me!!"
"You love it, and you're gonna get it!!" Kevin placed an index finger in each of Tommy's armpits, and gently, slowly he began twisting, digging in and drilling for laughter. Tommy erupted into laughter, laughing so hard he could barely plead for mercy.
"Do you swear you'll be good if I stop tickling you?"
"Yes, yes, I swear, please stop tickling, anything..."
Kevin brought all fingers into play, tickling the pits and down to the ribcage, then the stomach, the back to the armpits, then up to the neck, then...
"What do you want me to stop?"
"Tickling me. Please."
"Nah, you love it when I tickle you, don't you."
"If I stop, will you be good?"
"YES, YES, YES!!!"
And finally, mercifully, Kevin stopped tickling Tommy.
"Oh," said Tommy as he caught his breath, "oh, God, thank you. I swear I'll be good. I know I've had a bad attitude."
"Well I'm glad to hear you say that, because otherwise I might have to keep tickling you. .
"'No. I'll be good, only please, no more tickling. I'll be good."
Well, the final six weeks of summer went remarkably well. Tommy didn't get out of line once, although Kevin was surprised how often Tommy would instigate some sort of playful roughhousing with him--which always ended in a tickling match which Tommy lost. Kevin concluded that, in his own way, Tommy actually enjoyed being subjected to tickle torture, and Kevin was only too happy to oblige him
Kevin and Tommy became very close that summer. Tommy's mother noticed a remarkable change. And when, at Thanksgiving dinner the following November, she asked the pair what had happened on that lonely island, Kevin could only say, "Don't ask. It's a laughable thing."
"I'll say," replied Tommy. And the two guys smiled. And Kevin couldn't have been happier when, just before he left to go back to the island, Tommy asked if he could come visit during spring break.
"Sure," said Kevin. Little did he know, however, that spring break would forever thereafter be known as "Tommy's Revenge!"