heres the teaser at the beginning of the story thing -----please excuse my punctuation.......
I looked at the trees across the way. It was dark between them but I could still make out the ferns and stuff.
And that’s when I saw the body
Startled I looked up and then couldn't find it again with the twitchy binoculars.
Damn! I was sure it was a body.
Where did it go?
It seemed to be right across from me, I felt cold, I couldn't breathe.
My stomach did flip flops;
I’d never seen a dead person before. I dropped the binoculars and grabbed my camera.
I tried to zoom in on the forest but I still couldn't see anything.
Shit! What if it really was some dead guy? What would I do?
I don't know why I didn't run the other way but I found myself streaking across the meadow,
full tilt, as if I were afraid the corpse would get up and leave.
I focused on where I thought it'd been, there was a natural arch of tree branches
making a cave like entrance into the woods. I started worrying that it had just been a
rotting log or something and that when I found it I’d be out of breath for no reason.
One way or the other I bet that stiff would be starring in my bad dreams that night.
I slowed down when I hit the other side of the clearing.
I wasn't nuts about the idea of running through the tangled forest floor, what if I tripped
and fell right on it?
It was dim under the trees so at first I didn't see the chain link fence. It was brown with
rust and had tons of plants growing through it making it blend into the surroundings
. It was set about fifteen feet back into the trees. The top of it was lined with rusty razor
ribbon so old that I could crush it like tin foil.
There he was.
Just on the other side of the fence.
I was relieved that something, even something as insubstantial as that fence, was between us.
Then again I was irked that I might have to hop a fence to get a good look.
I could tell it was a man now, and he was messed up bad.
Laying front down in the pine needles, his hair all full of sticks, all matted, dark, caked up.
I crept closer, moving slowly, hugging myself.
He was facing my way and I was thankful his eyes were closed
. He was brownish and leathery looking, his beard was as bad off as his hair.
How long had he been out there?
I couldn't believe he would have been so close to help and didn't make it.
All alone, it seemed so unfair.
My eyes started getting watery. I told myself it was the pollen.
His clothes were rough, like the kind those tree huggers always wear.
I wondered if he'd been living out there all alone. Maybe he had a family.
My nose was stinging now and my eyes were running a little. Damn hay fever.
Something had attacked him, I could tell that now. There was old dry blood on his back and legs.
I looked around suspiciously, then looked back longingly towards the can of bear mace I’d left in my bag.
I thought sadly of my useless band aids while the wind rustled through the leaves.
I wondered if he'd called for help, crawled along the ground reaching out with his last breath for that help that never came.
Whateveritwas that killed him didn't get his face though.
I was really close now, just on the other side of the fence, the wind was ruffling his loose clothes and I could smell him.
He was stinky, musky, coppery.
But not too bad since my nose was all runny anyhow.
We were about six feet apart now. I knelt down on the rotting forest floor and started idly picking at some mushrooms.
I guess I got what I was looking for. I’d been trying to spook myself all week. I was always trying to spook myself, always
looking at the negative side of things.
Always believing the worst.
If you did that you were never disappointed.
Now I just wanted to go home, but I didn't want to leave him there like that
. Here was a guy who went his own way and said screw the world and wound up utterly alone in the end
. But now he wasn’t alone, I was there. and I could...what?
What could I do?
Nothing but end up that way myself.
End up dead and alone cuz I never gave anyone a chance to help, but why would I?
Why should he have?
You can’t trust anybody.
You’re alone and that’s the way it is.
I was ruining myself senselessly now, thinking about his mom, my mom worrying when I didn't come home
, when he didn't come home.
Laying there all crusty while the worms go in the worms go out, my family crying, never knowing for sure.
I was crying now.
I felt like such a sissy.
What if they didn't believe me? What if they didn’t believe he was here?I was such a liar as it was.
How would I explain why I was out here? Spying on people I wasn’t even sure lived there? Oh man, I was screwed.
I wanted so badly to help him but I wasn't even sure how to tell anyone where I was. I looked up and down the length of the fence;
it went on as far as I could see. Maybe there was a hole in the fence or I could bust a hole in it.
Then what? Drag him home? No, that wouldn't happen.
I wanted to reach over and flatten his crazy hair down. I wiped my eyes and looked at his face again.
He didn't look like he'd been dead long; his skin still looked like it had blood in it.
I realized he was much younger than I had originally thought. The beard had thrown me off. I’d had him pegged around thirty-five.
Now I was leaning closer to twenty-five, maybe less.
Great, I was crying again, imagining him as some kind of hero, a real sweetheart taken before his time.
Stupid imagination, for all I knew he deserved it.
It was getting darker; I’d have to leave soon. Have to just leave him there all alone.
I pulled myself together and took a real good long look at him, trying to memorize everything so I could tell my mom.
She'd believe me.
She'd have too.
He was tall, or rather, he looked pretty long spread all over the ground there. His black hair could have been brown if he were cleaned up.
His hands and feet seemed pretty big, but he was very thin so it could have just been the perspective.
He had been hungry.
His closed eyes looked large in his sunken face, high cheekbones and a squarish jaw, typical guy face. He had a crooked nose, but only just a little crooked.
He'd been socked in the beak a few times. As I was leaning in close looking at his cracked lips I saw he was beautiful.
There we go, I started crying again.
Now I was just laying there in the dirt wishing my mom or Ron would come find me. Maybe they'd follow my t-shirt trail out there and save me from myself.
All those times I’d thought about being a detective suddenly popped into my head and just like that, poof, I knew I never could be.
I had thought I was such a hard ass, I was so tough but there I was crying like the scared little girl I was.
A dog barked in the distance.
I was undone; the bitter shell of my small hard heart broke.
I couldn't cope.
I imagined his last moments, cold, alone, hurt. I was almost sobbing now.
Could be me out there, running around careless.
I was always taking unnecessary risks.
I could be taking a dirtnap right then right there.
I remembered the camera, it was still in my hand. I got up and took a picture of him laying there so I could prove it.
“What if they thought I killed him?" I thought. There were no witnesses. No, how the hell would I have done that to anyone? This guy was worked over.
Then I got real close to the fence and squatted down so I could get a picture of his face for the police to use to identify him.
"Bye stranger..." I whispered as I clicked the photo.
I blinked and when I looked back at him he was looking at me with big pale green eyes. For a split second I wondered how his eyes had opened.
Then I screamed.
It was like all those nights of nightmare screaming had set me up to think it wouldn't work but my screaming was so loud that it terrified me further.
He stared at me and I, frozen in place, stuck screaming, stared at him. More dogs barked in the distance. Then the pupils in his pale eyes grew huge and he spoke.
"Run." he said.
"Girls don't hitch hike on the Highway of Tears, Killer on the Loose" I’d never read the big yellow sign by the on ramp until that year.
Under those words were photos of some of the missing young women. Central B.C.s notorious highway number 16 west.
Creepy. After all, I was a girl.
It made going to the ass end of nowhere better than ever,(sarcasm by the way) and we’d been doing it for years. On the up side; passing it meant only another seven hours in the minivan.
Over halfway to the middle of nowhere.
Why did they do this to me?
In this part of the country there were few roads, fewer highways and even fewer towns. I watched the endless forest crawl by as Ron drove slower than the speed limit. If I focused into the gloomy woods a few seconds ahead of the van my eyes could beat paths into the distance as we passed.
It was easy to imagine traveling through time by simply wandering deeper and deeper into the dark.
The height of the pine trees along that part of the highway blotted out most of the sky. Their trunks lined up in repeating patterns that were hypnotizing me.
I got an unpleasant feeling they were trying to tell me something, flashing secret codes at me. I felt exposed and claustrophobic at the same time and closed my eyes with a click.The nothing was sucking me in.
Out there somewhere, in there somewhere, could be a killer.
A highway of tears killer just waiting with scratchy hands clasped tight in anticipation of grabbing me. I was o.k. with it, it's not like I was stupid enough to get snatched up by some weirdo.
I had already had my fair share of run ins with shady characters and knew how to handle them. I almost hoped I did run into that guy, I’d give him what he had coming to him for abducting all those naive girls.
I’d kill him.
I sure was mad enough to kill someone. Mad about missing all the summer fun, mad about being stranded with my boring family, mad at life in general the way I always was.
I sure had reason enough to be.
"Did you see that!?" A squawk from the left. Carly, my sperm donors only other legacy was pushing on me roughly. "Amber! Did you see it?"
"No." I answered and curled up into a ball, eyes still closed.
Maybe I could implode.
She wasn't having it, she shook me more and I turned to clobber her. She looked very serious.
"It was Sasquatch, I know it, did anyone else see it? It was right back there! Stop dad, let's go look at it!" Her high pitched kid voice whistled out of her almost adult face. At twelve she was nearly as grown as I was at eighteen, looked it at least.
She was real pretty like our mom, classic beauty, thick dark hair, etcetera...folks were always going on about her.
Then these same people would unkindly comment on my resemblance to some sorta creepy blinking doll.
Ron droned something indecipherable but didn't stop driving. Maybe Sasquatch was the highway killer. In any case I was sure that's not what she saw; it was easy to mix things up in the lumpy looking woods.
Dim unbalanced light, unfamiliar shapes, colors blending together; it was scary.
I tilted my head back against the headrest and delayed my blink an appropriate length of time to avoid feeling like that blinky doll people said I looked like.
Maybe I’d have a stroke of luck and crash out for the rest of the summer, wake up back home.
Luck, yah right, the air conditioner had blown out a few miles back, right around the on ramp to the sixteen.
Our trip was cursed. I blamed it on that stupid rabbitfoot rearview mirror decoration.
Yuck, it was hot and my dark ratty hair was twisting around in the wind snapping me in the eyes and mouth. The erratic breeze brought the odor of my twin brothers from the middle row.
I don't know if you've ever smelt a three year old but it's something like cheerios, baby wipes and barf.
Times two. Gross.
I tried to lean near the window for the fresher air but so many little bits of debris and bugs, pollen, and I don't know what, were floating in the thick air. I felt like I’d have to
eat it to get the oxygen out of it.
I wanted out.
I imagined myself escaping out the van window and swimming up through the dense air all the way to space. That would be nice. When I got way up there I could look down on the earth like the satellite I was.
I would watch the earthlings in their daily dramas loving each other, hurting each other, growing old.
In isolation I could watch and learn the answers to all the ‘WHY's’ in life.
Then one day, when I grew warm with understanding, I could finally open my heart to my own kind.
There would be two suns in the sky that day and all living things would call me back home.
I would streak towards the earth afire, eager to join in, coming closer and closer, my approach revealing a tighter and tighter perspective. Too late I would realize that it's not for us mortals to be so aware, that I would never be able to share with any of them the things I’d learned.
I would lose my godlike knowledge as I felt my shrinking boundaries and zoomed in on the tiny things that just affected me.
Humanity’s flaws would dance wildly in the light of my fire. I would want to turn back, look away, fear would extinguish my new flame and I’d just fall to the earth like a lump.
My light would be an ember trapped inside me. I’d lay there cold again, alone again, a dark stone dug into the damp earth waiting for something or someone to find me and reignite my flame.
Then I’d combust; blow everything away with me.
My head rattled against the window blurring my narrow view of the hazy sky, I had been staring at the sun and had to wipe at my watery eyes. Treetops whipped by and started to look like they were moving on their own. The little moon following us was trapped in a flock of big white birds. It was the head of the V and I pictured it landing with them by the sea and going for a swim.
These birds were big broad winged animals that could go wherever they wanted. They had inherent direction sense, amazing strength and endurance, ease cooperating with their own kind.
I wondered if they ever killed each other.
If one day one of them just woke up pissed off and started beating on the others, their mates, their offspring. Did the leader put unrealistic demands on the rest of the flock and make them feel like shit for not being able to live up to it?
I doubted it; that was us.
That was human.
The girls on the sign back there, how many of them had been better off with their fathers, husbands or boyfriends? Some of them, sure, but I’ll bet plenty of them were just living death anyhow.
Like my mom, she'd been dead for years. I wasn’t sure if her happy pills were keeping her alive or just stopping her being crazy. People are so screwed up.
I guess this is the part where I tell you how my mom got so screwed up
Her first husband, my biological father, used to beat her, sometimes he beat me. It used to scare me so bad, I’d angry for hours, days….still am.
. Nearly all the time really.
I couldn't remember ever being happy or able to relax. But after my little sister was born I wasn't sad anymore. I was just mad. Over my dead 6 year old body would that scumbag touch her.
I took to hiding her out in the shed before he got home. I resented mom for being to yellow to do it for us. wimp.
Boy did it piss off
What a Captain Whiskey when the kids were missing.
Then he really tore into Mom.
She got the worst of it. If he came at me she'd jump in the way and then he'd really go at her. Then I, like the big yellow chicken I am, would run and hide in my toy box so I couldn't see it happen.
But it wasn't long after Carly was born when she woke up and took off, us in tow, back to her moms in Vancouver. He didn't bother following us and signed the divorce papers without a problem.
I guess he found some punching bag that didn't come with hungry mouths to feed.
I’d have liked to see how tough he'd be once I could fight back.
I never wanted to see him again. It sucks how much I look like him. I’m short like him; I have the same scraggly dark brown hair, same round green eyes. Ugh,
In my eighteen years I’d seen nothing to change my opinion men were not worth bothering with.
Dad the monster, Ron the doormat, etc…
So what was that murderers deal? What excuse did he use to dehumanize his victims? How did he decide who was going to die and why? He had no right, none of them did.
His real murder spree was being mimicked by so many would be killers, men who didn't have the guts to actually do away with a body. Men who were satisfied just beating their victims, killing their spirits and moving on.
What a bunch of assholes.
That would never happen to me. I made calculated decisions about the company I kept and was blessed with a tiny black heart.
A teeny, tiny rock hard black speck that doubled as a bodily organ. Like an oyster builds a shell around a painful beginning so did I.
No room in there for much more than stray cats.
And Carly, well and a few little helpless things.
I worried about my little sister and her big bleeding heart, she loved everything indiscriminately. One day she would trust the wrong jerk and something bad would happen.
To his face if I had any hand in it.
Rons family had a big old place out in the ass end of B.C. near some tiny nowhere town and we got to use it every summer. Yay. I hated it up there. The dirt, the bugs, the endless nothing. Ug.
Almost as bad as all that were the types of people who inhabited such outposts. Hicks, hillbillies, mountain men, whatever you call them. They let everything fall apart and gossiped like no
one else. I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that news of me farting at the gas station three hours ago was already in the local paper.
Even worse was that some family that used to live down the lane from us in my childhood trailer park had moved out there.
Mom was real excited about seeing them.
Everyone else couldn't wait to get there, and by there I mean Nowhere, it wasn't even Nowhere, the little town of Nowhere was almost an hour back down the road. My family was real gung ho about it so I watched the crummy buildings of Nowhere go by and turned up my music to drown out the happy squeals.
I was filled with a sense of doom as we pulled up to the ancient cabin.
Everyone ran out bumping into each other and jumping around.
"The old place looks good. Looks like she's holdin’ up pretty good." Ron said as he threw his arm around my mom. I was pretty sure his picture sat next to the description of corny on wikipedea.
Mom was fairly shaking with joy, looking from ‘The old place' to my siblings and back.
Must be nice for her to be able to give her kids the things she thinks they need to have a happy childhood.
"Amber, can you help get the bags into the cabin please" My mom, leaning into the van, all smiles. I smiled back.
"Sure mom, it's great to get here" My ass is dead from sitting in your stupid minivan for two days I add to myself.
She keeps smiling "We're going to have so much fun this summer!"
Boy was she wrong
I was heading into twelfth grade in the fall and I was dreading it. I had been held back in the first grade because of so called 'emotional problems' so I was always
one of the oldest kids in my grade.
The idea of my peers out there enjoying the real world while I suffered through another year of social conditioning made me want to kill every last one of them.
It was hard for me to navigate the social minefield of high school. Bitches abounded at my school and I hated everyone.
There were a lot of explosions.
Even my teachers started looking at me sideways. But I didn't care. They were all a bunch of boring jerks anyhow.
I almost never found anyone worth talking to, let alone hang out with. Nothing to stimulate the imagination.
I had a couple of friends, bad apples Ron called them, and sometimes some guy or other would try to get in my pants but I wasn't having that.
Truth is I had a bad reputation.
I guess I deserved it, I got real used to telling my family; "You should see the other guy"
My mom never recovered from her time with my father, cried all the time, couldn't sleep at night. I didn't understand how she could have let it go on so long.
How she could have let me get dragged into it.
I never cried, why couldn't she get over it?
Kinda sucked that I looked like my dad and had a temper to match, that made things rough between mom and me.
My sister got all the luck, she looks just like mom, tall, real pretty oval face, brown eyes, thick chestnut hair.
I was never jealous of her though.
I had a real soft spot for her.
For a long time I had to take care of her. For those first two years with dad, then for another two years after we left because Mom was a nervous wreck. Even though we lived with our grandparents I was the one who took care of Carly. I still look out for her to this day even though we go to different schools.
She's a happy kid, got a real big heart, I think it was because of her that Mom married Ron. When I was twelve my mom put me in karate, she thought self defense might be a good idea. I caught her and my shrink plotting it behind my back.
But it did turn out good.
Not the karate part, I sucked at that. I was totally into the beating on other kids, not so much into the discipline. But the part where she met Ron, my instructor. He was tall, balding, boring; everything my middle aged mom dreams about.
I’m sure he wouldn't have gotten very far with her if I’d pulled out all the stops, but little Carly really took to him. They were all ice cream cones, shoulder rides, candyland games.
He taught her how to ride a bike.
I gotta admit, he's not so bad. Seeing her with the kind of dad she should have had made me happy. I was happy for mom too.
They were all happy.
I had no room for him in my tiny stone heart but I let them keep him.
So I laid off on the kid from hell act, dropped out of karate and tried to mind my own business.
The twins were born two years later.
Bummer, cause then they wanted a babysitter all the time. To hell with that, I started staying out later and answering to no one. I knew they wouldn't do anything about it. I was almost out of their hair anyways.
We lived in a big house so I took over the basement. I had my own door so I came and went as I pleased.
My grandparents were always "tsk"ing at my mom for letting me be, yah right, I wish she'd have let me be. Then I wouldn't have been stumbling about in the god forsaken British Columbian wilderness for most of my summer.
They knew I hated it up there, but they refused to let me stay home alone, or with one of my bad apples. My grandparents were cool but wandering aimlessly through the bushes was better than spending my summer under the microscope at their place.
It was decided, Ron and the twins would stay at the cabin for nap time. Mom, Carly and I would go to town to get some supplies and visit an old family friend. Carly sat up front with Mom while I laid down in the back seat and stared at the ceiling.
There was nothing to see in Nowhere.
"Can I please go to the music store" I practically begged. I hated having to ask her for permission but she had the van.
"I just don't like the idea of you wandering around by yourself in a town you don't know. You've got a knack for picking up trouble if you haven't noticed." She made a face that said I was ruining her good time. "Plus I might need you to help me find things at the store, and we can't be gone all day it's almost dinnertime, what if the battery on your phone dies or you can't get any reception out here..." She trailed off.
I knew what she was saying.
If she let me go off on my own I would turn my phone off and lie about it.
Then I would go on a killing spree through Nowhere before jumping off a cliff.
She was paranoid. I really just wanted some space and there were some c.ds. I was thinking about buying. Seemed to kill two birds with one stone. We'd already been out there for over a week.
A fun filled week of rock climbing, looking at trees, hiking, looking at rocks, swimming, looking at moss.
It was time I got a break.
Carly to the rescue "Mom, didn't you want to have a little quiet time with Mrs. Foster? We could visit with her for a while then go check out the music store and get some slurpees," with a wink in my direction, she new I didn't like sweets. "Then we could come right back. We'd only need an hour and you and Mrs. Foster can really catch up."
It worked, I could see my mom reevaluating my rampage through Nowhere with my baby sister watching disapprovingly.
"Sure, you're right, you two need a little girl time too eh?" with a big smile on her face she turned to look at Carly, and Carly turned towards her. From where I sat in the back they looked like mirror images of the same pretty girl.
Warmed my tiny black heart to see them happy that way.
The store was a drag and Fosters place was even worse. As we drove up I kept thinking “ next house next house…”but no.
Yuck and Ew lost their grip on my expressions of disgust.
The overgrown yard was a disaster. Giant weeds battled the heaps of disabled household items in an ugly contest. Mixed in the gravel of the driveway I spotted rusty bolts, beer caps, cigarette butts, broken glass...Yuck anyways...
These Fosters used to live in our crappy little trailer park in the same crappy little town we did when I was little. Not quite neighbors but not far down the road.
What luck that they had relocated to our vacation town.
I guess when the old man croaked the older boys got some seasonal work out there and it was working out for them.
Big old Foster was a fright in muumuu and curlers. Her idiot sons were all teenagers now. They were clumped together in the doorway shirtless, sporting mullets and trucker hats. Oh well, it was obvious my mom had great taste in friends. I couldn't wait to get out of there.
"Oh my goodness! Look at you ladies! You're all so beautiful! And Grace, I swear you get younger every year! .............blah blah blah" I stopped listening to her because everything she said was untrue and she had an annoying habit of turning each statement up at the end so it sounded like a question.
Instead I focused on her worn down, saggy little house with tired looking sheets for curtains in the brownish windows. The snot green paneling was sliding off in places and some unhealthy looking black smears were growing up the walls in streaks.
The place looked pieced together over a span of years from different materials .. a sort of frankenhouse…
Uuuuuuggghhhh. I did not want to go in there.
It smelt like her ten thousand cats and dogs from the driveway, inside would kill me. Then Mrs. Fosters muumuu started coming down the drive towards us with arms outspread to tack a red lipstick mark on each of us.
I saw the shirtless mullet gang, looking very excited; start punching each other in the arm. Why were they excited? Gross. I thought to myself. They better stay away from me and Carly.
"Hey Amber! Hey! How’s the drive eh? Long drive up from the big city?" It was the big one talking.
I guess he was about my age, I couldn't tell if he was trying to be a jerk or if he was just a natural. He didn't look like he was trying to be rude; his face seemed too stupid to read, so I just assumed he was simply asking how my trip had been.
"It was fine." I said and started looking around at the dead cars in the yard.
A big buzzy beetle with feelers as long as my little finger flew past my head and I felt like it would go in my ear.
The place sucked.
Then it was my turn to get a rash from Mrs. Fosters stubbly kiss.
"Look at youuu! Amber you've blossomed!" she squawked as she grabbed the sides of my tshirt to emphasize my a cups.
She had to say that!
I wanted to kill her,I felt my face twist one way and then the other in an attempt to express my rage without verbalizing an angry squeek and thus increasing the amusement of the inbred onlookers.
Then those jerks were guffawing in true hick style, slapping their knees and everything.
I hated everyone.
It was true though, I’d been flat as a board till I was sixteen. I’d always been thin, wiry my mom called it, just like my sperm donor. but I was not going to stick around and get my boyish figure ogled by those perverts though.
"I’m out of here. Can I have the keys Mom? Nice to see you Foster. Drop dead you guys." The last part i spat over my shoulder as I grabbed Carly and headed for my mom.
"What? No. Wait, Amber. Wait, you have to stay at least for a cup of coffee. Twenty minutes. Please?" my mom. Aw, why did she have to torture me that way? She wanted me to be a happier person, well that wasn't going to happen at Fosters.
"You got ten minutes. And I’m staying outside.” I told her.
I could live with it if it's what she needed for me to get my freedom. Otherwise I’d have to spend the next hour holed up in the van with my eyes shut and my headphones in.
"O.k., we'll sit out here with you. Thank you honey." She had that look of relief she gets when she thinks she's just averted some kind of disaster.
I wished she new how often I did things to make her happy. She always had such a hard time of things. I guess I earned the attitude though; I had given her plenty of cause to see me as a loose cannon.
Truth was that I was calming down. Those last couple of years my real anger had been evaporating. It was almost as if I were angry and bitter out of habit. Maybe she was doing something right with this whole happy family thing after all.
I sat down in a creaky lawn chair and waited while Foster and my mom went in to get the coffee. Foster had caught the hint that I didn't want the company of her brats and was beating them back into the dump on her way in.
Carly sat down beside me in a seat that slanted frighteningly to one side before she tilted back the other way.
"You shouldn't let people get to you like that. You're gonna have a heart attack." Carly the freaking genius.
"You should mind your own business." I was grumpy now.
"Whatever." She said, and then she got up and went into the craphole behind me.
I wondered how many people could fit in there, it seemed so small, were they all going out the back door or something?
I turned around to see if I could look clear through the house to the back yard, no doubt full of more rusty things.
But ew, one of the mullets was just standing there staring at me.
I turned back the other way, making sure as I did that he caught my look of disgust.
"Y'know, yer mean." He said. He had some nerve, I could not believe he was actually going to try to talk to me.
"You guys didn't come out to visit us last year. Why not?" He sounded put out. Jeez, What was his problem?
"You always were a bitch eh?" Why, why, why did he keep flapping his pie hole?
I thought he was picking a fight but I kept it to myself. If I knocked out the last of his teeth my mom surely wouldn't give me the van.
Then he was laughing and I could tell by the sound of it that he was creeping in my direction. I stood up and turned around, not just grumpy anymore but angry now.
"Yah, I’m a bitch, so what? No we did not visit, because no one in their right mind would come to this place to see you or anything like you. My mom wants to see that mother of yours for god knows what reason and so I am here. But I do not want to talk to you or see you again. Got it? Get lost." Then I crossed my arms and tried to look tough.
Half way through my rant I had noticed he was the big one.
He could take me in a fight. He looked scrappy.
I thought he'd get the picture now but he seemed to think this was funny too. He just snickered and sat down in one of the death traps smoking a rollie cigarette.
"Aw, don't get so bent outta shape little lady, I ain't such bad company. Wanna hear a dirty joke?"
Was he serious?
I guess I did want to hear a dirty joke, but I didn't want him to think he was getting the better of me so I just said "No." and sat down.
He was ugly.
He had the kind of face that’s wider than it is long and his piggy eyes matched his pimply nose.
"But seriously, how come you guys didn't come up last year?" He was pushing it like there was something more he wanted to know, or tell me.
"I don't know, we did come up, but just for a few days, Ron had some 'thing' to do or something." And then I bit "Why?"
"Well, are you gonna be here very long this summer?" Oh, I hoped he wasn't thinking he had a chance with me.
He was tapping his rollie on his bare foot, his ratty jean shorts (his only garment)leaving little to the imagination.
"Uh, I don't know, why?" Where was my mother with the coffee? I started thinking about going in the stinkhole after all.
"I just think you should be careful out there in the woods this summer. Been a lot of bears attacks. A lot of people been going missing the last couple of years. Especially in august." He was looking real serious with his real stupid looking face. I laughed..
"Yah, O.k. whatever." I said. Stupid. Bears.
"No I’m serious.."
"Yah, I caught that. Thank’s." Shut up guy. Where was my mom?
"Look, I don't wanna scare ya, but it's weird O.k. Always young ladies, y'know? Girls around yer age with the idea in their heads they're big enough to take a can of bear mace and wander around alone." I frowned at him with exaggerated frustration. He continued, "No no, it's not the ol 'don't go out alone' speech k? I just think you all would do better to get outta town before august. Wouldn't want a horny moose to trample you."
"You sayin this town ain't big enough for the two of us?" I thought I was funny. I kept frowning. "Anyways, we're not even in town." I slumped down into my groaning chair.
This was actually kinda interesting to me. I liked mysteries, and this summer was going to be boring torture anyhow.
"Yer real funny eh? A real laugh a minute. Bear wouldn't eat something as sour as you anyways. But those wierdos up west ways would. Watch yourself out there. There are worse things than bears on that land around yours." Then he just sat there rolling another smoke.
Now I was curious. Cannibals and sasquatch and serial killers and such.
However I didn’t want this hick to know I was curious about who he was slandering.
. Probably some Chinese immigrants.
Why anyone would immigrate to the end of the world was beyond me.
"Shut up." I said with a grimace.
He offered me his gross rollie. I grimaced more. He smiled. I tried to grimace further but my face broke and I grinned by accident.
"Crap." I muttered.
"You ain't so bad for a city broad." He leaned back smiling his stupid smile at calling me a broad
."Wouldn't want the Sasquatch to get ya. Stay outta the woods."
"Now, how on earth do you propose I stay outta the woods?" I gestured madly in all directions.
"When are you coming over again?" He asked with big grin.
"Never. When hell freezes over. Your choice." Bleck. No. I felt like I might die from gross.
"I’m gonna have a party next month. Big bonfire, lots of kids our age, you wanna come? Y'know you do, and before you say no, there's gonna be a lot of outta towners in for the summer going. So you might find someone who can stand your company." Now he was a comedian?
"Die." that oughtta sum it up nicely
"I’ll even pick you up so your mom knows yer with someone responsible." He said as if he were not the last asshole on earth I’d ever go near.
I couldn't believe his nerve.
I looked over at him with my googling eyes just to catch him leaning forward wiggling his eyebrows at me.
"Where's that stupid coffee?" I practically yelled at the house.
"We don't have a proper coffee maker. All we got's cowboy coffee. That good enough for you fancy pants?" My cargo pants were hardly what I’d call fancy.
My mom came running out of the house with Carly looking sorry.
"Oh, I’m so sorry honey, I totally forgot about you out here. Do you still want some coffee? I hope you and James were having fun." She said this as she turned to the dirty moron and ruffed up his hair.
She'd have to wash that hand.
He laughed and said, "Ok so we're on right?"
"On for what?" My mom asked. I answered with my meanest looking scowl.
"Nothing. Never was, never will be. Gimme the keys, I’ve had as much dragon breath as I can handle." I held out my hand rudely.
I new I was bossing her and it was exactly the kind of thing I had been trying to stop doing.
"Please Mom? It's getting dark and I know how you don't like driving at night and I feel anxious to go do my own thing and..." I trailed off, she new I was trying, she wouldn't torture me. With a tolerant expression she handed the keys over.
"Drive safe, watch out for those logging trucks." She shouted after me as Carly and I ran to the van.
As I started the van up I could see her smiling in animated conversation with the disgusting James. He was no doubt telling her about his awesome hoedown and to watch out for foreigners.
He looked over and I flipped him the bird before peeling out. He was ignorant.
"I hate everyone in that family." I said flatly, then I turned to look at Carly with a mock angry face and we both started laughing.
It was always a relief to be alone with her, she was untroubled and she brought that forward in others. She always seemed to know what to say to people. It was almost as if she could see into people and knew what they needed, knew how to help them. Stranger still, I think she actually cared to help people. Weird.
"I dunno, Mrs. Foster's really nice, and Brian's nicer than his brothers." Carly the optimist said. I choked back the urge to gag.
"Which mullet was that? The dirty blond or the greasy blond?" Both were too old for her to be playing with but I wanted to know which moron to kill first.
"No, he has brown hair, he was inside playing video games when we got there. What's a mullet?" She asked.
"It's an ugly hairdo that's short in the front and long in the back." and very popular in the under 70 i.q. Set.
"Oh no he doesn't have that. I mean it's short everywhere but he's got like, just one long piece just at the back. He's ten. He's smart too, and you know what he told me? There's a serial killer around here somewhere but he wouldn't let him get me. He's tough. I know you're wondering if he likes me. Aren't yah? Huh?" Of course he'd like her. Everyone liked her.
" O.k. O.k..." I was relieved to hear he was no threat and only a little corny with the hair, probably not even old enough to care, I bet they did that to him.
Stupid James trying to scare that kid with his serial killer Sasquatch immigrant nonsense.
"He sounds fine, but if we ever go over there again promise me you'll cut his ducktail off before it matures." She looked at me confused "That little bit of hair at the back."
"Sure whatever." She said, clearly not suffering the same bias I had about hair. Oh well, she was boycrazy anyhow.
The town was depressing.
It had actually managed to shrink in the time since we went to the store and over to Fosters. Everything looked worn out, weathered, and yellowed. What hadn't been destroyed by the harsh winters there had been criminally neglected to near death.
I didn't know where the music shop was, or if there even was one so we drove around a long time, back and forth through the gravel streets.
The houses were mostly on par with Fosters place and the businesses weren't much better. The exception was the supercenter. Whatever monopoly was running the place was keeping it up. It squatted angrily at the end of town along a straight stretch of road so that it was visible from most parts of Main Street.
There were a couple of gift shops displaying their walking sticks and mini totem poles. A hunting goods place disguised as a camping store and various offices.
Everywhere you looked it seemed as if the wilderness was just waiting for mans last breath so it could make its comeback and crush the dumpy buildings with its roots.
I fantasized about the trees pulling up out of the dirt and getting their revenge.
But if you looked beyond the town you could see what it was that brought people from the four corners to this tiny point every summer.
The mountains, purple and orange in the evening sun piled one atop each other to the horizon. Huge thick fir and spruce were hugging each other, filling in all the spaces. Then below this, the mossy forest floor, nearly devoid of undergrowth was all dark and green invitingly open spaces to explore.
There were small waterfalls crashing down every cliff or crag bringing up a misty steam that gave the air an almost magical quality.
It was quiet.
A peaceful place.
A timeless place.
I think I was starting to like it there. I decided a walk in the woods by myself was in order very soon. James could go suck an egg for telling me not to do just that.
My mood turned sour again.
“I don't see anything I’m into around here, whatabout you?" I asked Carly.
“We passed the seven eleven like three times. I want a slurpee." whiny baby. Fine.
"O.k. We'll get some junk food and go back to madam muumuu’s mansion." I looked over with a smile but she didn't think I was funny.
"Sorry. That James guy got under my skin. I promise I’ll behave."
"O.k" and she was smiling again and looking excited about getting some sugar.
Boy, she could get real annoying when she was all hopped up on sugar though. It was gonna be a long ride home. Carly's head spinning around on her neck, my mom yabberin on about Fosters news about people I don't know and don't care about.
Oh god, and what if that creep talked her into bugging me about going to his party?
I’d have to pretend to have a headache.
Maybe that wouldn't be enough. Maybe I really would give myself a headache. Maybe I wouldn't need to try. I could feel one coming on.
I parked the van right by the front doors and as I cut the ignition two real wierd looking people came walking slowly out the door in unison. They were so bizarre that I just stared rudely at them even though they could see me now that my headlights were out. They wore the exact same clothes, dark pants that could have been denim, hiking boots and dark jackets that seemed to be wool done up real high. They were obviously not twins but they had the same aspect, walking perfectly in time with each other, seemingly in no hurry.
Good, all the better to stare boggle eyed at them.
Their hair was chopped very short and their skin seemed off in color, almost greenish, like the forest was crawling around under their skin. Both were pale blond but one was shorter and darker than the other.
Each carried something small in a bag, and to be honest I was dying to know what a couple of freaks like that would be buying at seven eleven.
I noted all this very quickly and though they had been facing me I didn’t think they noticed me noticing them.
Then they both looked at me at the same time and I froze to my seat.
I figured I was a pretty good judge of people, and even if I was deluding myself there's one thing I was sure of right then.
Those people weren't there.
They were empty.
They were sucking me in.
I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing and a feeling of dread washed over me. Then they walked around to the back of the shop and off into the woods.
Or so it seemed, but everywhere you went in Nowhere looked like you were walking off into the woods.
I wasn't going back there to find out.
"Are you coming?" Carly said, she sounded annoyed; she was standing on my side of the van looking at me like I was crazy.
I really did not want to go out there with those people around, and I really really didn't want to go into that store where they maybe poisoned the air with their oddness.
"No, get in." it was freaking me out that she was out there in the open, I knew it was unreasonable but I needed to get the hell away from Nowhere and it's seven eleven real bad.
"No, I’ll be right back" she said irritably and headed for the door. Shit, I couldn't let her go in alone.
"Wait, wait for me." I called after her and struggled stupidly with my seatbelt trying to rush after her.
She just disappeared into the store.
When I got outside I was relieved to feel that the air was warm and there was no funny smell "stupid." I muttered to myself and gave myself a mental kick in the pants.
What was it I found so scary anyways? A couple of pansies getting smokes at the store? God, I’m yellow. My Mom was always telling me I watched too many scary movies and tried to scare myself needlessly.
That quack Dr. Cleaver they sent me to said so too.
When I got inside Carly was almost at the counter with her two slurpees.
They were big ones. I knew it. She was gonna be all zippy.
I looked around a bit but nothing was interesting. I found myself examining the goods on the shelves trying to judge if they were the same size and shape as the objects in those bags the fruity looking guys had.
Lots of things were, and none of them set my imagination off in a way befitting the nefarious things I’d been hoping to discover about the creepy twins. I went up to the counter with Carly and when she was done I asked the crotchety looking clerk
"Hey, do you know those guys who were just in here? Are they from town here?" I felt stupid but so what.
"Yes and no..." he responded seeming put out about having to discuss something unrelated to his paycheck.
"They never talk to me or anythin, but they come by now and then” he got kinda animated and his watery eyes widened and tightened at inappropriate moments as he rambled grumpily,
“They don't live in town but out there with the rest of them on that land of theirs. Some kinda family or community of Germans or something. I don't ask and they don't offer. To be honest those guys kinda give me the willies. Fellas never look ya straight in the eye. Never have a problem with them though. ….
They never start trouble like some of the hooligans around here. Hittin up the hardware store with paper bags on their heads and that kinda nonsense…." he was getting spittly lips and was on a rant about the youth now and I’d heard all this sorta thing before so I just cut him off
"What did they buy?'
He was angry now; I could tell he didn't like being cut off
"Well I don't see how that’s any of your business you nosy nelly, you probly been hangin round with that bunch that talks about them. Those Ferrinway people done nothin to nobody..."
"Thank’s." I cut him off again.
On the ride back to Fosters Carly was absorbed by her drink and I was grateful. I needed time to think.
There was a mystery brewing and I liked that kinda thing, strange people up to who knows what, local legends people only hinted at, maybe summer wouldn’t be so boring. I bet those guys at the store were the same people James was saying lived by our place.
I was going to have to ask James about those guys..
I wouldn't have time that night because mom would want to get back to the cabin and make dinner.
Which would mean I would need to get out there again sometime. But I definitely didn't want to be alone with the nasty hick, so if I couldn't convince my mom to take me back there soon I was going to have to go to the party.
Maybe there would be someone that was not a total moron at the party who knew more about them.
I wondered briefly if the strange twins would be there. No, the grumpy old clerk seemed to be saying they didn't hang around with the townees.
I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find out it was James and his friends that were the clerks hooligans.
It was kinda exciting, I liked a good mystery. Even though I knew in my bones that nothing would come of it I let my imagination run wild.
When we got to Fosters mom was in a big hurry to get back, it was already dark and Ron had called wondering where we were.
“I’m sorry, I didn't think we were gone all that long." I apologized
"That’s O.k. Sweetie, did you girls have a good time?"
"Yah mom." I smiled at her. Carly had to go into the house to take a leak so we were waiting in the van.
"Good. But you know we missed you over here. James kept talking about you. Are you going to that party, it sounds like a lot of fun. You like party’s right. You have my permission. I already talked to dad about it, he said he'd drive you up here and pick you up." she sounded like she was trying to be casual.
James kept talking about me.
Of course he did, he clearly had an inflated sense of his own appeal. Forget that, he had an entirely imagined sense of his own appeal since he lacked any to begin with.
“Sure, I’ll go to the party. But please don't give that reject any reason to think I might be interested. I just want to hang out with some people my own age." there we go. She'd pass that on to Foster.
"You know, he's a good kid, takes real good care of his mother and his brothers ever since their dad passed on. You two used to be thick as thieves back before... Well I wouldn't mind if you were interested, just for the summer , it might be nice for you to have a boyfriend, you're so pretty but you never seem to notice the boys.." she went on and I let her,
Thick as thieves? Back before what? We were pals or something?
Who cares? Nobody can blame you for playing with the kids of your parents friends when you’re still in diapers. Man, I just turned up my ipod and stared out the window at the now menacing nighttime forest.
Boyfriend my ass.
The drive back to the cabin was uneventful, everything went exactly as I had imagined from Carly being annoying to mom talking about people I couldn't care less about. That is, when she wasn't muttering about the road at night and dangerous drivers.
Plenty of time to think.
I got my sketch book from the pocket of the seat in front of me and started doodling, but wound up drawing a version of the creepy twins that was even creepier than the real thing.I tore it off and stuffed it under the seat.
Yuck, what was I thinking?
My mom was now on the subject of Sasquatch prints being found more and more in the area in the last few years.
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