My hands were badly chapped that fall, the year we found Bog Dog. At least that I remember. The ground iced in early September, a month and a half early, and we had to dig the turnips from the earth with trowels. The soil was like pebbles of ice and the turnip tops were stiffened with freezing juice that re-froze on our hands as we sliced them off.
Anna hadn’t even wanted to go to the car show. She told herself that when Ruby called she would bow out, make some excuse. But when the phone shattered the hot stillness of her un-air-conditioned studio, pulling her up from thin, twisted sleep, she knew before she laid a hand on the receiver that she would give in, just like she always did.
They had known that the pillbox was in the woods, but for some reason they’d never got around to visiting it. Andy thought maybe it was because the older kids went there sometimes, smoking cigarettes and drinking cider and, so rumour had it, getting blowjobs from Mandy Sullivan. He wasn’t entirely sure what a blowjob was—though his older brother Nick seemed to think it was something to do with sticking your tongue into your cheek—but those ideas were enough to keep the pillbox out of bounds.
There was a tree. I remember it. I swear I’d be able to recognize it. Because it looked so unusual. It stood on my left, in the distance, by Interstate 80. At first, it was just a blur in the shimmering heat haze, but as I drove closer, its skeletal outline became distinct. Skeletal: that’s what struck me at first as being strange.
When we started playing LandsBetwyxt, Jerry was all about killing monsters. But Amy was in Drama Club at Hematite High, where we went to school, in the Upper Peninsula, near Lake Michigan, on the dateline, and for her it was about interacting with people we met in the online game. Me, I wanted a chance to not be Jim.
The outline of Rebecka’s body is light against the scorched wall, arms outstretched as if to embrace someone. The floor is littered with white ashes. Everything else in the room looks like it did before. A kitchen table with a blue tablecloth, a kitchenette stacked with dirty dishes. A wrought iron bed, which I am strapped to. I ended up here because I was Rebecka’s only friend.
Since we were little, Oona’s collected Victorian photographs. A certain subset of people love them, but I got a library book of them once, just before I met her, and I’ve never not been appalled. I don’t know what a book like that was doing lost in our local library. It’s exactly the kind of thing that would normally have been removed by a logical parent.
Dear Future Me: I haven’t been myself lately and neither have you. I don’t even know if I’ll understand that or remember anything of what happened. TBI—traumatic brain injury—is dicey and unpredictable. Did you know you could fall down a flight of stairs, hit a concrete landing head-first, and after spending a week comatose in intensive care with a subdural hematoma, wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with nothing more than some minor gaps in your memory and a tendency to get headaches in rainy weather?
“What’s with the lawnmower. No one mows this early in spring.” “It’s June,” I reply. “Spring should be long gone.” My twin sister rolls over onto her back, rubbing the afternoon sleep from her eyes with ten long, pale fingers and two long, pale thumbs. I’m lying next to her in our nest of pillows on the living room carpet, holding a book with hands that look just like hers, pale and strange, the extra finger curving into each palm.
Before Edan Westmisley faxed his summons to my agent, my only legitimate (as in you could see my face) claim to semi-demi-fame was the Steppe Syster’s “Love Victim” video where I licked the tattoo of the chest of their lead guitarist, Cody Towers. Yeah, that was me. Not that anyone makes the connection between the big-hair, tits-swaying-in-a-bikini-top, thong-bottomed retro pre-AIDS bimboid slithering up the paint-drizzled riser towards Cody’s semi-desirable, love-handled bare torso, tongue out and lashing against candy-apple lips.