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Chapter 5

Colin didn’t have anything he could recognize as edible and he didn’t have anything to drink. Just as he started considering going out, the doorbell rang.

Andreus stood on the welcome mat, balancing a pizza on top of a six pack.

“Hey,” Colin said. “What’s up. Man?”

“Mary sent me,” Andreus said. “She said you met the Purest today. I figured it would be rude to show up empty handed and pizza and beer would be a safe choice.”

“That depends,” Colin said. “Is there pineapple on that pizza?”

“Hell, no!”

“Good, I guess you can stay.” Colin laughed. “Is the whole gang going to show up again?”

“I don’t think so, she said she didn’t think that was a good idea either.”

“Here let me take that for you.” Colin took the pizza and they deposited the food and beer on the counter.

“You seem pretty chill about having me show up to babysit you,” Andreus said.

“It’s not my first time on suicide watch, but this time I get beer.”

“Suicide watch? What did you do?”

Colin flipped the pizza box open and grabbed a bottle opener. “I cried when I was eighteen. Someone dropped a cinderblock on my hand and then called the cops. They thought it was self-inflicted, and that I was a danger to myself. That was a bad weekend. Food was better than I was used to, but the people were fucking crazy.”

“Damn, that sucks.”

“Anyway, how was your day?”

“I think I sobered up around eleven. I haven’t drank that hard in a long time. I think Zep’s going to be feeling it for like a week. What about you?”

“I feel fine.” Colin cracked the beers open. “I’ve spent a lot of ‘drink what you’ve got’ nights.”

“We should have a contest sometime. It’s hard to outdrink a water, but I think you’ve got what it takes.”

They clinked beers.

“I don’t really know how to hang out,” Colin admitted. “Are we supposed to like watch sports and play video games or what?”

“Do you have any games?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Do you follow any sports?”

“I don’t even know what season it is right now.”

Andreus took a swig. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll see what’s on TV or something. Where’s the remote?”

“It’s probably hanging off the arm of the couch over there.”

They moved to the dark blue sofa, with its familiar faded gold flower pattern. Years of wear showed in that fabric. It was well kept, like everything in the house, but this ccouch had been well kept for way too long.

“Let’s see what’s on,” Andreus said. “Sports, rom com, shitty movie. Shitty sports rom com. Hey, I like this show, you watch it?”

Colin shook his head. “I’ll give it a try.”

He didn’t pay much attention to the show, and he was comforted that Andreus didn’t seem to be watching too closely, either. He was eating, drinking, checking out the furniture. Colin was used to people who watched TV like they were part of the show, blocking everything else out. Of course the kinds of people he usually watched TV with were the kinds with a lot to block out.

They made small talk for a while, watched a few stupid commercials, and started to consider inviting someone else to bring more beer.

The power went out.

“That wasn’t me,” Colin said. “Shit, I don’t know where anything is.”

“If I stub a toe looking for a flashlight, I’ll be really pissed at you for not powering a couple lights,” Andreus said.

“You’ll thank me for not blowing something up.”

“Agree to disagree.” They rifled through the junk drawers. There were three, completely unorganized, just like before Colin ran away. “Found a pack of birthday candles. Those will last about ten seconds each.”

“I’ll check the bathroom, there might be real candles in there.” Colin found a few scented candles and a box of matches. He lit one on the coffee table and a few more on the kitchen counter.

Andreus came in from the garage, shaking one of the skinny birthday candles to extinguish it. “I found a dead flashlight and some lightbulbs.”

“Did you see batteries somewhere?”

“Yeah, Colin brand. Give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen?” He arched an eyebrow and smiled like he knew he was tempting fate.

“I blow it up. And then I blow up all the other lights. And then I blow out the power grid.” Colin eyed the naked bulb.

“Great, it’s worth a try, then.”

“What? No! That’s not great!”

Andreus thrust the bulb into Colin’s hand. “If you blow up the lights, you can vacuum and buy more. If you knock out the grid, those little people will show up in their little uniforms and their little hats and fix it. Light the damn bulb.”

Colin stared at the bulb. Nothing happened. He focused. Still nothing.

This was stupid. It was stupid to believe that he had power over electricity, no matter what he’d seen or done over the last few days. Stupid to think he could light a bulb, or blow one up, or that street lights went out went he walked under them just because he was angry or scared. His cheeks burned.

“Ha!” Andreus smacked his hands together. “I knew you could do it!”

It was only the faintest glow, but it was there. The bulb went dark. “Great, I just have to make myself feel like a piece of shit. No problem there.”

“You just need to learn to harness it,” Andreus said. “Man, when I first started trying to channel my ability- no pun intended- I had to get sad. Like, really sad. Depression, maybe considering suicide level sadness. But it’s like learning to wink or wiggle one eyebrow. You look and feel stupid while you’re getting the hang of it. Eventually you figure it out.”

“Both of those things look stupid once you figure them out, too.” Colin smiled. “Hey, I just got the channel joke.”

Andreus laughed.

Colin tried to make the bulb glow. After a while, he got it to work. The glow swelled and dimmed, but when he tried to steady it, the bulb exploded. He smelled melting carpet and burning hair. “Shit! Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Andreus winced. “I’m alright. I’m just gonna get this out of my hand real quick.”

“I’m sure I have tweezers somewhere.”

Andreus held up his hand. “No need.” His hand went transparent, turned into water for a moment. He caught a falling piece of glass with his other hand.

“Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.”

“Are you kidding? There are at least three more bulbs. This is happening.”

“Really?” Colin tossed the base of the broken bulb to the trash. It bounced off the rim and hit the floor.

“You have something better to do before the power comes back on?”

“I guess not.” He took the next bulb.

He didn’t master the lightbulb, or his emotions, or even make any great leap in progress, but he did manage to blow the last one out seconds before the power came back.

“Great timing,” Andreus said. “You make sure all the glass is out of the carpet, I’m going to make sure it’s all out of my hair.”

Colin hunted the vacuum cleaner down and started cleaning up the glass. It was oddly comforting, having a purpose and a friend.

Friend? Could he really make that judgement so soon? In reality, Andreus was the only person he’d ever sat down and had a beer with who knew his secret. He didn’t have to worry about Andreus setting him off the way Mary could. Colin had lodged hot glass in Andreus’ arm, and he’d only laughed it off and encouraged Colin to keep trying. Friend was as good a word as any.

“Well, Colin, it was fun hanging out. We should do it again.” Andreus held out a hand. He laughed when Colin tried to shake it. “No, come on, man.”

He led Colin through a “hand slap, fist bump, slide” combo that he couldn’t have anticipated and hoped he’d remember.

“Yeah,” Andreus said. “We’ll get you integrated into society in no time.”

“Thanks. You sure you’re good to drive? I have other beds.”

“Yeah, I’ve got to feed my cat. Do me a favor and hang onto my clothes for next time, though.”

“Your clothes?”

Andreus took his shirt and pants off, folded them nicely onto a chair.

“You haven’t been wearing shoes this whole time,” Colin observed.

“Nope, see ya.” Andreus covered himself with both hands, running on tiptoe like a cartoon burglar. Colin laughed when he shut and locked the door.

The house felt empty again.

He decided it was time to go through the other rooms of the house. He couldn’t avoid them forever.

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