Killing someone is a lot harder than you'd imagine. Physically harder, I mean. On TV a guy strangles someone for like 5 seconds and the body slumps to the ground in a heap of dead just like that. In real life, it takes so long you wouldn't believe it.
"Catcher in the Rye meets Fight Club." "Fantastic psychological journey." "Holden Caulfield on steroids!"
Jake saw something unspeakable when he was nine. An act of violence. Brutal. He doesn't know it, but this trauma will play a key role in shaping him later in life.
Now, he's fifteen. A wimp. He flinches. Always.
He's too timid to make a move on Beth, the buxom girl of his dreams, and too busy getting face-slammed into lockers by bullies to do much else.
He seeks the guidance of the biggest bad ass he knows, his cousin Nick.
Nick is a professional burglar and makes Jake his apprentice. They stalk suburban neighborhoods night after night, ransacking houses for jewelry and sweet valuables.
Nick teaches Jake the finer points of breaking and entering along with his dark philosophy -- that there is no right or wrong in the world, just a series of events that happen without meaning.
At first, adopting Nick's callous worldview helps Jake get over his fears and confront his tormentors, but he also unleashes an aggression in himself he never thought possible. And as he learns more about his cousin, he realizes that Nick's crimes go way beyond burglary.
In the end, Jake must face not only the monster in his cousin but also the one in his own heart.
Casting Shadows Everywhere is a dark and twisty psychological thriller perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn, Lucinda Berry, A.J. Finn, and Paula Hawkins. Scroll up and grab it now.
Praise for Casting Shadows Everywhere:
"'Casting Shadows Everywhere' is beautifully written; a little terrifying, sometimes sad, filled with funny observations on everything from tacos to the workings of the brain, and occasionally profound. In a word, it is 'excellent.'" -Mike Billington
"Sharp and clever. Catcher in the Rye meets Fight Club." -Amazon Customer
"All of it weaves together into a compulsive read that is at times horrific, at other times a mystery, and at all times a deep searching of the heart and soul in an effort to understand why in the world we're on this planet." -Mary A. Madsen
"The Perks of Being a Wall Flower meets American Psycho." -Brian Ellis
"A disturbingly dark coming of age story that explores idealization, heroism, competition, love, hate, and possession." -Melanie
"The book is a psychological page-turner, and in many respects reminds me of a very dark 'Catcher in the Rye.'" -Howard Lipman
"There's an incredible twist along the way that raises the stakes to a new level, followed by another equally amazing twist that unites all the apparently unrelated elements of the story. I can't tell you more about these twists without spoiling the surprise, but rest assured, they open up profound questions about the interplay between our rational thoughts, our deepest fears and our most secret desires." -Paul Grieve
"This book touched me, inspired me, and drew me in like nothing else I have read in a very long time. I highly recommend it for what it represented to me. A walk into the dark. And a view of the light at the end of the forest." -Kindle Customer
"This is a remarkable new voice on the literary scene; the best of what can come from indie writers. Vargus seamlessly weaves genres into one heart-thumping roller coaster ride of a story with cutthroat insight into humanity." -Mary A. Madsen
Release date: March 7, 2019
Publisher: Smarmy Press
Print pages: 265
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Casting Shadows Everywhere: A Dark Psychological Thriller
KILLING SOMEONE IS A LOT harder than you’d imagine. Physically harder, I mean. On TV a guy strangles someone for like five seconds and the body slumps to the ground in a heap of dead just like that. In real life, it takes so long you wouldn’t believe it.
See, I saw someone get strangled once when I was nine.
I milled around outside of this Dairy Queen on Park Street on the way home from school. Out of nowhere, Tony Vasser walked up and kicked me in the balls. He was this 13-year-old shithead from the trailer park around the corner from my house, and he absolutely goddamn delighted in torturing the younger kids in the neighborhood. Such as me.
One minute I’m minding my own business, doing pretend kick flips and pop shove-its off this picnic table, and the next thing I know, I’m rolling in the grass clutching my crotch.
Anyway, what Tony didn’t know was that my cousin Nick was watching the whole thing from the parking lot. Nick was seventeen and even meaner than Tony. Not to me, I mean, but you know…
So Tony’s mouth gaped with laughter. He’s one of those slack-jawed people who always smile with their mouth wide open. All I could see was a row of top teeth hanging over a pink cavern that stretched back into blackness. Even in his school picture he smiled like that. Wide open mouth. It’s a dim look.
Anyway, his mouth still drooped into an open pit when Nick grabbed him by the shoulder and slapped him across the face. Open hand. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t even take the Winston out of the corner of his mouth. He just slapped. And it was loud as hell.
I remember that seemed pretty funny at first. I mean, I was still buckled over at the waist, hunched over a sack full of extreme ball pain. Obviously, I didn’t mind seeing Tony get blindsided or whatever. But there’s also something so disrespectful about a man slapping another man like that. Dismissive. It’s almost worse than getting punched in a weird way, you know? Someone has to respect you as a threat enough to punch you. A slap is all contempt.
But then Nick’s hands latched around Tony’s throat and squeezed. And it didn’t seem as funny anymore. Tony’s mouth stayed as wide open as ever, but his expression changed from happy to pants-shitting scared.
Nick had this look in his eyes. Like a hawk. Not like he was enjoying it or anything. Just that fierce look like a big mean bird that doesn’t feel anything beyond the aggression necessary to survive. Like he could swoop out of the sky and kill if he needed to. No mushy feelings.
Smoke twirled off the end of his cigarette into his eye, so he squinted harder on one side than the other. It almost made his face look incongruent and scarier. Like some messed up freak like Sloth from The Goonies or something.
He squeezed until the kid’s face turned a dark red like wine, and then he squeezed harder as it faded from purple to a pale blue. It finally went gray like the ash on the tip of a cigarette. Tony’s eyes bulged. His mouth moved like he was trying to scream. His fingernails scraped at Nick’s arms, but it was useless.
I had to pee. I remember that. And I wanted to tell Nick to stop, you know? To leave him alone and whatever. But I froze up. I didn’t say a word. Didn’t even move. Just stood there watching.
And that is me in a lot of ways. I freeze.
It is who I am.
This choking went on for what seemed like forever. A good two minutes, if not more, and believe me, two minutes is suddenly a goddamn eternity when you’re watching someone get strangled to death.
And I was scared. Not of Nick, I mean. Just scared ’cause of how Tony looked all gray, and I knew that this was forever. That at this second in time I could still try to do something, but once it passed I couldn’t take any of it back. No one could.
I didn’t say anything, of course. Did I already mention the freezing? ’Cause yeah. That.
It wasn’t so long before the shock in Tony’s expression faded. He dropped to his knees, and his eyes drooped closed.
Nick squeezed for a few more seconds even after the body went limp. Then he kind of leaned the kid up against the cinder block wall of the Dairy Queen.
We stood looking down on the body in silence. The limp neck tilted his chin down onto his chest. It was so still there. The whole world was motionless.
Then Tony’s torso spasmed. The wind sucked back into his lungs with a creaky gasping sound like sliding open some dried out dresser drawer. His face went back through the progression of colors in reverse.
Nick laughed. He laughed even harder when he saw how scared I looked. I thought Tony was dead for sure.
Instead, he stirred and coughed. His shithead eyes opened.
“Choked your ass out,” Nick said and spat on the ground.
Tony tried to say something, but his voice sounded all scratchy, and I couldn’t understand him. Nick started laughing again.
Then he went and got ice cream cones for him and me. I got vanilla dipped in chocolate.
- · ·
Holy shit. I just reread that first entry. If anyone ever reads this, they’re going to think I’m a goddamn weirdo. But if you were there... I don’t know.
My point was that it must take for-goddamn-ever to actually strangle someone to death. I just Googled it. Dude, that shit can take up to ten minutes. Can you imagine strangling someone for ten minutes? Unbelievable. I guess it’s pretty common for people’s hands to cramp up before they can actually kill the person, too, so they have to, like, stop and massage their hands before they go back and re-strangle ‘em. What a nightmare.
Anyway, I was kind of wondering if I subconsciously started right out talking about Nick ’cause I want people to think that I am like him. Not that anyone will read this, of course, but the audience in my head, I guess. We’re all the main character in our own heads, right?
The truth is that I am nothing like him. Nick, I mean. I am the one who froze up. The one that will never get the girl. The one that wet the bed up until the age of fourteen. The one who gets picked on and pushed around. I mean, come on. Nobody would fuck with Nick.
- · ·
So I hung out with Nick today. It’d been a couple years since I’d seen him. My mom doesn’t want me around him anymore since he got arrested for stealing a twelve-pack of Budweiser from a 7-11 a few years ago. Spent three months in the county jail and lived out of state for a while after that. I guess now he’s a “bad influence.”
Whatever. What Mom doesn’t know I could just about squeeze into the Grand Canyon.
So Nick is 24, and he has his own apartment in town now. Well, he has this roommate, Donnie, so they share the place. The point is, there are no adults or parents or whatever. It’s rad. I mean, the place is a dump, but you know...
Mostly I sat on the floor watching Nick and Donnie play Playstation. Donnie told some hilarious stories.
“Then there was the time I tried to shit off the bridge. You know that overpass that goes over West Street? I squatted off the edge of that. Tryin’ to flop a sloppy deuce on some unsuspecting Buick Skylark or something, you know?”
Donnie tilted back his head and poured most of the contents of a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi down his throat.
“I missed,” Donnie said and then burped.
“The shit, I mean. My shit missed the car. I didn’t have the push I thought I would, so it smacked the road way the hell after the car had already passed,” he said, shaking his head.
He had a wistful look in his eyes like he was still disappointed to this day.
“Loudest slap I ever heard, though. Like my turd was belly-smacking West Street.”
“Somehow the cops showed up pretty much immediately, and I had to run like hell with my pants half off.”
He turned the Pepsi can upside down and shook the last few drops of high fructose corn syrup into his mouth before tossing the can in the general direction of the kitchen.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, I gotta make a run for the border.”
“You work tonight?” Nick said.
“Indeed,” Donnie said. “I’m lookin’ at eight hours of repeating this motion.”
Donnie stood up and pantomimed something with his hands that looked sort of like a shotgun. He squeezed the trigger over and over and swung the barrel of the invisible firearm left and right.
“What’s that?” I said.
Donnie looked down at his hands and then back at me.
“It’s my gun,” he said.
“Your Taco Bell gun?” I said.
“It’s my sour cream gun.”
I felt my eyebrows stretch as high as they could.
“Sour cream gun?”
“It’s like a caulk gun that splooges just the right amount of sour cream onto each Burrito Supreme,” he said.
He did another series of hand movements, maybe like he was loading a second gun.
“And this here is my Guacamole Glock.”
“Glock-amole?” Nick said.
Donnie just grinned. He aimed both guns at me and motioned like he was firing them.
“Is there a refried bean gun?” I said.
“Oh, lord no. The beans get made in a giant stainless steel sink. We spray boiling water into this bean powder and then bam! Sink full of refried beans.”
He holstered his condiment weapons before continuing.
“It’s all very scientific over there at Taco Bell. We weigh each bag of food before we give it out to ensure that every chalupa and double decker taco has been crafted to precise corporate specifications.”
So after Donnie left, it was just me and Nick. We sat on a couple of disintegrating La-Z-Boys, one gray and the other light green, relics of some upper-middle-class den circa 1986. Donnie had found the pair on the side of the road. The recliners had roaches in them that had miraculously died out without becoming a bigger problem in their apartment. One of the few perks of never having any food, I guess.
Without Donnie there for comic relief, the conversation dried up some. We played video games in relative silence for fifteen minutes before Nick spoke up.
“Did you hear about the stiff they found above Broad Street?” Nick said.
My mind tried to process this sentence and failed.
“Stiff?” I said.
“You know... the stiff. The corpse. The dead body. The fuckin’ cadaver they found in the storage unit above Broad Street Market the other day?” he said.
“The guy that owns the store had been rentin’ out the storage space in the attic to some guy. I guess once the guy’s wife kicked him out, he just started living up there. Him and his dog. It was just this tiny attic, you know. No floorboards in some areas. Just pink fiberglass insulation and shit.”
Nick paused the game to light a cigarette.
“So one day he’s sittin’ up there, and his heart pops. Massive heart attack. He’s dead before he can even take three paces to get out of his little cell. He never told nobody he was livin’ up there, though. Nobody found the goddamn body until maggots starting rainin’ down from the ceiling into the store a few weeks later.”
Nick hissed a laugh between his teeth.
“Can’t you just imagine some old lady perusing the fat-free dairy section when maggots start fallin’ from the goddamn sky?”
“So what, his body like rotted through the floor or something?” I said.
“I ain’t sure,” he said. “Musta been something like ‘at.”
He tapped his cigarette on the rim of the ashtray and twirled it in his fingertips.
“You know what the worst part was, though?” he said.
“The dog. The dog was trapped up there. Padlocked into this tiny room. No windows or nothin’. No way out.”
He shook his head.
“The dog ate part of the body, but... Must’ve whined and yowled like crazy, but I guess nobody could hear it. It starved eventually.”
We were both quiet for a long time.
I TOTALLY GET THE WHOLE bully thing. For the dumb people — the lowest common denominator — the whole world is made up of aggressors and their victims. You can only be one or the other, so you better be on the attack. They spend their days probing their peers for weakness. The aggressors find a wimp that won’t stand up, and they proceed to push them around so they can feel some sense of power in the world. Control. It’s a struggle for control that’s so small. So meaningless...
Troy Summers is like the King of the lowest common denominator clan. Just look at his goddamn name! He sounds like he was born to play quarterback and be a total dick, right? Exactly. Well, he is at the top of the food chain, so he doesn’t usually get hands-on with the actual losers. He gets to torment the other bullies, see, whom in turn have to take their aggression out on the rest of us.
Does anyone get any real satisfaction out of spitting in a kid’s mashed potatoes and making him eat them, though? Is there real power or control in calling a fat kid “bitch titties” in the locker room? Or pissing in some kid’s shoes while he is off in his gym clothes? Or writing “fag” with a sharpie on someone’s locker?
Of course not. I have no control. You have no control. Troy Summers has no control. It’s all bullshit, so who cares?
But then I stop myself. I think maybe this is just what I think because I am a victim. Not that I’m the victim of something or someone in particular. I mean being a victim, like the archetype. Like I was somehow born to play this victim — predestined to be susceptible and weak — and it will shape how I see myself and how others see me forever. Almost like the runt of the litter, you know? I have a mark on me. It’s invisible, but everyone can still see it somehow, like, subconsciously or something. Or maybe it’s a smell. Like pheromones or whatever. A stench.
I am the one that always flinches.
See, I never take action, so I only have words. I can use them to convince myself that this whole struggle for control means nothing, but why do I never act? Why do I always freeze up? Does the world really work the way they think it does, and I’m already stuck on the losing end of the deal?
Is my destiny already etched in stone? Is it coded into my DNA? Like, biologically, I’m just a complete pussy and always will be?
I have to piss.
So what I was getting to was this: Today I was Troy Summers’ victim. Yes, the King stooped low to rough up one of the mere peasants for once.
Don’t get excited. It was nothing too elaborate.
We passed in the hall, and when I least expected it, he pushed me into the lockers. Yeah. Troy Summers is known for two things: upper body strength and the element of surprise. Anyway, I crashed into the cold metal so goddamn loud, my books flying everywhere.
See, I’m kind of big for my age — like 6’2”, 190 or so — and sometimes the bullies, the jocks like Troy, in particular, don’t like the idea that I’m bigger than them, so they lash out. They have a lot of pent up hostility from being cursed with being handsome, super popular and getting all the girls, I guess.
It was weird, though. For that first split second, I thought about attacking him. It flashed in my head — a quick lightning bolt of violent intent. But I looked up, and Troy glared back with that hawk look in his eye — maybe not quite as mean and dead-on-the-inside looking as Nick, but something like that. So I just went about gathering up my books, and he moved on. He didn’t say anything, but his friends all laughed.
- · ·
I can’t stop thinking about Troy and getting pushed over and all of that. Actually, I should say that I can’t stop thinking about that moment afterward. The moment of aggression welling up inside of me.
I don’t know. I’ve never really felt anything quite like that before. It was like this crazy call to action. I mean, I didn’t answer the call or whatever, but I think what scares me more is that looking back I think maybe I should have. There was violence in my heart, and I kind of wanted it there.
Yeah, yeah. I know everyone is a tough guy after the fact within the safety of their bedroom with a damn pen in their hand, but I don’t know... I probably should just keep my head down like always and not think these things, right?
- · ·
I was sitting in biology when I had my epiphany.
Mrs. Francis droned on and on about how mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. To call her a bore would somehow fail to capture the spirit of what she does with her lectures. Violently boring. She attacks us with it. Swings it with the intent to bludgeon. Biology taught via blunt force trauma.
Anyway, I guess I zoned out somewhere in there, let my thoughts drift out into the emptiness.
Or maybe not. Maybe I stopped thinking at all. Staunched this flow of words that endlessly leaks into my head.
Yes. Maybe it’s only when you stop thinking, when you reach some place of total stillness, that you can even experience something like this.
When the epiphany hit, it made me suck in a breath, pulled all of my skin taut and sent strange tingles over my shoulders and down my spine.
It wasn’t an idea so much as an instinct, something emotional, something primal. I just knew these things as though they were beamed into my head. Felt them more than thought them.
I want to change.
I want to transform.
Need to evolve, to morph, to start a revolution in my head.
I need to become something new. Need to.
I didn’t think these words so much as simply know all of these things on some spiritual or religious level, feel them somewhere deep in my body, maybe deeper than my body. All the way down to the core of my being, of whatever I am.
I have to change now. Change myself. I don’t know how yet, but I know it’s true. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.
And suddenly this euphoria came over me. I felt outside myself, outside of this classroom, outside of this group of students learning about the basics of biology.
I could observe them all as an outsider. All those impassive faces. Blank. Here but not really here, not really in the moment.
I could see the mundane reality of all of this written on those faces. See how this moment was something small. Something meaningless. Something all of us would forget soon.
And still, I felt light and giddy. Exhilarated and alive. The only brain stirring in this place, maybe. The only one awake.
I started laughing then. First it came out as silent little puffs, but soon it built to something I can only call an “insane giggle.” I don’t know why it was funny, but it was.
And all of those heads turned to look at me, puzzled faces occupying the place where the blankness had been.
I put my own head down, buried it in my arms, that shadow closing in around me. But I couldn’t stop laughing.
- · ·
I tried to tell Nick about the bullies. About Troy and all the rest, and how I couldn’t figure out what it meant about me. But I don’t think I did a very good job explaining it.
He didn’t say anything for a long time. In fairness, he was immersed in a Playstation shootout.
Blue smoke pirouetted off the end of his cigarette and slowly drifted up into the drop ceiling. Like all light colored items in the apartment, the textured white tiles of fire retardant mineral fiber overhead were slowly but surely being stained nicotine yellow.
He paused the game to shove a handful of off-brand Honey BBQ Fritos into his mouth.
“Did you think about doin’ anything?”
His words broke me out of a trance. I looked away from the ceiling.
“When the guy knocked you down. I know you didn’t do nothin’, but did you think about it? Or were you just scared?”
I sipped at my Mountain Dew and thought about it.
“I did think about going for him... for a split second. But Troy is... I mean, nobody messes with Troy, you know?”
Nick turned back to the TV and unpaused the game.
“I’d be pissin’ in his mouth after I knocked him out.”
Nick says a lot of stuff like that. Like his whole life is an action movie. I didn’t know what to say, but he went on.
“Look, it don’t matter. Not really. It don’t actually mean nothin’ about you.”
He said all this through a mouthful of barbecue flavored corn chips.
“Well, what he done to you is a fact. It is what it is. But what it means is just an idea. You can’t change a fact, but you can always change an idea.”
Not sure if that’s really advice. He looked far away, and when he spoke again it was a mutter. I didn’t feel like he was talking to me anymore.
“None of it means nothin’, really.”
We just sat for a while. He shot a guy in the face with a machine gun. In the video game, I mean. Then he lit another cigarette.
- · ·
The ladies love Nick. Have I not mentioned that before? I guess I don’t really get it. I mean, he has a big square chin like a damn cowboy, so I can see like a handsomeness or whatever there, but he also has gapped yellow teeth, bad skin and perpetually greasy dark hair hanging down in his eyes. He has a big shiny forehead. We’re talking bulbous, dude. He can be pretty mean, too. Jesus, I know he’s my cousin, but he’s kind of a dirtbag.
I think he must have some of that “animal magnetism” they talk about on TV or something, though. ’Cause these girls... they’re all over him, man. I definitely don’t have that. Animal magnetism, I mean.
His current girlfriend is Tammie, who always seems to have a medicated feel about her. A slow warmth. She’s too skinny, bleaches her hair, wears a shit ton of eyeliner and has bad teeth, but she is nice. I’m guessing she’s a stripper, though I never really thought about that before and have no direct knowledge of such activities. I guess she just seems like the kind of person who would take off her clothes for money on a regular basis.
- · ·
Nick found me after school. Kinda weird. He was waiting about a half of a block down the street, smoking a cig.
“You wanna walk with me to the gas station?” he said.
The sky spat sprinkles of rain. We walked through the grass along the side of the road ’cause there were no sidewalks this way, and I slipped a couple times on the wet grass but managed to catch myself. No falls. No problems.
Nick slapped his hand along a row of mailboxes outside of a trailer park for senior citizens. It sounded like someone clapping, but you could hear the wet to it.
“I been thinkin’ about what you were sayin’,” he said. “About that kid knockin’ you over.”
“I think I can help you,” he said. “Teach you.”
“What, like fighting lessons?”
He wouldn’t really go into detail, but my first lesson is supposed to be on Friday.
Weird how that works, huh? I put that want out into the universe — wanting to change — and look what happens?
- · ·
I am friends with this kid, Robert. Well, I mean, we’re friends in gym class. Not friends outside of school type friends, you know? Yeah. Well, he’s mildly autistic. Anyway, gym is the one class a day he has outside of Special Ed.
Today we were partners on one basketball hoop doing this George Mikan drill, which is gym teacher jargon for “shooting layups.” Robert was talking about rappers that he likes.
“I like Lil’ Wayne and Drake and Tupac Shakur,” he said, pronouncing it correctly. “And Two Pack.”
He really stressed the pronunciation of pack this time as in a pack of cigarettes.
I dribbled and shot the ball. It banked off the backboard, teetered on the rim and fell through the net. I passed the ball to Robert.
“Pretty sure those are the same guy,” I said. “And they’re both pronounced the same.”
He shook his head. He always sports thick stubble and wears these goggles in gym. He’s actually pretty intelligent on the whole, but he maintains a childlike understanding of the universe that somehow captures my imagination.
“One is spelled T-U-P-A-C and the other is the number 2-P-A-C. They’re different. 2-pack-alypse now.”
“He just changed the spelling, Robert. Like for artistic reasons.”
He wrinkled his nose up and thought about it, squeezing the ball a second before he went back to firing up layups.
“No. I think they’re different. Tupac Shakur and Two Pack.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I said. I didn’t even want to get into the whole Makaveli thing.
He is so much more curious about the world around him than the other kids I know. And, like, enthusiastic. He exudes none of the ironic detachment or whatever you want to call it that all these jerkoffs do. He is not “too cool” to connect with the world. He attempts to do so in earnest. Constantly.
I tried a more elaborate underhand scoop style layup and missed.
“What church do you go to?” Robert said.
He is a fan of abrupt changes in the topic of conversation.
“I don’t go to church.”
He recoiled, letting the ball bounce away from us. He jogged after it and squinted at me on the way back. One of those accusatory squints people usually save for someone who stole something from them.
“Jake. Are you a Christian?”
The truth is that I’m not. I’m not one of those militantly ball-busting atheist kids or anything. It’s not even something I give much thought, really. I figure I’m never going to know, so what’s the point in thinking about it?
I sensed that I couldn’t tell Robert this, though.
“Well, yeah,” I said. “Not all Christians go to church, you know? What really matters is your relationship with God.”
Robert looked up at the gym ceiling hanging above us, and then made eye contact with me for a second before nodding his approval.
FIRST LESSON TODAY. PRETTY INTENSE. I went to Nick’s after school. Donnie was getting ready for work, and by “getting ready for work” I mean he was rolling a bunch of cigarettes.
He perched on the edge of one of the recliners with a bag of tobacco balanced on one knee and a bag of empty cigarette tubes on the other.
Donnie packed a wad of tobacco in one side of this little gray and blue plastic thing and pushed this lever on top, and the machine jammed a load of tobacco into each tube. I use the term “machine” somewhat loosely as this baby was powered solely by elbow grease.
He looked up and noticed me watching.
“They kinda taste like ass, but it works out to like one-third of the price of Camels,” he said.
After Donnie took off, I pestered Nick about my first lesson.
“So what’s the plan?” I asked.
He didn’t respond.
He was reading this book about the Hare Krishnas. He only reads non-fiction. Also, he’s like insanely good at ignoring me when he wants to. So I just sat there.
There’s this big crack in the painted over wallpaper running down one of their walls, with like a tributary of smaller cracks branching off of it. It’s white paint over this green and gold wallpaper, which you can see bits of through the crack. I think it must be water damage related ’cause there are all of these little bubbled up spots along it. Anyway, Nick took his sweet time reading so I got a real good look at that wall. Rest assured that it was much more boring than what I have captured here.
Eventually he put the damn book down and stood up. He did this stretching move with his back and it made a series of disgusting sounding cracks.
He walked to the door and opened it and then stared at me, like I was just supposed to know we were leaving.
I sprang off the couch and followed him out the door.
“So where are we going, then?” I said. I was excited but kind of nervous, too.
That’s all he would say.
We climbed into his car, a purple Chevy Malibu. Or maybe really dark blue, I guess. We rolled down through town, and...
You know what? I’m going to go ahead and just definitively state that the car is, in fact, dark blue. Can’t really picture Nick with a purple car now that I think about it.
Anyway, we rolled through town, and I was kind of expecting that we’d maybe stop at a park or something. See, I was still totally hung up on the fight training idea. I mean, I kind of knew it wouldn’t be that, but I guess I couldn’t think of what else it would be.
I think somewhere in my imagination I had a montage rolling where I’d drink a couple of raw eggs, run up a bunch of steps, work the heavy bag a bit, and I’d be ready to knock some damn teeth out.
We just kept going, though. All the way through town on Carelton and out toward the country. And the only thing out that way is Wal-Mart.
Shit. My mom is calling me. Hang on.
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