Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Red Mask in the Mailbox

Back in 1997 I wrote a short story called Red Mask in the Mailbox. I thought I would publish it here on the Blog at Bree along with some fun pictures on it's 10 year anniversary. I'll try to publish a chapter a week. Feel free to comment, if you want to.

Red Mask in the Mailbox
by Chris Griffith

Chapter 1: Slick Driveway
He asked a lot of questions: “What if this...? What if that...?” His mother called him the “What If Kid.” And he tilted his head when answered as if knew what you would say before you said it. And that stare of his, along with the mark on his face, was intense and made people nervous. “My..., isn’t he curious?” old ladies commented with a hint of uneasiness.

When the family ate out at a restaurant he examined the bathroom. At the grocery store he checked for change in drink machines, gum dispensers, and pay phones. He smelled his glass of milk before he took a sip, and before he bedded down at night, he made sure the closet door was shut, the night-light was on, and that Daddy checked for monsters under the bed.

He lived in Roanoke on Huntington Boulevard for six years of his young life, but six years seems like a long time if you have only been alive for seven.

On the day he turned eight, on November 8, 1978, in hopes of a unique birthday, Thomas asked his mother if it would be all right to stay home from school. She told him no. “School," Marjorie said, “is important. There are very few things in life more important than school.”

It had been the first year Thomas's mother allowed him to walk to school alone. The first day of class, Margie had watched her little boy descend the concrete steps at the bottom of the hill and step onto the sidewalk, her breath had made fog on the storm window. She had cried for two hours.

But Thomas did not walk alone.

Mary Snodgrass was a fat girl with freckles and a big mouth. She reminded him of a fish. Mary was in the fifth grade. She carried a Holly Hobby purse on one shoulder and a Charlie’s Angels lunch box on the other. It was white and made of plastic with a long strap so a girl could carry it like a pocket book, (Thomas thought Mary was a long way from becoming one of Charlie’s Angels). Even so, the pocket book and lunch box slapped around her fat body like slingshots. They kept time with Mary’s sluggish pace.

Later that day, Thomas said goodbye to his friends and waited for Mary to exit the school.

He watched her walk out the back door. He picked up his books and his Cracker Jack lunch box, then started for home. Behind him, he heard the click of her wooden heals and the slapping sound of her pocket book and lunch box as it bounced off her rolls of fat. He tried to keep his pace faster than the slapping sound.

Thomas walked through the baseball field behind the school. His feet kicked dry dirt. He heard the turbulent, ugly voice of Mary “Snotnose” Snodgrass. “Wait up little boy. Your mother said you had to walk with me!” He walked silently, but twice as fast as Mary.

His father, Joe Trimpton, turned into the driveway on Huntington Avenue in a baby blue ‘76 Mercury Bobcat.

Joe pulled into the driveway so quickly, he did not see the grease, but smelled the putrescence. It reminded him of growing up on the chicken farm as a kid.

“Good gravy...,” Joe mumbled, licked lips, and tried to get a nasal grip on the smell from below.

Joe loved to say those words. “Good gravy…,” he had said, looking in the rearview mirror, as he ran down a groundhog on Old Mountain Road. “Good gravy....What are you doing back there?” he had asked, when a bad aroma floated from back seat to front seat on a trip to Myrtle Beach.

“Good...gravy....!” Joe accentuated each word, placed the car into park, and stomped on the brake as he slid down the driveway.

Thomas thought the car looked like a sled sliding down a hill of packed snow.

When Thomas saw his dad slide down the driveway, Mary was half a block behind him. Thomas saw the uneasy look on his dad's face, watched his mouth move, and moved his own mouth in sync with his father’s. “Good gravy...”

The car crashed into the mailbox at the bottom of the hill, which sent the pole across the street where it burst into the living room window of the Mrs. Lucado’s house, and sent the mailbox tumbling into the cool, crisp November air. (to be continued)

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