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  • short story

    by Jen Frankel

    This short story was a product of my darkest adolescent years, when it seemed perfectly reasonable to dealing with a high school crush by killing off the object of my affection in a story...

    It was a normal day.

    I was being bad and taking an unauthorized break from school. I took the car and went downtown and sat on the steps in my alley looking over the whole back scummy garbage and my place, the place where I like to think I feel at home.

    Anyway, it was good today because even though it had rained before, it was pretty bright, one of those days when nothing looks real and the light makes everything glow like magic.

    So I was sitting and pretty well catatonic when I heard some sort of scuffle coming into my alley; I sat up and kind of hunched over to one side in case it was something I didn't want to get involved in. short story, bait, jen frankel, scary stories, horror fiction Then they scuffled into view and it was two real mean looking ones beating up this nice looking kid with glasses. And since I took an instant liking to the boy, and since I know what a bitch it is to replace glasses, I decided to step in.

    I said, Hey, and started down the stairs. Sometimes I forget that I'm really such a small girl and not really all that threatening unless maybe we met at a party or something and we were just talking, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when it didn't turn out like I thought, that they'd drop the guy and run, but instead a noise like brutal sunlight split my head and I basically just sat down.

    It only took a billionth of a second after that for the sound to reach me, but it was like another life away when the noise split my head. He said, when he remembered later, that my face looked like I just found out that my mom or dad or someone I knew had turned out to be Satan or something. That is, ultimate horror, shock, and a little bit of pleasant surprise or maybe guilty thrill would be a better term.

    short story, bait, jen frankel, scary stories, horror fiction The two who were beating up on the nice, gentle looking kid sort of dropped him. Through a bright kind of haze I saw them hit him a few more times and tie his hands and blindfold him and stick a filthy looking rag in his mouth. He was struggling but not too much because every time he moved they would kick him or hit him again. His resistance was almost gone and my heart was full of his pain, so full I almost forgot I'd been shot.

    God! I was bleeding, but I had to forget if I was going to help the boy. So I concentrated on losing my pain in determination to save him, because at that moment, I saw myself as his knight in shining armour, his saviour, his rescuer.

    They hoisted him and half-dragged, half-carried him out of my sight. I leaned against the wall and tried to push myself up into standing position. I stumbled badly on one of the steps trying to get down to street level and it was only amazing luck that I didn't sprain my ankle. I think my mind would have snapped with the pity of it all, and missing out on an ADVENTURE.

    So, I followed what they call haltingly, trailing blood from the leg that was shot up. It was my right leg, through the thigh, and I was already glad I was wearing a skirt today, because otherwise I could see I would have a lot of trouble getting my clothes off to see to my wound. You see, I was already thinking ahead to a time when it would be possible to relax, when the danger and the ADVENTURE were over.

    So, I saw that they were still dragging the boy down the alley ahead of me and not looking back. So I got into my car which was parked at the foot of the stairs. I waited until they were almost at the end of the alley and started the car. I tried to put pressure on the accelerator and that's when I realized I was in a bit of trouble, because my right leg wouldn't work. I couldn't get any weight onto it at all.

    So I moved the seat closer, jarring my leg which suddenly felt like it was splintered right down through the bone, not just shot through the meaty part, and I wondered if I would ever walk quite properly again. I put my left foot on the accelerator instead of the right and eased the car down the alley. By this time, the mean men and the boy were out of sight. I got the car to the end of the alley, and it was just hitting me how pissed my mom and dad were going to be when they saw the blood all over the upholstery when I caught sight of them.

    There was this empty white truck, or at least this white truck with an empty cab - I guess you'd call it a van, sorry, but for a while I called it a truck in my mind because my brain was so numb. This truck, sorry, van, was parked right across the street from where I was sitting in the maroon civic. They opened the back doors of the van thing and threw the boy in. Then the two thugs circled around and got into the cab and pulled out. I got my left turn signal on and took off after them.

    Suddenly I was really scared of losing the truck - sorry, van - in traffic because after all in this day and age, white vans are almost as common as maroon civics. It would be so easy to mistake a Purolator Courier truck or something for my real quarry. And what was I going to do anyway if I caught them? I was feeling high.

    We got to a red light and I was right behind the van, the maroon seat cover stained almost black around my torn thigh. I tried to ignore the prickly pain as I reached into the pocket of my jacket and pulled out the big thick lockblade I always carried there.

    I opened the door of the civic, crouched low and raced up awkwardly, trying to keep out of sight of the guys in the van. First, I slashed the left rear tire of the van, then the right, thinking all the time, here's for what you did to my leg. Then, really quickly, I raced back to my car.

    Unfortunately, or as it turned out, fortunately, when I limped back into the civic, I slammed the door and the guys in the van knew someone was following. When the light went green, the driver really floored it, which was murder on the two slashed tires. They pulled ahead, but it was a short victory, because, before I even expected, the tires had completely deflated I mean the two at the rear of course and the van was steering like a drunk cow. I waited until the van coasted to the shoulder to the shoulder on a busy stretch of road and I pulled over behind.

    I saw the driver's door start to open, so I moved as fast as I could. I was feeling a rush like elation or maybe nausea flooding my stomach. I got out and half ran, trailing blood, to the door of the van and threw my weight against it, and to my surprise, I managed to force it closed. I pressed down the lock through the open window. Almost at that same instant, I saw a cop pull into the curb across the street by a coffee shop.

    So I leaned in th window, feeling pretty good and hardly at all like throwing up and said under my breath, all right, we can do this quietly or I can call that cop, and I pointed, over here, and he can find that boy. You want to cooperate?

    And the driver nodded kind of dumbly and I could see his face betraying what I'd hoped, confusion and a bit of shock as he weighed his options. He had figured out, I guessed, it would be almost suicide to pull a gun and shoot someone a hundred meters from a cop car on the side of a very busy road in a conspicuous albeit rather common vehicle.

    Can we do business? I asked, intentionally trying not to sound like a tough guy. I am, as I said, a rather small girl and don't look really all that threatening, but I didn't want to take any chances. I didn't want him to stop thinking and panic, because I had no desire to get shot again.

    While half my mind was very busy with the logistics of staying alive, the other half was negotiating the size of my wound, which had first felt as big as an Earth-ball, but was now down to feeling like a watermelon instead. I wondered if it would actually fill in, or if it would just cover over with a scab and then the meat would grow back a little at a time. So then I said, Okay, get your buddy in the back to put the kid in the civic and I'll leave, no fuss, no questions.

    No repercussions? said the driving thug, and smiled the nastiest smile I've ever seen in my life.

    I choked back my bile and said, I'll stay here with you, love, and the thug motioned to his buddy. I checked with a quick look over my shoulder after a minute to see the boy was in my car and thug number two was nowhere in sight.

    So I circled the truck around the front, just to be safe in case the other guy was hiding around the back to jump me. The driving thug called out to me, Enjoy him, with an ugly suggestive note in his voice, and when I looked back, he was sneering at me with that same nasty smile.

    So I let my eyes kind of glitter and said, I will, and went to the back of the van to find the other thug gone, so he must have gotten into the back of the van. I limped back into my car, thinking I'd gotten off easy this time, but didn't want to press my luck. I put my left foot on the accelerator, shifting my weight into the wet squish of the bloody seat, and did a wide u-turn and took off back down the road the way we'd come in that odd chase, maroon civic versus white van.

    Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately as things turned out, the cop from the cop car wasn't paying attention or was too busy with his coffee to care about a maroon civic breaking the law under his nose. It's funny, but I hardly noticed my leg and the blood and my skirt which was shredded around where the bullet had ripped through by now except for a dull buzz of pain. I was riding high on waves of adrenalin.

    I checked my rearview, which was clear of any vehicle at all much less a white van, and adjusted it to look at my passenger.

    He was mostly horizontal, with his head propped at a funny angle on the armrest in the back seat. The dirty rag hung half out of his mouth. I got a horrible chill that ran down my spine and throbbed in my leg and my head.

    He was dead.

    They had killed him, broken his neck before giving him away to me. No wonder it had been so easy. He was dead. They were finished with him. His clothes were askew, if that's the right word for a look of out-of-placeness. I wondered if they had raped him or anything as well and started to sob while my hands were still steady on the wheel and my eyes were dry. The sobs came from my stomach and wracked my ribs so I felt like all my bones were going to snap.

    I drove all the way to the south end of the city and pulled into a motel I knew about. It was almost four o'clock in the afternoon. Things like this, I told myself, shouldn't happen in the day.

    I wrapped my jacket around my waist to hide as much of the ripped skirt as possible and registered with my dad's credit card because I wasn't thinking much, or maybe I just thought it wasn't enough that I'd ruined the upholstery with tons of my own blood. I took the key, room nineteen, and drove the car around back. Then, with tons of apprehension, I opened the civic's back door.

    God! he was breathing. He was breathing, shallowly, but the air was going in and out, his chest rising in tiny movements. I was so infatuated with him already - or at least I was infatuated with the idea of saving a stranger. And under all that blood, I could see his pretty face and the glasses, a miracle they were still intact. I thought he might be not so much a boy, maybe a little older than me even. Very, very gently, I shook him and took his shoulders and they were cold and bloody in my hands, and with his eyes still closed, he moved and I felt a thrill. He might be okay after all.

    His eyes fluttered and I saw them for a moment, watery blue, and so afraid, in so much pain. Together, we worked our way to the room. About half way out of the car, he collapsed and I put my head on his chest and buried my face in the drying blood and it was horrific but so sweet, like kissing the lips of a corpse. I prayed, or whatever is the closest thing I do to praying is, that soon we could leave the stale tastes of blood and fear behind. I was still afraid, very afraid, but exhilarated.

    Somehow, we made it to the door and I got it unlocked and helped him inside. I left him on the bed and went outside to close the car doors. I vomited outside in the parking lot. When I got back into the room, I took some towels out of the bathroom, soaked in warm water, and went to him, the boy or not such a boy, and gently dabbed his face and head. I took off his glasses, which were splattered with blood, and set them on the side table. I undressed him very carefully down to his underwear, despite his weak protests.

    His entire body was mottled with red splotches of severe bruising. If he lived, and I hoped and thought now he would, he would be covered in brown and black and yellow and purple and green from head to toe. His eyes both showed signs of swelling and I was amazed his teeth looked intact. I sat by his head and stroked his blood-matted hair and I dialed the number of the family doctor who I hadn't seen or talked to in four years.

    I said, can I speak to the doctor? Please, it's very urgent, and finally the nurse put me through. I was starting to break down now, and my hands weren't as steady as before. My voice was almost breaking, like I was about to begin crying hysterically.

    I got the doctor. Hi, I said, neither calm nor controlled, what do I do for a bullet hole the size of a loon and a guy beaten so badly he's a minefield of bruises and keeps fading in and out of consciousness? Is this a joke? said the doctor, and took my lack of reply as a no. He began asking questions, and I answered everything except the ones about who we were and what had happened to us.

    Then, I hear a tapping sound at the window and the whole thing comes crashing into the room.At the same instant the phone goes dead and the driving thug steps into the room through the window frame and raises a gun to my boy's head and blows his brains out and says, Did you enjoy him? then that sneer again, and Didn't you know? It was you we wanted all along.

    The End.

    About The Photos

    Not only did I do a bit of overkill on a crush, I also decided to film the short story at art school. Never finished, but got some very creepy polaroids, a lot of barely usable Betacam footage, and a haunting taped voice-over narration of the whole story.

    Thank you to the fine friends who helped me out (below)

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