Thursday, November 18, 2010

Azalea, Part Seven

Sick of Azalea yet? I don't blame you--four posts in a row of my characters is enough to make anyone want to take her head to the nearest brick wall. The good news: I'm finally caught up on posts! Now the rest of you need to post something to dissapate the Azalea monopoly...

A small town equals a small population. A small population equals a small group of possible friends. And a small circle of friends—combined with that small town factor again, simply because of cramped quarters—equals tight friendships. What all of this means, you ask? It means that it’s really easy to find yourself childless one day and the godmother of a baby girl named Ophelia the next.

Eighteen years ago (don’t even think about calling me old or I’ll sic our neighborhood serial killer on you next), I was welcomed into Wildewood’s unofficial society of godparents. Because we have so few people and so much religion to go around, that amounts to just about everyone above the age of twenty…or below, but let’s be nice and say twenty. Poor Ophelia should have known she’d be unlucky in life when she found out who her mom had chosen to pair her up with—me. Not the baker, or the school principal, or nice old Farmer Harris. Heck, even the bartender would have been an improvement. But she didn’t pick them; she picked me.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little extreme in my criticism. After all, I do give her birthday presents…and Christmas presents…and graduation presents, when I remember…

Yeah, yeah, I know: I’m a sucky godmother. I’m not the one who came up with this whole “responsibility” idea in the first place, so don’t blame me; blame her biological mother, the one who up and left her daughter and husband for a life of adventure and mystique, sending only the occasional letter to make up for a lifetime of damage.

One such letter came today.

I haven’t opened it.


Any minute now, my acidic curiosity is going to eat through my ethical resolve. I don’t know why she sends these things to me, but I guess it’s to ensure that Ophelia’s dad doesn’t keep them under lock and key, even if that doesn’t sound like something he’d do. Who knows what goes through the woman’s mind—she’s delusional. It’s a wonder Ophelia turned out as well as she did.

I count the letter’s possible subjects on my fingers to curb my need to steam open the envelope (I wonder if that actually works in real life) and decide that because Ophelia’s birthday has long come and gone, the next holiday is miles away, and a Halloween note has never reached my mailbox in the history of my godparent-ing, it must be Mommy Dearest’s way of showing concern that her daughter is living in what is soon to become nothing more than a giant cemetery.

She can’t possibly know about the pain and suffering Ophelia has endured in the past few days, the loved ones she has lost in a tragic whirlwind of cruel murder, and the cold, clammy fear that must be encasing her veins at this very moment.

Then again, neither can I.

Sighing and muttering to myself, I propel my lazy butt up from the kitchen table, letter in hand, and grab my keys from the wall hook.

“Caleb?” I call, a little quietly so as not to wake Warwick from his nap on the upper floor.

My son swipes the pads of his fingers over the buttons of his PS3 controllers as he answers, “Yeah?”

“I’m going out. I’ll be back in a bit.”

Miraculously, he pauses the game to look me in the eyes. That’s a first. Maybe we should live in life-or-death situations more often.

“You can’t go out,” he tells me, his expression so stern that I’m not sure whether I should laugh or sit back down. “What if you get…”

While he searches for the right word, I hustle over to plant a gentle kiss on his forehead before heading toward the garage.

“I’ll be fine, sweetheart. I’ll be back in an hour. Trust me.”

The fact that I’m able to drag myself out the door is a miracle in itself. One second more of the anomaly of my son actually paying attention to me and Ophelia’s going to be on her own today.

Of course, Caleb’s sudden interest in my wellbeing isn’t the only force working against my will to make it to the jail. There’s also the murderer to worry about. But that’s just a minor detail, right?

At the very least, he—or she, but somehow I’m more inclined to say “he”—gives me an excuse to use my car for transportation rather than a pair of tennis shoes. Not that I’d be taking a daytrip to the jail in the first place if our lovely little maniac had gone to wreak havoc in Miami.

As I drive cautiously through the windswept town, my foot just barely touching the pedal so as to stay below the demanded fifteen miles per hour, I suck in a breath at the emptiness of the wasteland we call home. It’s different from the, dare I say it, charming village of the past, where kind, if sometimes straw-headed southern bumpkins milled around with their rosy-cheeked children skipping on ahead. Now the sidewalks are lonely slabs of concrete, shunned even by the doors of the shops, which are shut tight in fear of the person who may come striding up to knock any minute now. The people have taken Warwick’s warning to heart and locked themselves in the solace of their homes, where no one will know who’s dead and who’s alive, and nobody will be here to see the murderer if he shoots out my tires and shatters my window with a snow shovel…

When I finally pull into the jail—at a speed well over fifteen miles an hour, mind you—I realize that I’ve never been so elated to see a cop car in my life. I wouldn’t even mind if someone rushed out to give me a speeding ticket, just as long as they had a loaded gun on them. It’s dangerous out here.

Azalea, Part Six

I grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, just a short train ride from New York City. New Canaan is a fairly small town, but New York? Well, you know about New York. Busy, bustling, blunt masses of people you will never see again and who don’t even see you as you walk right past them. The cops don’t sleep, and neither do you if you have an apartment anywhere near a street.

I guess you could say that I saw my fair share of disturbing newspaper articles and television reports as a kid, what with millions of people for insanity to infect with its contagious bacteria, but I can honestly admit that I have never once heard of any crime as repulsive as today’s.

Even worse: it happened just down the street.

More frightening still: I was planning to drive to the scene of the murder to buy my grieving family (my kids and me for our friends, Warwick for his job) some pumpkin bread and pecan Danishes before I caught wind that the pastry chef hadn’t had a chance to bake anything this morning—he had been too busy baking himself.

“Dear lord,” I gasp, collapsing onto a kitchen stool across from my husband, who has yet to say a word about last night’s fight. I’m not sure whether I should feel grateful or remorseful for the more important events occupying his mind.

“Done up with icing and everything,” Warwick finishes gruffly. He’s biting into a glazed donut as he says this, and I can’t help but wonder if he picked up his breakfast when he went to survey Wildewood’s newest homicide.

I hold my stomach a little tighter and keep an eye on the nearest trashcan in case he pulls out a frosted finger petit four with nail-flavored sprinkles next.

“So we’ve had three people murdered in all,” he mumbles, though I’m pretty sure he’s talking to himself at this point. “Eloise Huffington in the salon.”

With the dagger, I think before I can stop myself. Whoops. That was disrespectful, but a forgivable slip-up.

“Eli in the barn.”

With the rope. Okay, now that one was inexcusable.

“And Finn in the bakery.”

With the kitchen utensils. Hm. As far as I know, that’s not in Clue.

“You know what’s similar in all of them?” he asks, not even pausing for my answer before continuing, “There are two things, actually. First off, they all happened in town.”

I blink at him, beginning to wonder if he’s already started his drinking binge for the day. “It wouldn’t be our problem if they happened in Chicago, would it?” I joke weakly.

He rolls his eyes. “I meant that they all happened while people were out and about, not in their houses. So I’m going to issue an emergency lockdown.”

“Can you even do that as mayor?”

“I can certainly declare it unsafe to be outside.”

“Why not evacuate the town? Then there would be no risk of being killed at all.”

“That’s too drastic,” he growls. As if a lockdown isn’t. And while we’re on the topic of my husband’s ignorant and hypocritical nature, as if having a serial killer prancing through the cornfields doesn’t call for being a little drastic! Oblivious to my judgment, he continues, “I don’t want mass hysteria.”

I raise an eyebrow but stifle my next comment, knowing that there will be no changing his mind. If I want my children to be safe, I’ll have to take them out of here myself. Secretly.

Sighing, I accept, “All right, then. What’s the second thing?”

“The second ‘thing’ is actually a person,” he tells me, something like a sneer forming on his lips. “Without evidence, there’s no way to put her in jail, but coincidences don’t lie. She was dating the baker, having some sort of an affair with the high school student, and her mother was friends with Eloise…as well as with you.”

I start at the prospect of being linked to the murderer, but as I settle back into the stool, a pit forms in my stomach, hardening into a nervous ball that assures me that there is something horribly wrong with Warwick’s assumption.

“Not Ophelia.”

Yes Ophelia,” he contradicts, still smirking. I feel like slapping his overly talkative mouth right off his face. “The sheriff’s own daughter just dug her own grave.”

Azalea, Part Five

A small cut. Minor burns. Two hours spent waiting for the doctor to appease the hordes of angry peasants (or, rather, scared victims of a freak fireworks accident) before we can get our three stitches and skin treatment and be on our merry way.

Elizabeth, always such a brave little trooper, sits patiently as her slender little arm is sewn back up with a needle that probably would have made me sick with anxiety.

“I wish it had happened on my forehead,” she tells me on the drive home.

I furrow my brow at her in the rearview mirror. “Why, honey? Wouldn’t that have hurt more?”

“Maybe,” she admits, “but then I’d look like Harry Potter.”

I giggle. How cute is that? The things kids say.

After a brief pause, I giggle a little more.

And more. And more. Until suddenly I’m laughing so hard that I have to press my chest against the steering wheel to keep it steady because my hands are shaking with each gasp that racks my body. Elizabeth smiles tentatively before joining in, not realizing what is so hysterical but wanting more than anything to join in. I really don’t know why I’m laughing. There’s probably something wrong with me. Maybe I sprained my frontal lobe while I was banging my head against the tile last night.

In any case, I guess that after crying so much I need to laugh a while to balance everything out. The sun might start rising at one p.m. and the teenagers at dawn if I don’t get my universe back in order.

I find it amazing that I can be so free-spirited when I spent the last two days of my life choking on melancholy over Eloise’s death, but as I lead my little witch—who is, in fact, waiting for her letter from Hogwarts to arrive in four years and preparing by impersonating Hermione for Halloween—into the house and lock the door and set the alarm behind me, I feel like things are at least slightly closer to being back to normal.

Normal, of course, does not apply to my son curled up on the living room couch rather than gluing his eyes to Mario Kart in the basement, nor does it aptly describe my eldest daughter without a phone in her hand to text her friends about how unfair it is that her mother isn’t letting her out of the house this week.

My face falling instantly, I put a gentle grip on Elizabeth’s uninjured arm and ask, voice wavering, “What’ s going on?”

“There’s been another murder,” Hannah announces tearfully. On second thought, maybe she won’t be so eager to go into town after all.

Caleb frowns at the floor. “He went to our school.”

I feel my shoulders slump limply at my sides, losing the fight against gravity, and when I glance down to assure myself that Elizabeth is still alive and well beside my hip, I’m surprised to find them still stuck in their sockets.

A teenager this time. A child. A boy who never had the chance to graduate from high school, fall in love, get married, raise a family of his own—a boy who never truly lived. The thought of it nearly breaks my heart, but to my incredible guilt, I feel only relief that my own kids are safe and sound, right here in this room.

No sooner do I slide into the cushions between Hannah and Caleb than the garage door soars open, propelled into the wall with the force of forty jet engines. This means, of course, that the Ares himself has arrived on the premises.

Warwick stomps into the room in a huff, takes one look at our pity party on the couch, and exits in even more of a huff.

Caleb raises an eyebrow at me, and Hannah sighs heavily.

“All right, I’ve got it.”

The rubber band connecting me to my children is stretched almost to its breaking point as I follow my husband into his study, where, somehow, he has already managed to pop open a bottle of expensive scotch.

“This whole town’s going to Hell,” he growls without even turning to look at me.

Scrunching my nose at the stuffy aroma of alcohol, I propose, “Maybe we should go away for a while. At least, until they catch…whoever’s doing this. Whoever is awful enough to…to…”

“Are you crazy?” he snaps. I bight sharply into my cheek to remind myself that this is not the time to get soppy, not when he’s in a mood. “I’m the one keeping this inferno together! Without me, everyone’d be doomed! Doomed, hear me? I can’t go out of town now, not in this crisis. I’d never get elected as senator, governor—even reelected as mayor—acting like a burrowing rabbit!”

Clenching my fists, I argue, “Then let me go! I’ll take the kids to New York. We can stay with my sister.”

“Oh, your sister! Now that’s a great idea,” he snorts.

“Don’t you start with that! There is absolutely nothing wrong with my sister. Just because she’s going through a divorce—”

“She never could keep a relationship going for more than a month.”

“That’s not true, and even if it were, it’s certainly no business of yours.” I’m so livid that crimson smoke is billowing out my ears like I’m Mount Etna, and as I ride out the door on my chariot of lava, I threaten, “Maybe I should follow her lead.”

Seconds before the door closes, he finishes the conversation with a low hiss, if only to get the last word. “We’re not leaving Wildewood.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Azalea, Part Four

My first post in weeks--I've been lazy, stockpiling all of these on my computer and forgetting to put them up...

The sounds of the party echo across the empty cornfield separating our backyard from Farmer Harris’s slanting barn, whose humped shape looks as if it’s bowing down to the stars above as I squint at it through Warwick and my bedroom window. Next to it, the night’s festivities seem like a little society of ants, with their candied crumbs and miniature wooden crafts intermingled with incongruent dancing—some humiliatingly out-of-date, some stolen straight from MTV, and some that can’t be classified as anything under the sun. That, my friends, is the world-famous Wildewood Fall Festival.

Okay, not really. But from the way people flock to the revelry like kindergartners to cupcakes, you would certainly think there was something more to the thing than a small-town get-together.

Despite my sarcasm, I’ve never actually skipped the celebration before tonight. When you live in a place like this, anything out of the ordinary seems like New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Eloise used to get all dressed up for it—more dressed up than usual, I mean. The first time I ever talked to her, she was twenty-something years old, lingering next to a tub of tooth-marked apples, garbed in a strawberry gown that was so tastelessly out of place that I couldn’t help but start up a conversation with her. She already bought this year’s masterpiece: a new autumn dress, brown ankle-boots, lacy gloves, and gold earrings that brushed the tops of her shoulders. She had been so excited for it to arrive in the mail that she had stayed perched in her bay window from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon last Monday until the postman finally moseyed up to her door with a box as wide as he is tall. The whole ensemble’s probably collecting dust in her closet right n—

KShboom! Pewpewkaroom!

The sound of gunshots drives me out of bed and onto the chilly floor, where I huddle in a heap of spilled sheets until I realize that the supposed bullets are actually fireworks. They usually save some from the 4th of July to use for the Fall Festival.

Rolling my eyes at my own jumpiness, I tug myself back onto the mattress to watch the remainder of the undoubtedly short show. My eyes find the window again, only to find that the fire is on the wrong side of the horizon.

No sooner are my feet back on the ground than the screams begin, and chaos fills the scene as everyone tries to escape the flames by swerving in different directions, causing collisions left and right. Was that Elizabeth’s voice? Hannah’s? Caleb’s? Are my children in that disaster?

Wearing only a pair of pajama pants and a thin camisole, I dive through the bedroom door and down the wide stairway, which seems to take an eternity when I’m imagining how quickly a blaze can spread across a dry field. I stumble a bit in the lightless void that comprises kitchen, but I’m able to make it all the way to the garage before I realize that I don’t have my car keys.

Keys…keys…what the heck did I do with those demonic little gremlins?! There are a thousand and one places I could look, but I have neither the time nor the patience to play hide-and-go-seek tonight, so I grab the only pair of shoes within eyesight—I never thought I’d actually thank God that my son leaves his sneakers loafing about the house—and dart into the crisp night air.

A plus of forcing myself onto the treadmill every day: I’m in pretty good shape when it comes to running. Add that to a sudden burst of maternal adrenaline and you have yourself a golden tri-athlete with the motivation of a distressed hippopotamus. By the time I’ve hacked my way around the cornfield to the inferno, though, my sockless feet are wailing with anguish over a new generation of cherry-colored blisters. I allow myself a moment to catch my breath only because it is obvious with one look that the situation here is not as bad as my overactive imagination believed. The misdirected fireworks haven’t caused too much damage, as most of the fire has either been put out or is currently holding on to its last breath. The worst of the trouble is occurring in the crowd, full of panicking people acting as if the apocalypse is upon us. With the heels of my hands pressing heavily into my knees while I soothe my irritated lungs, I squint into the darkness to spot my kids. Is that them? No, those are the people who live in the green house… Wait, there th—no, that’s not Hannah. This is impossible.


My spine snaps to attention reflexively at the sound of Caleb’s voice, uncharacteristically nervous. That’s not to say that he doesn’t immediately shake me off when I yank him into my arms, but I consider this normal for a thirteen-year-old boy.

“Mom, what are you doing here?” he questions in astonishment.

“I’m here to make sure I still have a family,” I mumble. “Where’re your sisters?”

Ignoring my question, he sighs, “That’s ridiculous. You’re overreacting.”

“And they aren’t?” I reply, raising my eyebrow as I gesture towards the bumbling population of Wildewood.

“You have a point.”


This time, the voice calling me belongs to my youngest daughter, Elizabeth. Expecting a hug from my six-year-old, I’m completely thrown off guard by the sight of blood.

“Elizabeth!” I screech, not caring enough that I just exhausted my running ability to stop from shooting to where she sits shivering on the ground, her left arm limp at her side.

“She’s all right,” Warwick assures me. I didn’t even notice him standing there. Right next to Jezebel, of course.

“All right?!” I yell. All right?! She’s bleeding through her coat! How can you possibly say she’s all right?”

Grimacing, he retorts, “It’s a scratch—it’s not deep at all. The thing just grazed her, and it was one of the tiny ones. The same thing happened to a lot of people. Someone screwed up the fireworks this year.”

Probably trying to be helpful, Jezebel adds, “All she needs is some Neosporin and a Band-Aid—”

“She needs to get it washed, cleaned, patched up, and possibly stitched,” I growl furiously, picking my crying daughter off of her straw seat. “And I’ll need to talk to the doctor to see if she should be getting a Tetanus shot, too, because who knows what they put in explosives? So, no, I don’t think Neosporin and a Band-Aid are going to be much help.”

I spin around, my hair shooting poison-tipped arrows at them as it whips behind my head. I take two steps before I realize that I’m going to have to walk all the way back to the house, so I swallow my pride and turn around yet again, ordering, “Drive me home.” Warwick glances at Jezebel, then opens his mouth to say something. Now.”

Nodding in awe of my startling tone, which would undoubtedly put even Hades to shame, he follows me to the car like a scolded dog with its tail tucked between its legs. Caleb and Hannah pile into the back, and my husband pulls out into the street without saying goodbye to Jezebel.

No one is brave enough to utter a word during the short drive home.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pastor John Hart

Our Heavenly Father, kind and good,

We thank Thee for our daily food. 

We thank Thee for Thy love and care.

Be with us Lord, and hear our prayer.


The grace done I unfold my hands and dig into the beef casserole.

“This is mighty good casserole, Maria,” I say to the empty chair to my right, “I must thank Millie when I bring her back her dish. You remember Millie don’t you? The two of you used to chat up a storm.”

My daughter, Nellie, worries that I still talk to her mother. Honestly, it just wouldn’t be natural for a man not to talk to his own wife. Just because Maria’s been in heaven for several years now, doesn’t make a difference.

“Papa, you know Mama isn’t there, don’t you?” She will say.

“Don’t you worry none about me pumpkin,” I tell her, “they’ve got good hearing in heaven. She can hear me just fine.”

Then she looks at me all concerned and pats me on the arm. Good grief. Why must she make a habit of worrying over me? Nellie keeps going on about some old-folks home, Sunny Meadows, Sunny Fields, or something like that. I’m not an old folk; I’m only sixty-nine. No need to be hasty. Besides I don’t know what I would do without my sermons.

“I’ve finished my sermon for Sunday. It’s a bit of a comfort piece. There have been terrible happenings in town. Murder. Can you imagine that? In our little town it just doesn’t seem possible. I must admit Maria, I feel shaky at the thought. Just a few days ago, Finn, from the bakery, remember him? He was killed. I won’t tell you how; it was terrible. The poor boy, he didn’t deserve it. Remember the strawberry scones he made? Do you remember how we used to have them on Sunday mornings? I’ve still been having one every Sunday. This is going to be the first Sunday that I’ve gone without one. It’s not a very important thing really, but it makes my old heart ache. The only thing a person can do is trust in God. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. All this death makes me sad though. People shouldn’t die so young.”

I finished eating, piled the silverware and my empty milk glass on top of the plate, and carried it to the sink. I turned on the faucet and scrubbed at the plate with a sponge. Maria’s mother gave us the sponge; Maria was so pleased with it because it was a good, long-lasting sort from Europe. I thought it was a ridiculous amount of excitement over a sponge. Both women are in heaven now, but their sponge lives on. It's funny how such unimportant things can hold so much significance. Like Finn’s strawberry scones. I sigh as I put the dried items into their proper places.

“Honestly, Maria, what is the world coming to?”

The doorbell rings, must be Millie come to get her dish back. She shouldn’t be wandering around this late, not with a killer roaming our streets.

I open the door.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?
(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Maria, darling, I believe I have met the devil.


Bible quote found at:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Norman, Part 3

When I woke up, sweating, shards of morning light sliced through a crack in the window shade. I knew where I was, in my room, with my clothes draped over an armchair and my grandmother’s old oak wardrobe towering against the opposite wall. Yet in my mind I was in the woods outside of town, and it was dark. The creek water rushed over the stones, and I was running, stumbling through the underbrush, my breathing harsh. Thorny vines grabbed at my legs, and tree branches slashed at my face. A shrill voice, a high keening cry, filled the air around me. Was it me, or did it come from back there?

I ran harder, tears running down my face. I couldn’t think about it, wouldn’t think about it, but the image followed me. Edmund Carlton, bent over a pool in the stream, completely soaked, reaching into the water. He was grabbing for something underwater, and then he got it, and pulled. It was heavy, and the water ran down off his head, but he kept pulling, and then I could see what it was—I didn’t want to think about it, but there it was, the sodden body of a dog. Edmund’s dog. The one he’d gotten for Christmas, and which every fourth grade boy had been jealous of, because of the television show. We’d all wanted a collie, but only Edmund got one.

He would walk that dog around town, and wouldn’t answer whenever one of us greeted him. “Don’t bother me, I’m training Maisie,” he’d say, and I’d just stand there and watch him go.

And now she was dead. Drowned. And Edmund had done it.

I knew that fact with as much certainly now, forty years later, as I had that day, running through the woods, but why was I dreaming about now? I hadn’t thought of that dog in years. The last time was when Maggie had wanted a dog, and the one she’d liked the best from the pound was a collie, and I’d said, “No, anything but a collie.”

“But Daddy!” she’d insisted, pulling on my arm, “She’s the best dog. She’s so sweet.”

But I hadn’t given in. We’d gotten a beagle instead, a short round little dog that was too stupid to even learn to sit and stay properly. We named her Dumpling, and Maggie loved her just fine.

Edmund had left town shortly afterwards. I didn’t know exactly why, but when I’d gotten home that day, and my parents had seen what state I was in, they insisted that I tell them what happened. I had, and my father had left the house, a grim look on his face.

The next day at school all the boys were talking. My father had gone over to the Carlton’s, and there had been other dead animals. A cat in the ditch beside their driveway. Another dog, a German shepherd, in the field behind their barn, seven chickens in the chicken-yard, and even a goat with its head crushed in the rocky ravine across the pasture. And they said that Edmund had done it. I could believe it, having seen him pulling that dog out of the water, his dark hair plastered on his pale forehead, and his brown eyes completely dead-looking.

He didn’t come to school. His dad didn’t go to work, and his mom didn’t go into town to do her shopping. There was talk of doctors, and the state institution, and then the Carlton’s were gone. Their farm was put up for sale, but nobody bought it. It was still up for sale fifteen years later when Sarah and I were looking for a place to buy. She’d liked the looks of it from the road, but I said “no,” just like with the dog later. That was just as well, because as soon as Maggie was born, and Sarah decided she couldn’t stand small town life after all, and left, at the urging of her ridiculous, air-headed friend Eloise, who wanted to leave herself more than anything, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with a farm. My little house in town was better. Maggie and I had been happy there. I still sometimes think I hear the sound of her voice ringing from the other room. I know I still hear the click of Dumpling’s toenails on the floor, even though she’s been gone almost as long as Maggie.

I sighed, heavy with memory, and my dream, and asked myself again: why now? What good could it possibly do to dredge up the past? I was better off focusing only on the now. Doing my job, fixing myself meals, watching television, planting my garden in the back yard. I had no need for other people, and certainly not for people who were long-gone. They’d do me no good now.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Madelina Part 3

For the first time in, well, ever, I was actually a little excited for this year’s fall festival.
            That is, as excited as I could ever get over a “fun” social gathering with smiling people and their smiling faces, lips taut with an expression I hated.
            Not to say I was antisocial. Of course not. I had friends. Friends who were practically born in black clothes (seeing as they wore nothing else) and scary makeup. Friends who still referred to me as “You There” or “Mean Girl.” Friends who also most likely wouldn’t be caught dead at the fall festival unless they had hatched an elaborate plan to blow it up.
            The reason for me being so excited for it? Honestly? The recent murder had freaked me out. For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I still didn’t even know the woman’s name, and yet it would not release its sharp grasp on my mind. Murders didn’t occur here. Ever. This was a quiet, some may say quaint even, little town. But the fall festival would take all that away. I could people-watch. That was always fun. In my head I could easily make some crude remark or joke about what they were wearing, how they looked, et cetera. And if they stared at me for more than five seconds (trust me, I counted) I would sometimes say it out loud. It was a very fun game and the fall festival was crawling with people just begging to be slapped into their proper place.
            My first target would be whichever moron came up with the fall festival in the first place.
            So that’s how I found myself standing alone amidst a crowd of people, wondering what to do with myself. Dad had a surgery, like always, and Mom…well, I wasn’t quite sure where Mom was nowadays.
            I noticed there was something weird about the bonfire, something…unusual. It had only been lit moments before and the wooden scupture that was burning away was not revealing what I expected—what everyone here expected.
            As I was in the middle of pondering this, I suddenly noticed a bright spark fly off in the direction of some people near me. I quickly jumped away but there were more now, fireworks all shooting out of the bonfire and at the people! Suddenly there were screams all around me, everywhere, and I didn’t know where to go. People were running away and a few were pointing at the bonfire with horrified expressions. I looked at it, still keeping my distance as more sparks flew out. I then realized why it had looked odd.
            There was a cow. No, correction, there was a cow in the bonfire. Being revealed by the burning wood as it burned too, a charred, morbid creature.
            My eyes widened in horror and I ran, ignoring the sparks that flew past me and the screams and the people. I ran as far away as I could and didn’t dare stop.

Madelina Part 2

It wasn’t until I was walking home that day that things finally got a little interesting. Instead of thirty minutes late, I now held a new personal record for forty minutes. That had earned me a good hour of detention in the principal’s office. I knew that place well.
            The streets were mostly empty as I walked. Rush hour would soon come, but for now there was no one around. My usual route I took was the longest and wound around some small businesses in the area, one of which was the hair salan.
            That’s when my life suddenly became interesting. Passing the hair salan, I mean.
            First I thought it was a party. There were lots of people and noise and colorful lights. And then I realized the lights were police cars.
            I paused on the street, staring dumbly into the building. Something was definitely wrong. There was lots of commotion and shouts but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. The noise was indecipherable.
            Becoming bored with the lack of an understanding at all this, I finally walked on and ignored it. What happened, did someone’s hair dryer blow up? Maybe there was a shortage on colorants for a woman’s fiftieth hair dye job.
            I didn’t think about the scene for the rest of that day, although I certainly should have. Nothing interesting ever happened in this town. And certainly nothing I had the pleasure of witnessing. In fact, it wasn’t until Dad came home from work that I found out what was going on.
            “Did you hear about the accident at the hair salan?” he asked, pouring himself a cup of coffee. Dad loved to drink coffee at night. Especially when he was on call. It meant getting out of bed at 1 a.m. would be easier.
            “What accident?” I decided to play stupid and not add in any negligent details at what I saw.
            “Apparently someone was murdered. I suppose accident was the wrong word.”
            My head spun. A murder? Murders didn’t occur here. They just didn’t. This really was big.
            “Murder?” I repeated, as if the word confused me.
            Dad nodded, taking a sip of coffee. “Some woman was killed by one of the employees. Drowned I guess.”
             How was one drowned in a hair salan? Who was the woman? Unfortunately Dad didn’t provide any answers to these unspoken questions. I was surprised he knew about this, actually. Normally he was stuck in his own little medical world.
            “The police are doing an investigation now,” he added.

Madelina Part 1

Why was the sun up? Didn’t it know it wasn’t supposed to rise until at least 9:00? (And on some days p.m. would be preferable.) Not even having the strength to moan like I sometimes did in the morning, I simply rolled over and pressed my face into the pillow.
            Fridays. Most people loved them. I wasn’t most people. Then again, most people were positive. I mean, Friday, right? Isn’t that supposed to be the best day of the week? No. It wasn’t. In my mind, it might as well have been Monday. No matter which of those awful five days it was, it still meant that there was school.
            And I hated school.
            Well, I knew Mom wasn’t coming to wake me up. For all I knew she was still out at the bar. Thursday nights were big. And Dad would already be at the hospital, performing his unfortunate (yet vital for the survival of our family) career of being a surgeon. Whatever. So far my future was laid out as such: buying a cheap house somewhere on the edge of town with the minimum wage I would make at Walmart. Daddy would be disappointed.
            Too bad.
            I rolled back over and checked the clock. Great, I was already late. Oh, well, what else was knew? I’d show up at school a good thirty minutes late because I’d take my sweet time getting there and then I’d get a detention.
            I swear I was a record-holder for those.
            Finally I forced myself out of bed. Another Friday. Another uneventful day.