The Book of Ethriel

The Book of Ethriel

A Chapter by Clotilda Jamcracker
"

You've heard of Raphael, and Gabriel, maybe even Lucifer. But I bet you haven't heard of Ethriel. She's the devil's girlfriend and she's worse than them all.

"

 

The Book of Ethriel

By

Clotilda Jamcracker

            In the game of life, there are rule books everywhere.  If you want to win, you have to figure out the rules and play by them.  But if you play long enough, you’ll find out that the people who are best at playing the game are really just cheating.  They have their own game and their own rules.  The real winners are making up their own rules and not even following them. It’s just a distraction to filter out the idiots.

               

 

     Chapter one

Blessed are the crooks, for they shall lead lives of great excitement.


 

 

                It was a sunny July Afternoon when Mortimer Nickleby sat down for tea and crumpets and Saturday’s copy of The Paisley Daily express.    Now, I realize that this is an absurdly stupid name, but he’s a rich guy from a rich family.  Rich people always give their kids stupid names for the very same reason that the supermodels of Paris walk down the runway wearing hula hoops under their dresses and spider webs in their hair.  It’s because they can.  When you are rich, you can do anything you want, no matter how ridiculous it is.  That’s just the way things are.  That’s just the way of the world and there’s no changing it.

So anyway, Mortimer, was sitting in the parlor of his newly purchased vacation home on Wigsby Island taking a long needed holiday when he heard the doorbell rang.  He pressed his hair down flat on his head, rose, and straightened his Louis Vuitton smoking jacket as he made his way across the mahogany parka floor, and opened the door. 

                There was a young lady standing on his door step who looked like she was on her way to a debutant jamboree.  She was wearing a pink taffeta dress that went down her leg mid-calf and showed no cleavage whatsoever.   Back in the 1950s when this dress was made, the designers truly appreciated the female breast and designed a bodice that would accentuate the shape of each individual booby creating a sort of all holy shrine that paid its due homage to the shape of the female body.   Technically speaking, the dress was modest enough to wear to a senior prom, yet sensual and attractive enough to still entice the eyes of the opposite sex. 

Around her neck she wore a lovely string of pearls.  She was wearing a pink sash over her shoulder.  The words “Race for the cure” were written across the sash.  In her hand she carried a leather briefcase.  The guy that answered the door knew in an instant that she was about to ask him for some money. 

That’s the thing about money, if you’ve got some, everyone wants their fair share.  Mortimer wasn’t exactly the generous type, but this girl looked out of the ordinary.  So naturally, he was curious to hear whatever it was that she had to say.

                “Good Evening, dear sir,” said the girl.  She was quirky and had a fake smile.  Mortimer furrowed mono-brow like a confused zoo-keeper.  He stroked his chin.  “I daresay.  It’s not quite evening yet.  It’s only two thirty seven.  Shouldn’t you be saying good afternoon?” Rita put her hand over her heart.  She was trying to look sincere.  “I was just being optimistic.”  Mortimer gave her a strange look.

If you are a criminal, and need to con someone out of their money, the thing to do is confuse your victim, change their thought pattern, and then get them to agree with three things.  Rita needed to get him to nod his head, because if he nodded his head, then his subconscious mind would automatically say yes, whether her victim wanted to or not. 

Rita hadn’t always done it this way.  She’d been trying to con people out of their money for years, and up until now, she had only made a couple of dollars here and there.  She was unbelievable and people could always see through her lies.  Up until now, she said “Would you like to donate money to the Leukemia Foundation.” Up until now, the answer was always “Not just no, but hell no.” 

Things were different this time and it wasn’t because of chance or luck or any kind of coincidence crap.  Things were different because her sister, Audrey, read a lot of books and learned some strategies from successful people.  Of course, she didn’t buy these books, she stole them from the houses she robbed.

Rita leaned forward.  “Wow.  Is that Louis Vuitton that you’re wearing?”  The guy stroked the satin collar of his smoking jacket and nodded.  “Why yes it is.” 

Rita smiled and thought to herself “That’s one.”  She stroked her sash up and down between her fingers, while looking him straight in the eye. “He uses the finest quality fabrics wouldn’t you agree?”  Mortimer wasn’t sure where this was going.  In fact, he didn’t like this situation at all.  It seemed like something was not right about it.  He wasn’t sure what it was, but he knew something was wrong. He thought that he just felt this way because she was wearing a 1950s prom dress.  He felt strange because she looked strange. 

Mortimer stroked his jacket.  He smiled and nodded.  “Yes.  I couldn’t agree more.”

Rita had tricked him into nodding twice.  All she had to do was get him to nod a third time, and she knew for sure she would be able to con this schmuck out of twenty or thirty bucks.    She smiled and cocked her head sweetly. “Well, they do say you get what you pay for.”  Mortimer nodded again.  Rita was already succeeding by merely getting to agree with things that she knew for certain that he would already agree with.  And now that he was in the mood to agree, she decided to give him her sales pitch.

She stood straight and held her head up high.  “I’m sorry, I was so impressed by your sense of fashion that I’ve gotten off topic. Rita curtsied, cocked her head again and smiled like a Cheshire cat as she spouted off her practiced speech.  She did so in a perky manner that was so unlike her usual personality, that anyone who knew her would call it pure and unmitigated sarcasm. 

“We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Doris P. Wopsil race for the cure.  The Doris P. Wopsil Institute of Greater Tackleton is the holder of the largest series of charity marathons in the world with well over one million participants as of date.  The Doris P. Wopsil Race for the cure raises significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrating breast cancer survivorship and honors those who have lost their precious b***s with this disease.  As we all know, there are a shortage of perfect breasts in this world, and it’s a shame to see any more lost.  Furthermore, my kind sir, I am collecting donations from generous philanthropists, like yourself, to sponsor my sister in next month’s annual race for the cure on our Great and Wonderful Island of Wigsby.  How much can I put you down for?  Three thousand, four thousand?”  She twisted her hair sensually and gave him her best gaga eyes, knowing full well, that he wasn’t looking at her face at all. 

Mortimer yawned and folded his arms. “I’m afraid that I lost my wife to breast cancer just this past February.”  He glanced, in awe, at Rita’s luscious front porch.  ”She has willed to donate one million dollars towards breast cancer research.”  Rita went cross-eyed.  Her jaw dropped and she strained to push it closed.  She was not expecting him to get this much money from him.  She was almost expecting to see him pull out a briefcase full of twenty dollar bills. “Oh, I am dreadfully sorry to hear about your dear wife, kind sir.  It’ a shame.  A crying shame it is indeed.”  She put on her saddest face and tried to look like she really cared.

Mortimer waved his hand in front of his face a couple of times like he was shooing away a fly.  “Oh, Never you mind.  I never liked the old bag anyway.  It was an arranged marriage.  I love breast cancer; without it, I’d be a prisoner to that unholy succubus from now until all eternity.  Breast Cancer is indeed, the salvation of tormented men, in my humble opinion.”

Mortimer put a hand on his hip and waved his other hand around. “I wanted to put the money to better use.  I wanted to start an intercity agriculture program to help keep kids out of gangs in Stockton, but if your sister finishes first, I’ll donate the one million dollars and personally give fifty thousand dollars to your sister towards her college education. “

“Wow, Thank you, kind sir.”  Said Rita, bowing to him like he was some sort of a king.  She couldn’t believe this mind control thing worked the first time she even tried it.  Perhaps it was beginners luck.  Theory is one thing, but practice is another.  Mortimer pointed at her like an angry nanny. “Oh.  But there is a catch.  I am also entering my son, Swidger.  I daresay, have you heard of him, my dear child?”

Rita put a hand over her mouth, and then rubbed her face.  “Oh?  You’re son’s Swidger Nickleby?” She knew exactly who that was.  He’d been all over the news, lately.  Her smile went from perky to stressed turmoil.  He was the local rich kid with the weird name who had just won three gold medals at the Olympics.  There was no way in the world that Rita’s little sister could beat him in a marathon.  But if she could, they would be rich. 

Before she had this conversation, there wasn’t really going to be a race.  Rita didn’t know anything about having a race.  This was just a scam.  It was just a hoax.  She went door to door, conning people out of a bit of money here and there.  But this was the jackpot.  Well, it would be if she could pull it off. 

  Rita’s sister, Audrey, was terrified of people.  She was not a con artist.  She was a cat burglar.  She wasn’t stealing the family jewels or fine china. She took ordinary household products that people would just think they’d misplaced like shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, scissors, dresses, underwear, chocolates, pot roasts, curries, milk, granola, apples, books, headphones, Walkmans, cassette players, and blank cassette tapes.

Audrey was really good at stealing; she did it all the time. She didn’t enjoy it though, she wanted a different life.  She had dreams and ambitions.  What she really wanted to be was a fashion designer … leaping from Rome to London... filling the racks of department stores with velvet trim and silver grommets. Ahh, there was nothing, in her opinion, like smell of fresh cut linen and bolts of chiffon on a hot summer afternoon or the smoke from a Cuban cigar as it billowed through the air at a Parisian Fashion show with tall slender models showing off their new faux pa designs.

 

They lived a nomadic life, moving around from place to place to keep from getting caught by the police.  It wasn’t their idea, it was Stanley.  Stanley was their dad, but they always just called him Stanley because they didn’t have any respect for him.   Respect is something that you have to earn.  Nobody is just going to give it to you because you are an authority figure.  Stanley had not earned their respect, and therefore, he did not have it.  And he never would.

Stanley didn’t believe in making money the legal way, and he trained his two daughters to live off the land like a modern day version of the nomadic hunter and gatherer tribes.  He didn’t want to get his money in a way the government would find out about it, because he hated the government and didn’t want to pay taxes.  This was mostly because he believed the government might be looking for him.  He would never adequately explain why, however, and his daughters could only wonder.

They hunted down people who looked like they were living lavishly and Audrey would gather necessary items her family needed for life.  She would never take anything valuable like a TV or stereo because nobody would call the cops for a missing stick of deodorant.  It wasn’t exactly a sanitary means of existence, but there you are. 

They didn’t have to pay any bills, because they would find somewhere to live for free.  A cave or a cardboard box was a nice discreet place to live, but they preferred to stay in someone’s home while they were gone for the weekend or squat in someone’s rental property or vacation home while it stood vacant.  This is actually legal to do in California, but they didn’t live there.  They lived somewhere else so they had to be extremely careful.  They had to constantly be on the lookout for when the owners came home.  People don’t like to come home and find someone else living in their house.  We may all breath the same air and sleep under the same moonlit sky, and be sisters and brothers on this harmonious planet earth, but that all ends if you try to sleep in someone else’s bed without their permission.  That is where a lot of people draw the line.  It’s just creepy. It freaks people out.  And when people are freaked out, there is no telling what they’ll do.  You don’t want to learn the hard way. The rightful owners will always return home, and they never call home to let anyone know that they are on their way back. 

These spontaneous arrivals were quite a nuisance, so the Heisenbergs developed a plan that would allow them to have enough time to escape without being seen.  They would put glass bottles in front of the driveway, when the owners arrived the bottles would crash and pop, sending a loud sound into the air, which the Heisenbergs would hear.  The scurrying about to clean up the mess and argument afterward was also a fringe benefit.  The longer they fought about where the bottles came from, the less risky their situation was.  If the bottles were removed quietly before they crashed into them, they were sure to be awoken or signaled by the loud crash of bottles that were placed right behind both the front and back doors. 

Nevertheless there is a saying that goes “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.  The same holds true for squatting.  Why, just this past Christmas season, Lucinda Pemberton of East Windsor Manor was just coming back from holiday with her husband, Gilbert, and two children, Alice and Jamison.  Gilbert quietly and confusedly removed the mandala of bottles from the driveway, and whisked into the house.  As soon as he heard the sound of the bottles crashing as he opened the door, ran into the kitchen and grabbed a cast iron skillet from the stove.   Then he ran upstairs and found a girl in one of the bedrooms. 

“Aha!” he shouted while swinging the cast iron skillet around like a baseball bat.  “Who are you?  And what are you doing in my house?”  Audrey immediately started grunting, moaning, and drooling.  As Stanley crawled out a window unnoticed, Rita ran to Audrey’s rescue.  “I’m terribly sorry, sir.”  Rita tried to act as believable as possible.  “My poor sister has been missing for ages and I saw her jacket lying out on your lawn just a few minutes ago and well, I came in to find her.  She’s um…” Rita leaned closed and whispered to him as if what she was about to say was too horrible to speak loud and clear…”She’s…autistic, you see and although she’s quite bright, she tends to get confused.  She wanders off and can’t remember where she lives and so she just goes right into the first house she sees that looks remotely like her own. 

George seemed like he understood and put an endearing hand over his heart like he’d just seen an adorable Cocker Spaniel puppy.  “Oh, dear, I suppose it is an easy mistake.  After all, these houses do look alike down this road.  Why I sometimes pull into the wrong driveway, myself, from time to time.  And I know exactly how you feel.  I have a second cousin that’s autistic.  He’s always wandering off to go play poker.  He wins all the time.  They won’t let him play anymore and they’re always bringing him right back home, just to keep him out of the game.”

The Heisenberg’s escaped that nasty situation, but close calls like that always left them nervous and on edge.  They’d talked about getting a dog to keep watch, but they weren’t so sure if that was such a good idea.  Dogs have to be trained, and when they’re puppies they piddle on the carpet and chew up the upholstery.  Their breath smells like dog breath unless you brush their teeth.  You may be able to teach them to fetch the newspapers and keep burglars away, but you’ll never be able to teach a dog to brush their own teeth.  They say that anything is possible.  But I don’t think so.  Some things are just beyond the realm of possibilities. 

It was the last summer that the Heisenbergs would spend together.  They didn’t know it though, and they didn’t talk about it either.  They just weren’t that lovey dovey, happy harmony kind of family.  All this family talked about was robbing houses and getting rich.  They were squatting in a little stone cottage with running water, electricity and a nice view of the ocean.  Rita was sitting on the floor with her legs crossed. 

Audrey was sitting too, well sort of.  The way Audrey always sat down to do things was so odd that it requires a detailed explanation. Picture someone sitting on the toilet, and then remove the toilet. This is how she sat.  It drove Rita crazy when she did this, and was most likely the main reason why she always made fun of her little sister.  Nevertheless, Audrey insisted on sitting this way because she claimed that it made her legs strong and was a great way to build the muscle strength that she needed for running.  Her legs were quite strong from doing this and she could hold this position for hours without getting tired.  Rita could only do it for seventeen seconds before collapsing with sore legs that would ache for days afterward.

Audrey dumped the contents of her backpack onto the hardwood floor.  There was a beautifully decorated candy box with a red velvet ribbon, which Rita grabbed and tore open immediately.  There was also a half-eaten pack of Fruit Stripes gum, which Audrey claimed, a beautiful black blouse with a butterfly collar and gemstone buttons, an almost full bottle of orange ginger blossom shampoo with matching cream rinse, coconut almond body wash, several brand new razors still in their packages, a half-eaten bag of sour cream and onion potato crisps, half a slice of chocolate raspberry cheesecake, half of a baguette, a box of crumpets, a package of brie and a full unopened jar of sweet juicy red maraschino cherries with not a trace of mold growing at the top like last time.

Rita bit into an oyster shaped white chocolate candy and moaned with delight because she was taken aback with the chocolaty goodness.  “Is that all got?  I need a pair of high heeled sandals with little gemstones.” She smacked the candy like she was really enjoying it and rubbed her teeth clean, using her tongue as if it were a squeegee.  Audrey scoffed and rolled her eyes.  She put a piece of cherry flavored Fruits Stripes gum into her mouth. 

Rita popped another piece of chocolate into her mouth and licked her fingers.  “What about make up?  I told you that I was all out of makeup and I need some more.  I can’t go door to door without makeup, I have to look glamorous or it ruins the whole effect.  Audrey sighed and started pulling random objects left and right from her cleavage and other hidden places in her clothing, jars of cosmetic powder and moisturizing creams, lipstick, tweezers, nail clippers, an oingo boingo cassette tape, a root beer scented ink pen, a few yellow jelly beans, which she ate immediately, half of a jar of peanut butter, and a can of sardines.  Rita raised her eyebrows and gave her look.  “Seriously, you have got to be kidding me.”  Audrey shrugged.  “What?  I’m an athlete, I need the protein.”

Rita rolled her eyes, picked up a jar of cosmetic powder, and read the bottom “You are such an idiot.  I swear to God, Audrey.  What the hell is the matter with you?  This is tan, you got the wrong shade. “She opened the jar, swirled a finger around and rubbed it across her face leaving a dark streak across her cheek. “Seriously Audrey, does this look right to you?” She pointed angrily at the brown smudge. “How many times do I have to tell you?  I’m fair skinned, not tanned.  How hard can it be?  Damn.  I swear to God.”  In case you haven’t noticed, she didn’t have a mother to tell her not to swear.  But I guess that doesn’t matter.  I know plenty of people with wholesome mothers who swear a lot more than Rita.

Audrey threw her hands up in dismay.  “It’s not like there’s a wide selection.  That’s the thing with rummaging through people’s houses, sure you’re bound to find everything you want, but it’s always the wrong color.  It’s not my fault.  I can’t help what other people are buying.”  Rita scoffed and grabbed a container of lipstick and shrieked because, it too, was the wrong color.  “Cotton Candy Pink?  You didn’t, really.” Rita groaned melodramatically. “When have you known me to wear pink lipstick?  Have you ever seen me wear pink lipstick?  I don’t think so.  I wear maroon, oxblood, and burgundy.  I do not wear pink, blue, green, yellow, fuchsia, or periwinkle!”  Rita groaned.

“I’m just going to have to buy my own makeup the good old fashioned way.  She leaned forward closer to Audrey and whispered quietly so Stanly wouldn’t overhear what she was about to say.  “Did you happen to find any cash?” “No.”  Audrey said, trying on her new shirt.  She stuck her arm up and smelled the armpit.  Stolen clothing has a tendency to smell from time to time. 

Audrey stood up, stretched her legs, and squatted back down into her strange sitting position.  “Did you try that Chinese mind trick like I told you to?”  Rita bit into another chocolate, this time a cherry cordial, and spoke again while smacking quite rudely.  “Yeah, but it didn’t work.  I knew I shouldn’t have listened to one of your idiotic ideas.” She scoffed and ate another chocolate.

Audrey threw the things that she found into a large basket.  “Well, maybe you didn’t do it right.  What did you say?”  Rita scoffed and ate another chocolate.  “What difference does it make?  Who cares?  So tell me, did you find any money?  I know you did.  I know you’ve got money hidden away somewhere.  The last time you said didn’t find any money and I found whole stash loot in a loose floorboard.”
Audrey gasped.  “So that’s where it went.  You can’t just go around stealing my money!”

Rita folded her arms haughtily.  “What difference does it make?  The only reason you have that money in the first place is because you stole it and be quiet or Stanley will hear you and then he’ll take it and neither one of us will have anything.”

“Hear what?” Stanley came trudging over from the kitchen holding a glass of beer.  Whoever owned the house must have really liked beer, because there was nearly ten gallons of on tap.  It was too bad for them though, because Stanley had consumed most of it while sitting in front of the television watching stupid game shows.  He was a stalky man with a beer gut, and had nearly as much fur covering his body as a full grown ape.  

“Oh.” Rita said innocently cocking her head.  “Someone’s going to give Audrey fifty thousand dollars if she wins the marathon.

Stanley slammed his mug onto the wooden coffee table, spilling it all over some books and a set of keys.  “You’ve got to be kidding me!  That’s not even a real race.  How can she win a race that we’re not even going to have?”

Rita tapped her chin delicately with her long red fingernails.  “Oh.  I think we’re having the race after all.  I was talking to a guy today that offered to donate one million dollars to breast cancer research if Audrey wins the race.”

Stanley stomped his foot and waved his arms in an angry pouty sort of way.  “No way.  A race like that will be all over the news and we’ll get found out.  We’ll be sent to prison for sure for that sort of thing.  I told you.  We have to do things discreetly or we’ll get caught.  And besides, they don’t just hand you that much money cash, they wire it to a bank account and bank accounts can be traced, and taxed.”

“Well.  I think we can pull this one off.  We’ll have to find other people to race and find donors.  Audrey can get paperwork and whip up some kind of bogus institution for breast cancer.  It will look legit.  Then we won’t have to live like this anymore.  Hey.  We can move back to grandma’s house.  She died and left us the inn didn’t she?  We can move back there and run the inn.

“NO.  No way.  We can’t go back there?”  Stanley grabbed his mug, took a swig, and stormed off into the kitchen to watch more television on the little black and white TV.  Rita followed him.  “Why not?  Nobody’s lived there for years.”

“Because it smells bad that’s why.”  Stanley slammed his glass firmly down on the counter and looked Rita firmly in the eye.  ”And besides, we’ll get traced.  They’ll be expecting us to move back there.”

“No they won’t. We’re using false identities and we’ll change them back when we get to grandmas and pretend we’ve never left.”

“It’ll never work.” 

It did, in fact work.  The only reason that it worked was because Audrey organized the whole thing.  Rita did all the talking, of course, because Audrey hyperventilated every time she had to talk to someone face to face.  Nobody could resist donating money for breast cancer research on Wigsby Island.  The Heisenbergs knew that this scheme was bound to make them the big bucks.  Instead of pledges, each contestant had to collect a thousand dollars from generous donors.  The turnout was far more spectacular than they had ever imagined.  People came from all over the mainland to be there.  Channel eight news was there and had provided the pink t-shirts for all the contestants to wear. 

The Pip Pop Ginger Beer Soda Company had provided balloons, banners, streamers, medals and trophies for all the marathon runners.  A huge line of vendors had set up tents all up and down the race track for viewers to purchase steaming hot roasted corn, giant grilled turkey legs, funnel cakes with powdered sugar, and frothy mugs of root beer floats.   As luck would have it, there was an antique car show booked on the island for that same weekend and every one of the fine automobile owners were not only rich, but generous and they all sponsored someone who was running the marathon.  It was spectacular.

The crowd roared when the announcer introduced the all famous Olympic runner, Swidger Nickleby, who waved to the crowd and posed gleefully to the cameras.  Audrey went cross-eyed.  “Swidger Nickleby?” Audrey said angrily through gritted teeth.  Rita backed away rather squeamishly. “You knew didn’t you?  You knew and you didn’t tell me!  I’m running this whole race for nothing.”

“That’s not true, you’ll do great.   You’re in track at school and nobody ever beats you.  And besides, you wouldn’t have agreed to do it if I told you about Swidger Nickleby.”  She pinched Audrey’s cheek, gave her an encouraging smile and gleeful pat on the back and said.  “Oh Audrey, I know you’ll do fabulous.  Break a leg.”

When the starting gun fired, Audrey ran like the wind.  She passed everyone left and right and ignored the cheering fans that urged her to pace herself.  She knew she could do this; she’d been training for years to run a marathon.  Well, she hadn’t been practicing for the marathon, exactly.  She had been practicing just in case she got caught and needed to run from the police.  She was running so fast that she could barely grab the cups of water that fans held out for her to quench her thirst.  “I’ll show Rita.  I’ll show her.  And maybe she’ll give me a little respect once and for all when she sees how wonderful I really am.” 

As it turns out, Audrey ran over twenty six miles in one hundred and six minutes.  This was quite astonishing because it usually takes a person nearly five hours to complete such a marathon.   She ran as fast as her long legs could carry her.  She ran so fast that everything looked like the Mary Poppins sidewalk art after the rain had washed it away.  She ran until her chest broke the pink satin ribbon at the finish line.  And then she collapsed like an ancient Greek messenger.  She just passed out and fell to the ground. 

The paramedics saw her fall and they came rushing towards her with a stretcher and their medic bags.  At first everyone thought she was dead, and it might have been better if she had died, because sometimes, dead is better, so it goes.

            Audrey had contemplated death on a few occasions.  This didn’t make her suicidal or emo or anything.  She lived a horrible miserable life and wondered from time to time if dead really was better.  So what if she died?  Then what?  Die, so they could stuff her in a box and throw dirt on her.  The worms would crawl in and the worms would crawl out.  The worms would play pinochle on her snout.  The maggots would crawl out of her nose and eat the jelly from her toes.  No, absolutely not.  This didn’t seem like something that she would be interested in doing. 

            She had walked down beautiful streets lined with stone cottages and huge gardens.  She had seen mansions with marble staircases, and women at dinner parties wearing long evening gowns and diamond necklaces.  These people were living fantastic lives.   They breathed the same air that she did; they drank the same water, and slept under the same moonlight night.  The only difference was that they knew something that she didn’t.  These rich people had unlocked some sort of secret that was enabling them to live such lavish lifestyles.  They had found some sort of a wormhole in time and were pulling sacks of money out of it.  Audrey decided that she would find one of those wormholes and she wouldn’t die until she did.  She was going to see Paris. She was going to see Rome.  She was going to ride in a Limousine and drink champagne.  She would change her life of misery into a life of luxury.

So there she was, just lying there on the ground underneath a crowd of people who had gathered around.  The paramedics tried for several minutes to bring her around until they finally gave up.  Just as they were putting her on the stretcher, she opened her eyes, smiled and said “Is it time for tea?”  Perhaps she had foiled the spirit of death by changing her name so often that he was confused and couldn’t find her. He had been looking for a girl named Audrey Heisenberg, and this girl lying on the ground was Rosemerelda Clementine.  She should not have lived that day, but she did.

As luck would have it, the Dean of the athletics department of Cambridge University was there and told Audrey that she could have a full, if she chose to apply there.  Yes, he would grant her a full scholarship with room and board. This was one moment, indeed, that she was glad to be alive.    Yes!  She was alive, and not only was she alive; she was offered a chance for a new life.  No more would she have to break into houses looking for food and money.  Never again would she have to pull con jobs with Stanley and Rita. 

No.  Things would be different now.  She could live in a dorm and meet girls her own age.  She could even get a friend or two.  Heck, she might even find herself a nice boyfriend who would bring her boxes of fine Belgian Chocolates and send her long stemmed red roses. 

            But the most wonderful thing of all about this offer was that she could get away from Stanley.  He screwed with her head and made her do horrible things.  He humiliated her and made her feel like a red-headed step child.  But not anymore; she finally had an escape plan.  She had been offered a chance to go to college.  Someone thought that she was wonderful and things were going to change once and for all.   Not just one person thought she was wonderful, thousands did.  She was on television.  Apparently, she had broken some kind of world record. 

            Stanley, however, was not cool with this “little stunt” she pulled.  With the media following Audrey around it was very difficult for them all to escape Wigsby Island without being seen.  They packed up all their loot, and dressed like little old ladies from the red hat society; Audrey of course had to steal the costumes.  But as it turned out, she didn’t even get to wear one.  They tied her up, gagged her, stuffed her in a suitcase and checked her as baggage on the ferry ride back to the mainland. 

This wasn’t all that bad, though, because she managed to escape.  She escaped and was going to find that college.  Stanley tracked her down and gave her the beating of her life.  Then he shoved her into the back seat of his beat up rusty old Mustang.  He and Rita chatted away in the front seat like nothing had even happened.

“Don’t worry, my fine ladies.  I guarantee, this is the very last road trip that we will ever go on together.” Stanley honked his horn angrily at a brown station wagon in front of him and everyone in the car swayed every which way as he swerved to get around it.  “Whatever.  You said that last time when you bought that motel off that crazy Indian guy.” 

Rita was fumbling through her duffle bag for another cassette tape to listen to.  Her personal favorite was the Cure because she was a new waver.  Stanley scoffed.  “How was I supposed to know that place was condemned?  He picked up his can of Fosters Beer, drank the last drop, then rolled down the window and threw it out.  It flew backwards, bounced onto the road three times, and then hit the windshield of a rusty green pickup truck that was behind them. The driver honked his horn angrily.  Stanley stuck his arm out the window and flipped him off before continuing on with the conversation.  “Besides, it never would’ve happened if Audrey hadn’t of gotten us lost down some farm road way out in BFE. 

                Audrey pounded the seats furiously with her fists. “I didn’t get us lost.  I said turn right on Interstate 98 and you turned down farm road 98 and I told you not to turn down that road and you threw a beer can and hit me in the head.”  Audrey pointed to a large scrape across her forehead.  Stanley cast her evil eye from his rear view mirror.  “Hey, I did no such thing.  Stop making up lies.  You’re an idiot and can’t  even read a frickin map!  And don’t you go around telling people I hit you, either.  You’re doing it to yourself.  You belong in a god damn loony bin if you ask me and one of these days, that’s exactly where you’re going to end up.  Isn’t that right cupcake?”  He smiled at Rita and playfully squeezed her arm.

 Rita was sitting shotgun, as usual.  She was just too good to sit in the back seat. It just wasn’t good for her image.  She looked back at Audrey and smiled like a conniving Cheshire cat.  It was that look that she gave when she wanted to send a telepathic signal that said “Ha, ha, ha… ha ha…ha.  I’m better than you and there’s nothing that you can do about it.” 

Rita had straight brown hair and icy blue eyes.  She wore diamond studded glasses that turned up at the sides that made her look like a cat.  She wore a black tank top and a long black broomstick skirt.  On her upper arm she wore a brass bracelet that was decorated with ornate swirly whirls.  These had really been Audrey’s clothes, but Rita always helped herself to them without asking. 

                Stanley looked at Audrey again in his rear view mirror and noticed that the pickup truck behind him was tailgating.  “Who the hell does that guy think he is?  The speed limit is 55 miles per hour and I’m driving 55 miles per hour.  I’m not getting a speeding ticket for going any faster just because this jerk behind me is in some kind of a hurry.”

                “Maybe he really has to go to the bathroom, or his wife is having a baby.”  Audrey hadn’t seen Stanley’s beer can crash into the truck just moments earlier, and it was just her nature to always give people the benefit of the doubt.  Stanley gave Audrey another dirty look from his rear view mirror. “Shut the hell up, Audrey.  Can’t you just shut up for 5 minutes?  Nobody wants to hear what you’ve got to say.  That jerk off needs to learn his lesson for riding on my bumper.”  Stanley slowed down until he was driving 33 miles per hour.  It was a small two line highway, and the truck had to quickly move through the other lane so as not to run into oncoming traffic.  Stanley sped up as it tried to pass him and he nearly caused an accident as the truck merged back into the right lane.  Then to make things worse he sped up and started following him while honking his horn like a maniac. 

                “Stop it!” yelled Audrey who was in tears and scared senseless.  Stanley stopped honking and swung an arm at her and tried to hit her, but he missed.  He ended up knocking  over his can of beer and nearly ran his own car off the road. 

“Damn it Audrey.  Look what you made me do!  You nearly got us killed and I spilled beer all over the seats.  You are going to clean this up young lady!”  Audrey was in tears and hyperventilating.  You would think that her father would give her a bit more compassion and understanding considering the fact that she had been dead for several minutes.  Only a couple of days had passed since it had happened.  He could have lost his dear precious child, and his means of income and well-being.

 He didn’t want anyone to think that he was capable of making mistakes, and maybe he really believed that himself.  He didn’t make mistakes, Audrey did.  If it weren’t for Audrey, they wouldn’t be back on the run again.  You would think that he would have cherished her as his most prized possession, for she, in fact was.  Without her, he was nothing, and might be forced to go to work in a factory or something.  He didn’t care, though.  He hadn’t given the ordeal a thought.  He only lived for the moment, and at this moment, he needed someone to blame for his own errors. 

“Oh please, not again.  Come on.  What the hell is the matter with you?  Do you see Rita blubbering like a baby all the time?”  Rita turned in her seat and smiled maliciously.  She was wearing a pair of headphones, listening to music and looking at the latest fashions in Audrey’s freshly stolen copy Cosmopolitan Magazine.  She reached into her black leather handbag, pulled out a pack of Fruit Stripes gum, and put six or seven pieces into her mouth.  She smacked her gum furiously, blew a large bluish grey bubble that popped across her nose.  Then she pried it off her skin with her maroon fingernails and started the process all over again.  It wasn’t her gum, it was Audrey’s but she stole it from her like she stole everything else. 

Stanley reached for his beer can, but it wasn’t there.  He smacked his forehead.  “Okay, okay, as I was saying a few minutes ago.  I really think that things are going to be different from now on. “

Rita scoffed.  “Yeah, yeah, whatever. “  Stanley smiled and shook his head.  “Seriously, do you remember when I said I had a big surprise for you?”  No answer.  “Well, grandma died and she left us her house.”  Rita clapped her hands sarcastically.  “Oh goody goody, the “creep show inn”.  That’s just great.”  Stanley swerved to miss the dead opossum that was smashed in the middle of the road. “Hey, that’s a nice place to live.”

The “creep show” Inn was a huge three story 19th century Manor with an unusual gothic façade and black stone archway.  There were gargoyles perched on either side of the front windows and were completely covered with overgrown ivy.  An angry looking stone lion stood on either side of the front porch, as if guarding the place.   The dark mauve paint on the aged wood siding had started to peel. The windows were all dirty and a few of them were cracked.  The rosebushes were all overgrown and the porch was covered with dry oak leaves and garbage that had been blown in by many storms.

                Stanley popped the trunk of the car. “Audrey did you remember my briefcase?”

“What briefcase?”  Audrey scratched her head and furrowed her eyebrows.  Stanley was always asking her if she knew where certain objects were that he’d misplaced.  If they existed, she always found them.  But if he had fabricated the item in order to blame her for his own failures then there would be hell to pay.  She feared this was the latter.  “What do you mean; what briefcase?  The’ briefcase with all of our important documents, that’s what briefcase I’m talking about.  The title to the car, the social security cards, the birth certificates.”  She slapped her head across her forehead in hopeless dismay, and slouched down in her seat. 

                “What the hell do you think you’re doing?  Just sit down and mope while we’ve got business to attend to why don’t you?”  He opened the car door violently.  “Get out of the car!  He screamed so loud the windows on the car seemed to rattle.  Audrey started to tremble.  She was suddenly paralyzed from fear of what Stanley would do to her.  Stanley was like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  One minute he would be fine and then a second later, he would be a mad man and lash out at Audrey.  He grabbed her by the hair and forced her out of the car.

                “Such a little cry baby.”  He said in a mocking way, with a pouty lip. He gave her a shove towards the trunk of the car.  “I told you to grab the briefcase before we left the hotel and like a total fruitcake airhead you didn’t listen, did you?”  He was right up in her face now.  She was whimpering helplessly.  Stanley’s face was the color of stewed tomatoes.  He screamed “Answer me!”

                Audrey’s body still ached all over from running the marathon.  Her head was throbbing, her throat was scratchy, and she felt like she had been run over by a freight train.  She had recently run faster than was humanly possible and her body was letting her know.  Tears were streaming down her face.  Life had taken another unexpected turn for the worse.  She hated Stanley.  She hated Rita, and she hated this place that they were about to live in.  She had tried to run away from them only yesterday.  It had been less than twenty four hours since she made the decision that she would no longer live with Stanley and Rita.  She had tried to escape from them, but now she realized that she was trapped. Nothing was going right with her life at all.  Things just seemed to be getting worse.

                She didn’t answer, she just kept whimpering. “Well!  Did you bring it or not?”  Stanley’s eyeballs were bulging.  Huge veins started bulging across his temples like giant worms under his skin.  Audrey was sure that any minute now, smoke would start pouring out of his ears.  She finally managed to whimper a small whine and shook her head “No.”

                He threw his hands up into the air.  “Oh geez, great, you are such a worthless human being, you know that don’t you?  The keys to grandma’s house were in that briefcase.  Now how are we supposed to get in the house, without the keys, huh?  You got any ideas?”

                Audrey kept whimpering and said nothing as she chewed nervously on her Fruit Stripes gum.  She knew exactly what he was doing.  This was what he always did.  It was some sort of screwed up little trick he played so he could have someone to blame for his shortcomings.  He could have said “Well, Audrey, can you unlock the door to the house because I don’t have a key.  But this just wasn’t his way. 

Every time it was time for them to skip town, Audrey would be blamed for losing their important documents.  Stanley would always scream at her and complain about having to find some shady under the table person to get them new identification. Well, he always said that he had to “find” someone to forge new documents, but in the end, Audrey was that shady person who had to make the new documents.  Without her, he was nothing, but he didn’t let her know this. 

Audrey crawled back into the car, still sobbing and hyperventilating, and grabbed her Emerald green velvet bag.  She reached in and pulled out one of many sets of keys that had been carefully filed down to function as skeleton keys.  On her way up the steps she noticed a pile of leaves spin around briefly.  She found this quite disturbing because it was August, and there had been no breeze. 

Rita had already made her way up the steps and was looking into the windows.  “Wow, it’s been ages since we were here last.  “Hey remember that time you locked yourself in the bathroom and started screaming and the door wasn’t even locked.”  She laughed.  Audrey shot her a dirty look.  “It was too locked. “

“Whatever,” said Rita, sarcastically. She opened up her purse, pulled out her compact, made sure that she was still the fairest one of all and put it back.  Rita knew that she was divinely beautiful and snuck a peek at herself whenever possible in order to admire her silky smooth complexion.  Audrey bent down and slipped one of her keys into the lock.  She worked it up and down several times, and finally the doorknob made a few clicks.  Audrey opened the door.   Stanley shoved his way past her. “It’s about time.  It took you long enough.” 

The original owner of the inn had traveled the world collecting strange artifacts and had turned the parlor into a sort of miniature museum that would attract guests to the inn.  There was a shrunken head, a suit of armor, a life size human mummy and a small mummy of a mermaid.  In the corner was a life size stuffed two headed dog. 

As Audrey walked through the doorway she noticed that the air inside was thick and muggy.    It was dank, musty and had an odd stench.  There was something not right about that stench. She’d smelled it before, but she couldn’t quite but her finger on it.  Rita stuck her hand behind one of the mummies that was positioned next to the wall, and flipped the switch, but it wouldn’t turn on.  “Aw man.  That’s just terrific.

“Hey Audrey, you’re going to have to go outside and hook the electricity up.”  When most people move into a new house, they call the electric company, the water company, and the phone company to hook up the utilities.  These law abiding citizens are charged a hook up fee of around a hundred dollars or so along with a security deposit to ensure that they will pay the bills.  Moving into a new house can end up costing nearly a thousand dollars in the first month.  This exorbitant amount of money was one of the main reasons that the Heisenbergs chose squatting as a way of life.

Audrey learned how to hook up their utilities herself, from a manual she read in a city library.  The book was one of those found in the reference section, for library use only.   All she had to do was run a few wires from her house, to the nearby houses.  If she managed to distribute the wires to around ten or eleven houses, their neighbor’s bills would only go up slightly and they would just think that the company had raised their rates or something.  Nobody would complain, and they could live free. 

Audrey was lying flat on her back on a very soft and luxurious Persian rug.  She was far too exhausted to get up and explore this wondrous place, she just didn’t have the energy or the brain power to muck about the neighborhood and fiddle around with hot electric currents.  That sort of thing required a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast with brain enhancing food like eggs that were packed with choline.  The only thing that she’d eaten all day was a can of sardines and a single maraschino cherry. 

 Rita slowly made her way across the ornately decorated Parisian style parlor and tore open the red velvet drapes, coughing from the immense dust that flew up into air. Cobwebs hung from the crystal chandeliers and the brass wall sconces.  They completely covered the shelves of bottles and wine decanters.  She cringed as she brushed a thick bit of cobwebs aside to crank open the windows.  Even though there was no breeze outside, she decided it might be nice to let in some fresh air.

There was still enough light shining into the house through the windows to see, but the sun was beginning to go down and they would need a way to see around the house.  Rita opened a drawer in a side table and pulled out a box of matches, and proceeded to light the kerosene lamps that her grandmother had used more for decoration than actual use.  Her grandmother hadn’t been alive to pay the electricity bills, so naturally it had been shut off. 

It had been a very long time since they had been to grandma’s Inn, and neither of them had ever remembered much about the house.  Grandma had been a bit of a sourpuss, and the only time they were ever allowed inside was when they needed to use the bathroom, and even that was a stretch for dear old grandma.  She never liked children and was afraid that Rita and Audrey would track mud all over the oriental carpets or smudge the tapestries with their greasy fingers.  They probably would have.  That’s just what kids do. 

There was a fine collection of antique furniture with beveled mirrors, carved mahogany tables and wardrobes and dressers with detailed embedded designs.  These antiques were extremely valuable, and could not be replaced. 

 “Rita opened the drawer on a Norwegian style wardrobe and found a picture album and started flipping through it.  “Do you remember coming here when we were little?”

“Not really,” said Audrey in a sleepy sort of voice.  She was halfway listening to Rita and halfway falling asleep right there on the floor.  She knew that at any moment, Rita and Stanley would ask her to get up and do something, and was taking whatever chance she could at going to sleep.  It wasn’t much of a cat nap, because Rita wanted to chat and reminisce about childhood memories. 

“Don’t you remember coming and sitting on the porch swing when we were kids? Grandmother would bring us those awful homemade lemon popsicles.”  Audrey smiled.  “Oh.  I remember those popsicles.  Those were so pretty.  She would always stick a sweet violet in the middle of them and I always wondered how she did it.  Those were so good.”

Rita made a gagging sound in the back of her throat.  “Ew, gross.  Did you really like them?  She would never put enough sugar in them because she said that sugar was bad for you and it would rot your teeth.”  Audrey furrowed her brow and opened her eyes to look at Rita.  “Didn’t she have false teeth?”  Rita flipped a page of the photo album she was looking at and nodded her head.

“Yeah, she did.  She used to pull them out to freak us out.”  Audrey opened her eyes and started playing with the moonstone bracelet that she was wearing.  She spun it around and around her wrist.  “Oh.  That wasn’t really as freaky as the eyeballs.”  Rita rolled her eyes and waved her head around as a gesture of disgust.  “Oh  God,  That woman had a morbid sense of humor.  She would pretend to pull her own eyes out then hand us the eyeballs.  I swear.  I peed my pants the first time she ever did that to me.  Oh.  Do you remember the time she brought us out bowls of tomato soup?”

Audrey rolled onto her stomach and propped herself up onto her elbows.   “Do I?  She plopped an eyeball in each of our bowls just to freak us out.  I still have nightmares about that.  That was so disturbing.  I mean seriously, what kind of sick person sticks eyeballs in her grandkids soup.  I mean did she want us to grow up to be serial killers or something?

“I don’t know man”.  Rita continued looking at the photo album. “Hey look at this!” Rita looked at the photo album.  “Grandma’s got old circus pictures.  Oh, my God!  This is seriously amazing.  These are actual photos taken at a circus of sideshow freaks.”  She scooted over closer to Audrey and shoved the album towards her so she could see.  There were Siamese twins, a fat lady the size of a baby elephant.  There was a tiny man, and a freakishly tall man.  There was a picture of a woman drinking from a wine glass that she was holding with her toes because she had no arms.  There was a man in a suit who appeared to be walking with his hands because he had no legs. 

Rita turned the page and they both gasped and looked straight at each other, an 8 x10 black and white photo of a woman holding an eye in each of her hands.  There were no eyes in her sockets, just empty dark tunnels where her eyes should be.  They both gasped and pointed at the eyes she was holding.  Audrey slapped her own mouth.  She was completely shocked.  “She’s holding grandma’s eyeballs!  That’s demented.” 

Rita scratched her head and looked closely at the picture.  “This is a really old picture.  I think grandma stole this lady’s eyeballs.  Said Rita who was looking with great awe and wonder.  “I wonder how she lost them.” 

Stanley walked through the front door holding his suit case.  Rita stood up, grabbed the photo album and walked towards him.  She pointed to the picture of the eyeless lady.  “Who’s this lady?”

Stanley dropped his suitcase and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his forearm.  “How the hell should I know?”  Rita scoffed.  “Well, I thought you grew up in this house.  Haven’t you ever looked through the photo albums?”

“Not really, I mean.  That was my sister’s thing.  She always looked through those things, but….”

“Whoa.  You have a sister?  You never told me that.  I didn’t know I had an aunt.”

“You don’t have an aunt. She’s dead.  She died a long time ago.”

“How did she die?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.  Leave me alone.”

“This lady is holding her eyes.  Didn’t grandma have some glass eyes when I was a kid?”

“She got those from one of those gag shops.”

“No.  I don’t think so.  This lady is holding her eyeballs, and grandma has her picture.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s the lady grandma bought the inn from.  I wouldn’t know.  She never told me nothing.  You know grandma.  She was always full of secrets.”  Stanley walked off down the hall and Rita went back into the parlor and sat down next to Audrey. 

“I wonder if this lady’s name is written on the back of the picture.”  The pages of the photo album were made of thick black paper.  When Rita tried to dislodge the corners of the photo from the slits they were resting in, the paper cracked and broke away.  She lifted the photo out and read the writing on the back.  “She has eyes and yet cannot see.  Margerie Wilcox, October 1928

“Maybe when she died and someone forgot to bury her with her eyeballs, and every night she goes through the house searching around for her eyeballs, Mwa ha ha ha.” Rita smiled maniacally.  Audrey groaned and rubbed her eyes.  “Seriously, knock it off.  You’re going to give me nightmares.”  

 “I can’t believe grandmother could stand living here for so long, I mean she’s got mummies and shrunken heads all over the place.  Don’t you think it’s morbid to have a dead body in the house?.  I mean, people go visit mummies in museums and stuff and they ooh and ahh over it on TV like it’s some kind of divine ritual, but could you imagine what would happen if we tried to mummify grandma?  They’d put you in the loonie bin.  I mean really.  That’s right up there with Hannibal lector on the creepy meter.” 

Rita looked around the room at all of the interesting artifacts with a calculating look on her face.  “Ooh, I don’t know, I think its cool looking.  We can charge admission. We can really get rich off this place, you know.”

“Oh no we’re not,” said Stanley angrily.”  He had been in grandmother’s office looking through her filing cabinet for a will, or a bank account number, but he didn’t find anything.  “I don’t want a bunch of weirdo’s snooping through my place of residence.”  Stanley sometimes tried to use big words to make himself sound intelligent, but it didn’tto any good. They still thought he was an ignoramus. 

“Oh, come on,” Rita closed the photo album and tossed it back into the drawer where she had found it.  “Don’t you think it would be loads of fun?  Just think of all the money we could make doing it.”

“Nobody wants to come here and see three or four weird things some idiot has in his front room.  There’s a bigger museum in the city with far more than this.  We’ll just sell these weird things and live off the profits.”  Stanley plopped down heavily on an antique chair that didn’t really seem strong enough to support his weight. 

He took off his shoes and socks and left the smelly sweating things scattered all over the floor around him.  He pulled a pair of toe nail clippers out of his pocket and started clipping his thick yellow toenails. They fell on the dazzling Persian rug beneath his feet.  This was a disgusting habit and it drove Audrey crazy. 

She couldn’t tell him not to do it, because he was her father and that would be disrespectful.  She hated him and thought he was disgusting.  She thought he was a sleaze ball and had no respect for him whatsoever.  The only reason that she kept her mouth shut about his vile habits was that she was afraid of him.  She didn’t like to be screamed at and slapped around, and that’s what she got from him if he was insulted in any way.  So she kept her mouth shut. 

Rita was disgusting too, and she behaved in pretty much the same way that Stanley did, but she wasn’t even aware that she was like this.  Rita thought she was beautiful, clean and orderly.  This might have been because Audrey was always cleaning up after her.  Audrey decided after many long years that Rita stood up, walked over to a very ornately decorated mirror, and admired herself in it.  “Oh.  I’d like to run this place like a bed and breakfast, you know.  It would be fun.  It’s cute.  It’s like we’ve got our niche in the market with these things.  “We can call it the odd ball inn.”

Stanley brushed some toe nail clippings off his brown polyester pants and put his nail clippers back into his pocket.”  No.  We can’t.  The inn isn’t in my name I don’t think.  I can’t find the deed to the house.  And besides, once you start a business like that, the government just comes and sticks their greedy hands in your pockets and takes whatever they want. 

Rita stood up and walked up the stairs.  “I’m going to look for those eyeballs. They have to be around here somewhere.”

 

 

Chapter 2

Mavis Heisenberg

 

In life, there are eight dimensions, and the more dimensions that you see and understand, the more you’ll understand the way of the world.

It was a dark and stormy night.  Thunder rumbled in the distance and the full blood moon was hidden away by the heavy grey clouds.  The night sky was illuminated for just a moment by lightning.  Mavis Heisenberg’s heart was thumping rapidly.  A bead of sweat trickled down from her forehead and down her face and neck.  Things had not been right with her life for a long time, but now things would be better.  She would make all the pain go away.  This time, things would go well for her.  She would finally get prestige among her peers and wouldn’t be whispered about in secret because of her horrible drunkard husband. 

He had been cheating on her with several different floozies and various ladies of the night.  He was unfaithful and cruel.  He spent every penny of their income on booze and women.  And what he didn’t spend on those passions, he gambled away playing blackjack.  He swore that he would win the money back, but he never did.  He was the king of empty promises and Mavis’s life had become a black hole of misery and despair. 

                Life was just getting worse and worse.  The refrigerator was broken and the car was making strange noises.  The roof was leaking so bad that they had to put buckets all over the living room to catch the dripping water every time it rained.  The hot water heater was leaking so bad that mold was growing on the walls and floor all around it.  The paint on their house was chipped and there was a draft in the house because the windows were all cracked.  They had a colony of termites snacking away on the side of their house and the kitchen faucet was dripping so much that their water bill was through the roof.  They didn’t pay the water bill because they just couldn’t afford it and so the water had been shut off.

Her dear little children had to go to school smelling bad and greasy because they didn’t have water to bathe with.  Their clothes had holes in them and when they outgrew their shoes she complained to her husband about it and he made them shoes out of newspapers and twine.  Her family was an embarrassment.  But it was even worse when he ran off, and the Irish mafia was on her doorstep trying to get her to pay up.  Her husband had left an enormous debt to pay.  He’d told them that she was secretly hoarding money and if she was pressured enough, she would finally pay up.  They threatened her.  They said that they would sneak into her house in the night and chop the fingers off of her children while they slept if she didn’t pay up. 

                In order to make enough money to support herself and three children, she had to toil away with backbreaking labor at the Laundromat.  The highlight of her day was strolling past the old Inn.  It had once been such a splendid wonder to behold.  In the good old days it had been a hotel.  The downstairs was a museum.  For a nickel, she could walk through the parlor and see mummies, shrunken heads and even meet the tiniest man in the world.  When she was younger, the people from the circus had run the place.  A pair of Siamese twins that looked like movie stars ran the hotel part upstairs.  They cleaned the rooms and attended the guests who visited.  A woman who was completely covered with fur, like a werewolf gave the tours of the museum.  A man with no legs checked people into the hotel. But time went by, and they all grew too old to run the place.  Most of the circus freaks either died of old age or moved away.  The only person left was the blind lady that owned the place.

                There were rumors that the hotel was just a cover for a bootleg operation that the owner was running downstairs in the basement.  There were rumors that she had been selling moonshine.  The police came frequently to try to catch her, but she was never caught. 

Mavis was desperate.  She made up her mind that she was going to kill that old lady and take her entire fortune.  That freakish blind lady was old.  She would die anyway, and she didn’t need the money as much as Mavis did.  Mavis had mouths to feed and a reputation to repair.

Once when she was little, she had seen a two headed man crawl out of a secret panel on the side of the house. She didn’t think anything of it at the time.  The freaks were always doing weird things that didn’t make sense, but lately, she had been wondering where that hole led to.  

                Desperation is the mother of invention, so it goes.  Mavis was desperate, she needed to change her life, and when she really started thinking about it, she knew that it was her destiny to own that house.  She knew that there was a secret way in and she was going to find it. 

All was quiet.  An owl hooted in the distance and the darkness was sprinkled with the flickering luminescence of the evening fireflies that were fluttering about.  There were no streetlights to illuminate the walls for her to see.  This wasn’t all bad.  It meant that nobody would look out their window and notice someone snooping around.  She could not see a thing.    She couldn’t use a flashlight to find the hidden entrance or she would get noticed.  Of course, if it was hidden well enough, she wouldn’t be able to find it anyway. 

Sometimes, if you want something bad enough and there is no choice but to find a way, the way just miraculously appears.  Mavis was so desperate to protect her children from a horrible fate that awaited them that she somehow stumbled across the entrance. 

                Back then, people went to bed early there was just no reason to be out late.  There were no supermarkets open.  All the restaurants were closed by nine o clock.  The pub was open until two or three in the morning, but that was clear across town.  Someone might, however drive past the inn on their way home from there, but they would be drunk and wouldn’t spot her unless they plowed into her with their car.  And if they plowed into her with their car then she would be dead and wouldn’t have to worry about some evil bad guys chopping off the digits of her sleeping offspring.  Yes, this is such a time where dead is definitely better.   She could kill herself.  But suicide was illegal and she didn’t want to break the law. Besides, she had a brilliant plan. 

                The rain started to pour down as Mavis moved her hands across the stone chimney on the outside of the house.  She was feeling around for some sort of secret passage way.  She slid her hands across the wet stone mortar, and stopped when she felt a metal lock.  This wouldn’t be so hard after all.  She knew how to pick a lock. 

Once when she was little, a traveling escape artist had stopped by to visit the museum at the inn.  Mavis was standing in line behind him and while they waited for the tour to begin, he showed her how open a padlock with a few modified bobby pins that he carried around.  He was new and just starting out and eager to impress the children and teach them a useful skill that might one day come in handy should they get locked out of their houses one day. 

                Over the years, Mavis had mastered the art of lock picking, but this was the first time she had ever broken into a house.  When the lock broke free, a stone covered panel opened just a crack.  It was heavy but she managed to open it.  She pulled a flashlight out of her purse and shined it into this secret chamber.  It was a good thing that she had that flashlight because if she had stepped straight inside she would have fallen down a pit and met her death.  There was a ladder leading upwards through the tunnel an arm’s reach away.  She lodged the flashlight into her purse in such a way that she could see where she was going without holding on to it.  She reached for the ladder and started climbing up until she hit her head on a wooden ceiling. 

 

She heard slow footsteps coming towards her from the other side of the stone wall.   Then she heard breathing.  She had hoped she wouldn’t be found out.  What would she do?  The breathing stopped and she tried to hold her own breath as she reached into her purse and grabbed a razor sharp dagger.  She tried to keep perfectly still and maybe the person on the other side would think it was his or her imagination and walk away.  But instead she heard the rattling of keys and then the clickety click sound of a lock being opened. 

                The ceiling above her head opened quickly and a withered grey woman with black holes instead of eyes was looking straight at her.  She couldn’t be looking at her.  She didn’t have any eyes.  She couldn’t see.  And yet, it looked like she was looking right at her through her empty black sockets.  It was just weird.  But then again, so is breaking into someone’s house from a secret passageway. 

Now was the moment of truth.  Surely she would be no match for her.  Frightened and alarmed, the blind lady bent forward.  Mavis could smell tobacco and peppermints on her breath.  The old woman tried to grab Mavis’s hand and pull it off the ladder so she would fall plummeting to her death.

Instead, Mavis slit the old lady’s throat with her dagger.  Blood gushed all over her face and arms as she pulled her down into the deep dark pit below.  She heard a feint scream, followed by a loud whack as she hit the bottom of a very deep pit.. 


 

 Chapter 3

You would think that living such a chaotic helter skelter life of crime would be so time consuming that there would be no time for a formal education.  You would be quite wrong.  The Heisenberg girls always attended school.  In fact, Rita graduated in May and Audrey had just one more year before she would graduate.  Going to school was no cakewalk for Audrey.  People would always ask who she was and where she came from.  But it was even worse when they said to her “Hey, you’re wearing my necklace!” or “Hey!  That’s my shirt that you’ve got on.”  This is why she was such a fast runner.  She was always running away from people who accused her of stealing their things.  Can you imagine the nerve of some people, really.

Rita always managed to make a heaping load of friends right of the bat, no matter where they went.  On their first night back in Running Meade, she managed to conjure up a whole new slew of friends by hanging out at a nearby gas station and scoping out new wavers like herself. Well, they weren’t all new wavers.  Some were punk rock, some were just head bangers, but you get the picture.  Rita’s sort of friends were the non-yuppie misfit type that you would never see playing golf or drinking latte’s in a country club.

Rita made friends very quickly by telling some of her zany stories, most of which had to do with Audrey.  “And this one time, she broke into someone’s penthouse, and they got home earlier than she expected.  And she had to hang out in a cabinet for three days.  When they finally caught her, she started moaning and drooling and hitting her arms against her chest like this.” Rita stood up in front of her audience and gave an impression.  “That’s when she invented the cerebral palsy walk.  I mean talk about hilarious.  I can try to do it, but...”  Rita held her legs in an awkward position with her knees pointed inwards.  She slapped her wrists inwards against her chest and started snorting in hysteric laughter.  “Oh, I can’t do it right.  You’ve got to see it, though.  Ask her to walk like a retard the next time you see her.  It’s hilarious.” 

Rita started snorting her obnoxious laugh again, which was just as entertaining as her bazaar stories.  People were snorting too and letting out huge heaving bursts of painful laughter.  Whether or not the stories she told were true, no one could tell.  But that didn’t make her animated tales any less entertaining. This is how she made friends with her new crowd. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last. 

Yes, Rita defiantly had charisma.   And thanks to her shining charismatic personality, she had a whole slew of followers who were just looking for someone to be the butt of all their jokes.  And that someone was none other than Audrey Heisenberg.

                While Rita ran off in search of comrades, Audrey was on her own to scavenge the neighborhood in search of tomorrow’s breakfast, some razors, and a can of shaving cream. Preferably the scented kind.  Rita liked the kind that smelled like pink geraniums, but that was really hard to find.  Audrey was a pro at burglaries and found that it was much easier to work alone.  She would just have to raid houses when people were gone to prevent them from phoning the police. 

The best way to find out if someone is at home is to knock on the front door and hide in a discrete place.  If someone answers the door, they’re home, don’t rob the place.  If nobody answers the door, bang really hard on all of the windows and hide.  If there is still no answer, then it’s fine to go inside.    She found once such vacant house in this manner and used her handy dandy homemade skeleton keys and walked right into the front door.   As she snuck into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, she saw a bottle of prune juice and some pickled pigs feet.  “Old people must live here.  They must be out playing bridge or something.”  She thought.  Old people made her think of her own grandparents.  It was odd how Stanley never mentioned how either of them had died.  She never met her grandfather.  He had never been around.  But she had met her grandmother, and although she hated her, it might have been nice to know what horrible and wretched disease caused her to finally kick the bucket. 

                Audrey looked in the meat drawer and was happy to see a pack of polish sausages.  “Thank God.”  This was indeed her lucky day because there was an opened box of pancake mix in a Ziploc bag.  It was sitting on  the little wire shelf in the refrigerator right in front of her face.  Sitting right next to it, was a bottle of pure maple syrup.  She grabbed them, stuck them into her backpack and also grabbed the bread, margarine, and some orange marmalade.  She shut the fridge and started stuffing other things in that might be nice.  She grabbed pack of those Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, a roll of scotch tape, some aluminum foil and a box of beano.  It was for Stanley, of course. 

What she really needed to find was a tube of toothpaste.  Her favorite was cinnamon, but she wasn’t going to get toiletries from this house.  She thought old people were disgusting and harbored nasty diseases, so she skipped the bathroom and went straight to the bedroom in search of cash. 

                Old people always had money lying around.   It was almost as if they had wormholes it materialized from.  This is why the homes of the elderly were always her main target.  Usually these wormholes were in-between mattresses so she looked there first.  She would never take all the money she found; only some of it so the person she stole it from would think they’d just missed counted.

She found sixty nine cents on the bedroom floor, and thirty seven smutty magazines under the mattress.   At first she was just going to leave them there, but she remembered a conversation she’d had with some guys who swore they only read dirty magazines for their articles. 

This gave her an idea.  She could write dirty stories and send them into these magazines.  She would have to have them wire the money directly to a bank account otherwise Stanley would find it and take it from her.   When she saved enough money, she could buy a plane ticket out of there.  Of course, she’d have to save enough money to rent a nice apartment.  And she would still have to come up with the money for college.  It might not have been the best plan, but it was still a plan. 
                When Audrey returned home she was all alone, yet she felt like someone was watching her.  She dreaded going to sleep in that creepy old house.  The house was massive and loaded with rooms.  There were tons of rooms to choose from, but every one of them seemed far too creepy to sleep in.  She walked down the hallway and found a bedroom with a Crucifix hanging on the wall.  The bed was made of iron. She knew that this was the best sort of bed to sleep in because she had read somewhere that iron repels ghosts. 

There were religious paintings all over the walls.  A bible was sitting on a bedside table next to what appeared to be a tiny bottle of holy water.  Obviously, whoever slept in this bedroom previously was afraid of ghosts and had been doing whatever they could to keep them away.  Audrey decided that this was the safest room in the house and chose this one to be her own.

She emptied out the contents of her bag and put it all neatly away except for her bottle of face wash and clean washrag.  She went into the bathroom and turned on the water.  Earlier that evening she illegally hooked it up from the city’s main line.  It had been a while since the water had been run through the pipes so there was a loud rumbling sound in the wall before the water hissed and spurted out.  When it was running smoothly out of the faucet, she put some face wash onto her hands, put both hands under the water and made a nice lather. 

  There she was, looking into the mirror , rubbing creamy scented suds around her pink cheeks when all of a sudden her reflection changed.  Instead of seeing her own reflection she saw the eyeless woman with the black hair looking straight at her like it was a window instead of a mirror.  Audrey gasped, and without bothering to wipe the water that was running down her face and neck, she bolted out of there in horror, tripping over her own feet.

 After checking the closet and under the bed for ghosts and evil spirits, she climbed into the iron bed and slept peacefully. 

She woke up in the middle of the night, however, and looked towards the window.  It looked like there were spirits out there looking in at her.  She closed her eyes.  She must be dreaming.  There was a woman with long black hair sitting in a rocking chair, reading a book and rocking back and forth as if in a trance. She lifted her head and looked straight at Audrey, but she had no eyes.  She was looking straight into Audrey’s soul with empty eye sockets. 

 Audrey gasped, closed her eyes, and forced herself back to sleep.   She was much too afraid to move.  “It’s only a dream,” she thought. But she wasn’t sure if she really was.  This was the woman from the picture that she and Rita had found in that old black and white photo album.  Perhaps it had given her night mares after all or maybe she in that place between dream and awake where the spirit world becomes visible.  She heard footsteps and then the bed sank down as if someone had lain down in her bed beside her.  Too afraid to open her eyes, Audrey forced herself to go back to sleep. 

 

 


 

 

 

Chapter 4

A few days later, Stanley decided to stop by at Otis’s junkyard so he could get an estimate on how much it would cost to paint their old rusty mustang.  He was hoping to get a freebie.  They walked around some old tires and entered a rundown shack in the middle of the junkyard.   A skinny old man was sitting at the front desk, scribbling something down onto a notepad.  Audrey figured that this must be Otis.  He didn’t say hello or look up when they entered the door, even though the cowbell attached to it clanked rather loudly.  Stanley spoke first. “Wow.  I noticed that nice jaguar you’ve got parked outside.  That looks just like something that James Bond would drive.” 

“Oh,” said Otis as he stood up and smiled proudly.  “That’s one of Isaac’s projects.  Um, he’s my grandson.  I taught him how to change the oil in an old jalopy a few years back and he just went nuts.  He found himself a few books, and has taught himself how to rebuild engines and do body work.  Anyway, you should have seen that Jaguar when they brought it in.  Some rich kid on the Running Meade track team wrecked it in a car race.  His name was Peter Lindner. He didn’t make it and they just dumped the car here.  Well, since Isaac has always wanted a jaguar, he decided that he was going to fix it up.  I didn’t believe it was possible, but there you are.”  He motioned to the jaguar.  “It doesn’t have an engine yet, mind you.  He’s still in the process of rebuilding it.  It was completely destroyed in the accident.”

                Stanley crossed his arms, rolled his eyes, and let out a frustrated huff.  He had about as much patience as a Spanish brahma bull and nothing annoyed him more than elderly folk who droned on and on with their long stories.  Although, Stanley would have loved to have this car, he didn’t have the patience to listen to this old man’s hot air any longer. He cleared his throat and got straight to the point.  “About that paint job.”

                “Ah yes.”  Otis scratched a mosquito bite on his arm, and looked down at his notebook.  Stanley had called him before they left the house, and Otis knew what he was talking about.  “Well, I reckon it’ll be about three thousand dollars, after tax, of course.”  Stanley cringed.  He hated the word tax, and although it’s been said that the only thing that one really has to do is pay taxes and die, Stanley had successfully managed to avoid paying taxes much of his adult life.  In fact, he had actually managed to avoid paying for pretty much everything.  As for the dying part, Audrey had hoped sometimes that he would forget to look both ways before crossing a big intersection, and get turned into road pizza by a giant Mack Truck.  But since that hadn’t happened yet, she was faced with having to go along with him today, in a lame attempt at getting a freebie.

                “Well,” smiled Stanly devilishly.  He rubbed his knuckles across his chest like a slimy car salesman.  “I’ve got a deal for you.  We’ve got an advertisement magazine that we’re coming out with.  It’s going to be like a city magazine with articles and recipes and current events.  We’ll trade a paint job for free advertising.”  He turned to Audrey and motioned for her to hand him the template.  Downtrodden and jumpy, Audrey had the composure of a dying sloth who had snorted too much cocaine.  Her hand shook nervously as she handed him the magazine that they were about to send out.

                Otis looked at her in amazement.  “She’s got a nervous condition.” Stanley shot Audrey a disapproving look, which he quickly tried to hide by smiling cheerfully.  “Yeah.”  Stanley shook his head and decided that it might be better if he pretended to be sad about this.  So, he lost the smile.  Otis furrowed his brow.  “You know, they make medication for that.  You should take her to see a doctor about that.  My cousin, Ingrid, had the shakes in her hands for years and…”

                Stanley rolled his eyes impatiently and interrupted.  He wasn’t going to listen to yet another long story. ”Yeah, Yeah, we’ve taken her to hundreds of doctors and therapists already and they haven’t been able to do a thing for her.  All the medicine they give her makes her either vomit or wander off.  But she’ll be all right.  We take good care of ya, don’t we Audrey, baby?”  Audrey faked a smile.

                Otis cleared his throat and had an expression of confusion and disgust plastered across his face. “Eh.  No.  I don’t think I will.  I don’t need advertising to get by.  I make enough money as it is.”  Stanley wasn’t going to take no for an answer so he tried to explain a bit more.  “Come on!  Advertising is the Key to success!  Just think of all the new business you’ll get when everyone in town wants to come here…”  Stanley looked around to try and think of something nice to say about the grimy old office full hub caps and car parts. 

                Just as Stanley was giving his speech on the magic of good advertising, a teenage boy drove up in a neon green dune buggy.  He got out of the car and walked in through the door.  Otis smiled and introduced him.  “Ah.  This is my grandson, Isaac.”  Audrey could tell immediately that Stanley did not approve.  Isaac was the type of person that Stanley referred to as “trash from hell” and what many conservatives just refer to as a freak of nature.  His bleach blonde hair had been shaved into a long strip of orangey yellow hair that could easily be moussed upwards into a fancy Mohawk.  He wore a Red Hot Chili Peppers T-shirt, blue jeans, and maroon steel-toed boots that were scuffed from years of wear.  There was a chain running from a belt loop to a wallet that he kept in his pocket. 

                Otis took the magazine that Audrey was still nervously holding, and handed it to Isaac.  “This guy wants to trade advertising for a paint job.”  Isaac scanned the pages carefully and grinned cheerfully.  “Yeah, sure, but you’ll have to pay for the paint.  Paint isn’t free you know.”

                Stanley stroked his chin and rubbed his knuckles against his chest.  “Well, that depends.  How much do you want for the paint?” Isaac looked out the window at the parked car that he assumed was theirs.  “Is that your mustang?” 

“Yes.”  Stanley said proudly, while still giving Isaac a disapproving look. Isaac took a deep breath and bit his lip in deep thought.  “It’ll be about two hundred dollars.”  Stanley gasped in extreme horror.  “Two hundred dollars?  Why, that’s highway robbery!  I can get it cheaper than that somewhere else.  Come on.  Let’s blow this joint, ladies.” 

                Angry and disappointed, Stanly stormed past Isaac and through the door, followed by Rita, who said nothing at all as she held her head up snobbishly and smirked all the way to the car.  As Audrey nervously took the magazine from Isaac, their eyes met and her heart skipped a beat.  She dropped the magazine, and picked it up several times before tripping on her way to the door, which she had trouble opening because she was pushing it instead of pulling.  Rita and Stanley were already in the car, and were watching her make a fool of herself.    They were laughing hysterically, which just made Audrey even more nervous.  Even though Isaac opened the door for her, she was far too humiliated to thank him, or even look at him.

                A week later, when school started, she was embarrassed all over again because he ended up being in her 6th period Chemistry Class.  He sat down right next to her and said “Hi.  Remember me?” She said nothing.  She merely stuck her head down and began reading her chemistry book.  This was her defense mechanism.  She was like an ostrich who sticks his head in a hole when it’s scared.  Audrey just read.  Shea read as she walked through the halls, even though she tripped frequently.  She couldn’t see where she was going with her nose stuck in a book.  She read as she sat all alone at lunch time to drown out the fact that Rita’s followers were laughing at her and yelling obscene things at her.  She kept her nose in her book while she contemplated her escape plan.

                She would be the fastest runner on her track team and win at every track meet.  She could make perfect scores on all of her tests and perhaps even be named Valedictorian.  That way, if she couldn’t get a scholarship for being the fastest, she could at least get a scholarship for being the smartest.  One way or another, she would find a way to get out of the mess she was in.  “I just need to make it until May.  It’s almost September so that’s …October, November, December, January, February, March, April, and then May. She counted on her fingers nodding her head rhymically.  “Let’s see, that means there only eight more months to go.  That’s less than a year.” Her body sank, “Somehow that doesn’t seem so hopeful.”

                She was miserable before they moved into granny’s house because Stanley was abusive and Rita liked to screw with her head and spread rumors about her.  Now she had to put up with their madness and live in a haunted inn.  You would think that living with paranormal activity would be thrilling and exciting, but you would be wrong.  It was terrifying.  She had lived in people’s houses without their permission, but she left when they returned home.  This was like squatting in someone’s house while they were still there, except she couldn’t see them personally, just the things they were doing.  It was downright freaky and was driving her crazy.

She always heard footsteps, even when she was alone.  The cabinet doors would never stay shut, even though she knew she closed them.  This drove Stanley crazy.  He hated it when the cabinet doors were left open.  Even though he was a slob and couldn’t even find the trash can. Even though his filthy dishes were all over the house and he left his toenail clippings all over the carpet next to the television, nothing drove him crazy like waking up in the morning to find all the cabinet doors wide open.  Naturally, he blamed Audrey for this.  He always blamed Audrey for things. Maybe this was just another one of Rita’s pranks. 

Or perhaps, it was Joseph still playing pranks on her from beyond the grave.  Spirits of the deceased who cannot transition themselves properly into the next realm often hang around and make life miserable for the living.  Perhaps he had been hanging out here in this place, waiting for Audrey to come back, so he could torment her.  One night she dreamed of Joseph.  She dreamed about chasing him through the house as he opened all the cabinets in the bathroom s and the kitchen.  In these dreams he’d be laughing hysterically as she followed behind him.  She’d shut them back and he’d open them.  When she woke up in the morning completely exhausted.  It felt like she’d actually been chasing her dead brother all night long.    

This wasn’t her worst nightmare, however.  All of her life, for as long as she could remember, she had this dream that she was falling into a deep pit filled with rotting corpses.  She had fallen in and she couldn’t climb out because there were no walls. This dream seemed so real that it took her several minutes after waking to realize that she hadn’t fallen to her death after all.  She’d consulted several dream books trying to find the meaning of it.  Supposedly, it meant that she was in a bad situation that she couldn’t find a way out of.  Although this seemed like a logical explanation, Audrey thought that it seemed far too real to be just an ordinary dream.  She felt like she really had been in some sort of a pit. 

 


Chapter 4

                Rita got out of bed Saturday morning, and did a double take because she thought she saw a woman with long black hair sitting in the rocking chair, rocking back and forth.  She rubbed her eyes, shook her head and walked into the bathroom. It must have just been a shadow because when she looked again, nobody was there and the rocking chair sat perfectly still.  Audrey had told Rita that she kept having these dreaming about a woman with long black hair who sat in that rocking chair rocking back and forth as if in an angry trance.  Talk about the power of suggestion.  Not only did Rita start dreaming about her too, she started seeing her out of the corner of her eye sometimes.  Is insanity contagious?  Maybe not, but it is genetic.  Rita shuddered at the thought of becoming a paranoid schizophrenic like her sister. 

 She shut the door to the medicine cabinet and thought she saw the reflection of someone standing behind her.  When she looked behind her, nobody was there.  She shut the cabinet doors, grabbed her toothbrush and turned on the water.  There was a knocking sound in the wall.  Stanley said that the pipes were old and needed to be replaced, but this didn’t sound like bad pipes to Rita.  It usually took a few seconds for the water to come on and then it would spit and hiss before finally running out in a stream.  But this time, when the water came out, it looked like blood.  Rita shook with fear, quickly turned it off and ran back into the bedroom and sat on the bed.  “The water was shut off for years; pipes always do that when the water has been off for a while.”  She said this to calm herself down, but she wasn’t entirely sure it was true.  That knocking sound didn’t sound like bad pipes, it sounded like someone was inside the wall knocking with their knuckles.

This was so weird.  She didn’t believe in ghosts or any other sort of metaphysical dealings with supernatural beings.  She had a logical mind and a good head on her shoulders.  Perhaps this was a combination of too much rum from the night before, and listening to Audrey’s hysterical chatter about strange noises in the night. 

After she caught her breath and recovered from this morning’s hair raising experience, Rita started searching through Audrey’s things for something to wear.  She chose a lovely red velvet dress, and as she put it on she looked behind her shoulder a few times because she had that eerie feeling that someone was in the room with her. 

She and Nancy were going to a concert in Zipperhead that evening, so she decided to look around and see if she could find some money that Audrey had stashed away somewhere.  The first place she looked was under the mattress and she was quite surprised to see several dozen smutty magazines.  Audrey should have known better than to hide things under the mattress.  It’s the first place people go looking when they’re searching for things.  Her eyebrow shot up when she found a notebook filled with dirty stories.  She read through the stories, just beaming from ear to ear.  The letter described what she would just love to do to a man in a dark room.  It involved things that Rita had never even heard of.  Rita was completely amused at this luscious and tantalizing love letter.  She had no idea that Audrey could write that way and had no idea that her sweet little sister had such a dirty mind. 

By the time Rita was finished reading this letter she was sweating.  This love letter was just too good to keep to herself.  The Mother Teresa in her was just bursting to get out of her and she did her saintly duty to share the good words with the world, making sure that she added a little of her own genius and ingenuity to this magnificent work of art.  She carefully removed the page from the notebook, and wrote the words Dear Isaac at the top, and signed it with Audrey’s name.  She had seen the way Audrey acted after they left that junkyard and she happened to know some friends of his.  They would all get a kick about this one.  She took it to her friend Nancy’s house that evening.

Let me tell you a little something about Rita that you should know.  She was a cold hearted devil woman with ulterior motives.  Everything she said or did was aimed at achieving her own personal gains.  This sort of devious scandal had happened before when they lived in Santa Carla.

In a way, she wanted to play the part of the proverbial match maker.  She wanted Audrey to be in a relationship, so naturally she felt compelled to set her up with someone special.  But she just couldn’t do it in the Jane Austin popcorn and bubble gum sort of way.  It was just too dorky and cornball for her taste.  If someone like Ward Cleaver had been their father, she could have set Audrey up with a handsome young man at an ice cream social.  Audrey would be charmed and say something like “Gee Wally, you’re so clever, make a muscle.” They would fall in love, and later go out to the candy store for soda and pie. It just wasn’t her way. It wasn’t cool enough for her chic new wave style.

Back in Santa Carla, Audrey had fallen madly in love with this guy named Jack Harris.  He had long curly brown hair and wore motorcycle boots and a leather jacket.  He didn’t ride a motorcycle, though, he rode the bus, but it didn’t matter.  Audrey still thought that he was hot stuff.  It was more like infatuation from afar, however, because he didn’t even know that she existed. 

Rita knew how Audrey felt about him because she drew pictures of him and the two of them together in the margins of her notebook.  She wrote “I heart Jack Harris” all over all of her notebooks.  It was so obvious that she was obsessed with him, how could anyone not know?  She should have been more discreet about it, because Rita wrote a love note, signed Audrey’s name at the bottom, and stuck it in Jack Harris’s locker.  Of course her name wasn’t Audrey back then because they had to change their identities frequently.  Her name had been Star when they lived in Santa Carla, but that’s beside the point.  Audrey was not his type at all.  He already had a busty blonde cheerleader girlfriend who drove a red corvette that her daddy had given her for her 16th birthday. 

                He did, however, find these love notes that she kept slipping into his locker, very amusing.  In fact, he found them so unbelievably entertaining that he read them aloud to his many friends in the hallway at school.  Audrey became rather popular at school in a dark and gloomy notorious sort of way, because these notes were Xeroxed and passed to everyone at school who pointed, laughed, and read the note aloud as she passed by in the hallway.  It wasn’t the first time Rita utterly humiliated her little sister, and it wouldn’t be the last. 

Poor Audrey didn’t even know that Rita had been the one to put the note in his locker.  She had no clue what they were talking about, until she got her hands on one of the copied notes.  And even then, she still had no idea that it had been Rita who had written it.  Rita was sly and managed to keep a straight face under the circumstance.  It was as if she was wearing a mask around Audrey.  Not a bit of emotion did she show around her to give away her guilt of this misdeed.  Too bad it didn’t work out between Jack Harris and Audrey.  At least Rita got a few laughs out of the whole ordeal.

Like the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Rita decided to try this again with the guy from the junkyard.  She knew that Audrey had a thing for Isaac, although she wasn’t so obvious about her crush this time.  She’d written his name down on a slip of paper, drew a picture of the two of them together, and stuck it in her bra so she wouldn’t be found out.  Audrey always wore her bra to bed because she had a phobia of sagging b***s.  Her grandmother’s b***s drooped down to her waist and Audrey had heard that it was because she didn’t wear a bra.  So Audrey only took hers of when she took a shower.  She took her bra off and left it lying on the floor on a pile of clothing, along with the paper that said “I heart Isaac.”  This is where Rita found it.  But she left it there so Audrey wouldn’t know that she knew about her new crush.  It was more fun that way.

 


Chapter 5

Blessed are the delusional, for sanity is over rated.

                When Audrey woke up Monday morning, she went into the kitchen, shut the cabinet doors, and washed some dishes that had been in the sink overnight.  She reached into the sink and pulled out a spoon that was covered entirely with peanut butter.  She cringed in horror.  There was nothing she hated more in life than cleaning half eaten spoonfuls of sticky gooey peanut butter.  She shuddered to think of whose mouth it had been in as she scooped the peanut butter out under the running water and thoroughly sanitized her hands.  She turned that faucet off.  She distinctly remembered turning that faucet off and wiping it down with a sponge.  The faucet was off when she walked away with dripping hands.  It definitely was off.  There is no doubt about it. 

She dried her hands on a bright green tea towel and pulled a cookbook off the shelf.  It was a worn out copy of the Joy of Cooking that she’d stolen from some old person’s house the other day.  She was looking through the index for a recipe for crepe suzette when she heard the water running in the kitchen sink.  She had turned that faucet off, and here it was, running again.  “How can this be?  This is so freaky.” Her body grew cold and she shivered in fright.  “Dear God Almighty” she thought as she ran to turn it off.  She was the only one in the kitchen and she hadn’t even heard footsteps.  Breathing deeply and slowly, still shaking with fear, she tried to think of some logical explanation.  But she couldn’t.  She couldn’t run away though, because she had to make Stanley’s breakfast before she went to school. 

She walked back over to the counter and began looking through the cookbook once more. Just when she had become completely absorbed in the process of cracking eggs into the metal bowl, she felt someone tapping her on her shoulder.  When she turned and saw that nobody was in the kitchen, chills went up her spine.  It was a rather eerie feeling indeed, but not nearly as eerie as what happened next.  She had been heating up some milk in the microwave to use in her recipe, and as she was reaching for the door to pull it open she saw a woman’s reflection in the glass.  It was the black haired eyeless woman.  Audrey passed out.


 

Chapter 6

Blessed are the pizza makers, yay, for ever and ever, from henceforth and forevermore; for they shall enter the kingdom of heaven. Especially when the crust is crispy on the bottom and chewy in the middle and the peppers are so perky.

                Audrey broke into a very nice house one Saturday evening.  It looked like one that had been recently built.  The creamy white carpets were newly laid and the beige paint smelled fresh.  The oak cabinets were perfectly clean, without a nick or a scratch.  The countertops were so clean that it didn’t seem like anyone had ever used them to make a blancmange, or a crème brulee.  It didn’t appear that the inhabitants of this provincial dwelling had ever done any home cooking at all.

Audrey admired the brand new stainless steel refrigerator and was quite impressed when she opened the freezer and found it perfectly clean.  Most of the freezers that she had opened in her lifetime were caked with sticky goo, crumbs and frozen peas.  Sometimes the TV dinners she pulled out had orange juice stuck to the bottom and it got all over her backpack.  It was disgusting.

 Stanley had told her rather bluntly to find him a chicken pot pie.  Stanley loved pie.  It was his favorite food in the whole wide world, and nothing upset him more than going to the freezer and not finding a pie.  There weren’t any pot pies though, just a freezer full of pizza.  She supposed that qualified as pie because they call pizzas “pie” in New York City.  So she took a few out and stuffed them into her dufflebag.  On her way out she noticed a few pictures on the wall looked just like Isaac.  She stopped dead in her tracks and looked closer.  That picture didn’t just look like Isaac.  It was Isaac, and she was in his house.  She couldn’t believe it.  She robbed loads of houses; it was bound to happen eventually. Her heart started thumping wildly. 

It was a small house, there were only two bedrooms.  She walked into the smaller of the two and she thought might be his because there were several auto repair books lying on a desk.  She knew this must be his room because she’d seen him working in a junk yard.  It was only logical that someone who worked in a junkyard would have auto repair manuals lying around his bedroom.  She looked around for some sort of a souvenir that she could take home to remind her of him.   She grabbed a green baseball cap that was lying on the unmade bed and searched around through drawers until she found a very cute picture of him with his hair all spiked up into a Mohawk.  She kept these objects with her in her backpack, that way Rita wouldn’t find them and use them to torment her. 

Chapter 7

                As Isaac was standing up to leave after Chemistry class one afternoon, he saw something sparkly on the floor underneath Audrey’s chair.  It was an antique bracelet made from moonstones.  The little clasp had broken and it must have fallen off without her knowing it.  He knew it was hers because he’d seen her wearing it every day.  He picked it up and cupped it in his hands like it were some sort of relic that belonged to a saint.  He held it closely as if it would emit some sort of energy that would rub off on him. 

                Isaac was completely infatuated with Audrey, if not even a little obsessed.  He’d go out of his way to follow her to class sometimes, just so he could look at her.  He kept trying to talk to her, but she didn’t pay any attention to him.  He tried not to watch her constantly during class.  She never looked up, never responded, and never said a word.  She was so mysterious.  If she had pale skin, wore black, and had sharp pointy teeth he would have known that she was a vampire and stayed away.  But this was not the case.  She wasn’t a vampire, just a really weird girl that seemed to be ignoring a school full of obnoxious idiots, and apparently, she thought that he was just one of them. 

Isaac thought that she was just adorable, and he decided that he would get her, one way or another.    Had he been any older, he would have thought that she was a psychopath.  It’s always the quiet types who keep to themselves that end up being the cereal killers.  I know I spelled that wrong, but I really don’t care.  I can spell it however the heck I want to.  Spelling properly is overrated and so is socializing with dim wits.

Chapter 8

Running Meade High School had a bad reputation for harboring the future junkies of the world.  It had become an embarrassment for the whole town.  So administrators decided to crack down on the problem and hire someone who was certain to fix the problem.  So they hired Principal Dwight Savage, a bald middle aged man with an evil glare and strict moral standards.  He believed that the reason there were so many drugs in the school was the fact that the students weren’t dressing conservatively enough.  If you eliminate thuggish looking clothes, you eliminate the drug problem.  He believed that bad haircuts and sloppy clothes were a gateway drug to the underworld.  First it’s a Mohawk and wallet chain and the next thing you know, the kid is drooling in a ditch somewhere addicted to methamphetamines and crack cocaine. 

Principal Dwight Savage paced the halls every morning to ensure that everyone was following the dress code.  Pants had to be tucked in, and no fashionably tattered clothing was permitted no matter how expensive they had been.  What annoyed him more than anything else in the world were punks.  He did his best to keep his school clean and free from thugs and any other weirdoes that don’t seem to withhold his conservative standards.  So when Isaac walked in one day with a five inch bright green Mohawk, he nearly had a heart attack, as he gasped for breath and reached for a wall to regain his balance.  Savage blew his whistle.

     Isaac was wearing ox-blood twelve eye Doc Martens, a Fugazi t-shirt, Levis covered in paint, and a wallet chain that dangled down to his knees.  He looked like a hard core punk kid, but it was just an attempt to look tougher than he really was.  He had entered Kindergarten when he was four years old and was so brilliant that he skipped the third grade.  Because of all this skipping ahead, Isaac was naturally much smaller than everyone else in his class.  This, in turn, led to everyone picking on him all of the time.  He decided that if he looked tough, then people would leave him alone.  This tactic seemed to work relatively well, because most people did leave him alone, sort of.

      “Hey you…you there... stop at once, I command you!”  Isaac ran down the hallway and around the corner to his homeroom.  But it was pointless.  Savage had taken a short cut through a different hallway and went straight for Isaac.   His eyes were bulging out of his head and his face was a red as canned beets. 

     He grabbed Isaac by the ear and dragged him by the ear all the way to the office and phoned the police station.  “Yes.  I have a student here that I believe is selling crack cocaine and Marijuana cigarettes here in my school.”  He hung up the phone and cracked his knuckles. “Heh. Heh. Heh.  I’ll teach you to make a spectacle of my school.” 

     He stood up and pressed the intercom button on his desk.  “Maureen.  Can you come in my office for just a moment?”  Isaac fidgeted nervously in his chair, trying to avoid contact with this powerful authority figure.  The plump secretary appeared in the doorway and gave a piercing look of eternal damnation.  You would have thought that he had just insulted her mother.   He wanted to disappear.  He wanted to be somewhere else and had he have been a superhero he would have done it in a flash.  Savage and the plump secretary gave each other a nod and seemed to be using some sort of telepathy, because she left at once and he sat back down at his desk, folded his hands and sighed.     

     Isaac’s nerves were shaking like a jellyfish being poked with a stick by an attention deficit toddler on Ritalin.  “I didn’t do anything.”  He twirled his oversized wallet clanking it against the chair he was slouching in.  “Stop that racket or I’ll confiscate that chain, you skanky hoodlum. “Mr. Savage wrote something down on a sticky note, stood up and walked over to the locked wooden cabinet.  “I’m not a hoodlum.  I’m an honors student.  I even skipped a grade.”   Isaac dropped his wallet chain and sat up straight in his chair.  Savage reached behind a stack of books, pulled out a crumpled lunch bag and locked the cabinet back.  “Oh yeah, which one?

“I started kindergarten a year early and I skipped the third grade.”  Isaac crossed his arms in a matter of fact sort of way.  Principal Savage didn’t like his tone of voice and he said mockingly “Oh yeah.  Well aren’t you special?  Just look at you.  You’re filthy.  You’re completely covered in paint!”

                Isaac sat up straight in his chair his arms were folded.  He looked down and noticed his jeans.   He’d worn them yesterday at the junkyard and didn’t think about paint getting on them.  His mother worked the nightshift and had too sleepy to notice what he was wearing that morning, otherwise she would have told him to change.  Who cared anyway?   It’s not like he had a job interview or something.  Studies have shown that clean pants have nothing to do with scoring well on Math tests.  Principal Savage did not know this. 

“I was painting my car yesterday and I got paint on myself.”

“You wore the same pants twice in a row?”

“So?”

“That’s disgusting, haven’t you any decency?  You don’t even have a car.  You were probably sniffing paint.  I know your type.”  This wasn’t true, Isaac did have a car, he was almost done refurbishing it and the cheerleading squad had asked him to be in the parade on the day of the race. Savage was a total jerk and there was just no arguing with him.  There was just no point.  He would put words into your mouth and confuse you so badly that you were left wondering about your own innocence.  It was some sort of trick he learned.  If there was a doctorate in cunning and malevolence, then he had it.  It was almost as if he had sold his soul to the devil to be the principal of a small town high school, and in return, Beelzebub himself had inhabited his body.

 

                Savage kept on and on with his ridiculous nonsense for a half hour.  He was quite disappointed when the police the officer that arrived was Officer Leroy Jenkins.  Why was it always him who came?  “I’ve caught this young man selling drugs out of his locker earlier today.  I’ve suspected him for quite some time and now I have evidence.”  He picked up the paper lunch sack and handed it to Jenkins who eyed it suspiciously before taking it.  He looked inside and cleared his throat.  “You’re telling me that you found this bag of pharmaceuticals in this boy’s pocket with intention to sell?  “Yes.  I know this boys been selling drugs down my hallways at my school for years and I’ve finally caught him.”  Said Savage with a huge smile plastered across his face.  “Yes, you said that.”  Said Jenkins looking at Savage and then to the punk kid sitting in the chair. 

A lump swelled in Isaac’s throat.  The bacon that he ate on his way to school that morning was turning summersaults in his stomach.  He thought he was going to vomit.  “He’s just mad at me because he doesn’t like my hair.”  He stuttered nervously but laughed when he saw a long strip of toilet paper hanging off of Mr. Savage’s highly polished military issued patent dress shoe.  “You wipe that smile off your face, young man.  Do you realize the seriousness of the crime you have committed?”

     Jenkins smelled the contents of the bag.   “Where exactly did you say you found this bag of drugs, Principal Savage?”  The stout principal stood up and leaned himself over the desk and Isaac felt a huge gust of evil energy gush out of Mr. Savage and go forcefully into his own body.  It was as if an ancient mythological demon had possessed the man, and leaked out when he got angry.  He had a dark energy with in him so strong that anyone who got in his way felt ill and wasn’t the same again for weeks.  Isaac’s throat was starting to feel sore and he felt the chills of pneumonia coming on.   The principal got in his face, and his breath smelled of cheap stale coffee.  Isaac wondered if the guy had brushed his teeth lately. 

       Savage tried to smile warmly as he explained his side of the story, but lacking a kind heart it looked like a malicious evil smile. “This morning in the hallway, I saw this fella huddled with a bunch of punk kids by his locker.  I casually started to walk by, just to see what they were up to.  I’m just a principal doing my job; I’ve just got to ensure the safety of the students that go to my high school.  And besides, we have the big race coming up in a couple of weeks and you know how important that is for our city.  Every year a bunch of kids show up to the race on drugs and humiliate the whole town.  I am putting an end to this madness once and for all.  Its punks like him that are bringing drugs to this town and ruining our reputation.  I want him locked away.” 

     Isaac desperately tried to remember huddling.  He didn’t think he had been in the middle of a bunch of kids earlier that day.  But what could he say?  What if he said he didn’t huddle and he had huddled and they’d caught him on film doing it?  Then they would think that he was a liar and if he was a liar then nobody would believe him about anything.

       Savage put his hand on Isaac’s shoulder as if he were a concerned parental figure.   “This boy saw me when he was in the middle of a drug deal and panicked.  He started running, and when he did, he dropped this.”  Savage touched firmly the sack of drugs that the policeman was holding.  Isaac looked at the police officer to see if he was buying the story.  The officer rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger and looked irritated.  “Are you sure that these aren’t from the D.A.R.E. display we used a couple of years ago?”

     Savage gasped and put a hand to his mouth.  “No!  I thought we disposed of that.  He must have stolen it from the school and picked the drugs off to sell and make money.  The officer seemed frustrated and he put a hand over his face and firmly rubbed his eyes again.”

                “Principal Savage.  These are display drugs, smell them.  They’re not real.  We would not put real ones on the display rack.  We know what kids do.”  The principal took them back, shook his head and clacked his tongue.  “Well I don’t know what’s worse.  Selling drugs for profit or tricking kids.”  He threw the bag on the desk and leaned over.   “I think I’m going to have him tested.  Just look at him.  He’s shaking all over.  He’s on speed, I just know it.   I saw him popping some pills when he first walked through the doors. 

Dwight Savage was especially uptight because a very important event was coming up and school administrators had been down his throat for weeks making sure that everything would go smoothly.  Running Meade High School had been a rival with their sister city, Starkey, several miles away.  Every spring, they had this huge race.  It was the biggest celebration of the year.  People would come from miles around just to see it.  There was a huge parade with an appearance from the mayor of both towns.  Each city was represented by the fastest runner from each of their high schools.  It was called “The Race for the Sword of Destiny,” but everyone just called it the sword race for short.  The winner of the race would get this magnificent sword that was rumored to be a thousand years old.  The sword probably wasn’t really that old, but it had been passed back and forth between Starkey and Running Meade for as long as anyone could remember. Holding the Sword of Destiny was a great honor to behold.

Unfortunately for Running Meade, they hadn’t won the sword since 1968, when Lyudmila Kakavitch, Running Meade’s champion runner, came down with a severe stomach virus.  Every year since then, Starkey has won because something bad always seemed to happen to the fastest runner of Running Meade.  Last year, Mike Mulligan died of a drug overdose the night before the race.  The year before that, their fastest runner, Jerry Pratchett was arrested for robbing a donut store.  The year before that, Skip Dunworth was arrested for dealing drugs.  The list goes on and on.  It was said that there was a curse on the school.  This year, they were all counting on Audrey.  Well, sort of, but not really.

Thing were going to be different this year, they just had to be.  They had a plan to beat the curse by outsmarting it.  They would use a decoy.  They put someone else’s name on the roster.  Jerry Lavinski was named the fastest runner of the school and everyone was told that he was going to be the one who would win the race.  This way, when he turned up dead on the day of the race, they would say “Gee willikers, what are we going to do now?  I guess we’ll have to use this girl, Audrey.  Oh well, too bad for us.”  Then when she won the race they would act totally surprised.  “What?  She won the race and broke a record?  Oh, how funny, imagine that.” 

Every year in Running Meade someone on the track team either died of a drug overdose or was disqualified for using steroids.  They were starting to become notorious for their high percentage rate of junkies.  So the principal cracked down and did whatever he could to prevent drug use among his students.  He passed a rule with the school board that stated “All athletes must give a mandatory urine sample every Monday.   Audrey was on the track team, and so had to be tested, like clockwork, every single Monday.  And on this particular Monday, someone thought it would be funny to switch Audrey’s urine sample out with their own.  She had to spend several excruciating hours in the office being interrogated by Principal Savage, before she was allowed to retest.  People screamed Junkie at her as she walked through the halls.  She blamed the whole thing on Savage and swore that she would get revenge on him, one way or another.  One day, that miserable douchebag would pay for harassing innocent kids. 

Sure it seems funny.  Go ahead and laugh at the crazy weirdo.  It’s all fun and games until someone gets his eye poked out, so it goes.  It is easy to join the crowd and laugh at the misfit, but it isn’t so easy if you’re the misfit and you’re the one being singled out.  Audrey didn’t have any friends, and even though she tried not to care, she still felt the thick aching pain inside.  She felt unwanted, unloved, and rejected.  She wished they knew that she was going to be the runner in the race.  Then maybe she’d get a little respect.  It was all she could do to keep it a secret as they cheered for Jerry at the pep rallies and when they saw him in the halls. Jerry himself even sniggered at Audrey when he passed her in the hall, as if he were the fastest runner.  He wasn’t though; he’d never even beat Audrey’s racing time during track practice.  He could snigger all he wanted to because Audrey wasn’t fighting back.  She didn’t scream and cry and argue with them.  She covered her head with the hood from her jacket, kept her head hung low into a book and didn’t look up.  Supposedly, ignoring obnoxious people is supposed to make them bored and leave you alone.  Not in this case, they tortured her worse for it by tripping her and purposely running into her in the hallways.  These were the same sort of folks that torture the guards in London at the Palace gates.  They did it because they knew they could get away with it because weren’t clever enough to find more productive use of their time.

As Audrey was walking home from school that afternoon, she heard someone honk their horn and call her name.  She was expecting someone to throw a milkshake at her, that sort of thing had been happening to her lately.  Yesterday it was a milkshake, but a couple weeks earlier, someone threw a banana cream pie at her.  She didn’t turn her head to get a full look at the car and she didn’t see that it was Isaac in the back seat yelling and waving at her.  “Hey Audrey, Do you want a ride?  Audrey shook with fear, turned down a side street and started running.  Her heavy backpack bumped up and down hitting her in her spine as she fled. 

Isaac had been given a ride home that day from his friends Lenny and Satch. They were in old rusty champagne colored Cadillac. The driver side door was bright red because it was salvaged out of Otis’ junk yard. The car belonged to Satch’s mom, who was from the Philippines.  She was a hippie and had really meant to name him after her own astrological sign, Sagittarius.  But because her English wasn’t so good and she couldn’t spell, he was given the name Satchittarius which was quickly just shortened to Satch.  This might not have been a bad thing, after all.  For all we know, he might have ended up being called Sag.  He was half black and half Asian and was the fattest person any of them had ever seen ride on a skateboard.  He was pretty good too, which was quite amazing.  Especially because the center of his skateboard sagged so low that it almost touched the ground.  Perhaps Sag would have been a better nickname for him after all.

Lenny’s parents ran a doughnut shop.  He didn’t know that Satch was just using him for free doughnuts.  Lenny’s parents didn’t know that Satch was stealing the doughnuts and Satch didn’t know that once Lenny dropped his toothbrush in the toilet when he was visiting.  He just put the toothbrush back in the cup like nothing had happened. 

 “What’s the matter with that girl?”  Said Satch, as he watched Audrey disappear around the corner.  “I don’t know.”  Said Isaac.  He still had Audrey’s bracelet in his pocket.  He’d already fixed it and hadn’t quite managed to get up enough nerve to give it to her.  He took it out sometimes when no one was looking and kissed it, thinking of her, and imagining the little moonstones were her lips.  He thought about giving it to her earlier in class, but people were always watching her, waiting for her to drop something so they could laugh and taunt her.  He didn’t want them to laugh at him too.

Thinking about Audrey made him nervous so he took a piece of fruit striped gum out of his pocket and started chewing.  “She’s in my chemistry class and has her nose stuffed in a book the whole time.  She never even looks up.  She never says a word.  The teacher calls on her sometimes and she doesn’t even answer.  She just sits there shaking.  I try to talk to her, but she won’t even look at me. “Lenny smelled Isaac’s gum and turned around in his seat. “Hey, gimmie a piece of that gum.”  Isaac handed him a piece.  Lenny took it and began talking away between smacks.  “Yeah, I’m friends with her sister, Rita.  She told me that Audrey’s schizophrenic or something. She’s on load of medication to keep her from seeing people that aren’t really there.  That’s why she’s constantly shaking.”  Isaac thought that this might be a logical explanation.  “That is so freaking weird.”  He said. 

“You know what’s freakin’ weird,” said Satch as he screeched to a stop at a red light.  His bumper nearly touched the car in front of them.

“What?”  said Isaac.  He had fallen forward out of his seat with the abrupt stop and decided to put on seatbelt.  “I’ll tell you what’s freakin’ weird...this car.  When are you going to hook me up with a paint job? 

“I’ll tell you what, “said Isaac, carefully buckling his seatbelt.  “I’ve got this Mercedes I’m working on.  If you come over to the junkyard and help me fix it up.  I’ll split the money with you and I’ll show you’ll have enough money to buy paint for your car.  And you can paint it yourself. 

“Nah, man,  I don’t think so.  I don’t know how to work on cars.”

“It’s easy.  I’ll show you how.”

“Nah man.  I don’t got time for that. I’m too busy.”

“Busy doing what?  Skating?”

“Yeah, so what’s wrong with that?”

“You’re always talking about not having any money.  I’m giving you this golden opportunity to make some.  You need money, and I need some help.”

“Whatever man, it’s not my thing. Inhaling that paint is bad for the lungs.”

“Since when do you care about health, anyway?  You sit there and eat a bag of donuts every single day.  How is that healthy?”

“Donuts are made from flour and flour is made from wheat.  Wheat is a green plant so eating donuts is like eating my green vegetables.  And they’re fried in vegetable oil.  So eating a bag of donuts is like eating a bag of vegetables.  See, I’m eating my vegetables.”

Isaac scoffed. “What about you Lenny? Do you wanna make some money? “

“No way man.  I got a job workin’ at the donut shop.” 

“You could have two jobs.”

“No way man, I’m not workin’ in no dump.  There are rats everywhere.  It’s not sanitary.”

“I don’t work at the dump.  I work in a junkyard. “ said Isaac, rubbing his temples in frustration.  He wasn’t sure if they were just trying to irritate him on purpose, or were genuinely that stupid.  What difference did it make though?”

“What’s the difference?”  Said Lenny as he rolled down the window and stuck his hand out to play with the heavy wind as the car drove down the road. Isaac groaned “The dump is where they take garbage like food and diapers and the junkyard is where they take old cars.  Oh whatever.  You guys are just a couple of idiots.”

“Hey, at least I gotta car.”

“I’ve got a car, it just isn’t running yet.”

“Exactly.”

“Whatever man.”

Isaac parents had divorced when he was five, and ever since then he spent much of his time helping his grandfather in the junkyard.  He noticed how often people would just send their cars to the dump.  Most of the time, the engine worked perfectly, but the brakes stopped working and they would just trash the whole car and buy a new one.  Sometimes there would be a bad accident.  One side of the car would be crushed, but the motor worked fine.  It seemed like people were going through cars like they went through underwear.  People were just dying to drive a new car so they could show off how wonderful and successful they were.

Half of his mother’s paycheck went to pay for that Lexus that she just had to have.  Then she had to switch to the night shift because she couldn’t afford the car insurance working her regular hours.  In fact, most of the adults Isaac encountered spent a fourth of their income on a car payment.  And they hated their jobs.  He knew some unemployed people who drove fancy cars.  He knew people who lived in houses with chipped paint and boarded up windows, and even they had nice cars.  People seemed to be spending more on their cars than they were on their houses.  Of course the ads were everywhere.  It seemed like these people were brainwashed into thinking that the only thing in life that made you a decent person was your car.  These people would buy a brand new car, hand over the payments, and then four years later the paint would peel off and it would be time to buy a new one.  And the cars weren’t even cool looking anymore.  They were ugly, and they just kept getting uglier.  It was like the center for the blind was designing their cars or something. 

There was one thing clear.  The auto industry was ripping people off.   Those corporate boo-zhwas didn’t care about beauty and humanity.  They just wanted to ride in their limos and drink fancy champagne with their diamond necklace wearing mistresses.  It was sick.  And not only was it sick, they were getting away with it because nobody seemed to notice.  Why didn’t anyone care?  It was so weird.  How could everyone on the planet be so blind?  It was as if they were so wrapped up in their own personal drama, they were incapable of seeing the things in life that were most important.

Isaac had an idea.  He was starting his own car company using refurbished cars.  He would call them Ferbies, short for refurbished cars.  He would use quality parts and paint so you could buy a car that would last longer than your house would.  Only this could get expensive, and people with small incomes might not want to pay for quality.  Poor people seemed to be a bit stupid, and usually couldn’t think ahead farther than a few minutes.  Perhaps he could have them volunteer their time to pay for some of the cars, like a co-op where they were paid in time slips.  If you earned a certain amount of time slips, you could buy a Ferbie of your own, or even use these time slips to pay for maintenance and oil changes.  He could have the cars run on vegetable oil or even natural gas, instead of regular fuel. It was still a farfetched plan, and most people laughed at him and called him an idiot.

He was always trying to get people to help him out in the junkyard.  Since he didn’t have any money up front to bribe them with, nobody ever seemed interested.  Everyone was always complaining of two things.  They were always bored and had nothing to do, and they were always broke.  It was like they couldn’t put two and two together.  They wanted to have everything “right now” and didn’t want to work their butt off for some imaginary day in the future where they might possibly get rich.  So they didn’t even try.  Well, some people tried to get rich, but it was like looking for love in all the wrong places. 

Take Lenny and Satch, for example.  They had a plan of their own to get ahead in life. Neither of them was rich, but they had dreams as most aspiring young teenagers do.  Lenny wanted to be a rock and roll star and live on a houseboat with four busty blondes who would wait on him hand and foot and bring him eggs and bacon for breakfast, then later rub his feet and have their way with him.  He would be a rock and roll star if only he had an electric guitar.  But it couldn’t be just any electric guitar; it had to be that ten thousand dollar Ibanez he saw in the music store window in Zipperhead. 

Satch’s dreams weren’t as big, but they were real.  He wanted a shiny new metallic blue Cadillac with hydraulics that made it go bouncy bounce as he drove down the road.  He wanted a mansion and a swimming pool and, sure, a few hot ladies might be nice, but he wasn’t picky, he’d go for a brunette. 


 


Chapter 9

One bright and glorious Saturday, Satch and Lenny drove over to Austin College in order to find some Wacky Tobacky.  The plan was to save all the seeds and plant them out by the lake so they could grow enough to sell to Nico, their drug dealer friend from Liverpool.  They figured, if they didn’t get caught, they could make about twenty thousand dollars.  This was a horrible plan, because the cops always patrolled the area that they were talking about, and even if the plan did go through, they would only get about a hundred dollars each.  But instead of buying a sack of fresh green dope, Lenny got conned into buying a recipe for Blitzers from a sweet, yet honest, looking college girl with long brown braids and braces.  He was like Jack buying the magic beans that would one day bring him wealth and happiness, after he killed the giant of course.       

The girl seemed nice enough, and went into great detail explaining about the lysergic glycerides in the milk duds during the last crystallization phase.   She also explained thoroughly about the chemical reaction that occurs when the ergotamine is distracted from the Fosters beer, making a note to follow the temperature guidelines exactly or it won’t work.

“Hey Satch, look what I found,” said Lenny as he got into the caddie.  He showed Satch the recipe.  “Dude, what is that?  I thought you were gonna score us some dope.”  Satch took a giant bite out of a chocolate doughnut, dropping flakes on his blue jeans.   Lenny looked out the window suspiciously to make sure nobody had seen him get into the car after talking with that girl.  He wanted to make sure that it had not been a set up.  “No man, this is even better! It’s a recipe for Blitzers. I bet this will make a whole gallon pure unadulterated liquid Blitzer.  We can sell it for a million bucks.  We’ll be rich,” said Lenny. He buckled his seatbelt and tried unsuccessfully to close the glove box, but it wouldn’t stay shut. 

     “A million bucks, huh?”  Said Satch, licking the chocolate doughnut of his fingers and taking a drink of warm flat Dr. Pepper from a can he lifted from the doughnut shop the previous day.  “Yeah, that’s right.” Lenny scratched his head above his ear while studying the recipe with great fervor. 

The engine turned a few times and made strange knocking noises before Satch finally got it to start.  “Well, I ain’t doin’ it.  That’s how my cousin got sent to prison, it was for sellin’ methamphetamines.”  He peeled off and almost hit a guy on a bicycle who rang his bicycle bell several times and flipped him off. 

“I thought you said he was sent to jail for robbin’ a doughnut shop.”  Lenny picked a large green booger out of his nose and rubbed it under his seat.  “No, man,” said Satch.  He got caught with a pound of cocaine and that’s why he got sent to the Penn.” Satch drove over a curb and they bumped around in their seats. 

“Hey, I remember now.  He got arrested the night before the sword race.  Aw dude.  Wasn’t he going to get a free scholarship to Liverpool College if he won that race?”

“Yep man.  He was going to win that race and he was going to be set for life.  But he got caught selling drugs and now his life is over.”

“Well.  Hey.  You’re a fine one to talk.  You’re the one who said that we should plant a bunch of ganja somewhere and try to sell it.”

“Well that’s different.”

“Well.  My idea is better. We can dip bubble gum in liquid Blitzer and wrap them back up. If we get searched, we’ll just have a bunch a gum and the cop will say.  “No man, he’s cool.  He just likes bubble gum.”  Lenny stroked his chin as if contemplating something of great importance.  “We’ll use Fruit Stripes gum,” He nodded his head, impressed with his own genius.  “That stuff is the best.  Lenny studied the recipe and made a mental note of what he would have to do in order to make it.   “No way, man, you can’t blow bubbles with Fruit Stripes gum,” said Satch as sped up quickly.  He ran a red light and then ran over a small orange tiger cat without wincing.  “No man, who cares about the bubbles, it’s not about the bubbles.  It’s got that fruitalicious flavor that fruit lovers crave.  And anyway, it’s not for the bubbles; it’s for the Blitzers, see.  It’s for the Blitzers.  That’s what people want.  And we are going to be the ones who give it to them.”  Lenny nodded his head like a gigolo and fantasized himself surrounded by lovely ladies covered in oil wearing gold bikinis. 

     “You can’t soak Fruit Stripes gum in liquid Blitzer, it’ll get all mushy and crap and the colors will run.  It’ll never work.” Satch really wanted this idea to work, but he really liked arguing and always argued just for the sake of arguing, even if all he really wanted to do was agree.  “Besides, you can’t make Blitzers, you have to be some sort of a chemistry whiz and use a lab.” Lenny clacked his tongue.  “No way, you’re thinking of crystal meth, and that’s dangerous.  It hollows out your skull and makes your teeth fall out.  This is different.  Blitzers were invented by Shamans in Madagascar to help them see the souls of their dead ancestors.  It’s an all-natural substance, like peyote.    Look here.  See this.”  Lenny lifted the piece of paper and flicked it with his middle finger and thumb.  “It says that the main ingredient in Blitzers is ergotamine, which is in Fosters beer.  Fosters is different than regular beer because it’s made in Australia and they use this special kind of wheat called Ergot that you just can’t get in the United States.  It’s a special aboriginal recipe.  You just have to distill the Fosters beer and get a pure ergotamine.  Then you crystallize it with three pounds of milk duds and 4 bottles of Robitussin DM cough syrup.  Lenny folded up the recipe and put it in his wallet for later use.  Then he rolled down the window with the manual window lever. 

    “Well, if we get caught I’m gonna say it was all your idea.”  Satch finished the last of the doughnuts, crumpled up the paper bag and tossed it into the backseat that he had been using as a trash can for years.  “We ain’t gonna get caught.”  Said Lenny, as he pulled down the sun visor and looked at the little mirror and examined his long perfect teeth for any specks of food that might be stuck in them.  Satch slammed the gas pedal to avoid stopping at a light that was about to turn red.  “I bet we’ll get caught.  I get caught for everything.  I got sent to the office once for blowing spitballs into this cheerleader’s hair.  I got detention for a week and she’d been doing the same thing to me for an hour and the teacher didn’t say a word about it.”  Lenny took the ponytail holder out of his shoulder length caramel brown hair, ran his fingers through like a comb to put all the hair perfectly back in place, and retied his ponytail.

“We’re not gonna get caught so just chill.  I’ve got it all figured out.   The main reason why people get caught is because, they’re stupid. They sell to undercover cops and leave stuff around.  We’re not gonna get caught.  We’re smart.  We’ll only sell to Nico.  He’s cool.”  Satch stuck a large finger into his mouth and scratched out a bit of chocolate that was stuck in his back molar.  “Well, Nico ain’t got no million dollars, and by the looks of it, we’ll need a million dollars for all the ingredients on this list,”  said Satch as he licked his finger.  Lenny stroked the recipe and kissed it as if it were some sort of sacred icon. 


 

Chapter 10

Blessed are the wine bibbers, for they shall be comforted.

 

If there were such thing as a party house, then Nancy’s house was it.   A window was patched with silver duct tape and the olive green paint was chipping from the asbestos shingles.  There was a dirty salmon recliner with no seat cushion sitting on the front porch which was covered with broken beer bottles and cigarette butts.  A one eyed half-breed Siamese cat with matted hair and a huge lump growing out of its rear end, was sleeping in the window.  Inside the house, the wallpaper was peeling, leaving behind blotches of pink and black mold.  The doors were covered with dirt and handprints.  The pipes leaked, the toilet was usually clogged, and the bathroom was never clean, but none of this mattered because it was the party house. Nancy’s mom and dad made sure they always knew where she was, because they were good and loving parents.  They made their home a warm accepting place for all of her friends.  This meant that they included anybody and accepted anything they wanted to do including drugs, alcohol and anything else they could think up. 

One glorious Friday evening when the storm clouds were looming overhead, Lenny and Satch walked into Nancy’s house carrying heavy backpacks.  Nancy greeted them at the door “Did you bring it?”  She asked eagerly.  Lenny nodded, nervously and whispered.  ”It’s in the bag.” He said, motioning to his dingy yellow backpack.  “Bring it into the kitchen,”  Nancy whispered as she motioned for them to hurry inside.

                As they walked through the living room and into the kitchen they heard Nancy’s dad, Lester, yelling from the back room “God damn it not again.”  There was a thud, the door slammed and he walked into the front room.  “That’s the third time this month.  Last Monday, I bought ten pounds a rib at the Piggly Wiggly super meat lover’s sale.  It was ninety nine cent a pound.  Mmm.  Mmm. Can’t beat that!”  He shook his head in unbelief and began pacing around the room.  “And somebody, broke into the house and stole every one uh mah rib.  I don’t know who’s a doin’ it.  But they are gonna pay. 

                Lester shook his head again, walked into the kitchen, grabbed a beer and plopped himself on the couch next to Audrey.  This was Audrey’s first time at Nancy’s.  Rita had picked Audrey up from school because she wanted to pull a door to door scam involving selling denture cream to old ladies.  After they made about fifty bucks, Rita decided to quit and go to Nancy’s house.  She really didn’t feel like driving Audrey home before going to Nancy’s because it was clear on the other side of town.  Audrey wondered if she should just walk home.  It would be a very long walk; it might take an hour or so.  She was hoping that Isaac might show up. This seemed like his sort of crowd.  She decided that if he didn’t show up in an hour, she would leave.

Everyone seemed to know Audrey, even though she didn’t know them.  They were all whispering, pointing, and laughing at her as if they knew secrets about her that she herself didn’t even know.  This made her feel extremely nervous and agitated, even though they did the same thing to her at school.  Not knowing exactly what she should do, she sat down on the couch, and nervously read from her Chemistry text book.  Every once in a while someone would poke her to see if they could get her to talk.  But she didn’t speak to anyone, except Lester.  He just plopped down beside her and started telling her about the problem that he had.  Someone kept stealing the ribs out of his deep freeze. 

Audrey hadn’t been the one that stole the ribs.   Stanley didn’t like ribs.  He thought they were just unbearable to eat because the barbecue sauce got all over his hands.  She had no idea there was anyone else that stole groceries out of people’s houses.  She thought that she was the only one who did that sort of thing and she did not like the competition at all.  Suppose the word got out that it was a lot cheaper to steal food than to buy your own.  Soon everyone would be doing it and people would be wising up and getting security systems.  Audrey never took all of someone’s food.  She would just take one or two things.  That way nobody would be suspicious.  They would say, “gee-whiz, I could have sworn I had a whole box of donuts and there’s only one left.  Or, they would say I could have sworn I bought a pizza at the supermarket.  I must have left it at the checkout stand or Harry must have eaten it.” 

“You know what you should do?” said Audrey, after giving it much thought.  “You could get one of those mannequins like they have Woolworths.  You could disassemble it, cover it with fake blood, wrap it in butcher’s paper, and stick it in the deep freeze.  The next time someone looks in there, they’ll think you’re Hannibal Lector.  I bet you won’t have any more freezer thieves after that.”

                Audrey had hoped that he would chuckle, smile, shake his head in disbelief and say cheerfully “You know, girl.  That’s a pretty good idea.  It’s sick as all get out.  But I think it just might work.  But where in the tarnation am I gonna get me a mannequin.”  Then Audrey would find him one and they could become friends.  But people never did respond to her the way she expected.  He gave her a look of horror, stood up slowly, and walked away.  Audrey thought it was hilarious.  She came up with the idea of doing this because she always wondered what she would do if she opened up someone’s freezer one day and found a human hand in a Ziploc bag. 

                Rita was in the kitchen staring into a mayonnaise jar filled with some murky brown liquid.  There was a half dissolved milk dud floating at the top. “Did you test it?” she said as she picked it up and swirled the contents around as if it were a fine wine.

 “No. We need to find someone to test it on,” said Lenny, looking around anxiously.

“Why didn’t you just test it on your dog?” said Satch.  He laughed and folded his arms.  Lenny scoffed and gave Satch a dirty look.  “That is so mean.  I’m not testing it on my dog, that’s just cruel.  What if it screws him up for life or something?  I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”  Lenny pulled a zippo lighter out of the pocket of his blue jeans.  He flipped it open and closed again and again, lighting it and putting it out, over and over again. Nancy was annoyed by this so she grabbed it, and lit a cigarette.   “Well how will you know if it works?” She blew smoke out across the room, put a hand on her hip and leaned against the counter.

Lenny took his lighter back, lit up a fat camel cigarette and put the lighter back into his pocket. I’m sure it works, I followed the directions exactly.” He deeply inhaled his cigarette and tried unsuccessfully to make a smoke ring.  “Yeah” said Satch who watched a fly buzz around his head and land on a plate of dried spaghetti.  He whacked it suddenly and smashed it making Rita wince. “You followed the directions on some bogus recipe that you found on the floor at a college, what if someone made it up, you don’t know, “said Rita.  Lenny scooted his feet and looked around nervously.  “Well, I didn’t find the recipe, I bought it.”

“You d********g,” said Satch, “you told me that you lost that money.  You owe me $20 bucks.”

“Who cares about the twenty bucks?  We’re gonna be rich.”

     “Who are we going to try it out on first?”  Nancy held the jar up and eyed the contents thoroughly, while biting her bottom lip. All eyes simultaneously landed on Audrey.  She was sitting all alone on the couch, nervously reading about chemical equations from an extremely thick text book. They all looked back at each other and came up with the same idea at the exact same time, as if using collective consciousness or some sort of telepathy.  Rita’s eyebrow shot up and she got an evil look in her eye. 

“How are we going to get her to try it?”  said Lenny.  ” Just go up to her and say ‘Hey, Audrey, do you wanna test these Blitzers out and see if they work?”  He flicked his ashes into the kitchen sink.  “No.  We’ll stick it in something that she likes.” Nancy opened the door to the refrigerator.  There were 5 cans of Budweiser, half of a taco, a carton of sour milk, and a jar of mayonnaise.  She clacked her tongue and thought intensely for another way.  “Maybe we can spill it on her? If it works, doesn’t it get absorbed through the skin?”   

                Lenny stroked his chin mischievously and nodded his head.  “Okay, I’ll just walk by Audrey and pretend to trip over her leg.  Then I’ll spill some of this on her head or something” Satch picked up the mayonnaise jar that was filled with liquid Blitzer and carefully examined it.   “How many sheets of Blitzers is this supposed to make, anyway?

Lenny stroked his chin in a dignified quizzical manner and said “Thousands.” Nancy bit her lip. “We could just get an eye dropper and drop a couple of drops on her scalp, if this really works, then that’s all that it will take.”  She wasn’t exactly sure two of them could manage to make a jar of Kool-Aid, let alone a complicated scientific recipe for an illegal substance.  But you never know.  Anything is possible.   “Do you guys have an eye dropper?  I don’t have an eye dropper.” 

She climbed up onto the countertop, shoving some trash and dirty dishes out of her way so she could reach the top shelf where they kept the shot glasses.  She grabbed one that said Mardi Gras and had the picture of a naked lady on the front.  She climbed back down, spat into it and polished it clean with her dirty Sex Pistols T-Shirt. “We will just have to get her to drink it.”  Nancy breathed onto the glass with her hot breath and buffed it to a nice shine with the edge of her shirt.  She grabbed the mayonnaise jar from Lenny, unscrewed the lid that was greasy due to improper sanitation techniques, and carefully poured the cloudy liquid into the shot glass.  Nancy tapped her long black fingernails melodiously on the dirty countertop and smacked her lips for a few moments in thought.  “It would be a waste of Blitzers if this is really good stuff. Hmm, what to do?” 

Nancy threw her hands up with excitement.  “Okay.  I’ve got it.  All we need to do is moisten the inner part of her mouth to find out if it’s effective. “   “So, you hold her down, “she pointed authoritatively to Lenny.  “And I’ll shove it down her throat.   I know she’ll just spit most of it out, but a small amount just needs to get absorbed into the skin, so it won’t matter.  We won’t even mention what we’re doing.  We’ll just do it and pretend like we didn’t do anything.  If it works, she’ll just thinks she’s lost her mind.  If it doesn’t, then maybe she’ll never come over again, and if she gets violently ill then we know not to take it ourselves.  Either way we win.” She thought about this for a few moments perplexed look across her face.  “Hang on a second; I thought you said she was schizophrenic.  How will we know if it works if she’s already hallucinating?”  Rita smiled maliciously. “It’ll be like giving catnip to a bobcat.”  She snorted hysterically.  Nancy gave her an evil grin.

                As luck would have it, Isaac showed up at the party and was delighted to see Audrey just sitting there on the couch, all alone.  He sat down next to her and said “Hi”.  The poor thing was already a nervous wreck, and now it was even worse because she had an enormous crush on him. And not only was she completely infatuated with this guy, she had the things that she had stolen from his house in her back pack.  Her backpack was laying there wide open.  And to make things worse, yesterday before school she had taken out his picture like she usually did, and kissed it.  But she had just put on lipstick and forgotten to blot her lips smooth with a Kleenex.  So this particular kiss was right smack over his face on the photo.  She tried to rub it off but it didn’t work.  She didn’t want to ruin the picture by trying too hard, so she just left it there.  And just a minute ago, she’d admired it again and slipped it in her bag, so it was just laying right there with the baseball cap. 

Although she had hoped Isaac would arrive, she didn’t think he actually would.   She hadn’t had time to close her bag because she didn’t see him come into the house.  It was like one minute she was there all by herself, and then all of a sudden he was right there.  She really hadn’t been paying attention to any of the people coming through the door.  The whole place was crowded now. 

 

 

She was a nervous wreck.  What if he bent over and noticed?  Then he would know that she had been in his house.  No.  That’s ridiculous.  He wouldn’t have thought that.  He might have thought that he left them somewhere.  Well, at any rate, he was likely to notice.  Audrey thought about zipping up her bag, but decided that it might not be such a good idea. It might draw unwanted attention to the contents of her bag.  He might even assume that she was trying to get away from him or something.  

She decided that she couldn’t risk him seeing what she had in her bag so she slid sideways away from Isaac, and quickly zipped her backpack shut.  He did think that she was trying to get away from him.  He wasn’t sure how to take this.  He wasn’t a mind reader, but since she always seemed terrified of people, he just tried to ignore the fact that she’d just done that. 

                “So…  Um… how did you do on that Chemistry Test?”  He wasn’t really expecting her to answer.  He sat next to her in chemistry class and every day he tried to talk to her, and she nervously ignored him.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Fruit Stripes gum.  “Do you want a piece of gum?” 

                Audrey looked at him for a second and her sweet smile melted his heart.  “She’s got dimples.” Isaac thought to himself.  “She’s amazing.  She is so adorable.”  His head was spinning with delirium. He wasn’t sure what to say next, because now he was starting to shake.  He was in a state of panic and confusion.  This was an experience that he had never in his life encountered.  He wasn’t some mamby pamby loverboy.  He was punk rock.  He didn’t get nervous around girls.  This was such a weird feeling for him.  It was as if Audrey’s emotions had leaked out of her somehow and entered him.   Their fingers touched briefly as he she took a stick of gum. “It’s my favorite.” Isaac said nervously as he took out a piece for himself and stuck the pack back into his pocket.  “Mine too.” 

Audrey said quietly as she looked back down at her chemistry book. Isaac still had Audrey’s moonstone bracelet in his pocket.  He was reaching for it, and was about to give it to her and explain that she had dropped it when Nancy plopped down, right smack in between them.  Isaac had to move his leg so she wouldn’t be sitting on it. 

Nancy didn’t like Audrey and she didn’t feel bad at all about what she was going to do to her. Rita had been telling her all sorts of lies about what a manipulative liar she was.  Everyone was told to watch out because Audrey was a kleptomaniac.  Nancy was in an especially bad mood this evening because she had just got into a heated argument with her boyfriend, Sid.  Now the interesting thing about the Nancy- Sid relationship was that they had been having these hot and steamy love affairs off and on for three years and nobody knew about it.  Most people just thought that Nancy was a lesbian, although, nobody dared talk about this out loud. 

                Sid was an amateur guitarist with his own band that was really bad because they never rehearsed. He was jealous when he heard that she had invited Dirty Harry to play at her house.  Dirty Harry’s real name was Harry Wagner.  He looked like an overweight version of Axl Rose, but he had a voice that would make any teenage girls legs tremble.  His band was the only local band that could actually play.  So when Nancy picked Dirty Harry to play at her party instead of Sid’s band, he was furious.  He told Nancy that she could go yank some hairy coconut bananas for all he cared because they were through.  So on this night, she was all worked up already with her own personal problems and decided to make it all go away by taking her frustrations out on Audrey. 

Of course, Isaac didn’t know about the Sid and Nancy dilemma or of Audrey’s situation.  He didn’t know about the dirty note that had been passed around.  He didn’t know that Nancy had spread rumors about Audrey around school.  He didn’t even notice that people shouted obscene things at her as she walked down the hall.  He had so much on his mind that he blocked out all of the excess nonsense.  It was all just the mindless ranting of simpletons, it wasn’t important enough to pay attention to.   He had something really important on his mind.  It was revolutionary.  It would change the world.  He was starting his own company and that was the only thing on his mind.  Oh.  He was also thinking about Audrey.

Nancy waved as Dirty Harry and his band walked through the door, and started setting up their equipment.   He saw Isaac sitting on the couch and came over to talk.  “Hey Isaac, I heard you paint cars.”  Isaac nodded glumly, “yeah.”  His perfect moment with his dream girl had been ruined.  He’d been waiting for this moment for ages.  He’d fantasized about the moment she would finally talk to him.  The moment had come and Nancy ruined it.  “Come take a look at my van.  I just got it yesterday and I want to have it painted.  Do you do detail work?”  Isaac nodded and reluctantly got up and followed him outside.  He could come back in later and talk to her.  It would all work out. 

Nancy put her arm around Audrey and pretended to be nice.  “So, how’s life going for you?  Do you like Dirty Harry?”  Audrey closed her book and grabbed her backpack.  “You study too much,” said Nancy, trying to play it cool.  “You should loosen up, really.”  Have a shot of whiskey or something; it’ll really loosen you up so you can have some fun. “

Audrey didn’t like Nancy.  It wasn’t because she was half black.  Audrey wasn’t the slightest bit prejudice.  And it wasn’t because she had holes in her clothes and smelled a bit like armpits.  She hated her because she was a good for nothing, double crossing, dirty rotten scoundrel. On the very first day of school, she saw her whispering with friends in the hall.  The friends simultaneously looked up at her and start laughing.  Every day, more and more people started doing this.  Then it wasn’t just laughter.  They were yelling obscene things at her.  Audrey passed by Nancy every day in the hall on the way to lunch.  And every day Nancy would pretend like she didn’t see her and walk forcefully into her.  And here she was, sitting right next to her, doing a very bad job at pretending to be friends.

 Audrey could hear Rita’s obnoxiously loud voice coming from the other side of the room.  “Well, the other day, I was talking to Audrey and she said to me.  “Did you know that water towers are really Alien spaceships and I said, “No, I didn’t know that at all.  Well, she said, have you ever seen one being built?  And I said “well, good point.  No.  I haven’t”.  And then she says,’ well, don’t you think it’s weird that they just lug all that water up there?  I mean, don’t you think it would be easier to just hold the water on the ground?  And just think about it.  Those water towers don’t have any plumbing attached to them and they can’t hold enough water for a whole city of people.  They are really alien space ships in disguise.  Think about it’.  I think she’s right because I was driving past one the other day and I swear I saw it light up.” 

                Audrey had taken enough of this madness and decided that it was time for her to go.   Just as she was about to walk out the front door she felt someone creep up behind her but before she was able to do a thing about it.  Lenny forced her onto her back and Nancy shoved some foul liquid that tasted like fermenting turnips into her mouth.   Satch plugged her nose so she couldn’t breathe and she had to swallow the vile substance before they would let go.  She immediately started choking and gagging and her stomach felt queasy.  She thought she was going to be sick.   She screamed as she broke free of their evil clutches.  It’s too bad that Isaac had left.  He might have been able to stop them. 

                Nico showed up as Rita and Nancy were trying to keep Audrey from leaving the party.  He had showed up because he was supposed to be buying a few hundred sheets of Blitzers from Lenny and Satch.  This was the night that they had all been waiting for.  Good Blitzers were hard to come by and Nico was going to make some money, Lenny and Satch were going to get rich and everyone else was going to have the trip of a lifetime.  All they had to do was test it out.

                Nico told everyone that he was Italian and had grown up in Paris.  He wasn’t really Italian, he was Mexican.  His name was really Raul, but he told everyone to call him Nico because he thought that was a good Italian name.  He kept his hair slicked back in a duck tail and always spoke with an Italian accent in order to turn on the ladies. This actually worked for him sometimes because he always knew the right things to say.   He wore baggy black dress pants and a white shirt that he neglected to button up all the way in order to show off the gold chain necklace on his tan hairless chest. 

                “What’s up, my man Nico?” Said Satch as they slapped a high five, down low and the momentary skin slap followed by a double finger jiggle.  They made it look like some sort of secret handshake but they were really just making it up as they went along.  (It wasn’t the gay handshake, it was a different one.  These guys were anything but gay.)  They were really all just a bunch of nerds trying to look cool.  

Nico had his hair sleeked back with pomade to give him that Italian Brooklyn mobster look.  He walked like a macho man, stroking his hair as he followed them into the kitchen for a secret meeting. 

“So, what’s up man?  Do you have it?”  Nico looked around to make sure nobody was listening.  This drug thing was only temporary; he would only do it for a couple of months until he had enough cash to buy a fire engine red Mazda Miata convertible.  He wasn’t about to get caught, he was being as careful as possible.  “Five hundred sheets for five hundred dollars?” said Nico chewing on the end of a toothpick as part of his cool stud boy look.  He folded his arms and leaned against the counter, and then suddenly jumped up because he’d just leaned over onto a puddle of beer.  He felt his shirt, which was wet and tried to find a towel, but there wasn’t one.  “Dang it,” he said as he held out his shirt with his fingertips and started fanning it dry.

                “Well, we’re testing it right now,” said Lenny as he pulled out a camel cigarette and lit it with his bright yellow zippo lighter.  “What do you mean, you’re testing it?”  Said Nico, still fanning out his shirt.   “Well, Nancy poured some liquid Blitzer down Audrey’s throat about ten minutes ago.  We’ve been watching her but she hasn’t done anything weird yet so we’re not really sure if it worked or not.”  Nico’s eyebrow went up and he ran to the doorway and looked for Audrey, although, he’d never seen her before and wasn’t even sure who to look for.  He walked up close to Lenny and whispered even more discreetly than he had been when he was talking about the drug deal.  Through the corner of his mouth he said “Oh, wow.  You don’t mean ‘The’ Audrey from the note, do you?  Audrey Heisenberg, the girl with the golden tongue.”  Satch and Lenny laughed and nodded.  “The one that wrote the note?”  He said eagerly.  “That’s the one.”  Said Lenny as he bit his fingernails and chuckled. 

                Nico picked up the mayonnaise jar from the cabinet.  His eyebrows shot up as he looked in disbelief at the murky brown liquid, and the floating milk dud.  “Please don’t tell me this is the jar of Blitzer that you just made?”

“Yeah that’s it” Lenny said proudly.

“Did you follow a recipe?”

“Heck yes we did”

“Well, let me see it.” 

Lenny took a drag from his cigarette and pulled out the crumpled paper that the recipe was written on and handed it to Nico who instantly read through it.  “What kind of crap is this?  I thought you were making the real deal?”  He wiped his hand in frustration down his face and then gave Lenny and Satch a very disconcerting look. “This is the real deal man” said Satch, thickly with a mouthful of a chocolate covered donut.  “Fosters beer and milk duds?”  Nico crumpled the note and threw it at Lenny.

 “Hey, watch it man. I paid twenty bucks for that.  It’s gonna work.  I got it from a real chemist!”  Nico threw his hands up and started pacing back and forth through the kitchen and stopped when he stepped in something sticky and groaned.  “You cannot make Blitzers from beer, you idiot! I can’t believe I actually thought you were serious about this.”

                Lenny took a drag from his cigarette and grabbed the crumpled note off the floor.  “I am serious about this and it will work.  Fosters beer has ergotamine in it, which is the main ingredient in Blitzers.  When you distill the beer all that you have left is the ergotamine which is what causes the incredible hallucinations, of course, which is the desired effect of the Blitzers.  The sugars in the chocolate caramel blend cause a chemical reaction that….”  The look on Nico’s face was enough for Lenny to realize that he had been had. “Great.  You don’t happen to have a better recipe, do you?”  Nico shook his head and rolled his eyes and Nancy popped in to inform them of Audrey’s condition “I don’t think that stuff you guys made is working.  All it did was give Audrey a stomach ache.”

                “You don’t happen to know a chemist do you?”  said Nico, jokingly.  Rita smiled maliciously. “Audrey’s a Chemist.  Well, sort of anyway.   She reads chemistry books in her spare time.”           

      The band began playing loudly and people were outside yelling for Dirty Harry to come in and start singing.  Just as Isaac walked through the door with him and watched in disbelief as Nico put the moves on his dream girl.

                “Hey baby.  What’s up? I’m Nico.”  He had to talk loudly into her ear because the music was playing loudly.  Audrey gave him a weird look and wasn’t sure what to do.  She had just been through a horrible ordeal and wasn’t sure that she liked this party very much.  He stroked her face gently, then took her by the hand and joined a crowd outside on the front porch where the music wasn’t playing as loud.  “Wow, you’re really built, do you work out?”  He said squeezing her biceps gently. “Um…no,” she said timidly.  She really did work out and was freakishly strong for a girl her age.  She didn’t tell him this because she knew that this was just a cheap pick up line that he most likely used on all the ladies.  “God you’re beautiful.”  He told her dreamily, trying to put on all of his charms.  She tried not to blush, but she did anyway because people were watching and she was quite embarrassed by this situation.  He stroked her cheek gently and said, “I bet everyone tells you that, though.”

 

Audrey drew back nervously, trying to get away.  “No, actually.”  Nico grabbed her around the waist, moved her hair back and spoke directly into her ear.  “I really, shouldn’t be here. I’m supposed to be at home working on my chemistry project.”  He put both arms around her snugly.  She wasn’t sure what to think of this.  What she really wanted to do was find out where Rita had hidden her backpack so she could leave.  But Rita swore that she would give it back at the end of the party, and insisted that she would give it back early if Audrey got totally smashed.  This wasn’t going to happen. 

So there she was, standing in a crowded house full of the horrible people from school who were still shouting obscene things to her.  And now, she was talking to some dweeb who seemed to think he was in the Mafia.  “You see, I’m in a college Chemistry Class and my assignment was to make Ergotolygenic palpatride.”  This caught Audrey’s attention and her eyebrows rose several inches. “Oh,” Blitzers,  Wow.  What do you have so far?”

Since Nico really had no clue how on earth Blitzers were manufactured, he just spouted off a few items that were in Lenny’s recipe. “Well, so far, I’ve got Fosters beer, milk duds and cough syrup.”  Audrey laughed and tucked her short brown hair behind her ears.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nico chuckled.  Uh.  Yeah.  I don’t have any clue where to start.”

Audrey smiled, revealing a dimple on each of her rosy cheeks. “Well, hey, I have made Blitzers before.  I can give you the recipe.  But only if you find my backpack for me and give me a ride home.”  Nico stroked his hair smoothly back across his scalp and it fell back immediately over his ears. “Okay. It’s a deal.”  He shook her hand in a professional way, but somehow made the handshake morph into a Gomez Addams thing.  He kissed her hand and continued kissing up her arm until she pulled away and insist that he ask Nancy where they put her backpack.”

After he walked off she looked around for Isaac.  She really wanted to ask him for a ride home, but she had been far too nervous to get the words out.  Unfortunately she didn’t see him anywhere.  The house was far too crowded.  But he hadn’t left.  He was in the kitchen making Long Island Ice tea with Sheldon Frick.  Sheldon was this really weird guy with no eyebrows who was accident prone.  Once at school he got his whole entire arm stuck up one of those paper towel dispensers and wasn’t able to explain how it got up there. 

                Rita had noticed that Isaac had begun to get jealous when Nico started to put the moves on Audrey.  She gave Isaac a nudge, making him spill the Jack Daniels that he was pouring.  “Audrey thinks you’re a dweeb.  You’re not her type.”  This statement hit Isaac like a hard jab in the stomach with a very large softball.  He was seriously injured.  He liked Audrey.  Now what was he going to do?  She thought he was a dweeb.  How was Isaac supposed to know that Rita was none other than a conniving w***e of Babylon? Isaac didn’t have any sisters and brothers.  He was an only child and thought that it would be wonderful to have a sister or brother to talk to and confide in; someone nice who would always be there when he was down.  Cleary his image of what it’s like to have a sibling was completely far-fetched and outright delusional. 

Perhaps smiling siblings who hug and kiss each other and help each other out exist somewhere on this planet, but Rita was not one of them.  Isaac didn’t know this.  She always seemed so nice the way she smiled and put her arm around Audrey like any kind and loving sister would.  She was deceptive, cunning, evil and malicious. Had Isaac spent more hours watching soap operas, he might have figured out that she was up to no good.  A feeling of hopelessness and despair came over his body like an oil spill in the Pacific Ocean.  He picked up the bottle of Jack Daniels that he was mixing into the iced tea and took a very long swig.  This was far too much for him to take.   

                Meanwhile, in the other room Nico had managed to find Audrey’s backpack and returned it to her like an avatar warrior carrying back the long lost orb to his tribe.   Audrey sat down to naively write out the lengthy directions and chemical process for cooking up Blitzers.   The thought never occurred to her that this guy was a drug dealer.  She clearly had far too many things on her mind to think about the possibility that Rita had something to do with this.  All she wanted to do was get out of that place.  People kept pointing at her and whispering amongst each other while looking straight at her, as usual.  She pretended not to care and tried her best to ignore them, but really got to her on every possible level of her inner being.

 Nico sat next to her and watched closely as she wrote, making sure to ask loads of questions like “Where on earth do I find Peruvian Rye?”  When she was finished, she handed over the recipe to Nico.  He briefly glanced over it, folded it in a haphazardly sort of manner, and stuck it into his pocket.  He helped her to her feet and put his arms around her.  She brushed him away and pushed her way through the crowded mosh pit to try and find Isaac.  She looked in the kitchen and in all of the bedrooms, but he was nowhere to be found.  He had been so overwhelmed with heartbreak that he walked outside to take some very long breaths.  Sorrow had formed a heavy lump in his throat that was going to break free into hysterical crying at any moment if he didn’t get some fresh air and clear his mind. 

Nico caught up with Audrey inside the house.  He had some other business that he wanted to attend to with Audrey, if you know what I mean; nudge, nudge, wink, wink. “So baby, let’s blow this joint.”  He said, taking her by the arm.  As they were making their way out they heard the loud music stop abruptly followed by a loud thud and the painful zapping sound of someone being electrocuted.

     They ran into the front room and saw a cluster of people crowding around Sheldon Frick, who was lying unconscious on the floor.  “What happened?”  Audrey asked as she tried to make her way through the crowd.  “Sheldon tripped over the cord to the amplifier and spilled a pitcher of spiked iced tea.  I guess he was electrocuted.” She could hear Dirty Harry grumbling loudly to the members of his band. “That idiot ruined my brand new amplifier.  I swear to God.  I should have left the second I saw that dweeb.  I should have known something bad was going to happen if he was here.” 

“I just spent thirty dollars on that bottle of Jack Daniels!” said a tall guy wearing a plaid flannel shirt, tight fitting jeans and a completely worn out pair of green doc martens.  “Who the hell let Sheldon walk off with it anyway? What a waste man.” 

Everyone was just standing there staring, laughing, grumbling, or sniggering.  Rita was one of the people who were laughing, of course.  “What?  Oh come on.  It’s Sheldon we’re talking about, he’ll be fine.” Audrey gave her a dirty look as she knelt down beside him and checked his pulse. They may never see him again and they weren’t even trying to help revive him from an untimely death.  

                The smell of burnt hair and burning rubber filled the air.  Audrey was amazed at everyone’s lack of concern for this poor soul who was lying on the floor.  She could not believe how insensitive, cold and indifferent they were towards their good friend who was probably dead.  Sheldon’s skin was charred and smoking.  She walked over to him, knelt down and took his pulse.  She didn’t feel one, so she bent over him to feel for his breath.  He didn’t have one either.  So she began CPR. 

Some Norwegians at a university have recently discovered that the mouth to mouth breathing is completely unnecessary.  All you really need are chest compressions in order to revive someone.  However, Audrey had not read this study.  She ignored the laughter and obscene comments and proceeded to administer the fifth set of breaths, when he instantly sprang to life and kissed her passionately.  He even used his tongue. 

Horrified and disgusted, Audrey ran from the room that was now filled with cheers and whistling for Sheldon, who had just scored with the golden tongued lady of the night.  Nico quickly found her, though, because he had agreed to take her home, and if all went well, he just might score. 

The air outside was humid and muggy.  The dark clouds in the night sky were looming so low overhead that Audrey could almost feel them and it seemed as if they would just burst any minute.

Isaac was standing on the side of the house, nursing his broken heart when he saw Audrey get into the car with Nico.  This was more than he could take.  For months, he followed her to class, always a few feet behind her.  She smelled of lavender and sweet violets.  He thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.  He would fantasize about kissing the nape of her neck.  He longed to touch her soft sweet skin, and kiss her ruby red lips.  Every night when he went to sleep, he would put her bracelet beside his pillow and imagine that she was lying in his bed next to him.  In his imagination, she would kiss him and hold him close to keep him warm.  But all these dreams were torn to shreds and trampled upon mercilessly, because according to Rita, Audrey did not love him.  She thought he was just a dweeb.  A single tear trickled down his blotchy red cheek as the girl of his dreams rode off into the night with another man.
                Nico’s car was a black hatchback with paint that was starting to peel.  The fabric that covered the interior ceiling had come unglued and was beginning to sag.  The grimy beige fabric on the seats was coming undone at the seams and the car reeked profusely of gym shoes and cheap dollar store cologne. At first it seemed like everything was going smoothly, but then he passed her house.  “Hey!  You were supposed to turn left there.”  Audrey was clutching the seats with both hands, looking back over her shoulder.

Nico ignored her and kept driving on, until he finally parked his car on an old farm road that was sheltered with tall spindly trees.  Her first instinct was to get out of the car and run away as fast as her legs could carry her.  She could easily outrun this slimy Neanderthal.  But there was a giant bolt of lightning and the rain started pouring down heavily upon the ground.  No.  That wouldn’t be a good plan after all.  She felt stupid.  She knew better than to take rides from strangers and now she was in a parked car with some greasy idiot who obviously had the wrong idea about her.  And then, he unzipped his pants and pulled out Mr. Winkie.”  Her stomach dropped and she began trembling.  She was between a rock and hard place.  Or rather, some rain and a hard one, but that’s beside the point. 

She gave her situation a moment of deep thought, took a deep breath and said.   “Well, before we get all hot and kinky, there’s something that I should tell you.” She tried to keep a straight face and appear as serious as possible.

He leaned towards her in anxious anticipation. “Yeah?”  He was expecting her to say that she had a boyfriend.  He wouldn’t have cared about that.  He was an open minded.  He was a renaissance man.  He was not, at all, expecting her to say:

“I have genital herpes.”

He got a look of horror on his face and his mouth dropped open as Audrey continued with her explanation. “I’m not actually having an outbreak right now, but my doctor told me that it was best to let my partners know beforehand, you know.  He said that proper communication is the best cure for disease prevention. Of course nobody told me and that’s why I have it.”

Apparently, this seemed to work, because he put away the family jewels, zipped his fly, started his car and drove her directly to her house without saying a word that did not involve asking the location of her house. 

Audrey was soaked from the rain by the time she got to her front porch.  The wind was now cold and blowing fiercely, causing her long purple velvet skirt to blow upwards.  She had to catch it in a Marilyn Monroe pose to prevent it from blowing over her head and revealing her lacy undergarments.  There was a flash of lightning and for a brief moment, she thought she saw someone’s eyeless face in the front window.  When she looked closer, nobody was there.  It might have been Stanley, but he didn’t typically stare out the front windows.  “It was just my imagination”, she tried to convince herself.  “Only a few more months of this mad house and I’m outta here”. 

The front door was unlocked, as usual.  They didn’t worry about anyone just walking into their house.  Nobody in their right mind would even dream of going in their house.  Stanley had heard her come in and greeted her like any loving caring father of a teenager would.  “Where the Hell have you been, young lady?  You should have been home hours ago” Audrey heard another clap of thunder outside that rattled the windows.  The wind was whistling through the crack underneath the front door. 

“Rita and I were selling denture cream.” Audrey put her bag down in front of the glass case that entombed a leather faced mummy.  Stanley stormed over to her in a fury, he shouted at her, pointing a finger directly in her face in order to make his point very clear “I’ve been waiting for you to come home for hours.  There ain’t nothin’ to eat in this house and I’m starving.”  Audrey backed away timidly “There’s a chicken pot pie in the refrigerator.  It’s been defrosting in there all day long.  It only needs to go in the oven for twenty minutes.”  Stanley walked closer to her and threw his hands up. “I looked in there and I didn’t see one.” Audrey groaned and stormed off into the kitchen.  “It’s in there; you just have to look behind things sometimes, really.”  Stanley followed her like an angry pit bull.  “What was that?”  Are you giving me attitude?”  Audrey gulped.  She knew she should not have said anything to him.  She knew that she had grown too contrary, but sometimes she just couldn’t hold all of her feelings and emotions in.  She would have to quit while she was ahead. 

“No sir.” She whispered nervously.  She heard another clap of thunder the rain was blowing like a Louisiana hurricane throwing twigs and branches at the windows.  There was a flash of lightning with a clap of thunder so loud that it rattled the entire house and then all of a sudden it ceased like the rain had never existed.  Everything went quiet. 

Stanley stormed back into the kitchen.  “And by the way, stop leaving all the cabinet doors wide open.  This morning I was bending over to brush my teeth and I gouged my head on the medicine cabinet because you left it open again.”

Audrey squinted her eyes and bit her lip in deep contemplation. “Do you mean the downstairs bathroom with the red toilet?”

“That’s the one.”

“I never even go in that bathroom.  It’s creepy.”   Stanley slapped her across the face.  Will you shut your god damn pie hole and go fix me something to eat.  God.  Women.  They never shut up.  They just go on and on and on.  It’s just like they gotta say every freaking word that enters their mind.”

As Audrey walked into the kitchen she could still hear him rambling on incessantly about how women never shut up.  He was right about one thing.  The cabinet doors were wide open.  Not just one or two of them were opened.  This time it was every single one of them.  It had been like this since they got there.  Yesterday when she woke up in the morning, three cabinet doors were open.  She shut them, of course.  She shut them and left the room.  When she went back in, they were opened again.  Up until this point, the cabinet door thing was just random and although it sort of freaked her out a bit she tried not to pay attention to it. 

Audrey really didn’t mind closing the cabinets all the time, it was part of life.  It looks tidier when the cabinet doors were shut and besides, open cabinets drive Stanley crazy for some reason.  This house totally gave her the creeps but she had nowhere else to go.  If she dwelled on the fact that the cabinet  doors  opened all by themselves then she’d never be able to get over .  She was just really hoping that this whole thing was just a figment of her imagination. 

Perhaps she’d forgotten to close the cabinet doors, or it was just Rita trying to get on her nerves.   Whatever the case may be, Stanley was just about to go nuts over the cabinet door thing.  Because of this, Audrey started paying very close attention.  Yesterday, she shut those cabinet doors and left the room. She thought that she was the only one at home, but she heard footsteps. And then she thought that she heard someone whispering.  Then she heard a squeaking sound coming from the kitchen.  When she went back in there, some of the cabinets were opened again.  So she shut them right back and left the room.  This time she hid behind the corner and watched for a few minutes, but nothing happened.  The cabinet doors stayed closed until the next morning.  So she shut them and went to school.  Now every one of the cabinets were wide open; every single one!  This was really freaking Audrey out. 

While Audrey was cooking a late dinner for her lazy paternal unit, Nico drove back to the party house very slowly. The rain was pouring so profusely onto his windshield that he could barely see a thing.  This gave him plenty of time to think.  He had planned on telling everyone that he had scored with Audrey.  But now what?  What if everyone there already knew that she had herpes and the joke was on him?  Who should he ask about it? Rita? Certainly she would know. 

This was so embarrassing.  Everyone had seen him leave with Audrey.  They had been cheering and cajoling as they left.  Even if nobody knew that she had herpes, they would find out soon enough.  The thought hadn’t crossed his mind that her story was a complete fabrication.  Certainly nobody in their right mind would claim to have such a vile and unspeakable disease unless they actually had it.  And even then, most people who had it kept it a secret.

Nico approached Rita as soon as he entered the house.  “Did you know you’re sister has got herpes?”  Rita showed a look of amusement in her eyes.  She smirked and a single eyebrow shot upwards with extreme interest.  “Oh really, I did not know that.  You didn’t…um…you know, make out with her or anything like that did you?”

“No, of course not.  Nico shook his head fervently. ”We were going to, but then she told me that she had herpes and I just took her home after that.”  Lenny and Satch noticed Rita talking to Nico, and they decided to join in on the conversation.  “Hey! Nico my man!”  This was the preferred greeting for Nico.  “Did you score with Audrey?”

                Nico shook his head in reluctant disgust.  “No way man.  She’s got herpes.”

Lenny and Satch gasped simultaneously, took a step backward and cringed with horror.  “No way man, how do you know?”  Lenny’s eyes were bulging and his teeth were frozen shut with fear.  Nico leaned forward and whispered in a matter of fact sort of way.  “She told me.” He nodded his head firmly for emphasis.

                “She told you?”  Lenny said this loud enough to attract eavesdropping ears.  “Yeah man,” said Nico, shaking his head in disbelief.  “And it’s a good thing too.”

“Wow.  That is messed up,” said Satch who was eating a cream filled chocolate éclair.  He licked some of the cream filling from his thick fingers.  “I wonder who she got it from.”

Lenny squinted his eyes and stroked his chin in deep thought.  He was thinking about the dirty note that was spread around.  He had just read a copy of it a few minutes earlier and had recently come to his own conclusions.  “I bet it was Isaac.” 

                Satch cocked his head sideways and began thinking too.  “No wonder she took off running from him that day we tried to give her a ride home. 

            “But never mind all that now, I’ve got a recipe for Blitzers!”  Said Nico in a sing song voice.  He took a folded piece of paper from his pocket and lifted it up for all to see.  They were beaming from ear to ear.  It was like Nico had found the last golden ticket and he was going to take all of his friends with him to the chocolate factory.


 

 

Chapter 11

It was highly possible that Audrey was schizophrenic. She could have been imagining this whole thing.  How could anyone with a father like Stanley be completely sane?  For months she heard the sound of footsteps and nobody heard them but her.  Then something even weirder happened.  And it all started because Audrey liked to study.  Audrey always managed to make perfect scores on every test.  This astonished her teachers because they thought that she was mentally ill.  They thought that she was either cheating, or was an incredibly brilliant autistic savant.

Audrey had so much to do, so many conflicting obligations that it was impossible to get everything done that she needed to.  She had track practice, and she had to rob houses after school before people got home from work.  And Stanley had her work on some new crafty scheme that involved hacking into a corporate payroll account and transferring money, a few dollars at a time, into a bank account of some imaginary person they’d created.  This was complicated and time consuming.  And on top of all of that she had laundry and housework to do.  Cinderella had it easy compared to Audrey.  But even with all of this work, she still managed to make perfect scores on all of her tests.  How was she doing this?  Was it even impossible?  Well it wasn’t impossible.  This is how she did it.  

Every night, she read the assigned chapters out of her textbooks into a recording device.  She listened to these on headphones.  She had the kind of headphones that plug discretely into the ears.  She wore a hoodie to hide the wires so nobody suspected a thing.  She listened while she walked to school, robbed houses, ran in track, cooked dinner, did laundry, and even during class.  The teachers just droned on and on and never had anything important so say anyway so she never missed a thing. 

During her summer vacations she went to the library and checked out audio books.  Her favorites were about business and finance.  She’d read everything there was and sometimes she’d make audiobooks of her own if there weren’t any available, just to have something new to listen to.  This is why she had a “knack” for accounting and figuring things out.  She was intelligent because she had been learning from the best and most talented for years. 

Perhaps she was just overcompensating from some sort of inferiority complex.  She did feel insignificant.  She did feel like she had to prove her worth to society.  But this was like proving the existence of God to an atheist.  God himself could fly down on a cloud with a bolt of lightning and there would always be that stubborn nincompoop who would look the other direction and pretend not to see.

Her school was filled with obnoxious dweebs that walked down the hallway doing the retarded dance that Rita had instructed them to do because it made Audrey so mad.  When Rita and Audrey went to school together the year before, it sent Audrey into hysterics when they did this.  But she had learned a way to ignore it now.  She still knew they were doing it and it still bothered her just as much.  It infuriated her to no end, but she felt like she just had to endure a little longer, and then it would all be over.

 She felt all alone in a world of madness. Yes indeed, she was all alone, with nobody to cheer her up when she was blue.  She was all alone with no one to give her credit for her brilliance.  Everyone called her a retarded psychopath.  She might have cried more, or sat up for hours at night writing poetry about misery, death, killing and all that jazz.  But she didn’t.  Her mind was too occupied with listening to books on how to invest in the right companies and how to read the vix in order to find out when mass hysteria is going to cause a crash in the stock market.  Honestly, how can you commit suicide and think about murder when orange juice futures are rising?

So there she was, just sitting there all alone in her room with a tape recorder, reading from her economics textbook when she heard those clanking footsteps again.  She stopped reading and listened closer.  Was she imagining it?  Perhaps she was.  She hadn’t been getting nearly enough sleep at night.  Studies have shown that individuals lacking in sufficient R.E.M. sleep are prone to suffer from delusions and hallucinations.  This could be why she was hearing those noises all the time.  She decided to ignore it and finish recording her chapters and try to get some more sleep over the weekend.  She didn’t know how she would manage it, but somehow she would have to find a way.  Otherwise, she really would wind up in a loony bin someday. 

That weekend after she had broken into a very nice house on Pudding Lane, she pulled out a few steaks from someone’s deep freeze.  Don’t worry, they weren’t Lester’s steaks.  Audrey only went thieving in the nice part of town.  Anyway, she was listening to the economics chapter she had previously recorded on her headphones when she heard footsteps.  She panicked and stopped the tape.  The footsteps stopped.  When she turned the tape back on, the footsteps started again.  When she heard a long pause on her tape filled with the sound of footsteps she remembered that she had heard footsteps while reading that particular paragraph out of her book.  She’d recorded ghost footsteps.  Now she had proof.  Certainly someone would believe her now.  But who would she ask to listen?  Rita?  The thought of it made her laugh. 

Rita didn’t believe in ghosts, or at least that’s what she said.    Audrey wasn’t sure why Rita never heard quiet whispering in the night.  She didn’t believe Audrey when she claimed that the doors opened all by themselves.  “You’re delusional.”  Rita would tell her.  Sure, okay.  Maybe she was right.  Perhaps she really had fallen off her rocker.  But there was one thing that Audrey couldn’t figure out.  If the footsteps were in her head, then why was she able to get a recording of them on cassette?  You can’t record the sounds of ghosts.  They were on a different decibel level and simply could not be recorded.  She couldn’t be imagining it.  It always played back the same way, over and over again. 

Audrey knew there must be other bedrooms upstairs.  She had looked for an entrance to the upstairs rooms, but she simple couldn’t find it. That’s when Rita told her that a long time ago when the Inn was still open for business, a lunatic broke in and hid himself away.  He would sneak in and kill people while they slept in their beds.  While they were dreaming of mistletoe and sugar plums he’d sneak up on them with a feather pillow, hold them down and smother them.

The police could not find the killer and nobody wanted to stay at the inn for fear of being the next victim.  So the owner took matters into his own hands.  He snuck up to the third floor with a loaded gun and pretended to be asleep.  The murderer snuck up on him as he pretended to snore away, and the owner shot him clear in the skull.  He was killed instantly.  And he’s still up there, walking around, trying to find the guy who killed him.  After that story, Audrey didn’t even try to find the upstairs.  She was about to totally lose it. 

  Sure, she had always been a bit jumpy, but now she was completely terrified.  Now she was hearing footsteps and visualizing some evil ghost smothering her while she slept.  She would never get any sleep now. 

Audrey did manage to find a way to get more sleep, though.  She decided catch up with her sleep during class.  Class was a pointless waste of time, in her opinion, and was the best time to catch up on some much needed R.E.M. sleep.  There was one problem, however.  Sleeping in class was frowned upon and it would not go well with the teachers.  She would have to make it look like she was wide awake.  So she found a nice pair of thick army issue glasses and cut out some photos of eyes that looked very much like hers.  She glued Velcro on the back of her eyelids and on the back of the cut out eyes.  When she got to class, she put on a sleep hypnosis audio program to drown out all of the background noise.  She put strong magnets under her desk and put on iron bracelets that she had found.  She stuck the fake eyes over her own and put the glasses on over them to make her eyes look more realistic.  She positioned her arms over the magnets to keep them drooping over the sides of the desk.

She looked like a wide awake crazy girl wearing strange glasses.  Audrey usually hung her head low and never looked up; even to answer when she was called on.  Now she was wide awake looking straight at the chalkboard.  The students were all laughing and giggling and it was all the teachers could do to shush them.  They all thought she was a lunatic anyway and the teachers just dismissed this as usual Audrey behavior.  



Chapter 12

There is nothing like rejection to get you moving in the right direction.  The great ones get knocked down, but they scrape themselves back up and catapult themselves in the right direction just to prove themselves worthy of greatness.  They do it for the sheer pleasure of proving that it can be done.

The following Monday Morning as Audrey got out of bed she thought she saw a shadow gliding across the wall.  She gasped and shook with fear.  But when it disappeared and her eyes adjusted to the light she thought it was just her imagination.  Then she heard a sound that was coming from the corner of the room.  When she listened closer it seemed to stop.  

She walked over to the antique wardrobe to find something to wear that day, but all of her clothes were missing.  There weren’t any dresses weren’t hanging on the brass rod. The socks and shoes weren’t piled in a heap at the bottom of the wardrobe like they usually were, and when she looked around the room the usual piles of clothes were nowhere in sight.  She could actually see the floor.  Audrey wasn’t the messy one.  She would always tidy up, but Rita would come into her bedroom and throw things every which way when she was drying to decide what to wear. The interesting thing was, Audrey specifically remembered that the room had been a mess before she fell asleep the night before.

Perhaps the evil killer from upstairs had come into her room in the night and decided to take some clothing instead of smothering her.  “No.” Audrey thought for a moment.  “It was definitely Rita.  This is the sort of thing that she would do.”  She had done things like this before.  She would probably return them in secret before the day was out, and deny the whole thing had even happened.  Audrey was fed up with her little pranks.  “Rita’s eighteen now, she’s adult.  Why can’t she just pack up and move away?”  Audrey thought. “Ha.  I suppose she did. And she took my things with her as well.  What am I supposed to wear to school?  A toga?” 

            Audrey stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the rocking chair in the corner of the room start rocking slowly, all by itself.  She hadn’t touched it.  She hadn’t been anywhere near it.  She had a notion to just pick that blasted thing up and throw it out of the window.  Instead, she dashed out of the room, shaking and nervously looking behind her.  She ran into the bathroom, shut the medicine cabinet, and hung a towel over it to cover up the mirror before she brushed her teeth.   She’d been seeing things in mirrors that shouldn’t be there since she’d moved into that old inn and she had become so terrified by this that she refused to look into them anymore.   

She brushed her teeth zealously for the full dentist recommended two minutes.  As she was wiping the foamy cinnamon flavored toothpaste from her lips, she thought she heard muffled footsteps coming from upstairs. When she fearfully looked upwards at the ceiling and wondered who was up there, the medicine cabinet slowly creaked open and the towel fell off.  This happened so slightly that it very well could have been a faulty hinge that made the cabinet open.  Yes, a faulty hinge could have definitely made the towel loosen its grip and fall, but Audrey thought she saw the reflection of the eyeless woman in the mirror for a brief second.  She shrieked in horror and ran down the stairs, stumbling on a few steps as she went down.

There was a pile of clothes on lying on the floor in the parlor that Rita had apparently forgotten.  Having no other choice, she shrugged, put them on, and went downstairs, pausing only to listen carefully when she heard the footsteps upstairs again. 

“Audrey!”  Stanley was calling her, and she could tell by the tone of his voice that he was not in a good mood. “Hurry up and get downstairs and make me some coffee, and shut those god damn cabinets! I am so sick of this. Jesus Christ Almighty!  Every day, day after day, it’s the same god damn thing.  I wake up, come downstairs, and all the cabinet doors are hanging wide open.  Jesus!  Can’t you remember to shut the god damn cabinet doors? Dear God!  How hard can it be?”      

            Audrey shut the cabinet doors, started the coffee, and fixed Stanley a plate of hotcakes and polish sausage.  She sat down to eat, and was staring down at her food when Stanley walked in.  “What the hell is going on here?”  Stanley was standing in the doorway looking around the kitchen as if a herd of rabid squirrels were running amok.

            “What?”  Audrey innocently looked up at him, still chewing on a gristly piece of polish sausage.  She picked a morsel out of her back tooth, and then swallowed.  Stanley waved a hand and motioned angrily towards the cabinets.  “I suppose you think this is funny.”

            Audrey turned around and looked in amazement.  Her stomach dropped and every hair follicle on her body was raised slightly by tiny goose bumps. She was shivering with fear.  Every single cabinet door was wide open, and she had just shut them.  Her eyes bulged out in horror and her mouth dropped.  Stanley grabbed her by the hair, pulled her out of her chair, and slapped her across the face.  He shoved her violently and she fell to the floor.  He threw her plate at her and it hit her in the kneecap, giving her a small cut that started bleeding immediately.  Her pancakes and sausage were scattered all over the floor.  She had a huge spot of syrup on her shirt.

Stanley took off his leather belt and beat her several times with it before shouting wildly.  “Shut those god damned cabinets!”

            As she pulled herself to her feet, her body was shaking furiously.  She noticed the broken plate on the floor.  Her first thought was, “grab the broken plate and attack.” She wanted to slice him to pieces. 

She wanted to grab the biggest knife they had and stab him multiple times with it. “Maybe I can peel off all of his skin and pour salt all over his body.  Then I could pour honey on him and drag him onto a mound of fire ants.”  But she didn’t do any of this.  She wanted her life to get better and not worse.  If she fought back she would eventually end up in prison.  She had plans; next week was the sword race. She was going to win the sword for Running Meade.  She would be a hero and everyone would love her.    She was the gate keeper of her own destiny and she would have her glory day in the hot sun.  Yes indeed.  Soon, very soon, everyone would know how amazing she really was.  The race was one mile long.  She could run a mile in four minutes.  Nobody else in the world could do that.  She was going win that race next week and be in the newspapers.  Cheering fans were going to raise her up and carry her through town chanting “Hooray for Audrey, she’s won us the sword of destiny, hip, hip hooray!”

If Audrey won the race, which she knew she would, she would get a full scholarship to the best college in the state.  She would just have to endure the madness a bit longer and then it would all be over.  Just a couple more months and then she could be free. 

            She obediently shut the cabinet doors, then grabbed her backpack and walked briskly to school.  But when she got to there, things got even worse for her.  The news of Audrey’s herpes infection had spread like wildfire throughout the whole school.  She walked into the hallway of her school and was instantly greeted by laughter and hysterics.  She could hear it all loud and clear because the batteries on her Walkman had gone dead as she walked to school, and she didn’t have a spare set.  She always kept a fresh set of batteries in case this happened.  But they weren’t in her bag.  “They must have fallen out.” She thought to herself in complete and utter frustration.  “I bet Rita has stolen them, that dirty ho!”

Everyone avoided Audrey like the plague.  As she walked down the hall, people stayed ten feet away from her.  Tammy Flick, a fat girl with massive acne, nearly collided with her in the hall.  She stumbled backwards just in time to avoid bumping into Audrey and screamed out frantically in horror “Code nine in hallway seven, listen up, we’ve got a herpes infection and she’s coming this way!”  Then she wobbled as fast as she could to get away from her.  Surely they didn’t all believe that you could catch herpes by just being near someone who had it.  They were however, doing their best to make a big charade about it.

Right before 6th period, Melanie Myers, a six foot tall thug, grabbed Audrey by the front of her shirt and pulled her up to talk face to face.  “So,” she said with a sarcastic tone in her voice.  I hear that you’ve been spreading rumors about me.”

Audrey had a look of horror in her eyes.  She hadn’t spread rumors about Melanie; she didn’t even talk to anyone.  She was shaking and tears were rolling down her face.  “Ha!” added Melanie rather viciously.  Well, at least I don’t have herpes.”  A crowd had gathered round and they were all making a ruckus and chanting with robust fervor, “herpes, herpes, herpes.”

                Melanie slapped Audrey across the face and threw her down with great force.  When Audrey’s slender body hit the floor, she lost her breath momentarily and felt as if her soul might have fallen out of her body for a second.  Her head had hit the floor with a loud smack and she felt so light headed that she finally passed out and had a strange dream.  Her soul was stuck to the ceiling looking down as a crowd gathered around.  She could see Melanie fumbling through an Army green duffle bag, pulling out a sharpie. 

            When Audrey woke up, she looked around and found herself in a restroom stall.  She was dizzy and the smell of stale urine mixed with feces was making her nauseous. It was quiet and she could tell by the lack of people shouting “stay away from her or you’ll catch herpes” that the bell had already rung.   When she stood up, she caught a glimpse of herself in the large mirror that hung over a row of sinks.  Melanie had drawn a black nose and whiskers along with the words “I have herpes” across her forehead.  She gasped and tried to scrub it off with the hand soap from the soap dispenser, but it just wouldn’t come off. 

            A few minutes later, when she walked in late to her Chemistry Class, there was wild hysterics. As she walked to her desk, all eyes were on her, and the whole room was in whistling and yelling at her about herpes.  She had both hands over her face and she tripped on a desk as she made her way to her seat.  The teacher shushed them all quickly, but there was still giggling and whispers, which escalated again as soon as she sat down. 

Something didn’t seem right.  Something felt moist on her seat and she thought she smelled tuna fish.   Someone had opened up a can of tuna and dumped it on her chair before she sat down.  Isaac was at the chalkboard because he had been called on to write out a chemical equation.  He hadn’t seen anyone put tuna on her chair.  Had he been sitting in his seat when it happened, he would have stopped them.

                Every nerve in Audrey’s body was shaking.  She looked around.  Everyone in the room was watching and laughing her.  For a moment, she thought that it might be funny to scoop it up with her bare hands and eat it or throw the tuna at everyone like a monkey who’d been left at home while the family went on vacation.  She didn’t raise her hand to tell the teacher that someone put tuna fish on her chair.  That would have just brought on more hysterics.  She was sitting on tuna fish with the words “I Have Herpes in sharpie on her forehead.  She was suddenly very aware that they might also be laughing at her because she wearing a ruby red polka dot tu tu with combat boots.  She was also wearing a sex-pistols t-shirt with a giant blotch of pancake syrup across the front.  Principal Savage would have sent her home had he been at school that day.  He was at home nursing a bad stomach virus. 

Audrey’s outfit might look good in punk rock videos, but it should never be worn to school.  Rita, no doubt had set up this whole thing.  Audrey was teeming with fury.  She wanted to seek revenge on her, but knew it was pointless.  She’d tried to get revenge on her before and it only backfired.   Tears were rolling down her face.  She didn’t know what to do.

 She really wasn’t sure of anything at this point in her life but she did, at this moment suddenly realize why that boy she sat next to on the bus in 7th grade shot himself.  His name was Samuel Lawson and he wore the same thing to school every day because he didn’t have anything else to wear.  Audrey felt sorry for him and brought him some new clothes in a paper sack, one day.  But they made fun of him more for that.  “Where did he get that gun and why did he do it?”  Everyone asked when it happened.  Audrey knew.  She didn’t understand then but she did now.  He had only been 13.  How horrible can life be when you’re just 13?  What kid that young could climb onto a school bus, open up his gym bag and stick the barrel of a gun into his own mouth?  Audrey liked him.  He was a nice boy.  She was his only friend. 

                She remembers that morning clearly to this day.  She knew something was up because when she sat down next to him he was looking up at her with a wide toothy grin.  Yes, he had been smiling that day, and this was not something that she had ever seen him do.  She knew that something weird was about to happen.  There was just something in the air.  The air seemed thick and her ears were ringing.  Time seemed to stand still.  It was as if the moment were locked in time the way his name is now etched in stone in the cemetery.

                “Hey.  Do you want to see something cool?”  Samuel pulled a shiny stainless steel revolver out of his bag.  She gasped.  The barrel glimmered in the sunlight that was streaming in through the windows “Watch this.”  He smiled cheerily.  It was a smile that went better with drinking watermelon soda pop out of a school water fountain, than eating the barrel of a gun. 

It all happened so fast.  Audrey was lucky he didn’t shoot her and everyone on the bus, but there was only one bullet and he was playing Russian roulette.  There was a loud pop, Audrey was covered with blood and her mind was filled with a gruesome image that she was never able to erase or block from her memory no matter how hard she tried.  Nobody laughed at him ever again after that.  He was sick of it all.  He was fed up and didn’t want to take it anymore.

            Audrey was fed up too.  She stood up and stormed out of the classroom with tears of misery and despair running down her face.  As she opened her locker and grabbed her gym bag, she felt a hand on her shoulder.  She gasped and jumped because week earlier when she was sitting at the breakfast table, she felt someone tap her on the back, but nobody was there.  This had freaked her out so much that it left a clear impression in her mind until now. 

            “I’m sorry; I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”  It was Isaac.  He had followed her out of the class to check on her.  Audrey’s heart melted.  This was both sweet and unexpected.  She could tell by the look in his eyes that he was being sincere.  She couldn’t believe it.  This was the first time in her life that anyone actually cared about her.  She was shocked and didn’t know how to respond to him.  What should she say? “Thank you for caring?”  No.  That wouldn’t sound right at all.  He would just think she was some sort of depressed emo chick who wanted sympathy.  She didn’t want sympathy.  She wanted people to leave her alone.  But she didn’t want him to leave her alone.  He was actually pleasant to be around. 

            She suddenly remembered that she was sporting kitty cat whiskers and immediately covered up her face. “I didn’t hear you.  I, um…didn’t see you standing there...um.” She managed to blurt this out nervously without even looking at him.  “Wow.  That’s the most I’ve ever heard you say.  I didn’t know you could talk.”  Isaac smiled and wondered if he should put a hand on her shoulder or something.

Audrey decided that she shouldn’t stand there in the hallway any longer.  A teacher was likely to walk by and give them a detention slip or accuse them of dealing drugs.  She wanted to leave and go home but that was an impossible task because all of the students were locked in until the end of the day.  If she tried to walk out through the athletic field, someone would see her and turn her in.  She couldn’t risk getting in trouble before the race next week. 

            Without saying anything else to Isaac for fear of making even more of a fool out of herself, she started walking briskly down the hallway.  “Hey.   Where are you going?”  Isaac followed right behind her. She quietly shushed him as she continued to walk towards a custodial closet.  She reached into her shoulder bag, pulled out her set of skeleton keys, fumbled around with the lock for several seconds, and finally opened.  “Wow.  That’s amazing.  Where on earth did you learn how to do that?” Isaac asked as Audrey flicked on the light and motioned for him to join her.  She quietly locked the door behind them and began looking around, still covering her face with both hands, for something to wash the marker off with. There was a vacuum, an industrial mop, some wet floor signs, and a shelf full of different kinds of cleaning products. 

            Isaac grabbed a can of WD-40 and a roll of paper towels.  “This should work.”  He ripped a piece of paper from the roll and sprayed it with a large amount of the lubricating oil.  He gently removed Audrey’s hands from her face.  Her eyes were red and there were tears rolling down her six black whiskers.  She looked very cute and he tried very hard not to laugh.  He couldn’t help smiling, though, as he sweetly wiped away her tears.  Completely embarrassed by the situation, Audrey closed her eyes tightly as he rubbed the strong smelling oil into her forehead, nose and cheeks. 

            “There, good as new.” He said, giving her a delicate pat on the cheek.  He put the can and paper towels back on the shelf.  Audrey pulled a mirror out of her bag and saw that he’d removed all of the ink from her face.  Her face was greasy, though and she wiped it down with a moist towelette that she had pulled out of her gym bag. 

            Isaac put a hand into his pocket.   “The other day, you dropped this.”  He pulled out the bracelet that she had been missing for weeks.  She had blamed Rita for stealing it.  Isaac took her hand and fastened the bracelet around her wrist.  “The clasp was broken and I fixed it.  And I noticed that it was missing a stone, and I fixed that too.”  Audrey brought the bracelet close to her face to inspect it as he explained  “I didn’t have a real moonstone, but I had some paint that was the exact same color, and I used that.  You can’t really tell unless you look closely.” 

She bent her head down nervously.  “Thank you.  That was really nice of you.”  She whispered.  She thought this was extremely odd, considering the fact that she had stolen his hat.  He had something of hers, and she had something of his.  She wondered if she should give it back.  That might not go so well if she did, because he would ask her where she got it.  Of course she could lie and say that he dropped it.  That’s how he said he got her bracelet, after all.  She decided not to give back his hat because lying was not a very good way to start a relationship.  And besides, he might ask her where he had dropped it and that would just be too weird.  She’d have to think up a whole load of lies to cover up the one lie. 

Audrey suddenly realized that he’d been talking and had asked her something.  He was waiting for a response and she hadn’t been paying attention. What should she say?  She didn’t know.  Isaac stepped closer, put his arms around her and kissed the same forehead that only five minutes earlier said “I have herpes.”  He put his arms around her waist.  “You know.  Everyone says that I gave you herpes.  Did you know that?  Before you walked in to class, they were calling me herpes boy.  I swear.  They’re just a bunch of doofuses.”  Audrey chuckled and Isaac stroked her back gently with his thumb.  “Can I kiss you?” he whispered into her ear.  She wasn’t exactly sure what to say.  She didn’t want to sound stupid.  This was so weird, so… awkward.  She’d been dreaming of this moment, and was a bit freaked out that it was actually happening.  It was happening now, and she still had tuna fish smashed into the polka dot mesh of her skirt.  This made her feel a bit self-conscious.

Isaac didn’t wait for her to answer.  He delicately kissed the side of her face.  Her eyes closed dreamily and she started to feel lightheaded as he kissed her several more times down her cheek and neck.  She had a feeling of ecstasy that shot down her legs as he delicately slid a hand up the side of her shirt.  She grabbed a handful of his t-shirt and breathed deeply.  He stopped for a moment and looked deeply into her eyes and then she kissed him tenderly on the side of his face.  She slid her lips down and kissed him on his neck several time. He smelled like  Fruit Stripes gum.  She stroked the skin of his lower back in a circular motion with her ring finger and his eyes closed sleepily as he pressed his lips against hers.  Audrey reached behind her and flipped off the light.  Isaac made a quiet moan of delight and the temperature of the room raised several degrees.

                About a half an hour later, the light was flipped back on.  Audrey rearranged her clothing and wiped the tuna fish off the back of her skirt with a moist towelette. Isaac checked the time on his watch.  “The bell is going to ring in five minutes.  Shouldn’t we get out of here before someone notices?”  He pressed his ear against the door in order to listen for anyone who might be in the hallway.

Audrey decided that she would skip track that afternoon.  She didn’t feel like going out to rob houses that day, either.  She wouldn’t have to if they had enough food at home.  She thought carefully about what she had seen in the kitchen that morning.   There were still some ramen packages in the cabinet and she was sure that there were some eggs.  If there was onion, celery, and carrot, she could make a stir fry noodle dish with the ramen.  Stanley liked that, she could whip it up for him around six or seven.   But just as soon as she realized that she’d used up all of the onion on last night’s homemade bacon cheeseburger pot pie, it dawned on her that Isaac was talking and he was waiting for her to say something.  But what did he say?  She had no idea.  She hadn’t been paying attention to a word he said.  She didn’t want to say “What? Or huh?” because he would think she was stupid.  Every time she said that to people they called her a space cadet or a ditz.  Audrey wasn’t dim witted or stupid and she sure didn’t want Isaac to think badly of her.  That would be horrible.  She decided to wait it out.  Maybe he would ask her again. 

He pulled her over to him, kissed her tenderly on the lips and asked “So what are you doing after school?” He continued to kiss her and then stopped again to hear her answer.  But she didn’t know what to say.  She didn’t know him at all.  She didn’t’ know that he ate polish sausage on toast every morning for breakfast.  She didn’t know that once when he was three he stuck an entire piece of Fruit Stripes gum up one of his nostrils and had to have it removed by a doctor several weeks later.  What was she going to say? “Oh, sorry I’m busy, I’ve got to rob a few houses and after that I’ve got to climb onto the neighbor’s house and sever the wires so my dad can get free cable.         

“I mean, if you aren’t doing anything, I’d like to show you the car I’m working on.  I just finished it.  It’s a jaguar.  I painted it the same color of your bracelet.  You should see it.  It’s this glittery creamy white that looks sort of lavender when the sun hits it just right.  It’s so amazing. I’ve just got to put on the tires and I am all done.” They carefully left the janitor’s closet moments before the bell rang. 

The halls were filled with taunting, crude remarks, and teasing when everyone saw the two of them together.  It had been bad before, but it was much worse now.  Especially because the principal was out sick and there was no one there to prevent people from throwing spitballs and packages of rubbers at them.   

They finally made it across the parking lot and drove off in Isaac’s neon green dune buggy.  The wind blew Audrey’s hair.  “This is great weather we’re having.  It’s just perfect for riding this car.  Man, this one time I drove it to school in the morning and there was not a cloud in the sky.  I mean the weather was just warm and perfect when I left the house.  But the instant school let out it was pouring down rain.  It was like riding a sailboat in a hurricane.  I swear.  I was lucky I didn’t catch pneumonia that day.”
            Audrey and Isaac made an interesting pair.  They were like the yin and yang of dueling banjos.  When Isaac was nervous, he talked.  He liked her and figured, “Hey.  Finally I’ve found a good listener.”  Of course she wasn’t really listening.  He would ask her something and she would try to think up something to say.  By the time she figured out how to respond, he was already talking about something completely different.  Isaac put an arm around her as he stopped at the red light.   “So, do you like frozen pizza?”  Audrey panicked and started shaking with fear.  “My God, he knows!  I stole pizza out of his freezer and he’s going to tell me that his went missing.  Of course he doesn’t suspect me, but what if he does?  What should I say?  I could say Oh. No. That’s terrible.  But if I say it with the wrong tone of voice he might not think I’m being sincere enough.  How would I respond to that question if I really was completely innocent?”

 Audrey had no idea.  She’d never been completely innocent in her entire life.  She’d always been involved with some sort criminal activity.  She was born into it.  How was she supposed to know what to say?  Her father had always told her to keep her mouth shut.  If you keep your mouth shut and say nothing, you can’t ever say the wrong thing and incriminate yourself.  But this was different.  She didn’t think this guy would try to incriminate her. She really did want to talk, but years of getting in to trouble with Stanley over saying the wrong thing had paid its toll on her in a very bad way. 

As she went round and round in her head trying to figure out the right response to his question, he’d given up already and moved on to the next subject. 

            “I’m only 15, you know.  Technically, I’m not really old enough to drive, but my mom found some loophole in the law that said you could get your license early if you had a job and there was a family necessity.  It’s cool, you know, but sometimes I think she’s just trying to rush me through life.”  Isaac turned onto a dirt road that led into a massive junk yard.  He parked near the office and walked Audrey through the junkyard, giving her a brief tour of the cars that he would someday work on when he had enough time, and told her in full detail about his plans to start his own auto industry using refurbished cars.  Audrey listened carefully to him.  This was business and she loved everything to do with it.  She hoped that one day she would be on the Forbes 500 list, and she was always thinking up new ways to do it.  She was amazed with his plans, however, some parts of it sounded a bit iffy.  He may have known everything there was to know about repairing broken mufflers, and installing tires, but he had no clue about how to actually start a company and run a profitable business.    He had apparently not read as many books on business as she had.

They stopped next to a rusty old Mercedes with no fender and no wheels.  “I’m fixing this baby up next.” He gave the rusty old car a gentle loving pat. “Well.  I have to sell the jaguar first.  Then I’ll have enough money to fix this one up.  I’d like to use authentic Mercedes parts, but they’re really expensive.” 

“You don’t by any chance; know how to work on cars do you?”  Audrey did, in fact, know how to replace burnt fuses, change the oil, and change a flat tire on the side of the road.  She said nothing in response to his question because she wasn’t paying attention to a word he was saying.  Nevertheless, Isaac just assumed, since she was female, that she didn’t.

They walked on further down a dirt road that ran through the junkyard until they got to the garage where Isaac was working on his Jaguar.  He removed a tarp off the vehicle and revealed a car that was unlike anything Audrey had ever seen in real life.  He bent over and embraced the long hood of the automobile.  “This is my baby,” he said giving it a kiss. I bet you’ve never seen a car like this.  It’s one of a kind.  It’s a 1963 lightweight E-Type Jaguar.  I just got through rebuilding the engine.  It’s got a fuel-injected 3.8L engine 340 HP. 

I bet I’ll make about fifty thousand dollars off the jaguar, if I can sell it.  Nobody around here is interested and I might have to drop the price.  Everyone says I’m asking way too much for a used car, but seriously, I’ve put years of work and several thousand dollars into it.  I don’t know.”  He walked over to a set of nice brand new tires, grabbed one, and rolled it towards the car. Will you help me put the tires on?”  Audrey nodded, and proceeded to help him lift the tire up onto that little rod thingy that wheels are mounted onto.  Isaac tightened the bolts on with a lug wrench.

            “They want three hundred dollars for a new Jaguar hood ornament.  That’s a rip off if you ask me.  Can you believe it?  I bet it only costs them ten dollars to make it.  Seriously, I mean how much overhead do these guys have anyway?  I tried to fix it, but I ruined it.”  Isaac reached over and picked up the charred jaguar hood ornament from his workbench.  He showed it to Audrey and threw it back where he’d found it. Isaac rolled a second tire towards the car, they lifted onto the rod.  Audrey held the wheel in place while Isaac screwed the bolts on to it. 

            “My grandfather always says, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.’ My mom says it too.  Heck, you learn that stupid phrase along with Never quit and never give up. But sometimes, quitting is better, you know. You can’t just spend your life working towards a goal that’s completely pointless. It’s like Nancy’s dad, Lester.  He will never give up trying to win the lottery. Some things in life are just a pointless waste of time. Sometimes, quitting is better. If Lester quits playing the lottery every week, he could save his money and pay off his mortgage. He would free up all of that money and have enough money to buy glass windows to replace the cardboard and duct tape. Yes, sometimes, quitting is better. But how do you know when something is pointless? How do you know what to quit?”  Isaac picked up the metal jaguar hood ornament again. It was ruined. The bright gold paint was charred and peeling now. The paws had melted off. “Aw. Who needs hood ornaments anyway?” He groaned and threw the hood ornament back onto the workbench again, and finished tightening the bolts.  

Audrey shrugged. “So what, make your own.”

The fact that she even talked freaked him out. He’d completely given up on hearing anything from her at all.  “What? What did you say?”

There was a long pause before finally she managed to answer.  “Make your own hood ornament.  You made the car, so why not make your own logo?”

Isaac furrowed his brow and thought for a moment. “But it wouldn’t be right.  If I used all original jaguar parts, I can’t start put my own logo on it.  That would just defeat the purpose.”  Isaac rolled a third tire towards the car; Audrey helped him lift it up onto the rod thingy.  “Well.”  She said, leaning forward to hold the tire still.  “Sure you can. You’ve refurbished it, so technically speaking, you made it.  And nobody says you have to use Mercedes parts on that Mercedes.  Just use parts that work.  You have a whole junkyard filled with cars.  Take the parts that work out of the junky cars and stick them into the Mercedes.   Make the car look awesome and run great.  Then stick your own logo on it.  You know something different that will stand out from the rest of the crowd.”  

Without stopping to take a breath, Audrey continued talking.  “The Mercedes logo is stupid anyway.  It’s so uncreative.  I always liked the BMW logo the best. It’s cute and sporty looking.  People like that.  You could paint a golf ball black and use something like the BMW logo, only make it different.  Like maybe use the hour glass that’s on a black widow spider.  That’s very chic.  It says stay away from me, I’m dangerous.  People want to be considered dangerous, dangerous is very cool. If you have a business and you want to make money, then you need to find people who have money and talk them into giving it to you. People who make money, make it so they can buy the finer things in life. You make the finer things in life.”  She motioned to him insistently by waving a hand. “You have to learn to sell yourself. If you can convince someone with money that they’re life will be better if they give you money, they’ll do it in a heartbeat. You have to go with the flow. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans.”

            Audrey had expected him to laugh hysterically, then walk over to her and kiss her sweetly on the forehead and say “That’s absolutely brilliant.  I’m going to do it, okay?”  But he didn’t.  He just stood there gawking at her with his mouth hanging wide open.  He was speechless.  It wasn’t because of what she had said, of course.  It was because she had kept quiet for so long and now she was talking so fast he wasn’t sure if she was even taking breaths.  He was simply amazed that she had so much bottled up inside. And that wasn’t all she had to say either.  She just kept on talking. 

            “Forget about the idiots around here. They’re just a bunch of losers. If you want to make some money, you have to know how to sell yourself. You have to know what kind of people want a high quality refurbished automobile. If it’s fine quality craftsman ship that you’ve got to offer and it costs a lot to provide that, then you need to find the crowd that can pay for it.” Audrey leaned over closer and looked at Isaac in a matter of fact way. He was still speechless and dumbfounded. “There are people out there who are just loaded with money. They love to spend money. They’ve got all the money in the world and are just dying to spend it on something that will improve their lives. So if you want to sell your cars, you need to convince these people that Ferbies will change the world. You need to convince these rich folk that they cannot go another day without one. It’ll be a fashion statement to drive one. People will parade them around town like they’re wearing a mink coat or something. They’ll be the new Rolls Royce of the auto industry.”

            Isaac smiled as he rolled the last tire towards the car.  Audrey helped him lift the very last tire onto the rod thingy, and held it in place while Isaac screwed in the last bolts.  “I would have got this done a lot sooner, you know, but I’m at school all day, you know. Sometimes it seems like a big waste of time. But I’m graduating soon. It’s cool too, because I’m only 15. I’ll be turning 16 in June.” When’s your birthday? Audrey had no earthly idea when her birthday was.  The birthday on her fake ID and birth certificate said that she was born May 4, but she’d made that up.  That was Audrey Hepburn’s birthday and not really her own.  It could have been hers, but she didn’t know for sure.  She had changed her identity so many times that she’s had thousands of birthdays, even though there are only 366 possible choices if you include the leap year. 

             “Mom wants me to start college right away.  She has this idea in her head that I’m going to take college classes all summer long, but I don’t think so.  I want to start making money. I don’t know.  It just seems like I’ll never find the time. I’ve tried to hire people to help out, but they need to be paid right away and they don’t even know how to work on cars. They want me to pay them to learn how to repair a broken engine. And it’s just ridiculous. They don’t even have anything better to do with their time. They just sit around playing video games and watching television. They aren’t even trying to obtain skills for the future they don’t even care.”

            Isaac bent down and grabbed a dirty rag from the workbench.  He wiped the grease from his hands vigorously and handed the rag to Audrey.  She took the rag and tried to wipe the grease from her hands, but it was like trying to wipe windows with newspaper that had been soaked in bacon grease.  She threw the rag down, and pulled some moist towelettes from her backpack.  She handed Isaac a few packs.  “Are you trying to tell me something?”  He said jokingly.  She rolled her eyes as he took the packs and put them in his pockets. 

            “I’m not finished.  I still have to lower the car off these jack stands.  Do you want to take a ride with me?”  He said, cranking the car back down. 

            When he was finished, he wiped his hands, moved everything out of the way, and opened the passenger side door in a very gentlemanly way for Audrey, who smiled at him in a way that was so goofy that it would have made Rita vomit.  It didn’t make Isaac vomit because he stroked the side of her face and pressed his lips against hers.  Audrey slid her tongue across his teeth and he chuckled, and then made a sound of delight, because Audrey’s hands were wandering into dangerous territory.  After a half hour of making out, Isaac heard the motor of a car moving up the road.  Isaac turned his head to see who was coming and he groaned. “Oh my God, it’s Jerry.”            Jerry thought he was a race car driver.  He drove so dad gum fast.  He raced his cars into the night screaming “hey man kiss my” Ask me no more questions and I’ll tell you no more lies.  It was a dodge pickup that Isaac sold him last.

Isaac really liked that truck.  It was cute. Even though it had been totaled due to a huge dent down the side, the engine worked great.  Isaac’s grandfather sold it to Jerry a few months earlier for only five hundred dollars.  Isaac thought he would fix it up.  Apparently the only reason that Jerry bought it was so he could crash into things with it.  He raced down hills in the country banging it up all up and down the sides.  He purposely ran it into ditches and finally he drove it into a pond, just for fun. 

Isaac about died when he saw it.  When he opened the trunk, water came pouring out of it.  A small catfish was bouncing around in there.  Isaac pulled it out and dropped it into a bucket of water that just happened to be sitting nearby.  “Well, that was fun.” said Jerry with a crazed toothless grin. He wore a plaid flannel shirt that was missing the elbows and had a pouch of Red Neck brand chewing tobacco sticking out of the front pocket of his overalls.  He took it out with a greasy hand that hadn’t been washed in months. 

“So,  What else yeh got?” said Jerry through quivering lips.   Isaac just stood there gawking at him. “You have got to be kidding me.”  The guy took a pinch of tobacco and stuck it between his cheek and gums.  “Nope.  Not kidding.  You see, I like to have fun.  I like to drive fast over hills and go crashing into things.  It’s kinda like my own personal demolition derby.”  It bothered Audrey to look this guy right in the face because he was missing so many teeth.  She sometimes had nightmares at night about her teeth falling out. 

Jerry folded his arms and leaned against his rusty yellow tow truck. “I’d buy me a nice brand new car, but then I wouldn’t be able to have any fun.”  Isaac rubbed his face in frustration. “I thought you were going to fix up that truck!”  Jerry put a hand on his hip, sucking furiously on his tobacco. ”No way, that’s no fun.  Isaac threw his hands up in frustration, turned around, and faced the other direction. “How is this productive?  You have destroyed a perfectly good car.  There was nothing wrong with it. It had brand new brakes and a completely rebuilt transmission. ”
“Naw, man.  It was totaled.  Not worth nuthin.” Jerry folded his arms and clacked his tongue.

Isaac slapped a frustrated hand against his own forehead.  “It just had a dent in it. We gave you a deal!”

                “I tell you what, I’m just gonna go in to the office and talk to your grandpa.”  Isaac scoffed, rolled his eyes and shook his head as he watched the white trash hillbilly walk into the old run down office.

                He walked up to Audrey with a hand plastered against his forehead in unbelief. “This is the third time this year that guy has been over here to buy a junked car.”  He took Audrey by the hand, slid his fingers through hers, and walked her back to his Jaguar. “I get so mad at my grandpa for selling cars to that idiot.  It’s so screwed up.  Jerry owns a tow truck and is always bringing us cars that don’t work.  He thinks that he’s doing a favor because we sell the parts out of the cars; but he’s the one that is supposed to pay us for dumping them here in the first place.  We’re supposed to get three hundred dollars for every car he sends here.  I know for a fact, that he charges people an extra fee and tells them that he’s giving us the money.  Then he keeps it for himself.  I don’t know what he’s spending that money on, but I sure as hell know he’s not spending it on toothpaste.”  Audrey laughed.  Isaac put his arm around her waist.  “My grandpa doesn’t charge anyone enough money.  He says that people around here just don’t have the money to pay high prices for things.  So he undercharges the mechanics when they come here looking for parts. 

I don’t know. It sure it would be nice to help all of these people who are living in filth and misery. They like their life. They don’t care, they don’t want to change. They’re just stubborn and set in their ways. You could give them all the money in the world and they would still be exactly the same way. They don’t care that they’re like that because that’s just who they are. You should never try to help a bunch of poor people. You can’t just pull them out of a bad situation. They have to pull themselves out. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase? ”The lord helps those who help themselves? It’s the same concept.

We all live in this world together and we all have access to the same books. These people aren’t reading. They aren’t even trying. All they do is sit around and complain that they don’t have any of the finer things in life. That’s just the problem with these people. Nobody has ambition. Nobody has passion. None of these people around here have the lust for life that it takes to be successful. So they keep on with their pointless everyday lives. They buy their cemetery plots and sit around moaning and groaning waiting around for death.  It’s so disgusting, you know.” 

They’d reached the garage by now, and Audrey was leaning against the hood of the car.  Isaac stroked her cheek.  “I’m sorry.  I’m talking your head off.  Just tell me to shut up.”  Audrey smiled and looked into his chocolate brown puppy dog eyes.  He kissed her until the sun sank low in the sky.  “Dang. I’m sorry.  It’s getting late.  I should take you home”.  He kissed her, helped her up, kissed her again, open the car door, kissed her again, and then she finally got into the Jaguar.  He drove her home in complete bliss.  He hadn’t been happier since the time when he was six and his name was called as a home winner on the Bozo Show

Several minutes later, when they reached her street, Audrey asked him to stop the car.  “Is this your house?” Isaac pointed to a little stone cottage with a white picket fence.  He assumed it was hers because she told him that this was the place.

“Not really, I actually live in the Inn, down there.”  Isaac’s eyes widened in shock.  He looked in wonder the massive spooky looking building.   “You’ve got to be kidding me.  I didn’t know anyone lived there.  I’ve heard creepy stories about that place.” Audrey groaned.  “Me too.”  Isaac turned off the car and acted like he was going to walk her to her door. “Why did you ask me to stop here, if you live down there?”   Audrey leaned in close to him and whispered to him in a matter of fact sort of way. “No offense, but if my dad sees you with me, he’ll kill us both; so you should leave.” She got out of the car before he could give her a goodbye kiss.

Isaac paused, thought for a moment, and then laughed. However, Audrey gave him a suck a serious look that he instantly knew she was being quite truthful.  A cold chill went down his spine as he realized that her father must the reason why she was such a nervous wreck. Although he didn’t want to just leave her there in the hands of danger, he decided it was best, for his own safety, if he left.  He drove off quickly and did not wait to see if she made it to her door safely. 

When Audrey got home that evening she rushed into the kitchen and turned on the kettle to cook some ramen noodles for Stanley’s dinner.  While it was boiling, she rummaged through the refrigerator for some vegetables to throw in.  She discovered a mason jar filled with julienned onion and bell pepper that she had used for fajita pot pie a week earlier.  She had forgotten all about this jar because it was hidden behind a half-eaten can of spotted dick.  She threw the leftover vegetables into a cast iron skillet; put a tablespoon of bacon grease on medium high and sautéed until golden brown.  It was fresh bacon grease, not the stuff that had been sitting on the stove for ten years.

She took the steaming kettle off the gas burner and poured two cups of water into the ceramic bowl that had the dried ramen noodles.  After they had soaked for three minutes, she drained them into a Tupperware colander, and added them to the onions and peppers that were sizzling in the skillet.  She tossed the noodles, mixed in the seasoning packet, pushed it all aside and cracked in an egg.  When the egg was done, she mixed in some frozen peas until they were all done. She put them neatly into a porcelain Chinese bowl, added a sprig of parsley and brought it to Stanley along with a cold can of licorice flavored soda pop.  “Hey, I didn’t even know you were home.”  He said as he took it from her.  

Her work wasn’t over yet, however.  She gathered all the dirty clothes from around the house while she daydreamed about Isaac, and carried them through the back room to the washroom.  She stopped in the back room, set down the clothes and looked under a leather chair.  She had been missing her favorite black shirt for weeks and couldn’t figure out where it had gone to.  Rita denied taking it, but Audrey knew that she was lying. This was some sort of joke that she like to play.  She would take something of Audrey’s, hide it somewhere and watch Audrey go crazy trying to find it.  Then a few weeks later, she would replace it so that Audrey would find it right where she had left it in the first place. 

When Audrey picked up the laundry basket she saw the rocking chair rocking all by itself. Her stomach dropped.  She felt a cold chill go up her spine and her skin was completely covered with goose bumps. It was her grandmother’s rocking chair.  Her grandmother would sit there all day long and knit Afghans and scarves.  She definitely wasn’t sitting in it now, but there it was, rocking away like someone full of energy was rocking back and forth.  She hadn’t bumped into it by accident.  That rocking chair was clear across the room.  And to make things worse, Audrey could smell her grandmother’s talcum powder, like she’d just got through powdering her feet. 

In a panic, Audrey rushed out of there as quickly as possible.  She separated the whites from the darks, and threw some towels into the open washing machine.  As she turned around to grab the detergent, the door to the washing machine slammed shut.  Although this happened almost every time she went in there to do the laundry, it still freaked her out every time.  She always tried to do her laundry as quickly as possible so she could get the heck out of that room.  She’d checked the hinge; she knew she didn’t knock it shut herself.  She hadn’t touched it. It was just unexplainable.

She quickly opened the washer and poured the soap into it while holding the door firmly open.  She poured the soap in so quickly that she spilled soap onto her fingers.  As she was wiping her hands, the lid slammed shut and she heard footsteps coming from the back room.  She gasped and started trembling with fear.  The door swung open and there was Rita coming in with a basket of laundry for Audrey to wash. 

Audrey noticed that among this pile was the shirt that she’d been missing for months. Rita had denied taking it, of course.  “So there’s my shirt!  You told me that you had no idea where it was.”  Rita smirked. “Oh yeah, I found your shirt.  It was under the bed.”  She tried to sound as innocent as possible, but Audrey knew that she was lying through her teeth.  She wanted to have it for herself as soon as it was clean again.

“Under the bed?  How could it have possibly been under the bed?  I looked there a million times.”  Audrey suddenly thought of the pornographic materials and her notebook where she left the rough drafts to her stories that she’d been selling to the magazines.  This was a Freudian slip.    Suddenly it all made sense to her, the things people said to her in the halls sounded very much like they had all read the articles that she had sent to Playboy. 

Rita could tell by the look in her eye that she’d finally put two and two together and changed the subject very quickly.  “So.  I heard they picked the runner for the sword race.  It’s too bad that you’re not the fastest any more.  Ha ha.  Poor little Audrey has finally met her match.”  But Audrey wasn’t upset by this at all.  She looked as if she were trying to hold back an immense smile so powerful that it was breaking its way through her mouth anyway. 

“That is, unless there’s something that you’re not telling me.”  Rita grinned so widely that Audrey could see the silver fillings in her molars.  “Ah ha!  I knew it.  You’re running after all but everyone’s keeping it a secret because of the curse.  You know about the curse don’t you?”  Audrey pulled a load of towels from the drier and stuffed them into the broken orange laundry basket. Rita saw a pair of her underpants within the load and pulled them out. “Something bad always happens to the Running Meade runner right before the race.  Oh well.  Good luck though, Audrey.” She said cheerfully patting Audrey on her shoulder.

 


Chapter 13         

Isaac always slept with his windows wide open despite the fact that his mother told him that if he did that, an axe murderer would creep into his room at night and chop off his head. “But I’ve got a screen in my window.” Isaac said one evening as his mother was leaving for work.  She was a large woman who wore loads of make-up and those thick tennis shoes with the curved soles that supposedly help fat people lose weight.  She worked the graveyard shift at an emergency room in the local hospital and was dressed in maroon scrubs.

“That flimsy old thing pops right off and some serial killer can just crawl right in and chop you to pieces in your sleep if I am not home to protect you.”

Isaac rolled his eyes.  “Oh please.”

Isaac’s mother had become a bit of an agoraphobic ever since she had started working as an emergency room nurse.  She would make a deal out of ordinary things that weren’t even dangerous.  For instance, once a woman came in who had slipped in the kitchen and fallen face down on a sharp boning knife that was placed point up in the dishwasher.  She drove Isaac crazy about this one.  He wasn’t even allowed to put knives in the dishwasher anymore.  They rarely cooked but they always used a sharp knife to open the plastic wrappers on frozen pizzas.  So naturally he ignored her bogus stories about some crazy Indian guy who chopped up a bunch of girl scouts and stuffed them into their sleeping bags. 

“I’m working the night shift and I won’t be home at night to protect you should someone sneak into your room at night and try to kill you. “ She found her keys on the television, grabbed them, walked into the bathroom and started rubbing dragon fruit scented antiperspirant into her armpits.

Isaac was sitting on the sofa digging axle grease out of his fingernails with a pocket knife.  “I’m bigger and stronger than you, how are you going to protect me? I should be the one protecting you.”

His mother walked back into the living room, grabbed her stethoscope and shoved it into her pocket.  “If I am at home and someone sneaks into your open window and tries to attack you I can sneak up from behind and give him an injection.  I keep tranquilizers in my bathroom cabinet in the basket behind the toilet paper and the Lysol.”

Isaac scoffed, rolled his eyes, and continued digging axle grease out of his nails with a pocket knife.  “Will you give it a rest mom, please.  Nobody is going to sneak into my bedroom window.”

She put one hand on her hip, pointed a finger at him, and waved her head around like she was singing in a gospel choir.  “Dam straight they’re not because you are going to keep that window shut. Do you hear me?”

Isaac threw his hands up in the air, still holding onto his pocket knife.  “Okay, Okay, I’ll keep it shut.”

“Pinkie swear.” She put a pinkie out and motioned for him to join her in the agreement but he just rolled his eyes.  “Don’t roll your eyes at me.   And by the way, when are you going to get a decent haircut?”

Isaac just shrugged the whole thing off as usual neurotic paranoia.  He liked having his window open at night.  He liked the clean fresh air streaming in, blowing his curtains.  He especially liked the smell of a rainy night, the sound of cars splashing water against the cement as they drove by.  As soon as his mother left for the night, he opened his window.  The telephone rang a half hour later.  It was his mother and she said. ”Isaac, shut your window!”  Isaac groaned.   “It is shut. Geez.”  He said goodbye, and hung up.

You can only imagine the shock and horror he felt when he suddenly woke in the middle of the night and saw a figure dressed all in black standing next to his bed. He shrieked and scrambled to the other side of the bed and fell smack onto the floor, hitting his head on the bedside table.”

“It’s me Audrey.”  It took a minute for this to register in Isaacs’s brain. “You scared me.”  Isaac rubbed his head and climbed back onto his bed.  He sat down and turned on the lamp to see her.

“Sorry.” Audrey took off her black ski mask and put it into her backpack.

“What are you doing here?” 

“I don’t know.”

“You aren’t going to kill me are you?”

“I might.”

“That’s good to know.  At least we’re being honest.  How did you get in? The screen is still on the window?”

“I put it back.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“How did you know where I lived?”

“Phone book.”

“But our phone number is listed under my mother’s maiden name.  How could you possibly have known what her maiden name is?”

“You ask too many questions.” 

“Sorry. Why don’t you talk to me at school?  I thought you liked me.  I thought we really had a thing, and you don’t even look at me at school.  I tried to talk to you all week and you just ignored me and acted like I didn’t exist.”  Audrey dropped her backpack and crawled into his bed, boots and all.  Isaac laid down close to her and stroked her cheek.  “You’re beautiful.” He whispered.  She smiled and said “I know.”  Isaac laughed and ran his fingers through her hair.  You look like a burglar.  For a second there I thought you were going to chop off my head or something.

 “I can if you like, but I’ll have to borrow your axe.  I left mine at home.” She smiled.  She was only joking.  I brought you something.  She reached into her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of notebook paper.   “What is this?”  Isaac unfolded the paper.

“The other day, you said you needed to find someone to buy your car and all of a sudden it dawned on me that I might know someone who’s interested.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, I ran this charity marathon this summer and I had to collect donations from rich people.  Anyway, there was this motor show that was going on the week I was collecting donations and anyway, I remembered that I still had a list of the people from the motor show who had donated money.  These are the names and addresses.  I bet if you called them or wrote a letter and sent pictures  of your Jaguar to them all, I bet one of them would buy it, and if not, at least get you in touch with someone who would.  Anyway, you’re talented, one day you might be rich and famous.” 

“This is incredible, thank you.”  He folded the paper and tossed it onto the nightstand. “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”  Audrey closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. Isaac talked for her in an annoying high pitched female voice, moving her lips with his fingers.  “Oh yes.  I would love to be your girlfriend, but only if you make wild passionate love to me all the time.” Audrey woke up from her fake slumber and smacked him in the face with her pillow.  Then she laughed and said okay.”

“Okay? Okay to the first part or the second part.” She laid her head back down on the pillow and pretended to be asleep again.  Isaac laid his head down next to hers.  Several minutes later he asked “What’s your middle name?”  Audrey answered him dreamily.  “Rose.”  Isaac stroked her hair gently, tucking it behind her ear. 

“That suits you, Audrey Rose.”  He thought about this for a few moments and said eagerly.  ”So, if I buy you roses, will you be my girlfriend? Audrey wanted desperately to say “I’d be your girlfriend anyway even without the roses,” but she didn’t want to be a dork and make a fool out of herself.  She wanted to enjoy the moment.  His body was warm and even though he smelled of unwashed sweaty armpits and axle grease.  It was comforting to be there next to him.  She could feel his warm breath tickling the peach fuzz on her cheeks. 

With her eyes shut tight and her hands tucked comfortably under her head on the pillow she asked.  “Can I sleep here tonight?  I had a nightmare and I couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“Really.  What was the nightmare?” Isaac said, still stroking her hair and her face.

“I don’t want to talk about it.  It’s hard to explain.”

“That bad, huh?”  Isaac wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead.  She fell asleep as he stroked her face and for the first time in nearly a year, she slept soundly through the night with not one nightmare.   Isaac woke only once, and was so enraptured by her absolute beauty that he whispered “I love you” into her ear.  If she heard it at all it was lost in her dreamland slumber. 

When he woke early the next morning he was alone in his bed.  He thought it might have all been just a bad dream, but the list of names was still there on his bedside table.  He noticed when he looked in the bathroom mirror while brushing his teeth that he had a maroon lipstick mark on his cheek. 

 

Chapter 14

            Meet Heidi Klum.  She’s a forty seven year old divorcee’ with two grown sons and a best friend named Nell Carter who works with her at the local Goodwill Store up in Starkey.  She likes peppermint schnapps, foot rubs, and scratching her fingernails on the chalkboards that go for sale sometimes in the store.  It drives the teenagers in there crazy.  She likes to see them cringe. She hates finding pubic hair in donated lingerie, and she also hates perverted men who read smut. She likes to play bingo with her friend Nell, and sometimes they go on a double date afterward to a bar called the Sassy Monkey. 

They’d just been on such a date the previous night with two guys named Chaz and Larry.  Chaz brought with him a copy of a dirty magazine.  He said “I don’t look at the pictures.  I just like to read the articles.  They’re fantastic, read this one.  They’ve got this amazing new writer, here take a look.”  They had no idea that the writer was none other than Audrey Heisenberg from a city not far from them because she used the pen name ‘Gypsy Rose.’

Chaz handed the magazine to Heidi, who reluctantly took it. Nell read the article over her shoulder and her eyes became as wide as dinner plates.  Heidi’s jaw dropped and her eyebrows shot straight up in complete shock.  “Lord Almighty.  Is that even possible?”  When she was finished reading the article, she flipped the magazine over to the back and looked at an interesting advertisement.

“You can buy a life size steel woman to satisfy all your needs without the constant nagging that usually goes along with a real woman.  You might think that five thousand dollars is a high price to pay, but if you’ve ever been through a pricey divorce, you’ll agree that this is a real bargain indeed.”  They laughed hysterically.

“Just stick a couple holes in that mannequin down at the store, and you’ll get the same thing for a lot cheaper.”  Said Heidi, throwing the magazine back to Karl and gave him a dirty look.  “Karl scoffed, rolled his eyes, bit the end from his cigar and lit up.  Heidi and Nell left without their men that night, but they kept joking on and on about the advertisement they had seen for the five thousand dollar mistress. 

The very next morning, oddly enough, someone had donated two mannequins to their store.  They already had a mannequin, but they decided to throw it since it was broken in several places and held together with duct tape.  They had just thrown her into the garbage and made a joke about giving her to Chaz and Larry, when this creepy looking black guy walked in and asked if he could have it.  He wouldn’t say why he wanted her, but he kept looking over his shoulder to make sure nobody was watching.  They just knew what he was going to do with her.  Nell was just about to burst over at the seams.  This was more than she could take.


 

Chapter 15

Blessed is he who plays the lottery, for he shall line the pockets of government officials from henceforth and forevermore.

            Lester walked home with a pocket full of lottery tickets.  He was a garbage man and made a pretty good income, but it wasn’t good enough.  He wanted to be rich.  He wanted to win the lottery.  Sure, everyone wants to win the lottery, but Lester just knew he would win.  He’d written himself a check for three million dollars and visualized himself winning it all day and all night.  He pictured himself riding in his brand new speedboat.  He could just feel the mist sprinkling over his hairy arms as he sped down the lake.

Every week for the past ten years of his life he spent a hundred dollars on lottery tickets.  He picked the same numbers every single week.  Surely his numbers would come up eventually.  They had to. It was inevitable.  He knew about odds and statistics, however, he couldn’t do math.  Ten years is five hundred and thirty weeks.  By now, he’d spent fifty three thousand dollars on lottery tickets and had nothing to show for it.  He could have paid off his mortgage by now and had an extra five hundred dollars a month to spend.  He could have stuffed the money under his mattress and been able to afford the shiny new Jaguar that Isaac had just finished refurbishing. 

            It didn’t matter to Lester though.  He had his dreams.  And dreaming is free, you know.  He would win, someday, he just knew it.  And maybe it would be tonight.  He pulled his rusty yellow El Camino into his driveway.  “Next week, I’ll be at the car dealership getting me a brand new Cadillac.”  He opened the trunk of his car and pulled out a broken mannequin.

He had just been to the thrift store buying a new television to watch the news on. It was second hand, but it was new to him. His old TV broke at last week’s party when Sheldon electrocuted himself.  Anyway, he was in there purchasing a new used television set when he noticed that they were throwing away this mannequin with a busted leg.  The clerks said he could have it, but he wouldn’t explain why because he didn’t want them to think that he was some sort of a deranged lunatic.  Their minds were in the gutter, however, and they giggled and whispered as he walked out the door with it.  He could see them rolling on the floor in laughter as he drove off in his car.  He just couldn’t figure out what was so funny about him taking that mannequin out of the trash. 

            “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.”  Lester thought to himself.  He brought the mannequin into his kitchen and ripped her innocent body apart with a hammer and a crow bar.  “Take this, and that.” He plowed the hammer violently into her joints, taking out all of his anger and frustration out on her.  He didn’t know who had been stealing his meat, but he was going to put an end to it one way or another.  When the poor dummy was nothing but a pile of discombobulated body parts, he swept her into a pile and went looking through the cupboards for a large mixing bowl.  He left all of the cabinet doors wide open, of course, because he was a man, and for some bazaar reason, men never shut the cabinet doors. 

 He slammed the bowl ferociously onto the grimy avocado green countertop, smashing a large German cockroach that was crawling by in search of food. He poured an entire bottle of corn syrup into the bowl, mixed it with some red food coloring paste, a dash of chocolate syrup, and a few chicken livers, just to make it look more realistic.

He heard the front door squeaking open and looked through the doorway.  Nancy had arrived with Rita, Lenny and Satch.  Rita walked into the kitchen and put a paper sack filled with ingredients on the counter.  She looked up and gasped in horror to see all of the cabinets doors opened.  She’d been having the time of her life at home trying to keep them all closed, so out of habit, she shut them all in a wild frenzy.  “Lenny and Satch shrieked jokingly when they saw the dismembered plastic body of Gretchen the goodwill model laying on the kitchen floor.

“What have you done?  It didn’t have to end this way, Lester.  There’s a better way!”  Lester joked back, shaking his head.  She was stealing mah rib.  Let that be a lesson to all, he said pointing at each and every one of them with a big wooden spoon.  Fake blood dripped from the spoon onto the countertop. “I’m gonna pour fake blood all over her, wrap her up in butcher paper and put her in the deep freeze.  The next time someone comes to my house and tries to steal meat from me again, they are going to get the surprise of their life. Everyone laughed hysterically. 

            Rita scrubbed down the countertops with comet and some paper towels, and Nancy measured out the ingredients.  They worked diligently over a hot stove mixing, measuring, distilling and chemically hydrogenating their hypothetical conbobulation. Lenny and Satch were more interested in Lester’s prank than in making the Blitzers.  When they were done wrapping up Gretchen the Goodwill dummy, they left a huge mess of fake blood and wadded up paper all over the entire kitchen floor.  There simply wasn’t time to clean it up.  Lester had to catch the evening news.  It was Friday night, and Simon Grimjaw would be reading the lottery numbers after they broadcasted the sports

Suddenly, they heard a very loud scream of horror coming from the back room, followed by the sound of a door slamming. Everyone went running out back to see who it was.  They barely caught a glimpse of a guy in overalls and a plaid shirt hauling off down the road, running like a madman to get away.  “Well.  That’ll be the last time someone tries to steal ribs from me.  I tell you for sure.”

            “That was genius plan, Lester.”  Lenny took out a pack of Fruit Stripes gum and stuck a piece in his mouth.  “Where’d you get the idea to do that?”

            Leroy folded his arms proudly.  “I’m smarter than you think I am.”  Then he reached over for Lenny’s gum.  Hey is that Fruit Stripes gum?  I love that stuff.  Give me a piece.  Lenny gave him a yellow one.  “No man.  I want purple.  Purple is my favorite.”

Rita went back to the kitchen that was now covered in bloody footprints.  She and Nancy both let out a sigh of frustration.  “Dad,” said Nancy.  “You’ve really got to clean up your mess.  This is just disgusting.”  It was dusk and roaches were coming out of the woodwork crawling all over the sticky floor. They were having a free for all.  Indeed, these vile insects were happier than cockroaches in a puddle of corn syrup. 

Rita was standing at the stove watching tiny clear drops of liquid drip slowly from the coiled copper tube that was attached to the top of a presser cooker.  “We have really got to be careful with this stuff.  If any of it leaks into your skin, you’ll be talking to your dead ancestors for days. 

            “How much do you think we made?” asked Nancy, who turned her eyes from the roaches, to the copper coil. “I don’t know.  Thousands of hits, I bet.”  Rita let out the laugh of a mad scientist “I say we dip Fruit Stripes gum into it. And try it out on Audrey.  We can just ask her if she wants a stick of gum.  And naturally, she’ll say yes.  She just loves Fruit Stripes gum.”

Rita got a pencil and a piece of paper and made a list of all the things that she needed for her special project:  funnel, rubber gloves, tongs, eye dropper, tweezers, and every package of gum you can afford.  Then she pulled out five crinkled up twenty dollar bills from her pocket.  She had found this money in Audrey’s new secret hiding place; a hole in the wall behind a large painting of a bearded lady.  “Hey Lenny!  I need you and Satch to run to the store and buy some things for us.” 

“Can’t,” said Lenny from the other room.  “Gotta watch the lottery.” Rita scoffed.  “I swear to god.  Those are the laziest b******s I’ve ever met.”  Nancy took Rita’s list.  “I’ll go.  And I’ll clean up this mess.  I swear.  I do everything around here and I don’t even get credit.”  Rita eyed Nancy and said under her breath. “Well, I don’t care.  If they don’t help, then we just won’t give them a share of the profits. “I’ll stand here and guard this.”

Nancy cleaned up the huge mess, using every towel in the house.  They were never the same again after that.  She went to the store and bought the ingredients, and after that, she and Rita stayed up for hours into the night, carefully dotting each stick of gum with hallucinogenic liquid.  The process was tedious, and it was several days before they finally finished their work.

With rubber gloves and tweezers, they finally managed to stuff the sticks of gum neatly back into their original packages.  They were really hoping that this was the real deal because they’d invested a hundred dollars and many hours into this project and were hoping it would pay off.  Rita knew these Blitzers were authentic, because Audrey had made it a few years earlier. That, however, is another story. 

               

Chapter 16

A rose by any other name is just as sweet.  But if you call a rattlesnake a rose, it still bites.  Technically speaking, roses bite.  Have you ever tried to pick a rose with your bare hands? Ouch.  Modern neuro-linguistic programmers have recently proven that pain, in fact, doesn’t really hurt.  According to them, it’s all in how you look at it.  Each man interprets pain differently.  So the next time you get bit by a rattlesnake, pick a sprig of lavender and laugh about it, and it will all be okay.

The bright morning sun was blazing into Audrey’s bedroom window on the morning of the big race.  It was Saturday, and she was lying in bed, trying to motivate herself into getting up when she heard a car door slam.  That was motivation enough.  Thinking it was Isaac, she eagerly jumped out of bed and looked outside her and saw Rita and Nancy walk up the steps between the stone lions. By the way they were giggling between themselves and looking over their shoulders repetitively, she could tell that they were up to no good.  “What could they possibly be doing?” she wondered.

Audrey knew from experience, that if Rita was up to something, then she herself would suffer from it in the end.  Rita had figured out that Audrey was going be representing Running Mead in the sword race, and it would be just like Rita to try to spoil it for her.

Audrey tiptoed quietly out of her bedroom and slowly snuck downstairs. When she got into the parlor, she quickly and quietly stashed herself away into a tall ornately decorated antique wardrobe that was filled with heavy, musky smelling army coats. 

            Audrey watched through the keyhole as Rita set her bag down, and went upstairs with Nancy on their quest to find her.  When their heads were turned the other direction, Audrey stuck her hand out and grabbed the bag.  She tried desperately not to make a sound as she pulled it into the wardrobe with her.  She set it down beside her and the smell of Fruit Stripes gum filled the air.  Ahh. She loved Fruit Stripes gum.  It was the best. 

             “Hey, that’s weird.  I know I set my bag down right there,” Rita searched the floor around her feet with her eyes.  She had her hair tied up into a bun and was wearing a maroon tank top, plaid Capri pants, and knee high maroon steel toe doc marten boots.  Nancy was wearing a black t-shirt that she bought at The Cure concert, and a velvet patchwork broomstick skirt.

Audrey tried to be as still and quiet as possible, but she had the weirdest feeling.  It was like someone was in there with her.  She felt fingertips touch the back of her hand and she just about had a heart attack.  She wanted to bolt out of the wardrobe immediately, but she couldn’t.  Rita and Nancy had come back downstairs and were standing right there in the parlor.  Sure, it would give them the fright of their lives to have her jump out screaming at that moment, but she had to stay hidden.  She had a feeling they were trying to ruin her chances of winning the race that day, and she wasn’t going to let that happen.

She was quite relieved when they finally left the room, because she did not feel welcome in there at all, and besides, it was far too dark in there to go rummaging through Rita’s bag.  She opened the door just a crack to let some light in, and started rummaging through Rita’s bag.  However, the only thing in there was opened packages of chewing gum.  Why on earth did Rita have so much chewing gum in her bag?  Was she going to a gum chewing contest or something?  At any rate, she did have a lot of Fruit Stripes gum.  There were at least twenty packs, or so. Audrey grabbed them and decided to throw Rita and Nancy off her trail with a simple trick of wit.  She snuck into the bathroom, shut the cabinet doors and turned on the shower.  Then she left the room, locking the door behind her.  She carefully snuck out of the house and ran off down the road without them even suspecting a thing.

            Rita and Nancy rushed to the bathroom as soon as they heard the door slam.  “Hey Audrey, are you going to the race today?”  Rita was pretending that she didn’t know Audrey was going to run the race; she was trying to act sly and not give herself away.  “We’ll give you a ride if you want.  I think Stanley’s already gone.”   There was no answer, just the sound of water running. Rita and Nancy were standing with their heads pressed against the door, waiting in anxious anticipation for her to appear.  This was going to be the best joke ever and the suspense was just killing them.

            “And hey later, maybe we can take you out for pizza or something,” added Nancy, trying to hold back a severe attack of the giggles.  There was no answer, but Rita heard footsteps and the sound of cabinet doors opening.  After ten minutes of waiting, Rita began to grow impatient and a bit worried.  This was so weird.  She jiggled the doorknob.  “Audrey? Audrey? Are you okay?”  No answer.

            She banged on the door.  “Audrey, this isn’t funny!”

“I need a coat hanger to open the door,” said Rita, very knowledgably, as she opened the door to the wardrobe.  Nancy flinched because she thought she saw someone standing behind the coats.  She rubbed her eyes and looked closer but there was nobody there.  Rita pulled out a large grey army coat, which dropped to the floor as she pulled the hanger from it.  “It’s too thick.” She said as she tried unsuccessfully to straighten it.

 “Why don’t you try using a bobby pin?”  Nancy started sniffing the air because she thought she smelled a strong stench.  She picked up the coat and sniffed it to see if that was where the horrific odor was coming from and sure enough, it was.  It smelled like a corpse had been wearing it for a few days. 

            Strange thoughts were running through Rita’s mind as she pulled a bobby pin from the bun she’d neatly tied her hair into.  “Oh, know.  She’s slit her wrists.  She’s committed suicide, I just know it.  I knew she would do it eventually, but now that she’s actually done it…” she thought to herself as she managed to get the door opened.  She pushed the cabinet doors shut mindlessly as she ran for the porcelain claw foot bathtub. She pulled the red damask velvet curtain back revealing…not a soul.  No one was in there.  They both gasped in horror.  Rita suddenly remembered the time that Audrey had been locked in there when she was little.  Perhaps there really was a ghost in that bathroom, after all.  She screamed.  With trembling hands she managed to turn off the water “What is it?  Is she dead?”  Nancy was eagerly hoping for a dramatic scene.  But she soon saw for herself that there was nobody in the bathtub.

            “This shower couldn’t have come on by itself.  The knobs are hard to turn,” said Rita.

She was gasping for breath as she struggled to turn off the water.  She had become completely drenched with water trying to get the faucet to turn off. For a brief moment, she and Nancy stood there looking at each other in wonder.  They were shaking with fear. Then they heard the squeaking of a hinge.  Rita gasped.  “I just shut that medicine cabinet five seconds ago.” Rita’s whole body was shaking and covered with goose bumps.  Nancy was shaking too and was scared stiff.  “I know I heard someone in here opening the cabinets.    Rita slowly moved backwards. “I did too.”  A bottle of aspirin fell out of the medicine cabinet and into the sink.  They bolted out of there, screaming in terror.

            “This house gives me the creeps, I’m getting out of here.” Said Nancy, heading towards the door. 

“But I’m soaking wet and I have to find my bag!” Rita insisted.  Their heads turned when they heard footsteps coming from upstairs.  “Audrey!” she yelled as she went running up the stairs.  It was several minutes before the girls calmed down from their shock.  Rita changed her clothes and finally found her bag lying in the exact same spot she had left it earlier. 

She eventually figured out that Audrey had turned on the shower and locked the door in order to give them a fright.  Sure, this was surprising, but not nearly as surprising to find that every package of Fruit Stripes gum was missing from her bag.  She keeled over with laughter and had to wipe the tears from her face as she snorted away with manic laughter.  She managed to tell Nancy through struggled breaths that Audrey had stolen all of the Fruit Stripes gum.

            “Holy Shitake Mushrooms.” Nancy blurted out as she fumbled through Rita’s bag and realized that it was true.  “How many do you think she’ll eat?” 

            “I don’t know.  She really likes Fruit Stripes gum.”

“She is going to be screwed up in the head after this.”

“Do you think?”  They looked at each other, grinning with delight.  And as if they were communicating telepathically they ran out the door to the car at the same moment without speaking. 

            When Audrey arrived downtown she had no idea that she was on some sort of hallucinogenic drug.  Had she been told that she had just consumed massive quantities of the Blitzers that she helped manufacture, she might have been able to manage some sort of rationalization.  She could have said to herself, “no, a spirit didn’t just fly into that person, it’s just the drugs.  I’m just hallucinating.  This isn’t real.” 

People were talking backwards.  Time was not running forwards anymore; it was going every which way.  She had trouble not showing complete shock when the coach’s glowing red eyeballs fell out and he popped them back into his head. 

She should have known not to eat that gum.  She wasn’t stupid.  She should have known that gum was spiked.  But the fact of the matter was she had completely blocked out the memory of giving someone the recipe.  For an entire week, people had been harassing her about having herpes.  People had been throwing packs of rubbers at her in the halls and in the locker room.          They were throwing them at Isaac too, but he didn’t seem to mind as much.

He just picked them all up and took them home with him because “hey, free rubbers.”  Of course he hadn’t been the one in a parked car with some greasy sleaze ball.  Every time the memory of that icky guy popped into her head she tried to block it out.  She thought she was being so clever by telling him that she had herpes.  How was she supposed to know that Nico would go around telling everyone?  She figured that he would be completely embarrassed to find out that information and not tell a soul.  Ugh.  He must have told Rita.  Audrey was really getting sick of Rita. 

Audrey was trying to make her way to the starting line through the crowds of people that had come from miles around just to be there that day.  There was a parade.  Vendors were selling fresh roasted peanuts.  Audrey could smell them as she steam went traveling through the air.  They looked like huge billowing clouds that made a fog all around the river.  “Why is there a river in the middle of downtown Running Meade?” She thought.  Someone walked past her selling fluffy pink and blue cotton candy.  She reached over and tried to pinch some, but the vendor smacked her hand. 

Audrey was getting butterflies in her stomach and a couple of them broke free.  They were metallic blue Brazilian butterflies.  They flew up and kissed her delicately on her cheek before they flew away.  This was far too weird for her to handle.  She decided to chew more gum.  Some people smoke cigarettes when they get nervous.  Audrey chewed Fruit Stripes gum.  She pulled out six or seven more pieces and chewed nervously.  She needed several pieces in order to make a big bubble.  She blew a large one the size of her head.  She was much surprised that this one turned into a hot air balloon and floated away into the night sky.  She did a double take.  “That’s weird”.  She thought.  For a second there, the sky was black and glittered with stars.  She did a double take.  It was blue again.  “What a strange day.  I must really be nervous.” 

            She reached into her bag and grabbed another stick of gum and started chewing on that one.    “This is really good gum.”  She grabbed another, and another, and another.  Pretty soon, she had gone through several packs.  People were looking at her like she was some sort of a deranged lunatic.  She looked down at her feet.  “Oh no, the ground is made of quicksand and I’m sinking!”  People watched in amazement as she tried with great effort to pull herself out of the imaginary quicksand.

            Meanwhile, Isaac was driving through the parade in the Jaguar that he was finally finished working on. It was decorated with red roses and streamers.  The cheerleaders from Running Meade were perched all over it, and were waving to the crowd.  The head cheerleader was blowing kisses and throwing rocket shaped candies to the kids in the crowd. “Go Running Meade Rockets!” she cried.”

When Audrey was introduced as this year’s contestant for Running Meade, there was wild cheering.  But she could not win this race.  Her heart and soul were both in it, but she wasn’t quite right in the head when the time came to prove herself worthy of the world. 

They say that luck is where preparation and opportunity meet.  But if there is a curse involved and bad energy is leaking and oozing out of everyone around… you haven’t got a chance in the world.  Had there been a spark of hope in anyone’s soul, none of this would have happened.  They had all grown so accustomed to losing the sword race that they just assumed they would lose this year as well.

Audrey still had high hopes, however.  She knew that she was the fastest runner in the world.  There was just no way would that Starkey win this year.  As She looked around at the crowd, a saying popped into her head “Misery enjoys company.”  These people were smiling and eating funnel cakes but they seemed miserable.  There was a black fog enveloping them.  It was pulling her in. All of the townspeople were miserable and they wanted her to be miserable as well.  They were all angry at her, but it was their own bad energy that was causing this embarrassment.  It oozed from their bodies and it filled the sky with dark storm clouds that loomed overhead.  The ground below her feet kept swirling around like ocean water.  She felt like she was in an ocean and she had to struggle to keep her head above water.

            There were auras around everyone.  Melanie Myers seemed to ooze out a black tar looking substance that leaked out onto everyone.  Surely this was some sort of psychosomatic thing.  Melanie was cruel to her so naturally she would associate her with evil and darkness.  Her eyes were dark and glowing black.  But this wasn’t a normal kind of glow.  When things glow, they protrude the light in an outwards motion.  This darkness seemed to be caving inwards like a black hole.  The darkness that leaked out of her wasn’t leaking out at all.  The darkness in her eyes was leaking inwards as if dark energy was caving in like a black hole.  This darkness hovered around her and seemed to make thick black smoke come out of everyone else around.   

            But it wasn’t just her.  Lots of other people had dark shadows around them too.  Sunny Purdue, the cheery Mascot that was dressed as a rocket, was all smiles and hugs.  However she was worse than anyone.  She had an angel of death following her around.  When she stopped to give her boyfriend a hug, it whispered into her ear.  Audrey gasped, shuddered and was taken aback.  Sunny looked right at her.  There was a single stream of blood that ran down her nostril.

            “Are you okay?”  She asked.  But Audrey didn’t answer; she was much too busy trying to make her way to the starting line.  She looked at her wrist watch.  The hands were moving backwards.  She felt as if she were in a dream.  It was like one of those dreams she’d had where she just couldn’t wake up. 

            There was applause and cheering as the Mayor of Starkey brought out the sword, Audrey could see why it was so important.  Although it wasn’t made of real gold and jewels, it looked like it had been owned by a great king of Medieval Norway, because it had all sorts of Scandinavian artwork all over the ivory sheath.  The handle was intricately decorated gold with rubies and emeralds.  Surely, she was King Arthur, and this was her Excalibur.  It was a wonder to behold.  Audrey was at the starting line.  Fans were screaming good luck Running Meade!  Knock ‘em dead!”  Hearing these words really freaked her out.

When the starting gun fired, Audrey became shell shocked and dropped to the ground.  She covered her head with both hands.  At first no one was really surprised, because Audrey was a bit of an oddball, anyway.  This was just the sort of thing that she would do.  They just shook it off as usual “Audrey” behavior.  But she was frightened even more when she saw that their eyes were glowing bright red.  “Audrey.  It was just the starting gun.  You’re safe.  You need to start running so we can win the sword.  Audrey nodded her head and was a bit embarrassed at what she’d done.  People were laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces and dropping down to the ground forming a puddle around their feet that only Audrey could see.  They helped her to her feet and yelled at her to start running.  She honestly did try to run, but a thick dark fog emerged from the audience and encircled her legs and kept her from moving.  She tried to run as fast as she could but she wasn’t moving forward.    She ran as fast as she could but her legs just wouldn’t move.

There was a commotion in the audience.  They couldn’t see the black fog.  They could only see an insane girl who for some weird reason was running in place.  “Go!  Go! Go you idiot.  Move forward.  Don’t let Starkey win!  They screamed and yelled profanities. She heard someone say loudly “What the hell is wrong with that girl?” and then she heard several people discussing between themselves that she was schizophrenic.

Audrey saw the coach of Running Meade high drop to his knees crying and wailing.  He lifted his hands as lightning illuminated the sky with a flash of light.  Hands outstretched, he cried into the pouring rain.  “No!  Why God?  Why did this have to happen to me again?”

            Stanley came rushing furiously through the crowd and grabbed Audrey.  He didn’t know that she was going to be in the race, but by the time he reached her he’d been filled in with all the details.  However, he didn’t know that she was on Blitzers. That particular rumor hadn’t been spread yet. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he whispered into her ear as he took her firmly by the hand.  Everyone was watching, so he tried to act as calmly and sweetly as possible.  Domestic violence is frowned upon in our society, and Stanley knew better than to make a public display of his fury.  In front of everyone, he was calm and gentle.  He even hugged her before he opened the car door and helped her in.  Anyone watching the display could clearly see that he was a loving father.

            But when they got home, it was another story. Stanley reached for the first thing he could find to smack her with, which was a wooden broomstick. As he whacked her violently across the back, Audrey looked up. He had red horns and black eyes. Flames and smoke were coming out of his ears and nose. The broomstick looked like the sword that she’d seen the Mayor of Starkey holding earlier. The blade looked sharp enough to kill her. She panicked and quickly got to her feet and tried to run. This was all in vain, however, because Stanley instantly grabbed her by the arms and screamed in her face.  “How could you do this to me?  This behavior of yours in unacceptable.  I have a reputation, you know.  I am a pillar of the community.”  He wasn’t really a pillar of the community, but he thought he was.

                Audrey’s subconscious took control of the situation.  All the years of oppression and suppression and being beat down into submission like an Iranian mail order bride caused her to snap right then and there. She had taken quite enough and she simply couldn’t take any more of it.  She wasn’t in her right mind.  The logic centers of her brain had shut down and her inner being took control.  The seventeen or so years of torment that she had suffered bubbled up like a fountain of rage.  This rage itself became an entity that consumed her and lashed out at her oppressor.  You might find pleasure in beating your puppy because it’s small and can’t do anything, but you better run for cover when the pup grows up.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  A person can only endure so much before they finally crack. 

                Audrey was amazingly talented and was completely unable to prove herself to a hateful despicable world and she took it all out on Stanley.   She grabbed the broom and in one tumultuous tai chi move, she used his force against him, throwing him backwards, he landed on the floor.  She lifted the broom over her head and it came down and hit Stanley across the back. 

The look on Stanley’s face was a classic combination of horror and disbelief.  He hadn’t expected her to do that at all.  This being smiling menacing at him was not his sweet angelic submissive daughter at all.  Audrey ran up the stairs, and Stanley looked around for something hard to smack her with.  He tried to pull the swords from the wall, but they were mounted to the wall.  Instead he ran to the kitchen, and grabbed a cast iron skillet from the stove and ran up the stairs after her.

Audrey should have run out of the front door and fled to the neighbors to call 911, but she didn’t do this.  A lifetime of crime had given her a phobia of disciplinary authorities.  And besides, she was suffering from a serious overdose of Blitzers and they were preventing her from making rational decisions.  She ran to her room and hid under the bed. She was being as still as possible, holding her breath, trying to be quiet, trying to pretend that she wasn’t there.  This wasn’t so easy after she heard Stanley’s footsteps clunking up the stairs.  She could hear him calling in a sickeningly playful voice.  “Where’s Audrey?  Come out come out wherever you are.  Daddy’s got a special surprise for you.”  This was ridiculous behavior on his part.  Did he really think that she would fall for this?

Audrey noticed that one of the boards under the bed was loose.  When she tried to pry it up, it came right up revealing a hollow niche right under the floor.  She saw a beautifully decorated dagger, and a set of keys.  Stanley must have heard her fumbling around under the bed, because the next thing that Audrey knew, his brown leather boots were right next to the bed.  Audrey panicked, and without thinking, she took the dagger from the sheath and jabbed it right into the tip of his boot.  The dagger was razor sharp and he let out a howl that rattled the windows.  Blood gushed out and he tried to grab Audrey, but his hands were dark and covered in brown fur.  His fingernails were black and pointy and when he looked down at her, he looked like a rabid elephant man.  His forehead was thick and bulgy.  He tried to take away her dagger, but she bit him so hard it drew blood.  She even ripped off some of his flesh with her clenched teeth.  Her arm was instantly freed, she scrambled out of the bed and Stanley made a leaping bound for her and gave her a firm smack on the head with the broomstick.  She laid still.  Stanley’s blood was oozing out onto the floor and the bed.  As she lay there unconscious, he wrapped a shirt around his hand and a bandana firmly around his foot, to prevent any more blood loss.

He looked down at his daughter lying on the floor, and feared that she was dead. He didn’t know that she was unconscious. He didn’t know about checking pulses and he sure as hell wasn’t going to take her to the emergency room. They’d ask questions and if she was dead he’d go to jail. And besides, do you know what they charge for emergency care in this day and age?  It’s highway robbery, and Stanley didn’t have that kind of money or insurance to cover it.  He was in a bad situation, and whenever he didn’t know what to do, he panicked. He would have to do away with her body immediately before someone found out what he’d done.

Stanley dragged her up the stairs by the feet, her head bumped against each stair and he pulled her all the way up the grand staircase and into a beautiful room that was decorated with rich velvets. There was a canopy bed and a bay window that overlooked a huge oak tree that was growing in the back yard.  This was, in face, a sitting window and there was a bench built into the wall that was covered with a maroon velvet cushion.  He removed a panel on the floor and revealed a tiny copper lock.  He pulled a key from his pocket, turned it in the lock and lifted the lid to the window seat up. 

            The inn had just been there to disguise a bootleg operation that they eyeless woman had been running.  If anyone grew suspicious and tried to turn them in, they would be thrown into the pit.  Once a body was thrown in there, they would never be seen and heard from again.  The police could search until the cows came home, but they would never know to look for a deep pit inside a secret passage way, within the walls of a marvelous inn.  You can’t look for something that you don’t know exists.  That would be like an aboriginal bushman looking for the remote control to his television.  Not only does he not have one, he doesn’t know of its existence.

                Stanley drug Audrey’s body towards the opened window seat and grunted as he lifted her up and shoved her head first down into the pit.  Her head banged against the metal rungs as she fell, somehow waking her from her unconsciousness.  She grabbed hold of the ladder just in time to avoid plummeting head first into a pile of rotting corpses.  She had no way of knowing that these dead bodies were there because it was pitch dark.  Stanley had shut and locked the lid to the window seat, leaving no light for Audrey to see.   Actually, you need light to see things in the corporeal realm, but you don’t need light to see things that are in another dimension. Remember that Audrey had just overdosed on a drug that enables you to see the spirit world.  A face appeared out of the darkness.  It frightened her and she closed her eyes.  She heard voices calling out from below “It’s so cold down here.  I can’t get warm.  Come and join us.  I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” 

                Chills went down Audrey’s spine.  Her head was throbbing and her arms were aching.  She was hanging there from the bottom rung and had to grasp both sides of the ladder and pull herself upwards until her feet touched the bottom rung.  Truly, climbing a ladder is much easier when you have the use of both feet.

She edged her way up the sides of the ladder until she could manage to get her feet onto the rungs so she could climb up.  As quietly as she could she climbed upwards until her head reached the wooden board of the inside of the window seat.  She pushed upwards, trying to open it, but it was locked tightly.  She felt around in a panic to try and find some way out of there.  She felt a metal latch, and when she jiggled it, the lid came free. 

                She climbed out of the window seat and quietly left the room.  She wasn’t exactly right in the head, and wasn’t sure what she would do.  She walked mindlessly down the stairs out of habit.  When she got into the parlor, she grabbed her backpack and put it over her shoulders.  She stood there a minute and tried to decide what she should do next, but her mind was just blank.  As she was waiting for some sort of idea to pop into her head, she heard Stanley’s footsteps coming from the kitchen.  She panicked and hid herself away, once again, in the wardrobe.

She had hidden there earlier that day and noticed nothing unusual. But for some reason, she noticed that this wardrobe had a latch on the inside, very much like she had seen on the inside of the window seat that she had been trapped under.  She jiggled this latch and a secret panel opened onto a very small room, which contained only a ladder that seemed to be leading up.  Things were just growing curiouser and curiouser at every moment.  Audrey did what any normal human being would have done upon finding a secret room in her house.  She went into the room and climbed up the ladder to see where it led.  When she reached the top of the ladder she found herself in a very fine bedroom. 

                It was simply beautiful, there were beautiful tapestries all over the walls, the bed was covered with an Italian floral duvet made from fine silk.  A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling over the bed.  It was simply breathtaking.  It had to have been the most beautiful room in the inn.  Or rather it would have been if Rita hadn’t known about it.  All of her things were strewn about along with cigarette butts, beer bottles, and used rubbers.  On the floor was the black shirt that Rita kept stealing from her.  On the bedside table was an empty bottle of perfume that she had been missing for ages. Suddenly everything made sense now.  The mysterious footsteps that she had been hearing weren’t really from the ghost of a killer.  It had been Rita all along.  She just made up that crazy story about the murderer to keep Audrey from finding out about her secret room. 

This wasn’t the only secret room hidden away in that old inn.  In a doorway behind a pile of clothes stood the eyeless woman wearing her long violet dress.  Her face was placid.  Audrey gasped and her stomach dropped.  The hairs on her arms stood on end.  “Do you want to play a game with me?”  she said in a cold low voice. She motioned for Audrey to follow, then she turned around and disappeared into the hall. 

Audrey walked down a long hallway filled with black and white photos from a circus.  They were circus performers and freak show fliers.  At the end of the hall there was a bookshelf. 

                “Open the locks and the bookshelf will open up revealing a ladder.” The eyeless woman felt around the bookshelf with her hands and pointed to several locks that were hidden around on very places of the bookshelf, and then added  “ It’s behind the copy of the encyclopedia, volume 13,”  and then she disappeared. 

Audrey pulled the book out and noticed that there was a key hole.  She opened her backpack, pulled out her keys, stuck a skeleton key in, and the bookcase swung open revealing another ladder.  She made her way up this ladder and found that it led to an empty attic room.  The floor was made of fine mahogany and there was a round stained glass window with a red starburst in the center.  The only reason the window was  there was to let the sunlight in.  At a certain point in the day the sun shines in through the window and shines down upon a certain spot on the floor, revealing a tiny crack, just big enough to stick your thumb in and lift up a loose floorboard.  That time had come and the time was now.  Audrey got down on her knees and pried that floor board off.  The only reason she knew to do this was because the eyeless woman was right there with her, guiding her.  Ha.  Wouldn’t this be a bit like the blind leading the blind?  Well, we shall see.

Underneath the floor she found a nook, she reached right in and found a book.  She opened it and took a look.  She read aloud and this is what she read:

Bad things happen all the time.  A wife suddenly has a brain clot in the morning while eating her pancakes and suddenly dies.  A brother will trip and fall on a spike sticking out of the ground.  Freak accidents and misfortunate diseases happen all the time.  It’s sad, but that’s just part of life.  They say that bad things happen to good people.  Wouldn’t it be nice to redirect catastrophes on those who have done you wrong? If you are reading this, then you have been wronged in some way.  Wouldn’t you like to see your enemy suffer? 

For centuries, innocent victims sat back and took all sorts of abuse from evil doers.  But times are changing.  It’s time to take matters into your own hands.  It’s time to manifest your destiny.  Right now, you might be wondering how it can be done.  You can’t do it alone.  You need assistance from the eighth dimension.  This agent goes by the name of Ethriel, she can call upon the spirits of the underworld and cause a cataclysmic chain of events that will make bad things happen to those who truly deserve it.  Why not give them a taste of their own medicine and call her. 

                Note:  Some refer to Ethriel as an entity in itself for she brings darkness and destruction like a black hole.  Don’t listen to such rubbish.  That is just slander.  Ethriel is a kind and gentle servant who only wishes good upon the innocent. 

She turned the page and there was a table of contents that listed all of the different things that could be manifested.   There were hundreds of them, like spider bites, flesh eating viruses, stomach viruses, car accidents, abnormal bug infestations of the skin, tropical worm diseases, decapitation, impaling, psychosis, madness, corruption of the holy, and so on.  Each page had direct instructions on how Ethriel is to be called upon and spoken to. 

                Audrey chose the recipe for inflicting festering wounds, and decided that she would try it out on Stanley first.  He would be the easiest victim since she hated him most of all.  The recipe called for a half a teaspoon of toenail clippings mixed in a cast iron pot with a half a cup of animal tallow.   Audrey didn’t have any animal tallow because the nearest voodoo magic shop is in a Haitian village far far away from her little town of Running Meade.

There was, however, some bacon fat from a rusty can that had been sitting on the gas stove in the kitchen for a decade.  It had once contained chitlins or mustard greens but grandmother ate those long ago and used the can to drain her bacon fat into. Audrey decided to sneak downstairs into the kitchen late that night while Stanley and Rita were asleep. 


 

Chapter 19         

Rita and Nancy were the whole reason that Audrey had made a fool out of herself at the race that day.  Had they have gone straight to Nico with their illegal substances, they would have made their money and Audrey would have won the race.  Even though they didn’t directly give Audrey the Blitzers, this whole charade was really their fault and they knew it.  Oh sure, they would deny it left and right if they had to, but deep down inside, they knew.  And not only did they know, they thought that it was hysterically funny.  They had intended to screw around with her a bit more, so they decided to go back to the inn to find her. 

When Rita walked in the front door, she heard the sound of running water in the downstairs bathroom.  Rita assumed that it was Audrey, so she crept in to take a peek, but Audrey wasn’t in there.  Stanley was on the toilet with the lid closed.  He was sitting there with a needle and thread sewing an open wound in a foot that was propped on top of his knee.  Rita didn’t see the open wound and the fact that he had a needle and thread did not register in her brain.  All she saw was the deep red blood that was all over his white button up shirt and oozing out on the floor.  She saw bloody footprints all over the parquet floor.  This sent wild imaginations spinning through her mind. She gulped and ran off down the hall before he could glance up and see her.

Nancy was in the parlor looking at a life size genuine mummy that was locked away in a dusty glass case.  Looking at it gave her a creepy feeling.  It was the leathery remains of someone who had once been alive.  She could almost feel its presence lingering around.   She didn’t feel like she was all alone.  She felt as if someone was right behind her.  She was deep in her own thoughts when Rita came tearing down the hallway, and so she didn’t hear the rumbling footsteps.  All she felt was two cold icy hands on each of her bare arms.  She let out a yelp and Rita quickly covered her mouth to muffle her screams.  “Shh.  Don’t make a sound.  I think he’s killed Audrey.” A look of horror fell upon Nancy.  “Who? What are you talking about”  Rita looked behind her to make sure Stanley wasn’t coming out of the bathroom.  He wasn’t, so Rita grabbed Nancy by the arm and firmly pulled her into the kitchen.

“Stanley.  You know, my dad.  He’s in the bathroom and he’s covered in blood! “ 

“What?  Are you serious?  That doesn’t mean he’s killed someone.  Maybe he was cutting his steak and his knife slipped and he gouged himself.”

“No,” Rita gave Nancy serious look that meant she knew what she was talking about.  “When I say ‘covered in blood’ I am not exaggerating.  He had blood all over his clothes.  There is a pool of blood right there on the floor next to him.”  Nancy gasped and covered her mouth and backed away.  “Yeah. Are you sure?  I mean.  If he really killed her, and all, then maybe we should call the police.  You know, you can make an anonymous call to the police and say that you suspect that Audrey’s been murdered.” 

                Rita thought about this for a moment, and looked behind her once more just to make sure that Stanley wasn’t behind her.  “Maybe.  But I have to have some proof, otherwise they’ll never believe me.”

Nancy folded her arms and eyed Rita suspiciously.  “And just how, may I ask, are you going to find this proof?  A blood stained tampon?” Rita scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Sooner or later, he’s going to have to hide the body, and when he does, that’s when I’ll turn him in. We’ll hide out upstairs and keep an eye out.

 Nancy raised her eyebrows in shock. “Oh, no, what do you mean by we?”  I am not going to have anything to do with this madness.  Spend the night in a house with a known serial killer?  I don’t think so.”

“You’ve spent the night here loads of times.”

“But that was before Stanley murdered your sister in cold blood.  Ignorance is bliss.  You can stay at my house if you need to, but I’m getting outta here.  Rita leaned in close and whispered eerily “Oh yeah, how do you know he won’t come after me too If I go over there.  He could kill us both while we slept to cover up our knowledge.”

“He doesn’t know we know, does he?”

“Did he see you?”

“I don’t know.”

Nancy gasped.  “So he could have seen you.  Listen. I’m outta here.”  Rita didn’t try very hard to stop her. It’s much easier to be sneaky when you’re all alone.  And besides, she was starting to feel a bit guilty for how she had treated Audrey.  She had truly taken her little sister for grant it, and now that she was gone, she was starting to feel the grief and remorse of a criminal.

                She hid herself away in the wardrobe.  She kept the door open just a crack so she could see what Stanley would do.  She had expected to see him drag Audrey’s body to the backyard to bury her, but he never did.  He just went into his den and watched television, and stayed there for hours.  He only came out to grab a bag of doughnuts out of the kitchen.  “Dang blasted, cabinets.” She heard him say.  “That’s odd,” she thought, he usually goes on and on about how he hates the cabinet doors being left open.  He didn’t say a word.  Well, she’d never spied on him when he was alone in the house. 

There didn’t seem to be any sign of Audrey.  She had seen Stanley leave the race with her.  She wouldn’t have just left the house or would she?  Maybe Nancy was right.  Maybe there was a logical explanation for the blood.  But Stanley seemed mellow and didn’t complain once about having to get his own food.  He usually waits around for Audrey to bring him food.  She had never seen him actually get his own food out of the cabinet although he complained about them being open nonstop. 

When Stanley went back into the den, Rita quietly snuck into the kitchen to see if she could find Audrey.  The cabinet doors were wide open.  She had just been in there with Nancy.  They had all been closed, was Stanley the one opening them?  She didn’t know.  She was starting to suspect it though.  She had thought that Audrey had been the one that opened them.  She reached over and thought about closing a cabinet door, but then she stopped to think about it.  This was really stupid.  Why the heck did it matter whether the cabinet doors were open or shut.  Why close them anyway?  They would just have to be reopened as soon as she needed to look for things.  Why on earth did they have to have those stupid cabinet doors to begin with?  She had a notion to just yank those stupid things off their hinges and be done with it once and for all.

But she didn’t do it.  She slowly snuck through the parlor, hid looked in the broom cupboard, and nobody was in there.  She began quietly searching through the whole house.  She looked in closets and in the laundry room.  She looked in all the bathrooms and every single room in the house.

While Rita was sneaking around upstairs looking for Audrey, Audrey was downstairs looking around for the ingredients for a revenge recipe.  Out of habit, she closed all of the cabinet doors.  The Blitzers were starting to wear off, and she was able to think a bit more clearly than before.  She wondered if the ghost of the eyeless woman was the one who kept opening all the cabinets.  She opened one back up and grabbed a mason jar that had a tight fitting lid. She put this onto the counter and took off the lid.  There was a can of bacon grease sitting on the stove that had been there for a decade.  She poured this into the Mason jar and put the lid on tightly.  She wiped the rim with an old dish rag and put the jar into her backpack.

In the parlor there was an ornately decorated china cabinet.  It had most likely come from Norway because of the distinct floral designs painted on it in bright colors.  The shelves of this cabinet were covered with brightly colored glass bottles filled with essential oils.  They had been sitting untouched for years and were covered with dust.  On the bottles were labels that were etched into the glass and the color of the bottles matched the contents.  For example the essence of violets were in a purple bottle; the essence of orange, in an orange bottle, and so on.  Audrey had seen this display of fine oils, and when she read through the recipes in her new book, she knew exactly where to find the oils.

 She picked up the bottle of violet oil and carefully checked to see if the lid was tight by turning it upside down a few times.  She didn’t want this bottle to break, so she grabbed a couple of doilies from a side table, wrapped the bottle with them and carefully put it in the bag next to the jar of bacon grease. She grabbed cherry blossom oil wrapped it in another doily and put that into a bag.  She also needed a jar of the essence of orange, but she was out of doilies so she just stuck that in the bag and hoped fervently that it would not break. 

The next thing on her list was toe nails.  When one is performing voodoo magic on another person, it is vital to obtain a piece of that person for effectiveness.  Stanley had this disgusting habit of picking off his toenails and leaving them in piles throughout the house.  The little piles of toenails didn’t bother him at all, but it drove Audrey crazy.  She never said anything about it, though.  She knew better than that.  Give advice to a fool and pay the consequences.

Well, since she had this habit of always cleaning up after him, there were no toenails lying about around the house.  Her only hope was to go into his den.  He sat for hours on end watching television every day. The television was his plastic God and nothing would get him away from his favorite shows.  He would sit there drinking root beer and clipping his toenails and Audrey hated going in there because it was a mess and it reeked to high heaven. It seemed pointless to clean up his mess.  She’d go in, throw things away, grab his dirty clothes out of there and take them to the laundry room.  Every day she would go in there and clean it up and the very next day she would go in there and it would be an absolute mess all over again.  She didn’t understand how on earth one person could make such a huge mess in one day.  He rarely even moved it didn’t seem possible.  So she had just given up lately.

It didn’t make sense how the cabinet doors being open drove him crazy, and yet he could sit there in that mess all day long and he didn’t care.  He just didn’t seem to notice it at all.  It was as if the TV was some sort of virtual reality machine that enabled him to completely escape his world.  It blocked his vision while he was in that room, but when he left the room, his eyes opened up and began to see again.  By the time his brain came back to reality, he was in the kitchen and the messy den registered in his brain at the exact same moment that he saw the cabinet doors being left open.  But wait a second.  Maybe Stanley was the one who was opening the cabinet doors.  Maybe he was doing it to be mean.  Some people are just like that, you know.

Stanley was in the den watching an episode of Sanford and Sons.  He was sitting in a tattered plaid lazy boy recliner that had once belonged to his mother.  It smelled of old urine because she had grown incontinent in the years before her death.  Stanley never seemed to notice.  He was sitting there in a room that smelled like armpits and ammonia eating a bag of stale doughnuts when Audrey slowly crept up and peeked in.  He didn’t see her.  She was sneaky like that due to her many years of breaking into houses.

There was a pile of toenails on the floor next to his feet.  How was she going to get those toenails without him noticing her?  He had just tried to finish her off.  There was no telling what he would do if he saw her standing there.  Maybe he would think she was a ghost.  That was doubtful, because he didn’t believe in such rubbish.

An interesting thing happens to a person from time to time.  People start thinking about their mistakes, and how foolish they appeared to others.  There are two kinds of people in this world, those who admit their mistakes and try to improve the way they do things so that it will not happen again in the future.  Then there are those who try to justify their actions and blame other people for their short comings.  Perhaps some people can be a varying degree of both of these.  That would make a well balanced person.  So I suppose that there are three kinds of people in this world.  But most people don’t have that nice balance of rational when it comes to embarrassing situation.

Audrey had just had the most embarrassing situation of her entire life.  As she stood there with her body pressed against the wall, hiding so that Stanley would not see her, the Blitzers finally wore off completely.  The image of herself running in place like an idiot when she tried to run that race popped into her head.  This was not her fault at all, but she blamed herself for it, like she always did.  Then a voice popped into her head.  “No.  It wasn’t your fault at all.  It was Rita’s fault.”  Audrey could have prevented this whole charade that was true.  Audrey always blamed herself for everything, but she liked this new voice in her head that was telling her that it wasn’t her fault at all. 

She felt sick for making a fool out of herself.  More people had laughed at her that morning than had laughed at her ever before.  She had just experienced the mother lode of embarrassing situations and she wanted to run away and hide forever.  A tear swelled in her eye and a knot formed in her throat.  How horrible this life was.  She had desperately tried for years to make her life better, but with every attempt, it just got worse and worse.  “Ha.  If I can’t make my life better, then at least I know that now I have the power to destroy the lives of those who have done me wrong.” 

If only she had the power to use the force like a Jedi and make those toenails fly into her hand.  That would be so cool.  But just because you think something should happen doesn’t mean it’s possible.  She could sit there and focus her mind on those toenails and visualize them coming towards her, but they never would.  She would have to find an alternative way.  She would have to create a distraction that would make Stanley either leave the room, or look the other direction long enough for her to sneak in there and grab those toenails.

A few weeks earlier she had found this interesting toy in someone’s house that made a lot of noise.  It was like a ball with rubber things popping out of it on all of its sides.  When you turned the switch, it bounced around a vibrated all over the place making strange loud noises.  This toy, was laying on the floor in the parlor.  Audrey grabbed it, quickly turned it on and threw it into the den. It hit the window behind Stanley’s recliner.  He immediately got up out of his chair and walked over to see where that noise was coming from.  As he bent over to grab the vibrating ball, Audrey darted into the room, quietly on all fours, scooped up the toenails and made her way back into the parlor so she could she go into the wardrobe and hide herself away in her newly found secret room. 

Audrey was out of sight before Rita came back downstairs.  It took her hours to search through the many rooms in the house.  She was exhausted by the time she was done.  When she walked back downstairs, she tried to be as quiet and secretive as possible so that Stanley wouldn’t notice her.  She went into the kitchen to get a drink of water, and perhaps a bite to eat, and was much surprised to find the cabinets doors wide open.  Who had shut them?  Had Stanley decided to shut the cabinets himself because he knew that Audrey would never again shut them?  Maybe.  There was no sign of Audrey anywhere, and Stanley was acting stranger than usual.  In Rita’s opinion, this was a definite sign that Stanley had indeed killed his youngest daughter in cold blood.  If this was true, she didn’t want to be the next to die.  She quickly drank a glass of lukewarm water with no ice from the tap, grabbed a package of cherry post toasties, and climbed into the wardrobe.

She ate her post toasties in bed while she read an article about a fashion show in Venice.  She was starting to get a bit misty eyed, because this reminded her of Audrey.  She didn’t really hate Audrey.  Sure, she liked to tease her and screw with her head, but that’s what sisters were for. They had their good times.  She remembered the time that they had lived in that huge mansion for nearly a month.  It had been owned by some sort of fashion designer and was filled with sketches upon sketches of dresses and shoes that would be put on the market for the upper class.  Oh how they laughed together that night.  The high fashion sense of the elite can be ridiculous.  One of the dresses looked like it was made of plastic and the woman had ostrich feathers stuck to her hat.  “If only Audrey were here”, she thought.   As she picked the last morsel of sugary crumb from her teeth, she thought she heard a faint noise coming from the hallway.  It was odd because she was the only one up there.  Perhaps it was a ghost.  She was much too afraid to get up out of bed and go downstairs because she didn’t want Stanley to kill her.  She was much too afraid to look in the hallway to see what that noise could have been because she was afraid she might see a ghost.  So she just stayed put.  She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.  It was late and she was exhausted from searching around the house for Audrey.

She did manage to find Audrey a few hours later.  Or rather, Audrey found her.  Rita was snoring away in her bed, dreaming that one of the mummies in the parlor came to life and was giving her a haircut.  It seemed so real.  When she woke up, she realized how real that dream was.  It wasn’t a mummy cutting her hair, however, it was Audrey.  Rita gasped.  Audrey was standing right next to her bed with a pair of large silver scissors in one hand, and a very large handful of brown hair.  She had a crazed look on her face.  Rita was still half asleep, and by the time it finally registered in her brain that she was looking for Audrey, and that Audrey had just given her a very bad haircut, Audrey had turned and run away down the hall. 

Rita jumped out of bed and followed her down the hall just in time to see her sister shut and lock a book case behind herself as if it were a bedroom door.   This came as a great shock to Rita, because she had no idea that there was another secret room.  She didn’t like the fact that Audrey knew something that she didn’t know.  She was relieved that Audrey wasn’t dead and at the same time annoyed.  The masochist in her wanted to have some new interesting tale to unfold with to her friends.

 

                Audrey put the lock of Rita’s hair on the floor in the corner of the room.  She would deal with her later.  Stanley was the first on her list.  She drew from her pocket a handful of toenails.  Stanley had the disgusting habit of snipping off his toenails all throughout the house.  Lucky for her, the recipe she was cooking up for him called for toenails.  She tossed them into a cast iron skillet that she found in the kitchen.  She had snuck downstairs to collect the things that she needed for her little revenge project while Rita was searching through the house trying to find her.  Audrey was pretty good at being sneaky.  The recipes in the book called for different kinds of fragrant water.  She found many of these on an old dusty shelf in the parlor that was filled with brightly colored bottles that were labeled with the contents. 

                She opened a purple bottle labeled “essence of sweet violets and used an antique eye dropper to slowly add three drops to her concoction.  She struck a match and watched the flame quickly burn away the little brown stick as she dropped it into the skillet with the hair and the oil.  There is nothing more repugnant to smell that burning hair and the strong scent of violets could not mask the stench that burned profusely in the air.

                At first the fire burned orange like flames usually do.  But when she started reading the incantation, the flames turned bright violet. She heard a voice speaking to her, but she saw no one.  “Don’t do it,” said the voice. “Don’t use the book.  Great dangers lie ahead for you.  A great calamity will come.” She ignored the voice and kept on reading, but then she heard another voice, that could very well have been just her own inner voice, because it was saying something that she had believed for many years.  Living well is the best form of revenge.  Become great and laugh later while you drink champagne.  Don’t use the book to perform evil, it will consume you, and take control.”

She looked up from her book and looked around the room.  Nobody was there, but she could hear mumbling and murmuring. She could hear someone telling her to stop before it’s too late. “Shut up!”  She screamed.  She had made up her mind.  Life had not gone the way she liked. Her plans had all been foiled time and time again because of Stanley and Rita.  She had found a way to get revenge and she would stop at nothing until she saw them suffer.  Truly, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

At any given time, there can be thousands upon thousands of brown recluse spiders living under houses in certain parts of the country.  It’s true.  If you don’t believe me, fine.  Just go ask any plumber who has to fix plumbing under houses.  They will tell you otherwise.  He’ll tell you they’re everywhere.  They really are.  They rarely go into houses.  They don’t like people and prefer to be away.  Audrey sent the spirit Ethriel out into the night in search of Stanley.  This spirit entered the body of a brown recluse spider that climbed out from its hiding spot to bite him several times on various parts of his body.

. 

                       

             

             


 

Chapter 17                         

Intermission

And now for something from the flipside.

Blessed are the Hard Core Conservatives, for their children are the future junkies of the world.

 

 

                Melissa Duncan of number 8 Concord Circle was perfectly normal, thank you very much.  She went to Sunday school with her parents every week.  She and her brother danced the polka on Tuesday nights.  She was in the 4 H club and honor roll.  She had mall bangs, and a bright shiny smile that perfectly matched her white Ford Taurus that mommy and daddy bought for her with money they didn’t really have.

                On the outside, her life seemed perfect.  She had the perfect family, with the perfect house, the perfect boyfriend, and so on.  But one day she woke up and realized “This is not my beautiful house.  How did I get here?”  She realized that her parents were forcing this life upon her.  She didn’t like the clothes she was wearing or her boyfriend, Bob.  Every part of her life was being dictated to her and she was completely incapable of making her own decisions about life. 

                Something was missing from her life.  It just seemed so boring and ordinary.  So that Saturday morning as she looked out her window onto her perfectly mowed lawn she made a decision.  “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  Instead of the denim shirt, khaki pants, she put on a luscious burgundy velvet ankle length dress. She replaced the penny loafers for a pair of knee high black doc marten work boots.  Instead of Karl picking her up in his mother’s minivan, it was Jerome in his hot rod.  He told her that Jesus built it, so it was all okay.  He didn’t pick her up at her house, of course, mother and father would not approve.  She met him downtown late in the evening and they went to meet a guy named Nico at the Café Brazil in Zipperhead.

                When Mellissa Duncan got there she bought a thirty dollar stick of gum.  The label said Juicy Fruit.  She took a sniff, pulled it out.  The taste was so refreshing when she popped it in her mouth.  But this particular stick of gum really got to her.  It blew her mind.  She was sitting at the table eating a spinach quesadilla when she saw a woman glaring at her from the glass windows.  Her hair was black and soaking wet, her eyes were solid black like a black hole.  She had her hands pressed against the glass and was smiling menacingly at her.  She grabbed Jerome. “Well, I guess the Blitzers have taken effect.  You said you wanted see some wild and crazy things, so sit back and enjoy the show”.  She had a grand old time, horrible though it may be to see the dead walking the streets, it was rather thrilling.  But when the hallucinogens wore off, Jerome gave her an even more thrilling time.  It was hot, kinky and wow, amazing.  And to make it even better, they didn’t use a rubber.  They knew they were supposed to, but they didn’t care. Oh, gee.  I wonder what’s going to happen next.

                Sweet Melissa Duncan, whom everyone called Mel, was going to wait to get married to partake of the forbidden fruit, but something odd happened, and turned her world upside down.  It wasn’t her fault.  It all started that night she stayed up to play the Tomb Raiders of Jesus with Bob and her mom and dad.  She stayed up late and had far too much chamomile tea to drink.  She drank it without sugar because she didn’t want to spoil her girlish figure.  She had always been a modest, sensible girl who did not approve of any sort of immorality, gluttony and overindulgence included.  She suffered the consequence of this indulgence because she woke up in the middle of the night with an extremely full bladder. 

                Well, maybe it didn’t start here, it started much earlier.  Mel had what was called a “holier than thou” attitude.  In the entire world there was none more righteous than Mel, and she made it a point to bring all evil doers to the light so that they could come to know Jesus.   According to her, people were unaware that they were sinning, so she felt that it was her responsibility to inform them all of their wrongs, including the dark and eerie girl who had a locker next to hers.  This evil girl wore rock concert t-shirts, doc martens boots and an Ankh around her neck.  And although, Audrey did not appreciate being called the spawn of Satan for wearing it, she said nothing at all and simply ignored the whole thing.  This high and mighty Mel girl, always had something to say to Audrey, as it was her duty to save the world; which is ridiculous because we all know what happens to people who try to save the world.  Well anyway, she would say things to Audrey like “Do you actually listen to nine inch nails. You know that’s just blasphemous and you are going to go to hell for that. It serves you right that you have herpes.  You wouldn’t have that disgusting disease if you’d learn to keep your legs shut.  You’re nothing but a filthy w***e of Babylon.”

                Sweet innocent Mel, the pure angelic soul, had consumed far too much chamomile tea and woke in the middle of the night because she really had to pee.  She rubbed her weary eyes and hung both of her feet over the side of her pink floral mattress and slowly touched the soft plush white carpet that her mother always kept so clean and nice.  “No food allowed on the carpets.  We wouldn’t want to defile it, darlings.” Her mother would always say.  They righteously minded their mother, because that’s what Jesus would do.

 As her toes embedded themselves in the thick high piled carpet a hand reached out and grabbed her ankle.  She let out a cry of terror as she felt the jolting pain and agony of having the flesh removed from the little piggy who cried wee wee wee all the way home.  She watched in horror as a golem like creature crept in a contorted way out from under the bed, scampered across the room and turned to hiss at her.  The creature had glowing violet eyes, her hair was greasy and disheveled, her hands and feet were covered in mud that she tracked across the bedroom floor.  As the creature jumped like a wild animal out the open window, Mel thought she looked a little like that s****y girl she went to school with.  But she was in too much pain to really give it any more thought.  That poor little toe would never be the same, and neither would the carpet that was now saturated in the deep maroon blood that was gushing forth like a fountain from the slashed veins of sweet Mel.  Well, at least it was undefiled blood.  Perhaps they could cut up the blood stained carpet and sell it as a holy relic in order to buy new carpet. 

                Melissa wasn’t thinking about the carpet as she grabbed the sheets from her bed and held them firmly against the raw bone of her small toe.  She had never in her life experienced this sort of pain and her screaming and moaning brought the attention of her parents, Donnie and Sheila, who ran hurriedly into the room to find out what had happened. 

 

                Was it any surprise that several weeks later she had gone through a total personality change?  She went from sweet and innocent, to wild and crazy.  She dumped her conservative boyfriend and found herself an anarchist.  Unfortunately, the new boyfriend had genital herpes and he passed it along to Mel, who somehow managed to have breakouts on several places of her body. 

But the doctor told her that the early morning nausea that she had been experiencing was not caused by the herpes.  Mel was pregnant.  When Jerome found out, he dumped her.  Didn’t he know where babies come from?  Guess not.  He wasn’t an avid reader of books.  Mel knew, but for some reason, didn’t care at the time.  It was as if some entity had taken control of her body and made her behave irrationally.  She wasn’t herself because Ethriel had taken over.

               

Chapter 18

Stanley was sitting at the round breakfast table.  His hands were shaking like he had Parkinson’s disease.  On his arms was a bandage soaked in blood and puss.  His face was red and sweaty.  His teeth were chattering like an Eskimo in a snowstorm.  He did not look well.  His arms were covered in circular lesions because he had been bitten by an angry brown recluse spider.  He was smoking a cigarette and eating butter beans from a tin can with no label.  He looked like a desperate hobo and he reeked of foul infection. 

                When Rita walked into the kitchen  she was shocked to see him in such a state of disgustingness. “Jesus Stanley. Are you okay?” He looked anything but all right.  He looked like a decomposing corpse that was being electrocuted.  He rubbed his sleepless eyes. “ Oh, Jesus Christ almighty, Rita.  I’ve done a bad thing.”

“What is it?” Stanley hesitated and wasn’t sure what to say.  He leaned forward in his chair and started rocking back and forth like a lunatic. “I didn’t mean to.  It was an accident.  She was acting all crazy.  She was attacking me for Christ sake.  What could I do?  I had to protect myself.  “Jesus Stanley.  What did you do?”

“I killed Audrey.”  He hunched forward and cried into his hands.  “I didn’t mean to.  I was an accident. And now look at me.  I should have known.  Her ghost is tormenting me from beyond the grave.  She’s found the book of Ethriel.  She’s gone now and she’s with my sister.  They’re in this together so they can bring me down.  They’ve put some wicked evil on me.  Just look at me!”  He screamed these last words out and Rita saw the round circular lesions all over his body.  “What are you talking about?  What’s the book of Ethriel?” 

                It’s this voodoo book that my sister found when she was in high school.  She was angry.  She was mad at her boyfriend for cheating on her.  She was mad at her boss for firing her.  She was mad at the kids at school for teasing her.  That’s when she found this book and summoned a demonic creature called Ethriel.  It possessed her and she turned into some kind of hideous beast. It looked like her, and yet it wasn’t her at all.  She was a monster.  Her eyes glazed over and she started crawling around on all fours.  She started attacking people and ripping off their flesh so she could curse them.  They shot her down.  The cops had to stop her.  She was murdering people.  People started getting sick with strange viruses that nobody had ever heard of.  They murdered her in cold blood because she was no longer human. 

                “What makes you think Audrey’s dead?”

“I hit her and she fell down.  I shook her, and she didn’t wake up.  I didn’t want anyone to find out so I threw her ….”  He paused and stared off into the distance.”

“You threw her?  Where did you throw her?”
“I threw her into the pit.”  Stanley had beads of sweat bubbling up from his skin.  “You threw her into the pit.”  Rita said this dolefully.  “You’re not making sense, Stanley.”  If Audrey spoke to him in this way, she would have been slapped across the face.  For some reason, Rita could be disrespectful and get away with it.  He was far too weak now, to smack anyone around, but even if he had been completely well, her condescending attitude never seemed to put him on edge like when he was with Audrey.

“Upstairs, in the first room on the right.  There’s a window seat.  You’ll have to look for a latch.  It’s hidden away, but the window seat opens and there’s a pit. That’s where they throw the dead.  That’s where the dead are laid to rest, but they aren’t resting anymore, they are alive and they’re seeking their revenge.  You can’t see them because they aren’t in their bodies. If you had eyes that could see into the spirit world ;you could see what havoc they are reaping.  They’re everywhere!”

                This was crazy talk.  Stanley never talked like this. “Audrey’s not dead.  I saw her with my very own eyes last night.  There is no pit.  You didn’t kill her.  You’re just sick.   You need to get to a hospital.  “No.  No hospital.” Had this been a normal family, Rita would have called an ambulance to take him to a hospital for medical treatment.  He would have received adequate treatment for his deadly insect bites.  She hated him though.  He didn’t treat her bad, but she thought he was getting in the way.  She wanted him to die so she could have the house to herself.  She just considered him this disgusting dweeb that she lived with.  If he was gone, she wouldn’t have to hide to get away from him.  If he were dead, she wouldn’t have to smell him, or hear all his constant ranting about things that annoyed him.  In her opinion, he was the most disgusting and most annoying person in the world.

                So she just left him there, suffering at the table.  He was in pain and suffering and she didn’t so much as offer him an Advil or a glass of aspirin.  Then the worst of it came.  He collapsed on the floor.  Rita just left him there.  She knew that he was dying because he started calling her name.  “Help me, Rita.  You gotta help me.  I’m so thirsty.  Can you just get me a glass of water.”  She didn’t help him, though.  She just tried to pretend that she didn’t know what was going on. 

If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it does it make a sound?  If a father falls in a kitchen and there’s nobody there to help him, is there anyone at fault if he dies?  Rita blocked out his voice in her head and went upstairs to plan out what she would do once he was gone.  If he was gone, she could pursue her dream of having a bed and breakfast.  She would have to get new towels.  The best part of staying at a nice hotel was the nice thick towels to dry off with.  Of course she would need by those nice little single serving bottles of shampoo and those tiny little packages of soap. 

She tallied up a list of things she would need in her head.  She would write them down later.  “Rita, don’t do this to me Rita.  You gotta help me.”  She blocked out his voice, but it was really starting to get to her.  She wondered though, if what he said about the pit was real.  Did he really throw Audrey into a pit.  She decided to check out his story and she went into the bedroom that he was talking about.  Sure enough, there was a window seat.  When she found the hidden latch, she got chills up her spine.  She pulled back on the latch and watched the lid to the window seat open up just a crack.  She lifted it open and looked down into a dark pit. 

In the good old days, this room was kept locked and bolted tight and was watched constantly.  The secret latch was hidden more discretely, and it had originally been harder to find.  But that was  a long time ago.  It had to be more discreet because there were dozens of people that were in the inn. 

Rita had no trouble finding this pit.  There was a ladder leading down into the darkness, but it was far too dark to see anything.  She would have to find a flashlight, and the only flashlight that she knew of, was in the kitchen.  Stanley was in the kitchen, lying on the floor.  She could still hear him moaning.  Maybe she could throw him down in there and finish him off. Nobody would ever know.  Stanley didn’t have any friends.  Hardly anyone even knew he existed.  It would be divine justice to throw him in there because hadn’t he thrown Audrey in?  She could throw him in there and then she wouldn’t have to listen to him moan.

She went back downstairs into the parlor.  She could see him, but he couldn’t see her.  He must have heard her though because he started calling her.  “Rita, is that you ?  I know you’re there.   Help me.  All I need is a glass of water.  I haven’t got the strength to stand.  Won’t you be a sweetheart and just get your old man a glass of water.  Don’t do this to me.”  She heard him whimpering.  It sounded so sad and pathetic, yet she still didn’t help him.  Then he started to get angry.  He was mad, yet too strong to do anything about it but moan.  “What the hell is wrong with you?  You’re so cold hearted.  Who’s gonna help you when you’re the one laying on the floor in pain and agony.  You’ll be next, you know.  Don’t think she won’t do this to you, because she will.  You’re gonna pay for what you’ve done.  You might think you haven’t done anything to her, but she doesn’t think so.  She’s coming for you and you’ll never see her coming.

This was really getting to Rita.  She couldn’t just stand there and listen to him all day, but she didn’t want to touch him either.  The lesions on his skin looked hideous.  They might even be contagious.  It was better to move him alive than dead.  The thought of moving a dead person sickened her.  If he was alive, it wouldn’t be so bad, but he might fight.  He might even bite her. 

Stanley was, in her opinion, low life degenerate scum.  He was a worthless human being and did not deserve to live.  Calling an ambulance to try and save him would just be a pointless waste of time for such a despicable person.  His whole goal in life was to watch reruns and find out who would be the next to win on Jeopardy.  Why should so much time, energy, and money be wasted on such a person?  Calling an ambulance was not an option in Rita’s mind.  It was either wait for him to die, or do him in.

Finding the pit was the most interesting thing that she had experienced in her life.  This was saying a lot because she grew up a nomad, moving from place to place.  She’d met many people and lived in a wide array of homes.  She had never encountered a hidden burial ground in any of the houses she had ever lived in.  She found this whole situation thrilling. 

She wasn’t nearly strong enough to carry him upstairs.  Carrying him after he died might not be nearly as easy as if he were alive.  A person weighs more after they are dead because the muscles can’t lift themselves.  He was lying on the floor; he didn’t have the energy to go upstairs.  She wouldn’t be able to talk him into going up there either.  She could trick him, though.  He wasn’t very smart.  It might actually be easy to do.  In order to trick him, she would have to get on his good side. 

She went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to get him a bottle of icy cold root beer.  They were out.  Audrey hadn’t been doing her job lately.  It didn’t matter.  Stanley only asked for a glass of water.  She poured him a glass of lukewarm water out of the tap.  There were no ice cubes in the freezer.  They didn’t have an automatic icemaker.  Audrey was always the one who refilled the ice trays, and since she hadn’t been herself in a few days, there was nobody around to make the ice cubes.  So they just did without, because they were lazy. 

Rita helped Stanley sit up so he could drink the water.  She gave it to him in an old plastic stained cup.  “I’m not drinking tap water out of this nasty thing.”  Rita rolled her eyes. “There aren’t any clean cups.  They’re all dirty.”  Rita motioned toward the heap of dirty dishes piled up in the sink that were waiting on Audrey to clean them.  Audrey wasn’t going to clean them this time.  She had lost her mind and was busy being possessed by a demon.

“Well.  Clean one out then.”  Rita wanted to argue with him and force him to drink out of the stained cup.  But, this would not have got her anywhere with him.  She was going to manipulate him into going upstairs so she could shove him down into the pit.  She was about to trick him so she could kill him and she needed to say all the right things so she could have what she wanted. “Yes, sir.”  She said, as sincerely as she could.  She reached down to the bottom of the pile of dishes and reached for Stanley’s favorite root beer stein.  It was the brown ceramic one with the really big handle.  He loved it because he could rest his hand comfortably and snugly through the handle.  The thoroughly washed, rinsed and dried the mug while Stanley leaned forward over the seat of a chair, as if about to die.  He could have been faking it.  He could just be acting melodramatic so he could get her sympathy.  She didn’t know.  He looked pretty rough.  He was covered with sweat and sores and was shaking.  His teeth were chattering.  He wouldn’t stop moaning.  It was so annoying.  Rita couldn’t stand obnoxiously sick people.  She would not have made a very good nurse.

She opened the Freezer again and used a knife to dig out a few ice chips that were stuck to the bottom of the bowl that they usually kept ice in.  She picked a few crumbs from the pieces of ice and threw them into the glass.  She smelled them to find out if they were okay, but they smelled of raunchy freezer burn.  Maybe Stanley wouldn’t notice.  She filled the glass with water and the little specks of ice floated to the top of the glass along with a few crumbs that were stuck to the ice.  She fished these out and handed the mug to Stanley.  He took several gulps of the water and then made a gagging sound like he was about to barf.  He didn’t though.  He just kept gagging and making faces like an immature teenager at a sushi restaurant. 

Rita pressed her fingers firmly against her forehead in frustration.  She was trying to be as pleasant as possible, but this isn’t easy to do in the presence of idiot schmucks.  “You didn’t kill Audrey.  She’s still alive.  I just saw her.”  Stanley shook his head.  “No.  She’s dead.  I threw her in the pit.  I watched her fall in.  She’s dead.  You saw her ghost.”

“No.  You’re lying. You‘re making it up.  This is just another one of your lies.”

“Are you calling me a liar?”

“Yeah.  You’re lying.  I don’t believe it at all.  There is no pit.  You’re hallucinating because you’re sick.  You ate something that disagreed with you and your head is all scrambled up.”

“There is a pit beneath this house and the passage is up there in that room.  That room we have to always keep locked.  Mother always kept it locked, but we found it.”

“Prove it to me then.  Show me where it is.”

“I already told you. It’s upstairs.  First door on the right.”

“You’re lying and I don’t believe you.”

“I’m not lying.  Go see for yourself.”

“You show me where it is.  Take me up there.”

“I can’t.  I’m too weak to make it up those stairs.”

“You’re faking it so you won’t have to prove it.  If it were really up there you would go up there and show me.”  Rita grabbed a flashlight from the top of the refrigerator.  “So let’s go.”

Stanley nodded his head and stretched out his hand toward Rita.  She winced.  He looked disgusting and she was afraid to touch him.  She shook her head.  “Help me up.  I can’t do this on my own.”  Rita wasn’t sure if he was bluffing or not, so she waited and watched Stanley struggle to get up. She lost her patience after a few seconds passed and helped him up.  She cringed as he put her arm around her.  Not just because he smelled bad and was covered in sores.  She would have cringed anyway because he wasn’t a loving father and had never even given her a hug as a child.

It seemed like an eternity before they got to the bottom of the grand staircase because Stanley walked so slowly.  If she tried to go faster, he would moan out and agony and trip over his own feet.  It took a half hour to make it to the top of the stairs but they finally made it.  “This is it.  It’s right here.”  He said, pointing to the door. “This one,” Rita said, trying to act as if she was clueless.  She opened it and they walked in, passed the canopy bed, and stopped finally at the window seat.  There’s a latch under a floorboard.  You have to pry it up to reveal the latch.  “Show me.” Said Rita.  Stanley struggled to get down on all knees and moaned in agony as he pried open the floorboard and revealed a metal latch.  He pulled on it, and the window seat opened a crack. Rita opened it and pretended that she did not see that deep pit within. 

“There’s nothing in there.  It’s just an ordinary blanket box.  Look, Stanley, there’s blankets inside.  Stanley looked inside and saw a dark pit.  “There are no blankets, it’s a pit!”  He bent over and felt the air inside the window seat.  “You see, there’s nothing in there.”  Rita wanted to shove him down in there, but she was afraid he might have strength after all.  She was afraid that if she shoved him in, he would climb back out.  She didn’t know how deep that pit was.  She only knew that Stanley said he threw Audrey in, and she had seen Audrey herself.  Audrey wasn’t dead after falling into the pit, and if she didn’t play her cards right, Stanley wouldn’t be either.  She took the heavy metal flashlight and smacked Stanley over the back of the head with it to knock him out.  But he didn’t pass out.  Doing this just seemed to give him incredible super human strength.  As she lifted up the flashlight to try to hit him again, he reached out and tried to grab it from her. 

He pulled it firmly and she fought for it diligently. He grabbed her by the arms and tried to shove her into the pit.  She tried desperately to fight him off as he tugged and pulled her arms.  She lunged forward over the bed and he grabbed her by the ankle. There was a heavy cast iron statue of the Madonna sitting on the dresser on the other side of the bed.  If only she could reach over and grab it, she could hit Stanley with it.  He was breathing deeply, and she could hear him gasping for air.  His clutch on her ankle was getting looser and looser.  He was losing his strength.  She lunged forward and pulled herself over the bed and leaped towards the statue.  She grabbed it and walked quickly over to Stanley.  “Don’t do it.  Please don’t.  What have I ever done to you.  I’ve been a good father to you.  I have.  I have never in my life laid a hand on you.”

Rita lifted the statue high above her head.  “Oh yeah.” She smirked.  “This is from Audrey.”  She smacked him hard on the top of his head, leaving a gaping wound.  Blood started oozing out and she cringed.  The sight of blood made her cringe. She just couldn’t bear it.  She tried to pick him up but he was too heavy.  Blood got all over her nice pink lacy blouse.  It was a tragedy.  She loved this shirt and it would have to be thrown down in the pit with Stanley.  This deed would have to be covered up.

She grabbed him around the waist and heaved him up and dropped him down.  His hands were dangling into the window seat, the blood was dripping down into the pit.  She lifted the lower part of his body and pushed him in all the way.  She heard his body hit the ladder and the rock wall as he went down.  Then she heard a faint thud.  She leaned forward and shone the flashlight down.  She could see where the ladder ended and could vaguely see Stanley’s lifeless body lying on top of other dead corpses that had been there for a very long time.

There was blood all over the floor.  Rita sighed.  She had a huge mess to clean up, but it was worth it.  She was finally done with Stanley once and for all.  But then a thought struck her mind.  Was Audrey really using voodoo?  No.  This was ridiculous.  Or was it?  Audrey chopped off her hair and ran off.  Rita gulped.  Surely it can’t be true.  There is no such thing as witchcraft.  And if I don’t believe in something, then it can’t be true. Or can it?


 

Chapter 19

                Nancy’s house was a bit disgusting, really.  When I say a bit, I’m only joking.  Her house was downright disgusting.  Nobody bothered cleaning it.  “Why should I clean up?  it’s just going to get dirty again in five minutes, so why should I even bother?”  This is what her mother always said.  In all sincerity it really and truly only takes less than five minutes to thoroughly scrub and sanitize a bathroom shower.  Studies have shown that proper household disinfection is the key to preventing the spread of infectious disease.  Had Lysol been invented in the thirteenth century, the black plague might not have happened.  Nancy’s mom knew this but she really didn’t care.  She also knew that smoking would eventually make her teeth turn the color of used charcoal, but she didn’t care about that either.  She would, however, b***h slap anyone who made snide remarks about her teeth.  So keep your mouth shut about smoking when you’re at Nancy’s, please.

                Even if Nancy did want to clean the bathroom that morning before she used it, it wouldn’t have done any good because underneath the sink was anything but bleach, Mr. Clean or a certified Lysol disinfecting agent.  A thick blotch of pink mold was growing up the tiles of the shower and creeping its way along the walls and floor.  A dozen or so cockroaches climbed out of the woodwork and scurried across the urine stained toilet seat.  Even if the toilet had been flushed recently, it would have still been a filthy mess; years of not brushing the bowl had caused a serious buildup of fecal coliform bacterium that was nearly two and a half inches thick.  The floor was covered with hairs, slime and filth. 

                Nancy would have loved a hot bubble bath with foamy ginger orange suds as much as the next girl, however she’d be lucky to get a bar of Irish Spring in this raunchy pit of filth and disease.  Indeed, neither filth nor disease had crossed her mind at this point in time, blocked out like a bad childhood memory.  Her legs were hairy and they started to itch.  Her armpits were making her look like a stereotypical European woman.  Her brain was telling her “must shave now.”

A week earlier Nancy’s cousin Sandy had spent the night.  She bathed in that same shower, she pottied in that very same latrine and she shaved her hairy sandy blonde fur from her legs and muffin.  Lots of people share bathrooms and everything works out just fine.  Everything is hunky dory and they all live happily ever after.  THE END.  So what? Big deal.  She’s sharing a bathroom with extended family.  They do that in Mexico, like all the freaking time.  Well, it just so happens that Sandy Pennyheimer worked as a nurse’s assistant at the Happy Harmony Nursing Home up on route 66 in Starkey.  She’d been bathing patients all week long.  This wasn’t out of the ordinary; it was part of her job description.   It was from these baths that she contracted a stubborn strain of staphylococcus bacterium. She didn’t catch this disease from bathing patients, however.  She actually snuck into the bathroom and took a nice hot spa bath before work.  She didn’t sanitize the bathtub before bathing.  She knew that she was supposed to and she didn’t care.  She was in a hurry. 

She didn’t know that she had contracted a staph infection.  She was a carrier and hadn’t had a breakout yet.  Even if she did know, she still would have used the shower at Nancy’s and she still would have kept it a secret.  She had been kicked out of her own house for cheating on her husband and the nursing home threatened to fire her if she was ever caught bathing there again.

                Nancy picked up the oddly discolored bar of orang soap and washed her hair, face, armpits, feet, legs, arm, hind end and lastly her cha cha.  When she was all done, she gave herself a clean shave and stepped out to find a towel.

                She opened the bathroom cabinet and found a half-eaten box of ding dongs, a wrench, a pair of dirty socks, some used Kleenex, a bottle of lubricant, and a damp sleeping bag.  Lester had placed it there a few days earlier because the pipe under the bathroom sink was leaking and he couldn’t afford to pay the plumber.  He put the sleeping bag there to absorb the water and keep the wooden cabinet from rotting out.  As the old saying goes, if you ignore a problem long enough, it will go away on its own accord.  And he pretended he didn’t know about the leak, because ignorance is bliss, so it goes.

                Nancy hesitated for a moment, shrugged her shoulders.  Having no other choice of drying apparatuses, she used it to dry off, even though it harbored a foul indecent aroma. No doubt she would have to use a great deal of perfumeries to cover up this odor.

                A few days later her entire body was covered with open sores.  They were red and irritated and oozing with puss.  It was painful to walk because it covered the cracks between her toes. She had sores on all of her 2000 places.  An eye was swollen shut and oozing with green liquid.   She found it hard to eat because the sores had made their way to her lip and inside her mouth.  She could barely move and the triage nurse at the emergency room was frightened when she walked in.  She was taken immediately to an isolation room where people wearing plastic suits and masks poked her with needles like she was some sort of alien from another planet.  The Janitors put on protective suits and completely sterilized anything and everything that she touched upon entering the building, and they had to close the place down for a few days for fear of anyone catching this contagious disease.  They put her in a quarantined room for several weeks where she sipped cider through a straw, played pinochle, and at ham and cheese sandwiches on rye served to her by robotic arms, for no one dared go near her.


 

Chapter 20         

It took a great deal of maneuvering to bring in a mosquito infected with eggs from a South American Filarial worm.  But Satch’s Aunt Suki flew in for a visit.  A mosquito flew out when she opened the suitcase.  It flew out the open window and flew into the pickup truck of Melanie Myers.  She lived a block away from Satch and was just on her way home from school when a mosquito flew in, bit her in the leg several times before she noticed it and smacked it flat, leaving a small trace of maroon blood on her hairy leg.  She never shaved because she preferred to go for that natural German look.  But don’t mention this to her, or she’ll slap you into next week.

                Melanie completely forgot about this particular mosquito bite; because being bitten by insects is a natural everyday occurrence in Running Meade, and the human mind can’t possible remember every single one, unless it’s entered into a insect bite journal.  She wasn’t a scientist or a resident of a psychiatric ward, and therefore the entry April 16, 3:34 pm, on Greater Kings Cross Avenue, bit by strange green eyed mosquito, was neither scribbled down nor put into a mental or electronic database for further reference.

                And that’s too bad, because several weeks later she woke up in the night with the chills and a cold sweat that went on for weeks on end.  One of her legs started swelling up like it had been injected with large amounts of fat globules.  Thinking that this was just an imbalanced sort of weight gain due to her recent sedentary lifestyle, it was months before she received adequate medical care.  The doctors informed her that she had a severe infestation of filial worms in her leg, and although this occurs from time to time in humans in South America, Asia, and Africa, she is the very first person in the United States to be a host for the worm.  Although doctors assured her that she should be proud to be the holder of a sort of world record, it didn’t raise her spirits.  One of her legs was blue, lumpy, and the size of a small elephant cub.

Chapter 21

Montezumas Revenge               

Sarah Winnipeg sat on her orange bedspread doing the last proof of her geometry lesson.  She took a bite of her double cheeseburger and licked the mayonnaise from her finger and giggled.  Wow.  That is so weird.  She took a bite of her deluxe double cheeseburger.  It’s funny.  Ha.  This secret is so funny it hurts.  I’ve never felt like this before.  She took another bite, but for some reason she didn’t think she could eat another bite. She felt like the fat guy in that Monty python skit who said he couldn’t eat one more thing, and when he ate the paper thin after dinner mint, he exploded.  She put the burger in the wrapper and thought about what she had eaten that day to make her feel full, but when she really thought about it, she really hadn’t eaten much at all.  She belched and she could taste the bacon for breakfast.  She’d eaten too slices and passed on the toast.  How odd.  The orange juice had turned in her stomach for hours that morning.  All of a sudden she felt hot and dizzy.  She lay down on her bed and closed her eyes as nausea came over her.  But the bacon decided that it no longer wanted to be digested and Sarah could barely make it to the toilet.  She suddenly regretted volunteering for that bake sale early that morning.  She was the only volunteer that showed up and had gone to the bathroom without washing her hands before she started wrapping up the double fudge chocolate brownies.  She’d simply forgotten to do it.  She always washed her hands and kept those little bottles of fragrant hand sanitizers that smelled like tootsie pops and lemon balm.  But why had she forgotten?  She didn’t know.  She wrapped dainty little packages of petit fours with sugar violets.  She ate a few and licked her fingers before she started wrapping up the tangerine ginger nougats and pistachio chews.  She picked a very large booger out of her nose, wiped it under the table as she was wrapping up the rose flavored Turkish delights.  She licked the powdered sugar off her fingers before wrapping the parmesan brioche.  Why had she behaved in such a disgusting manner?  She’d broken ever health code violation that day and touched every piece of food that was to be sold.  She felt fine that morning.  She didn’t have a cold, or feel like she had an upset stomach.  This was horrible.  Her stomach was twisting and turning and she felt an acute stabbing pain.  She was burning up. And she had contaminated everyone at the school, and to make matters worse, tomorrow night was the school prom. 

 

 


 

Chapter 24

Rita’s worst nightmare

When Rita woke up that morning her face itched.  It felt hot, itchy and sore. It was bumpy when she slid her hand across her cheek.  She rushed to the mirror.  It was worse than any nightmare that she had ever had.  “No! It can’t be!  She screamed and bawled.  Hot steamy tears of agony and despair dripped down her face and pooled down her neck, soaking her black camisole.  She pinched herself to make sure she was just dreaming but she broke a nail down to the quick and it bled so bad that it felt like she’d just dipped the end of her nail into chards of glass.

Rita couldn’t believe her eyes as she looked at her hideous reflection in the mirror.  This was worse than anything she could possibly imagine.  This was, in fact, her worst nightmare.  She couldn’t believe her eyes, and yet the truth was right there before her very eyes.  The poor thing was inflicted with a severe case of …ACNE!  It was bright red, thick and knobby.  She looked like a pepperoni pizza.  She looked like someone had spread thick raspberry jelly all over her face. 


 

Chapter 25

What the heck happened to Audrey?

There is a time that occurs in everyone’s life when they open their eyes and see that the life they created for themselves is utter madness.  Rita should have been the one that felt this way, but she was not.  It was Isaac who felt within his soul this moral dilemma.  A knot woven from his own guilt formed in his stomach.  His conscience made him feel like worthless degenerate scum.  Audrey hadn’t been at school all week.  Why didn’t he try to check up on her?  How could he have been so selfish?

He had been busy, that’s all.  The mind is only capable of containing a certain amount of data and information.  When one thing is on the mind, others get blocked out.

A week earlier, Audrey gave him a list of phone numbers and addresses to people who might be interested in buying his Jaguar.  This was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him.  This meant that his idea for his refurbished car business wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.  He was starting to feel that maybe his friends were right.  He was starting to think that maybe he was wasting time.  Maybe people really did want new cars that were fresh off the assembly line, even if they were pieces of junk.  Just as he had given up hope, Audrey had given him new hope.

Then he started thinking, “What if I sell the Jaguar and someone else wants a refurbished car.  I can’t just advertise without inventory.  He spent all afternoon and evening on Saturday pounding out the dents in the Mercedes and smoothing them out so they would be ready to paint.  Then on Sunday he decided that he should work on the engine.  What good is a car that looks good, if it doesn’t drive like a champion?

He spent all day long on Sunday rebuilding the transmission.  Monday, after school, he worked until midnight replacing the belts, hoses, and fuses.  He wasn’t studying for his tests that week, at all and he didn’t know about Audrey’s trick with putting your books on tape so you could listen to them while you worked.  He really felt like going to school was taking so much time away from what he really wanted to do.  He would be glad when school was out.  He would graduate soon, well; he would be graduating as long as he passed all of his classes.  He might not pass if he didn’t study, however.  He knew this, but he didn’t care.  His grades were high enough to average out a passing grade if he only failed one month.  What’s one month in the grand scheme of things anyway?

So this was his rationale. If he passed, then great, he graduated.  If he failed, then oh well, he would just get his GED.  He could learn all that he wanted to know on business and rebuilding cars from experience and reading books.  What did high school teachers know about getting rich?  They thought they knew everything, but they didn’t.  The only people who really know about getting rich are the people who have really done it.  Isaac did not know any of these people, but he would one day. He would know them, because he would one day be rich and successful.  It was his destiny.  It was his dream, and he wouldn’t let anyone or anything stand in his way.  So he worked day and night rebuilding this second junky car that he had chosen from the junkyard.  It became an obsession.

On Tuesday, he realized that people mostly care about the way things looked on the outside.  In the world of marketing, beauty is everything.  So he spent all afternoon and into the night sanding down the car and buffing out the dents.  On Wednesday, he put the primer on and stayed up until midnight.  He spent all afternoon and evening on Thursday and Friday, painting it.  Then Saturday came and he spent all morning and afternoon touching up the paint.

This auto refurbishing thing was all he thought about all week long. He kept thinking, “Will those rich guys on that list that Audrey gave me really call me? Are they legit? What if they’re not?  What if it’s all bogus?  What if I am just wasting my time?  What if they are real and just think that I’m some sort of an idiot? What if they don’t call?  As he was working on the car, late into the afternoon, he decided to turn on the radio to break the monotony.

He turned on the radio.  There was a news broadcast. 

According to recent reports, an alleged creature of the night may have left serious wounds on up to thirty people, including the mayor’s daughter who is said to have completely lost her mind after receiving the wound.  The creature apparently sneaks into the house while the victim is asleep, and then bites a chunk out of the person’s body and runs off through an open window.  Although none of the victims remember leaving the window open at night, they all claim that it was opened when they woke up, and found the creature tearing into their body.  Although no one is certain if the creature intended to eat the human alive, the police are thoroughly investigating the matter and encouraging citizens to lock their doors tight and keep their windows bolted shut at night. 

                All of the biting victims have one thing in common.  They are all students of Running Meade High School.  The one aspect of this biting spree that doesn’t make sense is that all of the biting victims claim they recognized the culprit to be a demonic creature like the Chupacabra that strangely resembles a classmate by the name of Audrey Heisenberg who has been rumored to be missing since having a psychotic episode on the day of the race for the sword. 

                According to the urban legend, any contestant that Running Meade enters in the Race for the sword suffers a major calamity on or on the night before the day of the race.  According to locals, Audrey may be under some sort of curse brought upon the dark witch of Starkey. 

                “That’s the most ridiculous thing that I’ve ever heard. “says officer Leroy Jenkins.  “Based on the kind of information we have so far, we feel that it is just a wild animal”.  Officer Jenkins and the police chief of Running Meade have searched the old Inn where Audrey Heisenberg was said to have lived with her father and sister and it appears that the family has vanished into thin air.  There is no sign that they packed up and moved away.  The clothes are still in the washroom, dishes still in the sink, and the television was still on when they searched the house.”

                Isaac laughed.  He couldn’t believe the idiots in this town and the nutty things they believed.  This was getting out of hand.  They thought Audrey had turned into a monster.  That was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard, or was it?

 

  It suddenly dawned on him that he had not seen or heard from her all week long.   When he really started thinking about it, he realized that he hadn’t seen her in the hallway at school all week long.  She hadn’t been in Chemistry class.  Why on earth hadn’t he noticed?  He didn’t know.   His mind had been preoccupied with other things. He dropped the turtle wax and buffing rag, jumped into his electric green dune buggy and rode off into the night to Audrey‘s house. 

On the way to Audrey’s house was Running Meade High School.  Every year, like every other high school in the world, they had their senior prom.  Modern day high schools have their senior proms in the lobby of some nice hotel.  I have never been able to understand why they do this because everyone and their dog knows what those underage adolescents are going to do.  They’re all going to book a room and get all hot and kinky upstairs in some nice lavish hotel room.  That’s what they’re going to do.  Everybody knows this.  They’re just no denying it. 

Yeah sure, these high schools have their senior prom dress codes.  They say that ladies can’t wear dresses that expose too much cleavage or sink too far down in the back.  They say don’t “do it” on your prom night, wait until your wedding night.  Yeah.  They say this to all the kids and then they go ahead and hold a prom at some place where they can have easy access to a nice cushy private bed.  Talk about sending mixed messages to the youth.  Seriously.  I mean,really.  Who are they trying to kid, anyway? 

Running Meade didn’t send such messages to their students.  They were a wholesome school led by goody two shoes conservative Baptists.  This group was so righteous and holy that they believed that alcohol is satanic.  This was a group of bible thumpers that wanted to bring back prohibition.  Don’t they know that banning things makes it worse for everyone?  Don’t try to tell them that.  They believe what they want to believe.  But hey, ignorance is bliss, not isn’t it?

The children of these religious do gooders snub the sinners in the hallway and cast judgment upon those who do not wear khaki pants and loafers; its mainstream beige and boring for the circle of the righteous.  Thou shalt not deviate from the norm is the gospel that they preach. 

Isaac didn’t belong to that group.  He didn’t belong, and he didn’t care.  He didn’t want to go to their hoity toity ping pong party anyway.  He had better things to do with his time.  Maybe he had too many things to do.  He had so many things to occupy his time that he had forgotten about his dearly beloved. 

                Isaac had heard about the prom.  There were posters in the hallway advertising the Mardi Gras prom night.  Cheerleaders had been selling brightly colored plastic beads and masquerade masks all week long. 

                Isaac just blocked this out because he was punk rock.  His sort of people didn’t attend senior proms.  He would forever be happy to say that he did not attend this one.  It turned out to be nothing more than an over advertised puke o’ rama.

                In Isaac’s opinion, the worst thing in the world was vomiting.  (Now remember, please, that the poor kid is only 15).  The second worst thing, in his opinion is to watch someone puke because it reminded him of the first worst thing.  The high school was packed and the street to Audrey’s was packed solid with cars and pickup trucks trying to get to the prom.  It was a small town and the limousine service only had 2 limos.  So if you wanted to get to the prom and you didn’t have limo arrangements you had to go to the prom in your boyfriend’s pick-up truck. 

                He stopped at a red light.  The girl in the pick-up truck next to him gave him a dirty look.  Then she opened the door and barfed her brains out.  (That’s a figure of speech, she really just puked a whole lot). Isaac could smell the vile sour substance.  It splattered onto his dune buggy.  He should have taken the Jag.  He would have, but he didn’t want to mess it up.

                A drop or two of the chunky pink vomit splattered onto his leg, so he freaked out.  Okay, yeah, sure.  So what?  It’s just a bit of chewed up half-digested food soaked in hydrochloric acid.  So what’s the freakin’ big deal?  What’s so scary about that?  Why is everyone so horrified of that?  Well, I’ll tell you why.  Within the vomit are these tiny little creatures that we call germs.  These are the viruses and bacteria that cause sickness and diseases. 

                Before your brain has time to rationalize and explain that you need to stay away or you will get infected with herms that can invade your body, you react and jump away.  Your brain already knows and reacts in absolute horror and dismay. 


 

Chapter 26

Prom Night

                Absolute horror was exactly the scene of this senior prom.   Exactly seventeen girls were in the bathroom puking their brains out.  There were, in fact, only five toilets, five sinks, and five toilets. Some of the girls had to share.   You really shouldn’t puke in the sink.  There is nothing more vile and foul than cleaning chunky vomit out of a sink.  Well, no.  Now that I think of it, there is.  Cleaning poop out of a urinal is groser.  Eww.  Can you imagine the state of the men’s room?  Uk.  I feel sorry for that poor janitor. 

                Kathy Price had been named homecoming queen in late October, and might have been named prom queen too if she didn’t come down with a stomach virus at her senior prom.  Her father was a lawyer and she drove his old BMW to school.  She got manicures with her mother every Friday, and organized luncheons at the golf club on Saturdays.  She had a bright cheery smile, and would one day marry some rich important guy who would buy her a nice perfect house.  They would have a white picket fence with a dog and a cat and 2.5 children.  Yes, she was positively perfect in every way.  The good lord had blessed her and her family with happiness and bounty.  Too bad Audrey cursed her with the devil’s girlfriend.  Kathy Price was a total b***h though and gave Audrey one too many dirty looks.  She just said one too many nasty things under her breath in Audrey’s direction.  She scorned the wrong person to shame and she would suffer the consequences. 

                How funny it is to see those you hate suffer.  It’s sick, yet satisfying.  It gives more pleasure than eating a frozen snickers bar on a hot summer afternoon.  Kathy Price had eaten several snickers bars that day because nothing else seemed to satisfy her.  They were fattening, and she worried about gaining weight all day.  She wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining that girlish figure anymore because she was about to lose a lot of weight, very fast without even trying. 

                She had been at the prom for an hour.  She got her picture taken with Bob, drank a little tropical punch and did a little dancing.  That’s when she started to feel strange.  Sure, she’d felt odd all day long, but after dancing for a while, the punch just sloshed around in her stomach in a way that made her feel all icky inside.  The she started to get hot and sweaty.  She felt dizzy and nauseous, and then she realized that she was going to puke.  When she got to the bathroom, she realized why there weren’t very many people on the dance floor.  She realized why so many people were leaving the dance so soon.  There were seventeen girls in the bathroom puking all at once.  It was like being on a cruise ship with a bunch of negative thinkers.

                She could see dozens of legs hovering over the toilets.  She pushed one open and tried to push a couple of puking girls with expensive hairstyles and sequined dresses out of the way.  But she didn’t make it in time.  The diarrhea came out of her body far too quickly.  It soaked her new red lacy panties and ran down her legs, staining her matching red fashion pumps.  The dress was soaked down to the sequins and beads.  She would have to burn it.  There goes a thousand bucks.  No dry cleaner in the world can get out a bad case of the runs.  Ha ha on her.  That’s what she gets. 

                There was no tuxedo rental store in Running Meade.  They all had to rent their tuxes from Lulu’s bridal and lingerie shop up in Starkey.  Lulu’s shop had a rental policy.  If you ruin the suit, then you have to buy it.  Everyone at this prom became the proud owner of their very own diarrhea saturated tuxedo. 

                Now, it just so happens, that Sheldon Flick had gone to the prom with his very own date.  Yes, someone actually went to the prom with him.  His next door neighbor, Magdalena Cravens was homeschooled and didn’t know that Sheldon was an idiot dork.  She was a dork too, but she didn’t know this because most homeschool moms don’t subscribe to Vogue magazine and teach their children about fashion.  It’s a shame really.  Have you seen what people are wearing these days?  We really do need more people out there designing clothes for mainstream shops and discount retail stores.  Marketers and corporations are stocking the shelves with ragged clothes that make modern women look like hobos.  And people are buying this rubbish because there’s nothing better on the market. 

                As it turns out, this dynamic duo was the only couple that did not get sick at their prom.  And not only did they not get sick, they were the best dressed couple there. They usually wore really dory clothes, but tonight it was different.  Sheldon bought his tux at the Goodwills up in Starkey for $15.99.  (As a matter of fact, when he was there, he saw Nancy’s dad pull a broken mannequin out of the garbage and stuff it in his trunk.)  Although the suit was outdated, it was very nice.  The only thing wrong with it was a blood stain and a small tear on the arm.  It looked like someone had been stabbed in the arm while wearing it.  Maybe some bridezilla got angry at her husband to be because the roses in her bouquet were the wrong shade of pink.  It didn’t matter, though, because Magdelina could sew .  She patched up that sleeve so nicely that you couldn’t even tell that the previous owner was the victim of a knife fight.

                Magdalina wore a 1950s style pink taffeta dress with a full petticoat.  She bought it at the Goodwills for $9.99.  She also bought a nice pair of ballet shoes and a faux diamond choker.  The whole ensemble including the pantyhose was $21.99 plus tax.  Her mother was an experienced tightwad and knew how to stretch money.  Magdalina had to use her own money, though, because she had 16 brothers and sisters. 

                Magdalina and Sheldon were the only ones to play the wholesome activities that the chairmen of the prom had arranged.  They had the ping pong table all to themselves for hours.  The DJ let them request songs so they wouldn’t have to listen to the boot scootin boogie.  He even played the Misfits and the Ramones albums that they brought with them. Nobody laughed at them as the danced the night away.                They even got to be on television because the channel 8 news truck arrived to film the exciting and rare footage.

Chapter 27

When Isaac got to Audrey’s  house, it seemed eerie and quiet.  He knocked loudly on the door.  There was no answer.  He knocked several more times, and there was still no answer. 

Rita was in the bathroom trying to cover up her acne with large amounts of thick creamy makeup, but it wasn’t doing any good.  Her face looked like oatmeal instead of pizza.  This wasn’t really an improvement, just a different color.  It actually looked worse than before.  There is no hiding a serious case of acne.  It’s like hiding the fact that you’re missing a leg by using a stick from the backyard.  She nearly jumped out of her socks when the door flung open.  It was Isaac and he was wearing his green baseball cap. Rita shrieked.  “What are you doing in my house!?”

                “I’m looking for Audrey.” He said with a confused look on his face.  As if he was actually supposed to be there.  Rita looked down as she spoke to him.  She had in front of her face so she could blind Isaacs’s view of her.  “But you don’t just barge into someone’s house, you know.  You could have knocked.”  This remark made Isaac feel a bit stupid and embarrassed.  He hadn’t thought about what would happen if he saw one of Audrey’s family members.  He had thought the house was empty.  All he could think of was finding his sweet Audrey.  He loved her and he missed her terribly. 

“I did knock, but nobody answered the door.” He tucked his hair behind his ear and looked at a very strange picture of a two headed woman that was hanging on the wall.   Rita pumped a large amount of orange scented face wash onto her hand and rubbed it into her face.  “Why should you care?”  She turned the handle of the rusty bathroom faucet.  There was a loud knocking sound and the pipes rattled the walls so loudly that the pictures on the wall started to bounce around on their nails.   Isaac furrowed his eyebrows and scratched the back of his neck.  “Well, she’s sort of my girlfriend.” One of Rita’s eyebrows shot up inquisitively.  The faucet hissed and spat out a few spurts of rusty water for a few seconds before running clear.  Rita leaned into the sink and splashed water all over her face and lathered it up.

 “How can someone. sort of be your girlfriend?  She either is or she isn’t.  So which one is it?” 

Isaac blushed and scratched the back of his neck again.  “Well, I kind of asked her and she didn’t exactly say yes, but she didn’t exactly say no either.”  Rita splashed water onto her face and rinsed off all the bubbles.  “Did you kiss her?”  Isaac nodded.  Water and foam ran down her arms and all over the countertops.   “More than once?” Isaac nodded again.  He could clearly see her serious acne infection as Rita searched through the cabinets to find a clean dry towel.  This was serious.  She had always had such a nice clear complexion before. 

She rotated her mouth around strangely, as if this would stop the itching.  “Okay.  So how long was each kiss.  Are we talking a millisecond on the cheek, or was it one of those long involved intimate kisses?”Isaac scoffed. Then put his hand on the threshold  or the bathroom door and leaned in toward Rita.  “You have bad acne.”

Rita scoffed, gave him one of those sassy girl looks and punched him very hard in the arm.  “No S**t, Sherlock!” She opened the cabinets below the sink and knocked around the toilet paper and a few dozen half-empty bottles of shampoo.  These were all bottles that Audrey had stolen from houses.  One of them was from Isaac’s house, but he didn’t notice. 

Rita slammed the cabinets shut and they bounced back open as if some paranormal force had done it, but neither one of them noticed.  Rita howled like a dying orangutan “I just can’t believe this I can’t find a single towel.” Then she gave him a fake sarcastic smile and rudely pushed her way passed him and marched angrily down the hall.   Isaac followed her as she walked briskly down the hall, through the parlor, into the back room towards the laundry room.

“Well, you know, it might be the soap that you’re using that’s irritating your skin like that.  You know, a lot of teenagers use strong soaps with too much benzoyl peroxide in them.  They think that it will prevent acne.” He pointed a finger in a matter of fact sort of way towards her, even though she wasn’t looking at him. “

 But it really doesn’t. It just makes it worse.  Then she gave him a fake sarcastic smile and rudely pushed her way passed him and marched angrily down the hall.  You should really try using sulfur soap on that.  It’s the best thing for acne.  It’ll clear you right up.  I know this because my mom’s a nurse.  That’s what I use, anyway, and I never get zits.  Some people think acne is just genetic, but I don’t believe that.  I think people blame a lot of things on genetics when they really shouldn’t.  I have an extra bar at home if you need one.  My mom buys it in bulk from this wholesale place on line.  She can get it for three dollars a bar.  Do you know what they charge for that stuff at GNC?”  Rita turned around and glared at him.  Her face was still dripping with water. 

                “Well, good for you and your mommie!”

“Well, I’m just trying to help.”

“Do I look like I care?”

“Well, you should care.  That’s some serious acne you’ve got ther.”

“Jesus Christ, you’re insane.  You know that don’t you?”

Rita smirked and pointed her finger at him.“ Seriously.  I have acne because your stupid girlfriend put a curse on me.  And just look what she did to my hair!”  Rita took the clip out of her hair and revealed the fact that a whole side of her hair had been cut clean off.  Isaac’s smile fell from his face immediately.  He gulped.  “Where is Audrey, anyway?”

Rita opened up the avocado green drier and pulled out a large red bath towel.  She wiped her face.  “Do you want to know where Audrey is?  Sit on the porch at night and wait for her to come out. She’s demon possessed and she’s living in the walls.  I hear her voice at night.  I can hear her moving through the walls but I haven’t been able to find her except at night when she goes out.  Yeah.  She’s a creature like Sméagol from that Lord of the Flies Movie.”

“Don’t you mean Lord of the Rings?” Isaac tucked his hair under his ear and scratched the back of his neck.

Rita scoffed.“Yeah, whatever.  Same thing.” Isaac looked at her like she was a lunatic.  “That is totally not the same thing.  How could you say that?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

Rita grabbed the whole load of laundry out of the drier and shoved it into his arms.  Why should she have to carry laundry if there was someone around to do it for her? She left the room and walked back towards the parlor. 

 “Well, if you don’t believe me you can see for yourself.” She rolled her eyes, shook her head and waved off the thought.  “It’s a long story.”

“I have time. I have all the time in the world.” She turned to face Isaac and waved her hands all around like a chatty Kathie, while she told him her story.

                “Okay.  Well.  Last week, me and Nancy made some Blitzers and we dipped gum into it and we were going to sell them to Nico and make about a thousand bucks or so.  Well, on the Sword Race day, we stopped by the house on our way to go meet Nico.  Audrey stole all the Fruit Stripes gum, no knowing that they were spiked.  Well she must have eaten all of them because she went loopy and couldn’t run and let me tell you, she can run a mile, in like, a minute, she’s fast.  Well.  Stanley drove her home and me and Nancy came back to check on her and Stanley was covered in blood.  I thought he’d killed her. 

I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to hide out and wait and see what happened.   I hid in the secret room with a knife under my pillow just in case Stanley found me and tried to kill me.  I woke up in the middle of the night and I thought I saw Audrey’s ghost hovering over me while I slept.  I thought it was just a ghost, but when I looked in the mirror, a chunk of my hair was missing.  This really freaked me out.  I thought that maybe she came back from the dead just to screw with me or something.  Then I saw Stanley wigging out a few days later. He told me everything.  He told me about the pit under the house.” Rita put a hand over her mouth.  She couldn’t believe that she let that slip.

Isaac gave her that look that yuppies give to their uninvited dinner guests.  Rita shook her head and walked off.  Isaac followed her and was still carrying the pile of April Fresh Laundry.  Rita walked into the parlor.  “Can you fold those for me?”  She said as she was getting out that old photo album that she found.  Isaac gave her that “you’re crazy” look, sat down and folded a towel. He did a good job, too.  He made sure that the ends matched and did the hotel style triple fold.  This is something that his mother taught him.  It was his job, at home to do laundry.  But do you think Rita cared?  No.  She didn’t.  She didn’t care about anyone but herself.  And before she came down with the serious acne, she really could have cared less that Audrey was running around town like a maniac, making a fool of herself. 

She was actually hoping that someone would shoot her down and kill her.  If they did, she could have the Inn to herself.  She found the picture of the eyeless woman and brought the album over to Isaac so that he could see for himself.  “Look here.  We saw this when we first moved in.” 

“Is that’s her?”

“Whoa! That’s insane.  So it is true.”  Isaac shook his hands.  Whoa man.  That’s just freaky.  I am going to have night mares tonight.”

“I bet you are.

 

“My dad died yesterday” Rita didn’t seem very broken up about this, because she wasn’t.  She spoke as if she were giving instructions on how to bake a pie and not some morbid tragic affair.  “Yeah, he died, alright and I know it was Audrey who did that too.  He told me all about it before he died.  He was bitten all over with brown recluse spider bites.  His foot was oozing with pus.  Audrey stabbed him, you know.  She’s a maniac.”

 

 

“Yeah, you are.  It’s from that ghost story, isn’t it.  I know that story. My grandpa used to tell it to me on Halloween when I was a kid.

“A long time ago when all this around us was just trees.  Before there were shopping malls and highways, there was a big pasture.  And every year the circus came and with it came the freaks.  They were just too weird to function in modern day society.  So they sat in tents, they sat in boxes and made people pay money to point and stare and laugh at them.  People are going to do it anyway; you might as well get paid. 

                 She was a trapeze artist and so was her boyfriend.  They had this act together.  They would fly through the air and do twirls and summersaults.  It was amazing.  They were the main attraction at the greatest show on earth.  But things went wrong.  Things went very wrong.  It turns out that her boyfriend took out a life insurance policy on her without telling her about it.

                Then one night while performing their act, he announced to the audience that they would be performing their most daring act without a net, just to prove how marvelous and skilled they were.  The net was removed, much to the shock and horror of the audience, and they performed their act.  They swung towards each other from their trapezes high in the air.  The girlfriend slipped off her trapeze and went flying towards her boyfriend.  He was supposed to catch her, but he wasn’t in sync with her and he accidentally dropped her. 

She was supposed to fall to her death so the boyfriend could collect the insurance money and run off to Mexico with his secret lover.  But things didn’t work out so well for him.  The clowns all rushed out with a net and caught her, just in time. 

She found out what his plans were that fateful night and she did what any woman scorned would do…she sought revenge.  We used to sing a rhyme about her at school when we were kids.  It went like this.

She went deep into the middle of the dark, dark wood.  She hid her face with a cloak and her head with a hood.  Asked the old woman in the ramshackle hut.  Asked that old witch to kick some butt.  Gave her book.  In the book she looked.  Twenty four hours and she was hooked.  They gouged out her eyes and in the night she cries. How many people did she despise?”  Rita’s mouth was opened so wide that Isaac could have stuffed his arm in and pulled out her tonsils.  “I can’t believe that.  I’ve heard that rhyme before, but we were never allowed to sing it because it freaked out our dad.  No wonder.  It all totally makes sense, now.

“Yeah, well anyway.   It was the dumbest story I’ve ever heard.  I thought he just made the whole thing up.” 

 

So this lady, used the book to get revenge on a few people and she turned into a monster.  They had to hunt her down and cut out her eyes.  And then seventy years later, someone else found that book.  But they didn’t know how to stop her, so they had to kill her. They say that when she died, she cursed Running Meade so that they would never again win the sword race.”   Isaac whispered the last part in order to sound as spooky as possible.

“Yeah, you’re absolute right.  That’s the dumbest story I’ve ever heard in my life.”

“Where is she?”



© 2012 Clotilda Jamcracker


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Added on May 6, 2012
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Author

Clotilda Jamcracker
Clotilda Jamcracker

TX



About
My name is Clotilda, I love to read business, fairy tales and freaky stories. I love to write them too. I have a food forest in my backyard and a house full of kids. more..

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