My Life As Death: Chapter 26

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 Chapter 25

Weed didn’t say anything the rest of the ride home, and neither did I. We just listened to Def Leppard sing about heartbreak, which was a little too fitting. Maybe I freaked him out a little, I wasn’t sure. I just knew that I’d freaked myself out a lot. I wanted it to all be over because not knowing the identity of my next assignment was Hell, but I’m sure that was part of Lucifer’s game.

“Okay,” Weed said as we pulled into his driveway, “let’s think this through.”

“That really doesn’t sound like you.”

“I’m serious,” he replied, “it’s not like you really have many friends, so…”

“I really don’t want to do this.”

“Do what?”

“I don;t want to think about this anymore. It’s all I ever think about…who’s next and what could they have possibly done. I was hoping tonight would help me get away from those thoughts, and it did for a while, but then it made it worse.”

“I’m sorry,” Weed said. I think that was the first time he had ever apologized. Even when he convinced me to sled down Black Bear Hill because he was sure I could stop before hitting the Miller’s electric fence, and he was wrong, all he did was laugh. I wasn’t sure I liked this new repentant Weed.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. “You had know way of knowing what would happen. I didn’t even know it would happen.

“Still, I shouldn’t have pressured you to go out.”

“Maybe you’re right about that, but I know how you can make it up to me.

“How’s that?”

“Let’s take the Monster Box upstairs and see if we can help me forget everything.”

“It’s a deal.”

Twenty minutes later we were comfortably numb up in Weed’s room watching Bio-Dome. It really was a terrible movie but we couldn’t stop from laughing through the whole thing. When it ended, we put in Airheads and continued laughing until I fell asleep with a perfect sense of peace. I don’t have a clue what time that was, but I know exactly what time I woke the next morning; 7:30 AM. I know this, because all six radio alarm clocks positioned around my head were flashing that exact time as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blasted from their speakers.

I jumped up, immediately slamming my head into the pots and pans Weed had tied from the ceiling directly above me.

“Seriously?” I asked, as I fell back onto the couch.

Weed was laughing his ass off from across the room.

“Now why’d you think it was me?”

He was trying hard to look innocent, but it wasn’t working.

“And that last song goes out to Nate, from his best friend Weed…” the Dj announced way too loudly from the radios. It really was a nice touch.

“7:30 on a Sunday morning?” I asked, as he tried to stop laughing. “I thought that would go against everything you stood for.”

“After everything you’ve done to me? I owed you, big time. And sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good.”

“Pranking me is part of the greater good?”

“Well yeah, a little bit, but that’s not what I’m talking about.”

I just stared at him.

“I figured if we got up at a decent time, today will be the day we finish Pamela,” he explained.

It suddenly made sense. The only thing that could get him out of bed that early on a Sunday was a car…or a hot cheerleader. But since I made us bail on the girls I had a feeling it would be a little while before he had a chance with a cheerleader again.

“You want me to make you some of my special juice?”

“No…I don’t think I’ll ever want that again. I just need a little regular kick in the pants. You got any Jolt?”

“Of course,” he replied, pulling one from the case under his bed.

I definitely preferred it cold, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I chugged the can as we made our way down the stairs and out to the garage to finish my car.

We took our time, just enjoying ourselves, but by four that afternoon we had changed spark plugs, plug wires, air filter, serpentine belt, thermostat, and distributor cap. We jetted the carburetor, adjusted the timing and even changed the oil; basically we’d done a complete tune-up.

“You ready for this?” Weed asked as I slid into the driver’s seat.

“Oh yeah,” I replied, but then I hesitated. Working on Pamela had been a perfect distraction from all the other shit I had going on with Lucifer, and with Shawna. Without the car to work on, I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d cope.

“Well come on,” Weed said. “We need to get her out of her so we can start on the Weed Wagon.”

And there were the words I needed to hear. After Pamela we would work on the Weed Wagon. Then the KZ would need more power. Then Weed would need a bike, or another car, or an airplane. I really didn’t know what he would come up with after that, all I really knew was that as long as Weed was around, I’d have everything I needed to get by.

“So are you going to sit there playing with yourself or start her up?”

I barely turned the key and Pamela fired right up, purring like a kitten while I just sat there grinning; grinning at Weed doing his happy dance, grinning at the car running better than she ever had, grinning because one project was completed and my deal was just about to be done. From where I was sitting, life actually looked pretty good. I loved riding the KZ, but I could picture Shawna riding next to me in the car. I could see us at the drive-in, or taking a picnic lunch to the park, or even just laying out on the hood while we stared up at the stars

I shook my head, to clear Shawna from my thoughts, then hollered for Weed.

“Are you going to get your ass in here or am I going to take the test drive without you?”

He stopped mid-splits, with a look of panic and pain on his face. For a minute I thought I was going to have to help him get back up but he managed to fall backwards before jumping up to his feet again and rushing to the passenger side door. Two minutes later we were within sight of the city limit sign. I looked down the road as far as I could see, then checked the rearview mirror; there wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen. I looked over at Weed, then floored it, throwing both of us back against the seets.

The speedometer just kept rising for almost half a mile, and so did the smiles on our faces. Pamela had more acceleration and top end speed than ever, but at the same time, the new tires and suspension made her ride and handle like a brand new car. I kept the gas pedal pinned to the floor until I saw the glint of sun reflecting off another car coming the opposite way. Sheriffs and State Highway patrol liked to cruise the backroads near us occasionally, and I wasn’t ready to lose my license, especially not right after I got my car back, so I let her drop back down to the posted speed limit.

“See,” Weed said, “Better than new, just like I told you.”

“You’re right,” I replied, without turning to look at him. “Thanks for that, and you know, for everything.”

“You don’t need to thank me. That’s just what friends do.”

After that, we just sat in silence, cruising the backroads until the sun started to set. I could have just kept driving all night but I didn’t want to give mom any reason to worry, so I headed back much sooner than I would have liked.

“It’s really nice having things back to normal,” Weed said as we pulled into his driveway.

“Almost,” I replied.

“You’re in the home stretch, though.”

“That’s if I can bring myself to do the last one.”

“We know it’s not me, and there’s no way Shawna has done anything remotely bad in her whole life, so it can’t be anyone really important, now, can it?”

I almost laughed at that.

“I mean sure, it would suck to have to off some hottie you just hooked up with, but I’m sure there will be others.”

That time I had to laugh, but then I remembered the box in the garage. I didn’t want to bring down our good time, but having told Weed everything else I figured I couldn’t stop now.

“There is another possibility,” I said.

“You couldn’t get lucky enough for it to be vice-principal Miller.”

“What I wouldn’t give for it to be him.”

“So if not him, then who?”

So that’s when I told him about the box and the restraining order. I felt a little bad, sharing mom’s secret, but I needed Weed to understand my thought process. 

“Okay, he said, “so your dad apparently had some issues but you’ve never known the guy right? So it would almost be your easiest one. To you he’d just be another bad guy.”

“So do you think you could off your dad?”

Weed was in the same boat as me. He’d never known his dad either. We had talked about it a couple of times as kids, joked about which celebrity might be our father, but it had been years since either of us had even mentioned the men who didn’t want anything to do with us. I almost felt bad for asking him. But he didn’t hesitate to answer.

“In a heartbeat,” he said without blinking.

“Really?”

“Yeah. He never did anything for me, so I’d see it as his way of making amends, even if he didn’t have a choice.”

“I’m still not so sure I would be able to, but that’s not what I’m most worried about.”

“What then?”

“Maybe I’m just a little jaded from seeing what these other people have done, but, I mean, even Ms. Reader offed her husband…”

“You mean…your mom?

“I’m just saying that if my dad did something horrible enough for my mom to get a restraining order, if he was that bad of a person, and she feared for her life, what would she have done if the restraining order didn’t work?”

“No….” he said. “There’s no way.”

“Finkenbine said Lucifer likes to play these games and make the last one the hardest.  And you said it yourself, I’m really not close to very many people. Even Finkenbine suggested it might be a possibility”

“But your mom? I mean, Finkenbine never even met her, so he’d have no way of knowing…and there’s no way Lucifer would do that to you…I mean, he wouldn’t…would he?

“I really don’t know.”

He just stood there for a second until the shocked look was replaced with a matter-of-fact look.

“There’s one way to find out,” he said.

“Wait for him to tell me who it is?”

“Okay, I guess that’s one way, but I was going to say you could just ask your mom what happened to your dad.”

“I don’t know…”

“Or like you said, you could just wait around, wondering but not actually knowing.”

He was right, but I wasn’t sure I could actually ask my mom about my dad.

“Speaking of my mom,” I said, “I really should head home.”

“Is that your way of kicking me out of your car after all the work I put into helping you fix her?”

“Pretty much.”

“You’re such an ass.”

“But you love me anyways.”

“I just can’t say no to your pretty face.”

“Okay now you’re just getting creepy,” I said, shoving him out the half open door.

“See you in the AM,” he replied with a laugh and a wave.

The short drive home didn’t give me a chance to clear my head, or make a decision about talking to mom. I figured I was going to play it by ear once I got inside, I just wasn’t expecting her to step out the back door as soon as I pulled into the driveway. My first thought was “what did I do wrong now?”

“You got her done?” She said with a smile, before I’d even shut off the ignition.

“Yeah, and she’s running better than ever.”

“Well I’m glad to hear it, but you can’t park there.”

I just stared for a second, not quite sure how to respond.

“I guess I could park out front.”

“Or you could just pull in there,” she said, raising the second garage door.

The grin on my face was only matched by the grin on hers.

“You did such a great job on the garage, that I figured I could do a little more so you could fit her inside.”

The whole place looked great, so I knew mom must have spent hours out there, but it looked even better with Pamela parked in it.

“Thanks mom,” I said, as we walked inside the house, but I really couldn’t thank her enough. I also knew I couldn’t bring up the subject of my dad or the restraining order.

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.

Looking for an Agent

I’ve independently published each of my books so far, and I love doing so, but with My Life As Death I’ve decided to try the traditional publishing route. There are a lot of benefits to indie publishing, and a lot of negative aspects of traditional publishing but I think it will be worth trying at least once.

To start down the traditional publishing route it’s usually recommended that you have an agent, so the first step for me was to research agents. Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there and I have no real connections to the literary world so it was a bit like trying to research insurance or real estate agents for the first time. But I found several agents that looked reputable and successful so I then started researching what I needed to do to query an agent. That’s where I got stuck.

Most of the agents I am interested in request a synopsis of your book. Since I’m writing MLAD without any sort of outline and it’s only a little over 1/2 way done , I can’t say exactly what’s going to happen in the rest of the book. And I get the impression most agents aren’t interested in half of a synopsis, so the agent search is temporarily on hold, and it sucks.

But that is very indicative of my biggest problem with traditional publishing – the waiting. I’m one of those people who likes to multitask and keep moving forward but everything in trad publishing seems to take forever. Complete the book, write query letters and a synopsis, then wait for an agent to agree to represent you. Then query publishers and wait for one to accept you. Then go through rounds of editing, cover design, layout etc…, then wait for it to finally be published. Just writing out the process depresses me because I can’t wait to get this story to the readers. But I’m going to attempt the trad route which means I’m going to have to learn to be comfortable with the slower process. And in the mean time, I still have a couple other nearly finished books that I’ll be able to independently publish.

Writing Update 2/15/19

I’ve had several people email and message me about my books recently. which really makes me feel good. Most of the messages have been asking about the new books, for which I really haven’t done a good job putting any updates out there, so hopefully this will help anyone wondering what’s going on.

The second Mike Locke novel, tentatively titled “Zero Sum” is about 90% done. I love the story and the characters, especially a new one introduced at the very beginning and I planned on having it ready for release before spring. As far along as it is, there’s still a good chance it will be released before summer, but for the past couple weeks just about all my writing time has gone to another project; “My Life As Death: A Grim Beginning”.

I had the idea for My Life As Death a couple years ago but I kept putting off working on it, trying to finish other projects first. Then a few weeks ago I couldn’t put it off any more. I don’t know why I jumped into it, but writing it has gone much smoother and much quicker than almost any other book, besides 23 Hours. The ease of writing it is a big reason I’ve continued to focus on it, but there is also another reason. After self publishing my first three books I’ve decided to explore the traditional publishing route, and most publishers aren’t interested in starting with the second book of a series. I don’t know what it will take to get a traditional publishing contract, or even what it will take to find an agent, but I think My Life As Death will give me the best chance at it. I’ll be doing a quick write up/blurb about it soon, but if I do get a publishing contract for it, then I assume the book won’t be out for quite a while; it’s my understanding that the typical publishing process is 1-2 years. The timing/release schedule is one reason I haven’t pursued traditional publishing in the past, but I really want to give it a shot.

The second Daniel James book is pretty much where it’s been for the past several year, about 25% done. As with the Mike Locke series, I love the characters and story, and there really isn’t any writer’s block preventing me from finishing this book, it’s just been a matter of priority. Writing the Daniel James series (which I tend to refer to as the Aether Chronicles) is a bit more in-depth than any of the others. It requires a lot more planning and research which really slows down the progress so for the time being I have kind of put it on the back burner, though it will continue; Daniel’s got a big future that will eventually come to light.

And as a surprise, I’ve also got another book to announce. As I said before, “just about all my writing time” has gone to My Life As Death. The little bit that hasn’t gone to MLAD has gone to another one titled After the End, the sequel to 23 Hours. Originally 23 Hours was just the start of a 4 part miniseries so I started writing After the End before 23 Hours was even published, but I stopped writing just before finishing it because I felt 23 Hours had the perfect ending. But upon reading it again a couple years later, I decided that the rest of the world should know what happens next. I don’t have an exact publication date for After the End yet, but I will definitely be posting updates here.

So there’s the status on each of the books I’m working on, and with this new site I will be doing much better job keeping you up-to-date with each of them in the future.