38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl): Chapter Twelve
Author’s Note: This is Part 12 of a series of posts serializing my novella 38 Years Old (Never Kissed a Girl). For more information on the origins of this novella, including all disclaimers, and a complete chapter list, please see the announcement regarding this series.
During the trial, there had been the occasional reporter by our place, either taking pictures, filming a news-spot for the six o’clock, or interviewing neighbors and friends. It had been a pretty tight community before the incident, but months of strangers nosing around had worn thin on a lot of folk, and they were glad when things got back to normal.
Still, things were never quite the same after that. Most folks in this burb were company folks, and back in the day, that meant you were born in the neighborhood, you lived in the neighborhood, you worked in the neighborhood, you retired in the neighborhood, and you died in the neighborhood. Because of the trial, our family was a little different. The kids scattered. We didn’t even try to find places close by. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but after the incident, it was like… like we weren’t welcome. There was always that feeling that people were talking behind our backs, pointing us out to people who didn’t know better. There they are, those are the folks with the killer in the family. Some folks watched the house all the time, waiting for the next thing to go wrong. Others couldn’t look at us, or the house at all. They looked at the other side of the street, or at their shoes as they passed by.
For most of the last eighteen years, it had been pretty quiet. But by the time I was out of the shower and dressed that morning, a brigade of reporters stood on our sidewalk filming spots for the news. Neighbors not familiar with how vicious the press could be, gawked from their porches. Those with experience kept their curtains closed, the doors locked, and the lights off.
Mom had already closed our curtains, the thick corduroy material blocking out the glare from the dozen spotlights positioned by our sidewalk. She resumed her station at the kitchen table, staring at the clock on the wall, and gave me a brief, disinterested look as I put on my watch and grabbed my keys off the counter.
“Where you going?” Pop sat on the end of our old kiwi-green couch. The prickly upholstery was murder on the back if you slept there for any length of time.
“Can’t stay here. I’m heading over to Davey’s.”
Pop nodded. He understood. I don’t think he wanted to be stuck in the house with Mom either at that point, but he didn’t have a choice.
I ducked out the back door, away from the crowds out front, hopped two wooden fences, and crossed to the other side of the block. I’d done that a million times over the years. Davey lived a ten-minute walk away. I usually drove in those days, but there was no way I was going to try to get my truck out from the school of piranha guarding the front door—not with blood in the water. They wouldn’t be getting their story from me.
Davey was barely out of bed when I got there, sporting an epic hangover. He sipped his first cup of coffee and hauled on his second smoke as he let me in. He hadn’t showered yet. He lived alone in a run-down, one-bedroom apartment, in a two story building that might have been a no-tell motel at one time. We had often talked about getting a place together, but I could never commit. Davey was a slob, and I was used to Mom picking everything up after me. I didn’t think I could go from perfect order to anarchy like that. My only hope was to find a good woman, who could do my cooking and cleaning, and marry her quick, before the whole woman’s lib thing got too out of hand. I guess I ended up doing okay there, but that’s another story.
Davey hadn’t turned on the radio or TV yet, so when I showed up and told him the news, he had to see for himself. He turned the radio on, and set the TV to the local CBC station. They were showing a cowboy and Indian flick, ‘Fort Apache’, which was a hell of a lot better to watch than the news, but Davey kept the radio up and the TV down so he could hear about the escape. I watched the movie, and smoked another Players. I wasn’t a particularly heavy smoker, but I was on a hefty pace that day. If I kept this pace up, I was going to have to send Davey for more smokes by noon.
Finally, the radio gave their update. Nothing new. There were no reports of the missing convicts, and no more news on the breakout. Cops across the province were now on the lookout. Even the US cops across the river were notified. The river was big, but it wouldn’t be that hard to steal a boat and get across. Hell, we did it more than once in high school, just to see if the American girls were as good looking and easy as everyone said. They were, and they weren’t.
“So where do you think he is?” Davey asked after the report finished and he had turned off the radio.
“I dunno. North maybe? Toronto, maybe?”
“If I was him, I’d head west. Lots of room out west to get lost.”
“Sure, but you have to get there first.”
“Yeah. But it ain’t rocket science to boost a car. Mikey was always pretty good with engines.”
“Yeah.” I hadn’t actually thought that Mikey would run somewhere. I still couldn’t believe that he jumped. Sure he had seven years left, but there was always a chance for parole, every year. A few more years of good behavior and he might have gotten out early. Now, he’d be lucky if he didn’t get a few more years tacked on.
I turned my attention back to the movie, and turned up the volume on the TV. Davey munched on a bowl of Fruit Loops. I couldn’t watch him eat. The bile in my stomach rose and fell with every breath. I smothered my half-burned smoke, licked my teeth, and wanted a Rolaids. But I knew Davey wouldn’t have anything like that. I sat and ignored the burn.