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Tales From The Oddside(5)

By:Al Bruno III


<I>Did they… escape? </I>Scrambling out of thegrave Brett looked all around the open Great Aunt Jill’s finalresting place for the scrap of cloth.<I>Nothing.Nothing at all. </I>Hethought, <I>Arethey back at the car? Did I leave them home? What am I going to do? </I>Then Brett realized andhe started tearing at himself, the crack of thunder swallowing hischoking cries.*</ol>


The next morning thecemetery caretaker ran into his office and dialed 911, “I need thepolice down at Morningside Cemetery. Someone dug up one of the gravesand there’s this young man lying dead just a few feet away. Yeshe’s dead. I know a dead man when I see one but you wouldn’tbelieve what he’s wearing…”TALES FROM THEODDSIDEIn Memory AlonebyAl Bruno III</ol>


<I>For Amanda Palmer</I>…“<I>Areyou just going to sulk or do you want to dance?” She stood beforehim with her hand outstretched and no pity in her eyes.</I><I>No one else at thehomecoming dance even noticed them as they made their way out ontothe floor, half giggling half blushing.</I><I>Not that anyonewould have cared anyway…</I>*It was a modest sizedballroom in a medium sized hotel. Middle aged people dressed in crispclothes wandered through the tables, all hugs, smiles and handshakes.The open bar was seeing a lot of action, the buffet not so much. Itwas the 25th high school reunion    and everyone was giggling over howmuch everyone had changed; who got fat, who got thin, who got richand who got weird. Randy Carter stood near the back of the room,watching it all, hoping someone would notice him but unable to makethe first move.</ol>


It was like old timesagain.*<I>When the dance wasover Randy told her he didn't know what to say, she jut kissed him onthe cheek and told him to stay out of trouble. </I>*Randy knew he was afool to think she would ever be here, but he had to take the chance,he so wanted to see her again. He watched David Reed strutting aroundwith his hair plugs and trophy bride and there was Terri Smith in adress that was three inches too short and two sizes too small. TheVice Principal Mr. Martinoli was there, almost 80 years old but stillrecognizable, Randy was sure for a moment the old man had noticed himbut it was just that he had been lingering near the rest rooms.*</ol>


<I>Everyone said shewas a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, that she was headed fora bad end but ever since that dance Randy had been in love with JoyceMaynard.</I><I>She never woremakeup and she never wore dresses, even at the homecoming dance shehad been wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Sure all the other boysappreciated the sight of her curves but none of them dared go near-she might be a junior but she dated college guys. All the other girlssaid so. </I>*All these faces, somefamiliar some rendered unrecognizable by years or botox; Randy feltnothing at the sight of them. He just watched as his formerclassmates as they were overwhelmed with nostalgia or longing. Didany of them even remember him? Was he even a subject of conversation?There was a half- abandoned drink on a nearby table, Randy had half amind to grab it and fling it into the 'Welcome Alumni' banner.What would they have tosay about Randy Carter then?</ol>


*<I>She didn't forgethim after that night, when she passed him in the hall she wasn'tafraid to make eye contact and flash him a little smile. On days thathappened Randy was walking on air for the rest of the day.</I><I>As the seasonsrolled on Joyce would disappear for weeks at a time, once or twicefor suspensions and then there was the week she was hospitalized.What was she hospitalized for? Depending on which rumor you believedit was either a drug overdose or an abortion but the last time Randysaw her he would learn the real story. </I>*When the buffet closedthe began to play all the songs from the old days, people began tofilter on to the dance floor; old flames sharing slow dances whiletheir spouses waited on the sidelines. It wasn't even midnight yetbut many of the Alumni were drunk and maudlin rehashing the same oldstories again and again. Randy wished he could have joined in withthem but what kind of stories would he have to share? He had spent somuch of his time with his nose pressed in a book in anticipation ofcollege, then in college in anticipation of his career. He madepartner at his law firm when he was in his twenties, he was divorcedby the time he was thirty-five and then along came a heart attack atforty one, in truth he had expected that as well, but not quite sosoon.</ol>


And through it all heheld on to those memories of Joyce, the only thing in his life thathad ever been unexpected.*<I>Even at seventeen hehad a paper route; he was always industrious like that, always savinghis money for law school in case his plans for a scholarship fellthrough. This had been his route for years but he never knew shelived on it, not until that frosty March morning. She was just cominghome when she noticed him riding past on his bike, she called himover and they talked for a while about this last semester of highschool. Joyce would be 18 this summer and she told him shouldcouldn't wait to move on, she wasn't even going to bother withgraduation ceremonies. She told him once she took her last exam shewouldn't be caught dead in that damn school.</I><I>It got colder andshe invited him in for breakfast – there was no sign of her parentsand all she had to offer him was soda and pop tarts. How could herefuse?</I><I>Conversation wentround and round until he mentioned her most recent absence fromschool, he knew the rumors but he was curious to know the truth.</I></ol>


<I>So she told him- ithad been an appendectomy, then laughingly she had stood up shown himher scar. She dared him touch it, and he did.</I><I>Then in a moment ofmadness he kissed her.</I><I>And she kissed himback.</I><I>Before he knew itthey were in her bed pulling at each others clothes. He was soexcited and terrified, he even told her he didn’t know what to doso she showed him, guided him. They moved slowly cherishing everymoment.</I><I>They both knew intheir heart of hearts this would never happen again. </I>*By 2 AM and the partyhad broken up and from the way some of his former classmates wereacting Randy wouldn't be surprised if a few marriages might havegotten broken up as well. Randy was still there feeling disappointedand bitter, feeling like he'd wasted his time and effort to be here.</ol>


And it hadn't been easyto get away from home to be here, it had been more than a strugglebut he had been determined.All this effort fornothing but it had been worth the chance hadn't it?He paused at thebulletin board that showed pictures of all the people that couldn’tbe there, or didn’t care to be. Beside that were the pictures ofthe faces that could never be there.One picture was amelancholy tribute to Joyce Maynard; mentioning how she had diedyoung but not that she had died of a drug overdose weeks aftergraduation.And beside that wasRandy Carter dead of a heart attack at 42. He wondered to himselfwhere they had gotten the picture of him from and how death could beso lonely, how he had even gone unnoticed by eternity itself.Suddenly there was avoice behind him, “Are you just going to sulk or do you want todance?”</ol>


*<I>She stood before himwith her hand outstretched and no pity in her eyes.</I><I>There was no onethere to notice them as they made their way out onto the floor, halfgiggling half blushing.</I><I>Not that anyonewould have seen anything anyway…</I>TALES FROM THEODDSIDEThe Same Deep WatersAs You


Al Bruno IIIThe sound of the oceancrashing up on the rocks. If I close my eyes it sounds like applause.The storm has left the beach is deserted, but she said she'd be here.She promised.We only got here a fewdays ago, me, my Mom and Dad and my brother Leon, who's a year and ahalf older than me. The car ride to Cape Cod had been long andeveryone was in a bad mood. Leon especially, he started ragging onme, waving his scholarship in my nose. Like I'd want to go thatfeakin' jock factory anyway. It went on for hours and hours and justlike Dr. Patterson said I didn't answer him back. I just agreed andtried to change the subject but I lost my temper and started to giveit back. All it takes to piss Leon off is to mention those threemagic letters D-W-I.Mom of course chosethat moment to break us up.</ol>


After about half a dayin the car we reached the cabin. Ordinarily Dad celebrated his son'svictories by trips down to Lake George, so-called fishing trips thatwere actually excuses for drinking and whoring.But since his belovedall-star was heading off to college in the fall he rented a cabinnear the bay side of the cape and the whole family was going alongfor the trip. No matter how much I'd tried to weasel out of it, Momand Dad still made me go. No way they were leaving their sweet littledarling daughter alone to get into god-knows what kind of trouble.He'd rented the cabinsight-unseen. I remember how proud he was about that, sight-unseen,he actually thought he was getting a deal.Of course when we gotthere he understood. The place was a wreck, it looked like the kindof place the killer from the Friday the 13th movies would go. And theinside smelled like mildew and cat pee. Mom suggested we go find ahotel room, Dad of course would have none of it-"This is alreadypaid for! It's a roof over our heads isn't it? It's not so bad,besides after you girls clean it up a little-""Us girls?" Idropped my bags on the floor, "I thought we were here onvacation. Or is that just for you and your son?"</ol>