Phoenix Chapter Two: The Snakehouse

Phoenix Chapter Two: The Snakehouse

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg

Chapter Two: The Snake House


A few months later, Rogan walks into Midas Muffler and clocks in. Ryan, the stocky red-headed manager, waves, phone tucked between shoulder and ear. Rogan returns the wave and rolls up the sleeves of his uniform shirt. The smells of hot oil and exhaust enfold him in the smell that is work.

The head mechanic, Gary, shouts over the sound of air tools, “Tire rotation on the Oldsmobile,” and gestures toward the line of work orders tucked in their plastic sleeves with car keys attached. Rogan selects the correct set of keys and walks into the dewy morning air to drive the Oldsmobile into the bay. 

Four busy hours later, Rogan is musing over his lunch. He got the guitar he wanted and now wants a new amp. The one he has is just a dinky one from the pawn shop, just to practice on. Not that he will be able to practice much. His father is home way too much, now that he is back on unemployment. At least he has noise canceling headphones, so he can enjoy the extensive metal collection on his phone. Once again he thinks about moving out. 

This is going through his mind as he sips coffee on his lunch break. Ryan pokes his head in the break room. 

“Me and Rita are going to Marco's tonight. Want to come along?”

Rogan is wary. Rita has a tendency to play match maker and he's a bit tired of having girls shoved at him. 

Ryan must see this, because he adds, “No one else. I promise. Just Rita and me.” 

“In that case, yeah, I'll come along. You get off at six, too?”

“Nope, off at five thirty, but we'll wait for you before ordering.”

Rogan finds Ryan and Rita, alone as promised, sitting in a booth under a Shell gas station sign. Rita has short, shiny chestnut hair and is quite petite. He slips onto the vinyl bench on Rita's side of the table. Rita's smile for him seems extra big, like she has a secret. And she does. After they order a pepperoni pizza and another round of beers, Rita tells the news she's been bursting with since he arrived.

“Ryan and I are moving in together.” Her smile is so bright and genuine, Rogan grins too as he congratulates the couple.

“When are you guys going to tie the knot?” Rogan asks.

“Maybe when I finish my accounting degree. But Rogan, when are you going to find someone? You're never going to find the right girl if you always keep to yourself.” 

“I'll never find someone as special as you, Rita. I'll just have to make do with envying Ryan for the catch he found.”  

Their beers arrive and talk continues about the happy couple's plans. 

“I'm going to be moving into Rita's next weekend, on Sunday. Can you give me a hand with my stuff?”

“Sure. You going to rent a truck?”

“No, Rita's cousin has a pick-up. I'm borrowing that.” Ryan looks at Rogan. “You want to take my room when I move out?”

Rogan never mentions how intolerable his home situation is, but thinks Ryan senses his unhappiness about living with his parents.

“It's just a room in a house, not an apartment, but it's a nice space. The landlord is pretty cool. And it's way cheaper than a full one bedroom.” 

“Who's the landlord?”

“Funny guy named Richard Bohner.” Ryan' s expression turns wicked. “Don't ever call him Dick Boner. He'd set his snakes on you.” 

Rogan recoils. “Snakes?” 

“He keeps snakes. Oh, don't worry, they never go upstairs when they get loose. You leave them alone, they leave you alone.”

“And it's Dick Boner? I know him, from grade school. He liked snakes back then too.” 

“He goes by his middle name now, Leo. Don't ever mention you know his first name.”

The next day, going through the motions of unscrewing the oil filter on the Honda Civic he's working on, he thinks this over. His parents are as unpleasant as ever. He already chips in for rent and frequently pays emergency bills, like three month over due electricity bills and bounced mortgage checks. He has been buying groceries for himself as well. It probably wouldn't mean much difference in finances. 

To live somewhere peaceful... He'd like that. And Leo, the landlord, is nothing if not quiet. He removes the oil filter, chucks it in the bin, grabs a new one from the box. He could talk to the guy. Just ask what the arrangements would be, look at the room. He smears a bit of oil on the filter gasket, slips it in place and screws it in until it seats properly. Giving it another three quarter turn, he decides he'll check it out. 

Leo's place is about as weird as he expected it to be. The exterior of the Victorian house is silver-gray wood, all paint long since gone, and vines have taken over one corner of the house. Leo, a small man with short blonde hair and blue eyes behind square black-rimmed glasses, meets Rogan on the porch. 

Inside, it is warm, dry and a little dusty but otherwise clean. All the doors are closed, except the dining room at the end of the hall. The dining room is dim, the windows covered in velvet curtains probably as old as the house. There are eight terrariums taking up all of the spacious room, leaving only an alley to reach the kitchen. 

Peering in the nearest terrarium, Rogan sees an orange and yellow snake of unusual beauty, but Leo leads the way to the kitchen, which is cavernous. It appears functional. The gas stove is ancient and the sink is chipped porcelain, but the refrigerator is new, and there is a pleasant breakfast nook.

“You'd get two shelves in the fridge and we take turns cleaning the kitchen. You do your own dishes. Don't let them pile up too much. You're free to use my pots and pans as long as you clean them right away.” 

As Leo escorts Rogan through the dining room again and upstairs, he says, “I go out of town a lot but you don't need to worry about the snakes, they only eat once  a week and I give them a mouse apiece before I leave.”   

Upstairs, all the doors are closed. Leo leads the way to one with a padlock. Opening the door, it turns out to be a large, sunny room. Someone installed venetian blinds and it is dust free. The fireplace has an ornate mantle and the ceiling fixture is quite elegant. There's already a bed and enough room for a couch and coffee table. It even has its own adjoining bathroom. The fixtures are old, but clean and functional. And it's quiet. No TV blaring, no arguing parents, no strife and discord. Just quiet snakes and quiet Leo. 

“Five hundred dollars a month?” Leo nods. “Everything included, no electricity bill or anything?”

“Everything included,” agrees Leo.

“I'll take it.”

The next day at Midas, Ryan asks, “How'd it go with Leo?” 

“I'm taking it. You think you could give me a ride when I move in? I don't have much.”

“Sure, Rogan, no problem.” Ryan says. “Dude, I'm glad you're moving in. Leo is a good guy. I was worried about his next tenant. Leo is so shy, he might be a pushover if some creep moved in.”

Rogan has avoided a lot of fuss by not telling his parents he's moving until he is actually packed up. With Ryan at the curb, engine running, Rogan climbs the stairs two at a time and grabs his clothes and amp. He comes downstairs and dumps them  next to the door, then goes back up to get his tools and guitar.

“What is this s**t?” His father kicks at Rogan’s duffle. Rogan is glad he has his guitar in one hand. His father can kick his clothes all he wants, but his guitar is valuable.  

“I’m leaving.” He has to set down the guitar to open the front door.

“You little a*s wipe, where do you think you’re going?” 

Rogan’s father no longer towers over him. They see eye-to-eye now. Both of them are 6'4”. He looks at the man who spawned him and feels bubbling hatred and a strong desire to just be gone. 

“That’s not your business anymore, where I go. I’m 18 and I’m outta here.” As he reaches for the duffle, his father grabs him roughly by the shoulder.

“You're no damn good, just like your sister. Running away, just like your sister. You'll end up just like your sister.”

Rage blotting out surprise at his own actions, Rogan finds himself plowing his fist into his father's jaw. His father is heavier, but Rogan is faster. He pulls back his tool bag and swings it into his father's stomach before his father can retaliate. 

“Don't you ever talk to me about Lucy. Ever. I know what you did to her. I know, you mother f****r.”   

His mother has been watching from the kitchen doorway and is wringing her hands. Rogan turns to her.

“You knew too, didn't you? You knew and didn't do anything. I lay her at your door. You can both rot in hell.”  

He’s out the door and on his way down to Ryan’s car before his father has time to catch his breath. 

Ryan helps him carry his stuff upstairs, and then Rogan is left alone in his room. He starts shaking, the adrenaline catching up with him. He managed to behave pretty normally in Ryan's car, but reaction has set in. Sitting on the bed, he holds his hand out and watches it tremble, as he thinks of Lucy, his sister. Run away and gone. Leaving him behind. He's finally out, too. He thinks she would approve.     

Eventually he looks around his new domain. He needs a couch and a stereo, but for now he has a really comfortable bed (queen size) and his phone will do for music. Cuing up some Anthrax on his phone, he stashes his tools in the closet and puts the guitar on its stand in one corner. He gets out his one ornament, a framed picture of himself, Claire, Allison and Andy on a pier on Lake Michigan, at sunset. He puts the picture on the mantle, and he is moved in. 




© 2019 SweetNutmeg


Author's Note

SweetNutmeg
Thank you for reading. Any and all comments are welcome.

My Review

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Featured Review

Maybe because I'm settling in with the characters, but I find this to be a very good chapter. The only critique I have are the triple stars between scenes. They do serve as dividers, but I think you could do without most of them. It's sad and unfortunate that Rogan has such an awful relationship with his father. Such things do occur, as we know.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

5 Months Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I tried out leaving out the stars, and they are unnecessary. I'.. read more
Samuel Dickens

5 Months Ago

That's a good, old-fashioned name. Pretty sure I've used it in some of my writing.



Reviews

As I'm sitting here thinking about what I'm going to say, the only thing I'm sure I want to write down is that this is going to be a weird review.

I just have no confidence in my ability to articulate these thoughts. And I'm not sure they're worth sharing.

The short version is that I've got a list of changes I would make, but I'm not gong to tell you what they are because the chapter works so well the way it is.

I'm sure that makes no sense.

When I reviewed the first chapter I wrote that you do a great job of getting to the point, which is something I suck at. I would flounder around these scenes for years, and it would take me three long chapters to make as much progress as you do in a short one.

There's a part of me that says this chapter feels rushed. I think some of the transitions are too abrupt, and should be jarring. When I really think about the flow, structure and pacing I think hey, you can't do it that way.

But you clearly can do it that way. I think it should be jarring, but it isn't. At all. I can't figure out why it works, but it works perfectly all the way through.

So while my critical eye compiles a list of things that should be done differently, my actual experience as a reader is absolutely perfect. I just exist in the scene, I can visualize everything around me, the characters all have unique voices and I've got feelings about them. I care, I'm asking questions and looking forward to finding answers.

I just have no idea how you did it. But the part of me that says "this isn't right" is clearly wrong.

Told you this would be a weird review. I'm still not sure if I'm making the right point.

I also can't see the purpose of what I've just written, as a review, because it's a whole lot of words that eventually get around to saying "This chapter is great."

But it's what I was thinking, so it's what I've written down.

Posted 3 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

3 Weeks Ago

Thank you for reading so carefully. I'm not sure what I did that has made you feel this chapter is g.. read more
This is a good, well-written chapter. The pawn shop amplifier is realistic. (I've got a nephew who wouldn't know what to do without pawn shops) Six foot four is really tall. Perhaps he played basketball at some point? Most cars use spin-on oil filters, but a few use cartridge-types, where the element is inserted into a housing, then tightened down with a central bolt. I think this sentence could be worded better--"Not that he will be able to practice much as his father is home way too much, now that he is back on unemployment."

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

4 Months Ago

Thank you again for your careful reading and helpful comments. I am especially grateful for the oil .. read more
Samuel Dickens

4 Months Ago

Yep, you got it!
SweetNutmeg

4 Months Ago

Thank you. I fixed the awkward sentence and replaced the oil change paragraph. You're such a big hel.. read more
I hate repeating myself, but the first three paragraphs seem to have the same formatting problem it had the first time you posted this chapter. Also, the font and size are different from other chapters which makes me wonder if it was also a formatting problem.

Posted 4 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

4 Months Ago

Duly noted and fixed. I have a damn stupid default format setting on my original docs, and I don't a.. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

4 Months Ago

It happens to all of us, unfortunately.
Rewritten review: continued from "...poor Rogan."

I moved away from an abusive narcissistic roommate just a month ago and come from a culture where every single person in one's extended family is a matchmaker wannabe (I even have one aunt who does a kind of playing card fortune reading thingy and borderline stalks her nieces' and nephews' love lives through gossip! Thankfully she's sticking to her own children and grandchildren's lives for now), so I can definitely relate to Rogan in this chapter more than the last one.

I think this is another good chapter with a reliable narrator (despite the fact that the internet says present tense should be used when you want to write an unreliable narrator)! One thing I could add, or ask, though is about the second paragraph. The spaces after the sentences "...the smell of work" and "...into the bay" tells me that long paragraph might have been three separate paragraphs fused together by the lack of space between paragraphs (which has kind of been part of your writing voice, at least to me). Was it intentional?

Note: I wrote what I originally did but probably not word-for-word because I have the brain of a goldfish.

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

5 Months Ago

Thank you so much for asking about those first three paragraphs. It was unintentional. They are supp.. read more
Wathanya.5KY3

5 Months Ago

Glad I could be of help!

If you want to try reading a book with an unreliable narrato.. read more
Aw, my poor Rogan.

Note: for some reason it cut out 99% of my original review so I'm rewriting it.

Posted 5 Months Ago


Maybe because I'm settling in with the characters, but I find this to be a very good chapter. The only critique I have are the triple stars between scenes. They do serve as dividers, but I think you could do without most of them. It's sad and unfortunate that Rogan has such an awful relationship with his father. Such things do occur, as we know.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

5 Months Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I tried out leaving out the stars, and they are unnecessary. I'.. read more
Samuel Dickens

5 Months Ago

That's a good, old-fashioned name. Pretty sure I've used it in some of my writing.
almost sounds like my first apartment with very little anything. However, my father was thrilled when I moved out the fact he told me never to come back and other words not pleasant to write home about. another awesome chapter.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 5 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SweetNutmeg

5 Months Ago

Thank you again for reading and reviewing. My first place was a studio, not much larger than Rogan's.. read more

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Added on June 26, 2019
Last Updated on July 31, 2019
Tags: mechanic, musician, artist, painter, love


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SweetNutmeg
SweetNutmeg

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I am back and returning all reviews of "Unlocking Bonnie." I'm here to improve my writing. I love critiques that give me critical feedback, as well as praise. (Although, I do like praise. Gotta be .. more..

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