Authors: Susan Wingate
THIRTY NINE - Dodging the Dead
I stopped before we'd headed off too far. "Let's turn back and go that way."
"This way's faster."
When I stopped, he stopped.
My cheeks burned instantly at his apparent sarcasm. "No." I put both my hands onto my hips. "No. I don't." Looking him squarely in the face, "Okay!"
He looked down the road we were heading, then toward the
way. Then down the quicker route again. You could actually see a thin veil, like a Rani's, falling from over his eyes.
"Don't tell me. Susie Speider is afraid of the cemetery." Then he made a boo-ing noise and fluttered his hands around his face.
"Shut it!" My eyes burned hot. I got angry but an overpowering of sadness grabbed me by the throat.
Matt must've noticed because he apologized, right away. "Sorry." Then, stammered. "I'm, I'm... I didn't mean it."
"Forget it!" I squawked at him. And, clomped off toward the graveyard. My walking took on the tempo of frontline soldiers heading for battle.
Matt's quick steps behind me, beside me, then behind me again, indicated he was working to keep up with my pace. I just kept my head down, watching the sidewalk change from school property dull, to a black paved road, to the first gray neighborhood sidewalk, to another black road, then into the sidewalk that curved so prettily and ran along the front of the cemetery, past the entrance and then off a hundred feet or so past that. We had arrived.
Ronkonkoma Christian Cemetery--YOU CARRY 'EM WE BURY 'EM!
My marching slowed as I, once again, viewed the tiny crystal specks in the sidewalk distinctly glittering, not like the other sidewalks. These speckles glistened in amber and golden tones, in teal and violet, as if someone had dropped an enormous Murano vase (pronounced VOZZZZ) and it shattered into a trillion of the minutest bits of glass that someone happily showered over top of the cement just before allowing it to dry.
I hated that sidewalk.
How could someone want to make it look pretty. How could someone really think that the people who dumped the bodies of family members there, wanted
And, even though the pretty sparkling speckles shown bright under a high linty sky, I wanted whoever had built this place to die. Like my father, who laid in there, one turn to the left, then to the right, then left again and eighteen plots further against the high west wall that surrounded it.
I stopped at the entrance and faced it.
Matt shuffled up next to me.
I spit on the ground.
Then, Matt spit too.
"What are you doing?" I'd had just about enough of him for one day.
"No. Duh. Why?"
"Because you did."
Okay. This conversation had already run its course. I turned toward home and marched off again.
"Hey!" Matt called out to me, running up again to catch me. His steps joggled his words. "My mom's there too."
His words felt like a slingshot and I was the sling. I stopped at once. It all made sense, them moving across the street--close to his mom.
Then, we were shoulder to shoulder. "I can spit too if I want."
I wasn't about to look at him. If our eyes connected, something bad might happen. I turned though toward the cemetery once again. I built up as much saliva onto my tongue as possible. Matt, watching me, did the same 'cause he said, "Ready?"
"un, thoo, fwee, guh!"
And, then, we both spit on the ground, at the same time.
FORTY - Welcome to the Orphanage
The plows were out early this morning. I felt my stomach playing the marimba.
It started to snow, big corn flake-snow. By the time Matt and I made it to school there was already two inches of powder on the ground. Lucky for me I wore my cool Doc Martin look-alikes, ones good old mom brought me home from work as part of my new school clothes at the beginning of sophomore year, the ones with tire treads for soles. But, I wished I'd put on a heavier coat because the shivers started as soon as I heard the plows, somewhere around the corner.
Delilah jumped up onto my desk and then made this graceful little leap to the sill. We watched together as snow fell.
I scratched her head then chased my hand along her fur down her back and off the tip of her puffy calico tail.
"It's almost one year, Delilah."
She made an audible yow and arched her back understanding my words.
I wiped my nose with my sleeve. "Gotta go, pussy. I'll be home soon."
The snow fell like a ticker tape parade, making me blink my eyes uncontrollably. My book bag felt heavier than normal, waiting there, just outside Matt's house.
The scraping of his front door made me jump and turn. "Hey." He called to me.
"Hey." I shrunk my arms around my body but nothing could shake the overwhelming sensation growing in me of chills mixed with doom.
The sky looked like charcoal briquettes scudding across, rolling end-over-end, so heavy.
"Dad's still in bed."
"Mom's at work." Then the thought struck me. "Doesn't
ever go to work?"
"He's taking time off."
I made a humphawing sound. We turned hard to the left, toward the cemetery. I thought, Divert your eyes! Divert your eyes!
But, of course my head was made of iron and the cemetery? A moon-sized magnet.
"Why do they keep that place so perfect." My teeth chattered out. I dropped my head and pulled my jacket up around my neck for added protection.
"Come on, don't think about it." He looked over, I saw out the corner of my eye. "Just erase it from your thoughts." He turned his gaze toward the direction of the school.
We didn't say a word after that. We both, as our new custom dictated us, spit at the entrance. Of course.
But, really, all you could hear after that was the crunching of our feet over freshly fallen snow and the panting of our breath with each step, as each step formed a crystalline ghost in front of our faces.
FORTY ONE - Public Speaking
Even after we got inside Morlson's classroom, I couldn't stop the shaking. Just then,
Morlson and I caught eyes
Hers squinted. Mine snuck away.
A flash of something stuck in my memory, a plastic pumper bottle, but it didn't register, not then.
All I could think was that Morlson was Sodom & Gomorrah and I was Lot's wife. I could feel my skin drying out as I began turning into a pillar of salt.
I raced to my desk before the transformation could take hold.
Still, the shivers felt like tiny earthquakes inside my bones. All this, these chills, couldn't have been about dad. I mean. The anniversary of his death was approaching but that was still a couple of weeks away.
"Want my coat?" Matt started to take it off but I stopped him. How uncool would that be if people saw Matthew Ryder covering my shoulders with his coat. Gag me. I'd be like the laughing stock of Ronkonkoma High, and long after graduation.
"God. No. Zoid." My eyes flared open at him and I looked around hoping no one had seen. "Are you trying to ruin me?"
"Shh." I scolded him. "Sit down and hush. It feels like Morlson's on the attack again today. Did you see that look she shot me?"
"Yeah. Did." He slung his brown corduroy jacket over the back of his chair and sat. "She hates you, man."
"Today!" Her voice echoed against the back wall and it kind of hurt my ears. "We all get to present our science projects, of which I've graded your reports and have right here." She tapped a pencil on top of the stack of manila folders lying on her desk, next to her other arm. "Cinda, you go first."
Cinda pulled at her short blue and green plaid woolen skirt, then tugged at her blue tights. She pressed her short blond hair behind one ear and stood, posture perfect, hand holding her chartreuse eraser pen in the air, bending her elbow and swinging the pen as she walked. She turned to face the rest of us in the front of the classroom.
Morlson walked over to the wall, the window wall where she had lined up our science projects. It looked like something you might see at an aquarium convention. Then, she placed Cinda's project onto a wheeled cart and rolled it up next to her where she stood.
"There you are, dear."
"Ahem." Cinda cleared her throat. "I have observed, for my science project,
incubation period of an egg--
Pa-lease. As Cinda spoke, she pronounced every 'the' like thee and every 'a' like hay but without the 'h.' I blew an audible puff of air through my lips and looked over at Jamie, who rolled her eyes and made a stroking motion with her hand that looked like a boy who was masturbating. I snorted out a choked off laugh.
"Miss Speider! Quiet. You'll have your turn."
I lowered my head behind Jimmy, who sat directly in front of me.
By then, the chills had subsided but my hands felt like ice. I rubbed them hard which Morlson mistook for a villainous act.
"Miss Speider. I promise you. I will not abide by all of your interruptions."
"Sorry, Ms..." Oops. "Mrs. Morlson. It's just that..."
"Please. Let's let Cinda continue."
"Yes. Well. Um. Where was I."
Jamie yelled out. "You're incubating an egg."
A clutch of kids chortled.
Cinda's face went red.
Mrs. Morlson pounded her fist on the table.
Cinda proceeded. "Over
last couple of weeks," "I have been studying
incubation process of
which should take approximately 21 days to hatch.
air must be well-ventilated and
egg's environment must be warm, from 99F to 103F, and
egg must be turned
18th day." She swallowed. Her face flushed red. She pulled another scrap of perfectly straight blonde hair behind her other ear now. "Today is
17th day and so, I will refrain from turning
egg tomorrow." She sounded like a robot. "I will be excited to see this little chick emerge from its shell." Swallowing more. "It will pry its way out of
shell. And. Once it has pried its way out of
shell, it will need regular chicken feed and begin eating on its own. Oh. And, it will require water too."