Monday, October 31, 2016


by Marty Reeder

Dee adjusted the 80s rocker mop sitting uncomfortably on his head. He still did not regret his decision to wear the shoulder-length brown wig, but he realized that the thing was going to be itching him all night long. It’s the price I pay for my own brilliance, he comforted himself. He readjusted his dirty jean jacket and snorted at the slashes in his pants as he eased into the driver’s seat of his dad’s brand new sports car. It had taken him a couple months of hard work at school to earn the privilege of using his dad’s car for this night, and now he knew it would be worth it. The car slid out of the driveway, smoothly navigating the town’s best neighborhoods until he arrived at Linsey’s house.

Linsey hopped out of her front door before Dee even got to the porch. She called back, “See you later, my ride’s here!” Had Dee not known the voice, he never would have recognized her. As soon as the two could scope each other out in the porch light, they both let out a guffaw. “That’s amazing!” Linsey laughed. “You look just like Seth!”

“I guess that’s the only plus side to living in the same house with him … I can raid his closet for Halloween,” Dee responded. “I figured that if he was going to make my life miserable by being such a weirdo, I could at least take advantage of it one night a year!” Dee measured up Linsey. “And you … you look exactly like Jason!”

“Do I?” she replied. “He left his jacket at my house a while back.” Linsey turned so that the letterman jacket could get more light, then she lifted her hand up to her head where her blond hair had been gathered into a bun and smothered with a mess of short, shiny, curled brown hair. “I got this wig probably at the same place you did.”

Dee scratched his itchy scalp. “Yep, the one on Center Street, I’ll bet. The only problem is that your face looks far too cute to pass for Jason.”

Linsey giggled. “Are you flirting with another boy, Dee, er, I mean, Seth? I didn’t know you were into that!”

Dee laughed back, “Oh, there’s a lot I’m sure neither of us know about Seth and Jason.”

Linsey peeked around Dee’s side to see what he was holding. Her face brightened, “Are you serious? You took Seth’s longboard?! That’s too perfect!”

Dee hefted the board into the porchlight. “Blasted thing takes up the whole back seat, so I don’t think we’ll be able to give anyone else a ride to the party. That alright with you?” Dee lifted eyebrows up.

Linsey scanned the car. “Oh my gosh! Your dad let you take his car. I’ll bet your stepmom is ticked--she never liked that deal with the grades and the car.”

Dee tried to suppress his scowl. “Well, it’s none of her business anyway.”

Linsey brightened. “I’m not even sure I want to go to the party now. We should enjoy that car while you have it. That took too much studying to just drive a few blocks over to Kelsey’s house!”

Dee smiled. “Well, maybe we can take the long way around. I still want to go to the party, though, because I’d love to see the look on Jason’s face when he sees you dressed up like him. Just another moment of him regretting he ever broke up with you.”

Linsey shrugged, “Who cares what that idiot thinks anyway. Come on, let’s go for a ride and decide later!”

After slipping into the car and enjoying the initial thrill of its fluid, powerful handling, Dee surveyed the stores on Main Street. “Do you want a shake or a soda or … well, what do you want?”

Linsey looked at Dee through some stray curls. “Why do you want to get me something?”

“I lost the bet. You have the best costume of the two of us, so I have to get you whatever you want. What’ll it be?”

A grin played at the corner of her lips as she thought for a moment. “Well, Dee, I actually think you won the bet, but since you’re asking, why don’t we go on the outskirts of town to the top of Green Creek Hill. I want to see you give that longboard a try!”

Dee checked to see if Linsey was serious. She lifted her eyebrows playfully. “Okay, he said. But then I get to choose something for you.”

At the top of Green Creek Hill, Dee pulled out the longboard and looked down the windy country road that disappeared into the wooded ravine below. Linsey looked down the road and then at the longboard and frowned. “Um. Doesn’t that thing have any brakes?”

Dee shrugged. “I guess you just hop off when you’re done.”

Linsey’s breath could be seen puffing through the dark night. “Maybe this is a bad idea. I take back my request.”

Dee seemed almost ready to take her up on her offer, but a part of him felt like he could not back down now. This was supposed to be his big night with Linsey. “How about if I make it to the bottom of the hill, then it’s your turn to get me what I ask for.”

Linsey’s brown eyes reflected the stars as they faced Dee’s blueish-green eyes. “And what would you ask for?”

Dee’s mouth parted a couple of times and he gave a couple of sheepish grins, but he said nothing. Linsey cocked her head. “Well, I don’t know. What if people saw. They’d think I was hooking up with your stepbrother.”

Dee laughed. “That or they’d think that Seth was hooking up with your ex!”

Linsey shrugged. “Well, let’s see if you survive first.”

Renewed by this prospect, Dee set the longboard on the crest of the hill and stood on it, waving his arms a couple of times before establishing a teetering sense of balance. “Nothing to it,” he declared. In his mind he thought How does Seth do this? Does he have a death wish?!

The longboard started to inch forward then pick up speed. Dee felt like a scarecrow in a wagon, but he kept his feet glued on as the asphalt started to zip underneath him. For a split second, he thought he just might be able to do this and he allowed himself a smile to think of reaping his reward with Linsey, but then the first bend in the road came. He tried to lean into the turn but was afraid of falling off, so instead the longboard veered sideways off the road and onto a gravel pathway. Fortunately, Dee had not yet accelerated enough to reach dangerous speeds so as soon as he left the pavement the deep gravel slowed him to a stop and he hopped off and jogged a few steps, but remained otherwise intact.

A dozen second later he heard footfalls chasing behind him. “Dee, are you okay?” Linsey called out when she saw him.

Dee kicked at the board. “Yeah. Dumb thing doesn’t turn very well.”

Linsey looked visibly relieved. “Well, I’m glad, even if it’s a shame that you won’t be able to get what you were going to ask for …” she smiled wryly.

Dee looked up at Linsey. “Wait. It was the board’s fault. You’re not gonna hold that against me, are you?”

Linsey pursed her lips and gazed past Dee. “Hmmm. Okay, what about this substitute? If you go into that old abandoned house, touch the back wall, and come back again, we’ll call it even.”

Dee turned around and saw that the gravel pathway he stood on led to a rickety, skinny, two-story house with boards askew, windows broken, and shrubs sporadically assaulting it on the side. His stomach twisted a bit at the sight, but he did not have to think hard. “No problem,” he quipped to Linsey. “That means you’ve got about a minute to get ready for my request.”

Linsey squinted her eyes skeptically but nodded. He thought he even detected some impatience in her stance.

Dee immediately made for the house. He was not sure if the dark, brooding porch made him uncomfortable as he mounted the creaking steps or if it was the ill-fitting jeans of his costume. He scratched his head, gave a half-hearted wave back to Linsey and then disappeared into the dark gap of the partially-opened doorway.

The immediately smothering blackness caused him to momentarily panic, and all the boogeyman stories of elementary school, hitchhiker stories from middle school, and then serial murderer stories from high school slammed him all at once. His feet instinctively turned towards the relative light of the moonlit scape where Linsey stood, but he forced himself to hold still. Forget it, he thought, those are all just made up stories. He re-committed himself to completing Linsey’s task and he inched forward on the dusty floorboards.

With limited sight, Dee’s other senses heightened, and he could smell the decaying wood and organic aroma of creeping plants invading the home. Just touch the back wall, he thought, and you’ll be done. He tried to stuff his fears to the corners of his mind and shuffled forward. The blackness seemed to somehow deepen, and he started to think that he was hearing soft, human-like noises. You’re playing tricks on yourself. He forced himself forward in spite of the growing pit of panic enveloping his mind.

Finally, his toe stubbed against something. The wall. Triumphantly, his hand reached out and joined with the ancient, horse-hair plaster wall.

Then the noise was unmistakeable--a soft, sobbing sound.

Dee froze and his limbs seemed to no longer be under the control of his body. The visceral sound came from an open room to his immediate right, but he refused to look--it was too easy to imagine a translucent figure eerily bridging worlds and grieving over an otherworldly remorse. What am I doing here? How did I ever think this would be a good idea?!

After a minute that felt like hours, however, Dee could no longer keep curiosity from taking over. His head swiveled to the side and he noted a room partially lit by a window on its far side. In the middle of the room sat a figure, hunched over and shaking through sobs.

Though initially startling, something told Dee that these sobs were undeniably human. His fear began to retreat and before he knew it, his steps took him into the room. Before the weeping being even noticed he was in there, Dee recognized the profile.


Jolting and lifting up his head, Seth turned to face Dee. “Who’s there?”

At first Dee wondered how his own step brother could not recognize him, but then he remembered his  costume. Seth’s eyes squinted. “Is that my jacket? And my pants?”

“Uh, yeah,” Dee replied pathetically. He did not even know how to begin to explain, so he let it be. “Are you okay, man? What are you doing here?”

Seth turned his face back to the floor. “I don’t know. I don’t have a place where I belong. This is the only place that doesn’t feel like I’m intruding into someone else’s life.”

Dee scrunched his eyebrows together. “You feel like you’re intruding into my life?” He always assumed that Seth hated him and that is why he was so aloof, not that he just did not feel like he belonged.

Seth looked back at Dee. “How could I not? It’s pretty clear that your dad only puts up with me ‘cause my mom tells him to. My mom takes his side all the time so it doesn’t hurt their marriage. And you … you act like I ruined your life just because my mom decided to move us away from the only good life I ever knew to be with your dad.” He was not crying anymore, but he was trembling. “I’m sorry, man. Sorry that I ruined your life. But if it’s any consolation, mine seriously sucks.”

Dee fell completely silent. One part of him still held resentment and did not want to feel pity for this guy in front of him. But the other part, maybe the one that remembered his real mom before she passed away, it wanted to reach out. He made a compromise. “Well, what about your friends, Seth? You know, the longboard guys you chill with? You seemed to get along with them pretty well.”

Seth shook his head. “Yeah. Until they tried to get me to do some bad things. A part of me wanted to because I knew everybody assumed I was doing bad things anyway, but I … well, I knew it’d break my mom’s heart. So now even my friends don’t want to see me anymore.” Seth paused for a moment, then looked Dee up and down. “I get it now. You dressed up as me for Halloween as a joke.”

Dee felt like the smallest man on earth. “Seth, man, I’m … I’m so sorry. I …”

“Just go. Can’t I have one place to myself?” Seth turned away and flicked his hand towards the entryway.

Obediently, Dee started to turn around. Then he stopped. “Hey, Seth. Can I … can I make you a deal?”

Seth did not say anything. But he did lift his head slightly.


“Dee,” Linsey reprimanded, “What were you doing in there? Were you trying to scare me by leaving me out here all by myself … ‘cause if so, it worked.” Her arms crossed her body and she shivered slightly.

“I’m sorry, Linsey. I promise I didn’t mean to leave you … it … uh, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be.”

Linsey softened as Dee came closer. “Fine. But did you do it?”

Dee nodded. Linsey smiled. “Good, ‘cause I was running out of ideas for other substitutes.” She paused. “Now, was there something you wanted to ask me?” Her face lifted into the moonlight expectantly.

“Yes,” Dee took a moment to soak in the view. “Yes, I wanted to ask you if it’d be alright if we took, uh, if we took Seth to Kelsey’s party with us.”

Linsey mouth lowered. “What? Are you pulling my--”

“He was in the house. He--” Dee did not know how to explain. “I was wrong about him. I’d like to bring him to the party.” Dee shuffled uncomfortably. “You see, I … uh … I thought that he--”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Linsey interrupted. She saw something in Dee’s face that made her proud to be his friend.

“Great! Seth!” Dee called out.

Someone who could have passed for Dee’s twin came cautiously out of the front door. Before he reached Dee and Linsey, Dee whispered while grabbing Linsey’s hand. “Thank you.”

Linsey smiled and pecked him on the cheek. “Of course. But don’t expect me to say I was wrong about the person I dressed up as, okay?”

Dee grinned. “Deal!”

As Seth approached Dee and Linsey, he noticed his longboard in the gravel and picked it up. The trio worked their way onto the road. “We’ll have to come back tomorrow when there’s more light,” Seth said, observing the road, “but if you make it around this bend, Dee, you’ll be fine. It’s straight downhill from there. ”

Dee slapped Seth on the back as they walked up towards the car. “You got that right, Seth. It’s definitely all downhill from here.”