They drove for what felt to be an interminable amount of time.
"Do you guys realize this is the first time we've been in a vehicle in forever."
"Yeah, since Jaime took us gallivanting. Oh wonderful day that was."
"Do you count my ambulance ride?" Joe gestured gingerly to his sling, but didn't get much out a laugh out of the rest.
"What the fuck is that?"
"Snow Gordon, this is Colorado."
"I know what the bloody hell snow is you silly tosser, I meant that." Gordon crossed over to Joe's seat and pointed towards the frame the caravan window provided. Under Gordon's direction, Mali stopped the car to the sound of snow being compacted beneath the tires.
"That's seriously fucked up."
With thee lone exception of Parker, they all stooped and peered out the windows to the view of a large mustard yellow house, the paint heavily worn, not taking lightly the dramatic chastisement of time, a sign dangling by a single nail that barely read "Clown Heaven." The building itself was situated entirely on cinder blocks, much like an abandoned mobile home.
"Should we check it out?"
"What are we, Scooby Doo? No. Fucking. Way."
"What a surprise from our fearless leader. Cars don't scare you, but decrepit buildings do?" Casey's jeer found its mark.
"Better than fearin' the almighty pickle I say." Gordon's words fell flat. Apparently they didn't get the reference.
"Has there ever been a point in your life where something truly frightened you? I mean more than the after effects of a scary movie, I'm speaking on an entirely different level. Sure adolescence is filled with twists and turns, new exposures and the light of learning, but there are some things that can shake a child's bones.
Imagine a simple trip, a small vacation your parents take you on. You walk hand in hand, ready to welcome the surprises that await you. you see the large canopy, the animated colors that await you. The smells are numerous, the most pervasive being that of sugar and sweat, which makes sense given the seemingly endless span of people shuffling into into the red and yellow striped tent and those that stayed outside wait patiently for the purveyor of tasty treats. You take your seat and wait impatiently, gripping the freshly painted board that functions as your seat and tap your feet, jumping with every flicker of movement. Whether it's the lion tamer passing through his cage, checking and re-checking his implements or the aerial experts, stretching in tandem to the side of the stage. In your anticipation, you journey towards the facility, after all, you are old enough to go on your own, you're practically a man. The journey is much longer than anticipated, but you do find them, you just don't realize the lavatories you discover aren't the ones designated for the public: rather they were obscurely placed for the privacy of the staff and crew. you ignore the signs situated above your perspective and venture forth, only to come across the most horrible moment of your decade minus one life: the smell is pungent, like the back of a butcher shop. In your view is a man, face partially smeared, the remnants of his red smile now a smattering swirl of white, blue and red stretching across his cheek. His hands are stained red and seem to be the source of the smell. He is attempting to wrest something from a cage obscured from your vision. You are frozen, entirely focused on the man in action. He prevails in the end, but not realizing his own strength, the object goes flying in your direction and rolls to a stop at your feet. Matted hair and blood cover the roundish object and before you have time to react the man yells at you. "Don't touch that, get out of here," he yells come towards you in a stalking fashion, ready to place his crimson palms on your throat, after all he has to keep you quiet now that you know his secret, but you are too smart for him and bolt, losing yourself in the crowd. You try to divulge your newfound murderous secret but no one listens. That clown is still out there, feeding stray children to his animals under the guise of a smile and a balloon."
"Joe, he was probably feeding them. Chances are if there were a murderous clown out there, we'd hear about it."
"Given about 40% of murders go unsolved each year, maybe not."
"Seriously, he was feeding whatever animal it was. You said it yourself, it smelled like a butcher shop, like raw meat."
"Fuck you. That is all........oh and this just in, go fuck yourself."
"I'll blame that on that meds, but really we should move on."
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Mali yawned wide and craned her neck in all different directions, searching for that elusive "pop" of the springs and joints and fasteners in the coils of her spine. A knot had formed somewhere deep between her shoulder blades and she rubbed her back furiously against the stiff, coarse cloth of the car seat to no avail. She spied a sign stating "Rifle 45 Miles" to the right of the road and summoned what comfort she could in knowing Utah was forever behind her.
Her eyes flicked to her companions, mere silhouettes occasionally illuminated in the glow of a passing vehicle. Casey, understandably exhausted, had fallen into the deepest of slumbers the moment they had driven their immense caravan off the lot and now snored with the fervor of a grizzly bear. Joe, too, had succumbed to his medication and wheezed against the window pane a row behind her. Gordon appeared awake, though his eyes were fixed on the landscape beyond, off in his own accented world of tomfoolery and biscuits. And little Parker, having finished his work in his notebook, now sprawled across the expanse of the back seat, drool pooling in the crevices of his shoulder.
With all the night for her's and her's alone, Mali's thoughts drifted across time and space. Absently, she flicked her nimble fingers across the face of the stereoplate. The dials twirled until the static faded into the haunting coos of a familiar Brit, his falsettos spiking and swirling betwixt jagged, distorted percussion.
Ha'come I end up where I started?
Her thoughts trailed to a history she had left behind, a mother and father and brother who still wrote her letters - from time to time. She could smell the citrus of her mother's favorite tea as though a pot were brewing right there in the minivan.
Ha'come I end up where I went wrong?
Her father's cigar smoke, too, now wafted through their vehicle. It burned her nose and she hastily cracked her window, hoping the coolness of the night air would steal the stench from her senses.
I won't take my eye off the ball ag'in,
The scent of her brother came with an audible cringe, a gasp of repulsion so inert and reflexive that Mali hadn't realized she'd done so until the air whooshed from her lungs. She remembered the scent of his room, a cocktail of faint body odor and the ripe sweat of aging books stacked on one another until they tickled the ceiling.
You reel me out then you cut the string.
Amazing, she thought, that he should be the favorite.
You used to be al'right,
Bolero, her elder brother by three years, was the veritable prize of her tiny community. His skill with computers and gadgets was unprecedented, even by the standards of her - graduate cum laude with honors in computer science, MS - father. Just as those in the backwaters idolize a man who can communicated with a car's engine and practically treaty it to run anew, her brother could build, mend, or negotiate with any contraption. It was his destiny to follow in his father's shoes, her mother always said.
So what happened?
Choosing to not leave his parents and baby sister behind, Bolero had opted to take his courses via the internet. For weeks at a time he would retire to his room, emerging only for the barest of necessities, explaining his confinement as the unfortunate product of slaving over manuals and technical terms. Their father would always nod approvingly, suggesting that he had done much the same when he was in school. It was enough for their mother, too.
Did the cat get your tongue?
Mali could recall a time when they were the smallest of brats, she a tomboy and he a spectacled outcast, and their secrets and discoveries were shared with the utmost confidence.
Did your string come undone?
College, she supposed, changes people.
One by one, one by one
With the absence of her brother from the dinner table, evening talks stifled and they three were left to masticate in silence. Her mother would occasionally inquire about her school work, but as soon as Mali had acknowledge that she - yes, was in fact still in school, her mother would dismiss her and resume staring at her dinner plate. Her father never spoke unless it was to agree that their son was prodigious and an ardent worker.
It comes to us all
One night, after many months of contending with her brother's reclusiveness, decided she'd had enough. She decided, against the will of the "Keep Out" poster pinned to her brother's door, to investigate just what was keeping him locked away from all the world.
It's as soft as your pillow
She crept across the hallway, her toes gingerly seeping between ribbons in the plush carpet, her breath caught in her throat.
You used to be al'right
She begged for her parents to not wake, for her plans would be spoiled and she would be sent back to her room.
A pale blue light flickered beneath the crack in his door.
Et cetera, et cetera
Facts for whatever
An outreached hand, craning for the doorknob...
"Brother?" Mali whispered as she pushed the door open.
Then a shear drop
The sight would haunt her for years to come. Bolero spun in his chair, his face a mask of disbelief and anger for his premises being violated by uninvited intruders. His hands flew to his groin to cover his swollen shame as he bolted from his seat to snatch his trousers from the bed. On the screen, a pale elf, replete with a bustier and snow white panties, glanced around coyly, as though pondering how she had come to find herself nearly nude in a land of those questing for the very best of equipment drops.
"Thom Yorke's a prick," Gordon muttered, snapping Mali out of her thoughts.
"What makes you say that?" she inquired, her voice shaky from the horrors of that which can never be unseen.
"A lot of people in the Merry Ol' don't care for 'im much," Gordon shrugged. "Full of himself, he is. Spends his whole career with a chip on his shoulder 'cos he got roughed up a bit in grade school. Sorry way to waste a life spent as a rock star if you ask me."
"No one did," Mali replied and turned up the radio, which had by now been swallowed in static. The electric roll of white noise carried them further into the night and on toward Denver.
at 2:06 PM