Tuesday, June 03, 2008


I kept seeing him on my ride this evening, maybe because it was getting late and the dropping sun played tricks on me. I'd see his long shadow on the road as he pulled up on me, but it was just a car. I'd see shifting movement over my left shoulder but the road was clear. The days are getting warmer and longer and I know the Snakeman is playing somewhere tonight. Like Betsy's mom said.

Betsy and I were sitting high up in the pine tree next to her building. From there you could see into Mrs. Dwyer's living room. That was how we figured out who was taking Betsy's mom's Glamour magazines. When the mailman left magazines on the table in the hall, Mrs. Dwyer would take the ones she wanted upstairs and read them while she ate DingDongs at the dining room table. After a couple days she would put them back on the table but the pages wouldn't be stiff anymore and in the spine would be DingDong crumbs.

That day we were watching Mrs. Dwyer and carving. Carving was when you took a piece of the broken sidewalk and sliced through the thick bark of the pine tree. If you cut deeper and deeper you could smell something sharp living inside of the tree. This was Betsy's idea. I felt bad about cutting into something alive, but she said the trees would last longer than us and this was our way of making something "enduring." We were carving and talking and watching Mrs. Dwyer eat DingDongs when suddenly she got out of her chair and came toward the window. I went down the tree as fast as I could. When I got to the bottom my hands were sticky and raw. Betsy was waiting for me. She yanked me under a bush.

- Do you think she saw us? Do you? Huh? - I was so scared I had to go to the bathroom. If my mom found out I was spying on Mrs. Dwyer she would kill me.
- Dingy old Mrs. Dwyer couldn't see us.
- Are you sure? She looked mad. Hey, what did you do to your leg?
There was a long scratch on the inside of Betsy's leg. From under her cut-offs there was blood coming out. She wiped at it a little.
- Hit something on the way down, I guess. Dingy Dwyer. Let's go to storage and see if there's anything new. But first – she stopped – we have to go get Captain Kirk.
- Will your mom let us?
- She better. He's MY guinea pig.

When we walked into the living room Betsy's mom was watching General Hospital. I could see the top of her head over the rocking chair. She went back and forth.
- Mom – Betsy said from the doorway – I need Captain Kirk.
The chair kept moving and there wasn't any answer. Betsy walked into the room. I stayed at the door. Betsy's mom gave me the heebiejeebies. Sometimes she would give you cookies and ask whether Mrs. Stahl was still giving you too much homework, and sometimes she didn't say a word and rocked away like a creepy puppet. You never knew which Mrs. Billings you would find when you walked in. How could Bets have such a cool dad and a weirdo mom?
- Mom – she got between the chair and the TV - I need Captain Kirk. Finn wants to see him. She bent down and picked up the guinea pig. Thanks. He'll be back in a little while.
The rocking chair shook a little and then it stopped. I couldn't see the top of Betsy's mom's head anymore. I could hear her voice though. It sounded like the Tin Man, squeaky and dry.
- What's that? - a hand lashed out at Betsy's leg and one finger stabbed at the smear of blood under her shorts. Did HE do that? Did he? We had a deal and he promised. He PROMISED.
The hand grabbed Betsy's arm. She had to hold on tight to Captain Kirk with the other.
- Did he? Do that?

Betsy pulled away.
- I was playing dodgeball. I got scratched.
- Are you telling the truth?

I saw the top of her head again and it was turning around. I wanted to run away but I wanted to help Betsy and Captain Kirk too.
- You. Is she telling the truth?
I wished Betsy hadn't lied. What was so bad about being in a tree? I couldn't answer, I was so nervous. Betsy's mom made a noise that sounded like a growl and then her voice got softer.
- It was him wasn't it. You can tell me.
I was confused and scared. I didn't want to lie. I was confused.
- It was who?
Betsy's head dropped. Her mom hissed.
- It was the Snakeman. We made a deal but he was always weak when it gets warmer. And you – she pulled hard on Betsy's arm. Captain Kirk squealed. Oh I know what you are.
Betsy stared at her mom and then pulled free.
- We'll be back by 6:30 .
Bets closed the front door behind us.
- Maybe the 10-speeds will be unlocked again today - she said, cradling Captain Kirk in one hand and rubbing her leg with the other. We walked down the steps to the basement.


fatmammycat said...

That woman creeps me the fuck out. I got goosebumps!

finn said...

just wait.