My Life as Death: Chapter 14

This one should probably be broken into 2 chapters, but I decided to post as is for now. I hope you enjoy the extra length!

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13

Half an hour later I found myself out by the old quarry and somehow knew where I was heading but I still didn’t know why. It made no sense, but I just went with it anyways, pulling into Finkenbine’s gravel drive a few minutes later.

“Didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” he said, “…on a weekday, …during school hours.”

“Yeah, me neither.”

“So how’d you end up here?”

“It’s a long story.”

There was that weird feeling between us again and I really didn’t know what to make of it.

“Well, I’ve got all day,” he continued, “and I’m guessing you do too, at least until school officially lets out.”

“You’re probably right.”

He stood there for a minute, not really looking at me but not not looking at me either. 

“Let’s go this way,” he said, and for some reason I followed, past the gate and through the tunnel of junk to the salvage yard. From there he took me to the left, to a part of the salvage yard I hadn’t seen before. He led me past the appliances, past the dismantled cars and old industrial equipment all the way to the very back of the yard. And there, standing in the corner was one of the last things I would have expected to see; a sailboat.

It wasn’t one of those small ones that a couple people could fit on if they were small enough, it was huge, at least from where I was standing. It had to have been 40 feet long, and the thing was up on boat stands which meant the deck was at least 15 feet off the ground. It didn’t look the slightest bit ready for sailing, but I could clearly see where a lot of work had already been done, starting its restoration. It would have been a massive project for Finkenbine to take on by himself, and I was still trying to figure out why we were back there as he continued up a rope ladder. With no other option I could think of, I followed him.

Up on the deck I could see almost the entire salvage yard and it was even larger than I’d thought. From up there, though, I felt larger too. It was an incredible view I couldn’t have imagined existed so I just kind of scanned the whole yard, trying to take it all in. There were more cars, and more junk, than I could have thought possible, all intricately organized into stacks and piles only Finkenbine understood.

As I was distracted by what I was seeing, Finkenbine disappeared below deck but quickly returned with a couple beers, handing me one. It was ice cold, so obviously the boat had electricity or a really good cooler. I had to wonder what other surprises it held. 

“I usually don’t bring anyone up here,” he said, settling himself down on a lemon and lime colored folding lawn chair that looked like it was older than me.

That had to be his way of apologizing for not having another chair, so I just made myself comfortable on a wooden crate.

“I grew up with boats,” he said, taking a drink of his beer as he looked over his salvage yard. It was  9:00 AM and I wasn’t accustomed to day-drinking but a beer did sound good, so I popped the top and took a swig too.

“But I never really understood them, or even really liked them,” he continued. “They’re slow and difficult to control. And they’re a lot of work. Bikes and cars can be a lot of work but at least they’re fast. I like to go fast.”

He took another drink but continued to just stare out across his kingdom.

“I started this project quite a few years ago as a favor for a friend, Buck. He’d won it in a poker game but knew nothing about boats. I offered to help him restore it in return for Mort.”

“Mort? Your hearse?”

“That’s the one. Buck liked to gamble, loved to gamble, really. He’d won Mort in a different poker game. It was in worse shape than the boat and Buck was thinking about just crushing it for scrap value but I couldn’t let that happen. So I ended up with two projects. Buck came over a few times to work on the boat, and in between visits I worked on Mort, got him up and running just in time too, but he was still in rough shape the first time I had to put him to use.”

Finkenbine continued to sit there for a moment, his face like stone, but I saw something in his eyes that told me not to push. Instead I just took another drink. Finkenbine did the same, finishing his beer before I finished mine. Without saying a word, he went back below deck, returning with two more beers and a newspaper clipping which he handed to me. It was the obituary for John “Buck” Buckman.

“Buck loved bikes too. We rode together for years, with a group of guys who’d do anything for you. Even though he liked bikes, Buck liked gambling more and got himself into trouble. And instead of asking his friends for help, he got himself in over his head.”

The obituary said Buck missed a turn on his motorcycle and went over a cliff, suffering extensive trauma which caused his death. The look on Finkenbine’s face told a different story.

“His was the first funeral I drove Mort for, and after that it just kind of became a tradition.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that, but I didn’t think he was really looking for a response.

“Years passed before I could bring myself to work on this thing again,” he said, tapping his foot on the deck. “And by then I started to understand. People change; we change. The people and things we value early in life aren’t necessarily what we find important later on.”

I understood the general message but there seemed to be more he just wasn’t flat out saying and I wasn’t getting it. I wanted to ask questions, but I didn’t know what to ask so we just sat there in silence until we both finished our second beer.

“So are you going to tell me how you ended up here today?”

“I’ve just got a lot going on, things I have to do that I’d rather not do. And people I’ve upset that I wished I hadn’t. It’s all kind of overwhelming. I just needed a break.”

“I get that. Everyone needs a break at times, as long as it doesn’t turn into an excuse to run away, either from people or responsibilities. At the end of the day, we sometimes have to do the very last thing we want to.”

He was right, and I knew it. I had to face what I’d done, to mom and to Shawna. And I had to live up to my end of the deal with Lucifer.

“Yeah, you’re right; and I guess it’s about time for me to get back to those responsibilities,” I said standing up from the crate.

“Are you sure you’re fine to get on your bike?” He asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” I replied as I moved to the ladder. “Thanks though, you know, for what you said…and for the beer.”

“Thanks for the visit. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone to drink with, though let’s not make this a habit. And next time you find yourself needing a break from everything, feel free to bring a paint brush with you, this thing could use a nice coat of paint.”

“Deal,” I said, waving to him as I climbed back down the ladder.

I was able to find my way back through the junkyard without too much trouble and by the time I reached my bike I was already feeling much better. But unfortunately feeling better didn’t make what I had to do any easier, though the beers did help a little. Thinking of them, I pulled a pack of gum from my bookbag and popped a piece in my mouth before slipping on my helmet, firing up the bike, and heading back to school.

“Nice of you to re-join us”, vice-principal Miller said as I walked through the front door. I’m sure the sound of the bike let him know I’d returned, and that gave him plenty of opportunity to get to the door to greet me.

“Yeah, must have been something I ate for breakfast that didn’t agree with me. I feel much better now.”

“I’m sure you do,” he said, “but not for much longer. The handbook says I can only give you in-school suspension for what you did or else you’d be out of here right now, but I’m going to personally make sure the next three school days are the worst of your high school career”

“I appreciate the personal attention, but it’s really not necessary,” I said, grabbing the suspension slip from his hands. “I’m sure you have some innocent kids’ locker to search or some lunch lady to harass.”

The look on Mr. Miller’s face was priceless as I headed to the in-school suspension room, a barely renovated old steam room on the bottom floor of the school, affectionately referred to as “The Dungeon”. Various teachers took turns watching over the juvenile delinquents throughout the day so no one teacher was stuck with them the whole time. Mr. Whitesock, the freshman basketball coach, was there when I opened the door. 

“I thought you had left us for the day,” he said, reviewing the attendance sheet as I took my seat. 

“I’m feeling much better now.”

“I bet you are,” a kid two seats away said, reaching his hand to high five me. “We all would feel better doing that to a teacher.”

“That’s enough,” Mr. Whitesock said. “There’s to be no talking of any kind. Anyone who wants an extra day added to their punishment can try me on that.”

The leader of my fan club settled back into his seat with a smile on his face. I hadn’t really thought about what I’d done, and I sure as hell didn’t do it to score any points with other students like that, though I did kind of like the feeling of infamy. But if I had my choice, I would have preferred to have no attention from anyone. Unfortunately, as I was heading out to my bike after that first excessively long day of sitting in one seat, it became quite obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to disappear into the background as quickly as I’d hoped.

It started off with just a couple people glancing my way with a smile, or giving me a thumbs up, and that was bad enough, but then came the whistles from across the parking lot. There were even several people just hanging out near my bike and Weed’s chevette. The unimpressed look on Weed’s face said it all.

“Hey is it true…?” one of them started to ask.

“Don’t believe everything you hear,” I replied, putting on my helmet.

“Hey man, I’m telling you, I was there I saw you…”

I kick started the bike before he could finish. Whatever I did or didn’t do wasn’t so I could become some upper class hero to the likes of them. But even the sound of my engine drowning them out didn’t seem to stop them. They just grinned even more and started yelling even louder. Weed pulled out of his spot, having to honk his horn to get one of the dumbasses to move out of his way. I followed right behind.

As we pulled out of the parking lot a couple of the guys jumped into a pickup truck and started to tail us with one of them standing in the bed waving. Weed obviously saw, and headed down a couple side roads to see if they’d stick with us. They did, so he did the next logical thing, he took the first street out of town and gunned it.

It was a back country road that really didn’t lead to anywhere for at least ten miles so as soon as we passed the city limit sign I gunned it too. I was able to stick pretty close to Weed for the first quarter mile but the pickup never had a chance. Like a replay of the last time we raced, though, Weed continued to pull away even though I had the throttle pinned wide open. A quick glance behind me confirmed that we’d left the pickup far behind us but Weed just kept going. A mile further I started to feel a little sketchy at 120 mph so backed off the throttle and settled back down to a comfortable double digit speed and quickly lost sight of him. Another mile later I saw the sign for Milford road so I slowed even more to take it. Milford was the quickest way back to Weed’s house so I assumed that was the way he went. I was wrong.

Back at Weed’s place I pulled the KZ next to the garage even though his car was nowhere to be seen. Pamela was sitting in the garage just as we’d left her the night before so I went inside to give her the once over. The progress was a little slower than I would have liked but she was definitely looking better. I’d even let Weed finally convince me to replace the old radio with a new one he’d picked up at a swap meet at the beginning of summer but that would be one of the last things we replaced so it was still sitting in the box on the workbench at the back of the garage. 

Popping the driver’s side door and sliding behind the wheel I could almost picture how she was going to look and feel once we were finished but as soon as I did, the red glow from the in-dash radio interrupted my daydream.

“Decided to take the day off?” His voice asked before I had a chance to slide back out.

“It wasn’t exactly something I planned.”

“Like I said, it doesn’t make a difference to me. You choose when and how, I just thought you’d be in more of a hurry to finish.”

“I can’t wait to be done, to be rid of you, but It’s not like I had a good opportunity to meet up with Mrs. Reader.”

“Get rid of me? I’m hurt.; I’ve done nothing but try to help you. And maybe I can prove it to you.”

I really didn’t like the sound of that.

“That’s really not necessary.”

“I know you want to live up to your end of our deal, and you’re going to have a hard time doing that while you’re stuck in in-school suspension, so I’ll help you out.”

“You really don’t need to do that,” I said, trying to figure out why just the thought of him “helping” me made me so uneasy.

“It’s my pleasure,” he replied. 

I just continued to sit there as his voice and the red light faded away. 

“I really didn’t expect you to be here.”

I jumped at the sound of Weed’s voice. The Chevette was loud enough that I should have heard it, but I must have been so lost in my own thoughts, or fears, that I completely missed it.

“Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know, with your new fan club or something.”

“Look, I’m no happier about them, or about all of this shit, than you are.”

“Then why’d you do it? You know the teachers leave us alone because we leave them alone. Now all of that’s going to change.”

“I know. I just, you know, had enough. I had a bad night, didn’t sleep again and I wasn’t thinking…”

“Don’t tell me this is about Shawna again.”

“Look, it’s not just her, it’s everything.”

“Everything, including her?”

Yeah, I guess.”

“If you couldn’t sleep you should have come to me; I’ve got something to fix that. I just don’t have anything to fix your hangup on her.”

“I didn’t want to drag you into any of this more than I already have.”

“I’ll always be there for you man. Don’t shut me out for any reason.”

“It’s not that simple. I mean, I’m responsible for, you know, killing people and stuff. I can’t make that go away and I can’t make you have to deal with that stuff.”

“I told you, I’ve got your back, no matter what.”

The look on his face told me he was serious; that there was no way I was going to be able to get rid of him. That made me feel a little better and a little more apprehensive at the same time.

“So are you going to sit there pretending to drive or are we going to get a little work done on her?” Weed asked, grabbing a couple pairs of gloves from the shelf beside the boombox and tossing one to me.

“You really do know just what I need.”

“I sure do,” he said, cranking the music.

Metallica kicked off “50 minutes of music every hour” as we got to work. We pulled off the old headers and exhaust, replacing them with a more free-flowing system. Once again it was nasty work on rusty metal, and I loved every minute of it. The entire time we were underneath that car I was focussed on the task at hand, or on whatever goofy topic came to Weed’s mind; did Han shoot first? Was Indiana Jones really inconsequential to the outcome of Raiders? Which of us would make the better Keyser Soze? The topic really didn’t matter; what mattered was that I never once thought about Shawna, or Mrs. Reader, or any of the shit I’d done. For a little while I felt like me again and it felt good.

I got back home a little later than I wanted, and still needed a shower, thankfully this time my room remained dark when I was done. But even though Lucifer’s voice wasn’t coming from the television, I heard it in my head. Our whole conversation from that afternoon kept replaying in my mind. Thankfully Weed had sent home a little something to help with that. Cracking the window, I lit it up and with the first hit I started to feel better. I didn’t even need to finish the whole thing before I was ready to sleep, and for once, I did.

The next morning I woke feeling much better than I had for some time, until I got down stairs.

“What are you doing up?” I asked mom.

It was nine am on a Saturday morning. She should have gotten off work at seven, home by 7:15 and in bed by 7:30, 8:00 at the latest. Instead she was drinking a cup of coffee and folding laundry while waiting for me to get up.

“We need to talk,” she said, her face a combination of anger, exhaustion and disappointment. 

“So they called you about yesterday, huh?”

“Of course,” she replied, “you’re not 18 yet. If you were, Vice-principal Miller probably would have had you kicked out of there by now.”

“I think there has to be some sort of board meeting before they can completely get rid of me.”

“It really bothers me that you know that.”

“I hear things.”

“But I don’t want you getting any ideas. I just want you to graduate.”

“I will, you don’t have to worry about that.”

“So what do I have to worry about?”

“Nothing,” I said, and I meant it. “I just had a bad day and reacted badly. It won’t happen again.”

“The whole thing with Shawna?” She asked, looking up from her coffee.

“That didn’t help things.”

“Did you have a good reason for skipping out on dinner?”

“No, I just got to working on Pamela and forgot. But I’m sure she read more into it. Or not. Maybe she was just looking for a reason to get mad at me. I really don’t know.”

“I’m sure things will return to normal if you just give her a little time.”

“I don’t even know what normal is anymore. Everything seems to be changing.”

“That’s called life,” she said. “No matter how much we’d like to stop it, life keeps on moving and keeps on changing. And we’ve just got to learn to keep up with it and roll with the punches.”

“I know, and I’m trying. And really, I don’t think I’m doing too bad with it, I just made a stupid mistake.”

“I get that,” she said, “But if you going to do something stupid, at least be smart about it.”

And that was my mother in a nutshell. Part disciplinarian, part friend, and part philosopher. She could make you feel awful about what you’d done, forgive you and offer sage advice all in one sentence.

“I will,” I replied. “I promise.”

“Good”, she said, picking up another shirt to fold. “But you realize I still have to punish you, right?”

“Yeah, I guess I knew that was coming.”

“Since you’ve got in-school suspension for three days, I think your grounding should be the same.”

“I guess that’s fair, but can I at least go to Weed’s to work on my car?”

She hesitated, looking like she was deep in thought. And for a moment I thought Pamela was going to have to wait.

“Tomorrow only, straight there and straight back, just to work on it. Sunday you’ll be here.”

“Thanks, mom.”

“And be home before dinner.”

We spent the morning working on Pamela, only stopping at noon when we needed more parts. 

“The radiator’s cracked,” Weed said. “But I’m sure Finkenbine’s got one.”

“That’s great, and all, but I’m a little short on funds.”

I hated being so close to finishing her but too broke to get her roadworthy again. At least I had the KZ to get me around.

“I’m sure I can pick up a few hours stocking shelves at the hardware store, or maybe get hired in at the Burger Palace a couple nights…”

“Friends don’t let friends flip burgers.”

“It’ll only be for a little while…”

“Not on my watch.”

Weed made his way over to a metal shelving unit towards the rear of the garage and pulled a cardboard box from the top shelf.

“I’m sure this will be more than enough to cover the radiator, and probably anything else we might need from Finkenbine.”

I was a little confused. We’d been friends forever, and I’d spent countless hours in that garage, but I had no idea what was in the box or why it could possibly be so valuable.

I felt the anticipation grow as he slowly pulled his treasure from the box.

“That?” I asked, stifling a laugh. “That piece of junk will pay for a radiator?”

The gas tank was in worse condition than the KZ’s had been. 

“Junk? Do you have any idea what this is?”

“A motorcycle gas tank pulled from the wreckage of the titanic?”

“Close, but not quite,” Weed said. “Finkenbine’s been after this for a long time, but I wasn’t ready to part with it. I figured one day I might have the rest of the bike to go with it.”

“And exactly what bike would that be?”

“A ‘54 Aniversary Yellow Harley Hydra-Glide.”

“A ‘54 Harley would be cool, but I still don’t see how that would be worth a whole lot to him.”

“Well, it’s not just the tank,” he said, before reaching back into the box. “He needs this too.”

Weed tossed a small medallion to me but I still didn’t understand.

“The 1954 Harley’s came with a special anniversary medallion on the front fender, but very few of them have survived so originals are worth a lot. I just wish that I’d found one attached to an original fender.”

I could tell how much those couple of pieces meant to him.

“Look, man, I can’t let you trade that just to get me a radiator. I mean I want to get Pamela back on the road, but…”

“Nah, don’t even worry about it. That stuff has just been sitting up there collecting dust.”

“But…”

“But nothing,” he replied. “You know you’d do the same for me”

“Really I appreciate it, but I’m supposed to be grounded so I really shouldn’t…”

“Did you forget who you’re talking to? I’m the guy who’s helped you sneak out every time you’ve been grounded, so shut up and get in the car so we can get the radiator.”

Ten minutes later we pulled into the junkyard’s parking lot without having said another word.

“I didn’t expect to see you two here today,” Finkenbine said as he emerged from the garage beside the trailer.

“We need a radiator for Pamela” Weed replied before I had a chance.

“That shouldn’t be a problem.”

Finkenbine disappeared through the salvage yard gate so quickly we didn’t even have a chance to follow so instead we waited in awkward silence. Thankfully he returned almost as quickly as he’d left.

The radiator in his hands looked practically brand new, but there was still no way it was worth as much as the Harley parts.

“She’s a good one,” Finkenbine said, handing it to me. “What if we say an even $50.”

“Actually,” Weed chimed in, “I was hoping we could work out a trade.”

Finkenbine’s eyes lit up and a small grin stretched across his face.

“What kind of goodies have you brought for me?”

“Let’s take the radiator to the Weedmobile and we can show you.”

Finkenbine’s steps were even faster than usual, or maybe it just seemed that way because I was left carrying the radiator. Weed opened the rear door and for a moment Finkenbine just stared.

“Um…Can I put this in there?” I asked.

“Yeah, of course,” Finkenbine said, sliding over the box holding the Harley tank to make a little room.

“You know I’ve wanted this for quite a while,” he said.

“Yep,” Weed replied.

“But it’s not just the tank I need.”

“The medallion’s in there too.”

Finkenbine’s grin turned to a full blown smile.

“As much as I want these,” he said, with a fading smile, “you know it’s not a fair trade. And I don’t mind getting the better end of a deal, but this isn’t even close.”

“It’ll be a more even deal when you throw in the new windshield and another headlight.”

Finkenbine’s grin returned.

“Deal.”

They shook on it without even looking my way.

“Now that the deal’s done,” FInkenbine said, “Let me show you what these parts will be going on.”

Weed and I followed him to the garage next to his trailer. He had shelf after shelf filled with parts, but the main area was taken up by two bikes. The first was a black trike completely decked out in chrome.

“Four speaker stereo, AC and even heated handgrips and seat,” Finkenbine said with pride. “I can almost ride it year-round, though it does start to get a little squirrely once the snow starts accumulating.”

I wanted to check out the trike a little more but FInkenbine moved on to the second bike, still underneath a cover.

“This is it?” Weed asked, his smile bigger than I’d ever seen.

“In all its glory,” Finkenbine replied, pulling back the cover.

The yellow bike stood in stark contrast to the black trike but it still seemed to suit Finkenbine, who stood next to it like a proud papa. It was missing a gas tank, but otherwise it was in pristine condition.

“She’s beautiful,” Weed and I said in unison.

“1954, Anniversary edition. I traded my first car for her when I was 18, and I rode her ever since. Well, at least until the accident.”

“So this is the bike you were on when…”

“Yeah.”

“I’d never know it,” I replied.

“After the accident she and I both needed a lot of work, but with this leg, I haven’t been able to ride her so I’ve had plenty of time to fix her up. And I’ve been able to find all the parts I needed, except for these two.”

He set the gas tank on the frame, and even though it was in rough shape compared to the rest of the bike, it was nice seeing the whole thing together.

“I’m glad we could help each other out,” Weed said, “but we really should get back to Pamela so we can get her radiator installed while there’s still daylight.”

“Sure, sure,” FInkenbine replied, his eyes not leaving the bike.

 Weed and I looked at each other, then started towards the garage door.

“I’ll let you know when the windshield is in,” FInkenbine said with a wave, but he still didn’t take his eyes from the bike.

Weed smiled then looked at me and nodded towards the mail truck, so I just followed his lead.

He still didn’t say much on the way back to his place, but there was a different air about him as we pulled into the driveway.

“Now we’re really going to get somewhere with her,” Weed said, popping Pamela’s hood. And judging by the look on his face, he was as excited about it as I was.

I spent the afternoon being Weed’s little helper as he worked underneath my car. The original radiator, with rusted bolts and corroded hose clamps, fought us the whole way, but by the time dinner rolled around we’d managed to replace it with one that would actually hold coolant instead of leaking it all over his garage floor. 

“I’ve really got to go,” I said, wiping my hands on a shop rag. “I promised mom I’d be home for dinner.”

“You going to sneak back over later?”

“No, she’s not working so she’ll probably be up most of the night.

“Sucks to be you.”

“Sucks to be you too,” I replied. “It’s not like you’ve got anyone else to hang out with.”

“Ouch.”

“The truth hurts.”

“Yes it does.”

“Tomorrow then?” I asked. “Get a little more work done on her?”

“Tomorrow’s no good. I promised mom I’d go with her to the outlet malls and that usually takes all day.”

“Wow, your life really does suck doesn’t it.”

“Yeah, but at least I can still leave my house tonight so right now my life doesn’t suck quite as much as yours.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, the truth hurts.”

My Life As Death: Chapter 13

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12

The work on Pamela seemed to be taking forever, but I could begin to see the progress we were making. And while we were fixing the damage from the accident, we were also fixing some of the other less pressing issues I’d put off; the passenger window crank that kept sticking, the weather seal on the trunk that leaked if it rained too hard; little things like that. Weed even suggested replacing the radio with one that actually worked but I hesitated. Only, I don’t know why. I had no problem replacing the broken parts with ones from the junkyard but Finkenbine didn’t have an original radio so I’d have to put in a modern one and I wasn’t quite ready to do that.

“That’s probably a good stopping point,” Weed said, tightening the bleeder valve on the last brake caliper. We’d completely replaced every brake line, with Weed doing most of the bending and flaring. I tried bending a couple pieces and wasted twice as much as we actually used so he took over from there. I just had to crawl underneath the car and install the new lines while trying to keep the rust from the old lines from falling into my eyes and mouth.

Glancing at the clock, I saw it was almost 9:30 pm, which gave me just enough time to make it home and into the shower before heading to bed. Then it dawned on me; I’d completely forgotten about dinner with Shawna and mom. How the Hell had I forgotten?

“I’ve got to go,” I yelled to Weed as I grabbed my helmet and ran to the KZ.

He just stared as I fired up the bike and literally burned rubber as I pulled from his driveway.

I made it home in no time, but even as I pulled up I knew I was way too late. The house was pitch black, which I should have expected. Mom had to work and Shawna would have been completely pissed at me, and rightfully so. I don’t know how I let it slip my mind so completely. I’m sure the thought of my next assignment had something to do with it but I couldn’t use that as an excuse with her.

Making my way into the house, I flipped on the kitchen light and saw a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on the table, but no note. Part of me would have prefered if mom or Shawna had left a little note telling me how upset or disappointed they were with me. Not having one just seemed to make it worse. I thought about tossing the plate in the microwave but I didn’t have the appetite and instead headed towards my room. Crawling under the car for several hours had taken its toll on me and I was sure I’d be able to sleep like a baby once I climbed into bed. I contemplated waiting to shower until the morning. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the hallway mirror on my way upstairs. Bits of rust and dirt were scattered throughout my hair, and there was enough grease on my face to lube an entire chassis, so shower it was. Only as I reached my room, I knew the shower would have to wait.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Shawna. She was sitting on my bed, not ten feet away but she didn’t even turn to face me. Instead, she just kept staring forward as she spoke.

“Your mom left you a plate on the table.”

“Yeah, I saw it. Was she pissed?”

“We had a nice time talking, catching up while we waited for you to show up. Eventually she had to head to work.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I don’t know how…”

“I wanted to come over, to know that things were still okay between us. I think I got my answer.”

“That’s not fair. I’m not the one who changed things between us.”

She finally looked at me, and that look said it all.

“Staying here to talk to you was a mistake,” she said, pushing past me.

“Wait,” I said, instinctively grabbing her arm as she pushed past me.

“Don’t touch me,” she yelled as she pulled her arm away. That’s when I saw the bruises.

“What are those?” 

“Nothing,” she said, moving to the staircase.

“Did Matt do that to you?”

She just kept going. And I just kept standing there like an idiot, unsure what to do. Unsure what she wanted me to do. I was angry at myself for forgetting dinner, at her for blaming me for the way things were between us, and at Matt, for whatever he did to her. I wanted to do something to convince her she was wrong about me and wrong about Matt but I was sure going after her would only make things worse. The sound of the front door closing brought me back around and I remembered how filthy and tired I really was.

Letting my exhaustion win out over my anger, I stripped off my grime covered clothes and hopped into the shower. The hot water did nothing to keep me awake either, so as soon as I towelled off I was ready to fall into bed but as I stepped from the bathroom and saw the television glowing I knew that wasn’t going to happen right away.

“Come on, not tonight,” I said before I even made my way around to the front of the set.

“You can do it whenever you like,” Lucifer’s voice boomed from the TV.

“I’m exhausted and I’d never make it to wherever I need to go.”

“It’s probably best that you wait until tomorrow anyway, seeing how you’ll both be at school all day.”

My exhaustion faded a little as my interest piqued.

“You want me to get rid of someone at school?”

“Again, you can do it wherever and however you like,” he said, and I could hear the grin on his face even if I couldn’t see it.

A hundred possibilities rushed through my mind but I couldn’t even venture a guess who it might be. The soccer coach who only seemed to like his star players and detested any other students? The assistant principal who seemed to enjoy finding any reason to punish anyone? Or maybe even the lunch ladies who looked like they’d rather be serving prisoners in the state pen? It could have been any of them.

“So who is it this time?” I asked, before immediately knowing I’d regret it. But I couldn’t not know, so I braced myself as I moved around the television. The face that appeared on the screen was probably the last one I would have expected.

“Mrs. Reader?” I asked. “There’s no way.”

“I told you I’d only assign you the killers, rapists and child molesters so you know how it goes, you touch her and you’ll see exactly what she’s guilty of.”

Lucifer’s voice coming from the Special Ed teacher’s face was one of the most disturbing things I could have imagined.

“ You send her on and you’re one step closer to being done. Or if you’d prefer we can just forget about the deal. I’ll even let you say goodbye to your mom…”

“Enough. You’ve made your point.”

“Good. So our deal stands.”

“Yeah, but I just…I just can’t believe she’s done something to deserve that. I almost don’t want to know what she’s done.”

“Well tomorrow you will and you’ll send her on just like the others.”

The screen went black and I was left in darkness, with only a sliver of moonlight peeking through the window to see by. I thought about turning on a lamp but I made my way to the bed without it, even though I knew I was no longer ready to sleep. For some reason staying in the darkness felt a little better as I laid there with a thousand thoughts running through my head. What could she have done to deserve to die? And if it was really that bad, how was I going to send her on? Could I make it easy on her? Did she deserve something worse? But even if she had done something that bad, could I really do that to her? It had been hard enough to take care of Sowers, even though he was trying to kill me.

I really didn’t know Mrs. Reader personally but everyone at the school, hell, everyone in town and possibly in the state, knew everything she’d done for the kids she was in charge of. She was almost like a local hero, and I was going to have to put an end to everything she had done. The thoughts of her and what I was going to have to do kept running through my head until thoughts of Shawna took over, causing another round of restlessness. Eventually my mind gave in to my body, letting me sleep a little though it was anything but peaceful.

When morning came around I was no better off than I’d been the day before. I thought about asking Weed for some more of his energy potion but decided the chance of death wasn’t worth it. Worst case, I might have to use a couple classes to catch up on my sleep.

Two cups of instant coffee gave me enough energy to leave the house but I took my time getting to school. I don’t know who I was avoiding more, Weed, Shawna or Mrs. Reader. All I knew was that I was in no hurry to stop riding and by the time I pulled into the last available parking spot the final bell had already sounded.

Mr. Baker, the American History teacher, was writing a bunch of useless facts on the whiteboard and had his back to class as I entered the room and slipped into my seat. Somehow luck was on my side, or so I thought, until he started talking to me without even turning around.

“Nice of you to join my class Mr. Holden,” he said. “Maybe next time you can try to do so before the bell rings.”

Several comments jumped to mind but I bit my tongue, pretty sure pissing him off wouldn’t make me feel any better. Instead I nodded silently.

“No excuse or at least a snide remark?” He said, finishing his writing and finally turning to face me.

“No sir,” I replied, though I could feel my face starting to turn red.

“I was hoping for something good; maybe “I was abducted by aliens” or at least “I had a flat tire”, but nothing?”

I don’t know why, maybe it was the lack of sleep, or everything with Shawna, or even the whole Grim Reaper thing, but I just wasn’t in the mood to put up with some teacher who thought his class was the only thing that mattered. Grabbing my bookbag, I stood up and threw it over my shoulder, then turned and headed to the door.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Mr Baker asked as I turned the handle.

“This,” I said, flipping him the bird as I walked out of his class.

I heard him start to yell something but the laughter of the entire class drowned out whatever he was saying as I kept walking. I made it back out to the parking lot and even managed to get my helmet on without seeing another person but just as I kicked the KZ to life I saw the assistant principal rush out the doors. He was too late though, only reaching the bottom of the concrete stairs as I took off. I didn’t know where I was going, or even why, I just knew that I wanted to go, so I did.

My Life As Death: Chapter 12

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11

I really don’t know why the tears came. Sowers was a bad man, so I really shouldn’t have felt bad for what I’d done to him. But then again, maybe the tears weren’t for him but for what he’d done; maybe they were for those boys. Those boys, any one of which could have been me. It didn’t really matter why the tears came though; there was nothing I could do to stop them. All I could do was wait for them to pass. And when the tears finally stopped I realized just how late it was and just how exhausted I was.

But sleep came only fitfully before the sun started to rise. I thought about skipping school, but then I would have to come up with a good excuse for mom and that wasn’t going to happen, so I forced myself out of bed and into the shower, though that barely helped. By the time I shut off the water I was even more tired than I’d been when I started it. I couldn’t see myself making it through second period without a little help, so against my better judgment I hopped on the KZ and went straight to Weed’s place.

“Give me some of your devil’s elixir,” I said, flinging open his curtains as he pulled his pillow over his face.

“Go away!” He mumbled through the pillow.

“I’m serious, I need your help.”

“Making it through a school day drunk takes a lot of practice,” he continued, not taking the pillow away from his face, “and you’re not ready for it.”

“That’s not what I meant,” I said, pulling the pillow from his face, “I need some energy, and lots of it.”

He slid the pillow from his head, a grin showing on his face.

“I knew this day would come.”

“Don’t make a big deal of it, I just didn’t sleep last night, or really the night before either.”

“You sure you’re up to this?”

“I said don’t make a big deal out of it.”

“First you have to tell me I’m a genius.”

“Not going to happen.”

“Then at least tell me I was right.”

“Fine, You were right.”

And now to fulfill the bet…”

2 years ago, after a weekend long party, Weed had come up with some concoction that combined high levels of caffeine with ginseng, vitamins, pre-workout supplements and asthma medication. He swore it not only cured his hangover but also gave him superhuman energy; I called him an idiot and swore he was just trying to kill himself. He ended up bouncing off the walls and not sleeping for two days, but he didn’t seem to suffer any lasting problems from the stuff so he bet me one day I’d beg him for his recipe. I hated that he was right, but knowing what was coming made it even worse.

“Where do you want it?” He asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

I rolled up my sleeve and braced myself but I still wasn’t prepared when the electrical charge hit me, practically dropping me on the spot.

“Damn,” I said, as I tried to shake it off. I don’t know where Weed had gotten the cattle prod but we’d been trading shots with it for several years, usually the result of losing a bet. Even with that much experience, though, it still hurt like crazy.

“Now let’s get you wired,” he said.

“After that jolt, I might not need anything else.”

“Trust me, you’re going to thank me later.”

He was right, again. After chugging the nasty concoction Weed mixed up for me I started to feel better and by the time I reached school I was wide awake, even a bit more energetic than normal. I didn’t sleep through a single class but by lunchtime I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

“Yeah, that happened to me the first few times too,” Weed said, “but it’ll go away before long.”

‘Before long’ turned out to be another couple hours, just before the final bell rang. As I made my way to my bike I was finally beginning to feel like myself again, and for that I was thankful. I was even more thankful to see Shawna standing there beside the KZ.

“Hi,” she said.

She had her books clasped in one arm, her other arm was resting on the handlebars.

“Hi.”

“You look like you’re doing good.”

She had no idea how far off she was.

“You too,” I replied, and I meant it. She looked very good but with a sadness in her eye. It was a sadness that had been there when I first met her but that had faded over the years. I wasn’t sure if something had happened with her and Matt; though the thought did bring a little smile to my face and I hated myself for it.

“I thought maybe we could get together tonight, just to hang out.”

I felt my smile grow a little bigger.

“That’d be good; Mom’s been asking about you.”

“I’ve been meaning to stop by but… you know…”

“Yeah. Why don’t you come over for dinner? She’d be happy to see you.”

“That sounds nice.”

“And then maybe we can throw in a Monty Python DVD?”

“Make it a John Hughes movie and it’s a deal.”

“Deal.”

“Uh, I’ve got to go,” She said, the smile fading from her face. I glanced over my shoulder to see what she was looking at and saw the red Corvette pull into the parking lot. I didn’t know what to make of it so I just waved as she made her way towards Matt’s car.

“Please tell me you’re not going down that road again,” Weed said. I didn’t even see where he came from.

“We’re friends. Period.”

“With benefits?”

“Just friends. She’s coming over for dinner with Mom. Nothing more. Besides, she’s with Matt.”

“For as long as that lasts.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, my interest peaked.

“I’m not even going there. You’re looking for any straw to grasp.”

“I’m over her entirely. Completely.”

“So you’re ready to move on to someone else.”

“If the right girl comes along…maybe…wait. What’ve you done?”

“Trust me,” he said with a grin that terrified me.

“I know better than that.”

“Have I ever led you astray?”

“Only always. Like that time you convinced me to get on that sled tied behind your car.”

“That was a blast”

“Yeah, up until you floored it, got me up to highway speeds, then slammed on the brakes.”

“We never got above 50.”

“I still face planted onto your rear bumper.”

“And you lived.”

“Or like the time you told me that mound of wasabi was guacamole.”

“Now that was funny.”

“I couldn’t feel my tongue for a week!”

“That’s what made it so funny.”

“Or that time with the jumper cables and nipple clamps…”

“Okay, that one might have been a little too mean, but in my defense I didn’t know body hair could catch fire that quickly.”

“So whatever you have planned, I’ll pass.”

“No you won’t.”

“And why wouldn’t I?”

“Two words – boarding school girls.”

“You realize boarding school is two words, right?”

“But schoolgirl is one word.”

“No.”

“Yeah, that’s how they spell it on all of the movie titles in the back of the video store.”

“Yeah, because pornos are known for their grammatical accuracy.”

“Don’t be putting down the most American of arts.”

Regardless, of where you take your spelling lessons I’m saying no to the whole thing, whatever it is you have planned.”

“Come on, this weekend will be their first one home after being stuck on a campus with only girls…”

“How do you even know any boarding school girls?”

“Boarding school, correctional facility, same thing.”

“No it’s not even close.”

“Hot girls locked up with no guys, only other hot girls, doing god knows what to each other…”

“Life is not a porno. It’s not only hot girls that get put in those places, and I really doubt they’re doing what you picture them doing.”

“Why do you have to kill the dream?”

“Have you even met these girls?”

“Kind of. I mean, we’ve exchanged letters and pictures.”

“Do I even want to know when or how you became a penpal to girls in a correctional institution?”

“It’s been a little while. Last summer, while you were busy fawning over Shawna, I joined through a church youth group for a couple weeks. I thought it would be a good way to meet some chicks.”

“The youth group or the pen pal program.”

“The youth group, at first, but when that didn’t work out I moved on to plan B.”

“You’re going to hell, you know that, right?”

“That’s where the hot naughty girls will be.”

“You really need help,” I said, slipping on my helmet.

“That’s not a no.”

“Because I already said no.”

I fired up the bike while shaking my head at Weed.

“Fine,” he said. “Your loss. You still coming over to work on Pamela?”

I hesitated to say yes. I wanted to work on her. I wanted to get her all fixed up and back out on the road, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to say yes if He came to me again with another assignment. And what would happen if I said no? But then I realized it didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, the first assignment came while I was at home, asleep. Avoiding my car wouldn’t keep him from coming to me again. And I had made a deal, it was time to live up to it.

“Nate?” Weed asked. “You coming over?”

“Yeah,” I responded. “Let’s get her done.”

My Lafe As Death: Chapters 10 and 11

This week was not as productive as I had hoped, so still no new cover. But to make up for that, and the fact that Chapter 10 is pretty short, I’m including a bonus chapter this week.

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9


Chapter 11

Mom was already up, showered and working on dinner by the time I got home, which meant she probably had a rough night at work and didn’t sleep well.

“Are you making progress at Weed’s?” She asked as soon as I walked in the door.

“Yeah, it’s coming along nicely,” I lied a little.

“That’s good,” she replied, “I’ll feel better when you’re back to driving a car instead of the bike so much.”

“I’m very cautious,” I lied a little more, “maybe even more so on the bike.” That part was true.

“It’s not necessarily you I’m most worried about,” she said, continuing to stir the spaghetti sauce. “Other drivers aren’t always so careful and it’s easy for them to overlook someone on a motorcycle.”

She wasn’t wrong, and I knew nothing I said would change her mind, so I decided to change the subject instead.

“So while I was at Weed’s I heard that Mr. Dinkle, the librarian, died last year. I’m a little surprised I didn’t hear about it back then.”

“Why were you talking about Mr. Dinkle?”

“I’ve got an assignment so I’ll probably go to the library a little later when you head to work. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I thought I would have at least heard about Mr. Dinkle.”

“I’m glad to hear that you’re taking school seriously,” she said, once again steering the conversation away from Mr. Dinkle’s death. “I know it can be easy to slack off in the final stretch.”

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I replied, “but why are you avoiding talking about Mr. Dinkle?”

She stopped stirring the sauce, but still didn’t turn from the stove. Instead, she sighed, grabbed another pot and began filling it with water before answering.

“Well, he was getting up there in age and had a few health issues, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue. And he wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids of his own, so there wasn’t a large funeral service or anything.”

“The same things could be said about that beautician, Ms. Wilson. She was old and alone but half the town still showed up for her viewing. I mean, I wasn’t a huge fan of Mr. Dinkle, but I thought I would have at least heard something.”

“With Mr. Dinkle there were certain circumstances that some people felt would be best to keep quiet so they could fade away quicker.”

“Like what?”

Again she paused, then moved back to stirring the sauce while still not facing me.

“Do you know what autoerotic asphyxiation is?” She asked. It was a question I’d never expected to hear from her.

“I’ve heard of it,” I replied, feeling my cheeks blush a little. That really wasn’t a conversation I wanted to have with my mom.

“That was the official cause of death for him.”

“Oh,” was all I could say. I mean, how else do you respond to something like that?

“And some of the pictures found near him were very disturbing, especially to mothers of young boys.”

I got what she was saying, but it didn’t add up with what I’d been told in the garage.

“But he’s dead,” she continued, “and most of those who know about how he died want it to stay buried with him.”

“I won’t say anything,” I said, but I wasn’t sure I meant it. If Dinkle was the pedophile, then maybe Mr. Sowers wasn’t guilty. And if Lucifer lied about Sowers, then what about the biker? But then I remembered the visions I saw when I touched the biker, and I knew he was guilty. And though I couldn’t touch Dinkle to see what he had done, I would be able to see what Sowers was guilty of. It would only take one touch, and then I’d know. 

“So it’s my turn to make you uncomfortable,” mom said, clearly ending that conversation, “How’s Shawna doing? And why haven’t I seen her since she’s been back?”

I think I preferred the other discussion.

“You know how it is with school just starting and everything,” I said, trying to keep it vague.

“Surely she can find a few minutes to swing by,” she replied, not letting it go. “You two used to do homework together every night, you were practically inseparable.”

“That wouldn’t be a good idea; we’re in completely different classes this year.”

“Well I’m sure…”

“And she has a new boyfriend.”

“Oh,” she said, going back to the sauce.

“Well there are plenty of girls…”

“Mom,” I said, a little more harshly than I meant to. “I’m fine. We’re fine. And I’m sure she’ll be over sometime soon. Right now it’s just a matter of priorities.”

“There’s a cute new CNA at the hospital. She just graduated from Southview last year. I could…”

“I really need a shower,” I said heading up the stairs before she could begin to rope me into anything. I wanted to take a long hot shower but mom would be heading to work shortly and I had to get to the library before the doors closed.

Dinner was ready by the time I got out of the shower and made my way back downstairs. Mom had made her soft breadsticks and I could smell them before I even reached the kitchen. It was times like that that made me feel everything was going right; but then she had to go work herself like crazy and I had my own job I had to finish. But at least I saw an end for what I had to do. She, on the other hand, had been working herself to death since before I could remember. The only way it was going to end was if I could do something to help her out. In order to do that, I had to finish my next assignments as quickly as possible. That thought made heading to the library a little easier.

Chapter 11

The sun was already pretty low by the time I pulled into the library parking lot. There wasn’t a single car in any of the spaces, but glancing at my watch I could see that it was still a few minutes before eight, so I hung my helmet on the handlebars and hurried towards the building. Back when I knew him, Mr. Sowers didn’t drive; he rode a mountain bike everywhere. As I reached the front doors I was actually thankful to see his bike chained up to the bike rack but when I pulled on the door handle, it refused to open.

“Damnit,” I mumbled, as I plopped back against the door, pissed that I’d missed my opportunity. Sure, there’d be other chances, but psyching myself up to do what I had to do was tiring, especially when it was for nothing.

A knock on the door behind me shook me from my thoughts, and as I turned around, I could feel a smile forming on my face. Mr. Sowers was standing there unlocking the front door.

“Sorry about that,” he said, without fully making eye contact with me. “It’s just been me here for the past hour so I thought I’d close up a few minutes early.”

“No problem,” I said, trying to act casual. “I just need a book for a report I forgot was due.”

“School just started and you already forgot about a report? That’s really not a good way to start the school year.”

“Yeah, uh, that’s why I rushed over here.”

“So what kind of book do you need?” He asked with a smile, that might have been genuine, but with everything Lucifer told me, it just looked creepy as Hell. That made it even harder to come up with a good lie.

“Uh, Napoleon,” I said, blurting out the first thing remotely scholastic that came to mind.

“Those books are back here,” he said, leading me towards a slightly darkened corner packed with history books. I stared at the books, moving from one title to the next while not really paying attention to them as I tried to think of some way to touch his arm casually. I needed to see that he was the one guilty of what I’d been told, but before I could come up with anything, he grabbed me, spun me around and shoved me against the shelves of books.

“What are you really doing here?” he asked, the gentle face now looking terrifying.

“I just need a book for a report,” I stammered.

“Napoleon is taught in freshman history, and no reports are assigned about him until the second semester. So I’m going to ask you again, what are you really doing here?”

When I didn’t answer right away, his giant hands moved from my shoulders to my neck, slowly gripping tighter. I grabbed hold of his wrists, trying to break free and that’s when I was flooded with images. I saw him with several different boys, all young, all innocent. Then I saw what he did to them. What started gently, timidly at first turned more violent when they started to cry, begging him to stop.

I yanked my hands off his so the images would stop, but then he started squeezing my throat even harder. I could feel myself getting lightheaded and knew I had to pull his hands off of me, but convincing myself to touch him again was harder than I would have imagined. The thought of just going to sleep was much more appealing than having to see those images again, but once I was asleep there was no telling what he might do, or even if I’d wake up again.

Grabbing his hands once again, more images flooded my mind, this time I saw a boy I kind of recognized, possibly from the park, or supermarket. Sowers had him in a small storage room, showing him pictures of other boys, the ones from the earlier visions. He must have taken them, either as trophies, or even just to convince other boys it was okay because others had done it. But then Mr. Dinkle burst into the room. I could see the anger in his eyes and feel the shame and horror Sowers felt at being caught. But then the shame turned to fear, and fear turned to rage. Jumping to his feet I saw through his eyes how he grabbed Mr. Dinkle’s throat, just as he had mine, and how he had choked the man to death with his bare hands.

The kid screamed, and started crying so Sowers did the same thing to him, only requiring one hand to stop the noise. I could feel the relief and pleasure he felt at the silence before looking at both bodies. It was then that I could feel the tears start flowing. But then his tears turned to fear of getting caught, and once again the fear turned to anger, so he took off Mr. Dinkle’s belt and wrapped one end around his neck and the other around the storage room door handle. Leaving his prized pictures beside Mr. Dinkle, Sowers grabbed the boy’s body and shoved it into the contractor sized trash bag and took it out back to the dumpster.

It was only then that I realized where I’d seen the boy before. His face was on missing person posters. A year ago they’d been all over the area and even featured on the local news. But over the passing months, they’d all just kind of faded away. With the timing of the boys’ disappearance and Mr. Dinkle’s death, along with Dinkle’s assumed guilt for all of Sowers’ other acts, everyone probably just assumed the kid was one more of his victims too.

Sowers’ hands squeezed a little tighter, and the visions of what he’d done were replaced by a swirling sensation and I knew I was about to pass out. With every ounce of strength I had left, I pictured him having a massive heart attack right in front of me. I felt the same energy pass through me that I had that night at the bar, and instantly Sowers froze, his grip loosening enough for me to get a breath. The ice cold burning sensation finished coursing through me as the swirling sensation started to fade, I felt his hands leave my neck completely. His eyes glossed over as he grabbed at his chest and dropped to the floor.

I stared at him for a moment before the overwhelming warmth flooded my body, just as it had the night before,  intoxicating me with its energy. I just wanted to stay there and enjoy the moment, but I knew I needed to get out of there. I mean, there’s no way I could have been blamed for Sowers’ heart attack, but I didn’t want to take any chances. 

Rushing out of the front door I couldn’t shake the image of his face; it was the first time I’d witnessed anyone die in front of me, and knowing I was responsible for it made the whole thing worse. Immediately my stomach tightened and flopped. I leaned into the nearest bush lining the sidewalk from the parking lot to the building and started heaving. It refused to stop until I’d gotten rid of every ounce of the wonderful dinner mom had fixed for me.

It took me a minute after I was completely empty to stop shaking and to gather myself enough to stand back up and finish making my way to the bike. It took another minute of sitting on the bike before I convinced myself I was good enough to ride. The vibrations of the engine beneath me did nothing to help my stomach, and I seemed to hit every pothole on the way home but somehow I made it back without having to pull over. Once home though, I rushed into the nearest bathroom and started dry heaving until my body was satisfied there was nothing left to get rid of. That’s when I sat with my back against the wall and let the tears fall.

My Life As Death: Chapter 9

This week is spring break, so I will probably have a chance to work on the cover some more, but for now it’s still the same.


For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8

My mom didn’t have a shift at the diner that night so she would be home for a bit before heading to the hospital and I’d already spent a good amount of time at Finkenbine’s, so as soon as we got the Hearse done I skipped going to Weed’s place and headed home instead. Starting back on Pamela would just have to wait another night. And part of me was actually glad to have an excuse to get away from Weed for a little while. I couldn’t be certain that I’d killed Finkenbine’s friend, but I was pretty sure I had. And Weed had to assume the same thing. How did he feel about that? How would I feel if my best friend just killed someone? I really wasn’t prepared to find out, so a night at home and spending a couple hours with my mom, would do me good.

Unfortunately, my mind was so preoccupied with what happened at Finkenbine’s that I completely forgot about hiding the bike from my mom. I realized that as I was walking up to the back door, pulling off my helmet.

“That’s new,” Mom said, before I’d even closed the back door. She was sitting at the circular dining table drinking a cup of coffee.

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to play it off, “I’ve got Pamela at Weed’s so we can do some more on her, and he had a bike laying around, so…”

“You know I don’t like those things,” she continued, but in a softer tone, “but you are about to be 18, at which point I can’t really control anything you do…”

“Now mom…”

“I’m just saying, if you’re going to be riding a motorcycle, be safe.”

With that, she tossed a pamphlet to me. It was for a local motorcycle shop who offered fee classes.

“You knew?”

She just nodded as she took another sip of her coffee.

“I was going to tell you, I was just working up the courage. It happened so suddenly. I wasn’t planning on getting a bike, Weed just had it and…”

“You don’t have to explain it all to me,” she said, stopping me from blabbering on too much. “I just want you to know you can tell me anything. You don’t have to hide anything from me.”

I knew she meant it, or at least she thought she did. I also knew there was no way I could tell her what happened the night of the crash, or even what had happened last night, as much as I might have wanted to.

“Thanks, Mom,” I said, trying to put on my best smile.

“At least you’re wearing a helmet,” she said. “But the skull on it?”

“Yeah, it’s not really my style either, but it was from Weed”

“He really is a good friend, isn’t he.”

“One of the best,” I said, hoping it was still true.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up and I’ll see what I can put together for dinner.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Mom ended up fixing us pizza bagels and mozzarella sticks, probably because they’re my favorite. Then she put in Goonies which I’d seen a thousand times, and which I could have watched a thousand more, only I knew she really didn’t care for it. I couldn’t tell if she was setting me up to hit me with some bad news, or if she just really wanted me to have a great night. Regardless of her intentions, she never dropped a bomb on me and by the time she left for the hospital I was more relaxed than I’d been in a very long time. I’d almost completely forgotten about all the other crap I had going on.

“Don’t stay up late,” she said as she headed out the door.

“I won’t,” I replied, and I really meant it. I had no intention of being up late, but someone else had other ideas.

Once again I found myself being awakened in the middle of a perfectly good sleep. This time it wasn’t the TV that interrupted my sleep, but a thumping at the window.

“What the Hell?” I yelled to Weed as I unlatched the window. “Why didn’t you come up the stairs?”

“I didn’t know if your mom was working and I didn’t want to wake her.”

“But you’re cool with waking me?”

“I didn’t know how much sleeping you’d be doing, and I didn’t want to miss it if you got another assignment.”

“So you’re cool with it if I did do what we think I did?”

“What, rid the world of someone who even Finkenbine didn’t think should still be out there doing God-knows-what?

“I doesn’t bother you that I might have murdered someone?”

“Don’t think of it like that. You got rid of a bad guy. You’re like a superhero using your superpowers for good.”

“Not even close.”

“Well, however you want to think of it, you’re not a bad person. You’re just doing your job, and in the end, some little part of this world is better off for it.”

“Thanks,” I said, feeling a little better knowing that Weed was on my side.

“Now that that’s taken care of,” he said, pulling out a baggie, “we could both probably use a little something to help us get some sleep.”

“We’ve got school in a couple hours,” I protested, though even I barely believed the words coming out of my mouth.

“Which is why we need a little rest, and this is just the bag to help us do it.”

Ten minutes later we were both silent. I couldn’t tell for sure if he was out at that point but a few minutes later I was enjoying peaceful dreamless sleep. There were no thoughts of car crashes or motorcycle accidents; no voices or smiling faces. It was perfect oblivion. Exactly what I needed.

The alarm woke me, the next morning though it didn’t even begin to faze Weed. He’d apparently fallen asleep in my recliner with a grin on his face. Thankfully the window had been left open enough that there was no residual smoke hanging around the room. And though I should have been at least a little groggy, I was actually more rested than I’d expected so I grabbed some clean clothes and headed to the bathroom, enjoying a longer than necessary shower before waking Weed up. I tried to think of a creative way to start his day but the best I could come up with was to plug in my guitar, crank the volume to 11 and do my best Jimi Hendrix Star Spangled Banner impression. It barely woke him.

“Why’d you stop?” he asked, with his eyes still closed.

“You look like you’re going to need something a little stronger than Jimi to get you going.”

“So you’ve got coffee ready?” He replied.

“Instant’s the best I can do.”

“We can’t be friends any more.”

“Tell you what, you get your ass up and I’ll try to figure out the coffee maker.”

“Counter proposal,” Weed said, slowly pushing himself up from the recliner, “We’ll take the KZ to my place where we’ll get a decent cup of coffee and a bowl of something sugary.”

“I’ll drop you off at your place,” I replied, “but I think I’ll pass on the coffee and diabetes.”

“You still going to try to smooth things over with her?”

“We’ll see…”

“There’s no ‘We’ll see’,” Weed said, visibly frustrated, and rightfully so. Shawna had her Ken doll, and even if she didn’t, I had no idea what the hell was actually going on with me. I didn’t want to drag her into my mess, at least not until I’d made good on my end of the deal. But I also didn’t want her to leave my life completely. 

“I just think a bit of a ride would do me good before school,” I said, trying to shrug off his implication and failing miserably.

“Just promise me you won’t go to her place. Nothing good can come from that.”

“Promise,” I said, “Now if we don’t get going we’ll be late.”

“Sure,” he replies, “just one more thing…”

“What’s that?”

“You’re riding bitch,” he said, grabbing the KZ keys and jumping halfway down the stairs before I could even catch what he’d said.

“Oh Hell no,” I yelled, rushing down the stairs after him, but it was already too late; he was on the bike before I was even out the back door.

“That’s not cool,” I said, as he kicked the bike to life. “I don’t want anyone to see me riding bitch on my own bike.”

“Then you should have called it first,” he grinned, “but at least my place isn’t that far.”

And he was right about his place not being too far, but in those few blocks I swear we saw half a dozen people I knew staring at us as we went by, me holding on to Weed’s waist, and him screaming the lyrics to U2’s “One” as we made our way down the street. I know he was going as slow as possible just to embarrass me as much as possible. Thankfully I had the helmet on, so no one could see how much it was working.

When we got to Weed’s house I didn’t stick around, opting instead to find an empty road to enjoy, once I was back at the front of the bike. There was something therapeutic about being on the bike, so much so that I completely lost track of time and almost ended up inadvertently playing hooky. By the time I pulled into the school parking lot, my head was almost completely clear. There were no thoughts of that biker, or what I’d done, or even Shawna. But the cherry red ‘vette commanding attention in front of the building changed all that. I just kept driving past it, pulling into the last open parking spot, right beside Weed’s Chevette.

“Say the word and I’ll help you key his car,” Weed said without even getting out of his car.

“No you wouldn’t, it’s much too nice for that.”

“True,” he replied, “but to be honest, I didn’t think you’d take me up on it; you’re not that type of guy.”

“I’m not,” I said, “but the thought was nice.”

“You want a puff before the bell rings?” He asked, holding out his silver bowl.

“Nah, I’m actually feeling pretty good, all things considered. Then again, I might just not be completely recovered from last night.”

“Maybe after school then.”

“I was hoping to get to work on Pamela after school.”

“Definitely; we’ll just save a little of this for when the work is done.”

“It’s a deal,” I said, just as the last bell rang, telling us we had to get our assess to class.

Weed spent most of each class trying,and failing, to stay awake. I tried actually concentrating on what was being taught but found my thoughts drifting to anything else. Hanging with Weed definitely helped me deal with all the shit going on in my life, but talking to Shawna would have probably helped too, not that she’d believe my story any easier than Weed had. But her perspective would have definitely been different than his. From his point of view I was the good guy who got rid of a bad guy, but the world isn’t that black and white. And killing is killing, isn’t it? I mean, even though I didn’t shove that guy in front of the train, I was still responsible, wasn’t I? Good, bad, Maybe it is all subjective, but that didn’t make it any easier.

 Trapped in class after class, the philosophical debate went on in my head all day until finally the last bell mercifully rang. Only by then I was so caught up in my own thoughts that I didn’t budge from my seat.

“You ready to go get started on Pamela?” Weed asked, pulling me from my thoughts.

“Oh, yeah,” I replied, trying to shake off the haze that clouded everything. Unfortunately it wasn’t the fun kind of haze that Weed and I prefered.

“Cool. You head there while I pick up a couple things from Steve’s Tow shop. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Sounds good.”

Weed took off and I headed towards his house, before taking a slight detour towards Shawna’s. I knew it wasn’t the best choice, and Weed would have killed me if he found out, but I just wanted to see her for a minute, to make sure things were still cool between us. Half a block away from her house I realized just how bad my choice had been. Before I even got close, I saw Matt’s Corvette sitting on the street in front of her house, right where I should have been parked. The two of them were still inside the car, their faces locked together, their hands doing only God-knows-what. 

With a twist of the throttle, the bike took off, the exhaust roaring more than I’d anticipated. But once again I really didn’t care who heard me, I just wanted out of there as quickly as possible, and the bike obliged. I thought about keeping the throttle pinned and just seeing how far a tank of gas would take me but Pamela was waiting in Weed’s garage, and I knew he’d be back there shortly, so I let off the gas so the bike could return to a more acceptable speed, before I reached his place.

The driveway was still empty as I pulled up beside the garage, but the garage door was open and from there I could see Pamela waiting for me. Slipping off the helmet, I made my way around her, checking out the progress we’d made, along with all the work we had yet to do. She did look much better with the new headlight in and all the dirt and corn stalks off of her. Weed was grabbing some wheel ramps so we could check out the underside of her a little easier, but even if we didn’t find anything else, it was still probably going to be another week before she was road worthy. The thought was a little depressing, but at least I had the KZ to get me around until she was done.

“You did well,” the voice said. The light in the garage was dim enough that I could see the red glow from the stereo without even looking inside the car.

“Thanks? I guess?” I replied. I mean, how do you respond to that?

“So you’re ready for another one?”

“Another one?”

“Another assignment; one step closer to completing your end of the deal.”

“I’m not sure.”

“I figured you’d be in a hurry to get them done and have everything return to normal.”

That was what I wanted, more than almost anything, but for some reason the way he said it made me a bit apprehensive. And I wasn’t sure I had really come to terms with what I had done the first time, let alone being ready to do it again.

“What’ve you got?” I asked, with as much confidence as I could muster. I mean, what did it hurt to at least know what the assignment was before making a decision.

“This one’s an easy one,” he replied, and I swear I could hear the grin on his face even if I couldn’t see it. “He’s a pedophile, working out in the open at the library. His job puts him in contact with a lot of young, trusting kids. You’ll be doing your community a great service.”

“My community, like this town?” I asked, trying to wrap my head around a pedophile working at the town library. It’d been a few years since I’d been there, but as a kid, mom used to take me there every Saturday to pick up enough books to keep me busy during the week. I had fond memories of some of the books I’d read. Those memories brought to mind one person.

“It’s Mr. Dinkle, isn’t it?”

Mr. Dinkle had been the head librarian for what seemed like forever. He was a small, slightly hunched man with a long hooked nose, who always seemed to be popping up suddenly anywhere and everywhere in the library. I can’t count the number of times he’d caught Weed and me goofing off on school trips there. He always gave me the creeps, appearing out of nowhere.

“Not even close,” the voice said with a chuckle. “Mr. Dinkle was actually the reason there weren’t more victims. He always suspected, and did his best to keep an eye on all the kids that came and went from there, but he died last year and the pedophile, your next assignment, has been a bit more free to pursue his desires.”

The thought of a predator hanging out at the library, searching for his next victim to do unspeakable things made my skin crawl. As conflicted as I had been about the first assignment, I knew I had to take this one out, but more than that, as I thought about what he might have done to those kids, I wanted to end him. Someone like that, I would almost consider pulling the trigger myself, but thankfully I didn’t have to. I just had to choose how he would go; it was that simple. The thought almost made me smile.

“I’ll do it,” I said.

“Don’t you want to know who it is first?” He asked.

“It doesn’t really matter. Someone like that needs to go.”

“That’s the spirit,” the voice called out. “But it needs to be done soon before he can find another victim.”

“Gladly,” I said, “so who is it?”

“His name is Glenn Sowers.”

“Sowers? Mr. Sowers the Janitor?”

“After Mr. Dinkle passed away he was promoted to a librarian position.”

“There’s no way. I mean, he always seemed so nice; quiet, but nice. He always had an extra stick of gum…”

“Always nice to little boys, offering them gum and candy. I see why it’s hard for you to believe he’s a pedophile.”

“No, what I mean is, he never even came close to trying anything with me.”

“You mean when Mr. Dinkle was keeping an eye on everything, sure to pop up anywhere and everywhere.”

He was right, and I didn’t like it.

“I get it, but it’s still hard to believe.”

“One touch and you’ll believe it, but remember what I said, you can’t unsee what he’s done.”

The red glow disappeared from the front seat of the car and I knew he was gone. He hadn’t told me where to find this assignment, but I knew where Mr. Sowers would be. The library was open until 8:00pm, which meant I still had plenty of time to decide how I was going to approach him, and how he was going to meet his end, but I still found it hard to wrap my head around. Sowers, as the janitor I knew, was a large man, at least six foot and 250 pounds but even with that size, he was never intimidating. And he always had a comic book in his back pocket to read when he wasn’t cleaning. And he always made time for us, keeping us up-to-date on the latest superhero exploits, and he was just as excited about them as we were. It was almost like he was one of us kids.

“I thought for sure you’d be at Shawna’s,” Weed said, his voice causing me to jump as he turned on the overhead lights. I’d been so lost in my own thoughts that I hadn’t even heard him pull in.

“Why would I want to see her, when I can be here staring at your pretty face instead?”

“Such a sweet talker,” he replied, with a grin, “but I know you’re only here because of Pamela.”

“Truer words have never been spoken. I get enough of your ugly mug in class.”

“Okay then, enough with the flirting. How about we make some progress on her.”

“Works for me,” I said, cranking up the old boombox on the corner of the workbench. Nirvana, doing an acoustic version of one of their songs, echoed off the garage walls. Curt Cobain had died just a few months after that performance was recorded and for some reason hearing the dead man’s voice hit me a little harder than I would have expected. For a minute I just froze.

“You okay man?” Weed asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, shaking my head . “I’m good.”

“Good,” he said, “then let’s get started.”

I helped Weed get the ramps from his car. It took a bit to get Pamela onto them, but once she was up in the air it was much easier to see her underside. There was one brake line dripping some fluid, but other than that and the dried mud caked into every little crevice, she was in better shape than I expected. We spent a couple hours trying to clean out every bit of mud we could, and the menial work was just what I needed. By the time I left Weed’s place I was almost feeling normal so I headed home to spend a little time with Mom before she had to go to work. Once she was gone, I wanted to get on with my next assignment.


My Life As Death: Chapter 7

I haven’t had the opportunity to work any further on the cover, so this week it’s the same as last.
For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

By the time I got home Mom had already left for the dinner shift at Max’s Place. Everyone called it a diner, but it was barely even that. The place had a couple tables, four booths and one long bar that held a half-dozen people if you didn’t mind sitting a little too close to your neighbor, which most people in town seemed to enjoy. Not me, though. I preferred having some space of my own. So even though I could have gotten a free burger and fries if I’d gone to visit her, I just grabbed a cold-meat sandwich and a bag of chips and went to my room.

Being the first day of school, only one teacher had assigned any homework but I didn’t even feel like doing that. Instead I popped in an old John Candy film, something to take my mind off everything. And it worked for a while. Around 1:30 in the morning I woke up, realizing I had fallen asleep and missed most of the movie. The TV was still on, but with only static coming from it so I rolled out of bed to shut it off. The static stopped just as I reached for the power button.

“Are you ready to live up to your end of the deal?” His voice asked. It might have been coming from the television, but unplugging it didn’t seem to help. He just laughed.

“You want me to go kill someone at . . . 1:36 am?” I asked, glancing at the clock beside my bed.

“You are already up.”

“I also have school in the morning,” I replied towards the TV, unsure where else to direct it.

“The choice is yours,” he continued. “You get to choose when and how, but you will honor our deal.”

“Of course I will,” I said, still feeling a little self conscious about talking to an unplugged television. Sitting back on my bed, I thought about what he said. He wasn’t wrong, I mean I was already up, and I fell asleep early so I wasn’t exactly ready to go right back to sleep.

“Are you serious about giving me an assignment?” I asked, not sure what to expect.

“Of course.”

“Then I guess I could at least check the guy out,” I said, standing back up.

“Who said it’s a guy?” The voice asked, and I just stopped in my tracks. I hadn’t even considered that I might have to kill a woman.

“Relax,” he continued. “I’m just messing with you.”

A face appeared on the television screen but it wasn’t Lucifer’s, or at least it wasn’t the same as he’d looked the other night. This one was rough, covered in scars and tattoos, like he was purposely trying to make himself as unattractive as possible. I couldn’t make out the lettering tattooed on his eyelids but I knew the tear drops inked beneath both eyes were most likely prison tattoos. And the SS and 88 on each side of his neck meant he probably part of a white supremacist gang.

“This is the guy you want me to go kill?”

“No, I want you to take him to brunch,” the face on the TV snarked back. “Yes, he is your assignment.”

“Are you trying to get me killed?”

“If I wanted you dead, would I have made the deal with you in the first place?”

He had a point.

“I guess not, but this isn’t the sort of guy I can just walk up to.”

“So find another way, unless you just want to call off our deal.”

It didn’t really matter which face it came from, I was just really beginning to hate Lucifer’s voice.

“No,” I replied, I’ve got this.”

On the television, beneath the face, was an address, flashing like a late night infomercial phone number. “

He’ll be there for a little while yet,” the voice said. “If you hurry you can take care of him and be back to bed in no time.”

I wasn’t thrilled about leaving the house in the middle of the night, but I was a little excited to have an excuse to take the KZ so I grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen, jotting down the address, then grabbed my helmet and keys. With mom out of the house I didn’t have to worry about sneaking the bike out of the driveway before starting it so I fired it up while I was still behind the shed and let it run while I tightened the helmet on my head.

“I can’t believe I’m actually doing this,” I thought as I pulled out onto the road and headed towards the address one town over in Southview.

Even at two in the morning the temperature was in the 60’s so the ride was quite comfortable with only a jacket on. The moon was mostly full, which meant there was plenty of light, and had I not been on my way to try to kill some ex-convict, it would probably be a relaxing ride.

Southview was only fifteen minutes from my house in Rosewater but even the short ride had calmed my nerves a little by the time I pulled up across the street from the address I’d written down. Then I saw exactly where I was.

“Seriously?” I asked myself as I looked over the biker bar where I was supposed to find my first assignment. Normally I figured spotting a guy with facial tattoos would be pretty easy, even from a distance, but at a place like that I didn’t like my chances.

The sign out front said “Dogtown Pub”, and unfortunately I’d heard some stories about that place. I don’t know how many were true and how many were just urban legend, but I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t be able to just walk into that place. I was parked across the street with my helmet on, so it would be hard for anyone to tell I was underage, even with my faceshield up. And it wasn’t like being in proximity to a bar was illegal or anything, but I still felt a bit out of place.

Even at that time of night, though, a few cars drove by, and each made me feel a little tense until they continued past without stopping to ask what the hell I was doing. 

I continued to stare across the street as several guys left the bar, none of them trying to be quiet as they made their way to the parking lot next to the bar, and each one revving their engines louder and longer than necessary before taking off one direction or the other. It was really hard to make out any identifying marks from my distance, but each of them had really long hair and the guy I was looking for was practically bald. None of them seemed to pay any attention to me, until a pair of large guys stepped out. One headed to the parking lot while the other stopped to light a cigarette and looked directly at me. Every ounce of my being told me to get the hell out of there, but then I noticed the tats on his face and neck. It was quite possible they were an SS and an 88, but even with my visor up I couldn’t tell exactly what they were from across the street. I needed to get closer but as I racked my brain trying to come up with a plan, I realized I didn’t have to.

“That’s a KZ isn’t it?” He said, crossing the street and walking towards me.

“Yeah,” I replied, my hands starting to shake as I tried to figure out if I should split or not.

“Man, that takes me back,” he continued getting a little too close for comfort. Even with my helmet on I could smell the alcohol on his breath. I wanted to leave but from up close I was finally able to get a good look at him and his tattoos and I was sure he was the guy I was looking for.

“My first bike was a KZ,” he said, bending down to get a better look at the engine. “I rode that thing like it was the baddest bike on the planet, and I thought it was, until I tried my first V-twin. Even though it doesn’t have the torque of a ‘twin, it was still a great bike. No matter what I did, I couldn’t kill that thing. It took every bit of punishment I threw at it and it still kept going.”

Sure he was a bit drunk, but he didn’t really seem like a bad guy. Which didn’t make things any easier. I mean, could I really kill a guy just because some voice told me to?

“This one’s a little rough,” he continued, “but I bet she still runs like a scalded dog, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” I replied, trying not to let on what was actually going through my head.

 “Just remember to keep an eye on the spark plugs. They tend to foul out a little too easily.”

“I appreciate the advice,” I said, still not sure how I could make my move.

“Hey, anything for a fellow biker. And I appreciate this little walk down memory lane,” he said, leaning in and putting one hand on my shoulder and holding out his other. I knew it was probably my only chance, so I shook his hand and Instantly focussed on trying to see what sort of things he’d done that might have earned him a death sentence, only I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Images of him slashing a throat and stabbing a chest were only the beginning. My mind was flooded with so many violent visions it was overwhelming. Murder, rapes, and bassically every deadly sin; he’d done it all. And I was seeing all of it through his eyes, but I wasn’t just seeing it, I was feeling it; feeling how much he actually enjoyed it. His enjoyment scared me, but it also fuelled my own anger and I suddenly knew I could do it. I could picture him dead, not just because of the deal I’d made, but because he deserved it.

He’d been drinking at the bar, so of course my first thought was of him having an accident, but a simple wreck didn’t seem fitting enough. There was a set of train tracks just outside Southview. I pictured him racing to beat the train as the crossing guards started to lower but not making it. A shiver went down my spine, and I felt the hairs on my arms stand on end. All at once I felt electrified as an ice cold yet burning energy passed through me. That’s when I knew there’d be no open casket for him.

“I’ve got to get going,” he said, suddenly. “My old lady would kill me if I’m not home soon.”

I’d never even considered him having someone to go home to. If he had a wife, or a girlfriend, he might have had kids. How bad would things be for them without him around?

“You be careful, and take good care of that bike,” he said, over his shoulder as he made his way to the parking lot beside the bar.

“You too,” was all I could think to say.

I stayed where I was until he’d fired up his bike, revved the engine and headed towards those train tracks. Only then could I finally kick the KZ back to life, riding away in the opposite direction.

Unlike the ride to Southview, the ride back home was anything but calming. Had I actually done what I thought I’d done? I mean, I didn’t pull a gun on the guy or anything like that; I’d only pictured him hitting a train. There’s no way an image in my head actually had actually done anything, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. But then I remembered the energy rushing through me. Clearly something had happened. And if what I saw in those visions was true, then he really didn’t deserve to keep living his life. He wasn’t a good man. If I’d done anything, it was justified.

Parking the bike behind the garage and making my way to my room seemed like a dream. I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even change out of my jeans and t-shirt before climbing back into bed. Pulling the blanket up over my shoulders didn’t get rid of the chill I felt throughout my entire body but I clutched it tighter anyway. I laid there just like that for several minutes until another jolt of energy hit me, then sent a gentle warming flow through my body. The chill was gone, replaced by an almost euphoric sensation. It was better than any high I’d ever experienced. I wanted to go tell Weed, or Shawna, or …someone. I wanted to share the feeling, but I also wanted to keep it all for myself. For the first time in my life, everything felt great, everything felt right. I continued to lay in my bed, enjoying the sensation until it started to fade, and taking with it every ounce of energy from my body, leaving me feeling empty.

The alarm jolted me out of bed, though I had no idea what time I actually fell asleep, if I did at all. Images of that guy getting hit by the train played over and over in my mind, each one more graphic than the previous, some of the images not even making sense. The television was still broadcasting a continuous stream of static, but this time when I went to shut it off, there was no voice. I began questioning if I’d even left the house in the middle of the night, or if I’d just dreamt it; then I saw my homework assignment laying next to my school bag. I knew I hadn’t done it, but somehow it was sitting there completed, with a little post-it note stuck to it. There were no words, just a grinning smiley face hastily drawn across it.

 I felt like the walking dead and thought a shower might help; it didn’t. And while mom routinely enjoyed a cup of coffee, I had no idea how to brew a pot. Instead, I scrounged around the kitchen cabinets until I found the instant coffee. It tasted like dirt but the caffeine allowed me to at least keep my eyes open long enough to grab my keys and helmet.

Once on the bike, I felt a little more alive, and even though it wasn’t a long ride, it really helped wake me up. What helped even more was seeing Weed in the school parking lot.

“Thanks,” I said, pulling off my helmet and grabbing the can of Jolt from his hand. I had it chugged before he could even get a word out of his mouth.

“Rough night?”

“You’ve got no idea.”

“Step into my office and tell me about it,” he said pointing to the Weed Wagon.

“No Chevette today?” I asked, climbing through the sliding door.

“I need to pick up a few parts after school,” he replied, lighting up a cigarette and handing me the pack.

“Maybe I’ll follow you, let Finkenbine check out the KZ.”

“Sounds good to me,” he said, “now tell me about last night. You didn’t go after her again, did you.”

“No, it had nothing to do with Shawna.”

“Then why wasn’t I involved? You know I’m always down for a little trouble.”

“No, you usually cause the trouble, but that’s beside the point.”

“So what happened?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Should I bring out the good stuff to loosen you up?” He asked, nodding towards the monster box beneath the dash. The monster box was a ridiculous lunch box that looked like a monster’s face. It hinged at the mouth and roared when it was opened. It was one of the places Weed kept his stash.

“Not today,” I replied, “I’m so exhausted I’d never make it to class if I lit up.”

“Then just spit it out already.”

“I’ll try, just don’t give me any shit about it, okay?”

“You know I can’t promise you that.”

I needed to tell someone, and despite Weed’s mouth, I knew he wouldn’t say a word to anyone so I decided to tell him everything. When I was done he just sat there for a minute, then turned to look me right in the eye.

“I don’t think we can be friends any more.”

“What?!”

“You fell asleep watching a John Candy movie. That’s just wrong on so many levels.”

“That’s what you took from everything I just said?” I asked, as the grin started to spread across his face.

“It had to all just be a dream,” he said.

“I don’t know …”

“You fell asleep, dreamed you woke up and went for a ride, yadda yadda, and never left your room. Why else was the TV still on this morning?”

“Maybe you’re right,” I said, silently wishing he was, “but what about the post-it note?”

“Tell you what,” he continued, “forget about it right now and tonight we’ll check around for someone wrecking their bike into a train. When we don’t find anyone, then you’ll know it was only a dream.”

Just talking to him about it made me feel better. It also made me realize how silly it all sounded. The more I thought about it the more I realized he had to be right; there was no way I’d killed a guy last night just by thinking about him dying.

A knock on the window made me jump.

“It’s way too early for that,” Shawna said through the window. I slid the door open and stepped out.

“Just a cigarette,” I replied, dropping the butt and grinding it out with my foot.

“I thought he might have finally passed all of his bad habits on to you.”

“Almost,” Weed said, climbing out of the Weed Wagon, “but I still have a little more work to do.”

“Well don’t try so hard,” she said, “the world still needs good guys.”

“Anyways…,” I said, trying to change the subject to anything else.

“Anyways,” Shawna said, “I feel bad about bailing on you at the party the other night so I thought we could maybe hang out after school.”

“What about your living Ken doll?” I said, before I had a chance to stop myself.

“Hey,” she said, hitting my arm before laughing a little, “he’s, uh busy.”

“Too busy to hang out with you?”

“He’s got to work.”

“And what sort of work does he do?” Weed asked, the size of his grin matching the size of her discomfort. It was obvious that she didn’t want to talk about it, but there was no way Weed would let it go, and she knew it.

“The kind that pays really well,” she said, glancing down at her watch seemingly hoping she’d be saved by the class bell.

“And that would be doing…?”

“Fine, but you guys can’t say a word.”

Weed and I both crossed our hearts.

“It’s a photoshoot.”

Weed and I both burst out laughing at the same time.

“You both promised, she said, her face turning red.”

“We didn’t say a word,” Weed replied, between laughs.

She just turned and stormed off.

My Life As Death: Chapter 6

For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Sleep was hard to come by that night. My dreams were filled with flashes of my accident, and the conversation with the face in the darkness. Regardless of what I saw when I touched Weed’s arm, I knew there was no way my experience in the darkness was anything but a hallucination; a dream. But despite my certainty, that face wouldn’t let me sleep.

When the alarm went off, I should have been exhausted, and to a point I was, but I was also energized. The new day meant a new chance to get on the bike, and I understood what Mr. FInkenbine meant about dancing with the prom queen, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I didn’t want to drive my car again. But Pamela still needed a lot of work before she was roadworthy so it wasn’t like I was really cheating on her with the motorcycle, at least that’s what I told myself.

Throwing on some fresh clothes I practically flew down the stairs. Mom hadn’t gotten home from her nursing job yet so I grabbed a bowl of Berry Berry Kix and ate it while shoving a few school supplies into my bookbag. The bag was a couple years old, and showed it, but there weren’t any holes in it so there also wasn’t any reason to spend money we didn’t have on a new one.

After throwing my empty bowl in the sink, I strapped the bag across my back and grabbed my helmet before running out the door. Behind the garage I found the bike exactly how I’d left it underneath the tarp. Once again it only took a single kick for the bike to fire right up which had me grinning before I even threw my leg over the seat.

Taking the long way to school gave me a few extra minutes on the bike and helped me avoid Shawna’s house at the same time. Something about being on it allowed me to forget anything else. I really wanted to stay on it all day, but the school was sure to call my mom if I didn’t show up on the first day, and then she’d stay up all day worrying about me, so reluctantly I gave in and made my way to the parking lot.

“Nate”, Weed yelled before I’d even gotten my helmet off.

He was climbing out of his rust colored ‘82 Chevette with a cloud of smoke following him out the door. The car looked like crap and was the farthest thing from cool, but over the summer Weed had swapped out the stock four-banger engine for a turbo-charged small block V8. It would smoke just about every one of the sports cars I saw scattered about the school parking lot, but Weed didn’t really care about that; He just liked building things, making things better and faster. Being able to blow away the preppy boys and the cars their parents paid for was just a plus.

“This is our year,” he said, clearly feeling pretty good. “You ready for this?”

“I’m ready for anything,” I said, still grinning from the ride in. Then I saw Shawna. “Or at least almost anything.”

Shawna hopped out of Matt’s ‘vette looking even better than she had the night of the party. I tried not to stare, but caught myself doing so anyways. Matt drove off with the obligatory revving of his engine, and I thought that would be it, but then she saw us and with a wave, I knew I wasn’t going to get away so easily.

“You got it done?” She asked Weed as she walked up to the chevette.

“Pretty much,” he replied, “but I still think she could use a slightly bigger turbo to really wake her up.

“You give her a name yet?”

“Not yet,” he replied, “I still have to get to know her a little better.”

“And where’s Pamela?” Shawna asked me. “I thought you’d have her done by now. Didn’t I see her at the party the other night?”

“That’s kind of a long story,” I replied, trying to drop the subject.

“Not that long,” Weed said with a mischievous look on his face.

“So this is my ride for now,” I said, steering the conversation away from Pamela and my little accident.

“A motorcycle?” Shawna asked, her eyes widening. “That’s new.”

“Yeah,” I said, “sometimes new is exactly what we need.”

 “You’ll have to take me for a ride sometime,” she said, way more excited than I expected her to be.

“Of course,” I replied, trying not to get too excited myself. I really wanted to say something to her about Matt, to see what they were actually doing together, but before I could get out another word, the school’s three minute warning bell rang.

“We’ll talk later,” she said, before running off towards honor’s English or one of her other college prep classes, while I dragged Weed towards our first period American History. We hadn’t planned to have all of our classes together; it just kind of worked out that way. I’d initially thought I wanted to have all my classes with Shawna but there was no chance of that happening with my grades. Besides, there really wasn’t a reason for me to take college prep classes; there was no way I’d be able to afford college even if I did get accepted. And I was okay with that, I think. Besides, I figured I’d have more fun with Weed, though that didn’t seem to work out the way I thought.

Keeping Weed awake through all of our classes was a losing proposition, especially when most of the time I struggled just to keep myself awake. Lunch was a nice break but Shawna was even on a different lunch schedule than us so by the time our final class let out I was a little anxious to see her again. I knew it was wrong; I mean, she had Matt, but I wasn’t planning on making a move; I just wanted a chance to talk with her again, to prove we could be friends even if she had a boyfriend. Unfortunately, as the last bell rang and we walked out the oversized doors leading to the parking lot, I heard the unmistakable sound of that cherry red Corvette.

“Look at it this way,” Weed said, apparently realizing the shift in my mood, “This way you have more time to dedicate to Pamela.”

I grinned, because he was right. Pamela needed me, and Shawna obviously didn’t.

“Let’s get to it then,” I replied, slipping on my helmet as he climbed into his car.

The bike kicked to life effortlessly, drawing the approving smiles of a couple underclass hotties as I gave it a little gas. With my helmet on they probably didn’t even know who I was but it still felt good to get a little attention, but not as good as it felt to finally get back out onto the long stretch of open road just outside of town. Sure, there was a quicker way to get to Weed’s house but it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable. Apparently Weed felt the same way. He pulled beside me at the first stop sign, his car in the left hand lane of the two lane road. Thankfully no one was coming from the other direction. He gave me a cheesy grin with a thumbs up and I nodded. I cranked the throttle and he floored it, and for a few seconds I managed to stay slightly ahead of him. Then his turbo fully kicked in and he flew past me like a cop going after a donut truck. Still, I kept the handle twisted, enjoying the thrill of the acceleration until I hit the redline and the rev limiter kicked in. By then Weed had already hit his brakes so I did the same, easing back down to the speed limit before we reached his house.

“You’ve got some balls,” he said, grinning from ear to ear as he climbed out of the chevette. “What’d she top out at?”

“The speedo said 120, but it was bouncing a bit thanks to the rev limiter.”

“We can take care of that.”

“Na, the limiter is probably a good thing so I don’t blow the engine.”

“I meant we could add a big bore kit and turbo, you know really make it fun.”

“How about we worry about Pamela first,” I replied, a little uneasy with the idea of going over 120 on two wheels.

“So you’re ready to get a little dirty then?”

“Absolutely,” I said, following him into the garage, but then I saw my car again and she looked even worse than I’d remembered. 

“This might take a while,” I said, setting my helmet on the car roof.

“Might?” Weed replied with a grin. “I think that’s pretty much a guarantee; but don’t worry, we’ll get her better than new.”

“Thanks for your help.”

“Of course,” Weed said, heading towards the door leading to the back yard. “That’s what friends are for. Now how about you pop the hood and start cleaning out any corn stalks and field mice you might find while I grab a couple things from the shed.”

The driver’s side door groaned a little as I opened it and slid in. My thoughts instantly went back to that night, flashes of the hallucination running through my mind.

“I was drunk,” I told myself, shaking my head to clear the images.

“Are you sure that’s all it was?” I jumped, as the car stereo glowed red and the voice from my hallucination echoed from the speakers in the door. I could almost feel an electrical charge around me.

“No way,” I said, scrambling to get out of the car.

“There’s always a way,” the voice said, continuing to come from the car.

“What do you want?”

“I want you to remember our deal.”

The voice faded with the last word and the radio stopped glowing a second before Weed came through the back door.

“How’d you do that?”

“What?” He asked. “Use a door?”

“I never should have told you about that dream I had.”

“You’re probably right about that,” Weed replied, “but what does that have to do with anything?”

“Pranking me into thinking Pamela’s possessed is not cool.”

“That’d be pretty funny,” he said, “but I still don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

“What’d you do, hook up a mic to the stereo and use the car’s speakers to broadcast your voice? You got me good, but it still wasn’t funny.”

“Dude, there’s no way you heard anything from the stereo.”

“The antenna may not work, but if you ran…”

“No, I’m telling you there’s no way the stereo was putting out any sound. The battery is over there charging.”

I followed Weed’s finger to where he was pointing and saw my battery sitting on a workbench hooked up to a trickle charger.

“No way,” I said, reaching down and pulling the hood latch. Sure enough, both the positive and negative battery cables were dangling empty beside the engine.

“Did you get into my stash already?” Weed asked, setting down the toolbox in his hands.

“I…uh…”

“You don’t look so hot,” Weed said, “how about we take a smoke break?”

“You swear that wasn’t you?” I asked as he led me outside.

“Look man, I love a good prank but I didn’t do a thing. Just tell me what happened.”

I took a moment, lighting a cigarette and taking a long drag. “I slid into Pamela to pop the hood and I heard that voice. The one from my drunken dream.”

“The voice from the other night? The one you sold your soul too?”

“I didn’t sell my soul, but yeah, that one.”

“In MY garage?”

“And the radio was glowing red.”

“After all the work we’ve put into,” he said, “I’ll be pissed if Pamela is possessed.”

“I know it sounds crazy but…”

“Maybe you just need a little sleep,” Weed said, lighting himself up a cigarette. “We can work on Pamela another…”

“No,” I replied, “I’m good.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, maybe I just needed a smoke.”

“Sure because hallucinations are always a sign of nicotine withdrawal.”

“Shut up,” I said, grinding out the rest of the cigarette. “Let’s get to work.”

Weed cranked up the boombox sitting on the workbench beside Pamela’s battery and The Offspring started blaring from the speakers, telling us how we needed to keep ‘em separated as we got started on my car.

I knew just enough about working on cars to be dangerous, but Weed knew more than most professional mechanics. He couldn’t memorize a single fact about any American president or solve a simple algebraic equation, but he could rebuild an engine blindfolded. With his help I knew Pamela would be on the road again, it was just going to take a little time and a lot of elbow grease.

The sun was starting to set by the time I left Weed’s, and we’d made a lot of progress without any further interruptions, but even with the music blaring and more than enough work to keep me busy, I couldn’t get that voice out of my head.

“Remember our deal,” the voice had said. How could I forget? But that wasn’t really the point. Even if, by some incredible chance, the whole thing turned out to be real, which it wasn’t, the deal was for me to kill whoever he told me too, which he hadn’t done. There was absolutely nothing for me to do. Therefore I was living up to my end of the non-existent deal. Problem solved.

My Life As Death: Chapter 5

As you can tell, I’m still having fun ideating about the cover. Let me know what you think of it, and/or the book so far!
For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

By the time we got back to his place, Pamela was already sitting in Weed’s garage. Under the harsh fluorescent lights she looked even worse than I’d remembered.

“There’s no sense starting on her just yet,” Weed said, “Let’s get the KZ up and running so you can get around, then we’ll worry about her.”

He was right, and I knew it. Still, it was hard to drop off all the parts for her and then move on to the bike without doing at least a little work on my first love.

Out at the shed, Weed pulled the left side cover off the KZ so we could disconnect the old voltage regulator.

“The original ones are notorious for burning out,” he explained to me.

A few wires and a couple screws later, and the new one was in place. Swapping out the gas tanks wasn’t much more work. After loosening the fuel line clamp and disconnecting the low fuel light sending unit the tank pulled right off the rubber grommets that held it in place. The new tank went on just as easily and even looked a little better. After filling it up with some fresh gas, Weed handed me the key. All it took was one kick and the bike fired right up, this time sounding like it should.

“Damn,” Weed said, “Now I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t keep it for myself.”

I glanced around at the other two motorcycles and three dirtbikes Weed had stashed in the shed. “I think you’ll be alright.”

Throwing my leg over the seat I realized how much bigger it was than the dirt bikes I’d been used to riding. Not only was it taller, but with the four cylinder engine shoved inside it’s frame, the bike was wider too. The end result was that my feet could touch the ground, but only if I was on my toes.

Everything about it felt a little weird, a little large and a little unstable, but I wasn’t going to let Weed see my uncertainty; He’d never let me hear the end of it. Feigning confidence, I shifted my weight to my right foot to hold the bike up while pushing the kickstand back with my left foot. Without the kickstand supporting the weight of the bike, I felt even less stable so I did the only thing I could think of; I pulled in the clutch, shifted into first and then let out on the clutch as I gave it a little gas. A moving bike is easier to balance than a stopped one so it seemed like the best idea, until the clutch engaged and jerked the bike forward with a lot more power than I expected. The bike shot out of the shed with me holding on for dear life. 

Rain the night before had turned the backyard into a swamp so the tires slipped back and forth, spraying mud everywhere and giving me no chance to steer the 500 lb beast as I headed for the 6 foot privacy fence separating Weed’s yard from the neighbor’s. I started to panic so I did the only thing I could think of; I yanked the handlebars and leaned as far as I could to the left. The rear tire kicked out and turned the bike sideways, causing it to lay down with my left leg trapped underneath. Momentum caused us to continue sliding another twenty feet towards the fence before we finally came to rest.

Weed wasted no time running over to me and hitting the kill switch on the bike before I could even gather my thoughts.

“That was awesome!” he screamed, still jumping up and down beside me.

“Says, you,” I replied.

Finally calming himself a little, Weed helped lift the bike off my leg so I could get out from underneath it. Every inch of me was covered in mud so it was hard to truly tell, but as I stood up it didn’t feel like anything was injured but my pride.

“We might need to adjust the clutch cable,” Weed said with a shit-eating grin.

“You think?” I replied, trying to maintain an air of anger towards him, though in reality the brief ride was more exciting than I could have imagined.

Throwing my leg back over the bike, I started it up again, and to my surprise it didn’t seem to be any worse for the wear.

“You sure you want to get back on?”

“Hell Yeah,” I replied.

Weed pulled out a couple wrenches, putting a little more play in the clutch cable. 

“That should help,” he said, shoving the wrenches back into one of his pockets. 

This time I eased out on the clutch, barely giving it any gas. Even going slow, it was hard to steer the bike in the mud but eventually I was able to get out to the driveway in front of the house where we could check out the bike completely. Besides a loose hose clamp and air filter and a lot of mud, the bike seemed perfectly fine.

“Your mom is going to kill you and me both if you go home like that,” Weed’s mom said as she stepped out the front door. “You get yourself inside and cleaned up.”

“She’s right you know,” Weed said. “You get cleaned up; I’ve got this.”

I ran inside, kicking off my shoes as I entered the door. Weed’s mom already had one of his old pairs of jeans, a sweatshirt and belt waiting for me so, wasting as little time as possible, I rushed to the closest bathroom. It had to be one of the quickest showers I’d ever taken, because I couldn’t wait to get back to the bike.

Though the shower seemed to take no time, Weed still managed to get the bike cleaned up quicker than I’d gotten myself cleaned up, but I made it back out in time to help tighten a few of the things that had gotten knocked loose during my debut ride.

“You sure you’re ready to try her on the road?” Weed asked, with the overprotectiveness of a parent, though I don’t know if he was more worried about me or the bike.

“I’ve got this,” I replied, “especially now that the clutch is set right and the tires will be on some proper pavement.”

“Maybe I should…” he started to say, but I kicked the bike to life and couldn’t hear the rest over the sound of the revving engine.

“Fine,” he yelled over the noise, “at least wear this.”

I’m not sure where the helmet came from but I’d never seen one quite like it. It was a full face helmet that had been painted flat black and had a gloss black skull with a mohawk on the back that was only visible from certain angles. It wasn’t exactly my style but I couldn’t turn it down.

“You don’t need your noggin taken any more abuse,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said as I slipped it on. The helmet actually fit pretty well and wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I expected. With the helmet on and the bike running I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear a word I said, so I just nodded, then kicked the bike into gear and let out on the clutch. The tires did much better on the pavement then they did in the mud, and while it may not have the power of a full liter bike, it definitely had enough get-up-and-go for me. 

After everything that had happened the night before, it felt great to get out on the bike, not really heading anywhere in particular, just going wherever the road took me. I followed some country roads out of town and past row after row of corn, trying to find the most winding roads I could to really get a feel for the bike. Eventually, though, I knew I had to turn around so I could slip the bike behind the garage before mom got out of bed. Sooner or later I would have to tell her about the bike, but I was hoping for a little more time to come up with a good reason, other than wrecking Pamela. 

There were several ways I could have gotten back home but with my mind focussed on hiding the bike from mom, I naturally went the way I knew best, right past Shawna’s house. Matt’s Corvette was sitting out front, with him leaned against the hood as if he was in the middle of a photo shoot. Shawna was right in front of him, with a smile on her face and a look in her eyes that I’d never seen before. A look that I would have given anything to be directed at me.

As she leaned in to kiss him, I twisted the throttle, pulling up the front wheel for a second as the bike propelled me out of there before I could witness something I’d rather not. The engine’s roar probably caught their attention, but I didn’t care. With the helmet on there was no way they could have known it was me. And it really didn’t matter anyway; I just wanted out of there. The faster the bike went, the easier it was for me to forget what I’d just seen. 

By the time I looked down at the speedometer I was approaching triple digits so I left off the throttle and let the bike settle back down to the legal speed as I finished making my way home. Half a block from my house I killed the engine and coasted the rest of the way to the driveway. Pushing the bike around the garage wasn’t too bad but even though I’d only just got it, covering it up with a tarp and knowing I couldn’t get back on it until the next morning was awful.

My Life As Death: Chapter 4

I decided to post chapter 4 a day early. For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Weed really liked anything with a motor, and loved wheeling and dealing. He would trade you the shirt off his mom’s back if it benefitted him. His swapping and horse trading had resulted in a shed full of junk; dirtbikes, motorcycles and car parts filled the tiny building, all of which he planned on restoring one day.

“This? This is your solution?” I asked as soon as Weed pulled off the cover.

“Yeah; Isn’t it great?” he asked as we stood inside a small shed at the back of his property.

Weed and I shared taste in women, music and even most cars but apparently not everything.

“Great?”

“Great, awesome, magnificent. Whatever word floats your boat.”

“How about POS?”

“What? This is a vintage, 1978 Kawasaki KZ650. It’s a classic.”

“It’s a rusty hunk of junk.”

“Maybe to the untrained eye, but check this out.”

With a turn of the key the headlight lit up, and with one kick the bike started up, even if it was spitting and sputtering black smoke while idling erratically. I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.

“Okay,” Weed said, “so maybe she needs a little TLC, but she’s a good project for you; I mean she’s been sitting forever and still started right up.”

“And it would mean I don’t have to ride that bus any more…”

“Right,” he agreed, “and it’ll just be until we can get Pamela back to normal.”

“Okay, but how am I going to tell my mom?”

“I’ll help you with that; your mom loves me.”

“Maybe, until you tell her you’re the reason I’m going to die in a fiery crash.”

“You’ve got a point. You’re on your own.”

“Too late to back out now,” I said, surprisingly excited about the prospect of having a motorcycle to ride to school instead of the bus.

“We haven’t shook on it.”

“Fine, $150 and you tell her about the bike, $125 and I’m stuck trying to figure out how to tell her. Either way, you help me get this thing roadworthy.”

“$125 it is,” Weed said, shutting the bike off and tossing me the keys before I could change my mind. “And we’ll have her purring like a kitten in no time.”

I liked his optimism, even if I wasn’t so sure about it.

“So where do we start?”

“Crack open your piggy bank,” he said, “it’s time for a trip to the junkyard.”

Fifteen minutes later I found myself riding shotgun in the Weed Wagon, Weed’s vintage Grumman mail truck. But since it was a mail truck, riding shotgun meant sitting where the driver normally would. I had to assume that’s what it would feel like to drive over in the UK, but from where I sat it just felt weird.

All the US postal service decals had been stripped from the truck before Weed bought it but there was no mistaking it for what it was so we always got plenty of strange looks. And it was probably about the furthest thing possible from a chick magnet but it had plenty of room in the back for whatever parts we were going to need; I just hoped it wouldn’t cost every dime I had to get the bike rideable and Pamela back on the road. 

“Here we are,” Weed said as we pulled up to a small mobile home in front of a ten foot high privacy fence that surrounded several acres behind it. The giant mounds of metal junk visible over the fence, and the oversized tractor tire half sticking out of the ground with the word “Salvage” painted on it, were the only indication we were parked in front of a business.

“You’re sure this is the place?”

“Absolutely. This guy has everything. Where do you think I got the truck?” He said, proudly as we moved closer to the trailer.

“And he keeps everything in his backyard?”

“Pretty much, so watch what you say; he’s a little sensitive about people calling it a junkyard. He likes to think of himself as a connoisseur so he prefers the term Salvage Yard.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Before Weed had a chance to respond, the front door opened and the mangiest looking mutt came bursting out. We were too close for me to even think as the dog launched itself off the front porch, I just reacted, throwing myself between it and Weed. The dog slammed into my chest, knocking me to the ground and holding me there with the sheer weight of its body. I couldn’t move, and I was sure I was about to be dog food when I felt the cold nose sniffing my face, followed by the warm and wet tongue.

“He likes you,” Weed said while standing over me with a dopey grin on his face.

“I’d hate to see how he treats people he doesn’t like.”

“To be fair, though,” Weed continued, “He was jumping for me and you just got in the way.”

“I won’t make that mistake again.”

“What’re ya doin’ to my dog,” a gruff voice called out from the porch.

“Hey Mr. Finkenbine!” Weed hollered back. The gray haired man on the porch had inch thick glasses that made his eyes look twice as large as normal and an overgrown beard that made him look ancient. But despite his arched back he was still a couple inches taller than me with shoulders twice as wide as mine so he was a bit intimidating. Regardless of his size or gruff manner, though, I felt an almost comfortable connection to him. 

“Oh, it’s you,” Finkenbine said as he came closer, “I thought Dumbass there caught whoever’s been stealing my yard globes.”

“Sorry to disappoint you,” Weed replied as I shoved the dog off me and climbed to my feet. 

“We’re not after any globes,” I explained, “just a couple motorcycle parts.”

“And we might as well look for some parts for Pamela too,” Weed threw in. And though he was probably right, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough cash to get what we needed for both projects, and as much as I wanted Pamela back in tiptop shape, getting myself mobile for the first day of school was my new priority.

“Well,” Mr Finkenbine replied, “I’ve probably got what you need, even if I don’t know what Pamela is. And Dumbass seems to like you,” he said looking directly at me, “so I guess you can’t be too bad. Why don’t you come on back.”

“Thanks,” Weed said as he headed through a gate beside the house while I followed behind hesitantly. 

 Beyond the gate, a tunnel was formed from all the scrap lining the narrow walkway. Washers and dryers, microwaves and toaster ovens were stacked on top of cars, motorcycles and various boat parts like some giant lego set. Everything was jammed together practically airtight. The tunnel went on for about thirty feet before opening into a giant field of even more scrap neatly organized into rows and piles that probably made sense, but only to Mr. Finkenbine.

“So what can I help you find,” Mr Finkenbine asked without stopping or even slowing down. Despite his apparent age, the man seemed to have way too much energy, and even though he walked with a slight limp, like his left foot wasn’t working right, I still struggled to keep up with his pace.

“We just need a voltage regulator and a petcock for the ‘78 KZ650,” Weed answered.

“You’re finally fixing up the KZ, huh?”

“Yeah, but not for me. Nate needs a ride, at least until we get Pamela, his ‘77 Pontiac Ventura, back up and running.”

“And what does Pamela need?

“A lot,” Weed said, “but we’ll start with a set of rims and shocks. She’ll also need a new windshield, and probably at least one headlight too.”

“Well I’ve got all of that, except the windshield” Finkenbine replied. “That will take a couple phone calls, and maybe a week to get, but once he gets on the KZ he might not want to go back to Pamela. Not that she’s a bad car, I’m sure she’s not, but once you dance with the prom queen it’s hard to go back to the president of the glee club.”

Weed seemed to catch the befuddled look on my face. “He likes cars, but he’s a bike guy through and through,” Weed explained as Finkenbine moved on. “Rumor has it he was once the president of a Hells Angels chapter.”

I looked at the man leading us deeper into his graveyard of parts, but couldn’t see it. Sure, he had a certain air that would make anyone think twice about messing with him, but so did most grumpy old men, especially one his size.

“I don’t buy it,” I said to Weed, but as the words left my mouth, Finkenbine’s shirt sleeve rode up his arm just enough to show the bottom part of a massive tattoo. I couldn’t swear to it, but it could very easily have been the biker gang’s Death Head logo.

Weed stared back at me with an “I told you so” look on his face. I just shrugged, then followed his lead as we rushed to keep up.

“The bike parts are over here,” Finkenbine said as he reached a pile of scrap. “This regulator should do you,” he continued,”but I don’t have just a petcock. Why don’t you take this whole tank.”

The KZ I bought off of Weed was red and the gas tank Finkenbine handed me was black, but it was in much better shape than the one already on the bike so I really couldn’t complain.

“Now as for Pamela,” Finkenbine said with a mischievous look, ”what’s the story?”

“I had a little accident,” I said, trying to keep Weed from going into too many details. I wasn’t sure why I told him everything I had; I mean, I still wasn’t even sure exactly what had happened, and I definitely didn’t want him repeating the story to anyone, not that he would.

“Drag racing? General recklessness? Or maybe something a little more fun? You try hooking up with a girl while heading down the road? That may look like fun in the movies, but it takes a lot of practice to make it work.”

“Just my general stupidity,” I said. “It was all such a blur; I really don’t remember much about it.”

“I’ve had some of those experiences too,” he replied with a knowing look in his eye. “But you survived, and don’t really look that worse for wear, so learn from your mistake and move on. Getting Pamela back up and running and hopping back in the saddle is a good start.”

Finkenbine kind of let the conversation drop as he led us towards the car parts. I was in awe as we moved through the rows. It must have taken years and years to accumulate that amount of scrap parts, and even more time and effort to organize it. And even though I couldn’t see the method to his madness, Finkenbine knew exactly where to find the parts we needed.

“You said a ‘77, right? He asked. “That’s the last year they called it a Ventura. In ‘78 they started calling all the X-body cars the Phoenix. Your’s has the newer grill and headlights, though, doesn’t it?”

“Um, yeah, I think so,” I replied, trying to sound like I actually knew anything about my own car.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve only got one headlight right now for her,” he said as he reached into one stack and pulled out a perfect match for my missing one, “but I’ve got a few connections and can get you another one if you end up needing it.”

“Thanks,” I said as he moved us further down the row. My arms were getting pretty full with the bike parts and the headlight but Finkenbine pulled out two shocks and piled them on top of everything else I was already carrying. Then he handed two rims to Weed before grabbing the other two rims and the shocks himself. 

It wasn’t that any of the parts were particularly heavy but they were awkward, making the trip back out to the gate a bit cumbersome for me. Weed and Finkenbine, on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying my struggle.

By the time we reached the Weed Wagon I was drenched in sweat and my arms were burning from trying to keep everything from falling. Thankfully, they finally gave me a break and started grabbing the parts from my arms and loading them into the back of Weed’s truck.

“How much do I owe you?” I asked, silently praying that the cash in my pocket would cover it.

“I think $130’s a fair price if you promise to bring that KZ over when it’s done so I can check it out.”

“Deal,” I replied, reaching out and shaking his hand before realizing that mine was covered in grease.

He just smiled, wiped his hands on his jeans and accepted the cash without bothering to count it.

“Now the real fun begins,” Weed said as we climbed back into the Weed Wagon.

My Life As Death: Chapter 3

I’ve made a little progress on the skull logo, so now I’m moving on to some initial cover renderings. I’ll be playing around with variations of the logo and the cover with each chapter I post. For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Every muscle ached but none hurt nearly as much as my head. It felt like someone had driven two spikes into my temples. But I took that as a good sign. If I could feel, then I couldn’t be dead.

The sun was just starting to rise with the first few rays piercing my eyes through the cracked glass of my front windshield. Dried blood was spread across the white vinyl seats and covered my t-shirt so I knew the wreck hadn’t been a dream but something still didn’t seem right. I tried the driver side door, and it opened with a grunt allowing me to climb out and inspect the damage. There was plenty of mud coating the bottom of the car and grass and corn stalks sticking out of the front bumper but I wasn’t in the field. My car, flat tires and all, was parked in front of my house.

“What the Hell?” I mumbled to myself as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing.

My memory of the night before was more than a little hazy, and the throbbing in my head didn’t help at all. All I knew was that the sun was almost completely up and that meant my mom would be home soon. She’d kill me if she saw the car like that, so I climbed back in and crossed my fingers as I turned the key. There was a moment of hesitation, then she fired up with a squeal and a growl.

“Well, at least something is going my way,” I thought as I put her into reverse and limped my way around the garage and parked her out of sight in the alley.

I had no clue how long I’d been passed out in front of the house, but it wasn’t nearly long enough. All I wanted was to go inside and sleep the rest of the day away, but just as I reached the back door the headlights from my mother’s car flooded the driveway.

“Crap,” I said, throwing the door open and rushing inside.

My bedroom was on the second floor, so I took the stairs two at a time, ripping off my bloody t-shirt as I reached the top landing. Mom had a habit of doing a load of laundry as soon as she got home so I couldn’t just throw it in my laundry basket. Instead, I shoved it under my bed, grabbed some clean clothes from my dresser and rushed to the bathroom.

I had barely managed to slip inside the water before I heard the knock on the bathroom door.

“You’re up early,” she said through the door. 

“Yeah,” I replied, “I don’t want to waste the last day of summer vacation.”

“I didn’t see your car so I wasn’t sure if you were home.”

It was really a question wrapped up like an observation.

“It’s at Weed’s. I’m using his garage to work on her.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, just doing a little more work on her.”

I hated lying to her, but I didn’t know what else to do. And besides, as soon as I figured out a way, I did plan on moving it over there to work on. But even though my car made it behind the garage, I knew there was no way she’d make it the couple blocks to Weed’s house.

“Okay. We’ll talk when you’re done,” she replied.

I couldn’t tell if she meant that in any sort of ominous way, but my brain and body hurt too much to really care; I just let the hot water pour over me until I was afraid she’d come check on me again. Then I gathered all the strength I could and finished washing off any trace of the previous night.

Brushing my teeth and slipping on some clean clothes helped me feel a little less dead, but I still felt like I needed a gallon of coffee and a couple energy drinks before I could do anything productive. Unfortunately, I knew my mom was waiting to talk to me so I forced myself to put on a smile and head down stairs.

“Rough night?” She asked before I had stepped off the last stair.

She was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, ‘Sleepy Time’ if I knew her. That was her go-to drink when she couldn’t sleep or after a really rough night as an EMT. Her eyelids looked as if she couldn’t keep them open, while something within her eyes themselves told me she wasn’t ready to shut them.

“I probably stayed up too late,” I replied, trying to play it off. “But you look like you had an even rougher night than I did.”

“It’s nothing you need to worry about.” She replied while trying to fake a smile.

“You know I’m going to hear about it, or see it on the news anyways.”

She hesitated for a second, then took a deep breath. “ It was a drunk driving accident, a teen about your age.”

My thoughts went straight to Weed, then Shawna. The concern must have shown on my face.

“No one from your school,” she continued, “but that doesn’t really make it any easier.”

“Did they make it?”

She just sat there for a minute, looking down at the cup in her hands. I knew the answer.

I went over and put my arms around her.

“So what are your plans today?” she asked after a minute of silence, clearly trying to change the subject. I followed her lead.

“I’m just going to hang out with Weed, you know enjoy our last day of freedom.”

“And work on your car?”

“Yeah, that too.” I wasn’t sure exactly how we were going to get it over to his house, but I knew it was going to have to wait until mom was either sound asleep or back at work that evening.

“What about Shawna?” She continued.

“What about her?”

“Wasn’t she supposed to be back by now?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I’ll probably see what she’s up to.”

“Well, try to be back home before I leave for the dinner shift at the diner,” she continued, “I want to make sure you’ve got everything ready for school tomorrow.”

“Sure thing mom,” I replied, “And you try to get some sleep.”

“I will.”

Heading out the front door, I instinctively reached into my pants pocket for my car keys before remembering where it was and why.

“Guess I’ll be walking for a bit,” I thought, still a little pissed at myself. I was sure Weed and I could get Pamela fixed up, but I hated the idea of starting the school year off without her. Thankfully Weed lived just a couple blocks away, and the weather was still nice so the walk wasn’t bad at all. And the fresh air was helping me feel a little more alive, so by the time I reached the front door and his mom answered it, I almost didn’t have to force a smile.

“Good morning,” she said with a genuine smile, “He’s still in bed, but feel free to wake him for me.”

“Of course,” I replied, stepping inside

“You’ll probably need my little helper, though.”

“Probably,” I replied, grabbing the air horn from her as I headed up the stairs.

Weed’s door opened with a groan as if, like him, it didn’t want to be disturbed. But even with it all the way open, the hallway light barely pierced the blackness. Every curtain was drawn tight against the morning sun. He may not have been in an accident like I was but he was at the party much later, and surely drank a lot more after I left, so I knew he was in worse shape than me. But I didn’t let that stop me from doing it anyways.

I wasn’t quiet as I made my way through the landmines of clothes, tools and empty food boxes that lead to his bed but my footsteps didn’t even faze him. The drool continued to hang from his open mouth, and his snoring continued to rattle the walls as I leaned over him with the air horn.

“Wakey Wakey,” I whispered in his ear just before squeezing the button on the horn.

“Whaaatttt???” Weed screamed as he fell out of bed, pulling several layers of blankets on top of him as I bust out laughing.

The blast from the air horn left my head throbbing, but it was completely worth it.

Weed struggled to climb to his feet, keeping the blankets wrapped around while just staring forward with a dazed look on his face. After blinking a couple times his eyes focused on me and a smile spread across his face.

“That was a good one,” he said with a laugh, “but now you know this means war.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”

“What time is it?”

“7:30.”

“AM?”

“Yeah.”

“So what the Hell are we doing up?” He said, plopping back down on to his bed.

“I really need to talk to you.”

“You said last night that it was done. That for good or bad…”

“It’s not about Shawna.”

“What?”

“It’s not about her.”

“Well, good, I guess, but that doesn’t make waking me up this early any better.”

“You know I wouldn’t be up myself if it wasn’t important.”

Well, can it at least wait until I get some breakfast or even a Mountain Dew?”

“Yeah, sure,” I relented. I really wanted to talk to him about what happened, but I still wasn’t exactly sure how to put everything into words so a few extra minutes couldn’t hurt.

Weed shrugged off the covers and stood up, sharing an unflattering view of his batman boxers as he did. Modesty wasn’t one of his strong suits, but after years as friends I’d learned to deal with it, or at least to ignore it as I followed him down the stairs. His mom had a big bowl of cereal waiting on the table for him, probably her way of apologizing for the part she played in torturing him. Though the grin on her face showed she wasn’t that sorry. The bowl easily held half a box of Lucky Charms, and Weed practically inhaled the entire thing.

“You wanna go for a walk?” I asked as he finished sucking down the remaining milk.

“You serious?”

“Yeah.”

He just continued to stare at me like I had a second head growing out of my body.

“Come on man…”

“Fine, but you owe me,” he replied, trodding upstairs to throw on some pants.

It took a little longer than it should have, but he looked a little more awake when he came back down.

“Ma,” he hollered over his shoulder as he popped a couple ibuprofen, downing them with a can of Jolt, “We’ll be back in a few.”

“Nate,” she hollered back, “you know you can smoke in here.”

“Thanks,” I replied, “but I’m good. And besides, we can use the exercise.”

“Well, at least one of you can,” She replied.

“Thanks, Ma,” Weed replied as he slipped on his still-tied shoes.

Weed was shorter than me, and probably fifteen to twenty pounds heavier, but I wouldn’t call him fat, just slightly overweight. But his mom loved to tease him about it. Normally I would have too, but I felt bad enough about waking him so I kept my mouth shut.

As soon as we stepped onto the porch I grabbed a cigarette from the pack in my pocket and lit it up. Weed held out his hand, and I really couldn’t refuse. With the breeze it took a couple attempts to light mine, then I tossed him the lighter.

“So, you just drug me out of bed for this?” He asked after we’d walked almost the entire way back to my house without a single word.

“I think something happened last night,” I started, “I mean, I know something happened, but I’m not sure exactly what.

We finished making our way to my driveway as I tried to collect my thoughts.

“So who’s the lucky girl?”

“I wish.”

“If it wasn’t a girl, and you’re clearly not dead, then it can’t be too serious.”

I laughed.

“What?”

“This is going to sound crazy…”

“That’s never stopped you before.”

“I’m serious, like arkham asylum crazy.”

“As long as you haven’t killed anyone or hidden any bombs around Gotham, then I think you’re okay…”

I started second guessing my decision to talk to Weed.

“You didn’t, did you?”

“What?”

“Kill someone.”

“No, well…”

“You’re shittin’ me…”

“No, that’s not what I mean. I told you it was going to make me sound crazy.”

“Just spit it out already.”

“Fine. When I left the party last night, I had an experience.”

“Like alien abduction? I’ve always wanted to be abducted…”

“No… What?… Let’s just forget that you said that.”

“Why? I’m not ashamed. I’m not saying I want to be probed but…”

“Back to what I was saying…”

“Right.”

“When I was driving home I got a little distracted and when I looked back at the road I thought I saw something.”

“Like?”

“Like a deer, or a large goat, or something.”

“And?”

“And I swerved.”

“And?”

“And I wrecked.”

“What’d you do to Pamela?” Weed asked a little too loudly as we reached my front porch.

“Shh, you know mom’s sleeping.”

“Sorry,” he said, quieting his voice, “but I’ve got to see her…”

“It’s not that bad…”

“Says you,” he replied. “Take me to her.”

“You probably don’t want to see her, not yet.”

He crossed his arms and stared at me like a disappointed parent until I finally agreed to take him to Pamela.

We walked slowly around to the back alley, like two guys going to see a dying relative; which was a pretty accurate analogy. Weed and I had spent the summer fixing up Pamela, spending way too many hours trying to get her ready before school started. In a way she was almost as much his car as mine.

“How?” He whined as soon as he caught a glimpse of her.

“Like I said, I swerved. I went off the road, flew over the ditch and went out into a cornfield. It felt like she flipped over a hundred times, but there doesn’t seem to be that much damage. She even managed to make it from the front of the house back here without much trouble.”

“But how’d you get it home from the cornfield.”

“That’s the crazy part. I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I told you I’d sound crazy.”

“Maybe you just got a concussion and don’t remember driving her home.”

“It’s not just that I can’t remember getting home.”

“So what is it?”

I looked Weed in the eye and I could see he was genuinely concerned. Still, it took me a minute to decide how to put everything into words. He continued to wait as I lit up another cigarette and leaned against the front bumper. After a couple puffs, I just started talking. I told him everything, about what I felt, and about who, or at least what, I saw. I told him about the conversation and about what I agreed to do.

“So you’re telling me you died and came back after agreeing to become the grim reaper.”

A grim reaper,” I corrected him.

“Right, just one of many because a single reaper isn’t enough.”

“I told you it was crazy.”

“That must have been some good shit we smoked last night. Too bad I didn’t have near that much fun.”

“So yeah, what happened with you and the little hottie you took off with?”

“I don’t want to talk about it?”

“Now I’ve got to know.”

“So you’re saying you can kill someone just by touching them?”

“Way to change the subject.”

“You’re the one who decided to wake me at God’s hours after a night of partying because you wanted to talk about this shit, but if you don’t want to…”

“You’re right man, it’s just that… it felt so… real.”

“I know how we can find out.”

“And that is…?”

“Try to kill me.”

“What? No way.”

“You don’t really believe that happened, do you?”

“No, I mean it was just…”

“Then it won’t work and it’ll prove that you just partied a little too hard.”

“Right,” I said, but it still didn’t feel right. I knew there was no way it would work, but even thinking about Weed dying just seemed wrong.

“You woke me up and now you’re just going to stand there fondling yourself? Come on, man.”

“Fine.”

I reached out and grabbed his arm but before I could even think about anything, I was flooded with images of him and the girl I left him with before heading out of the party. She led him to a back bedroom and they started going at it, making out like a couple of high schoolers; they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I really didn’t want to watch but I didn’t know how to stop it. They kept at it and she started to undo his pants. He let her, and things kept progressing. Thankfully, I managed to pull my hand away from his arm and the visions stopped.

“See?” Weed said, “nothing happened.”

“Like Hell it didn’t.”

“I’m still here…”

“Something happened between you and that girl last night.”

“Let it go man.”

“I saw it.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I touched your arm, I saw it. I saw her lead you back to that room. And I saw your thoughts, I felt your lust for her. You two started going at it and…”

“And nothing.”

“I saw her start undoing your pants…”

“What! Did she tell you about that?”

“No, I saw it!”

“But you’d left before that happened.”

“No, I just saw it, like the whole thing playing out inside my head.”

“Who put you up to this?”

“You’re acting like it was a bad thing.”

“If you really saw what happened then you know it wasn’t a good thing.”

“Thankfully I let go of your arm before I saw everything that happened.”

“This is some kind of joke, right? You of all people…”

“A joke? Because you had a little too much fun with a cheerleader?” I mean, she looked a little young but…”

“So you really don’t know?”

“Know what? I told you, I saw you guys going hot and heavy so I let go and the image disappeared before I saw anything more disgusting happen.”

“You’re serious?”

“Yeah, man. Congrats to you.”

“No. I’m telling you, things didn’t really end well.”

“I’m sorry. But if it’s any help, they say it happens to everyone.”

“What? No… nothing like that…”

“Then what?”

“You said when you touched my arm you could see what happened.”

“Yeah?”

“So do it again.”

“That’s really not an image I want to see again.”

Weed grabbed my hand and pressed it onto his arm. The images came right back and I saw the cheerleader continue right where she’d left off, undoing his pants, sliding them down to his ankles. I started to pull away but Weed kept my hand pinned to his arm and the image continued. I saw her follow the pants down, but instead of anything sexual happening, I saw her quickly grab the baggies and wallet from Weed’s pockets before rushing out the bedroom. By the time he’d realized what happened, got his pants back up, and made it out of the bedroom, the cheerleader, along with everything she took, was gone. I could sense his anger rising. I could feel it. It was almost a rage.

“Wow. Sorry, man,” was all I could say as I let go of his arm. “You didn’t do anything after she took your shit?”

“Na. I was pissed for a bit but now that I’ve slept it off, I’ve got a halfway decent memory from it. I mean, that’s the most action I’ve had from a girl in a while” he replied, much calmer than I would have been, “I’m just glad I didn’t take all of my stash with me last night.”

“Every cloud does have a silver lining.”

“I still wish she hadn’t taken my wallet,” he continued, “it had my lucky condom in it.”

“Maybe she did you a favor; that thing’s got to be expired by now.”

“Yeah, but I saw my first boob right after finding that thing.”

“And you haven’t seen another one since. Just take this as a sign.”

“Maybe you’re right, but enough about what happened to me. You could really see everything that happened last night just by touching me?”

“I guess so.”

“So what does that mean about the rest of it?”

“I don’t know, but there’s no way I can kill people with a touch; can I?”

“You didn’t kill me by touching me.”

“But I wasn’t thinking about you dying either.”

“Well I appreciate that.”

“Seriously; do you think it could be true?”

“If I’ve learned that anything, it’s that everything is possible. But now to the important question…”

“Which is?”

“What are we going to do about her?”

We both stared at my car, sitting there in her roughened state. It was almost enough to make a guy cry.

“I’ve got to get her fixed up, but I don’t even know where to start.

“Let me make a call,” Weed finally said, tearing his eyes away from Pamela. 

“Just be quiet about it. I don’t need you waking mom up.”

“Of course,” he said, before slipping around the garage.

I continued to run my eyes over my car, almost willing her to share the memory of last night with me. With three flat tires, busted shocks, a shattered windshield and a missing headlight, there was no way I could have driven her all the way home, but there she sat. And regardless of the blood that had been on my clothes, there I stood without a scratch. None of it made a lick of sense.

“You owe me,” Weed said, coming up from behind and startling me from my thoughts.

“What do you mean?”

“A friend of my mom drives a tow truck and he’s on his way to pick her up and take her back to my place. It’ll definitely take a little time and a lot of elbow grease but I think we can get her back in shape.”

“That’s awesome,” I said, but then realized exactly what that meant. “The thing that really sucks is that school’s going to start tomorrow and I was looking forward to being done with that cranky bus driver.”

“How much is it worth to you?”

“Common man, you know I don’t have much cash and it’s going to take most of what I’ve got to get Pamela back to normal.”

“What if I told ya that you could drive yourself to school on day one for only about $200 and about a day’s worth of work?”

 “There’s no way we’ll get her fixed up in that time or for that money. The tires alone are going to run at least that much.”

“That’s why you’re not going to show up in her.”

I stared at him for a minute. 

“I don’t get it.”

“Follow me,” Weed said, and I did so, against my better judgment.