Friday, December 21, 2007

Chapter 7: Back to Work, Part II

Twenty minutes later, he emerged with a towel wrapped around his waist and went to his bedroom. The overhead light had little to add to the sunlight coming through the windows, but he snapped it on anyway. He skirted the bed and paused with one hand on the closed doorknob while the other picked at peeling paint on the doorframe. A hard paint chip stabbed the soft skin under his fingernail. Vernon hissed in pain and dug the piece out with his teeth. Blood tinted the nail red. He wiped it on the towel, took a deep breath and pulled the door open.

Shadows trapped behind lashed out, coiling around his arms and neck. Yelling, Vernon slapped at the tendrils and pulled away from the closet. The darkness melted in the sunlight even as it touched him. Vernon stumbled across the room and bashed his hip against the dresser. He stood in place, panting and shivering for several minutes. Finally, he limped back to the closet, reached in slowly. He ripped a button-down shirt and a pair of jeans from their hangers and tossed them on the bed as he danced backward. He slapped the door. As it swung closed, he grabbed the doorknob and pulled it back toward him, leaving the closet open to the light.

I don't know that I'll ever get used to this place. He retrieved a pair of socks, undershirt and briefs from the dresser and donned the clothing quickly, shoving his legs into the pants and arms through the sleeves of his shirt. Bedsprings creaked as he flopped down on the mattress and put his shoes on. Bouncing up, he cast one last glance at the closet, shuddered and walked out of the house. The locked door slammed shut behind him.

The Camry still sat in the yard. Vernon stomped through the grass toward his car, booting a few late flowers in the process. He pictured Ware's head atop a dandelion as his shoe smashed the white ball and sent the pieces fluttering away. Fishing the keys from his pocket, he sat in the driver's seat and cranked the Toyota. It clicked but wouldn't turn over. Now what? Muttering under his breath, Vernon tried again. The starter chattered a moment. The engine whirred weakly, then caught. The tachometer sagged and bounced a moment before steadying out just underneath the one thousand RPM mark. He tapped the gas. The engine revved smoothly.

"Stupid battery," he grumbled. The thing had survived nearly four years in the harsh summers and brutal traffic of Houston. Over the last year, Cheryl kept telling him they should replace it. He could hear her nagging him about it as clearly as if she sat in the passenger seat. For crying out loud, Vern, you're the man of this house. Why do I have to tell you this stuff?

He stared at the front door. Please come back tonight. I won't answer the phone this time. I'll even unplug it. Just, please – come back, if only for a little while. Tearing his eyes away from the house, Vernon moved the transmission lever to drive. Tires tore short paths in the grass before they caught and pulled the car onto the driveway and out on the county road. He barely paused at the farm road before turning and accelerating down the winding highway. Paper crinkled as the paper bag fell over on the floor, spilling flashlights and packages of batteries to clatter across the vinyl mat. He kept his attention on the asphalt ahead, not bothering to check for emerging traffic or who might be following. The bag released more of its contents and the rattling from the floorboard increased with every hard curve.

As he passed through a residential area, Vernon slowed and slammed on the brakes as he approached a stop sign. Traffic streamed by on US 271. He grunted and tapped a beat on the steering wheel with his thumbs. "Move it, move it," he muttered.

When the busy cars showed no sign of listening, he sighed and swiveled the rearview mirror toward himself and ran fingers through his hair. It had dried and set after the shower, but he spotted a few errant strands that needed smoothing. Vernon paused mid-grooming and peered at his reflection. The little sleep he'd managed the night before had done him little good, if any. He hadn't paid much attention when brushing his teeth this morning, and apparently his decision to forego shaving hadn't been a good one. Face it, you look awful. To be honest, his grizzled face was only part of the problem. Dark smudges encircled his eyes, and his lids drooped. His mouth sagged in a frown, as if too tired to even think of another expression.

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Part III of Chapter 7 coming Monday!


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At December 21, 2007 6:36 PM , Blogger Bret Jordan said...

And I thought I had trouble getting ready for work. Enjoyed the heck out of it, Jeff.avi codec mac  

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