The Rainbow Changes Color

 

The Rainbow Changes Color

By Don Lorah

Little Lea peaked out from underneath her covers. She shined her flashlight left and right looking for monsters in the shadows.
“Either the monsters are real quick or they ain’t there, Mr. Elefante.”
Mr. Elefante, a stuffed elephant, spent most days under the crook of Little Lea’s arm. Tonight, he stood guard outside the blankets.
“Do you see’em?”
Mr. Elefante did not.
“You’d tell me if you did, wouldn’t you Mr. Elefante.”
Mr. Elefante didn’t answer. His refusal to answer Little Lea infuriated her on most days.
Little Lea flashed her light across the room in a wide arch from left to right.
“What are you doing?” Little Lea’s mother called before turning on the lights.
Little Lea crawled out from under her pink covers, “Monster hunting mama.”
He mother put her hands on her hips, “There are no monsters in this room.”
Little Lea sat up, “Cause they know I’d get’em.”
Her mother crossed the room. She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked Little Lea’s head, “Baby, you are the strongest, smartest, prettiest girl I know.” Little Lea’s mother tickled her when she said prettiest. Little Lea squirmed.
Her mother smiled, “But even the strongest, smartest, prettiest girls in the world need their sleep. What happens if a monster does show up and your too tired to get’em.”
Little Lea thought for a moment, “Then I guess it’s a good thing I’ve got Mr. Elefante here with me.”
Her mother picked up Mr. Elefante and looked into his glass button eyes, “I guess it is.”
Mr. Elefante seemed to nod towards Little Lea’s mother. She put him back at his guard post outside the blanket’s edge. “What are we going to do now?” Little Lea’s mother asked.
“Would you tell me the story, mama? I’ll go to sleep after. I promise.”
“Okay. You scoot back down into bed and I’ll tell the story.”
Little Lea gave her mother a hug before crawling back under her blankets. She grabbed Mr. Elefante and held him close. She wiggled down till she was completely comfortable. “Okay, she said, “I’m ready.”
Mama started:
A long time ago, when your mama was a little girl she would dance beneath the rainbows to make them change their color. She practiced real hard till she had invented new colors this world had never seen. But not everyone liked that your mama would change the colors. Some creatures of the forest would get upset with mama.
But they knew mama was wasn’t an ordinary little girl. Mama was special. They would say their piece but they would say them at a distance. None of them were brave enough to say anything directly to mama. They was afraid she would do something to them or worse tell her papa.
Till one day, Old Mr. Elephant came crashing out the forest madder than he had a right to be. He stomped his big ol’ feet right up to mama and demanded she change the rainbow back.
Well, your mama didn’t like that none. She stopped her dancing. The rainbow shined in the sky caught between the steps and the music.
“How are you?” Mama asked.
“Little Miss, I need you to change the rainbow back to its original colors.”
Mama swept her foot back and forth in front of her, “Want or need, Mr. Elephant?”
Mr. Elephant stomped his foot, “Need.”
Your mama didn’t like being told what to do. She definitely didn’t like being stomped at. She lowered her head at Mr. Elephant looking at him with a hard stare, “Now you look here Mr. Elephant. Ain’t no one gonna tell me what to do. I doesn’t care how big they feet is.”
Then Mr. Snake slithered up behind Mama. “It’s because she can’t,” he hissed.
Mama and Mr. Elephant looked at Mr. Snake. “Don’t you be causing no trouble,” Mr. Elephant said.
“I’m not the one causing trouble. You are, Mr. Elephant.”
Oh, did they get to arguing. So much so, Mama got the headaches and stomped her feet till they was quiet. The rainbow shifting colors from red to green and green to pink with little waves of yellow streaking through.
“Enough, the two of you. I ain’t changing the colors back.”
“Cause you can’t.” Mr. Snake hissed.
“Oh, I can too.” Mama shook off her hands and feet. She stood perfectly still for many moments before stepping left, then right. She twirled and dipped to a beat only she could hear. The rainbow spasmed and shook in the sky. But Mama changed the rainbow back to right. Mr. Elephant was very pleased.
Mr. Snake was not.
Mr. Snake charged towards Mama angry as puss from a wound, “I hate you Little Miss. I hate all you younglings.”
Mama was too exhausted to move as quickly as she would have liked. She stood in fear as Mr. Snake launched from the ground, his poisoned fangs bared.
Mama closed her eyes and shielded her face all scared from Mr. Snake. She heard a great bellow and a crash. When she opened her eyes, she saw Mr. Elephant on the ground. He had stuck out his leg to block Mr. Snake from striking his Little Miss. Mr. Snakes venom sank in deep causing him to fall.
Well, Mama couldn’t stand for that. She picked up Mr. Snake by the back as his head. “Oh, no you don’t Mr. Snake. You ain’t got no right to be biting no one.”
Mama knew Mr. Snake loved his colors. His body all covered with reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. So she whacked him against a tree till all his colors flung off. Mama watched as they flew up into the sky making up the dusk and the dawn. When she was done with Mr. Snake he weren’t nothing but a black stick that crawled long the ground.
Mr. Snake whimpered at the loss of his colors, but Mama weren’t having none of it.
“You brought it on yourself, Mr. Snake. You go on now.”
Mr. Snake crawled away, “I’ll find you again, Little Miss. When the world is dark, I’ll find you and it’s your leg that will taste my venom.”
Mama blew Mr. Snake a raspberry and danced in a circle laughing at Mr. Snakes threat.
“He means it,” Mr. Elephant called in a low whisper, “He’ll come back for you.” His breathing grew heavy.
Mam went to his side. She rubbed his great trunk, “You worried about me, Mr. Elephant.”
“I am Little Miss.”
“If I heal you, would you protect me from Mr. Snake?”
“I would.”
“You promise? No more stomping your foot over the colors of the rainbow?”
“It was for my little one, Little Miss. He hasn’t seen a true rainbow yet.”
“Well, why didn’t you say so?” Mama patted Mr. Elephants trunk. She followed Mr. Elephant’s leg to his wound. She sucked out the poison spitting and cursing Mr. Snake the whole time.
It was very unlady like. But Mama hadn’t yet learned how to be a lady.
But she was able to help Mr. Elephant.
“You wanna take me to meet your little one?”
“I’d be delighted, Little Miss.”
They walked off, back into the forest the bestest of friends. Mr. Elephant stayed true to his word. He protected his Little Miss all the rest of their days.
“Just like Mr. Elefante,” Little Lea said raising Mr. Elefante in the air for her mama to kiss.
“Just like Mr. Elefante,” Mama agreed. Mr. Elefante did nod his head that time. Mama handed Mr. Elefante back.
She tucked Little Lea in tight. She kissed her on the head and wished her happy dreams. She got up to leave when Little Lea asked, “Mama, did Mr. Snake ever come back.”
Mama waved off a chill, “Oh, yes. Mr. Snake did come back. But that youngling is another story.”
“Mama?” Little Lea asked, “Will Mr. Snake ever come after me?”
Mama smiled, “No, little miss, Mr. Snake won’t come for you.”
“How do you know?”
“Because…” She trailed off.
“Mama?”
“Because some things a mother just knows.” Mama nodded to Mr. Elefante. Mr. Elefrante nodded back. “Goodnight, Little Miss.”
“Goodnight, Mama.”
Mama pirouetted out the door, turning off the lights.

 

 

Sisters

Sisters

By Don Lorah

It was the distant that hurt them. Small amounts of time apart adding up to a relationship burdened by the strain.

As Maddie threw the last of her possessions in a cardboard box she thought about their first meeting. “He wore a loud, yellow shirt. His skin red from too much sun. But it was his eyes that drew me in.”

“Don’t talk about it. It’ll only make it worse.”

“No, she should talk about it. It’ll make it better.”

Maddie’s sisters argued over the proper remedy. She paid them little mind. Her thoughts were elsewhere as she walked her cardboard box out to the car.

“He said, forever, as a wedding vow. Forever and Ever. Like a spell being cast over two lovers. Mother wept when he said it. So, did I.”

“She’s still going on about it,” Heather, the older sister quibbled.

“She should. She’s got to let it all out. She needs to speak it out like a cold,” Elena, the younger sister said.

Maddie forgave them both. They didn’t know. It wasn’t their life packed into the trunk of her car. “The first trip, we were so happy. It meant advancement. More money to start our family.”

“A family they never started,” Heather added under her breath to Elena. Elena elbowed her back.

“Then I started making trips. We were both on our way. We always imagined our moving would be together. But each trip took us further apart.”

Elena walked up behind Maddie. She draped an arm around her shoulders, “I know it’s hard, honey. Cooper meant a lot to all of us.”

Maddie pushed Elena away, smacking her across the face as she did so. “You don’t speak his name. His name doesn’t belong to you.”

Elena held her face backing away as tears formed from the blow. Heather stepped in to referee. “Maddie, I know you’re upset, but don’t take this out on Elena.”

“Why not? She slept with him.”

Elena allowed the accusation to hang between them.

Heather looked at Elena with shock, “Is that true?”

Elena’s face darkened, “Don’t act all innocent. You slept with him too.”

Maddie slapped Heather, “Bitch!”

“I can’t believe you said that,” Heather pushed Elena, “How did you know?”

“He said your name once.”

“When?” Heather and Maddie asked in unison.

“When we were together.”

“Like together, together?” Heather made a face.

“Yeah.” Elena crossed her arms in defiance.

“Eww,” Maddie pushed Elena. Elena pushed back.

Heather refereed again, “Ladies, stop.”

They looked up to see neighbors peering at them from the end of dog leashes and opened garages.

“I can’t believe you both slept with my husband,” Maddie wiped at a fresh crop of tears.

Elena rolled her eyes, “Okay. We’re going to do this? Okay. Heather. Maddie slept with Tommy.”

Now it was Heather’s turn to slap Maddie, “You slept with Tommy?”

“I was lonely. Cooper and I were breaking up.”

“Is that why you slept with Evan?” Heather asked.

Elena fumed. She rushed forward knocking Maddie to the ground. “You, bitch! You slept with my husband?”

“So did Heather.”

Elena chased Heather. Heather backed up, “You slept with Tommy, Elena.”

Elena stopped chasing. A slow, infectious laugh escaped her throat, “True.”

The other sisters joined her in laughter.

“Are we fighting over boys?” Maddie asked.

Elena helped her up from the ground, “Like we’re still in high school.”

“Might as well be, with all the drama we create,” Heather added.

“Forget high school, we need our own reality show,” Maddie said.

Heather and Elena agreed.

“Still, before the end. Cooper told me I’d be his one true love. Forever.” Maddie walked to her car climbing into the driver’s seat.

“Should we let her drive in her condition?” Heather asked Elena.

“If we let her drive, she’ll buy the first round,” Elena told her.

“Sounds like a plan, girl.”

“Excuse me. Ladies?”

Heather and Elena turned to see three men approaching; a black eye, a busted lip and a broken nose between them.

Busted Lip led the group, “Excuse me. Can you tell us where the nearest hospital is?”

“You fellas alright?” Elena asked.

Black Eye answered, “Yeah, we’re brothers. We just found out we’ve all been sleeping with each other’s wives.”

“So, you started hitting each other? Typical Neanderthal response,” Heather scoffed.

“It didn’t start out that way,” Broken Nose said, “We were trying to comfort Paul.” Broken Nose pointed to Busted Lip.

“See, I just lost the love of my life. Someone I thought I’d be with…”

“foever.” Maddie finished Paul’s sentence. She exited her car and walked over to Paul.

“Yeah, see”

“The distance,” they both said together, “Exactly.”

They all smiled.

“We were headed to get a drink. Would you like to join us?” Maddie asked Paul.

“Well, I would, but Davey has to get to the hospital,” he pointed to Broken Nose, “I hit him pretty good.”

“Lucky punch, Big Brother,” Davey said pinching the bridge of his nose.

“I bet it was,” Elena agreed moving in to help Davey to the car.

“Why don’t we get Davey to the hospital, then get some drinks afterwards?” Heather asked the group.

“I like how you think,” Black Eye told her. He extended his hand, “Steven.”

“Heather.” She wrinkled her nose like a bunny.

“We’re parked just over there,” Paul pointed down the street.

“I’ll walk with you,” Maddie told him.

Elena and Heather watched Paul and Maddie walk down the sidewalk.

“They are the sweetest couple,” Heather commented.

“I like him better than Cooper,” Elena agreed.

“Ladies, could we please get to the hospital? My nose really hurts,” Davey said from the backseat of Maddie’s car.

“Shh,” they told him, “Our sister’s in love.

 

 

 

He Did It

 

By Don Lorah

“I’ve still got crust under my eye.”

“You’ve got crust on the brain. We should start calling you Crusty.”

“That’s name’s taken. You hungry?”

“How can you eat at a time like this?”

“All that talk about crust got me thinking about bread. Bread led to sandwiches. Now I’m hungry.”

“There’s a dead body under the car. We’re waiting for the police to show up.”

“So? A man can’t eat during a time of stress?”

“This is your fault. I’d think you’d show a little remorse.”

“Who say’s I’m not remorseful? I can’t be remorseful and hungry at the same time? Besides, how is this my fault? If anything, it’s your fault.”

“My fault? You were the one driving.”

“I told you to take the wheel.”

“You could have pulled off to the side of the road.”

“Semantics.”

“I don’t think you know the meaning of that word.”

The body under the car moans.

“See he’s not dead. He’s moaning.”

“That could be anything. He could have farted. He’s dead.”

“So, you’re a doctor now?”

“I’m not a doctor, but I know a dead guy when I see one.”

“How do you know what a dead guy looks like?”

“This has happened to me before.”

“See. It is your fault. You should have taken the wheel.”

“And you should have pulled over.”

Sirens wail in the background, drawing closer with each turn.

“So? Are we really gonna do this?”

“Do what?”

“Argue over whose fault this is?

“No. I guess not.”

“So, we’re in agreement then?”

“Sure.”

“Thanks buddy.”

Police cruiser screeches to a halt.

Officer, “What happened here?”

Together, “He did it.” Both pointed to the guy under the car.

 

The End

Bookbag Boy (Part 4)

Bookbag Boy (Part 4)

By Don Lorah

Kay already had the engine started before Tomas descended the porch steps. He could hear Garth Brooks singing about a woman he met one summer. Tomas rolled his eyes. His mother sat in her brand-new GMC Sierra 3500 playing the same worn out Garth Brooks greatest hits cd she had for the last 20 years.

“Classics never die,” she told him, the last time he complained.

“But you get a new truck every couple of years,” he countered.

“Trucks are for work. Garth is for the soul. Your soul will live forever.”

She then launched into a solo rendition of We Shall Be Free.

Tomas knew better than to say anything, about the truck or his mom’s taste in music, as he climbed into the large, white behemoth.

Kay made a comment as he threw Red into the backseat, “You’re taking your bookbag with you? What is that like your blankey?”

“In case I need to clean out my locker or get homework or something.”

“Or something,” she snorted.

Kay peeled out of the driveway, letting Garth’s twang fill the cabs uncomfortable silence.

The truck was so big, Tomas was sure they were going to clip a mailbox or push a car off the road. He knew why they had it, they needed something big to haul the horse trailers. He just wished, they owned something else for day trips into town. There was no subtlety in Mom’s Monster Machine.

Did you know she added a decal back here that says, ‘Silly Boys Trucks are For Girls’?

Tomas didn’t answer.

Probably the most feminine thing on this truck.

Tomas looked out the window. He could tell his mom was looking at him out of the corner of her eye. There was no way he could chance talking to Red.

Think your mom is seeing anybody?

Tomas rested his head on the passenger side window. He knew what was coming, a barrage of questions or statements designed to get Tomas to break. Red got a kick out of it.

What would you do if your mom and dad got back together?

Would you rather have a new stepdad or stepmom?

Think Courtney is a good kisser?

If you aren’t going to make a move, mind if I try?

Tomas shook his head back and forth at the nonsense.

What if in a couple of years, your dad started dating Courtney and she became your new stepmom?

Tomas let out a small roar of frustration. He punched the center console for effect.

“What the hell, is wrong with you?” Kay asked.

“Nothing.” Tomas could hear Red laughing in the backseat, “I forgot to use the bathroom before we left. I’ve really got to go.”

Tomas wasn’t sure she bought it. But she acted like she did, “Well, we’re almost there. You can hold it another minute.”

Another minute turned out to be ten. Always did.

Tomas faked using the bathroom, while his mom notified the office they had arrived. He washed his hands and prayed things didn’t get worse. He checked for his soul in the mirror. Each eye trying to peer further than it had before. Finally, he accepted Garth hadn’t yet done wonders for him and joined his mother in the office waiting area.

He wondered if she noticed the retro décor.

“Principal Duong will be with you shortly,” Mrs. Tebell notified them.

Tomas saw the look on his mother’s face. She didn’t like Mrs. Tebell’s tone. “You’re husband still drive that 82 coverette?”

“Yes, he does,” Mrs. Tebell responded with pride.

“That thing is cherry.”

Mrs. Tebell beamed.

“I see it parked out at Mustang Sally’s most weekends. You two still swinging?”

Mrs. Tebell’s face burned with embarrassment. She picked up the phone and pretended to call someone. She turned sideways in her seat blocking them with the phone.

Kay smiled with amusement, “Tell him Kay said hello.”

Mr. Duong interrupted the conversation by opening his office door, “Mrs. Williams, Tomas, we’re ready for you.”

“Mrs. Williams, is my ex-husband’s mother. You can call me Kay.”

Mr. Duong apologized, “I’m sorry. We must have old information. I was going by the pink form we have on file.”

“You know assumptions Mr. Duong.”

Both of them let the answer hang in the air.

Inside the office, Mr. Grasis and Mrs. Mckinley sat wedged behind Mr. Duong’s desk. They looked like sausages too big for their casings. Watching Mr. Duong squeeze in between them added more humor to the picture. The office was big enough for the three of them to spread out, but they insisted on sitting close together.

These three need a lesson on intimidation Tomas thought to himself. They looked more comical than menacing. He wondered what Red would say in this situation. Too bad he had left him in the car. After last night incident he hadn’t wanted to, but his mother had insisted.

Mr. Duong started the meeting, “I’m sure you know why we called you in this morning.”

“Why don’t you spell it out so we don’t have to work under any more assumptions.” Kay answered like a beauty queen who didn’t believe in world peace.

Her open hostility caught the three educators by surprise. They were not used to having their authority challenged.

“Let’s not get off on the wrong foot,” Mr. Grasis warned.

“Sir, we’re two left feet trying to do the right boot shuffle.”

Tomas new better than to laugh.

Mr. Grasis looked confused, “What does that mean?”

“It means, we’re already on the wrong foot. How ‘bout we move this along.”

It was Mrs. McKinley’s turn, “We are here because of Tomas. Tomas is a bright, intelligent young man, who we feel could have a very successful future.”

Kay cut Mrs. McKinley off, “But. There’s a but, right? There’s always a but. You know what they say, Mrs. McKinely?” Mrs. McKinley shook her head no. “Whatever you say before the, but, doesn’t matter. It’s what comes after. Let’s get to the after.”

Mr. Grasis chimed in, “We’re expelling your kid.”

His gravitas hit Kay like a slap. It buzzed her but, she recovered quickly.

“You’re expelling him?” Her voice grew deeper.

“Mr. Tomas doesn’t belong at this school. He continually shows disrespect towards authority and antagonizes the other students.”

Kay held up her hand, “Wait a minute. Who’s Mr. Tomas. You do know his first name is Tomas, right? His last name is Williams. You’re going to sit there and talk about respect when you don’t even know his name? That’s disrespectful. As for antagonizing other students, he’s the one who got punched in the eye. Why? Because he’s smart?”

“It’s not his intelligence, we’re worried about.” Mrs. McKinley broke in.

“You’re worried about the bookbag thing.”

“Frankly, yes.”

“If you three are any indication to the intelligence in this school, it’s no wonder he talks to his bookbag. That thing’s smarter than you three combined.”

Kay was sitting on the edge of her seat. She was clearly angry. If society hadn’t civilized itself, she would have jumped across the desk and torn the faces off of the three educators.

Don’t make her play the fool, Tomas thought to himself, remembering one of his mother’s famous quotes.

Mr. Duong held up a hand to calm the situation, “Mrs. Williams, please.”

“My name is not Mrs. Williams.”

“Excuse me. My apologies. But we do feel Tomas is a distraction.”

“He sets a bad example for the other students.” Mrs. McKinley added.

Kay snorted, “Bad example? Do you know how many times I held your hair out of the toilet back in high school? You do remember high school, don’t you? Don’t start that morality parade with me. I remember you Becky Johnson.”

Mrs. McKinley’s face shielded her eyes from Kay’s accusatory words.

Kay didn’t let up, “And this one is a walking poster for diabetes.” She pointed to Mr. Grasis. “My son has good grades and a bullying problem. But you’re going to kick him out for that? I thought you all were here for the children, not against them. If he’s not supposed to be at this school, which one is he supposed to be at?”

Mr. Duong pulled a set of 8×10 pictures out of a manila folder, “He broke into the school last night.”

Kay shot a stern sideways glance at Tomas. Tomas sank down in his seat.

“He broke in through my classroom window and destroyed my classroom. He and his companion graffitied the art hallway before emptying the cafeteria refrigerators of today’s lunch.” Mr. Grasis folded his hands over his large stomach.

Kay kept her sideways look on Tomas.

“There’s graffiti in the art hallway?” Tomas spoke up.

“So, you admit it?” Mr. Duong asked.

Tomas sank back, “No.”

“You have proof?” Kay questioned.

Principal Duong slid an 8×10 across his deck. The picture was a black and white security image of Tomas and Courtney’s backsides.

“We believe this is Tomas,” he pointed at the picture, “You can see him carrying his bookbag.”

“And the girl?”

“We haven’t identified her yet.”

All eyes focused on Tomas. Secretly, he began praying for the power of invisibility.

Maybe a natural disaster.

After a moment, Kay asked, “And the graffiti?”

Mr. Duong slid another set of pictures across the table, “It runs the length of the hallway. We can show you if you’d like.”

Kay let out a breath of frustration, “That won’t be necessary.”

She studied the pictures. Weird shapes and symbols ran along the top of the hallway. Tomas leaned forward to get a better view.

Kay gave him another sideways glance. Tomas sat back.

Kay pushed the pictures back towards Mr. Duong. You could see her calculating her options, “Tomas will serve out his week suspension. After school, I’ll make sure here’s here to remove the graffiti and repaint the walls, on my dime. He stays in school and finishes out the year. We’ll reevaluate if he comes back after that. If he breaks in again, I’ll remove him myself. But you three are going to make sure those anti-bullying posters in the hallway are followed.”

“I don’t think you’re in any position to dictate terms, Mrs. Tomas,” Mr. Grasis said.

“What do you teach, Mr. Grasis.”

“Social Studies.”

“And so bad with names. What a pity.”

“Mr. Grasis does have a point, Mrs. Williams,” Mr. Duong shot Mr. Grasis a look hoping he caught his mistake, not realizing he had made one of his own, “You aren’t in a position to make demands.”

“Do you want to find out if the rumors are true, Principal Duong? You’re feeling comfortable in your position?”

All four adults sat with their best poker face. Kay’s won.

“Fine. We agree to your terms,” Mr. Duong relented.

“Thank you.” Kay stood up, extending her hand to Mr. Duong. She excluded Mrs. McKinley and Mr. Grasis.

Just as Tomas and Kay exited the office, Tomas heard Mr. Grasis whisper, “Are you crazy?”

“I’m not finding out if the rumors are true. This job isn’t worth that hassle.”

Tomas closed the door wondering what the rumors were.

 

2.

Thomas expected a Fire and Brimstone speech straight from Hell’s Cathedral. Instead, he got treated to frozen yogurt.

Even more special, Kay got her own bowl. She was famous for not wanting anything, when they were in line, but famished as soon as they sat down. What always started with a nibble, ended in a complete takeover.

Tomas watched as Kay nibbled on the peanuts she had place on top of her chocolate yogurt. Absentminded, she would pluck a nut or two in-between puffs on her cigarette. They were sitting in a nonsmoking section, but the girl at the counter knew better than to make a fuss. They were sitting outside and no one was around. Better to let Kay smoke.

Tomas thought about the “rumors”. He had no idea what they could be. At least, nothing that would back Mr. Duong down.

He cleared his throat drawing Kay’s attention. Tomas wanted to ask what the rumors were, but chickened out, “Thanks for sticking up for me today.”

Kay grunted and drew on her cigarette.

They sat another moment allowing the mechanics of eating to distract them. Birds sang love songs to the world around them. Cars meandered by, motivated by the desires of their drivers. The sunshine beat down as a reminder that others had a better life. To an outsider, the world was a Rockwell painting.

“What do you know about that girl you’re seeing?” Kay popped another peanut in her mouth. She hadn’t actually touched the yogurt.

Tomas shoved a spoonful of frozen yogurt in his mouth, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, what I mean,” Kay sat forward,” What do you know about that girl?”

Tomas shrugged, “I don’t know. She’s just kind of around.”

“What do you mean, around?”

“I see her at like school and stuff. You’ve seen her at the house. We ate dinner together.”

Kay sat back.

Tomas picked at his yogurt. The interrogation wasn’t over. Kay flicked cigarette ash onto the patio. “You know she doesn’t live at the Clark’s old place, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Kind of stuck on that sentence, aren’t we?” Kay stubbed out her cigarette butt in her untouched yogurt, “I mean what I mean. She doesn’t live there. No one does. Know what that means, don’t you?”

“It means Merrill’s gonna be living up here soon.”

“You are such a smartass.”

Tomas didn’t want to connect the dots. Kay did it for him. “It means she’s lying.”

Her words hung between them. Their implications being both sinister and virtuous.

Tomas tossed his half-finished yogurt container towards the bright pink receptacle. It was a great shot. If the moment hadn’t been so serious, he may have gloated.

Kay read the pained expression on his face, “I only want what’s best for you.” She reached out and touched his hand. It was uncomfortable for both of them, but Tomas appreciated the attempt.

“How do you know Courtney doesn’t live at the Clark’s old place?” Tomas asked.

“I looked into it. I was curious how much the place went for.”

“And she doesn’t live there?”

“Place is as empty as the day they left.”

“Mom, that makes no sense.”

She patted his arm, “You know what I mean.”

“It means Merrill will be moving up soon.”

Kay laughed. It was a genuine laugh full of merriment and glee. Hearing it made Tomas realize how much he had missed it. “Yeah, smartbutt, Merrill will be moving up soon. The whole gang will be coming with him.”

Kay walked her trash over to the bright pink receptacle.

“Mom?” Tomas asked still seated, “What are the rumors?”

Kay stopped with her back to Tomas. He watched her sigh heavily. The merriment and glee from a moment ago was gone. “If that girl’s lying to you about where she lives. You might want to think about what else she’s lying to you about,” Kay didn’t turn around, “Seems to me she’s trouble.”

“I don’t think she trouble, mom.”

Kay turned around. She lit another cigarette, “Are you the one who sprayed graffiti all over those walls?”

“No.”

She nodded, “There’s you answer. Get in the truck.”

Kay turned Garth up a little louder to drown out the silence between them.

 

3.

Man, that was one hostile car ride.

Tomas didn’t answer until he was sure everyone was out of range, “What do you think of Courtney?”

Cute. But I don’t think it would work. She’s a human. I’m a bookbag.

“Cut it out.” Tomas locked his bedroom door behind him. It was against the rules, but he wanted the privacy. Too many times his mother had appeared like a ghost. It was getting spooky.

I don’t know what to make of her. She’s helpful. She stitched me up.

“What about knowing you needed to be rescued? I think she knows more than she’s letting on.”

Next time she comes over, you hold her down, I’ll threaten her life.

Tomas tossed Red over the back of the couch.

What? Too far? He slinked back over the arm of the couch.

“I think we need to check out her story.”

You could just talk to her. You haven’t really tried that yet.

“I have tried.”

When? Before or after you were too nervous to be around her.

“That’s not fair.”

Who said life was fair?

Tomas starred off into space, “I wish you had magical powers. We could do something with magical powers.”

Who says I don’t?

“Do you?”

No. Do you have magical powers?

Tomas pushed Red back off the couch. He could hear him laughing on the floor.

“Maybe, mom was wrong. Maybe someone is living out there.”

You don’t think your mom would have investigated the situation thoroughly? Woman’s a bloodhound for the truth.

“I don’t know. I think we need to check out the Clark’s place for ourselves.”

Red propelled himself up onto the couch once more, What you’re really saying is, we’re going out after dark.

“We have to.”

I’m not.

“You have too.”

Not going to happen, Captain. You’re gonna need to think of something else.

Activity in other parts of the house caught Tomas’ attention. Doors opening and closing meant Kay was barking orders. The other inhabitants of the house were moving to her commands. Tomas counted the seconds till she would come for him. He moved towards the door opening it right before she barged in.

“Need you to mow the back field with Sagen.”

“On it.”

“What were you doing up here?”

“Getting my boots,” Tomas held up a pair or dirty, brown work boots.

“Those are supposed to be on the porch.”

“I’ve got issues.”

Kay let him pass. She lingered just inside his room listening as he descended the last of the stairs. Once she was satisfied Tomas was outside, she crossed into the center of his room.

She searched the room with discerning eyes and pickpocket fingers. She opened drawers, flipped through magazines, looked behind posters. The room was an average teenage boys room. His adolescence disappearing as manhood took hold. The transitional smells from boyhood to adult, not overpowering but present.

Kay sat down on the couch. Red adjusted to the shifting weight of the couch. His movement caught Kay’s eyes. “So, what’s your story?”

Red didn’t respond. He doubted she would hear him anyway.

Kay grabbed Red turning him over to inspect every side. “Does Tomas have anything hidden inside of you?”

Kay partially unzipped Red’s top zipper. She heard Annie call for her from outside, “Kay. Gonna need you out here real quick.”

“Figures. Nothing happens around here without me.” She tossed Red back onto the couch as she exited the room.

Red breathed a sigh of relief as she descended the stairs, I’ve never been so violated in my life. That woman inspected me more than my last physical. God, what a turn on.

Outside, cold stares held off itchy trigger fingers.

No one likes a confrontation with the law.

Bookbag Boy

Bookbag Boy (Part 2)

Bookbag Boy (Part 3)

 

Bookbag Boy (Part 3)

Bookbag Boy (Part 3)

By Don Lorah

 

The school was built like a penitentiary warding off the encroaching suburbia.

“Think they built the school first or neighborhood?” Courtney asked.

Tomas jumped, “What?”

Courtney pointed towards the school, “Do you think they built the school first or the neighborhood that surrounds it?”

“Does it matter?”

“No. But you’ve been quiet the whole way here and I thought I’d try a little conversation.”

I did try conversation, Tomas thought, I asked where you got the car. I asked if you were sixteen. I asked if you had a driver’s license. I asked why we were riding the bus when you had access to a car. You’re the one who didn’t answer.

Courtney read Tomas’ thoughts, “We’ll talk about it later.” She parked next to a fire hydrant.

“You’re gonna get towed.”

“It’s the middle of the night. Who’s gonna know?”

Tomas shook his head before exiting the car, “You don’t know these people.”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Tomas surveyed the school and the surrounding houses. He couldn’t pinpoint where exactly, but he had a feeling someone was watching them.

“What do you see?” Courtney searched her bag for a ski mask. She handed one to Tomas.

“I’m not putting that on.”

“Why not?”

“Because that makes us look guilty. So far we haven’t done anything.” Tomas pointed to the car, “Except park illegally. You put that on and we’re juvenile delinquents.” He paused, “Right now, we’re just high school kids looking to get to second base.”

“I heard you keep getting called out at first base,” Courtney laughed.

Tomas’ cheeks burned, “Let’s get this over with.” He started towards the school without Courtney.

Courtney followed, “Hey, I was just kidding. Don’t be mad.”

Tomas waved her off.

She grabbed his hand, “Hey, I really was just kidding.” She searched his eyes for understanding.

Tomas relented, allowing for reconciliation. But inside he dumped another shovel of dirt on ever growing expansion of feelings.

As they crossed the teacher’s parking lot, Courtney asked, “Do you know how to get in this place?”

“Mr. Grasis has a window that doesn’t lock. We should be able to open it from the outside and climb in.”

“How do you know he has a window that doesn’t lock?”

“Rumor is, a student broke it when they jumped out of it. Mr. Grasis tried following the kid out the window, but he didn’t fit.”

“Were you the student?”

Tomas looked at Courtney, “Believe it or not, but I’m not the worst kid at this school.”

Courtney held up her hands in defense, “Again. Just kidding.”

Tomas felt along the bottom ledge of the school wall, “There it is.”

Courtney used the flashlight on her phone to see he was holding a worn screwdriver with a black and yellow handle. “What’s that for?”

“To pry open the window. We need a little leverage to get it started.”

She raised her eyebrows towards him, “You sure you weren’t the one to jump out the window?”

“Nope. Wasn’t me. But I am the one who realized the window no longer locks.”

“How did you do that?”

“You don’t want to know. Plead ignorant in case we get caught.”

Courtney grinned as Tomas placed the screwdriver at the base of the window. With a curse and a grunt, the window edged up enough they could place their fingers underneath. Two seconds later Tomas was pushing Courtney through the first-floor window.

“What should we do?” Courtney asked, surveying the room.

“Go to my locker and get Red.”

“No, I mean, what prank should we play on Mr.Grasis. You know, to get back at him for picking on you in the hallway.”

Tomas stopped at the door, “It doesn’t work that way. You don’t get back at bullies by being a bully yourself. This isn’t a high school comedy.” Tomas exited the room.

Courtney pushed a pile of papers off Mr. Grasis desk into the trash can. She stuck her tongue out at Tomas.

“Make sure the door doesn’t close,” Tomas called to Courtney.

Courtney looked around for something to prop the door open with. Not finding a door stopper, she drug over a desk.

“Good enough?” she asked.

Tomas shook his head, “Good enough.”

Lucky for them, Tomas’ locker was only a hallway away. Their steps dimly illuminated by the emergency lights above them. Tomas reached out along the wall like a blind person. Courtney walked the center of the hall as if she could see in the dark.

As they passed the art room, they felt a presence peering at them in the dark.

“Those masks are creeping me out,” Courtney said.

“Well, the blue on, with the horns, has been tracking us since we turned the corner. So, yeah, I’d say, they’re creeping me out too.”

“They’re watching us?”

“Yep.”

“How can papier-mache masks track us?”

“We broke into school, to rescue a talking bookbag, from the dark, and you’re surprised?”

“Touché.”

You two done talking French out there, Red’s familiar sarcasm coming from within the locker.

Tomas spun the numbers. The tumblers fell into place. He opened it on the first try, “Didn’t think I’d be able to do that. Usually takes me two or three times.” He grabbed Red, “Good to see you buddy.”

They heard tape peeling away from the wall. All three turned to see masks falling to the floor.

I am so mad at you, but right now, we need to get out of here fast.

“Why?”

Courtney tapped Tomas on the shoulder. He turned. Courtney was too stunned to speak. The masks were now floating at the other end of the hallway.

Gotta run, man!

“Are we really afraid of paper masks?”

The blue mask with horns let out a primal scream not heard since the creation of the earth.

Courtney covered her ears. Red jumped out of Tomas’ hands and started scooting away. The blue mask led the charge after them. Tomas jumped into gear, grabbing Red off the floor. He led Courtney towards the Tech Ed Center.

“Figures,” Tomas joked.

“What?”

“I’m the one who made the blue mask for art. It was an extra credit assignment.”

Such the overachiever.

Courtney and Tomas pulled on doors, looking for one that was unlocked. 20 masks of different colors barreled down on them. At the last second, they found a door that would open.

“That was lucky,” Courtney said.

They watched the masks float on the other side of the glass.

“Think we’re safe?” Courtney breathed.

In answer to her question, the masks flew into the large classroom window smashing through with ease. Tomas and Courtney shielded themselves from the flying glass.

“How in the world does paper beat glass?” Tomas asked.

I don’t know. No hands. Don’t play a lot of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Tomas ignored Red. He looked around for a weapon. On a back bench, he found a wrench. “Look out,” he warned Courtney. She ducked, so did the blue mask. But an orange and red mask took the wrench right in the face.

Pun intended.

But the orange and red mask wasn’t affected. It took the blow easily. Courtney tried as well. She threw a tray of sockets at other masks. Nothing they threw did any damage. The masks loomed forward.

Get to the cafeteria. You need water to defeat these things.

“What?” Tomas asked.

Don’t argue. I’m gonna buy you a few seconds.

Before Tomas could ask, “What”, again, Red started to glow. The masks back up momentarily as Red turned into a bright orb of light. Before the masks could regroup, Red discharged his buildup of light, stunning the masks, causing them to fall.

Tomas stood stunned watching Red transform back into an ordinary bookbag.

Courtney grabbed his arm, “Come on. They’re only stunned. We need to get to the cafeteria.

They ran like cats, trusting their senses more than seeing what was in front of them. A lifetime of hallway navigation had prepared them for a darken flight through the school building.

The masks followed.

Luckily the cafeteria couldn’t be locked down like other rooms in the school. Tomas and Courtney rushed past folded tables towards the kitchen area.

“The sinks are over here,” Courtney called out.

Tomas rushed over, “Okay, now what?”

“We’ve got to spray them with water?”

“How? Cup it in our hands?”

“We can use bowls or something.”

“So, we need to find bowls.”

They started looking.

“How’s Red?” Courtney asked.

“I don’t know. He’s not moving. I think the pulse thing, he did, knocked him out.”

“I hope not for good.”

“Yeah, me too.” Tomas didn’t want to think about losing his only friend. An emotion tried to bubble its way into his throat, but he swallowed hard to ignore it.

“Found one!” Courtney shouted.

“Nice.”

Out of the dark, several masks, led by Tomas’ blue one leapt from the shadows, snatching Red out of his hand.

“Red!”

He tried to pull Red back, but the masks snapped at him. Several held him at bay, while others started ripping at Red’s outsides.

Courtney filled a bowl, “Here.” She threw the water into the dark, “I can’t see. Did I get one?”

“I don’t know.”

“We need light.”

“I got it.” Tomas rushed over to the stainless-steel fridges lining the far way. He flung open their doors filling the room with light. They witnessed one drowned mask, but several otherswere tearing small holes into Red’s sides. Courtney continued to refill the bowl.

“Filthy beasts,” Tomas called out. He threw a container of carrots at one of the masks. A direct hit, it knocked a green mask back but not out. Courtney threw another bowl full of water on the masks. She took several out but was too far away to hit the horde chewing on Red.

Tomas searched the refrigerators for more ammunition. He assaulted the masks with every fruit and vegetable he could find. Courtney kept launching volleys of water, but couldn’t connect with Red’s main attackers.

“We need more water,” Tomas could hear the desperation in his own voice. Red lay like a slaughtered elk ravaged by a hungry pride.

“Duh, why didn’t I see this before.” Courtney reached out for the industrial strength spray nozzle attached to the sink. She pushed the lever sending a torrent of water across the kitchen. Everything in her path was soaked.

One by one, all the masks dropped or were shredded from Courtney’s onslaught.

“And to think I almost failed Home Ec,” she joked.

Tomas rushed to Red’s side. He pushed off the dissolving masks with disgust. Against, Red’s earlier wishes, he poked his fingers through the chewed holes. “Something’s wrong.”

“Of course, Red just got the crapped kicked out of him,” Courtney offered.

“No. It’s more than that,” Tomas unzipped Red. He reached inside. “There’s nothing in here.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, there’s nothing in here. No crystals. Nothing.”

Tomas started searching the floor, “They must have fallen out.”

“Do you think that’s what the masks were searching for?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. But this is my fault. I shouldn’t have left him alone.” Tomas started to cry, “He told me, not to leave him alone. He told me not to leave him in the dark. I’m supposed to be his friend. I’m supposed to be there for him. I’ve killed him.”

Courtney kneeled down beside Tomas, “Calm down.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, “Let’s try to find the crystals and see if we can make Red better okay?”

Tomas wiped at his tears. He was too emotional, at the moment, to care how fragile he was in front of Courtney. “Okay.”

“You said the crystals were pink?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t see any pink ones. Here’s a black one? Could this be it.”

“I don’t know,” Tomas was panicking, “Just grab it all. We can sort it out later.”

Tomas and Courtney rounded up everything on the floor. Black crystals, fruits and vegetables were stuffed back into Red. When they thought, they had everything, they made for the exit.

“How close are we to Mr. Grasis room?” Courtney asked.

“Forget Mr. Grasis,” Tomas said hitting the nearest exit door, triggering the silent alarm.

They drove back to Tomas’ house in silence. Tomas was too worried about Red to care if he woke his mother when he got home. He didn’t even have the strength to send Courtney away. He collapsed on his bed, with Red in his arms. Courtney curled up on Tomas’ couch.

All three slept till morning.

 

2.

It was Red who woke them.

Can someone tell me why my insides are stuffed with carrots.

He spat one across the room.

Tomas woke up immediately, “Red. You’re alive.” Tomas jumped off the bed. Red was sitting at Courtney’s feet, on the couch. Tomas bear hugged him. His exuberance woke up Courtney.

Not in front of the lady, huh? It’s bad enough you cried all night.

“How did you know?” Tomas asked backing away.

You cried in your sleep

“I cried in my sleep?”

What are you a parrot? Yeah, you cried. You talked. You danced. You painted the Mona Lisa.

Red shook his duffeled shoulders.

Who patched me up?

Tomas looked to see fresh stitching closing the holes the masks had created.

“I did,” Courtney said, wiping the sleep out of her eyes. “I woke up around five. Couldn’t sleep. You still weren’t back with us, so I thought I’d see if I could help.”

Red touched at the stitching.

Good job. I wouldn’t be here, if you hadn’t of done that.

“So, what’s the story?” Tomas aksed.

The story? The story is you left me alone in a locker. You did the two things I told you not to do. You left me alone and you left me in the dark.

“And I’m really sorry about that. I was mad. You know they suspended me because of you.”

Don’t turn this around on me. We could have taken care of things a long time ago, but you didn’t want to.

“Yeah, it’s my fault. I got it. Glad I rescued you last night.”

You wanna go? Step up my friend. I grew up on the wrong side of the factory, homeboy. You don’t mess with assembly line 62.

“Gentlemen, calm down. We’re all on the same side here.”

Tomas and Red looked away. Downstairs they could hear the house was alive with morning rituals. People were moving robotically, preparing for the day’s activities.

“Is it alright I’m up here? Your mom isn’t going to come up and yell at me or anything, is she?”

“I’m suspended. Mom won’t come up. She’ll leave a chore list on the kitchen counter. It don’t matter if I get up at 2 am or 2 pm, as long as the list gets done.”

They sat in silence, listening till the house was quiet.

“You never did answer my question,” Tomas addressed Red.

What question?

“What’s going on? How are you alive? Why were those masks after you? How did my papier-mâché mask come alive? Why were your crystals black instead of pink? Why can’t you be in the dark?” Tomas took a breath.

Is that all? That was more than one question.

“Let’s start with those and go from there.” Tomas folded his arms.

Red procrastinated.

I am sorry for yelling at you. I really don’t like the dark. I was really scared. I’m glad you came back for me though.

“Stop stalling.”

I can’t go home till my crystals are violet.

“Why violet? Where’s home?”

Why does grape soda taste like throw-up? Things are because they are. Home is where I hang my hat.

“Those are crappy answers.”

That’s all I got.

“Okay. So how do we get your crystals violet?”

You trying to get rid of me?

Red laughed. Tomas didn’t.

I need you to calm down. We’re in big trouble. Black crystals mean, I was technically dead.

Tomas registered surprise, but didn’t say anything.

“So, how are you here now, then?” Courtney asked.

I guess that has something to do with you, but I’m not sure what that means, just yet.

Tomas glared at Courtney.

“I don’t know. I just sewed him up,” Courtney defended.

“Yeah, but you were also the one who begged me to go get him,” Tomas shot back.

“Is that what you did. You broke into the school, to get your bookbag back.”

All three turned to see Kay had walked into the room.

“Mom?” Tomas said, “Good morning.” He tried to recover.

“Don’t, ‘Good Morning’, me. Guess who I just had a conversation with?” Kay stood with her hands on her hips.

Tomas looked at Courtney.

“Don’t look at her. I’ll deal with the fact that this girl slept in your room last night, in a minute. Answer me. Who did I just get off the phone with?”

Tomas racked his brain for the answer.

The principal. You were in the school last night.

Kay saw the answer flash across Tomas’ face, “That’s right, smart guy, the principal. Seems you vandalized the school last night.”

Tomas thought back to previous night. He wouldn’t call water on the floor, vandalism, but schools were institutions of zero tolerance, nowadays. Thank God, kids were sent there to make mistakes and learn.

“Mom, I can explain.”

She held up a hand, “I don’t want to hear it. You’ve decided to throw your life away. And it’s starting to affect mine. Instead of getting my stuff done, I have to go down to the school and deal with your shit. You want to be a smartass or psychopath go ahead. But you’re not dragging me down with you. Got it.”

Tomas nodded.

“I’m sorry?” Kay asked with her hand to her ear.

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve got it.”

Kay waved a finger at Courtney, “Honey, if you want to see your next birthday, I better not find you here again. You understand me?”

Courtney didn’t answer. She slinked out of the room. Tomas and Kay listened as Courtney descended the steps and left the house, the screen door slammed shut behind her.

“I’ll be in the truck,” Kay cursed as she left the room.

That could have gone better.

“Ya think?”

Tomas’ day was only getting started.

 

Bookbag Boy (Part 2)

Bookbag Boy

Black Magic Believes in You

Black Magic Believes in You

By Don Lorah

You could almost choke on the exhaust from the old busses going by.

Dilly looked up and down the street, impatiently circling his claimed territory, waiting for his target.

Dilly mumbled inaudible words. Angry words focused on the ground so as not to infect any of the passerby’s. A few flecks of venom would cling onto people. They’d look, brush them off and scurry away.

Everyone picked up their pace when passing Dilly.

People generalized,

“He’s crazy.”

“This city is full of people like him.”

“He’ll hurt someone.”

Dilly didn’t care what they thought. He thought of himself as an original. An original who was assigned to kill one person. He was sure he knew who that was.

“One person who deserves it,” his words floating up like a balloon for Quickstep Mary’s to glance at as they pretended not to notice.

He felt for the .22 concealed in his pocket. He gripped it like a kid would their favorite toy.

“Aint’ gonna lose. Life is life.”

“You okay son?”

Dilly felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see a young priest gathering him in with his eyes.

Dilly shook the priest’s hand off his shoulder, “Your eyes are all wrong for your face.”

The priest smiled, “What do you mean?”

“They’re too old for your face,” Dilly looked back down at the ground making his words hard to hear. The priest had to lean in to hear him over the city noise.

“Some say I’m an old soul.”

“I ain’t got no use for an old soul.”

“My name’s Jake. What’s yours?” Jake held out his hand. Dilly ignored it. “Maybe, you’d like a meal?”

Dilly pushed Jake back. He released his hand off his gun while the priest clutched his rosary.

“I told you, I ain’t got time for you.” Dilly’s words spread like fertilizer over the city walkers.

Jake held up his hands defensively, “Okay. I was trying to help. My apologies.”

Dilly picked up on Jake’s tone, “Don’t talk down to me.”

Jake adjusted the cross around his neck, “I wasn’t. Again, my apologies.” He attempted to pass Dilly. Dilly stuck out his arm to stop him.

“No. You don’t get to go. You’re a bad man. I sense it.”

Jake stepped back. His hands up in defense, “Sir, I don’t wish to converse with you any further. Please let me pass.”

Dilly punched Jakes square in the chest, cutting his knuckle on the priest’s cross.

People no longer walked past. Quickstep Mary’s had turned into Looky-loo’s.

This Voodoo is Taboo. Dilly’s mama’s favorite saying rolled around in his head.

Dilly didn’t like crowds.

He looked over the top of their heads. He saw no sign of his target.

“Sir, there’s no need for violence,” Jake said.

“Someone should call the police?”

“Are you alright Father?”

“What is this city coming to?”

The crowd was one-sided against Dilly.

Dilly tried to wave Jake away, “It’s okay, Father. You can go. I ain’t got no beef with you.”

Dilly attempted a halfhearted hug, which Jake accepted.

The crowd, sensing closure shuffled away unsatisfied. They continued sniffing the streets, like sharks looking for blood.

“Son, can I pray with you?”

Dilly gripped the pistol in his pocket, “Don’t see what for. I’m damned, Father. God don’t want no likes of me.”

Jake shook his head, “How can you say that? God loves all his children.”

Dilly disagreed. He mumbled more words of anger towards the sidewalk.

“What did you say?”

“Words no priest should hear.”

“I’m okay with swear words. I wasn’t always a priest.” Jake tried a lighten-the-mood laugh.

Dilly shook the laugh away, “Swear words are for children.”

“Okay.” Jake didn’t know where to take the conversation.

“Maybe, you ain’t an old soul. You ain’t good at this. Best you be moving on,” Dilly warned.

“Why are you here outside this church?” Jake asked.

“I’m waiting for someone.”

“So am I. Who are you waiting for?”

“A woman.”

“A woman?”

“Well, more the man who kidnapped her.”

“A woman who’s been kidnapped? Why didn’t you call the police?”

“Police won’t help. I’m the only one who knows she’s been taken.”

“She doesn’t know she’s been taken.”

“It’s a spell. A dark, black, magic spell.”

“Is that what you’ve been mumbling, spells?”

“I know a few. Mama taught them to me.”

“Son, I can’t believe in black magic.”

“Don’t mean it ain’t there.” Dilly ran his thumb across Jake’s forehead, “I was wrong. You ain’t an old soul. You was just dirty. Maybe too dirty.”

More busses choked the street. Dilly’s view obstructed by moving billboards. When the light changed he spotted his target walking towards them.

They called out in unison, “Father Jake.”

Jake smiled and waved at them, “Nadia. Hathaway. You made it.”

“Oh, Father,” Dilly hung his head, “My eyes were blinded.”

Dilly pulled out his pistol and shot Jake in his gut. Jake dropped to the ground. The crimson blood of the saints darkening his black cassock.

“Father!” Nadia and Hathaway yelled in unison like twins sharing the same mouth. They dropped together, holding Jake’s head and hands.

“Put pressure on the wound.” Someone from the crowd encouraged. The sight of blood drawing them in.

Dilly stood his ground as others attempted a citizen’s arrest. Many shouts of “Got him!” and “He’s the one!” tried to temper Dilly’s spirit.

Dilly ignored them all. He had no intention of running.

As he reached into his pocket more shouts sprang up;

“He’s got a gun!”

“Someone stop him!”

But no one grabbed Dilly’s arm. The crowd was too bloodthirsty.

Dilly pulled out a small, leather, pouch. He sprinkled the contents over Jake’s body.

The crowd asked silly questions;

“Is that salt?”

“Does anyone smell sulfur?”

“Is he trying to heal the priest?”

Dilly crotched down low. He wanted Nadia and Hathaway to hear, “Next time, it’ll be you.” Dilly stuck his finger in Hathaway’s chest.

“Who are you?” Nadia asked.

“Your guardian angel. If those really existed.”

Nadia and Hathaway exchanged confused looks.

Sirens forced buses to vacate the street. The growing crowd pressed in hoping to feed off the misery.

Dilly crawled out from under the human rubble, all but forgotten. Some looked for him, but were too distracted to give chase.

Dilly spoke more words of venom into the sidewalk, hoping they wouldn’t bounce off the cement. Then he laughed, remembering the priest’s words,

I can’t believe in black magic.

“But black magic believes in you,” Dilly’s angelic laugh carrying him around a deserted street corner.

Bookbag Boy (Part 2)

Bookbag Boy (Part 2).png

By Don Lorah

Bookbag Boy Part 1 (In case you missed it the first time around)

There is a smell associated with school. It goes beyond the cleaning supplies and lack of personal hygiene.

It’s what abandonment smell like, Tomas thought to himself, Death has a smell. Hope has a smell. Abandonment of dreams must have a smell too.

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” Tomas whispered as was his daily ritual when crossing the school’s threshold.

School is not as bad as you make it out to be.

“It’s worse,” Tomas felt eyes shift in his direction. The whispers would begin as soon as he passed the hallway locker crowd. Tomas didn’t have a crowd around his locker. Thanks to Red, he didn’t need one.

Tomas didn’t need anything. Whenever he needed something for school; pencil, paper, book, homework, Red would unzip himself and slide the needed item out. As instructed, Tomas was careful to never reach inside. Red wasn’t specific about much, but on that he was adamant.

You’re still thinking about last night.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Yeah, you do. Are you alright? Do we need to ditch today?

“Today is the plan. No way we’re ditching today.”

Today is not important. The plan is not important. You are important. I care about you.

“Thanks.”

David Butler, one of Todd’s cronies, walked by and punched Tomas in the arm sending him into a nearby locker.

“Ow.” Tomas grabbed his arm immediately.

David laughed, “What? Bookbag Boy can’t take a punch. I told you if I heard you talking to yourself I was gonna punch you.”

David stepped in closer to Tomas. He threatened Tomas with a closed fist close to his face. “You want another?”

This guy has some serious issues. He probably cries at dog food commercials.

Tomas couldn’t stifle his laugh fast enough.

David’s face reddened in rage, “You think I’m funny?”

One of David’s cronies egged him on, “He thinks you’re a clown, Dave. He’s dissing you.”

Tomas rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming. A punch as cliché as the movie line they were misquoting.

David released his threatening punch into Tomas’ left eye. His head snapped back against the locker. Red grunted from being smashed between Tomas’ back and the blue locker behind him.

David and his boys laughed. High-five’s all around. Their masculinity safe and justified as they walked to their morning classes.

Why can’t we high-five after a beating. Quick, Tomas, high five.

Red held out his strap for Tomas to high-five. Tomas ignored him.

“You okay?”

Tomas looked up with his one good eye. Courtney had pushed through the crowd.

“I’m fine.” He wanted to push her away, but didn’t have the strength. Being the school joke took a lot out of him.

“What’s going on here?” Mr. Grasis booming voice dimmed the chatter in the hallway. He moved students out of the way like a Viking on a conquest. He stood, before Tomas, with his hands on his hips. “Should have known you’d be at the center this ruckus.”

“Mr. Grasis, he didn’t do anything.” Courtney defended Tomas. He wasn’t used to it.

“Save it. Every time there’s a problem, Mr. Tomas is in the middle of it.” The late bell rang. “Alright, everyone to class. Mr. Tomas, you can head to the office.”

Tomas didn’t argue. Courtney did. “That’s not fair. You didn’t even see what happened. He’s the one that got punched.”

“I’m sure, Mr. Tomas has some guilt in the matter.”

“Wow. Are you like the worst teacher here?” Courtney’s words drew “oohs” from the remaining crowd.

“You want to join Mr. Tomas in the office. I can write a detention slip for you as well.”

“You don’t even know my name.” Courtney grabbed Tomas’ hand and led him down the hallway. She burst into laughter as they rounded the corner.

Red joined her, You don’t even know my name. That’s so funny. Did you see the look on his face?

“I missed it. I was already gone.”

Red and Courtney high-fived.

See she’ll do it.

Tomas stood there holding his eye, “Yeah, well, I’ll pay for that remark. Trust me.”

“Why? I’m the one who said it.”

Tomas shrugged, “I don’t know. It’s always my fault when it comes to Mr. Grasis.”

Mr. Grasis can’t handle different.

“Why does he call you Mr. Tomas instead of Tomas.”

Tomas shrugged again, “I guess he thinks that’s my last name. I’ve never bothered to tell him. Tomas looked up and down the empty hallway. “Look, you don’t have to go with me to the office. I know the way. Why don’t you just head to class and I’ll catch up with you later. Okay?”

“K.”

Courtney looked disappointed as Tomas walked away.

Dude, why you blowing her off? She’s cute and she likes you.

Tomas looked behind him to see Courtney still watching them, “You know, Red, you can’t whisper for shit.”

 

2.

The school office was a testament to the architecture style of the 70’s. There was great love for wood paneling and shag carpeting.

Can you imagine how many bugs are trapped in this carpet?

“I try not to think about it.”

“Maybe you should think more. Then you wouldn’t find yourself here so often.” The administrative secretary chastised.

“Yes, Mrs. Tebell.”

Mrs. Tebell dressed as if disco had never died. Tomas figured she had been here since the age of polyester. Hence the retro décor.

Two other students waited for their turn with Principal Duong, Marlon and Creighton Blanchette.

Probably running numbers again.

“Teachers union probably complained.”

Yeah, they owned them too much money.

Tomas laughed drawing Marlon and Creighton’s attention.

“You want something?” Marlon asked.

Tomas looked away shaking his head. His eye hurt, he didn’t need a broken arm.

“Don’t start nothing.” Creighton threatened.

Tomas was saved when Mr. Duong exited his office. He looked the three delinquents over and sighed, “Marlon. Creighton. You two go into my office. Tomas, I don’t have time for you. Why don’t you go to guidance? I’ll let Mrs. McKinley know you’re coming.”

Marlon and Creighton walked, with bravado, into Mr. Duong’s office. Tomas grabbed Red and headed out to guidance.

“You know what? Forget guidance. There’s only one thing I feel like doing today.”

You sure?

 

 

3.

Tomas still had time to kill. He grabbed a small bag of ice from the nurse’s office. Red produced a library pass so they could hide out.

Red had showed Tomas a hiding spot a while back. There was a storage closet in the back of the library. It was full of old card catalogs and film strips. No one ever used the room. The library was one of the few modern rooms in the building.

Tomas set Red gently on the floor before dropping himself into an oversized swivel chair.

Want to talk about it?

“There’s nothing to talk about. David is a jerk. Has been since elementary school.” Tomas shifted the ice around his eye.

Not David. This weekend. Last night.

“Nothing to talk about there either.”

Sure, there is. You always take his visits hard.

Red was talking about Tomas’ father.

“What is there to say. Nothing I say will change anything. It is what it is.”

But it doesn’t have to be.

“Don’t do me any good to dwell on it.”

Humor me.

“Why do you care anyway?”

Does it matter why I care? Isn’t it enough that I do?”

Tomas sulked a moment longer, “Okay. Why does he have to be like he is? Why is he so concerned about my love life, my friends, what sport I’m playing? Like he’s some big deal. He peaked at eighteen and got pissed cause I won’t end up the same way.”

I don’t think he’s upset with you. I think he wants what’s best for you.

“That’s crap. He goes out of his way to humiliate me.”

What did he do to humiliate you?

“You know. You were there.”

Humor me.

“He made me get out of the car so his girl of the week could give me a look over. Some girl, too young for him, is telling me I’m cute, but need to workout more. I need arms like my daddy. That’s humiliating. I get enough of that from mom.”

Red allowed Tomas’ words to hang in the air, as if he was dissecting them.

Look, I’m gonna tell you something you need to hear. It’s important so listen up.

Red didn’t get a chance to finish. The door to the storage closet swung open. “I thought I’d find you in here.”

The librarian, Ms. Wiggins, wagged an arthritic finger at Tomas, “I’ve told you before to stay out of this room. I don’t care how crazy you are, you are not going to practice for the asylum on my time.”

A couple of students, pretending to search for books giggled. One snapped a picture on their phone.

Did she get my good side? I hate it when a picture goes viral and its unflattering.

Tomas ignored Red. He slipped quickly away from Ms. Wiggins glare and the ever-present laughter that followed him.

Let’s get out of here. We don’t need to be here today.

Tomas did something he never thought he would do. He shoved Red into his locker and went to class.

 

4.

The plan had been for Red to trip Todd. Make it look like Todd had tripped on his own feet. Red and Tomas had joked about timing it so Todd fell face first into Mr. Kent’s large butt, but they didn’t know how they would pull it off.

Their juvenile jokes accompanied them to dreamland.

Tomas didn’t feel like being juvenile. He was tired of being bullied and laughed at. He saw their faces when he walked into class. The picture was quickly making the rounds. He didn’t know what caption someone had added, but he knew they thought it was funny. Everyone was laughing.

Tomas sat in the back row. His hands tightly gripping the edges of his desk. No one noticed Red wasn’t with him.

Mr. Kent quieted the room down as he turned on the whiteboard for the daily warm-up quiz. Instead of five questions and a short essay, the picture from the library loomed large across the screen. The clas roared at the sight of Tomas cradling Red in his arms, ducking under Ms. Wiggin’s arm. It looked worse than it has been.

“When’s the wedding, M&M?” Todd blurted out escalating the classes laughter.

Tomas looked to see Todd half turned in his seat, sporting a wide smile. He was all teeth.

Tomas used the question as an excuse to leave his seat and stand over Todd.

“Todd, can I ask you a question?”

“What?” Todd was still smiling.

“Did I wash my hands after I used the bathroom?”

Todd’s smile shifted to questioning, one second before Tomas rubbed his hands in Todd’s face. Todd back away, disgusted. He fell out of his chair onto the floor. The whole class erupted into more laughter.

Tomas looked around the room, “Anyone get a picture of that?” He had wanted to punch him, to knock every perfect tooth out of his mouth. He opted to wimp out, but his tepidness still had a positive effect.

Todd jumped up ready to defend his honor. Mr. Kent held him back.

Mr. Kent pointed to the door, “Tomas. Out. Now.” His tone even but hard.

“You’re kicking me out? They’re the ones who started it. I’m the victim.”

Mr. Kent remained unmoved, “Tomas, we all must own our part. Out. Now. I’ll notify Guidance you’re on your way.”

 

5.

Mrs. McKinley laid out the day’s activities, “You got in a fight before homeroom. You skipped your classes. Disobeyed Ms. Wiggins, and got into another altercation in Mr. Kent’s class. Did I miss anything?”

“Oh, I was disrespectful and didn’t represent myself with class.”

Mrs. McKinley folded her hands over Tomas growing folder, “I can’t help you, if you won’t let me.”

Tomas looked at the floor.

“Tomas I need you to look at me. I need you to talk to me and not give me some story about writing a novel.”

Tomas looked up but focused on a motivational poster behind her. He waited her out.

“As of now, you’re suspended for a week. But there’s been talk about you not returning. Is that something you want?”

Tomas didn’t say anything.

“Tomas, we all make the world we live in. We must all own our part.”

He laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Mr. Kent said something like that. You all take the same workshop or something?”

“What did Mr. Kent say?”

“About owning our part.”

“Well, it’s true. You have to take ownership for your part. If you don’t want the other kids to treat you different, maybe don’t talk to your bookbag.”

Tomas continued to look past Mrs. McKinley’s head.

“I’ve been doing some research, and I think this all stems from your home life. I must be hard for you, I’m sure. Things being so unorthodox.”

Tomas felt a tear form at the corner of his eye.

He knew Mrs. McKinley didn’t know what she was talking about, but his feelings for his father were still raw. Always were after a weekend stay. He wasn’t responding to her prattling, but if the tear fell, she’d think he was.

He wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.

“Shut up,” Tomas whispered.

“Excuse me?”

“Shut up. Shut the hell up.” Tomas shifted his focus from the poster, looking her right in the eye.

Mrs. McKinley pursed her lips. She picked up Tomas’ folder and walked over to the filing cabinet. She dropped his folder into the drawer without a word.

Tomas tracked her as she crossed the room to her office door. She paused with her hand on the handle. “Right now, you are suspended for the week, but I’m going to recommend expulsion. You need more help than we can provide here, Tomas. I will pray for you.”

She opened the door, leaving Tomas completely alone.

 

6.

Tomas’ mother handled the news the way she always did, by giving him a list of chores to do when he got home.

Courtney found him shoveling manure.

“What did you do?” she asked.

“Nothing.” Tomas dropped animal waste in a wheel barrow.

“Everyone is talking.”

“Let’em. Probably won’t be going back anyway.”

Courtney looked around, “Where’s Red?”

“Stuffed him in my locker. He’s been trouble ever since he was created. Never should have picked up those stupid crystals.”

Courtney was immediately alarmed, “You left him at school? He’s alone in the dark?”

Tomas stuck his pitchfork in the ground, “Nah, I left a nightlight on for him.”

Courtney grabbed Tomas by the shoulders, “This isn’t funny. He’s in trouble. You can’t leave him in the dark.”

Tomas pushed her away, “Really? What do you know about a talking bookbag. You act like you know him better than I do.”

Tomas grabbed the handles of the wheel barrow and started pushing it towards the manure pile. Courtney chased.

“I can’t explain how I know what I know, but I know.”

Tomas dumped his load. He saw his mom watching him from the back porch. Even from that distance he could tell she wasn’t happy Courtney was with him.

“You know what? I’m all full up on crazy. You need to go.”

Courtney looked towards the back porch. She could also feel Kay’s glare. “Look, I’ll leave, but you need to help me get Red.”

“Get him tomorrow. I’ll give you my locker combo.”

“We can’t wait till tomorrow. He..” She broke off.

“He, what?” Tomas scoped a load into the wheel barrow, “Might be dead?”

“Yes,” she blurted.

Tomas stopped, “What’s going on? Who or what is Red and how do you know?”

“I can’t tell you.”

Tomas went back to work, “Than he’ll stay the night. Serve him good for all the trouble he’s caused me.” He looked up to see Courtney crying.

She covered her face with her hand.

“Shit,” Tomas sighed. Truth was he had cooled off enough to miss Red. But he didn’t want to admit that to Courtney. Red wasn’t the only one who could be stubborn.

“Mom goes to bed at 11,” Tomas relented, “Let’s be safe and meet here at midnight.”

Courtney wiped at the tears on her cheeks, “Thank you,” she whispered.

Tomas’ mother entered the barn the opposite side as Courtney ran off.

“That girl still here?” she asked.

“Just left.”

Kay looked around, not believing Tomas, “What did she want?”

“To get me into trouble.”

“And?”

“And I told her to go home.”

“Cause you’re in enough trouble?”

Tomas stopped shoveling, “I’m knee deep in it, right now.”

Kay withheld a smile, “Boy, you think your funny.” She watched Tomas fill the wheel barrow, “When you get done here, come up to the house. We need to talk about school.”

Tomas watched as she walked back up to the house. Whatever she had to say, he was sure he didn’t want to hear it.

“Mom never talks about school.” Tomas looked over to where Red would have been.

Red never did like being outside.

He sighed thinking of rescuing him from his locker.

“Always a sucker for tears.”

He pushed the wheel barrow over to the manure pile.

 

Bookbag Boy (Part 3)