Mother Donahue, on a Saturday night, was picking her trucker husband up from the train. She brought three Bud bottles on ice in a romantic little cooler, so she’d be a while. Derrick, the older son, was home with his hand down his sweatpants, yelling at Lyle, his younger brother, to grab the good damn camera upstairs.
When Lyle got back to the dark kitchen, Derrick was climbing over the sink to get closer to the window.
“The dude’s gone wild. Now he’s doing oral.”
“He’s there too? Dad loved him.”
Derrick reached back for the camcorder to capture forever their neighbor’s recurring sexual activity in her bright kitchen with an anchorman on the local news, the married bald guy who humiliated bad guys in investigative segments called Shamed. Her absent husband was a short badass who wore nothing but black.
“Not Orel Hershiser! It’s a kind of sex called feminist that got invented with antibiotics. It used to be just for men.”
“Isn’t it wrong,” Lyle asked, kicking at the cabinet full of poisonous cleansers, “to watch?”
“Didn’t you say Mr. Rodgers let you see his back tattoo, the eagle with burning wings wrapped around the 9/11 towers? And help him and the Spanish stepkid rake the yard? Isn’t he right up there with Wolverine and Jesus?”
“He’s great. It’s like he never knows what time it is.”
“So don’t you think we should ruin that phony for turning Mrs. Rodgers into a slut? Upload him to a porn site with the richer Kardashian?”
“And then I can see.”
“You don’t want to, Lyle. She’s too real, even in crotchless cowboy pants. If you know girls, or they look like your mother, it’s weird. I couldn’t get my thing to work, and I’m thirteen. I’m viral. Hide this.”
Their parents returned with cheap Chinese food. They all ate and watched movies, feeling safe and greasy inside. Sunday disappeared with televised football, and Monday brought jobs and school. But Lyle overheard the adults fighting about the mortgage and getting rid of the kids’ cell phones. By Wednesday he caught his betrayed hero going out at sunset.
“Hey, little man,” Mr. Rodgers shouted up. “Need you to watch over my family again while I’m working.”
Lyle rushed down the stairs. Their ancient, massive houses were at the top of a hill, so everyone was always gasping. He handed him the camera. Mr. Rodgers watched the screen.
“Give me money,” Lyle said, “or I’ll tell.”
The man’s face turned scary. He stomped his shiny army boots and screeched away in his maroon Explorer. Lyle e-mailed Shamed a spy’s message: Have cowgirl video. Call at 7:15.
At seven Mother finished baking a cheesy vegetable casserole and asked Derrick to watch it warm while she got Father. Lyle’s cell rang. Derrick, playing video games, listened to Lyle and shook him by the shoulders. “We’re poor,” Lyle spat. “We’re going to lose our phones. He’ll pay us.”
Later, as Derrick watched proudly from the porch, his sinister techie gave a flash drive to the pervert down on the sidewalk and told him Mr. Rodgers had the original. The reporter scurried downhill, away from the moonlight. Lyle squealed into the night about money.
The next day, coming home from school, the boys found news vans, police cars, and heartless gawkers cluttering up their street. The bald adulterer stood in the gutter in a dark suit. Flame-colored leaves fluttered around him as he informed a television camera that Parker Rodgers, who had an unconfirmed affiliation with national security, allegedly possessed child pornography. The accused was on his cement stairs, in blue boxers and handcuffs, flipping around like a hooked fish, clutched by two transfixed cops. When he spotted Lyle, he roared: “Kid, tell them he set me up! Tell them what you saw!” And Lyle cried out: “Don’t let him touch me!” The sickened wretch lunged forward. The officers manically lashed his legs and his eagle with elongated batons. Derrick dragged his blinded brother along. The reporter dropped his microphone and pursued them, like a hardened villain, slyly extracting an envelope and Derrick’s camera from his pocket. “Five thousand bucks better be there,” Lyle said, squinting toward a rugged, isolating superiority, “or the world gets to see you’re no man at all!”