Earworm: Part 32 — Pretty Cool Trick

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 31 — The Specter 

Starling twitched in Emily’s arms, her eyelids flickering. She nestled her head deeper into the crook of Emily’s shoulder. Emily unconsciously nuzzled her chin atop Starling’s head, her eyelids flickering as well. In Starling’s dreaming mind, she heard Emily’s calling,

Emily Dey

and she saw her lover’s image—black hair, dark eyes—and there was a feeling—a rush of air? thoughts? dreams?—filling her mind like an acid trip gripping her all at once. And then Starling stood in a vast garden. Lush, green vegetation, thousands of flowers blanketing the ground, ivy, like lace, hanging from white birch limbs. Warm sunlight embraced her body. The intense bouquet of flowers stung her nostrils and watered her eyes like the perfume counter at a department store. Wandering along a stone path, she felt the stones’ smooth hardness beneath her feet and she heard the buzz of hummingbirds’, the coo of doves, the distant singing of songbirds.

“Hey,” Emily called from behind her. Starling turned. Emily stood on the stone path, her body in striking contrast to the varied colors of the flowers and the stark greenness of the plants. Emily smiled, saying, “Pretty cool trick, huh?”

Continued: Earworm: Part 33 — Rats

With Drawn: Part 35 — Nice Doggy

Mystic Island Map, 2013Continued from: With Drawn: Part 34 — Reckless 

Tommy Rogers was skateboarding home from the skate park, where he’d been hanging out with his friends. Tommy wasn’t the best skateboarder. In fact, he wasn’t that good at skateboarding at all. Tommy would hang out at the skate park, leaning casually on the half pipes and cheering on those riders that were good. He would do this for one reason: because it looked good. Tommy hung out at the skate park and he owned a skateboard, so thusly, he was a skateboarder, and that made him cool. Eventually, he’d grow up and show how cool he was by leaning against beer kegs and muscle cars.

It was now night as Tommy skateboarded home. He was supposed to be home before dark, but Tommy wasn’t too concerned with the fact that the sun was down. Sure, his mother might nag him about being late, but he’d just tell her to shut up and then walk away from her. That tended to be the best way for the Rogers men to stop nagging females in their house. Telling Trudy Rogers to shut up had about an eighty-five percent success rate. Staring at her and telling her to shut the fuck up tended to work a hundred percent of the time.

As Tommy skated, he thought he heard something over the gravelly whispering of his skateboard’s wheels on the asphalt. It sounded like something, or someone, might have been following behind him.

Tommy stopped the skateboard and he stood for a moment, listening. He heard nothing but distant traffic and a few crickets—the crickets’ chirping now sluggish in the cool, autumn air. The street and the sidewalk were empty. Tommy started skateboarding again.

And again, he thought he heard something over the whisper of his skateboard’s wheels. The sound again coming from behind him, sounding maybe like the clacking of a dog’s paws on pavement.

Tommy stopped the skateboard, looking over his shoulder. But, again, he saw only the empty street and sidewalk.

The hedge of bushes running along the sidewalk rustled.

The cadence of Tommy’s heartbeat quickened with his fight or flight instinct.

Tommy didn’t like dogs. Not since he was little and a dog had bitten him just because he’d shot the thing with a B.B. gun.

Tommy started skateboarding faster this time. And again, the bushes beside him rustled.

Tommy stopped skateboarding and kicked the skateboard up into his hands. He held the board as if about to strike something with it. He called toward the bushes, “Hello?” When this was met with only silence, he called, “Danny? That you?”

Tommy said this because he suspected that maybe his friend, Danny, had followed him and was playing a prank on him by trying to scare him.

Prank or not, Tommy thought, if Danny jumped out of those bushes, Danny was going to catch that skateboard in the face.

There was silence. No rustling, and no Danny jumping from the bushes.

Tommy began walking home, listening carefully.

He stopped again when he heard a low, guttural sound come from the bushes beside him. Tommy called to the bushes, “Who’s there?” There was no response. Tommy then added, “I know karate.”

Karate is a style of fighting from Japan that people use for self-defense. Tommy did not know anything about karate other than its name.

Tommy gasped. He gasped because he saw what looked like two glowing eyes peering out from the bushes.

A squeaking sound then came from Tommy, and he began trotting down the sidewalk, glancing over his shoulder and calling, “Nice doggy. Nice doggy.”

And that’s when something burst from the bushes. I say “something,” because Tommy wasn’t quite sure what it was. Frankly, I couldn’t tell you what it was either. It was canine-like, maybe some demented cross between a wolf and a cougar.

Tommy screamed and he sprinted for home.

The thing sprinted after him.

Tommy turned onto his street and could now see his house at the end of the block. He ran for the beacon that was his front porch light as the wolf-cougar nipped at his heels. Tommy threw his skateboard aside and somehow ran even faster. He was screaming as he ran down the street. This is what Tommy was screaming: “Help. Help. Mom, open the door. It’s going to eat me. Open the door.”

Thankfully for Tommy, Trudy Rogers opened the door.

Trudy Rogers was standing in the Rogers’ doorway. She had her scrawny hip tilted and her bony arm leaning against the doorjamb. She watched the faint shadow of her son sprinting toward her in the dark, and she heard his high-pitched screaming. Trudy called to her son, “Tommy? What are…?” But she didn’t get a chance to finish her question as her son ducked under her arm and whisked into the house.

Then Trudy saw what her son had been screaming about. It was a dog sprinting down the street toward the house. But it didn’t look like a dog. Trudy thought it looked like a demented mix of a bear and a wolverine, and it was coming right toward her. Trudy screamed and slammed the door shut.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 36 — Meet The Rogers 

If you like what you read, please vote for us on topwebfiction.com .

Earworm: Part 31 — The Specter

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 30 — The Green Eyed Monster

Joel stuffed his school clothes into his gym locker and sat on the bench to tie his sneakers. Guard was hovering over him, impatient to get going. “You ready, man?”

“Yeah, just let me tie this shoe, will ya?”

“Your shoelaces don’t need to be perfect, you anal-retentive-prick.”

Bobby Milner, getting changed beside them, said, “Guard, like you know what anal-retentive means.”

“I know it has something to do with what you like to do with guys,” Guard said.

“Oh, yeah, tough guy?” Bobby said, he and Guard beginning to shadowbox, Guard blocking Bobby’s feigned hits. Bobby saying, “So, Joel,” as he ducked a swat from Guard, “what is taking you so long? You sitting here, wondering why you can’t score with Hope Ferretti?”

“Who says I haven’t?” Joel said, finishing the loop of his shoelace.

“I surely would have heard if Hope Ferretti was deflowered,” Bobby said. He landed a touch shot on Guard’s cheek.

“Oh, you’re dead for that one,” Guard said, lumbering toward Bobby. He landed a hard shot on Bobby’s chin. “Ha,” Guard said, “Like Hope’s a virgin.”

“Can we not discuss my woman like this?” Joel said.

Bobby faked a jab to Guard’s ribs and came up with a crackling slap across his cheek.

“Ah,” Guard called, his eyes flaring with anger.

“All right, all right, we’re even now,” Bobby said. He stopped bobbing and held up his hands in surrender. He turned to face Joel. “Okay then,” Bobby said, “surely I would have heard if you’d been deflowered.”

“Yeah right,” Guard said, rubbing his cheek, “Joel’s been deflowered so much, he’s… an empty garden.”

“That’s the dumbest analogy I’ve ever heard,” Bobby said, looking at Guard.

“Yeah, well, I’ll stuff that anala-whatever up your ass,” Guard said.

Bobby burst out laughing. “You’re gonna give me an anal-analogy? First you need to be able to say it, shithead.” Bobby turned and looked at Joel. “All right there, ladies-man, who’s the last chick you banged?”

“Fitchy banged Tara Larson on Labor Day,” Guard said.

“Really? Larson?” Bobby said, raising his eyebrows.

“Yeah,” Joel said with a reluctant shrug.

“Not bad.”

“Wait’ll he gets all knee-deep in a little Ferretti action,” Guard said.

“Think you’ll part that sea, Fitchy?” Bobby said, glancing at Joel. Joel offered another reluctant shrug. Bobby saying, “Aw, c’mon.”

Joel smiled. “I don’t know, Milner, I tend to be pretty irresistible.”

“Yeah, all right there, Moses,” Bobby said.

“Guys,” Mr. Marnet called from the locker room’s door, “let’s go, time for gym.”

Guard and Bobby walked off toward the gym, Guard saying to Bobby, “He’ll have scored with Ferretti by New Years.”

“2030, maybe,” Bobby laughed.

Joel shut his locker and turned to find William Knight standing behind him, staring at him in disgusted shock, as if William had just witnessed Joel taking a dump on the floor or something. Joel felt exposed in that glare, but he didn’t know why.

“You want something?” Joel said to him.

William didn’t answer. Instead, he wandered away like a specter in a ghost story.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 32 — Pretty Cool Trick

With Drawn: Part 34 — Reckless

Jacob's HouseContinued from:  With Drawn: Part 33 — On the Wall

For a reason that she did not quite know or understand, Joanne found herself walking across the street toward the abandoned house at 42 Savage Street. She may not have realized the reason she was walking over to the house, but the reason was easy enough to deduce. There was a string of several, seemingly unrelated, circumstances that had recently occurred and her gut told her that they were actually related, and the light on in the abandoned house seemed to be one of these circumstances.

By the way, Joanne’s gut did not actually speak to her. This is an expression meaning that she had an intuition that such a notion was true. People say that it is their gut speaking because when one gets a notion like this, it feels like something heavy is in his or her stomach.

As Joanne was about to step onto the property of 42 Savage Street, a noise stopped her. It was the sound of something large moving quickly through the tall grass from the backyard. It was night, and Joanne at first couldn’t see anything moving in the dark. Joanne didn’t move because she was very frightened. Then she almost screamed when what appeared to be a very large dog burst from the yard and darted down the street, disappearing into the night.

Now it was shock rather than fear that kept Joanne from moving for a moment, but then she willed herself to move forward again. She stepped into the house’s yard and climbed the house’s front steps onto the porch. She crept over to the house’s front window, but the blinds were drawn. She tried to peek past the blinds, but the light that was on inside the house went out.

Joanne turned from the window and walked back down the porch steps. She was going to walk around the house to the back yard, but she stopped again when she heard another large something coming through the grass.

Joanne retreated to the shadow of the abandoned house’s front porch. She watched, from her hiding place, as Jacob came around the back of the house and headed back toward the Walsh’s house. When Jacob had disappeared into the Walsh’s backyard, Joanne darted back up onto the front porch of the abandoned house and tried the doorknob of the front door. It was locked. Joanne darted from the front porch to the back of the abandoned house. She tried the backdoor, which was also locked.

You might be wondering why Joanne was being so reckless at this moment, trying to get into a dark house, even though she did not know what was in it, and despite the fact that a very large animal was recently in the backyard. The reason Joanne was being so reckless was because the situation involved the safety of her son, and for this reason, when Joanne tried the bulkhead, and the bulkhead opened easily, she had full intentions of darting down into the basement’s gaping darkness, despite having no light source to lead her way.

But then she stopped. She wanted to see what was in the house, but for the time being, her son was safe, and the shock and panic of fight or flight had subsided, and Joanne was thinking rationally again.

You see, women not only have a fight or flight mechanism in their brains for their own self preservation, but they also have a fight or flight mechanism for their children’s preservation.

Believe it or not, a woman’s fight or flight instinct is actually stronger for her child’s safety than for her own safety.

Thinking rationally now, Joanne shut the bulkhead door and decided it would be smarter to investigate the situation in the light of day, while Jacob was at school. And so Joanne headed back for the Walsh’s house.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 35 — Nice Doggy 

With Drawn: Part 33 — On the Wall

Jacob's HouseContinued from: With Drawn: Part 32 — Freak

Joanne was cleaning up the kitchen in the Walsh’s house. It was after the last of the mourners had left. Joanne had joked that she and Jacob would be eating cold cuts from the deli platter for the next week.

Jacob did not find the joke funny. He didn’t like cold cuts.

Not many of the mourners, who had accepted the pastor’s invitation to go to the Walsh’s house after the funeral, had eaten the food that Joanne had provided. Most of them did, however, drink the alcohol she provided.

Rod and Tommy Rogers did not go to the Walsh’s house after the funeral. They were still very upset about what had happened between Tommy and Jacob at the wake.

Joanne regarded the mess in the kitchen. She just wanted to leave the mess to be cleaned up another time. She wanted to sleep. But still, she cleaned, because it needed to be done.

Jacob walked into the kitchen. He was not wearing the black suit his mother had made him wear to the wake. Jacob hadn’t worn the suit to the funeral because Jacob didn’t attend the funeral. Jacob sat in the funeral home during the funeral. He drew the whole time the funeral was going on. He drew a picture of his father escaping that house in Afghanistan.

Now, in the Walsh’s kitchen, as his mother was cleaning up, Jacob looked as if he had a question he wasn’t quite sure he should ask.

Joanne, recognizing that Jacob had something on his mind, said, “Everything okay, kiddo?”

“Can I still go for my walk today?”

Joanne said, “Of course. Why wouldn’t you be able to go for your walk?”

Jacob thought his mother’s voice sounded different, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was that sounded different about it. He thought it sounded heavy for some reason.

It turns out that thinking that his mother’s voice sounded heavy was a good description on Jacob’s part. Often, when a person’s voice is full of emotion, someone might call that person’s voice heavy. Probably because it sounds like the person is struggling to speak without allowing that emotion to break out in sobs, struggling with an effort as if the person was holding a great burden.

Jacob said, “I didn’t know if I was in trouble because of what happened at the wake.”

“You can go for your walk,” Joanne said. She then looked more closely at her son. She was trying to read his expression. Sometimes it was as hard for her to read her son’s expression as it was for Jacob to read other people’s expressions. Joanne said to Jacob, “Are you okay?”

“Okay?”

Joanne said, “Okay with everything that’s been going on? I know we talked some about what happened at the wake, and about what happened to Dennis, but still… we haven’t… you haven’t…” Joanne shook her head. She wasn’t quite sure what to say to her son because she didn’t know what he felt about all that had happened. Joanne then said, “Have you thought about going to talk with Dr. Adams?”

“Talk about what?”

“Your problems.”

“Can he fix the problems?”

“Not directly. But he can teach you how to fix them.”

“I need someone that can fix my problems,” Jacob said. He then turned and walked out through the back door of the Walsh’s kitchen.

Joanne watched her son go. When he was gone, she began cleaning up the kitchen again. As she cleaned, she looked at the different corners of the kitchen through prisms of tears. Then she began crying. It turns out that her burden was too heavy, and she was the one in need of talking.

Joanne continued on with her housekeeping duties. She felt that if she stopped moving, she would stop moving all together.

This did not mean that she would completely de-animate as if her body core temperature had reached absolute zero. It meant that she would be so sad and depressed that her brain would stop producing endorphins and she would no longer have any motivation to accomplish anything. This had happened when her first husband, David, had died. It had been Dennis’s persistence that finally got her up and moving that time. She knew that this time she would have to do it for herself.

After she had finished cleaning the kitchen, Joanne brought some of Jacob’s folded laundry up to Jacob’s room. She placed the laundry on Jacob’s bed. On her way out of the room, Joanne noticed something on the wall, something that was peeking from behind Jacob’s open bedroom door.

Joanne slowly shut the door. Behind the door was a life-size pencil drawing of Jacob’s father. Joanne covered her mouth and said, “Oh my god.”

Joanne had seen the portraits of Jacob’s father before, but this one knocked the air out of her lungs.

This expression does not mean she was physically struck, causing her lungs to expel all air held within them. It means that she gasped and stopped breathing for a moment, due to shock.

She was shocked because, for one reason, she’d never seen one of Jacob’s portraits being life-sized, and for another reason, this one looked different. Despite being only a pencil sketch, it looked more real somehow than Jacob’s other drawings. She then spotted what appeared to be colored paint on the figure. It appeared to be fine droplets of red paint. Joanne ran her fingers across these droplets. The droplets did not smear or streak, nor did they feel raised from the wall as if dried paint. It was as if they were part of the drawing, part of the wall.

If you hadn’t guessed already, these red droplets were Dennis’s blood. When the 9mm bullet had ripped through Dennis’s face, the extreme velocity of the impact had sprayed what was in Dennis’s head—like blood and skull and brain matter—outward. Some of it had gotten on the man that shot Dennis. If the police had suspected anything other than an accidental death, they might have looked more closely at the slight void in the red spray of blood and skull and brain matter on the walls of the Walsh’s den. That void being where David Grist had been standing. And if the police had suspected a life-size drawing coming to life and killing a man, they would have been able to match the blood on David Grist with that void in the splatter on the den’s walls.

Joanne backed away from the drawing. She, of course, did not suspect that the drawing had come to life and killed her husband either, but still, something about the drawing made her uneasy. The back of Joanne’s thighs hit Jacob’s bed, and Joanne stopped backing up. She stood in the middle of her son’s room. Her mind was numb at the moment because there was just too much to think about, and Joanne glanced out her son’s bedroom window.

Something out that window had caught her eye. Joanne walked over to the window and looked out of it. There was a light on in the abandoned house across the street’s front room.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 34 — Reckless 

Earworm: Part 30 — The Green Eyed Monster

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 29 — A Little Company

“‘O beware my lord, of jealousy; It is the green eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on: that cuckold lives in bliss who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger; but, O, what damned minutes tells he o’er who dotes, yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves!’” Mr. Grey read the text in a fast, shady growl signifying his portrayal of Iago. His voice then changed to the deep, powerful cadence of Othello: “‘Why, why is this? Think thou I’ld make a life of jealousy, to follow still the changes of the moon with fresh suspicion? No; to be once in doubt is once to be resolved: exchange me for a goat, when I shall turn the business of my soul to such exsufflicate and blown surmises, matching thy inference. ’Tis not to make me jealous…’” Mr. Grey strolled around the room, the book held in one hand, his other hand in the air like a conductor waving with the poetry of the words. “‘…For she had eyes and chose me. No, Iago; I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove; and, on the proof, this is more but this,—away at once with love or jealousy!’” Mr. Grey paused.

There was silence.

“Whoa,” Carl Watts said, “that was intense.”

“That’s right, Mr. Watts. What just happened?”

“I don’t know, but it sounded bad,” Carl said.

The class giggled. The bell rang.

“Okay, class, have a good night,” Mr. Grey called, adding, “And Mr. Watts, you may want to review a bit.”

Hope gathered her things, the other students rising from their desks in flutters of shutting books and book bags being shouldered. Out of the corner of her eye, Hope spotted a shimmer of light, like rushing water. She flinched, her hand going to her breast in search of her moon jewel. She turned to find the flicker was Samantha Stuart standing from her seat, light catching on her plastic binder.

“Hey,” someone said.

Hope flinched again, looking up at Joel, Joel saying, “Whoa, you all right?”

“Yeah,” she said. “You scared me.”

“Why look,” Mr. Grey called to Hope and Joel from across the room, “I still have two students left to teach. I can continue with my lecture on Othello if you both shall wish. I had no idea that I kept you in such rapture.”

Hope and Joel burst into smiles. “Can’t get enough of you, Mr. Grey,” Joel said, “but who’s this Othello guy?”

Mr. Grey smiled. “Perhaps I can bring you up to speed after school, Mr. Fitch.”

“You’d actually come to football practice and tutor me?”

“I, Mr. Fitch, would not dream of such a thing.”

“Hey,” Joel snapped his attention to Hope, “you still havin those weird dreams?”

“They’re getting weirder each night,” Hope said.

Although the dream of her father’s demonic transformation had shaken Hope in the late hours of the night, she felt it almost seemed silly now. For some reason, the dream of losing her father had not been as jarring as the dream when she’d first found him again. Maybe because the dream last night was more like a dream than the other dreams she’d been having. Last night’s dream was more random and bizarre—as dreams should be.

“What do you think of dreams, Mr. Grey?” Joel said.

“Still dreaming of becoming the first U.S. President to graduate from our fine institution, Mr. Fitch?”

“No, dream-dreams, the ones at night.”

“The ones where you already are the president, Mr. Fitch?”

“No, the ones where I take over the Playboy empire. Ouch.” Joel grabbed his arm where Hope struck him.

“I like them,” Mr. Grey said.

“What, dreams or playmates? Ouch.”

“Mr. Fitch, must conversations with you always take the path of water descending a drain?” Mr. Grey asked, but it was evident in his smiling eyes that Mr. Grey enjoyed these conversations with future President Fitch.

“Hope’s cheating on me in her dreams,” Joel said.

“Joel,” Hope squealed.

“It’s true, she spends every sleeping moment with another guy.”

“Only shows that her sleeping self is a better judge of character than her waking self,” Mr. Grey said, looking up from his papers.

“You got that right,” Hope said.

Joel rolled his eyes and shook his head. “We know that isn’t true. But really, Mr. Grey, what is your take on dreams?”

“Isn’t that question better suited for your father, Mr. Fitch?”

“He’d say Hope is repressing guilt about bedwetting or something. Ouch. Would you please stop hitting me?”

“It sounds like, perhaps, it is you projecting your own bedwetting problem onto Hope,” Mr. Grey said.

“Exactly,” Hope said.

“No, I’m serious,” Joel said. “What’s your take on dreams, you know, from a—I don’t know—a book standpoint?”

“I’m not familiar with many books that dream. However, if you mean from a literary standpoint, then dreams can be anything from spiritual to prophetic.”

“Prophetic, what is that, like a condom?”

“Way to flush yet another conversation, Mr. Fitch. But to answer your question: Native Americans thought dreams to be doorways to the spirit world. There are even Aborigine tribes that believe the dream world is the true reality. Then there is the Bible, and other religious texts, where dreams allude to demonic deeds—an idea taken a little too far in Salem a few hundred years ago, when the dreams of young girls alerted authorities to supposed witches. Just remember, Ms. Ferretti, they are, in fact, your dreams, and you should take from them what you want.”

“Think you’re a witch?” Joel said, bringing his hands to his cheeks in mock fear.

“Ms. Ferretti, maybe your dreams are trying to tell you something about whom you keep company with,” Mr. Grey said, arching an eyebrow toward Joel. “Perhaps you should listen to what they are saying.”

“I’m still convinced it’s bedwetting,” Joel said. “Ouch.”

As Hope and Joel walked toward the door, Joel began singing in an off-key voice, “‘When I want to see you, all I have to do, is dre-ee-ee-ee-eam, dream, dream, dream…’”

“Ms. Ferretti,” Mr. Grey called as Hope and Joel were about to walk out the door, “Our minds speak to us in different ways. The key is to listen to your mind and listen to your heart, but not to let one rule the other. No one can control your dreams, and your dreams cannot control you.”

“See,” Joel said, nodding in Mr. Grey’s direction and saying in his best Kung Fu movie voice, “you need to listen to the great Master Grey here.”

“And, Mr. Fitch,” Mr. Grey said, “I will be sure to inform Ms. Glindelle of your wonderful singing voice, and that you will be quitting football for chorus.”

“Nah,” Joel said, “that Beatles’ song is all I know.”

“You mean The Everly Brothers?”

“See what I mean?”

“Never underestimate the power of the oldies’ station, young Grasshoppa.”

“Yes, Master,” Joel said as he and Hope walked off down the hall.

That night, Hope dug at the tacks hanging the poster of the castle to the wall. She imagined the delight in her sister’s eyes as she handed the poster to her. Here you go, Karen, you better take care of this. And if any boys try to take you there when you’re dreaming, don’t go.

Hope thought about the creature her father had become in her nightmare—the sunken nose, narrowed eyes—and she looked at the poster, the castle somehow seeming tainted now. But then she stopped digging at the tacks. She traced the castle’s ramparts and towers with her eyes, suddenly realizing she was acting like a foolish little girl. Mr. Grey was right, her dreams were her dreams, and they would not control her.

She fastened the poster back into place, smoothing the slight bulge where it drooped against the tacks. “Sorry, Karen,” she said to herself, securing the final thumbtack into place. Hope then put on her favorite boxer shorts and Dutch Horse T-shirt, and she went to bed. She decided that she was done with these dreams. And she slept a dreamless slumber. But it wouldn’t last, because the dreams were not done with her.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 31 — The Specter

If you like what you read, please vote for us on topwebfiction.com .

Earworm: Part 29 — A Little Company

EarwormContinued from: Earworm: Part 28 — On the Edge

The full moon reflected off the black glass of the ocean like Narcissus keeping his vigil. Emily sat on an outcropping of rocks overlooking the water. William, nestled in the crook of her waist, played with her hair as it brushed against his cheek. William let go of his mother’s hair and followed her gaze to the moon. Emily could smell the distant, wafting sent of marijuana, and she heard the faint laughter and the music of Dano’s van wrapping and lacing through the nearby woods. She enjoyed that drifting sweet and sour smell, it complimented the stillness of the night, as if for the rest of her life, that smell would bring visions of these times. Someone was coming down the path leading from the parking area where Dano’s van was parked.

“Hey,” Starling said, appearing in the glow of the moon.

“Hey,” Emily said.

“What a night, huh?” Starling said, sitting next to Emily, hip to hip, her arm crossing Emily’s back. She took a swig of beer, the light of the moon swimming in her glassy eyes. “That’s some moon.”

“Sure is.”

“Whoa, I think The Man on the Moon just winked at us,” Starling said. She turned her glassy gaze onto Emily and broke into her laugh, “Ha. I’m pretty stoned.”

Emily smiled. William whined, reaching for the moon as if it was a toy out of reach. Emily bounced him on her legs and looked at the pretty stoned girl nestled at her side. Starling leaned toward Emily. Their lips met. Emily tasted the pot and beer, a sour-tin flavor that, when Starling pulled away, left a desirable aftertaste. They stared at one another for a moment.

Bert’s screaming, “Yeeehaaa,” jerked them from the moment. In the distance, Bert swung on the rope swing and plunged into the ocean with an explosive splash. The others, now visible in the moonlight, cheered.

“They’re going to kill themselves,” Emily said.

“We can only hope,” Starling said, brushing Emily’s hair over her ear. Starling saying, “Glenn’s away for the weekend, right?”

“Yeah.” Emily said, nuzzling into Starling’s touch. But then pulling away, saying, “He’s on a rafting trip.”

“Maybe it’s best if you had some company tonight,” Starling said with a flicker of coyness in her voice. She ran the back of her fingers down Emily’s face.

Emily closed her eyes, her head rocking. She pulled away again, looking off to the moon. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I…”

“A girlfriend to keep you occupied?”

“No… I can’t.”

“Sorry,” Starling said. “Like I said, I’m pretty stoned.”

“It’s all right,” Emily said. She bounced her son on her lap.

“Ohhh shiiiit,” Ernie yelled, wobbling and falling from his perch, swinging, not letting go of the rope, and swinging back toward his friends. Danno pushed him back out over the water. Ernie let go and plunged into the black glass, ripples shimmering in the moonlight.

“What do they think about all this?” Emily said, nodding toward the men in the distance.

“Those idiots?” Starling said, nodding at her friends. “I wouldn’t tell those morons anything. In fact, I think Ernie’s got a crush on you, hoping for a torrid love affair with a marr…” Starling stopped and looked at the beer in her hand. She took a sip.

With distant, drunken calls, Danno swung on the rope and splashed into the water.

“Cops’ll be here soon,” Starling stated to her beer can. She finished it off in one draining quaff and leaned her forearms on her knees, the empty can dangling between her thighs. A long silence passed, broken only by the crickets chirping, and Starling’s friends’ calls.

“Then we should probably get going soon, right?” Emily said in a tone Starling called her, Nancy Reagan, Just Say No, Voice.

“Guess so.” Starling said, watching the men climb onto the beach.

“I’ve got to get William to bed,” Emily said.

“Uh-huh.” Starling said, standing from the rocks.

“Maybe you’d like to come over and watch Saturday Night Live or something,” Emily said. “You know, keep me occupied.” Starling looked down at Emily and cocked her head. Emily didn’t return the girl’s look as her son sat begging for the moon.

Continued in: Earworm: Part 30 — The Green Eyed Monster 

With Drawn: Part 32 — Freak

Map of Mystic IslandContinued from: With Drawn: Part 31 — Who’s Your Daddy?

Joanne stood alone beside a closed casket in the Sullivan Brothers’ funeral home. Dennis Walsh was in the casket. The casket was closed because a 9mm bullet had made a mess of Dennis’s face, and the undertaker, Harry Sullivan, couldn’t get Dennis to look quite right. Harry Sullivan’s son, Steven, said that Dennis looked like an overzealous Elvis impersonator.

Elvis was a singer that would curl his lip up into a sneer. The Sullivan’s couldn’t get Dennis’s lip to stay down, as if Dennis was bearing his teeth like a mad dog. Jacob would have thought this expression was apt for Dennis, but Jacob never understood why anyone would want an open casket at a wake anyway. Why would someone want to look at a corpse?

Joanne wore a black dress, black being the appropriate colored clothing for someone in mourning, and her hair was done up in a bun. Joanne’s dark eyes were looking at the floor of the funeral home. It was as if she could not bring herself to make eye contact with anyone else. At that moment, she was a lot like her son in this regard. People approached Joanne in a sporadic manner. There was no line to talk to her or to offer a prayer at the casket. About a dozen people littered the room and talked quietly in small pockets.

Jacob sat in a folding, wooden chair in the back of the room. Jacob was dressed in black as well. He wore a black suit, but with no tie. Ties made him feel like he was being strangled. Jacob had his sketchpad on his knees, and he was working on a drawing of his mother and John Berkley standing together in one of the grassy fields that John liked to draw so much.

While Joanne was standing beside the casket and Jacob sketched, Rod and Tommy Rogers entered the funeral home. Rod and Tommy approached the closed casket. Rod and Tommy were looking at the floor in much the same manner that Joanne was doing, and in much the same manner that Jacob was known to do.

Rod and Tommy knelt before the casket’s closed lid and they prayed for a moment. This is what people do at wakes, they offer prayers that the dead person makes it to heaven. Rod and Tommy then stood from the kneeler and they walked over to Joanne. They all still had their eyes down looking at the floor. While Rod began to give his condolences to Joanne, Tommy lifted his eyes from the floor and began looking around the room. Tommy’s gaze fell onto Jacob, Tommy’s eyes narrowing.

This narrowing of Tommy’s eyes was an involuntary reaction as Tommy, a predator, focused on Jacob, his prey.

When Rod was finished offering his condolences to Joanne, Tommy tugged on the sleeve of his father’s suit jacket. Tommy pointed out Jacob to his father. Rod and Tommy walked over to Jacob.

Rod stood over Jacob, regarding the boy drawing in his sketchpad. Rod didn’t notice what Jacob was drawing. Rod was too angry to notice. The very fact that Jacob was drawing at his stepfather’s funeral made Rod very angry. Rod said to Jacob, “What do you think you’re doing?” Rod said this in the same growling tone that Dennis had often used when addressing Jacob.

Jacob didn’t look up at Rod. Jacob just said, still drawing in his sketchpad, “I’m drawing.”

Rod said, “At least have the decency to show some respect for your stepdad.”

Jacob said, “I don’t have a stepdad.”

Rod said to Jacob, “Yeah, not now.” Rod then paused a moment, trying to make sense of this exchange with the boy. Rod said to Jacob, “Jesus, Dennis wasn’t kidding when he said you were thick. Makes me wonder how you pulled it off.”

Jacob, still not looking up from his drawing, said, “Pulled what off?”

“Killing him,” Rod said.

“Killing who?” Jacob said.

“Killing who? You really are retarded,” Rod said. Then he said, “The police may have ruled Dennis’s death an accident, but I know better. Dennis would never shoot himself, accidently or otherwise. I don’t care how drunk he was.”

The police, after investigating Dennis’s death, had determined that Dennis had been very drunk, and that he had accidently shot himself in the face with his brand new Glock 9mm. This was the most logical explanation for the police, so it’s the one the police accepted.

The concept that it may have been the ghostly incarnation of his dead former best friend that forced Dennis to shoot himself in the face had never crossed the police investigators’ minds.

Jacob didn’t look up from his drawing. He didn’t seem to care that Rod was even there, never mind that the man was accusing Jacob of murder. Rod wanted to say more to Jacob, but he was too angry, and too stupid, to think of anything more to say, so he just stormed away from Jacob.

Tommy didn’t walk away with his father. Instead, Tommy sat down next to Jacob. Someone viewing this action from a distance may have thought it looked like Tommy was sitting beside Jacob to offer him condolence. This was not the case. Tommy looked at the drawing on which Jacob was working. “Wow, that is cold,” Tommy said, nodding at Jacob’s drawing of Joanne and John Berkley.

By saying the drawing was cold had nothing to do with the paper’s temperature. Tommy meant that it was cold-hearted, which is to say, Jacob did not have the appropriate, sympathetic response to his mother’s loss.

Tommy then said, “Is your mom banging Berkley?”

This question referred to whether or not Joanne Walsh was having sexual intercourse with John Berkley.

Jacob didn’t answer at first. Without looking up from the sketchpad, Jacob flipped the page to a clean sheet of paper. Jacob immediately began working on a new drawing.

Jacob then said, still not looking up from his drawing, “No, my mom is not banging Berkley. But Mr. Berkley would be a better stepfather than that asshole Dennis ever could be.”

“Berkley’s a fag,” Tommy said.

Jacob didn’t respond. He just continued on with his drawing, the drawing taking on the shape of a person.

Tommy said to Jacob, “I knew it couldn’t have been you that killed Dennis. You’re too much of a weakling to overpower him. And I’m sure that’s what the police thought, too.”

Jacob didn’t answer. He just continued to draw.

Tommy said, “But I don’t think it was an accident either. I think that Dennis probably killed himself so he didn’t have to put up with a freak like you as a stepson.” Tommy paused a moment, then he nodded toward the casket on the other side of the room, Tommy saying, “You know, it should be you in that coffin.”

“Dead people go into coffins,” Jacob said.

“My point exactly,” Tommy said. “You know, those guns are still in your house. You should do us all a favor and use one of them. I could teach you how to use it. Seeing as you’re probably too retarded to know how a gun even works. But I’ll load it for you. I’ll cock it for you. I’ll show you how to pull the trigger. You should put us all out of our misery for having to deal with you.”

Jacob said, “Okay, I’ll start with putting you out of your misery.”

Tommy said, “That’s not what I meant. I meant you should kill yourself.”

Jacob was staring at his drawing and then he held up his sketchpad to show it to Tommy. The drawing Jacob had been working on was of Tommy Rogers. In the drawing, Tommy was holding the Glock 9mm to his own head. Jacob said to Tommy, “You mean, like this?”

Tommy looked at the drawing, and the picture seemed to move. The gun in the drawing went off and Tommy’s drawn likeness’s brains exploded from his drawn likeness’s head.

Tommy stood from the folding, wooden chair beside Jacob, Tommy screaming, “You freak.” Tommy then pulled Jacob from his own folding, wooden chair, tackling Jacob to the floor. Tommy continued to scream, “You freak. You freak. You freak.”

Several men converged on the ruckus, the men pulling the two boys apart.

Jacob’s sketchpad had fallen to the floor, and Joanne, now standing before her son, looked down and saw the drawing of Tommy Rogers shooting himself in the head. Joanne covered her mouth. She looked ill.

Continued in: With Drawn: Part 33 — On the Wall