Copyright (c) 2017 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Jesse tried everything to get Chloe O’Brian’s attention. She wouldn’t even turn her head in his direction, not even when he tripped Ruben Butterfield, and caused hysterical laughter from the boys in the classroom as the beefy teen returned from the pencil sharpener and ripped the back of his pants exposing yellow polka dot underwear. “I owe you double, Paco!” Ruben promised.
Mrs. Dern stopped reading mid-sentence. Several girls were crying as the English Literature teacher slammed the almost finished An Episode of Sparrows onto her desk. “Jesse Paco! To the principal’s office. Now!”
Kurt Smith covered his mouth and whispered words of encouragement as Jesse shuffled past. “Moss broke a yard-stick over my butt last week … The janitor has a whole pile of broken ones by that clanking furnace in the basement along with a pile of rags he uses to wipe up blood. Bernie burns them to start the coal on fire and of course to destroy criminal assault evidence against the principal.” Kurt began to giggle. “I hear Porky buys them by the truckload.”
Jesse turned to look just once before he closed the classroom door. Chloe O’Brian’s dangerous green eyes flashed at him for the briefest of moments, but it was enough. It had to be … he was in love.
Louise Porter, the Junior High Principal’s part-time secretary, was compiling absentee reports when Jesse approached her desk. She was a high school senior and five years older. Jesse had had a huge crush on her before Chloe O’Brian stole his heart. “Is Por … mmm I mean Principal Moss in? I need to get a re-admittance slip for Mrs. Dern’s English class.”
“Mr. Moss is in conference with the girls’ volleyball coach.” Louise looked up from her pages and smiled when she saw him. Her dark brown hair framed her face perfectly and her blue eyes danced. “What have you done now Jesse?”
“Ruben Butterfield tripped over my foot in the classroom,” Jesse explained. “Mrs. Dern thinks I did it on purpose.”
“Yeah, as if you wanted a black eye from that brute during lunch break.” Louise pulled out a pad of re-admittance slips and began filling one out.
“Don’t you have to get Porky’s signature on that?” Jesse realized his error almost as the words flew out of his mouth but there was no coaxing them back in.
“I sign the principal’s name on almost everything,” Louise grinned. “It’s really my signature not his. But I don’t write Porky … it’s always just J. Peter Moss.”
“Thanks,” Jesse told her.
“Try not to get detention,” Louise said as she handed him the slip. “Ruben Butterfield got two weeks for beating up two High School seniors. Spending an hour after school with him in Mr. Larsen’s unsupervised classroom would be like being locked in a zoo-cage with a gorilla.”
“I’ll try to be good.”
Louise laughed. “I’m sure you will try Jesse … just don’t get caught.”
The bell rang when Jesse was halfway down the hall. He didn’t want to meet up with an enraged Ruben Butterfield so he took the long way to his locker … His face was already starting to hurt … lunch time would come soon enough.
Kurt Smith looked at the re-admittance slip Jesse showed him at lunch. They were sitting on a table outside watching the cheerleaders practice on the lawn next to the sprinklers. “I know you’ve had a thing for Louise Porter for years … looks like you finally consummated things huh?”
“Nothing like that,” Jesse snorted. “She’s like my big sister.”
“And your family was so poor you had to shower together to save water …” Kurt was shaking his head.
“She’s not as old as Brigitte Bardot … you two was like wet minks wrapped around each other!”
“What happened Friday night still freaks me out. Do you think Cranston knows what his new projector is capable of doing?”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Jesse said. “I think we’d better have a talk with him before the weekend.”
“Friday night wasn’t so bad.” Kurt’s eyes were half closed as he stared at the sky above the school entrance.
“Having Brigitte Bardot to make out with on a city park picnic table is one thing,” Jesse said. “Having that demon thing that possesses Linda Blair spider-walking across the theater ceiling looking for trouble is an entirely different situation.”
“If that thing would only hook-up with Ruben Butterfield we might have had a better chance of graduating High School without being in wheel-chairs …” Kurt pointed.
Ruben thundered across the lawn like a three-hundred pound freight train wearing a cowboy hat and with a full roll of masking tape covering the seat of his pants. “Today is my lucky day,” he bellowed. Jesse half expected steam to come out of his ears. “I owe both you chicken bastards a payback and it looks like I get to kill two stones with one bird!”
“That’s two birds and one stone … you dimwit cowpuncher!” Kurt taunted.
“Birds? I really wish we had wings!” Jesse was on his feet trying to pull Kurt after him.
“Chickens don’t fly from dogs, they run around in crazy circles,” Kurt said.
Jesse didn’t like the wild look in his friend’s eyes. “Whatever you’re thinking … it won’t work!”
“No one has ever accused me of thinking …” Kurt was on his feet sprinting toward Ruben flapping his arms and making rooster crowing noises before Jesse could stop him.
Ruben skidded to a stop and drew back his beefy right arm as Kurt ran directly at him. Just as he swung his fist Kurt veered sharply to the left and Ruben’s knockout punch went wild. “You clumsy, lumbering ox!” Kurt chanted just before he slipped on the grass.
For a very large teen Ruben was remarkably fast. He kicked Kurt as he tried to stand and had already punched him once in the face before Jesse could get to his floundering friend. Jesse pummeled the schoolyard monster from behind without effect and an instant later Ruben had his beefy arms wrapped around both boys’ necks dragging them across the grass. He stopped long enough to punch Jesse in the face and pull out a clump of his hair.
Chloe O’Brian and the rest of the cheerleaders stared open mouthed as Ruben plopped each boy down on a running sprinkler. “Look the little babies have wet their pants!” Ruben chuckled at his own joke just as the school-bell rang.
Chloe turned and smiled as she and the rest of the girl’s strolled past. “If only that whore Bardot could see you now,” she snickered.
Ruben rode the same school-bus as Kurt so he decided to stay in town with Jesse and have his mom pick him up later. Coach Evans had allowed them to put their wet clothes in the dryer during gym class. Mr. Cranston was mopping the floor in the theatre entrance when Jesse knocked on the door and he let both boys in.
“What’s the matter … you don’t like the free tickets for next Friday’s show?”
“The tickets are fine,” Kurt told him. “We just don’t think you should be showing a film like The Exorcist until you get the bugs out of your new projector.”
“What bugs?” Cranston was animate. “Everyone said it was the most real movie experience they’d ever seen!”
“Maybe a little too real,” Jesse told him. “We ran into Brigitte Bardot in the park after the movie. When you said it looked like she jumped right off the screen … well it was because she did!”
“It’s true,” Kurt said. “I’ve got the sucking marks on my neck to prove it.
“Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“At first we thought it was kind of cool,” Kurt said. “Bring our fantasies to life that sort of thing. But if you show the Exorcist this Friday night this town could be in real trouble.”
“But it’s out of my hands,” Cranston threw both arms in the air. “I’ve given out almost two hundred free tickets … if I cancel the show now … no one will ever trust me again.”
“We’ve got to do something. You just can’t let a little girl with a demon inside her run loose in town just to save face.”
“That’s how you two knew when I’d fixed the film and finished running it. Brigitte Bardot disappeared when the film ended … right?”
“Yes, I guess she did,” Jesse and Kurt both reluctantly agreed.
“Then there is no problem,” Cranston told them. “I told you I installed a high powered fan to keep the film cool … what could go wrong this time?”
“Mr. Cranston, we’re talking about Cloverdale,” Jesse pleaded.
The theatre owner was quiet for a moment … then he nodded. The truth about the small town was hard to argue with. “I’m not cancelling the show and I don’t have any answers. Perhaps you two better talk to the projector’s inventor … explain what’s going on. If anyone can fix this … problem … old Joe can.”
“I haven’t seen Joseph Callahan for years,” Jesse said. “I didn’t know he was still alive. Does he still live in that old textile mill just inside Motha Forest?”
“As far as I know,” Cranston said. “He called me on a radio phone that he invented and had the projector delivered by a local driver.”
“This keeps getting better and better,” Kurt said as they walked back to Jesse’s house. “Not only is it illegal for anyone to go into Motha Forest, but Chloe’s father is the administrator of a special land trust set up for that strange Mommet cult. We’ll be lucky if we don’t get shot. Airplanes are not even allowed to fly over the forest. No one knows the way in. It’s like the trees bunch up and create a wall whenever anyone gets too close.”
“There’s one person in town who knows almost all of Cloverdale’s secrets,” Jesse said. “All we have to do is ask an old lady to help us!”
“Dr. Descombey’s witch sister!” Kurt gasped. “I’d rather call Ruben Butterfield and ask him if he’d like to dance with me by the river!”
“It may come to that,” Jesse said. “If we don’t stop that movie from showing … that might seem like an easy way out.”
All the windows in the Victorian mansion on the south west corner of Galbraith and Main Street in Cloverdale appeared to be blind. The enormous house was even scarier than Kurt remembered from October nights half a dozen years earlier. It was scarier now because he knew this time they would have to face whoever or whatever answered the door instead of shrieking and running like howling banshees after they banged on the heavy carved door during a Halloween dare.
A pathway made of flat stones, mortised with blackened green moss and crawling with worms, led up three levels, each intersected with six stone steps. A flock of shadowy ravens rose into the sky with only a slight whooshing sound and settled on the numerous gables. Dark eyes followed them like cameras. Snowball bushes, clipped in the shape of funeral attendants and weeks past the blooming stage, lined both sides of the sunken entryway. Something dark with a spiked tail vanished into the shadows ahead.
“There’s no law that says we have to go to the movies every Friday night,” Kurt said with a shiver. “Plenty of kids go roller-skating or God forbid bowling on the weekends.”
“While we’re at it, let’s pull our pants up to our armpits, tie them in place with twine and see if we can get ourselves library cards,” Jesse told him. “We’ll both end up writing books about flowers and dancing horses with yellow bows in their manes instead of being astronauts or helicopter pilots.”
Kurt was forced to laugh in spite of his fear. “Don’t you have to have some kind of a certificate from a vocational college to do that?”
Both boys were aware that they were being watched; by who or what they knew not … and the thought sobered them.
Rows of dust-caked arched-top windows set deep in the stone walls loomed above them like tombstones expecting still limber tenants. The entryway was inset at least three feet from the exterior walls. A cast-iron knocker in the shape of a horrible gargoyle rested against a tarnished striker plate.
Kurt stretched his hand and slowly lifted the heavy iron. A sound like breathless words falling into a rusty bucket from the bushes behind them almost made the ring slip from his trembling fingers. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!”
A figure seemingly made of darkness stepped from the foliage. “That’s a thumping sure to wake the dead … and we wouldn’t want that … no, we wouldn’t want that!”
TO BE CONTINUED …