Kiss of the Boogeyman

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10

THE DRIFTWOOD GAZETTE

Sunday April 22nd

Press Conference Enlightening; Coroners Report Reveals Deaths Are Not Homicides After All

By Kyle Jefferies

, — The north community of can breathe a huge sigh of relief this morning as police officials have revealed the cause of death of the four local adolescences. As determined by Coroner James Methric, and made public during yesterday’s press conference, Detective Cort Mooney disclosed that the cause of death was not homicide as first speculated, but rather cardiac arrest due to a very rare condition known as SUNDS.

SUNDS or Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome is an extremely rare condition wherein the victim unexpectedly suffers an acute cardiac arrest during sleep. More common in adult males, the condition has been known to occur in children during adolescence, the age between 12 and 17. There is at this time no concrete determining factor as to the cause of SUNDS, and most hypotheses differ. However, the most popular among scientists ranges between the victims ingesting one too many carbohydrates before sleep, to the victim experiencing extremely realistic, intensely horrifying nightmares.

We here at the Driftwood Gazette are relieved to report that there is no crazed lunatic running the streets of our fair community preying on our children, though the melancholy brought on by these terrible accidents will not be easily shaken.

MISS MICHELLE Slam sat picturesque in a green and purple sundress on JJ’s front stoop reading the morning newspaper with a frown, a stack of books, and file folders perched next to the swell of her buttocks. Focus! Surprised and a little light-headed, JJ admonished himself as his brain’s blood swiftly traveled southward at the sight of Miss Slam sitting on his porch. As JJ approached the beautiful creature scowling over the newspaper spread across her lap, she looked up and flashed JJ a shining smile that truly took his breath away.

“Why is it every time I lay my eyes on you, you look like I just caught you doing something you shouldn’t be?” Miss Slam inquired with a wink.

Before JJ’s brain could stop his heart, his mouth blurted: “Because Miss Slam, in every way possible you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, or will ever meet in my entire life.”

The look on JJ’s face after he spoke from his heart was priceless. Miss Slam sat in shock, as still as a statue, slack-jawed and totally at a loss for words. Suddenly, she saw something different. Something powerful in JJ’s eyes that she was certain wasn’t there yesterday. He’s just a boy! Reason screamed in Miss Slam’s mind, clearing away the confused, emotional fog. She had to let JJ down easy so as to not break his heart.

“Oh, JJ. That’s probably the sweetest, loveliest, most wonderful thing anyone has ever said to me. Ever. And you are so respectful, kind, and handsome. Everything I want in a guy, actually. The thing is sugar, you’re underage and still in high school. The very same high school I happen to be gainfully employed. It would start a scandal, end my career, and it’s just plain wrong. Do you understand, JJ? Please tell me you understand?”

JJ said: “Yes, Miss Slam, I understand. But I want you to know something before you permanently ‘friend-zone’ me. I turn eighteen in a couple days, graduate next month, and plan on enlisting in the Marie Corps. If I live long enough to accomplish all three, I want to marry you. I love you, I know I do, more than fat kids love ice-cream cake—I love you. Don’t say anything concerning this bombshell I just threw in your face, until we see if I survive the next few months. Just tell me that you’ll keep what I’ve just told you locked in your heart until then.”

The look on Miss Slam’s face told JJ that she would do as he requested before she softly whispered the words: “I will.”

“Now, why don’t you tell me why you are gracing my stoop on this fine Sunday morning, Miss Slam?”

“Call me Millie. All my friends call me Millie and I now consider you my friend, JJ.”

“Okay, Millie. S’up?” JJ flirted as best he could. Feeling awkward and inadequate, he quickly added: “Whatcha need and what’s with the stack of musty old tomes there?”

“Can we go inside to talk or will your mom freak out to find you entertaining a grown woman?”

“Sure, we can go in. No problem. Mom will probably be a little apprehensive at first, but as soon as I tell her you’re neither a hooker nor drug addict, she’ll probably want to start planning the wedding. Now let me grab that stack of stuff and if you’ll be so kind as to follow me, we can get down to your important business.”

Sitting comfortably in JJ’s kitchen, across from each other at the kitchen table, ice-cold glasses of pop in hand, and the stack of books and files between them, JJ and Millie stared at each other. In a not-too uncomfortable silence, they were lost in each other’s eyes. JJ didn’t want to ever stop basking in Millie’s sizzling essence, but the persistent thought that Curt should be present to hear what Millie had to say too, just wouldn’t stay bound and gagged in the recesses of JJ’s mind. Finally acquiescing to his annoying conscience, he tore his gaze from Millie’s, and abruptly stood to call Curt. As he punched Curt’s number into the phone, a smile touched his lips as he noticed how flush Millie’s cheeks were.

After the fourth ring, the Olsen’s answering machine intercepted the call, so JJ hung up the receiver with a frown. For a quick moment, and not for the first time in his life, he wished he and Curt were one of those “Richie Kids” who were always sporting cell phones. Alas, they were not, so he would just have to fill Curt in, if and when he saw his best friend that afternoon to patch things up. Happily, JJ returned to his seat across from Millie, who took a quick sip of her pop to hide the smile on her lips.

“No luck ringing Curtis?” Millie asked, replacing her drink on the table.

“Nope, I got his parents’ machine. I’m not too sure he would talk to me right now anyway.” JJ retook his seat with a grunt.

“Are you two still at odds with one another?” Millie inquired, concern etched upon her brow.

“Yeah, and I still don’t know why.” JJ said with a shrug. “No worries though, I’ll just give him the cliff-notes version later on when I track him down to apologize. So, Millie, enlighten me if it pleases you.”

“You’re funny, JJ. But we need to get serious now.” Millie’s tone turned grave as she said: “What I’ve learned could both end and save lives.”

“Alright. Jeez, Millie. You’re freaking me out a little. What have you discovered?” Millie had JJ’s undivided, undiluted attention now. He was serious.

“Okay, well like I told you yesterday, I have a couple close girlfriends: one that works in the Mayor’s office and another who works as a clerk for the state records department over in . So, because of their government status and the fact that those chicks owe me some favors, I enlisted their help in digging through the mire of the past when I kept hitting road blocks during my internet searches. JJ, pardon my French, but the shit they told me is scary and they could both be fired and imprisoned if their bosses ever discovered the truths they unearthed, let alone that they gave them all to us. See why I say this is so serious?” Millie added as she reached across the table to take JJ’s hand.

“Yes, Millie, I do. You can trust me,” JJ gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, “and so can your friends. Millie, how on earth did you get this stuff so fast?”

“I picked it all up early this morning and I have to have it all back to my girls before midnight,” Millie explained, shuffling through the file folders, “and thank you JJ. I know we can trust you. Okay, sugar, what I have to tell you next might come as a shock, so I want you to prepare yourself mentally for what I have to say. For this Boogeyman, this—”

“This isn’t his first rodeo.” They said in unison, the shock on Millie’s flawless face was almost comical.

“How did you find out? What do you know? Did you have another nightmare? Maybe you should enlighten me on the situation, JJ.”

JJ told Millie of his terror-free night of slumber, tactfully omitting the dream of her in a teeny-weeny bikini. He went on to tell her of his morning at church and his run-in with not-so-crazy ole, Mrs. Grober. He recounted the dump truck full of information the eldest citizen of unloaded on him at his request. He told her everything the old lady revealed; leaving out nothing, not even the minutest bit of info. He even confessed to Millie the strange, powerful feeling that enveloped and uplifted him as the church service proceeded, and the fact that he didn’t quite fully understand that feeling. Millie, as all learned librarians worth their salt, had a rational, intelligent explanation concerning JJ’s undefined feeling.

“That was the Holy Spirit, JJ. That strange and powerful sensation you felt that prompted you to sing with flavor and pray with earnest was the Holy Spirit. Plain and simple, JJ: You felt it, you responded to it and you seem better for the experience. I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks, I guess?” JJ shrugged as he watched condensation form on his beverage.

“Don’t shrug that experience off, JJ! You…We need all the faith we can muster if we want to prematurely put a stop to Boogeyman’s slaughter fest!” Millie cried as she frantically dug through a particularly thick file.

“I’m sorry, Millie. I didn’t mean to—”

“S’okay,” she cut him off. “Found it! Here, JJ, have a look at this.”

JJ took the old black and white photo from Millie with a warm smile, which instantly turned to a grimace of shocked horror as his eyes focused on the image. With trembling hands, JJ placed the photo—circa 1915—of a highly detailed charcoal sketch on the table before him. Frozen, caught by the hideous countenance of Boogeyman staring up at him from the photo, JJ tried in vain to tear his gaze from the image. Every minute detail was meticulously rendered with intense care. The image seemed to leap from the page even within the confines of the photograph. Twice, JJ tried to speak and twice his vocal abilities escaped him, leaving him looking like a gasping fish out of water.

“JJ, read what’s written on the back, sugar,” Millie gently prompted.

His hands still a bit shaky, JJ slowly grasped the picture, wincing a bit as if the photo burned his fingertips. Flipping it over to read the handwritten notes written on the back, he cleared his parched throat. Without a word, he took a quick sip of his beverage to lubricate his vocal cords before reading the lines aloud.

Patient #017 / Designation D.G. /

Diagnosis: Severe Depression accompanied with fainting, night-terrors and mild hallucinations due to over-active imagination.

Depicted: “Boogeyman” Hallucination / Patient D.G.’s rendition of the culprit she claims was behind the recent child slayings.

JJ let the photo fall from his fingers as he looked up into Millie’s sweetly-concerned face. Her smile calmed and refocused JJ’s thoughts. Was this ‘Patient D.G.’-person, Mrs. G? He wondered, as he slid the photo across the table facedown so he wouldn’t have to look at that face again. Millie took the photo and tucked it back into its folder. As she traded one file folder for another older, more tattered one, she paused and gave JJ a thoughtful look before carefully diving into the folder’s contents.

JJ noticed that the file folder was red, not the standard off-white-tan color. Funny, he thought, that for as old as the file seemed the red should’ve faded to a pink by now but it was still a vibrant red. JJ didn’t know if he really wanted her to continue this little session of show and tell. The red folder was disconcerting, but he was too far in to turn back now, so he steeled his nerves for Millie’s next bombshell.

“Okay. My friend over in found this bad boy misfiled and had the wherewithal to give it a once over before she dismissed it. We’re lucky, JJ, because this,” Millie waved what looked like an old notebook, with a confident flourish, “this is IT. This unassuming little notebook is basically a handbook on stopping Boogeyman dead in his cloven tracks!”

“What is it, exactly?” JJ asked in a hushed, reverent tone.

“It’s a long story, sugar, but the slow and skinny of it, is that this little book was the personal property of a Priest back in the 1890s. It seems to have been written when he was a young priest and assistant to a very well-known Bishop. He doesn’t give any names—always referring to his boss, the Bishop as “His Excellency”—and it gets kind of stale in spots. That is up until the young priest was called upon to stage an illegal exorcism—which he performs. You see, JJ, a rash of child murders had hit the community and there was a wealthy family in town that had a son who was acting—let’s say, very peculiar. The family was not catholic, but they were religious and the patriarch of the wealthy family became convinced that his son was possessed by demons. So this affluent fellow petitioned the young priest to drive the demons from his beloved son. After hours of discussion and debate, the young priest agreed to the undertaking.

“The author goes on to chronicle his preparations: Where he spent his mediation and why. Also, the prayers he prayed. It even has an itemized list of all materials the priest collected to aid in his rite. Anyway, long story short, the priest performs the exorcism. He even acquired an assistant of his own, though not to help in the procedure but to document the event. The young priest chose his scribe wisely because whoever this person was, they were very articulate. Noting every detail in—”

“Did it work?” JJ interrupted, looking hilariously like one of the kids Millie reads to on Wednesday afternoons. “Was the exorcism a success?”

Stifling a giggle, Millie answered: “Yes and no. It says in here that the priest was confident the exorcism was successful and the son’s soul was cleansed. The thing is, JJ, moments after the priest collapsed from exhaustion—proclaiming the rite was finished—the son died. However, as fate would have it, the young priest noted that the very same night the wealthy man’s son perished was the very same night the child killings stopped. The notebook ends with a conversation between the priest and the wealthy man. The priest’s apprentice, now the priest’s eyes and ears on the street, transcribed all at his mentor’s request. It seemed that the prosperous fellow wanted to know if the priest thought that his dead son was the child killer like rest of the town did. The priest reassured the man that he believed the culprit behind those hideous acts was the devil himself: Lucifer, working through an earthly agent. Therefore, if his son was that agent like everyone believed, he was no longer so at the time of his death. He was certain that the wealthy man’s son went to meet his maker with a clean spirit.”

“Okay, but what does that have to do with what we are going through?” JJ asked with a slightly confused look on his face.

“Here, sugar. Let me read a bit of it to you.” Millie straightened her posture. Clearing her throat, she began to read from the ancient journal.

***

14 April – Oh Father God, Creator of All, Redeemer, you alone are God over all the nations of the earth. You who have blessedly bestowed the Breath of Life into my humble body; I praise thee O Lord. I am endeavoring; still, to recuperate my strength. My body seems to have been more taxed than my mind as my thoughts continue to mull over the events of the other evening. It was as much of a success as it could have been. The victim tragically did not survive the procedure. However, I AM convinced that the boy’s soul was purified of the taint of Lucifer before it departed from his flesh to go home to you Father. I saw it in his eyes.

Mutt—Father, I pray that one day you will convince the lad to reveal to me his Christian name—tells me the killings have stopped, praise Your Holy Name. He also tells me the boy’s father would like to pass words with me have I the notion. The town believes his son a murderous lout…I will see the man. I pray YOU will give me words that will bring him peace, though I fear my words will be of little comfort to a grieving father. I know the boy did not commit these heinous crimes Father; he was possessed of a minion of the Enemy. He was being used as a tool of Satan—No longer! I say: No longer. Forgive me Father I must now take my rest. In Your Son’s Holy Name—

15 April – Father God! Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my meditation as you once did your servant David’s. Give heed to my voice, My King and my God. For it is to You that I look up and pray.

Outwardly I am prepared Father, pressed and pampered, for my rendezvous. Inside I am in turmoil—a raging tempest of emotions. Calm my spirit, O Lord; grant me Your soothing tongue and the words to offer comfort. Bless our meeting with Your holy presence O God.

Place Your firm loving hands upon Your children Father and pour Your perfect peace through our very souls. Drown the cacophony of angered vengeful voices with Your commanding soothing song. Let us find respite in You.

For You, O Lord, bless the righteous with favor; cloak him in Your loving-kindness. In Your Son’s Holy Name—

15 April – Afternoon – Almighty, I am Your humble servant. Please guide my hand. With gratitude, Matthew.

Rich Man: “Welcome Father—”

Father K: “Father is fine my son.”

RM: “Still you refuse to allow me the pleasure of your name, Father?”

FK: “I offer no offense my son. My wish is for my name not to go down in history for actions not performed in the light of day. Savvy? Fret not you shall know my name soon enough. I fear it will be upon the lips of the entire township. Whispered, out of a mixture of awe and terror, behind the backs of hands due to the worry that I might overhear them and lay the culprit to waste with the Word of God.”

RM: “Indeed. No offense taken I assure you. Please Father, be seated.”

FK: “Thank you. Beautiful blessed day is it not?”

RM: “I wish to not pass our short time together speaking of the weather, Father, if it pleases you?”

FK: “I understand, my son. Now what weighs heavy on your heart?”

RM: “Father, I do not know how to form these words, never mind speaking them aloud. However, I must do both. Father, was my son a villainous cold blooded slaughterer of children?”

FK: “My son, I will not try to sweeten the sour taste of truth with honeyed half-lies. If your son were to have been tried in court under the laws of men, I am afraid there would have been no evidence to prove his innocence.”

RM: “Oh, Father, how will I ever tell his mother?”

FK: “Tell her I believe your son had no conscious control over his mind and body over the last seven to ten days of his life. Tell her my belief is that your son was possessed by a very powerful demon of the Enemy’s highest order.”

RM: “A spawn of the old serpent! Tell me, Father: Which foul creature took control of my son?”

FK: “I will not tell you the creature’s name as he revealed it to me as I believe the beast was spouting only lies. Please believe my words when I say: Truly your son was not the culprit of these heinous crimes. Surely he was an instrument, utilized by the Enemy to cause turmoil and chaos. With tremendous effort, faith and prayer, the demon was cast out of your son by the will of the Almighty. Sadly, your son’s body was too broken by the presence of the demon to accommodate his spirit any longer, though I assure you the taint of Lucifer was no longer upon his soul when it passed unto Father God’s embrace.”

***

Millie finished reading the journal and set it down, almost reverently. She looked up at JJ who was obviously, by the strained look on his face, ruminating on what she had just read him. He attempted to speak a few times, his mouth popping open comically, before snapping closed again. When he did finally say something, it was all Millie could do not to smack him in the head.

“Alright, alright, fresh. I get what Father K was saying. Now, how does all of that dirty history help us today?”

“Don’t you see, JJ? The priest thought it was Lucifer working through an “earthly agent,” but he wasn’t one-hundred percent accurate. It was Boogeyman working through that rich guy’s son, not Satan. When the exorcism drove out Boogeyman’s taint, inadvertently killing his earthly agent, he was rendered powerless and his reign of terror squashed. Until seventeen years later when he, I don’t know, musters up enough dark energy to inflict his dominion over the next poor soul to fall victim to his insidious charms.”

“So you’re saying that every seventeen years or so the freaking Boogeyman gathers enough juice to transcend the veil between our realm and the beyond in order to swindle some fool into being his man on the street, so to speak. Then this poor trick gets stuck doing all the leg work for Boogeyman in this realm, the “real” world, so that creeper can wreak havoc on the souls of little children, while greedily reaping whatever profane benefits safely from—somewhere else?” JJ queried, trying not to drown in Millie’s glorious gaze.

“Yes, JJ, I believe that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Then taking Boogeyman’s slave-boy out must be one of the three ways to stop his killing spree!”

“It would seem so, JJ. It would seem so.”

“What the hell is he, it? A devil, some sort of elemental or, I don’t know, Satan’s chief imp?” JJ queried, slamming his fists upon the tabletop in frustration.

“I don’t know. I wish I did, JJ, but there is no definite answer to Boogeyman’s origins. I mean, maybe—”

“Maybe,” JJ interrupted, “Boogeyman is the quintessential dream-demon that all others have been based on.”

“What are you talking about, sugar,” Millie asked. “What are dream-demons?”

“You know: Like those freaky fish things that grant Freddy Kruger his powers in the movies. Curt and I love scary movies, so of course we became sort of experts on all the basic occult stuff—ya know vampires, witches, werewolves, and all that stuff. Where Curt lost interest however, I went a little further and studied up on dream-demons. Now I can’t remember everything but, as I recall, our Boogeyman sure fits the profile of a dream-demon.”

“JJ, this isn’t one of your horror films, this is reality!” Millie reasoned, hoping JJ would follow her process.

“I know, Millie, I know this is reality. I also know that the reality of the situation is that we are dealing with some unreal, supernatural problems that won’t ever stop unless we take action. So beautiful, if he’s not a dream-demon, then what is he?”

“I don’t know, JJ. Like I was saying, I have a stack of contradicting theories, but no concrete answers. He, It’s got different aliases’ and guises depending on what part of the world you hail from. Sometimes it appears as a female, but seems to prefer its male personas. In Latin-America he’s known as El Cucuy, and is described as a humanoid creature with two-toned flesh and glowing eyes. In certain eastern Mediterranean countries he’s called Babau, and appears as a tall man wearing a heavy black coat, with a black hood to hide his hideous features and glowing eyes; and in certain Norwegian and Germanic countries, he goes by Boeman or Butzemann and is portrayed as a paranormal creature that resembles a man, dresses completely in black, having sharp claws and fangs, and glowing eyes. There are a few factors that all of these theses agree upon. One: The Boogeyman is evil incarnate. Two: The Boogeyman is eternal and insatiable. Three: The Boogeyman is real.” Millie accentuated the last word, as if she had just stated an undeniable truth.

“Plus, they all describe him as having glowing eyeballs,” JJ noted with a shudder. “Anyway, who came up with these theories, maybe we can ask them for help with our predicament?”

“All of them died, JJ, decades ago. Even if they were alive, I doubt they’d be much help. They were all relentlessly mocked and degraded by their colleagues and contemporaries.”

“But why, if they—”

Millie cut JJ short: “As far as I can tell, they all died in the same mental institution back in the Sixties. Which seems odd to me that all of the top minds researching the possible, real existence of Boogeyman would all wind up institutionalized in the same asylum at the same time, with the same diagnosed psychosis. None of whom became well through their treatment, but all died within the same decade. I can’t seem to remember the name of the place, cliff something or another I think. Friarcliff or Driercliff… ugh, I just can’t remember. Doesn’t matter anyway I guess, just thought I recognized the name.”

“I doubt those crazy smart guys all riding the wagon at the same moment is a coincidence.” JJ interjected.

“Right, totally not a coincidence, but also nothing we can do to change any of it. JJ, I’m afraid we’re on our own here.”

They sat in silence for a time pouring over material. Mutely reading whatever tidbit of fresh info the other had to offer. As can happen in such situations an unacknowledged flirting began. Lightly touching one another accidently on purpose, neither gave voice to protest. She would place a hand on JJ’s forearm, shoulder, or knee. He would place his hand on the small of her back whenever he found cause. They would brush their fingers together when they handed each other something. Every so often JJ would chance a quick peep of Millie while she read. He just couldn’t help himself. Her nose wrinkled in the cutest way when something she read disagreed with her sensibilities. She had a light smudge of dirt, dust from one of the files, under her left eye. JJ smiled and went back to the tome he was currently perusing.

“Stale!” JJ exclaimed frustrated. “This feels like a waste of time. Why couldn’t they have just included the three ways to stop Boogieman in their rap? It would all just be so much simpler. Have Boogieman troubles. Listen to the jam. Handle your business in one of three handy dandy methods.”

“You want to ask them for yourself sugar?” Mille asked brandishing a small envelope.

“What?” JJ uttered almost inaudibly, bewilderment etched upon his face. “You’re not serious.

“I am serious.”

“How did you come up with tickets to the clown show?” JJ was awestruck. “The concert’s tonight and I know for a fact that the show’s been sold out for days.”

“I told you JJ. I have friends—friends that owe me favors. So, I called in a few to help figure out this whole mess. This one, however, I called in because I knew you would enjoy it.”

JJ couldn’t help the huge grin plastered on his face. “So you’re taking me out on a date, to see my favorite artists live in concert. I’m going to be a zombie at school tomorrow. How are you going to swing a show tonight and work in the morning?”

“Didn’t you—of course you didn’t you were in the hospital. It was announced over the PA system on Friday. No school tomorrow. It’s an In-service Day for all teachers. All other staff and students get a day off. And it’s not a date.” She added hastily.

“Whatever you say goes milady.”

JJ was sorry he said it as soon as the word passed his lips. Milady! Nice move, people are going to start mistaking you for Barry Sanders soon. Moron! JJ mentally thrashed himself for his total lack of game. To his astonishment Mille was smiling coyly. Wanting to cover his misstep JJ quickly steered the focus back onto the concert.

“So what’re the logistics for tonight? What venue and when do the doors open?”

“It’s at the Majestic Theatre, doors open at seven show starts at eight. I’m—,”

At that moment, JJ’s mom and her escort, Kent the paramedic, came bursting through the front door laughing hysterically. At one of Kent’s many witticisms, JJ had no doubt. Upon laying eyes on her son and his visitor, Phyllis Douglas purposefully killed her laughter mid-guffaw. For no conceivable reason, Phee was instantly suspicious of the beautiful blonde sitting across from her beloved son. Sensing the discord in the air, both JJ and Kent tried to make pleasant introductions.

“Well, hello again young lady!” exclaimed striding into the kitchen with his hand extended. “Nice to see you again and so soon, too; we didn’t get to officially meet before out in the street. I’m Kent Fraser. And you are?”

“Mom, this is my lady-friend Millie. Millie, this is my mom, Phyllis and her new boyfriend, Kent.” JJ looked at his mother with eyes that begged her for politeness, tact, and understanding.

Millie stood and shook Kent’s and Phee’s hands in turn, coyly uttering pleasantries. When Phee didn’t take Millie’s hand and drag her to the door for an unceremonious exit—but instead, gently shook it while mentioning how lovely Millie was, JJ’s love for his mother expounded tenfold. seemed to notice the look of relief on JJ’s mug and gave him a little nudge, accompanied by a sly wink. This made JJ like the herculean paramedic all the more. That gesture along with how great had been treating his mom moved right to the top of JJ’s cool-book.

“JJ, what is this mess on my kitchen table?” Phee asked when she noticed the now spread-out stack of literature Millie had brought to share with JJ.

“Oh, I’m sorry Ms. Douglas. That’s my fault. I was just helping JJ go over research material for his senior project. I guess we got carried away. It won’t take but a moment and you will have your table back.” Millie fibbed as she began to gather up all her illicit material.

“Wait. What? You mean to tell me that you got my JJ to get carried away over a school project?”

“That’s correct, ma’am.” Millie answered.

“Millie, honey, you’ve just earned yourself one of my award-winning pasties. And call me Phee, dear.” Phee sprung a smothering embrace on an unsuspecting Millie.

“That sounds wonderful, Phee,” Millie squeaked as the much larger woman crushed the wind from her lungs.

Releasing Millie, Phee said: “It sounds like there’s a ‘but’ coming.”

“I’m afraid there is, Phee. A pasty sounds wonderful right now, but I’m going to have to take a rain check. I have a whole laundry list of errands to run and chores to accomplish before work tomorrow, and I’ve already wiled most of the afternoon away assisting your darling son. Thank you for the offer though, but I should be going now.” Millie said reaching for her stack of files.

“JJ!” Phee exclaimed, scaring the piss out of her son. “Don’t just stand there, escort your lovely guest to her car and carry her burden like the gentleman I raised you to be.”

“Yes, mom,” JJ replied, giving his mother his best whipped-pup expression.

JJ gathered up the stack of old, musty files amidst his mother’s continued, verbal bashing concerning his chivalry and swiftly strode to the front door. He held the front door open for Millie and noted the way she seemed to purposefully brush her breasts against him on her way out. noticed too and caught JJ’s attention with an approving grunt punctuated with a quick double thumbs-up that sent JJ scurrying, red faced, after his would be girlfriend. Neither Millie nor JJ said a word on the short walk to Millie’s surprisingly pristine ’88 Chevy Cavalier.

“Did I mention your ride is pretty nice? It’s awfully clean for a P.O.S.” JJ teased.

“Hey now, this is my baby. She’s the first car I ever bought straight-out. She’s fresh, she’s mine and I take great care of her. Now apologize.” Millie ordered more playful than wrathful, as she unlocked the passenger door.

“I’m sorry, Millie, I—,”

“Not to me, JJ. Apologize to Cara.” Millie corrected him as she gestured to her car.

“Are you serious?”

“I am.” She wasn’t, though.

JJ shoved the files into Millie’s arms, dropped to his knees and prostrated himself before Millie’s car, Cara the Cavalier: “Please forgive this ignorant cretin of his follies. I meant no dishonor. Can you ever—,”

“That’s good enough, you are forgiven. Now get up before your mom sees you and calls for the men in the white coats.” Millie gently placed the pile of history in her car.

“Thanks,” JJ grunted, as he stood and brushed himself off.

“Sorry I lied to your mom JJ.” Millie admitted. “I don’t know why I did, and I feel weird about it, but I think it was what I was supposed to do. I hope. Are you going to be able to make our date?”

“Yeah I’ll just tell my mom I was able to get a ticket last minute off a scalper. Wouldn’t be the first time and probably won’t be the last. She should be cool. I’ll meet you in front of your aunt’s house though to be safe. Hey you just called the show our date.”

“I did,” Millie confessed while she slid behind the wheel of her car. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll meet you in front of my aunt’s at five to pick you up. Look handsome for me sugar.”

Millie started her car, revved the engine and took off like a shot. JJ felt aglow: Like he could brighten a pitch black room with his shine. His day was going splendidly. He’d gone to church and actually enjoyed the experience. He had a date with the hottest woman he’d ever laid his eyes upon. Their destination was the sold out clown show at the Majestic. Sure he had to mend some fences with Curt, but he was confident that would be a piece of cake. Nothing an apology blunt and a couple Faygo root beer floats couldn’t fix.

JJ turned to head back indoors. He caught sight of a large black bird of a species he’d never seen before, staring at him from the tree he kept forgetting to chop down. He jumped, frightened, as it burst forth from his tree. Only to perch on the upper most crown of a tree across the street. JJ’s new fiendish feathered-friend—resembling an oversized, coal colored peregrine falcon—emitted an ear piercing screech, took flight, and soared high into the heavens. JJ watched it fly, mesmerized. A moment later he looked at the nonexistent watch on his left wrist. Enough bird watching, JJ scolded himself. For JJ had no time to dillydally, he had the date of his life to get ready for. Plus, it was almost show time.

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