Disappear Here. (Part one, Chapter Two: The Roach Motel)
Disappear Here. (Part one, Chapter Two: The Roach Motel)
The Roach Motel:Part One, Chapter Two0
Lewi Lewis (United States)
“Yeah … eighteen. That’ll be so cool. We can share an apartment together while I try out for college teams, that is if I’m not already in the MLB by then.” Nick’s voice was an airy longing.
Lewis and Ethan remain silent, pondering; their synchronized breathing, their chests inflating and deflating measuredly, steady.
Dusk is in full swing, the colors of night slowly spreading darker across the sky.
Ethan sits up, stretches. His blonde hair sticking out thinly this way and that, it’s almost transparent.
“I need to get home or my dad’ll kill me. I’d ask you guys over for supper, but he hasn’t been in a good mood the last few days.”
“Don’t worry,” Lewis says, also sitting up. “I’m not in the mood for a bowl of powdered milk anyway.” Nick lets out a snicker, a truncated squat explosion.
“It saves money, man.” Ethan comes back, matter-of-factly. “You trying have thirteen brothers and sisters. Not so bad when you get used to it. The powdered milk, not the brothers and sisters.”
Despite the constant attempts to get a rise out of Ethan, Lewis had never seen him truly upset. On the rare occasions that Ethan’s temper would flare, it would be gone. A sputtering flame that refused to catch.
Ethan is the smallest of the three: short and skinny. His affability in tune with his desire to find a click, to fit in; he let things slide with an easy grace that Lewis wondered about and admired. This trait would one day make Ethan immensely popular, but today, all it did was make him an easy target. But Ethan knew that the steady razing from Lewis was a sure sign of acceptance. Lewis didn’t make fun of those he didn’t care about; it is something he would continue, something that would grow more intense as he got older, Lewis, not Ethan. Nick seemed to take things more personally. He was fine to a point, but there was always a line that when crossed would make his eyes sting with tears, sending him into a solitary funk of Funions and video games, although never much more than a day or two. Lewis had learned to keep himself in check with Nick, to spread his humor out far enough so as not to drown him. Nothing was more embarrassing for Lewis than watching someone not be able to take a joke.
Nick and Lewis watch as Ethan’s little frame gets smaller and smaller as he walks away, toward home.
“My mom said you could come over for dinner if you want.” Nick says, standing up, extending a hand to Lewis. “Spaghetti, not powdered milk.”
Lewis grabs the offered hand, pulls himself up.
“Probably shouldn’t tonight. I think my mom’s making dinner for a new boyfriend or something.”
Lewis laughs – ha – once. “I’ll walk home with you, though. Don’t want to go home quite yet.”
As the two start walking toward Nick’s home, the pale darkness of dusk hangs like a diaphanous veil, shadows beginning to merge into a singular ink spot.
The schoolyard is connected to the neighborhood via a chained pathway, cutting between three houses on either side. It is lined with bushes and spindly trees, so overgrown it looks like a hallway of greenery. It is known as ‘the cat-walk’, although neither Nick nor Lewis knows why. Even during a still night, shadows seem to move and shift randomly. Bushes could shudder, suddenly shaking violently and then just as suddenly, freeze. It is a walkway of fright that has a way of igniting imagination, especially for an eleven-year-old; especially when alone. But it isn’t so bad, Lewis thinks as he walks shoulder to shoulder with his friend, when there're two of us.
It will be the last time that Lewis ever walks through the catwalk, alone or not.
Lewis tosses the nerf football they had used to play Flys-up to himself, a spiral up and down, catching it each time, as they walk.
They are chatting away: the idle back and forth of two young kids. Even though he will try, later this night and the years to come, Lewis won’t be able to recall a single detail of the conversation. It will become a de ja vu abyss into which reality and dream are both thrown, a mix of fiction and non-fiction indistinguishable from the other, blending together in a sort of waking dream.
As they exit the catwalk, Lewis throws the ball high into the air, never taking his eye off it, and catches it soundlessly between two soft hands. “Far’s I’m going tonight. See you tomorrow,” he says, turning in the opposite direction from Nick, who continues to walk toward home, his back turned from Lewis.
“Hey,” Lewis yells, cocking his arm, “go long!” And releases the ball high into the air, spinning and arcing.
Nick takes off; first a straight shot down the sidewalk, then, looking over his shoulder, seeing the ball bending to the right, adjusts his route, his own slow curve to the right, off the sidewalk.
He doesn’t even have time to scream.
The only sound that Nick makes is a dull thud, like a dry fist against a raw steak; his body airborne as the football falls to the ground, bouncing sporadically.
Lewis had seen the approaching headlights the second he released the ball into the air, but they were much too close; time had stopped right at that moment, freezing his vocal chords. All he can do is stand there, his stare fixed in a bubble of astonished disbelief.
The tangible pause that proceeds any sudden, fortuitous event is broken by the return of time’s forward momentum. Someone pushed the play button, forgetting to adjust the volume, and life silently jumped back into action. Lewis doesn’t so much as collapse as he does float down onto the pavement, like nothing more than settling in to watch Saturday morning cartoons, unable to take his eyes of the gelatinous heap that just a few seconds before had been his very first friend.
Despite the commotion: the driver of the truck exiting the vehicle - leaving the door open - sprinting toward the body, screaming for someone, anyone, to call 911; the neighbors, having heard the eerie and grotesque THWACK, rushing out, some standing idly in their yards, others rushing into the street in a panic; some approaching Lewis, asking, “are you OK? Are you OK? What happened?” Despite the frenzied din, Lewis hears everything as if two pillows are pressed against each ear, muffled and unintelligible sounds ricocheting off distant canyon walls. He remains steadfast and palsied, unable to take his eyes off Nick, whose mouth is locked in the shape of a formidable O, teeth lambent in the gloaming, scattered randomly like thrown white chiclets.
Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1
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