Fiends ssc, p.28
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       Fiends SSC, p.28

           Richard Laymon
 
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  Cyndi was close enough to touch if I leaned forward far enough. She stood in the next aisle, leaning back slightly. The edge of the trough just behind her pressed a dent into her pleated skirt - into her rump, too. I could see the straps of her bra through her white blouse. The way her head was turned, I could see the fine, downy fuzz on her smooth cheek.

  '... by ten, I think,’ Bobbi was saying when I started to listen. ‘No later than eleven.’

  ‘No problem,’ Cyndi told her. ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll just be pigging out and watching movies.’ Grinning, she nudged Bobbi with her elbow. ‘At least till my parents hit the sack. You won’t miss much. Just don’t forget to bring that extra sleeping bag.’

  ‘Hope Doris doesn’t fart in it.’

  Cyndi elbowed her again, and laughed.

  Then Jim elbowed me, and we got away before they could notice we’d been near enough to hear them.

  Outside the store, Jim grabbed my arm. ‘Did you hear that?’ He was flushed and breathless. ‘She’s having a slumber party. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’

  I was.

  ‘You think it’s tonight?’ he asked.

  I knew she didn’t work at Music World on weekends. This was Friday. ‘It’s gotta be either tonight or tomorrow night.’

  ‘Yeah!’

  We took the back route to my house so we wouldn’t have to pass George’s place. When we were safely out of sight in the garage, Jim said, ‘Wonder if he’s still at the pool.’

  ‘You’d think he might get the message,’ I said.

  ‘Kids like that never get the message.’

  In the house, I asked if Jim could stay the night. Mom saw no problem with that. She suggested he stay for supper, too. Then we made a trip by the backyards to Jim’s place. He got his mom’s permission. After he put together his sleeping bag and overnight stuff, we returned to my house.

  It didn’t take long to set up the tent, toss in a couple of pads from the patio lounges, and arrange our sleeping bags.

  But the waiting took a long time.

  Nothing in the world takes longer than waiting for something really great to happen.

  ***

  Finally, Dad got home from work. Finally, we ate supper. Finally, darkness came and we went out to the tent.

  We had to wear our pajamas and leave our clothes behind. That was how we’d always done it in the past, and we didn’t want to make my parents suspicious by doing anything differently. It wouldn’t be a problem. They expected us to make a few trips back and forth to brush our teeth, use the john, that sort of thing. Once they were off to bed, it would be a cinch to sneak our clothes out.

  We took two flashlights into the tent with us. And a couple of cans of Pepsi and a bag of onion-flavored potato chips. We zippered the fly screen, but left the flaps open to get some air. Inside, we sat cross-legged on our sleeping bags and started snacking.

  ‘This is so neat,’ Jim said.

  ‘The chips?’

  ‘You know.’

  ‘God, I can’t believe we’re gonna do it.’

  ‘I just hope we can see something.’

  ‘It’s a one-storey house,’ I said, ‘so they sure won’t be upstairs.’

  ‘As long as they don’t shut all the curtains.’

  ‘They won’t. They can’t. It’d be too cruel.’

  Jim laughed softly. ‘When do you think we oughta get going?’

  ‘We’d better wait till after eleven.’

  ‘Man, I hope we don’t miss everything.’

  ‘Bobbi won’t even be getting there till then. Anyway, they’ll probably be messing around all night.’

  ‘We wanta be there in time to see ’em change.’

  ‘Change into what?’

  I wasn’t the one who asked that.

  George was the one who asked that.

  We both flinched and jerked our heads toward the front of the tent. And saw George crouched on the other side of the fly screen, his piggish face gray in the darkness. We shined our flashlights on him. He squinted and said, ‘Hiya, guys.’

  ‘What’re you doing here?’ I snapped.

  ‘You having an over-nighter?’ he asked, just as calm as if he hadn’t heard me.

  ‘This is private property,’ Jim told him.

  ‘Can I have some potato chips?’

  ‘You can’t come in here,’ I said. ‘There isn’t enough room.’

  ‘I gave you guys my Twinkies.’

  ‘Okay, okay,’ I said. I didn’t want to argue with him, just get rid of him. So I unzipped the screen and handed out the bag. ‘Help yourself. You can have them all.’

  ‘Gee, thanks.’

  ‘Why don’t you take them home,’ I said, ‘and share with your parents.’

  ‘Oh, they’re out.’ He stuffed a handful of chips into his mouth.

  ‘Give some to your sitter,’ Jim said.

  ‘Sitter?’

  ‘They didn’t leave you alone, did they?’ I asked.

  ‘Sure. Always do.’

  ‘Great,’ Jim muttered.

  ‘So, where we gonna go?’

  ‘Nowhere,’ I said.

  ‘We gonna go look in windows?’

  How long had he been listening to us?

  ‘We aren’t going anywhere,’ Jim said.

  ‘I’ll go with you. I like to look in windows. You get to see all kinds of neat stuff.’

  ‘What are you,’ Jim asked, ‘a little pervert?’

  George laughed, spraying out some potato chip crumbs.

  ‘You’d better never be looking in my windows,’ I told him.

  ‘Or mine,’ Jim added.

  ‘Nah. I only like to see girls.’

  ‘You been spying on my sister?’ Jim asked.

  George shook his head and jammed his mouth full of potato chips.

  ‘He knew about your pool,’ I reminded Jim.

  ‘Yeah. You been snooping around my house?’

  ‘Huh-uh. Honest.’

  ‘You better never, man.’

  ‘I’ll give you some good stuff if you let me come with.’

  ‘You’re not coming “with”,’ I said.

  ‘Please?’

  ‘Good stuff like what?’ Jim asked.

  ‘Twinkies.’

  ‘That’s no big deal. What else?’

  ‘Cut it out,’ I told Jim. ‘He’s got nothing we want.’

  ‘I’ll getcha some booze,’ George said.

  ‘Really?’ Jim sounded interested.

  ‘Forget it,’ I said.

  ‘What kind?’

  ‘Anything. Pop’s got a whole big bar in the den. And he’s got a wine cellar.’

  ‘You can get us a bottle of wine?’

  ‘Sure.’

  ‘Your old man’ll kill you,’ I said.

  George shrugged. ‘He won’t know any better. Sides, who cares if he finds out? I’ll swipe us a bottle, okay?’

  ‘Cool,’ Jim said.

  ‘Are you nuts?’ I asked.

  ‘Are you? Come on. We can tie one on the way over to Cyndi’s.’

  ‘Good going,’ I muttered. I couldn’t believe he’d spoken her name in front of a sleeze like George.

  ‘Who’s Cyndi?’ George asked.

  ‘Nobody,’ I said.

  ‘Is she the girl we’re gonna spy on?’

  ‘Go on home and get the wine,’ Jim said. ‘But don’t come back till eleven. We aren’t leaving till then.’

  ‘Promise you won’t go without me?’

  ‘Cross my heart and hope to die,’ Jim said. ‘Now get going.’ George shoved the potato chip bag through the fly screen, then sprang up, and ran off through the dark.

  ‘You asshole!’ I yelled.

  ‘I know what I’m doing.’

  ‘You asshole! You told him Cyndi’s name You told him where we’re going'We\, I’m not going. Not if that sleazy little shit’s coming with us. No way. I’m not gonna have him spying on Cyndi.’

  ‘Like he’s been spying
on my sister?’

  That slowed me down. ‘You think he’s been doing that?’

  ‘You think he hasn’t? Like you said, how does he know about the pool?’

  ‘He might’ve heard splashing, or…’

  ‘From the street? Huh-uh. He’s been snooping around. I bet he’s even climbed over the fence. Joan’s window is right there, man.’

  ‘That doesn’t mean he’s ever looked in.’

  ‘Hey, he confessed. He said he looks in girls’ windows.’

  ‘Not Joan’s, though.’

  ‘Like I’m sure he’d admit it. Get real. And what do you suppose he was doing in your backyard tonight?’

  ‘Trying to find us, probably.’

  ‘Yeah, maybe. Or maybe he came along to check out your parents’ bedroom. Maybe he comes along every night to look in their window. Maybe he gets a charge out of watching your mom undress.’

  ‘She shuts the curtains,’ I said, feeling kind of hot and awful inside.

  ‘Yeah, but does she shut them all the way? If there’s even the tiniest open space between…’

  ‘That dirty bastard better not be watching Mom.’

  ‘I bet he does. Maybe my mom, too. Maybe Joan and Mom. And your mom. Maybe every gal in the whole neighborhood. You heard him. He likes to look in windows.’

  ‘If he ever spied on my mom…’

  ‘We gotta teach him a lesson. That’s how come I said he can come along. You think I want his wine and Twinkies? We’ll take him with us, all right. And then we’ll nail his rotten Peeping Tom ass.’

  We lay down on top of our sleeping bags, heads toward the front of the tent so we could keep a lookout for George, and hatched our plans.

  ***

  At about ten-thirty, the light came on in my parents’ bedroom. Mom stepped up to the window and pulled the curtains shut. After a while, the light went off. But a faint, trembly glow showed through the curtains. It came from their TV, which they liked to watch in bed till after the eleven o’clock news. They weren’t likely to get up again except maybe to use the john.

  ‘Ready to go?’ Jim asked.

  ‘Pretty soon.’

  We waited a while longer. I was feeling awfully nervous. Not so much about sneaking into the house for our stuff. About the rest of it.

  Finally, I said, ‘Okay.’

  We crawled out of the tent and crossed the patio to the back door. We didn’t try to be quiet shutting the door and heading for the bathroom. Jim went in. I waited in the hall. When he flushed the toilet, I used the noise as a cover to rush into my bedroom. I flicked on the light, found a coil of rope in my closet and gathered up our clothes. Quick as I could, I turned the light off. Then I waited in the darkness at the doorway until Jim flushed the toilet again. While it made its gushy running sounds, I hurried to the back door. I opened it, stepped outside, checked my parents’ window to make sure nobody was looking, and ran to the tent.

  I kept watch through the fly screen.

  Before long, Jim came out.

  He crawled into the tent.

  ‘Any problem?’ I whispered.

  ‘No sweat.’

  We turned on our flashlights just long enough to sort out our clothes. Then, in the darkness, we stripped. It felt weird, being naked, feeling the warm air on my body, the sleeping bag under my rump. It might’ve been kind of exciting if there’d been nothing on my mind except going to Cyndi’s house. But George had ruined things.

  Once all my clothes were on except my shirt, I wrapped the rope around my waist. It had to go around several times. I did it carefully so the coils weren’t all bunched on top of each other, but arranged flat against my skin. I tucked the ends underneath.

  I’d just put on my shirt when Jim whispered, ‘Here he comes.’ Quickly, I fastened the buttons.

  We picked up our flashlights and crawled outside.

  Jim pressed a finger to his lips. George nodded, and raised the grocery sack he was carrying.

  I led the way. We stopped at the side of the garage.

  ‘You got the stuff?’ Jim asked.

  ‘Sure.’ George opened the sack. He lifted out a wine bottle. ‘I got the Twinkies, too.’

  ‘Great. Put it away.’

  ‘Don’t you want some now?’

  ‘Later.’

  ‘We know a good, secret place along the way,’ I whispered. ‘We’ll stop there and have a little party.’

  ‘Neat!’ George said.

  The hike to our ‘good, secret place’ took about twenty minutes.

  It was a railroad underpass beneath Jefferson Avenue.

  If George hadn’t been with us, Jim and I would’ve walked over it just as fast as possible and been mighty glad to leave it behind us.

  Even in daylight, the place gave us both the creeps.

  We’d never gone down there at night.

  I felt jittery the whole time as we walked toward it.

  Partly, I was worried that we might be spotted by cops or by someone we knew in the cars that went by. I turned my face away every time a car approached us from the front.

  Mostly, though, I was scared about going down into the underpass.

  We’d explored it quite a few times. From what we’d found, we knew that other people used the place. There was writing on the concrete walls, some of it pretty weird and sick. And there was always a lot of junk scattered around: empty booze bottles, smashed beer cans and cigarette packs, a ratty blanket or two, even an old, stained mattress. Clothes, too. Like a flat, dirty sneaker, a sock, somebody’s old underwear, a pair of pants.

  Once, we got pretty excited when we spotted a bra. Jim had picked it up. It was caked with dry mud, and one of the shoulder straps was torn loose.

  Our best discovery was a copy of Penthouse magazine. It must’ve gotten soaked a while before we found it, because its pages were all stiff and swollen, and a lot of them were stuck together. We peeled them apart and got to see quite a few pictures. We took that magazine with us, and Jim kept it hidden in his room.

  Our most revolting discovery was a used condom. We didn’t touch that.

  The creepiest thing we ever found down there, I guess, was the remains of a campfire - a circle of scorched rocks around a heap of ashes. In with the ashes were a couple of charred cans and a whole bunch of small bones. We figured they were probably turkey bones, or something. Until I found the skull. I picked it up and blew off the ashes. It had a short snout and pointed teeth. Jim said, ‘God, that’s a cat!’ I yelled and dropped it. The skull hit a rock and shattered.

  After that, we’d stayed clear of the underpass.

  I sure didn’t look forward to going back tonight.

  I would’ve chickened out except for one thing: it was the perfect place for making George wish he’d never messed with us.

  Too soon, we got there.

  Jim halted just short of where the bridge’s guard rail started. We stood there, silent, and waited for a car to pass. When it was out of sight, another set of headlights showed in the distance. Jim must’ve figured the driver couldn’t see us yet. He whispered, ‘This way, quick,’ and stepped off the sidewalk.

  ‘Where we going?’ George asked.

  ‘It’s a great place,’ I told him. ‘Nice and private.’

  Before the car got much closer, we followed Jim into the trees. We were hidden by the time it whooshed by. We crept past a few trees, then began climbing down a steep, bushy slope toward the tracks. To the right, the tracks stretched off across an empty field, shiny in the moonlight. To the left, they vanished in the black mouth of the underpass.

  A couple more cars sped by, but they didn’t worry me. We were low enough for the guard rail to prevent anyone from seeing us.

  The weeds were dewy. They made my jeans wet to the knees. I slipped once or twice. George landed on his butt once. But finally we made it down the slope and climbed a small embankment to the tracks.

  ‘That’s our place,’ I told George.

  ‘Under there?’ He didn’t
sound thrilled.

  Jefferson Avenue was four lanes wide, so the dark area beneath it looked like a tunnel. We could see the gray of moonlight at the other end, but it was too dim to show us much of anything in the underpass.

  ‘Hope nobody’s there,’ I muttered.

  ‘Keep your eyes peeled,' Jim said. ‘And get ready to run like hell.’

  ‘Can’t we just stay here?’ George asked.

  Jim shook his head. ‘Somebody might see us from the road. Let’s go.’

  ‘I don’t know,’ George said.

  ‘You wanted to come along,’ I reminded him.

  ‘Yeah, but…’

  ‘Hey,’ Jim said. ‘If you want to run around with the big guys, you’ve gotta do what we do.’

  ‘Or you can go on home,’ I said. ‘It’s up to you, but we’re going in there.’

  He hung back while Jim and I stepped over a rail and started walking down the middle of the tracks toward the underpass. I really hoped George would chicken out. I didn’t want to go under there, didn’t want to nail him, wanted only to have him out of our lives so we could hurry on to Cyndi’s house.

  But he shrugged and came after us.

  There were two sets of tracks. They ran side by side, several yards apart. Ahead of us, broad concrete supports stood between them.

  We waited until we were just under the edge of the bridge, then switched on our flashlights. George dug into the paper sack and came up with a big, six-volt lantern.

  ‘All right,' Jim whispered.

  We shined our beams into the darkness. George’s was really huge and bright. We swept our lights all over the place before going any further.

  ‘Looks okay,' Jim murmured.

  It didn’t look okay. Not at all. But at least we didn’t spot anyone.

  Jim aimed his beam at the nearest support. The concrete was scrawled with names and dirty words and dates and drawings. The drawings were pretty crude. The biggest was an old one that I’d seen plenty of times before. It showed a cartoonish gal with huge tits and her legs spread apart. Jim and I used to call her ‘The Beave.’ Since the last time we’d been here, somebody’d added a mammoth erection just underneath her. It was aimed between her legs, and squirting like a geyser.

  Normally, we would’ve had a good time studying the artwork and making remarks. But George was with us. And we were in a hurry to get to Cyndi’s. And this was night.

 
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