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
Allison Weatherbee spent the rest of the morning trying to avoid Greg Johnson. Although the school’s most popular boy seemed to be getting over the strange infatuation that had overpowered him when they kissed two days before. Allison noticed him still giving her strange, sometimes longing, looks while she and her best friend were eating lunch.
Vicky Jenkins’ robust enthusiasm for tomorrow’s school fair balanced out Allison’s dread for the same event. “I’d give anything to be in that booth selling kisses even if I was sitting next to icky Marsha Hicks,” Vicky vowed as she spread light-dressing on a leafy salad. Just outside the cafeteria window, members of the school’s shop class were busy putting together a booth that resembled a thatched-roof Polynesian dwelling. In keeping with the theme for Back off Boys, a stage performance about a nurse that falls in love with a ship full of World War II sailors, bamboo torches had been erected on both sides of a path leading to the hut.
“I don’t want to kiss anyone,” Allison told her best friend. “I’m thinking about staying home tomorrow!”
“You can’t!” Vicky gasped. “Marsha Hicks breaks up too many couples as it is. For once I’d like to see a few of her boy-friends get stolen!”
“You’re welcome to take my place,” Allison told her. “I don’t want a repeat of the disaster that happened during rehearsals!” The entire school had been turned on when Allison used techniques learned from a fourteenth century book when she kissed the school’s most popular boy during a drama rehearsal.
“What disaster!” Vicky argued. “Someone overloaded a circuit and a breaker got tripped. When you lip-locked Greg Johnson even I felt something. Everyone wants that kind of fairytale magic to happen when they suck-face. You can’t blame people for chasing after you wondering just what is was that made you different. “Perfume? Aphrodisiacal breath mints?” Vicky gave her an appraising look. “It can’t be your breast size! What the hell would make the Coverdale Stallions’ quarterback drop to his knees and worship the ground a poster-girl-for-social-anxiety walks on after just one tiny kiss?’
“I’ve heard the word witchcraft come up more than once,” Allison said. She took a drink from her milk-carton then sniffed it with a wrinkled nose before tossing it in the closest garbage can. She was reaching for her entire lunch-tray with a look of revulsion on her face when Vicky slapped her hand.
“You’re not going to throw that away too,” she said snatching the corn-dog that Allison had already laced with mustard. “I lied to Mrs. Farmer when I said I’d be grazing on the north-forty today.” Vicky took a big bite. “Unless there’s a cute bull around!”
Marsha Hicks happened to be walking past and she stopped to glare at the two social outcasts. Allison noticed the popular cheerleader had just a few fish-sticks on her tray and a handful of chips. “Both of you eat like pigs,” Marsha smirked as Vicky stuffed the breaded wiener into her mouth and mustard ran down her chin. She turned vicious eyes on Allison. “The only reason you got cast as Rachel in Back off Boys was because Miss Wolf felt sorry for you!” Marsha looked sure of herself. “After tomorrow, you’re going to have to accept the fact that you are going to get grossly fat and live in a trailer court with a half-a-dozen smelly, snot-nosed brats playing in the dirt. And you won’t even know for sure who donated their sperm. Take my advice,” Marsha said smiling. “Don’t show up at the kissing booth tomorrow and avoid the humiliation. Do you really thing my lover boy, Giggy, or anyone else is going to choose you over me?” Marsha laughed. Allison glanced behind her to where Greg Johnson sat with a group of his friends. Greg saw her looking and after a moment of hesitant recognition smiled. His enchantment was fading … but wasn’t gone yet.
“A thirsty man will drink at the town pump when he has to,” Vicky told Marsha giving the pretty girl her dirtiest look. “But he’ll always look for cleaner water … if he isn’t desperate.”
Marsha stomped away and as she did Greg Johnson rose from his table and began to walk toward them. Marsha noticed Greg too and the next instant a tray clattered to the floor followed by Marsha’s wail. “I think I sprained my ankle,” she cried. Greg rushed to help the struggling girl to her feet and Allison couldn’t help but notice the dramatic display of Marsha’s cleavage.
“You’re right,” Allison told her friend as Greg led the clinging girl with her arm wrapped around his neck to his table. “For once that bitch needs to lose at something!”
Melania just shook her head when Allison told her about the kissing booth fundraiser and sent her downstairs with a second basket of dirty clothes. The old woman’s basement was a vast cavernous labyrinth of dingy rooms filled with boxes, books, brooms and spider-webs. Thank God the laundry-area was clean and brightly lit.
Just as Allison placed the basket on the floor, the clothes-dryer stopped and the door opened. A balled-up sock sprang out and after shaking into a foot shape began to hop across the floor. It was pursued by a pair of ladies Monaco trousers. The rest of the almost-dry laundry tumbled out of the machine in an orderly fashion and proceeded to lounge across several lines stretched between an upright water heater and a broom closet. “Just set the basket by the washing-machine,” Melania yelled from the kitchen above. “They’ve been cleaning themselves for years!”
Allison stumbled towards the stairs and climbed them backwards, unable to take her eyes from the designer pants as they hustled the wayward sock back to the washing machine. With a thumping heart she watched as a bell-sleeved silk blouse poured Tide laundry detergent into the quickly filling washer.
“People often ask where those missing socks go,” Melania chuckled as Allison closed the basement door. “They run and hide … and if they are not caught they end up as dirty-rags sleeping in allies and wiping garbage cans.”
After helping Melania remove all the cans and packages from the pantry and clean the shelves - rodents had chewed into the food supply and made a mess - Allison followed the old woman into the library. “I haven’t seen Simon since yesterday,” Melania said. “Each time that cat goes off on one of his adventures the mice celebrate by having a lavish feast at my expense.”
“Have you tried setting traps?” Allison asked as they sat at the table where La magia di baciare e come usarlo the fourteenth century book that translated as The Magic of Kissing and how to use it lay open on chapter three.
“The mice in this house are very clever,” Melania said. “They would rather drag traps into my bedroom to catch my toes rather than their tails and they often do. Many is the time I’ve leaped onto my mattress still wearing shoes and kicked them off beneath the covers.”
“I’m sure Simon will show up in a day or so,” Allison said.
“I hope so,” Melania said giving Allison an appraising look. “We need his talents more than you know.”
“What happened to Niccolo and Juliana?” Allison asked, remembering that in Melania’s last story the young priest and his lover had been tied to a stake in the village square and were about to be burned alive.
“The false Pope Baldassarre Cossa was a wicked man and had Niccolo stripped of his authority and everything that identified him as a man of the cloth,” Melania told her. “He feared that if he allowed even one official to leave his now corrupted church more would follow. To him the wooden crucifix that hung by a chain and adorned Niccolo’s humble robes was a symbol of his own lusting power, wealth and vanity. Cossa laughed triumphantly as he tore the cross from the young man’s neck.”
“That must have been awful for those poor people,” Allison said, “to have the very foundation of their belief and devotion seized and used by a fraud and a thief.”
“Faith is something that can never be taken … but must be cast aside by those who have it,” Melania said. The old woman placed a withered hand above her own breast and closed her eyes as if reluctant to see horrible images from the past before she continued. “Niccolo had a small silver crucifix on a steel chain hidden under his robes and as the flames erupted he somehow was able to loosen one of his hands and held the tiny cross above both his and Juliana’s heads and praised God in a loud voice even as the fires of hell began to consume them.”
“How horrible!” Allison gasped.
“It might have been, had the young priest’s faith not been so very great,” Melania sighed. “To Niccolo the sacred cross was not a symbol of vain riches and authority but of love and devotion. It held an eternal and everlasting power far greater than that which the corrupted Cossa had seized. A glowing light flowed from the cross Niccolo held above their heads. The celestial illumination surrounded Juliana creating a divine shield that protected her from the flames even as Niccolo himself was consumed by the fires. The evil Cossa, unable to stop what was happening, fled from the village having never seen a true miracle before. The man who had sought control of the church for his own greed and lust was terrified and went into hiding. Later, armies of the faithful from all over Italy pursued him and he was eventually driven from power.”
“What happened to Juliana?” There were tears in Allison’s eyes.
“Julianna was cool and unharmed when the terrified villagers sifted through the ashes,” Melania said, “but Niccolo was gone. All that they found of him was the crucifix. The silver had melted in the tremendous heat into the shape of a heart with a jagged crack down the center. Some of the villagers fell to their knees and worshiped the young girl as a saint, while others grew fearful. They spat, threw stones and called her a witch. After a number of days Juliana couldn’t take their adoring empty stares and sly plotting whispers anymore and she took the silver heart necklace and traveled to the north. Some legends say she finally died there after hundreds of years while others say the power of love made her immortal and that she would never die completely but be reincarnated again every thousand years … always searching the centuries that followed for her long lost lover.”
“Do you believe the story is real?” Allison asked Melania.
“Belief is the most powerful thing in the universe,” Melania told her. “Belief can make even the most outrageous dreams and ideas become real.”
Melania pointed to the ancient book with the brass gilded wooden covers and told Allison to turn to the last page and then to read the last paragraph. “There is much to learn from this volume but tonight I want you to know Juliana’s finale thoughts … at least those of that age in which she once lived.”
Allison opened the book and read the last lines.
“Io passo i percorsi di dolore. Autostrade scure morbide e sereno. Per raggiungere la fine della solitudine. E lì in attesa di trovare l'amore”
After a pause Allison stammered. “I caught a little of it. My comprehension of Italian is not that good. What does it mean?”
“It’s a kind of poetry and also a promise,” Melania said as she closed her eyes and translated the words into English. Allison noticed a tear rolling down the old woman’s cheek.
“I tread the paths of sorrow.
Dark highways soft and fair.
To reach the end of loneliness.
And love find waiting there.”
“Do you think Juliana will ever find her lost lover?” Allison asked.
“I hope so,” Melania told her. “But it’s late … and you have a very exciting day tomorrow.”
“I know you told me not to kiss anymore,” Allison stammered, “at least until we get things under control … but I don’t know how I’m ever going to get through it!.”
“Remember the balance of all things,” Melania said. “Pleasures always have a dark side and the greater the pleasure … the more chaos and danger.”
“I’ll do the best I can,” Allison promised. She gave the old woman a tearful hug and then left the mansion.
Melania stood at the window and watched the emotional young girl as she walked into the night. The old woman’s withered hand involuntarily reached inside her blouse until her fingers grasped the tarnished glob of silver that had been melted into a heart shape centuries ago. The treasured object hung around her neck by a rusty chain. Her arthritic fingers traced the jagged crack down the center. “I know you will,” she muttered.
It stopped snowing right after Allison’s first morning class and by lunchtime the sun was smiling on the High School fundraiser erected on the lawn.
There were several booths selling drinks and even one selling bananas with the name of a boy written with black marker on each yellow skin. After a girl purchased a banana with a certain boy’s name written on the side, the named individual was required to peel and hold it for her while she ate it. Principal Dunn thought it was a wildly stupid idea and he was clueless as to why so many girls lined up to buy the fruit especially from the more popular boys. But he had to admit it was definitely a money-maker. Dunn was even considering mentioning the idea to the stuffy PTA at the next school board meeting … as a possible source of future funding.
The path to the Back off Boys kissing booth was lined with flaming Citronella bamboo torches and even Allison thought it gave the booth a tropical look. She was actually in a good mood until she stepped in the booth and found out Marsha Hicks had gone all out to win the lead in the school play.
Marsha had poured herself into flesh-colored leggings so small they looked painted-on and the super-thin, off the shoulder, white Parker Yasmin blouse she wore did little to conceal the bulging pink bra underneath. Her hair looked like at least a two-hundred dollar visit to a stylist and her make-up was exotic enough to make Cleopatra hide her face.
Allison suddenly wished she hadn’t worn jeans and a baggy green-tee that said My other shirt is dirty, but then she wasn’t planning on kissing any boys today. She had already decided that she was perfectly happy to let Marsha simply win and take over the female lead in the play … or so she thought.
Several boys walked past the booth with Kisses $5 written in block letters on a banner across the top but so far they were only looking. It took pimple-faced Lewis Cramer to break the ice. He charged all two-hundred eighty pounds of his bulk toward Marsha and tossed a five dollar bill into her glass jar. Lewis licked his lips and then bent her backward with a kiss guaranteed to make every hillbilly in West Virginia blast squirrel-guns in the air. Marsha came up wobbly and out of breath but she smiled broadly when she noticed two other boys lined up to taste her lips … and not a single one for Allison.
Allison tried to look nonchalant but she knew her face was turning red and in all actuality she had never been so humiliated in her life. It didn’t help when Marsha turned to her between kissed and said loud enough for half the school to hear “Perhaps you should lower your price!” Several girls laughed … and even a few boys. Allison wanted to melt and sink into the ground.
Suddenly, as if Superman had come to life wearing black jeans and a letterman’s jacket, six-foot two inch tall Greg Johnson appeared from the gym door and was staring directly at Allison as he approached. “Let me have at least one paying customer … and let it be Greg,” Allison closed her eyes and prayed to James Dean the Patron Saint of teenagers. Greg was close enough for Allison to see the ocean-blue sparkle in his puppy-dog eyes when he was suddenly distracted and turned toward Marsha.
A gasp swept the crowd and even more boys crushed toward the popular girl. The cheerleader with the Cleopatra eyes had just removed her bra and was sliding it out one thin shirt sleeve. Even with the sun shining, the cold October air made both of her nipples stand at attention like soldiers saluting a flag during a parade. Every boy in the crowd was suddenly filled with uncompromising patriotism. Allison looked across the lawn and saw Principal Dunn staring at the cheerleader but then just as quickly saw him turn away. Modesty and virtue almost always fly out the window when large sums of money are involved.
Tanya McKinsey, one of Marsha’s friends, talked loudly and her voice carried above the surging crowd of males. “You should have left your bitch at home Marsha … or at least given her a bath … dogs don’t belong at school!” She was pointing at Allison and all but a few of the crowd roared with laughter.
So many tears filled Allison’s eyes it was hard for her to find the latch on the gate that would allow her to exit the booth. All she wanted was to run all the way home and hope that by some measure of grace God would allow her to die tonight so she wouldn’t have to return to school tomorrow. Vicky Jenkins hand on hers stopped her just as she was reaching for the latch. “Where do you think you’re going?” Her voice was accusing.
“Home,” Allison bawled. “I’ll think about how to end my horrible life later.”
“You going to let her win?” Vicky pointed to Marsha who was brushing lips and pushing boys out of the way so fast she looked like a postmaster stamping mail.
“I can’t compete with Marsha Hicks … I never could,” Allison wailed.
“But you can,” Vicky argued. “Whatever you used to turn up the heat during the auditorium search for it. Find it and pull it out now!”
Allison turned and Marsha was smiling broadly at her while an agitated group of males licked their lips and waited. The gallon jar in front of Marsha was full and she was emptying the bills and coins into a bag that a beaming Miss Wolf was holding out for her. The drama teacher didn’t even glance in Allison’s direction. It was as if Allison were invisible. Suddenly Allison was angry and reached for the thimble-sized Brown Sugar and Vanilla lip gloss that was still buried in her purse.
“What are you doing?” Vicky looked at her strangely as Allison coated her lips.
“Applying my war paint!” Allison told her.
Allison noticed several boys sniffing and even Vicky’s nose twitched a little but still there was no rush to her side of the booth. She looked for a boy … anyone who could get things rolling but the crush was all on Marsha’s side. Allison looked at her watch it was already 12:45 and Principal Dunn had only allowed one hour for the fair. ‘It will take at least two hours to clean the lawn,” he had told the faculty. Several boys were beginning to turn away from Marsha and look around but things were going much too slow. If Allison didn’t kiss a boy soon … or anyone right now she was going to lose! Desperate times call for desperate measures and to this day Allison still doesn’t know why she did it. Perhaps it was some long buried coming-out-of-the-closet impulse that caused her to grab a startled Vicky Jenkins and kiss her on the lips … but when she did … all Hell broke loose at Cloverdale High.
Melania was asleep in a soft recliner when her eyes suddenly flew open. “I should have expected this,” she muttered as she looked for her coat. “What a time for Johnny … oops I mean Simon to decide to go stray!”
Five minutes later her garage door rattled up and the 1949 Buick Roadmaster came to life with a rumble. Melania tried to think of all the places Johnny Lang might be and in the end had to rely on her own instincts to find him. I don’t blame the poor girl Melania thought to herself as the classic car turned onto Vineyard road and then roared west toward the desert. All people can be cruel but it takes a rival girl in school to be truly horrible.
A plume of snow arched behind the fire breathing car like a boat’s wake as Cloverdale’s resident witch searched the dark highways of Comanche County looking for the one person who could set things right.
To call the School Fair bedlam would be a vast understatement exploding chaos would be a better word but still understated. Every student in Cloverdale High School watched as a wide-eyed Vicky Jenkins kissed Allison Weatherbee back … and on the lips. “Wow!” Vicky exclaimed as she staggered on wobbly legs after Allison finally pushed her away. “All this time I’ve had my batteries in backwards!”
Greg Johnson was the first to throw a five into Allison’s jar and he punched Luke Jensen in the mouth when he tried to push his way forward with a handful of bills. Allison closed her eyes when Greg kissed her, but heat made her open them quickly when Lewis Cramer bashed Greg in the head with a flaming torch that he had pulled from the ground only seconds before.
Allison could smell smoke and heard the crackle of wood burning.
She felt like she was being tongue raped when Lewis forced his file-like appendage into her mouth and was only vaguely aware of him dropping his entire wallet into her jar.
It took at least six boys climbing and crawling like monkeys to knock Lewis out of his front row position … by then most of the nearby females had also become affected. Tanya McKinsey slammed Vicky with her purse and yelled “Back off bitch!” before pushing her way toward Allison with eyes overflowing with lustful desire. Miss Wolf pushed her back and then gave her drama student a much too matrimonial come-on look that said what exactly will you do for an A?
The entire football team was fighting each other while the wrestling and track teams ran in circles trying to get in a few blows. Marsha was knocked to the ground and almost trampled as the crowd driven to lustful madness surged forward and broke apart the booth. Allison was pulled from the burning wreckage by three members of the girls’ volleyball team who individually swore to her their never ending devotion and loyalty as they stole kisses and tried to lead her away. She felt groping fingers unfasten the button on her jeans.
One moment Principal Dunn was screaming for everyone to stop the fighting and the next instant he was brushing cheeks with Allison explaining in a whimpering yet somehow hopeful voice that he and his wife were drifting apart and would soon to be divorced.
In the distance sirens could be heard, but Allison held out no hope for an end to the riot … people, ambulance and firemen were just more soon to be infected people coming to join in an out of control passion party. She was knocked to the ground by another surging brawl of lustful desire. Only by crawling on her hands and knees was Allison able to escape the frenzy.
When she found her herself finally free of the madness she sprinted across the street and hid behind Elmer Larson’s apple tree. “What have I done?” she voiced her thoughts out loud.
“It looks like you decided to become a winner!” Allison looked up to see a smiling Johnny Lang leaning against the back of the tree. His brilliant blue eyes and swept-back dark hair took her breath away. It was then she noticed Melania’s Roadmaster idling just down the street. The old woman looked like she was listening to music and seemed to be pre-occupied.
Allison knew what was coming and she looked forward to it … but then she didn’t. She knew it was the only way to end the madness but the sooner it started the quicker it would finish. And she knew from the past that Johnny Lang was impossible to walk away from without tears and pain in the heart.
She held her breath as Johnny’s lips moved closer to hers. Her heart was racing - pumping her up with desire and she was sure her bra would break both elastic straps. Perhaps hoping it would and wondering what would happen if it did.
Johnny Lang’s lips were electric and Allison felt the tiny cars in all her secret places turn on and rev to redline before racing up and down her legs. Checkered flags were waving in all her most embarrassingly damp and erotic spots. Allison was a child again riding a white pony in a carousel that kept turning faster and faster. She was sinking deeper and deeper into glorious pools of sensual bliss and there was no going back. Suddenly Allison felt warm, wet and wonderful and she was afraid to move … afraid that if she did it would destroy the moment and she wanted it to last … and to never end.
After an unknown length of time a shadow passed over her even though both her eyes were closed. She felt the oversize ruby ring with the masking tape on the band slip from her finger and was aware of something rising and floating ghostlike above her head. And then with a dull ache the feeling left like a soft summer breeze … and she knew the phantom Johnny Lang was gone.
When a tearful Allison finally opened her eyes a wide-eyed and dumfounded …but thankfully no longer lustful …Vicky stood behind her panting. “What the Hell just happened?” her best friend asked, trying to catch her breath from the run. From over Vicky’s shoulder Allison could see students and faculty milling around on the lawn. No one seemed to realize just what had taken place. A fire-truck was putting out the flames and the mist and rising smoke made it seem as if everyone were just awakening from some kind of ethereal dream. Principal Dunn and Miss Wolf were searching the littered lawn yelling at students and picking up five dollar bills. A black cat crossed the road and slipped behind an old Buick Roadmaster idling next to the curb.
Vicky was nothing if not persistent. “What was all that?” she demanded again.
“It was the magic of kissing,” Allison whispered.