My Life As Death: Chapter 25

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 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24

It took no time to get to the bowling alley, even in the Weed Wagon. I had wanted to take the KZ, just in case I was ready to leave before Weed. Unfortunately he seemed to know exactly what I was thinking and insisted on driving so I was left to his mercy. But I still wasn’t sure why we didn’t take the Chevette. It may not have looked much better than the mail truck but at least it was faster.

“Look man, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Too late now,” he said, grabbing the keys from the ignition and sliding open the mail truck door. 

“You know I can hotwire this thing with the screwdriver in the glovebox, don’t you?”

I was only half joking.

“Don’t make me get the cattle prod,” he said, motioning to the toolbox behind his seat.

Unfortunately I had no idea if he’d actually brought it.

We sat staring at each other with our poker faces on for at least a minute, before we both started cracking up.

“Fine,” I replied, “but if we’re doing this I’m going to need a little helper.”

“I’ve gotcha covered,” he replied, pulling out two Big Red bottles.

I knew Weed, so I also knew there was no way it was red cream soda in them.

“Aftershock?”

“Nah, that’d probably be a little too much. It’s MD 20/20.”

“Mad Dog? Good choice.”

“I’m glad you approve. Now can we get in there and have a little fun?”

I took a big drink from the bottle Weed handed me and scanned the parking lot. It was still pretty early but the place was already almost full. That meant we’d probably be waiting on a lane or any of the video games in the arcade. I took another drink, then finally turned back to Weed. The look on his face told me he wanted to be there even more than I didn’t want to be there, so there was no way I could make him leave but I couldn’t resist making him wait just a little longer either.

Pulling a cigarette from my pack, I patted my pockets, pretending to not be able to find my lighter. Exasperated, he pulled out his butane powered torch and lit it for me, then climbed out the door.

“Now I’m going in, with or without you,” he said, slamming the door shut.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I replied. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

“They’re your mom’s panties, so…”

“Wow, you did not just go there.”

I couldn’t hear his reply over the sounds of Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls, spilling from the doorway as we went inside but the grin on his face told me he was very pleased with himself.

As I had feared, the place was packed. Groups of teens were hanging out around the various tables, collecting their bowling shoes from the counter, or just hanging out in any space they could find. We couldn’t see the actual lanes from just inside the door but based on the scoreboards shown on the televisions hanging above each one, I was pretty sure they were all taken.

“We might’ve been better off staying at your place.”

“Nonsense,”he replied. “First of all, we got your pathetic self out of the house.”

He wasn’t wrong.

“And second of all,” he rambled on while scanning the various groups around us, “If we’d stayed there, you’d have zero chance of getting to second base with some hot chick.”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “I think your mom has a thing for me…”

“Hey now…”

“You know you deserved that.”

“But come to think of it, I could do worse for a step-dad…”

“Okay now you’re just taking it a little too far.”

“Maybe a little, so how about we turn our attention to all the possibilities surrounding us.”

He made a good point. There were plenty of girls hanging out everywhere, and a lot of them seemed to be unattached, but even if luck was on my side, I wasn’t sure I was ready to just hook up with some random hottie.

“I thought you said I needed a night of video games?”

“Video games, bowling, girls, there’s no reason we should limit ourselves to just one form of entertainment.”

It was really hard to argue with that logic.

“How about you scout out the arcade while I check out the lanes?” He said.

“And should I be looking for open games or girls?”

“Yes,” he said, before turning and heading into the crowd.

I thought about heading right back outside, but I hadn’t been to the bowling alley for quite a while so I was a little curious if they’d updated their arcade selection.

It took a couple minutes, and a little too much maneuvering past too many people for me to reach the entrance of the arcade area. There were no overhead lights on inside, but the flashing screens from each game cabinet provided more than enough light to make my way from one machine to the next. Many of them were the same old games that had been there forever, but I did find a few new ones. 

There were a couple guys with light guns in their hands, ducking for cover, then popping out to mow down an army of bad guys, trying to get through the levels of Time Crises before time expired.

Another updated machine featured the newest version of Tekken, which allowed the players to join together in team battles against the never ending stream of opponents. The graphics on the cutting edge game, and the game play itself, looked amazing but there was a line of guys waiting at each machine for their turn. I really wasn’t in the mood to stand around, watching and waiting so I moved on.

Towards the rear of the arcade area were the older games that didn’t have the flashy graphics or immersive 3D worlds of the newer ones.  Dig-Dug, Q*bert and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had become too oldschool for a lot of people, but not for Weed and definitely not for me. We still prefered Out Run to newer racing games like Cruis’n USA. Not that the new games weren’t enjoyable, but they didn’t quite hold the same appeal. And on the plus side, there were a lot less people waiting to play them.

Some obvious noob had just missed an easy jump over a barrel on the first level of Donkey Kong, using up his last life and the last of his patients as I walked up to the machine.

“Stupid game, not even worth playing,” he grunted as he walked away. I had to laugh at him as I grabbed the joystick to try my hand at it. Not because of his reaction, but because I remembered being just as bad when I first started playing. The game, like most older games, really was about timing and reflexes. Thankfully I had gotten much better in the hours of practice I had, before I got into cars.

The screen finished flashing “Game Over” and I was just about to press the start button when Weed appeared beside me.

“What are you doing?”

“You said games or girls,” I replied. “This was what I found.”

“Okay, it may be true that I said that, but you know girls trump games.”

“And if you look around, you’ll notice there really aren’t any in here, so Donkey Kong it is.”

“And if you’ll look around, you’ll see two hotties headed our direction now,” he replied.

I followed his gaze back towards the entrance to the arcade area, but the only girls I saw kept walking right past on their way to the bowling lanes and concession stand.

“Okay, so they might still be another minute,” he said, turning back to me, “but not long enough for you to get in a whole game of DK.”

“And what happens if these imaginary girls don’t show?”

“They’re coming,” he continued.“And besides, I got us a table.”

“Really? That was quick.”

During Rock N Bowl the pool tables only cost a dollar an hour, so even the guys who didn’t want to throw balls down the lane or or mash buttons of the video game machines all night usually showed up for the cheap 8-ball which meant there was usually a list a mile long waiting for one.

“How much did it cost you?”

“Mikey was working the counter so we got off cheap; one joint now and one when we leave.”

“And it’s ours for the night?”

“As long as we want it, or at least until his shift is over at 2:00.”

“I knew there was some reason I kept you around.”

“You mean besides my amazing personality?”

He couldn’t even say it with a straight face.

“So what table did we get?”

“Table eight in the corner.”

“Works for me.”

Weed racked the balls as I found each of us a cue that was relatively straight. Nine ball was my prefered game but Weed liked 8 ball, so that’s what we started with. After all, it was his joint that got us the table.

“And you’re sure these girls are actually coming?”

“Absolutely.”

“And you’re sure this isn’t just like what happened at the party?”

“It’s funny you should say that,” he replied with a grin.

I didn’t know what to say when he pulled a wallet from his pocket, the same wallet that had been stolen from him the night of the party.

“No way!”

He just continued to grin at me for a second, then glanced over my shoulder and waved.

As I turned around I saw two smiling girls headed right towards us, one of which looked like the cute little cheerleader Weed had left me for just before my accident.

“Please tell me this is some sort of joke.”

“Not at all. Apparently that night was some sort of cheerleading initiation thing. The next day she felt bad, and must have liked something I did, or something she saw, because she’s been looking for me ever since. She and her friend actually came here tonight because she heard we used to come here.”

“I believe that she felt bad for you, I mean, we all do, but…”

“Shush, now be cool.”

The girls reached the table, and with mostly-sober eyes I realized Weed’s thief wasn’t quite as young as I’d remembered, but I was still sure she wasn’t an upperclassman, though that really didn’t matter to Weed. Her friend, though, I recognized as a senior, but we didn’t run in the same circles at all, so I wasn’t sure what her name was.

“Tiffany,” she said, introducing herself as the younger one, Stephanie, moved next to Weed.

“I’m Nate.”

“Yeah, I kinda know that.”

“Okay?”

“The whole walking out on Mr. Baker’s class thing, and then saving Ms Reader from the burning car…”

The memory of Ms. Reader brought back some dark thoughts, and apparently I did a horrible job hiding it.

“I’m sorry,” she said, gently touching my arm. “I didn’t mean to bring up, you know, I just meant that pretty much everyone knows who you are now.”

“I don’t know if that’s such a good thing…”

“So Nate,” Weed said, saving us from our awkward conversation. “I promised these ladies that we would teach them how to shoot pool.”

“Don’t you think someone should teach you first?”

The girls laughed and Weed started to turn red, so it was a good start to the night, at least for me.

Weed teamed up with Stephanie for the first game, which gave me Tiffany. To my surprise, though, Tiffany didn’t seem to need me to teach her a thing about pool. Weed broke, sinking the ten and the four balls. He tried to pocket the six, but missed and scratched instead.

I’ve got this one, Tiffany said, grabbing the cue ball from Weed.

She then proceeded to sink the two, three and six balls before finally missing a tough bank shot on the yellow number one. Weed and I just stared, and even Stephanie seemed surprised by her friend’s sudden skill. I would have thought we were being played, except she was on my team, and there were no stakes.

“Don’t worry about that,” Weed said to Stephanie, “It must be beginner’s luck. We can still rally.”

Standing behind her, with his arms around hers, Weed helped Stephanie grab the cue and line up a shot. They seemed to be taking a lot more time than necessary, and both seemed to be enjoying the whole process. Tiffany and I just kinda looked at each other.

“Maybe we should give them a little space,” she said to me.

“Maybe,” I replied, “but knowing Weed it won’t take long.”

The words came out of my mouth just as Stephanie was about to take her shot, but the sudden burst of laughter made her miss the cue ball completely, and hit the nine ball right next to it.

“Hey now,” Weed said, but I wasn’t sure if his objection was to what I said or to his partner’s reaction.

“I believe that’s another scratch,” Tiffany replied, handing me the cue ball.

Several hours, and way too many games of 8-ball later, I found myself out in the parking lot, smiling, laughing and feeling much more relaxed than I had in quite a while. I really wasn’t sure where this thing with Tiffany was going to go, or if I wanted it to go anywhere, but what I did know was that she was leaning against her car waiting for me to kiss her. I took a step forward, but before I could make my move, she leaned forward and kissed me.

It had been a while since I’d kissed a girl but it was by far the best one I’d ever had. There was an excitement and a passion in it that told me she wanted me, and at that moment I wanted her too. She wrapped her arms around me so I moved my hand to caress her neck and that’s when the images came flooding in.

Instinctively I pulled back.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

The shock on her face probably mirrored the look on mine.

“Nothing’s wrong,” I lied. “That…was great…”

“I thought so too…So why aren’t we still doing it?”

The look on her face was part anticipation and part hurt. And I didn’t want to hurt her.

“I’m sorry, I…uh…just remembered that we were supposed to pick my mother up from work.”

“Right now?”

“Like, ten minutes ago,” I said, looking at my watch.

I turned around and Weed had stopped his makeout session with Stephanie and was staring over her shoulder at me with a confused look on his face.

“I’m sorry,” I said to all of them. “I really am, but Weed, we need to go.”

Like the true friend he was, Weed backed my play. He even waited until we were a block away from the bowling alley before he ripped into me.

“What the Hell man?”

“I’m sorry, really, really sorry.”

“Please tell me there is some really, really good explanation for why I don’t still have Stephanie’s tongue in my mouth.”

“Because I touched Tiffany.”

“That’s kind of how making out works.”

“And when I touched her…the images started coming…”

“So it’s not something you can turn on and off?”

“Apparently not.”

“That sucks.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Me too.”

“So what’d you see?”

“Nothing really, I pulled away as soon as they started because I didn’t want to see anything.”

“Why not? You could see all of her dirty little secrets.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“There’s nothing wrong with knowing how kinky she really is.”

“That’s the problem, I don’t just know if she’s had lustful thoughts, or if she’s lied, or simple things like that, I see it all.”

“And?”

“And…what if she’s done something really bad?”

“How bad could it be?”

“I’m not sure I want to find out.”

“Why not? What if she’s a sex fiend?”

“Good point,” I replied, “but what if she’s my last assignment?”

My Life As Death: Chapter 24

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 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23

“So do you have any plans for the weekend?” Mom asked as I fixed a bowl of cereal.

“I thought I’d go to a biker bar, maybe join a gang or just a satanic cult, then elope to vegas with a prostitute.”

“Remember what I said about being smart,” she replied, taking a sip of her coffee, “and make sure you get a prenup.”

“You really take the fun out of being a smartass.”

“I know. So what are your actual plans.”

“I’ll probably spend all my time at Weed’s, putting the finishing touches on my car.”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you know I like Weed, for whatever reason, and I’m glad you’re not letting everything that happened with Shawna drag you down.”

“So you wouldn’t mind if I just stayed over at his place tonight?”

“To be honest, I could use a night off of worrying about you being home alone.”

 “You know you don’t have to worry about me.”

“Yes, as a mother, I do. But I also know Nancy will keep a good eye on you.”

“Right,” I said, not wanting to ruin whatever illusion she had about Weed’s mom.

“And speaking of Weed, I should probably get over there. I’m sure he’s already started without me.”

“Just remember what I said,” she replied.

“I will,” I replied, “but shouldn’t you be getting yourself to bed?”

“This is my second cup of coffee; I’m good for a couple loads of laundry first.”

She went to work in the laundry room so I grabbed a bagel and took it upstairs to eat while I finished packing a bag for Weed’s. 10 minutes later I was heading back downstairs with my helmet and bag in my hands.

“Bye mom,” I called through the open laundry room door.

“Bye,” she replied. “I’d tell you not to give Nancy any hassle, but I know she won’t take any of that from you.”

She was both right and wrong about Weed’s mom. She wouldn’t take any crap from me, or anyone else, but she sure let us get away with a few things my mom didn’t need to know about.

It was a nice day to be on the bike but I decided not to go for a joy ride and instead went straight to Weed’s. I was still reminiscing about some of the studpid stuff he and I had gotten away with by the time I reached his driveway. Pamela was visible through the open garage door, but I opted to head to the front porch first. 

Weed’s mom was standing in the open doorway before I’d even reached the top step.

“You get in trouble?” She asked with a nod to my overnight bag.

Being the only son of a single mother meant I’d gotten into trouble with her on multiple occasions. Each time I seemed to end up at Weed’s until things had cooled off a bit, and his mom never turned me away. I think she saw it as a better alternative to me ending up somewhere else.

“Nah,” I replied, “not exactly. I just thought mom could use a night of not worrying about me.”

“She deserves a lot more than one night of that,” she said, “but it’s a start. And you know you’re always welcome here, though if you stay too long I’ll have to start treating you the same way I treat that son of mine.”

“Speaking of Weed,” I said, “is he still asleep?”

“At nine-thirty on a saturday morning? You know it.”

“Good!”

She didn’t even ask as I pulled a paintball gun from my bookbag.

“Just remember,” she said, “you’ve got to clean up any mess, not already there.”

“It’ll be worth it,” I said.

My paintball gun was a cheap one that didn’t have the velocity of the more expensive ones, but from a couple feet away it still hurt like crazy.

I was about to creep up the stairs as quietly as possible, before realizing it was Weed I was going after. He could sleep through an earthquake, so I stopped wasting the effort and took the stairs two at a time, making as much noise as possible. Of course it didn’t faze him, but bursting through his door, and unloading several shots to his groin area did.

“Ow! Holy shit! What the hell is that smell!” all came out of his mouth before his eyes even opened.

“You never should have let me know about those 68 caliber skunk spray balls.”

“Yeah,” he said while still writhing under his blankets, “I think I’ve learned my lesson. From now on I’ll keep my best ideas to myself.”

“I’m sure you’ll get me back soon enough,” I said, but for now I’ve got a favor to ask.”

“That’s how you asked for a favor?”

“Only when I’m sure you won’t say no.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

“Oh, but I am.”

“And why is that?” he asked, finally sitting up.

“Because you never say no to a saturday night of car work, John Hughes films and a packed bowl or two.”

“Sleep over?” He asked.

Before I could respond he rushed to the door and hollard down the stairs.

“Hey Mom! Do you think Nate can…”

“I saw his bag and didn’t send him back home, now didn’t I?” She yelled back.

“You’re the best!”

“I know! But you need to remember that next time I have to ground you!”

“Probably won’t.”

“I know that too,” she yelled back, but by then Weed was already throwing on a semi-clean t-shirt and a worn out pair of shoes.

It took us much longer than I would have thought to replace the windshield, but we were being extra careful. FInkenbine had said it was the only one he could find. The memory of him started to bring me down again, so I pushed the thought from my mind and just continued working on the car. I knew getting her done would have made him happy, even if she was only the “president of the glee club”.

“Food’s on the table,” Weed’s mom hollered from the front porch, just as we finished tightening the last bolt. “You better come get it before it gets cold.”

Weed was covered head to toe in six different shades of grease and rust, and my hands were completely black so he headed to the upstairs bathroom for a quick shower while I tried to scrub my hands clean in the kitchen sink.

“So you’ve been having a few issues lately?” Weed’s mom asked, as I dried my still stained hands.

“Weed tell you that?”

“You know he wouldn’t break your confidence unless it was life or death, and even then I’m not sure he would. But he didn’t have to; I’ve known you since before you could walk. I can tell when something’s not quite right.”

“It’s nothing, just typical teenager stuff,” I lied.

“So problems with Shawna?”

I froze, not quite sure how to respond.

“I’ve seen the two of you growing up together. It was only a matter of time…”

“Maybe a little to do with her, but honestly, it’s nothing, really.”

“Okay,” she said, turning back to the stove, “Just remember that I’m always here if you need a female perspective on anything.”

“Thanks.”

“It smells great,” Weed said, sliding down the staircase railing. I couldn’t tell if he just had impeccable timing, or if he’d been waiting for us to finish our little conversation.

Weed’s mom set down a platter of crispy fried chicken right in the center of the table, followed by bowls of mashed potatoes and coleslaw. My mouth was watering before I even finished filling my plate.

“So you boys have plans after dinner?”

“Not really,” Weed replied. “Maybe just watch a movie or two.”

“Two single, teenage boys are going to stay in on a saturday night? Are you both feeling ill?”

Weed and I just looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.

“I hear there might be something going on at the old Johnston place,” she continued.

Weed and I both stopped mid bite. I’m not sure if we were more surprised that she knew about that party, or that we didn’t.

“We’ll think about it,” Weed said, before shoveling some more food into his mouth. I followed suit. 

Our silence seemed to work, as his mom didn’t push us about going out anymore and for that I was thankful. But after dinner we headed up to Weed’s room to watch a movie, only none of them really sounded good.

“She’s right, you know,” Weed said as he cracked the window and lit a cigarette.

“I know she’s right, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.”

“And how did she know about the party at the Johnston place and we didn’t?”

“She’s your mom, you tell me.”

“We are two young, veral guys. We shouldn’t be holed up in a room watching movies on a Saturday night.”

“So you’re wanting to go out to the Johnston place?”

“Of course not,” he replied. “If my mom knows about it then how good could it possibly be?”

“Good enough for us to not get an invite?”

He just ignored me.

“And if she knows about it, then other parents have to know about it, so it’ll be broken up before it gets really good,” he said, plopping down beside the open window and lighting up a cigarette.

He did kinda have a point. And besides, I wasn’t really in the mood to go to a party. I mean, I wanted something to take my mind off Shawna and everything else that didn’t seem to be going right, but I wasn’t ready to just go get drunk with a lot of people I didn’t really like.

“There’s got to be something worth watching,” I said, thumbing through his movie collection, “or worth doing.”

He had every John Hughes, Chris Columbus and Tarantino movie ever made, but none of them sounded good. We really did need to get out of the house, only I was out of ideas. I was just about to start searching through his secret stash of movies when Weed popped up from his chair.

“What you need is a night of video games.”

“Too bad we don’t have anything but the old atari with one broken controller.”

Weed and I both loved video games but his NES got destroyed one wild night that neither of us remember very well. We’d talked about each of us chipping in to replace it, but Sony and Nintendo had both released amazing new game consoles so we decided to save our cash for one of them, only we couldn’t decide which. Weed was a major Nintendo fanboy so he wanted to go that direction but Sony’s system was much more high tech, so I was leaning that way.

“I’m not saying we should break out the atari,” he said, “I’m saying we should hit up the Rock ‘n Bowl.”

On Friday and Saturdays a local bowling alley would turn down the lights and crank up the music. For 5 bucks you could bowl all night and play every video game in the arcade for free. Rock ‘n Bowl had been a tradition of ours for a couple years, but eventually everyone within a fifty mile radius seemed to find out about it. In no time it became overcrowded and overpriced. We hadn’t been in over a year.

“So what do you say?”

I thought about it for a minute, and it did seem like a better idea than just sitting around his room until we fell asleep, but I still wasn’t sure.

“Come on, man,” Weed said. “We need a night out and who knows, maybe everyone’s forgotten about it by now.”

With his pathetic grin, and puppy dog eyes, I couldn’t say no any longer.

“Fine, we’ll give it a shot but just for a little while.”

“Mom, we’re going out!” he yelled as soon as the words had left my mouth. Instantly I knew I was going to regret it.

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.

My Life As Death

I’ve talked a little before about my latest work-in-progress My Life As Death, but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about it. The idea for the book is basically this:

On the eve of his senior year, almost-eighteen year old Nathaniel (Nate to his friends) gets into a drunken accident, totaling his car and ending his life, or so he thought. In the darkness of death, a face appears and offers him a deal; agree to become a Grim Reaper (yes, there’s more than one Grim Reaper), send 10 well deserving souls to the afterlife and he will get to finish out the life he was meant to live. Fail to reap all 10, and Nate will forever be a servant of death.

Now Nate’s not a homicidal maniac; to the contrary, he actually doesn’t like the idea of having to kill anyone, but he’s guaranteed to only have to reap the truly evil, the murderers, rapists and child molesters. How could anyone have a problem with getting rid of those people? Right? Upon touching the guilty party, Nate will even see their evil deed and know the punishment is deserved. Then he just has to decide how they’ll die. But not everything is as simple as it seems, especially when everyone has secrets.

I don’t know exactly why the plot intrigued me so much, but the idea of trying to get through high-school and deal with being a part-time agent of death wouldn’t go away. And it might not just be the plot itself, but the characters that kept me going back to it. I put a bit of myself, my friends and my experiences into each of my books, but this one seems to have a lot more of me in it. While writing this book I tend to listen to more of the songs from my teenage years than normal. I reminisce a lot more than I ever have. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I already feel so drawn into it that it’s hard to focus on any of my other works-in-progress. But that’s a really good thing, because this is going to be the first book I try to get a traditional publishing contract with so the sooner it’s done, the better.

And just incase anyone is wondering about the graphic at the top of this post – no, that is not indicative of what the book cover will look like. I have several different ideas for the cover, but I’m nowhere close to deciding what it should be. But I think the skull graphic does share the same feeling as the book. It’s a little dark and creepy, a little cute and funny. And I think that’s a good way to describe the book.