Part 1 – School Days
“En garde!” The dark knight raised his blade, his polished black armor gleamed in the torchlight.
I scowled and drew my weapon. “Step aside, knave!”
His muted laughs came through the helmet muffled, and he lunged at me. I barely brought my weapon up in time. “Let her go!”
“Never!” he screamed and lunged at me again.
I leapt aside and plunged my blade deep into his side. When I jerked it free, I paused, watching the dark knight collapse to the ground at my feet. I used the tip of my boot to flip his face cage open, gasped and took several steps back. “Megan?!”
“Mr. Rumsfield,” she said with a dry monotone voice very different from her real voice.
“Mr. Rumsfield,” she repeated, and the world evaporated around me. My eyes snapped open and with an audible groan I looked up at Mr. Beekman who was hovering over me, lips creased in a frown and arms folded across his chest.
“James, this may be the last day of school, but it is still my classroom. This is not nap time, if you can’t stay awake during class I suggest you get to bed a little earlier. I bet, this girl Megan, who’s name you’ve been calling out, would agree.”
The classroom erupted with laughter and my cheeks burned as he turned away. He continued his lecture and yammered on about photosynthesis. ‘God!’ I thought to myself slumping my head against the desktop. ‘When will it ever end?!’
I think I must have dozed off again because the next thing I knew the school bell rang. I jumped out of my seat, but stopped when Mr. Beekman call out my name.
“Mr. Rumsfield,” he said. “In your eagerness you seem to have forgotten that class ends when I dismiss it, not at the sound of the bell.”
I scowled at the ornery bastard and plopped back down in my seat. Fucking hell, I hated school!
“All right class as I was about to say before Mr. Rumsfield tried to leave prematurely,” Beekman continued, “For those of you that will attend my AP Chemistry class next year, remember there’s a twenty-five dollar lab fee that’s due by the first day of school. Class Dismissed.”
I was one of the first out of class, every extra second in that place was one second less of my summer. I sped down the hallway, weaving in and out of the crowds.
“Jim, my man!” Jeff Goldwin, a classmate and a friend approached. He raised his fist, and we bumped fists.
“Hey, I’d like to chat man, but I’m trying to catch Megs before she leaves,” I said, glancing around hoping to catch sight of her.
“Damn, man you really need to hit that,” he said with a playful slug in the shoulder. “Well I guess we’ll talk later. Hey you going to the Game Palace opening in the mall on Thursday?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Why do you think I’m looking for her? Hey, uh I guess we’ll talk later, okay?”
“Okay, whatever,” he muttered shaking his head and rolling his eyes before I turned away and took off down the hall.
“Hey you wanna hang this summer?” He called out.
“Yeah sure,” I called over my shoulder. “Call me!”
I had almost reached the hallway leading from her last class when I ran into her. As you might have guessed she was both the girl I’d been dreaming about and the one for whom I’d been looking.
“Oh, hey Jim,” she smiled at me and I felt my knees turn to jelly. I started into her bright green eyes and my heart skipped a beat.
She cocked her head and met my gaze. She was wearing her hair out for a change. Most of the time she wore it in a ponytail, but I kind of preferred it the way it was. It framed her heart-shaped face and made her look closer to her actual age.
She pursed her pouty lips and flicked a strand of fire-red hair away from her large nose. It was the only flaw on her face and probably the only reason she wasn’t considered one of the hottest girls in the school. Personally, I think it added to her charm, but maybe I was biased.
Megan was my best friend, and we’d been inseparable for about as long as either one of us could remember. When we got older, I developed a bit of a crush on her and when I asked her out, she turned me down flat. She said she wanted to stay friends, but sometimes I got the impression she was holding something back. It sucked, but I would take her whichever way I could get.
“Hey, did you hear about that new Game Palace in the mall?” I asked glancing down at her chest and turned away hoping she hadn’t noticed.
Megan, like almost any other girl under the sun, hated it when she caught a guy ogling her boobs, but sometimes I couldn’t help myself. She had to be among one of the top five most well-endowed girls in the school. What straight guy couldn’t resist sneaking glances at those luscious melons? It wasn’t just her breasts either, Megan had a lot of soft, round… interesting curves.
“A Game Palace in the mall?” she said before her face broke out into a dazzling smile. “Awesome! There’s one where my grandma lives.”
“Yeah, there’s one in Clinton it’s pretty freaking awesome.” I grinned back at her and added, “You want to go check it out? They’re supposed to have a huge grand opening tomorrow.”
“Sure,” she replied.
“All right, I’ll pick you up around noon,” I said.
“Sounds like a plan,” she said then added “I gotta go, see you later.”
“Later,” I called after her as she disappeared around the bend.
I watched her disappear down the hallway and let out a long sigh. We were perfect for each other. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t see it. I shook my head and made my way out of the school. Maybe someday she would understand.
I arrived home after a short drive from school. The house was empty. It appeared Mom hadn’t made it home yet. I’d long stopped trying to keep up with her schedule. She kept crappy hours working retail. I climbed up the stairs, plopped down on the couch and flicked the television on with a gesture of my hand.
I watched a documentary on a ziprock band who’d made it big and squandered it all on drugs and prostitutes. It was interesting, and it gave me something to do until my mom got home. I’d always thought the band kind of sucked so I got a good laugh out of it.
After a few hours I realized the time, so I threw a couple frozen meals in the oven for dinner. I sat down again, and I watched a repeat of a sitcom I liked. I must have seen the episode almost a dozen times already, but since it was one of my favorites, I laughed my ass off like I’d never seen it before.
A short while later a voice called from the landing. “Jim, I’m home.”
I hopped off the couch and made my way down the stairs where I found my mom, Kate, setting down her bags. “Hey, how was work?”
“I’m just glad to be home,” she said. “I’ve been doing employee evaluations all day.”
She worked as a Manager at a department store in the Mall called Haglund’s. She hated it, but brought in a decent sized paycheck every month. Not bad, considering she started out as a grunt and worked her way up the ladder in only eight years.
“Dinner’s almost done,” I said, changing the subject, “I put in a couple of those Lasagna dinners you bought the other day, they should be done in a few minutes”.
Mom looked a little relieved, “Good, I’m famished.”
After we finished dinner I looked to mom and asked her, “Want to watch a movie or something?”
“Yeah that sounds great, but let me get caught on the news first,” she replied, “I want to see what the weather will do tomorrow.”
“-is 570 MBC, News,” the TV blared after Mom switched it back on and changed channels. “This is Katey Charles with today’s News. In Los Angeles, police have arrested a suspect in relation to the Echo Park killings, the police have not released the suspects name, but he is believed to be a 24-year-old male twisted, find out more after these words from our sponsors.”
Mom muted the television as she growled, “Those damn Twisted! Those freaks need to be locked up so they can’t hurt anyone else. What’s this world coming to when decent people can’t even trust–”
That’s where I tuned her out. I used to think the twisted were as horrible as she always said, but I’d begun to doubt some things she told me. Megan’s dad seemed like a good guy, despite being a lawyer, and he seemed to think they were no worse than anyone else. On the other hand, there were twisted like the Echo Park Killer that did horrible things, but I wondered if they were as much victims as the people they harmed.
Maybe they were freaks like Mom said, I couldn’t decide. It was creepy and weird and it must suck to change with no reason or prompting into a different person. I’m told, not all twisted were altered to such a large extent, but I imagined that it would be freaky even when the changes were minor. Were they all dangerous like Mom said, or just a select few?
“Your father–” I heard my mother say, and I turned to stare at her with my mouth hanging open. “What about my father?”
“You know what? I’m feeling tired. I’m going to bed,” she added looking back at me with wide eyes before springing from the couch and bolting up the stairs.
“Mom wait! What did you say about my dad?!” I called after her desperate to learn anything about my old man. I chased her up the stairs, but when I had reached her bedroom door, she slammed it in my face. I tried the doorknob, and she’d already locked it. So, I pounded on the door. “Mom, what were you going to say!”
“Mom!” I called out again. Still, she didn’t reply.
I slammed on the door a few more times, then with a shake of my head and a wary sigh I gave up. Sometimes I wondered if she didn’t have a few loose screws. Most of the time she seemed fine, but then she pulled this kind of shit. Then there was her temper… I shuddered and backed away. I didn’t want to get an ear full from her.
My mom had done some bizarre things, but this one took the cake. What had she been about to say? Every time I’d ever asked my mother about my father, she would change the subject or act like she hadn’t heard me at all. What was it about him she didn’t want me to know? What had she come so close to telling me and what did it have to do with the twisted?
God! I just wanted to know who he was! What the hell was the freaking big deal?
“Dammit!” I spun away and found my way to my bedroom. Closing the door behind me, I went to the chair sitting in the corner and turned it over. I popped off the bottom which I’d secured with tape. Inside, where I’d left it, I found my mother’s old sophomore high school yearbook. I’d found it hidden in the back of her closet a few years ago. I pulled the masking tape free, holding it in place, and flipped the book open.
When I first discovered it, the book opened to page thirty-two as if she had opened it to that page many times. I’d looked through the book on multiple occasions, but that page was the one I always returned to, because of what it contained. Listed in the second column was a boy named Harry Turow. Someone, my mother I guess, had drawn a heart around his picture and underneath in my mother’s scrawl were the words “Harry and Kate 4ever”. The boy’s physical resemblance to me was striking, but that didn’t mean he was my father. A picture wasn’t a whole hell of a lot for me to go off, but it was the only lead I had. What the hell had happened to him?
I was born during my mother’s junior year of high school. I learned by asking people around town the Turow family moved away the summer before my birth. Did their departure have something to do with my conception or did they moved away unaware that my mother had been pregnant?
I’d tried searching the web for any information on him, but none of the Harry Turrow’s I’d found had been the right age.
Staring at the photo of the boy I tried to imagine what he must have been like or what he might look like now if still alive.
I closed the book replacing it under the seat and popped the bottom back in. I righted the chair then I collapsed onto my bed and let myself drift off to sleep with images of the boy who might have been my father floating through my head.