i can tomorrow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
First attempt at a fiction short story. Major revision to the story for depth and clarity.

Submitted: August 30, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 30, 2019

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“I can tomorrow.”

“Why not now? You have to get out; you know staying inside all the time makes things worse. Pull up some weeds, go for a walk. Hell, just go sit on the deck; sunshine helps your energy and your moods.  Stuart, you can’t vegetate inside, in your cocoon anymore. You seem to sleep better after you’ve spent the day out and about. You said yourself; your mind is more focused and quiet. Please hon, you have to try. You’ve been getting better; I just know it. Keep trying and I’ll have my Stuart all back.”

Jen was right, but it’s hard. The neighbors, they watch. And listen too. Sometimes they even laugh. That’s the worst. She was on her phone the other day when I went down and got the mail. Sitting across the street on her chair, that stupid purple lawn chair, in that stupid purple hat, jabbering away and looking at me. She smiled, but I knew. I knew who she was talking to, and I knew what they were talking about. It doesn’t make sense, it’s never made sense. It was long ago, but those eyes and that smile; it has to be her.

What’s up with that flag? They put it up on the 4th and it’s still there! Three weeks now and it always blows left to right, across the window.  She was always looking at me from that window. Now she looks at me from her chair like she doesn’t care that I know. I’ll find a way; I know it’s her and I’m gonna make it right. It will help.

 “…CREEP, WEIRDO…taking him there, luring him down there, will be such fun. I found just the thing. I bet he’ll be scared, SO scared! He was such a creep, an insufferable little shit; he deserves it. It’s really dark there. I even got freaked out a little myself. And you’re talking to a night owl.”

That’s what she said; I still hear it. Confiding to that guy she used to hang with. I remember I could almost see her lips moving. I’ve tried taking pictures through the blinds in my bedroom, but I always feel like a voyeur or something. But isn’t it justified to spy a little if someone is planning such a thing, or maybe even worse? Nothing could be worse than being lost in the dark.

“Jen, please, pretty please believe me; I’ll get out and go… for a ride or a walk or something tomorrow. I can’t now, not today, it’s just so bright out it hurts my eyes and those birds never shut up – I can’t hear myself think!”

And she was in that chair again.

 

PART 1

Old-Time RnR

 

Well, today is yesterday’s tomorrow and here I go. Someone once said the journey of a thousand miles begins under your feet and then with a single step. It was a step, one step out the door into the garage. And a few more to my car. Jen doesn’t like the idea of me driving much anymore, but I can, and driving can be easier than being watched. I’ll drive out toward the old ball field; there’s the train track and several creeks around. I think I remember a few trails too; a walk might be just the ticket. There will be birds for sure and other noises, but no her. Plus, I have my music when I drive. MY music. The classics; the 70s and 80s where every song had the obligatory lead guitar break and the lyrics really meant something. They still mean something and they can take you back. Sometimes one comes on; one that takes you back to such a time and place you slow down even if you’re in a hurry. Slow down so you don’t get there before that last note fades away.

OK, nobody on Orchid… I wanna’ go that way anyway. It’s a bit further, but less people riding up my butt. There’s Jason’s truck, he’s gotta be up to something; he’s parked at the station again. I’ll get up the nerve to speak to him and then I’ll find out for sure about her. They were tight. Her and Jason always together, that son of a bitch. OK, gonna’ let these ladies cross; today I’m brave and a gentleman. “Hi Cindy, yeah, go ahead, sure, sure, you’re welcome.” She always was a nosy-body; her and her husband both just gossiping away. Jen always said none of it was about us, but she just didn’t hear. I heard it all. Jones Street was the best way to get to the ballpark, and still is, but Dad didn’t wanna’ go that way after “some idiot” put in the speed bumps. I don’t mind them, but Orchid’s the way for today. Wow! This song right here! Jimi! We played it all the time! Tried to, anyway. We all learned it that summer Mom and Dad got on their Bridge playing kick. And she started coming around.

“…is it tomorrow or just the end of time?” – Jimi Hendrix “Purple Haze”

 

 

 

“STUART!  STEWIE! It’s time to come in! You have to take a bath! STUART NOW! Kim will be here soon.”

“I’ll be right there Mom! I have to put away my bike. You know Dad freaks when I leave it out. Why does she have to come? Please, pretty please; I can take care of us, I’m old enough! And she’s always mean to me. She hates me and she doesn’t watch the little brats much anyway.”

“We’ll think about it the next time your Dad and I go out during the daytime; but you’re having a babysitter at nights. Plus you can’t watch them and practice too. You have a real knack for it, Stewie, keep practicing. Kim loves your playing too, I bet. I always hear rock and roll blaring when she pulls up. Kim’s just fine and she’s responsible too. She has a car. Now get in the shower.”

“She hates me...” was an understatement, but Stewie didn’t want to elaborate. Mom was easily ticked off and when she was, she made it miserable for the twins, for Dad and especially for Stewie. He couldn’t imagine how she’d be if he told her about Jason coming over and going with Kim into the guest bedroom (Stewie knew about sex stuff, and who could blame Jason? Kim was beautiful, those big brown eyes and that pouty little smile). Or if he told her about how they took and hid his Fender outside in the dark. She’d go ballistic and everybody would suffer. The flashlight Dad kept on top of the fridge was a good one and Stewie managed to find his guitar after a good bit of wandering around. Without the flashlight, his axe could stay lost forever as far as he cared. It was pitch black down the hill, passed the flower garden and under the willow trees. Full dark; no stars, no moon, nothing. When they were younger, before their band even, he and Nick had “borrowed” one of the neighbor’s garden statues. It was a troll (Mrs. Staten had all kinds – dwarves, elves, wizards, so forth) and since trolls lived under bridges; they put it under one of the weeping willows. It sorta looked like a bridge with the branches hanging down almost touching the ground. The weeping willows were creepy enough even at noon. His guitar had been leaning up against the troll and being a moonless night, the troll hadn’t looked at all like it was made of stone. Stuart shivered just thinking about it.

 

“Nick and Jeff have been practicing, Stewie. There are three new songs waiting to be learned and your band is getting tired of all this waiting. Now come down here and get it! I’ve put new strings on it and even cleaned the frets while I did so. GET UP and GET DOWN HERE. Play for me. There’s nothing bad here; just a little bit dark. More like twilight really.”

“So… Kim, since when did you like my playing? And what do you know about stringing a guitar? Did you put it under the willow again?”

“Why don’t you come see? Maybe crawl under the bridge. The leaves are rustling and Mr. Troll is waiting. Maybe he’s stoned; but he certainly isn’t made of stone.”

Stuart sat up and bit his lip. No telling what Mom would do if he screamed. Twilight my ass he thought. No more sleep came that night. Not much the next one either.

 

The dream had been a few nights ago but it was still vivid, and Stewie replayed it over in his mind while he was showering (and trying not to think of her eyes and smile – there wasn’t time for that). That’s when he came up with a plan. Why does she like Jason and not me? It’s not fair, really. Jason likes rock, but I play rock. When she gets here I’m gonna tell Mom and Dad everything. Right in front of her. She’ll stand there looking all big innocent eyed and pouty, but she won’t be able to come here ever again. She can go haunt someone else, somewhere else. And if that doesn’t work… I’ll conjure up a real troll or maybe a griffin from under a creepy bridge, he thought with a smile. Get him to attack her! Stewie leans forward, squinting his eyes and concentrating hard; “GO GET HER MR. TROLL!”

 

If it weren’t for that insufferable little shit, Kim Slayer might even enjoy babysitting for the Freemont’s. Mr. Freemont paid her better than most (and she never caught him looking at her). Also, she liked driving at night; she loved the dark. She had gotten her driver’s license three weeks ago, on the day she tuned 16, and her parents were happy to be done with ferrying her to and from her babysitting gigs. They even bought her a used, really used, car. Jase said even though it was old and beat up; it had a good engine and would be fine, no sweat. Also, he loved the way the stereo sounded when it was cranked. The best part, of course, was that Jase lived in Clayton; not that far at all from The Freemont’s.

“It’s cool, just three to watch.” Speaking quietly to herself. Jerry and Donna are cute (and no more diapers now), but Stewie, my god! He’s always talking, on and on and on. About his fantasy books (hah!), his band (haha!), school, batting averages... Mostly he’s butchering the crap out of that guitar. It’s awful and Mrs. Freemont says to let him play as much as he wants. She thinks he has a knack for it. Doesn’t sound like he even knows how to tune it! When he finally does shut up it’s almost worse; it’s creepy. HE is creepy. As far as she knows; he never sleeps. Off to his room, off with the lights and he’s still doing something in there. No matter how much fussing or banging on the wall. Sometimes she wants to lure him back down the hill, no flashlight this time. Lately she catches herself thinking about how and when she does, just like being out at night; it makes her a little giddy, a little tingly. When her and Jase took the guitar down there, she swore she felt that stone garden statue looking at her. Eyes on her or something. Jase was probably more scared than she was; I’m a night owl she thought. She’d have to get the twins to sleep first. And then we will… “This is crazy.” Kim says out loud. “Just like the little weirdo.” She thinks. “He deserves it.”

Leaving Bartonsville proper, Kim reaches down and punches the button on the Craig 8-Track and her current favorite band, Styx, rocks her Jeep. She cranks it even louder. Her and Jase are gonna go see them next month! He’s gonna come by tonight, too. She smiles. She looks up and thinks, “They call that a hunter’s moon; it’s so bright you can hunt by it.”

“…Sometimes it makes no sense at all.” – Styx “Man in the Wilderness”

 

 

PART 2.

Paths

 

I knew there’d be less idiots on Orchid this time of day, and it didn’t seem like that long to get here. Hey! I remember this dugout! This very one, where I rode the pine. Well, to be honest, Coach Mason would sometime let me play more than the (every kid gets a chance) required three innings; IF we had a good lead. When we lost it was somehow my fault. He’d be over pattin’ Dad on the back, and I knew what they were discussing. Dad never spoke about it, of course, but he always wanted to go out and practice throwing the ball around. He even thought he had a good curveball! Well, it was decent. Dad was mum with his secrets, but his eyes would always give them away. Coach would tell me to watch his hand signals when I was at bat; but instead, he would flash them up toward the bleachers behind the plate. Where Dad always sat. Sending up signals on how many backyard practices I’d need and what type of pitches to throw me. Dad always denied it and would give me a sideways look. On the nights that Kim and Jason were in the bleachers; I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Nope, not here. They fixed the dugout. The hole we used to throw out our chewed up Double Bubble and sunflower seed shells was patched over. I guess afterward, the gum would get stuck up under the pine. Well it looks like they spruced up both dugouts (even new chickenwire) just in time for the park to be shut down. It’s really sad to think the kids have to go all the way to Bartonsville to play. Most of them gave it up, I guess. I would have never gone to Bartonsville either, she lived there. She doesn’t anymore. Nope. She lives across the street. Maybe it doesn’t make any sense; but it’s her. She looks just how she would look had she... No one believes me and I’ve stopped trying to convince Jen. She gave me more than sideways looks. Jen kept assuring me guilt could cause troublesome, maybe even delusional thoughts. Maybe some of it sank in. After all, I’m now taking my meds every day. They do help with the guilt and anxiety, but they don’t change the fact that it’s Kim Slayer across the way wearing a purple hat.

Which way to the tracks? I was there many times as a kid, sometimes alone, sometimes with Nick. We were always looking for those little signal-lights that the railcars dropped. I never understood how they got away with leaving them beside and sometimes on the crossties. They were a real treat to find, especially the super rare purple ones. Oh, and flattening pennies! Trains would run over the Lincoln cents we laid on the tracks and they’d wind up big as silver dollars. Some were knocked away never to be found. No way will either of the two be left to find. Besides, the train hasn’t come this way for 10 years now.

It’s gotta be this way.

 

 

Only two roads ran between Bartonsville and Clayton; Hwy 405 (one day to become the new expressway; toll of course) and old US 19, better known as Widows Road. Along this road, under a full moon; you were as apt to see the glowing eyes of a doe out with her fawn as you were the headlights of an approaching car. Wildlife migrated out this way as humans continued taking down trees and putting up buildings and towers and stuff. You could always count on a breathtaking view of the Milky Way if you were passing on a clear night. There were no lights to diminish the show, and back in the early 70s; the sky was mostly smog free. Nothing noteworthy or unusual marked a passage on this road; a railroad track, couple of bridges and a ghost of a little league field. It could be one of thousands of roads across the country. As Widows Road neared Clayton, it became Orchid Street and passed through a much smaller (one horse, as the old timers called them) town named Farmerton. It was in a well-kept split-level in said town that Doug and Pat were getting ready to go win tricks. Bridge had quickly become their new passion and they were itching to play. Doug had fed the twins while Pat was rounding up Stewie and convincing him to get showered. Their sitter was on her way, but she was running late. That was very unusual for her. After all, she was entrusted with her own car.

 

Kim had stopped thinking about the insufferable little shit and had turned her attention to what her and Jase were gonna soon be doing when she saw something hit the water. It made a splash and then there was a bigger splash closer to the bank. She had glanced down at the moon’s reflection on the creek when it happened (with both hands on the wheel, of course). The face of the full moon broke out in ripples; it was pretty trippy (a Jase term) till she realized what might have caused it. “I’ve gotta go see! Mr. Freemont will understand; he’d want to help if someone were in trouble. Pat will be pissed if I’m late; but screw her; she’s always ticked off anyway.” Kim got passed the bridge and was able to pull her Jeep off the road; most of the way, anyway. She got out and was halfway down the bank when she felt it again. She’d felt it before; just something that happens once in a while in the dark. Eyes on her, like being watched. She shrugged it off and half-ran, half-slipped the rest of the way. “Wow it’s darker than I thought it’d be; the hunter’s moon isn’t much help. My lighter’s in my pocketbook, but I’m not going back up yet.” It was just as well, in spite of her bravado and being a night owl; she wouldn’t have wanted to see what was behind those eyes.

This wasn’t a willow bridge; it was a real one. It was night, so the thing that lumbered from under it wasn’t made of stone. Kim didn’t turn in time to see the massive head, misshapen ears and small black eyes, but she did hear it rumble, “STEWIE WANTS THIS BACK”. The troll, doing a gnarly impression of The Who’s guitarist Pete Townshend, smashed both Stewart’s fender telecaster and Stewart’s pretty babysitter’s face all in one swing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gonna have to call Jen. SHIT! Damnit! It’s the last thing I want to do. I wanted to make her worry less by coming out here, not more. She thinks I’m getting better and I’ve been trying, I really have. I got no choice; twilight’s coming on and I left the house at 11:30 on the dot. The sign at the station; where Jason, uh, Jase’s truck had been, said 11:45, so that would have been right. Things work out better when the time is exact. Both paths looked to be headed toward the tracks, but one of them should have gotten me there by now. Maybe I didn’t follow the first one far enough. Couldn’t find the first one again, even though I made sure to keep the wildflowers on the left. They all were growing on the left side of the path. Those purple flowers were always on the left. No matter which path or which direction I went. The creek looks wrong too; it was over there on that side and not so close wasn’t it? And I don’t remember that bridge. Get out your phone, Stu.

Got service, one bar anyway. Here goes; “BOOP”…

“…CREEP, WEIRDO…taking you there, luring you down there, will be such fun. I found just the thing. I bet you’ll be scared, SO scared! You were such a creep, an insufferable little shit; you deserve it. It’s really dark there. I’m freaked out a little myself, a little tingly. And you’re talking to a night owl.”

 

Stewart wasn’t surprised, not surprised at all really, when Kim answered the phone. He hadn’t been surprised either on that morning long ago when his Mom and Dad came to his room to tell him that Kim had died on her way over the night before. So what if they had found her under a bridge? That was his fall back plan, what he had conjured when he was in the shower, right? He had decided if he couldn’t have her then Jason, uh, Jase couldn’t either.

This morning, Stewart had thought it would be appropriate to make a trek to where his first heartthrob had died. Maybe, finally, realize she was gone. Maybe make amends. He’d seen her in many places over the years. The dorm at college and both cities he and Jen had lived in were just a few. He had told Jen that he was going to the ball field. He had gotten lost but ended up at the bridge just the same. Passed a couple of weeping willows bent over the creek as well.

 

….

 

Stewart turned to go and walked along the bank of the creek.  Keeping it on the left side now. He found her sitting under a willow putting new strings on his guitar. It was his first guitar and he had painted it purple. Purple had always been her favorite color.

 


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