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New Breed Tales: Copyright © 2007 and created by Codey. All rights reserved.
Each episode: Copyright © 2007 by the respective author(s). All rights reserved.
“Hey!” I heard a voice behind me say, “You lost?”
I wasn’t lost. I was confused by new surroundings. New smells. New sights. People who talked and acted differently than any I had ever known. It wasn’t the accents, but the manner of speaking. It wasn’t the words spoken, but the mere fact that words were spoken. When you met someone on the street, they looked you in the eye and greeted you, not only with a smile, but also with cheery words. The first few weeks, I was uncomfortable. After struggling for so many years to maintain distance from others, I felt threatened by what I perceived as the intrusion of strangers into my life. I grew up in a city, and my entire existence had been built around invisibility. Anonymity feels safe and comfortable and comes easily when it’s all around you. But then the first day at my new school arrived, and my life was changed forever.
Moving to a new school is always hard. Everything is different. All the old, familiar surroundings, as uncomfortable as they were, were gone. All those familiar faces I’d grown up seeing were replaced by strangers’ faces. That safe little niche I’d carved out for myself in the old pecking order at my old school, was history. At sixteen and a tenth grader, I was having to start all over. I had no niche here, no place to hide or be safe. Everyone’s eyes were on me. I was the new kid.
I understood the reason we had to move. I was saddened but not angry. I knew my parents had only done what was necessary for the family’s sake. They’d tried to stick it out until I graduated from high school, but people were beginning to talk and wonder, so they had no choice.
I came home from a jog, one afternoon last summer, and Dad was taking their computer apart and removing the hard drive. He looked up as I came in, and told me it was no longer safe for us here, and to pack some things, because we were leaving right away. I understood and headed to my room to gather a few things. They’d been through this many times before, but this would be my first move. When I was born, they’d decided to stay in one place until I finished school, but nosy neighbors and wagging tongues made this impossible.
I grabbed my laptop and a few changes of clothes and stuffed them all into a small bag. We put all our things in the trunk of the car while it was still in the garage; then Mom and I went back into the house. Dad backed the car out of the garage and stopped in the driveway, as Mom and I came out the front door and got in the car. We were just the average American family going out for dinner. We drove away and never went back.
I turned around to see who had spoken to me and saw a kid about my age. He was about the same height as me, but was skinnier and with a long, narrow face. Like me, he looked as if he was still fighting the acne war and the winner was yet to be determined. “Are you lost?” he repeated.
“It looks like I’m not the only one.” I said, looking around at all the kids with maps in their hands and confusion on their faces. “The girl in the office gave me this map but it doesn’t make any sense.”
“Let me see,” he said, reaching over and taking the map from my hands. He looked up at me after glancing at the map, “Are you a freshman?”
“No, tenth grade.”
He smiled a devilish smile, “Jackie screwed up. She must have thought you were a freshman and gave you a copy of the freshman map.”
“Freshman map? Don’t they go to this school too? This map looks nothing like this school.”
He looked around at all the kids comparing maps, talking, who surrounded us. “What’s your homeroom number?” he asked and, after I told him, said, “That’s mine too.” He took me by the elbow and told me to follow him. “I’ll explain on the way.”
“Jackie’s my sister and has worked in the office since she was a freshman. She’s a bit of a prankster and her first year in the office, she made up a phony map to give the incoming freshmen. She had the poor freshmen all confused and lost for the whole day. Most were late for every class. She’s a senior now and this is her fourth year of doing it.”
“Doesn’t the principal get mad?”
“He did at first. He fired her from her job in the office and gave her two weeks of detention for disrupting the school. The next afternoon, he called her back into the office and gave her her job back and took away the detention. Apparently, quite a few parents had called in to tell him how much their kids had enjoyed the first day of High School. They thought he was a genius for coming up with such an original way of getting everybody talking to each other, getting acquainted and working together to find their next class. He never told the parents it wasn’t his idea, and now it’s a tradition here.”
“Here’s our homeroom,” he said, guiding me toward a door. We found a couple seats in the middle of the room. “Let me see your schedule and I’ll draw you a good map of your classes.” I handed it to him and he got a funny look on his face and then looked up at me. “You’re a Nerd!”
I had begun thinking I liked this guy and maybe we could be friends. I felt like sinking through the chair and floor and just disappearing. “No, I’m not,” I replied weakly.
“Sure you are,” he insisted. “You have all the Nerd classes.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m a Nerd.” I was trying to defend the indefensible and I knew it.
“Look at this,” he said, handing me his schedule. “We have all the same classes. I’m a Nerd and so are you. My name’s Edward,” he said, laughing at my discomfort.
I’d never met anyone like this guy. He was so self-confident and comfortable with who he was. As time for the bell approached, other kids came straggling in. He might have been a Nerd, but he was a popular one. Nearly everyone greeted him and he introduced me to each of them. There was no way I’d remember everyone’s names.
When the bell rang, the teacher had us quieten down and began taking attendance. As she called each of our names, it was last name followed by our first name. When she got to me, she said, “Monroe, Joshua.” She looked up at me and asked if I preferred Joshua or Josh. I told her Josh, and she made a note of it in her book. She smiled when she got to the next name, “Munster,” she paused and grinned before saying, “Eddie.”
“I prefer Edward,” my new friend said.
“Oh, of course you do, Eddie...I mean Edward. I don’t know why I have such a hard time remembering that.” She gave him a playful grin and continued with the roll call.
I was looking at Edward, trying hard not to laugh. He looked back at me and kind of shrugged. “Eddie Munster?” I silently mouthed at him, still fighting back a laugh.
“Don’t Start!” he mouthed back but I could tell he wasn’t mad.
The next couple of months went flying by. For the first time, I was happy at school. Thanks to Edward, I had friends. Edward and I had so much in common, we felt almost like brothers. I not only had friends, I had a best friend.
He’d introduced me to his sister, Ellen, at lunch the first day at school. She was a year younger than us but was a goddess! I stammered and could hardly put two words together. I felt like a two year old struggling to talk whenever she was around. I looked for her in the hallways between classes and always made sure there was a place saved for her at our lunch table. She’d set her tray down, look at me, smile and say, “Thanks, Josh.” That was it for me. I couldn’t look at her and speak at the same time.
Edward and I were walking home from school one afternoon. “Are you a stalker or do you like my sister?”
I looked over at him and thought fast, “I like your whole family,” I answered.
“Yeah, but I have a feeling you like Ellen a little more than the rest of us.”
“What makes you think that?” I answered defensively.
“Jeez, dude! You’re always looking at her with that goofy expression. I think you really like her. I mean like, really, really like her.”
I could feel my face turning red, “Maybe.”
“Why don’t you ask her out, then?”
“She wouldn’t want to go out with me.”
He reached over and smacked me up the back of my head. “You’re stupid! You’re worse than stupid!”
“Oww! That hurt!”
“Good, maybe it knocked some sense into that block head of yours. Can’t you tell, she likes you too? She’s always looking at you with that same goofy grin you look at her with.”
“She likes me? Why?”
“Hell if I know...you don’t appeal to me at all!” It was my turn to smack him up the back of his head. “Oww!” he laughed. “Seriously, Josh. Ask her out.”
“I never asked a girl out before. What if she says no?”
“What if you never ask her out and find out too late that she would have said yes? You need an incentive.” He looked thoughtful before speaking again. “I have it! If you don’t ask her out in the next 24 hours, I’m going to tell her you don’t want to date her and set her up with Chris.”
Chris Tanner was the JV quarterback and probably the one guy the rest of us would like to be. He was good looking, smart and popular. The rest of us wished he wasn’t so nice so we could hate him. He was nice, though, so we had to settle for being envious. “You wouldn’t do that would you?”
“Try me.” he said with a laugh. He gave me a wave and a shout as he cut across their lawn to go inside. “Twenty-four hours, Josh!”
I thought about it the rest of the way home. I’d known him long enough to believe that he would do it. I called their house as soon as I got home and asked to speak to Ellen. I asked her if she’d go with me to see a movie the next weekend, and almost fainted when she said yes.
On the way to school the next morning, Edward was smirking. I just ignored him every time he tried to bring it up. He would say something about Ellen and me and I’d change the subject and not answer him. This went on for several blocks. Then he started singing, “Here comes the bride. Here comes the bride.”
“Shut up, dork face!” He only sang louder.
Finally, I gave in, “Okay, go ahead and say it.”
“Say what?” he smirked.
“That you told me so.”
He feigned shock, “Do you honestly believe I’d say that to my best friend? That’s cold, dude! I’d never say that...I’d sing it!” And he did. “I told you so, I told you so! Now you gotta....” He suddenly stopped and looked thoughtful.
“What?” I asked.
“Is there an ending to that? If there is, I don’t remember it. Dude! We so gotta come up with an ending for that!” He was silent for quite a while. “I got it! I told you so, I told you so! Now you gotta kiss my toe!”
“Ewwww! That’s enough, Eddie Munster!”
“Don’t you start, Josh!” he laughed.
We walked in silence for a block or so. “Did you mean it? I’m your best friend?” I asked.
“Of course, you’re my best friend.”
“You’re my best friend too. Even if you are a little whacked.” I laughed.
He gave a short laugh before answering me in a serious tone, “You know what? Life’s a lot easier to get through and a Hell of a lot more fun if you’re just a little whacked.”
“Yeah, I’m learning that, thanks to my best friend.”
He looked over at me and hit me in the shoulder, pretty hard, “Tag...you’re it!” and he took off running towards the school.
“OWWW!” I yelled and started running after my best friend.
Dad and I were washing the car and just talking that evening, and I told him I had a best friend and a girlfriend now. I told him I was glad we had to move. He could tell how excited and happy I was, so it shocked me when he got quiet and looked serious. “Maybe that’s not a good idea, Josh.”
“You know why, Josh. We have to be very careful. If you slip and say something you shouldn’t, then we could all be in trouble.”
“I’d never say anything, Dad.”
“I know you wouldn’t, Son, at least not intentionally, but, sometimes, when people get excited they can slip up.”
For the first time in my life, I got angry with my parents. “It’s not my fault we have to live like this. Why’d you even have me if you were going to make me live like a prisoner?” I threw my sponge down and stormed into the house, slamming the door shut behind me. My mom asked me what was wrong. “Nothing!” I said bitterly. “I’m going up to my cell now.” And went upstairs and flopped down on my bed.
I heard the front door open and close and could hear Mom and Dad murmuring downstairs. After awhile there was a long silence. I was still angered and brooding when there was a knock on my door. “Josh? Can we come in?” I heard my dad say.
“I can’t stop you.” I replied, sarcastically. “It’s your prison, you make the rules. I just have to obey them.”
The door opened and they came into my room. Dad sat at the foot of my bed and Mom sat near my head. I couldn’t read their mood but all three of us were, obviously, tense. Mom brushed the hair off my forehead. “You need a haircut.”
“No, I don’t. It’s just right.”
She opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but instead, just gave a small smile and nodded her head. “Yes, I guess it’s the style now isn’t it?” I didn’t bother answering her, I just laid there and stared at the ceiling.
Mom continued brushing my hair back. I usually loved that, but this time it felt different. It wasn’t soothing and comforting. It felt more like she was petting a small poodle that had been scared by thunder. I turned my head to the side and moved over on the bed so she couldn’t reach me.
Mom kind of sighed and held her hands in her lap. “Honey, your dad and I know how you feel, right now.”
“No, you don’t.”
“We were teenagers once. Sure, it was a long time ago, but we remember.”
“So that’s it, huh?” I said sarcastically. “This is all teen angst, just a phase I’m going through. You have it all figured out. All you have to do is bear with me and I’ll outgrow it. You know it because you remember. Did it ever occur to either of you that that might just be the problem...you remember.”
Mom started to say something but I cut her off. “You have memories, I don’t. You had regular childhoods. You had friends and families that you remember. You had grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I know I must have grandparents, but have no idea if they’re dead or alive. Do I have aunts or uncles? What about cousins? I don’t know. I have no history to remember.”
“And what about friends? I’m sixteen. How many of my friends were at my sixteenth birthday party? That’s an easy question. There were the same number at all my birthday parties...zero. The only two people who ever told me happy birthday, were you and dad. I was always warned to be careful around other kids. Don’t get close to them because it was dangerous for us. Keep a low profile, stay as invisible as possible. I don’t feel like your son, I feel like some kind of trophy that you’d keep in a closet somewhere, gathering dust. Why did you ever bother having me?”
Mom looked stricken. “We had you for the same reason other people have children. We had love we wanted to share with a child...we do love you, you know.”
“I thought I knew, but I’m not so sure now.”
“Never doubt that, Josh!” Dad said. “We’ve always loved you and always will. There’s nothing that could ever make us stop loving you. I know things are rough for you, right now, but it’ll pass. Things will get better.”
I sighed in frustration. “Things were getting better until an hour ago. I was making friends, I even have a best friend and have met a girl I really like. Now you want me to go back to the way things were before but I can’t do that. I can’t live like that anymore. I won’t live like that anymore!”
I stood up, angrily. “ You and Mom have things you talk about that you don’t talk with me about. Who do I have to talk about things with that I wouldn’t feel right talking about to either of you? I’m going for a walk.”
I walked around the block for a long time. I wanted to go home but, truthfully, I was a little afraid to. I’d never spoken like that to my parents before. I had no idea what awaited me at home. I didn’t regret anything I had said and I meant every word of it, but I probably could have said it in a nicer way. I finally decided it was time to face the music and went home.
When I walked in, Dad was sitting in the living room reading the paper and Mom was in the kitchen. She heard the door close and looked to see who it was. We looked at each other for a few seconds before she spoke. “Dinner’s almost ready, Josh. You better get washed up.”
“Okay, Mom.” I felt pretty dejected as I went to wash up. Apparently, we were going to play it like nothing had happened and things were just going to go back to our normal way of life.
I went in to the kitchen and Mom sat my plate down in front of me. She and Dad sat down and watched me eat as they drank their juice. I kept glancing at them as I ate; something didn’t seem right. They were making small talk, while I ate, and even asked me a few questions about my schoolwork. I was beginning to get creeped out.
I finished eating, asked to be excused, and took my dishes to the sink. “Sit back down for a bit, Josh.” Dad said. “Tell us about your new friends...especially your best friend and this special girl.”
I was flabbergasted! I dropped back into my chair. “Really? Seriously?”
“Really and seriously,” Mom answered. “We figure, since our son has friends, we’d like to hear about them. You were right and we were wrong, Josh. We stole your childhood by being so careful about...well, things. We’re going to back off and let you be a teen.”
I got up and hugged each of them. “I love you guys!” I said. We talked until nearly midnight and, for the first time ever, I felt happy with my life.
A few days later, Edward asked if I wanted to sleep over after my date with Ellen. “You’re joking!” I said.
“No. Why do you think it’s a joke?”
“Your parents would let me sleep over with Ellen?”
“Not with Ellen, dorkface. With me. I can set the tent up in the back yard and we can sleep out there.”
“Oh...yeah, right. I was just joking about sleeping over with Ellen.”
Edward laughed, “You weren’t joking...you were dreaming! So, you want to sleep over or not?”
“I’ve never been at a sleepover before. What do you do there?” I asked sheepishly.
“The same things you do when you have someone sleep over at your house, dummy!”
“No one’s ever slept over at my house before either.”
“Jeez dude! Have you been living in a coffin or something? We have so got to get you a life! It’s settled then. You’re going to sleep over if your parents will let you.”
“I don’t know what you do at a sleepover. What if they ask me what we’re going to be doing?”
“Of course. If you tell them the truth, they won’t let you, so you lie. They know you’re lying but as long as they can pretend they believe you, it’s okay.”
“But what are we going to be doing that they don’t want to know we’re doing?”
Edward got a big smile and answered, “Talking about girls, staying up late, talking about girls, drinking sodas and eating junky snacks, talking about girls, peeing in Mom’s flowerbed from all the sodas we drank and then talking about girls again.”
“Sounds like a lot of fun!” I said. “Especially the talking about girls part.”
“Yeah...that’s the best part of all, dude.”
We were sitting at our kitchen table having some snacks after school. Milk and cookies! How lame is that? At least Mom’s trying though. We’d stopped at Edward’s the day before and had snacks. Sodas and cold pizza...cool snacks. “So, what’s the plan for tonight?” he asked me.
“Plan? For what?”
“For your date with Ellen, doofus.”
“Dad’s taking us into the city and dropping us at the mall. We’ll go see a movie, have a burger afterwards, and then Dad’s picking us up and bringing us home.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about. What’s your plan for when you’re on the date?”
“We’re going to see a movie.... Why would I need a plan to watch a movie?” I’m sure he was trying to make a point but I was in a fog. I was new to all this and his frustration was showing.
“Okay,” he said, “maybe plan isn’t the right word. Do you know what protocol is?”
“Well, there’s a certain protocol you have to follow on a date. After you get your tickets and go in, you’re going to want snacks. Right?”
“Well, the girl is going to expect that, so you need to know what to do. You can’t just ask her to choose what she wants.”
“Because, she doesn’t know how much money you have and what you can afford. She’s not going to want to make you spend money you can’t afford.”
“Can’t I just say I have plenty of money so she can have whatever she wants?”
“No way, dude! That would be crude.”
“So, what do I do?”
“You look at the prices, pick out the most expensive thing, and ask her if she’d like some of that. That lets her know that she can have whatever she wants. After she picks out what she wants, you have to pick out something for yourself, at least as expensive as her choice.”
“What if I don’t like the more expensive kind and would rather have the cheaper because I like it better?”
“You have no choice, You have to pick the more expensive, so she doesn’t think that what she chose cost so much, you can’t afford to get what you really want.”
“This all sounds pretty complicated.”
“It is, and we haven’t gotten to the really important stuff yet. Do you hold hands? How about putting your arm around her while you’re watching the movie. Then there’s the biggy! The good night kiss. Do you or don’t you?”
Dad was in the living room reading the paper. I had been hearing the rattle of the paper as he turned the pages, but the sound had changed to a shaking, rustling noise. I knew, with his hearing, he could hear everything we were saying, if he wanted. I glanced in the living room and, sure enough, the paper was shaking.... Dad was not only listening, he was laughing! “Let’s go up to my room, okay?” I asked Edward. I thought we were about to get into the good stuff now and didn’t want Dad listening and laughing.
All I have to say about the conversation up in my room is that hearing about sex from your best friend, makes it sound a lot more fun than those books they give us to read do!
When it was nearly time for me to start getting ready for the date, I walked Edward to the door. He opened the door to leave and then turned to me, “Remember, dude, it’s all about the protocol.” Then he gave me a big grin and left.
I started back up to my room when Dad spoke. “Josh?” I turned to see what he wanted. He was smiling as he spoke to me. “I really like your friend. He’s good people. You made a wise choice in a best friend and I’m proud of you.” All I could do was smile back.
We lived nearly forty-five minutes from the mall so, to keep from having to make the trip twice in one night, Mom and Dad were both going with us. They were going to do some shopping while we were on our date.
I was trying my best to remember all that Edward had told me but, when we walked up to the counter to pick out snacks, Ellen told me she wanted chocolate-covered raisins before I had a chance to say anything. I looked to see what the prices were and was shocked to see they were the most expensive thing there. I hated raisins, but I had to get some too in order to follow the protocol. Raisins taste even worse with chocolate on them, I found out.
We found some seats in the middle of the theater, and I was really getting nervous now. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to hold her hand. My palms were so sweaty that it would gross her out and then she’d never go out with me again. The movie had barely started, though, when she surprised me again. I kept wiping my palms on my pants to dry them, and was trying to work up the nerve to reach over and take her hand. Every time I’d wipe, she’d look over at me and smile. I was sitting on her left, and finally she took my right hand in her right hand. I was glad she took the initiative, but was worried that it would be pretty awkward to be holding right hands like that. She wasn’t interested in holding hands, though. She raised my arm up, ducked under it and placed my hand on her right shoulder. She leaned against me with her upper body. I had my arm around her!
I was so nervous, my whole body was quivering. This was not going the way Edward said at all! She was not following the protocol! She looked at me with that killer smile, “This is nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah.” I managed to stammer. “It is.”
On the way home, later that evening, Mom asked how the movie was. I started to answer and then realized I didn’t know. I remember noise and some flashing lights at the beginning but, after Ellen put my arm around her, I couldn’t remember anything else about the movie. All I could remember was how warm and comfortable it was sitting in that dark theater with my arm around Ellen.
Since I was camping out in their back yard with Edward, Mom and Dad dropped us both off at Ellen’s. “Have fun, baby. We’ll see you tomorrow when you get home,” Mom said before they drove off.
Baby? She called me baby in front of my first girlfriend? How embarrassing! I was now a dating teenager. All that baby stuff was in the past. Mom and I needed to have a long talk when I got home tomorrow!
Ellen and I held hands as we walked up to their front porch. We stood facing each other, still holding hands when she spoke. “I had a great time tonight, Josh. This was the best date I’ve been on.”
Aha! Either I hadn’t made a complete ass of myself tonight, or she’s been on some pretty sucky dates. I thought it was probably the latter. “Have you dated a lot?”
“Not really. This was only my third date.”
“This was my first.” I admitted.
“I know. Eddie told me.”
“Oh. Why do you call him Eddie when you know he prefers Edward?”
“Knowing he doesn’t like to be called Eddie is my number two reason for calling him Eddie.”
“Doesn’t that make him mad?”
“Yep!” she laughed. “And that’s my number one reason for calling him Eddie!”
I had to laugh. I took her other hand in mine and looked at her. “I had a really good time tonight, Ellen. Do you think we can go out again?”
“I’d like that,” she said.
She let go of my hands and put both her hands on my cheeks, leaned towards me and was kissing me! She was breaking the protocol again! It felt really good, though. “To Hell with protocol!” I thought to myself and kissed her back.
She finally pulled away. “Good night, Josh.” she said and went into the house, closing the door behind her.
I started to turn and leave, when it hit me. Where was I going? I was supposed to be spending the night with Edward, but here I was standing on their front porch. Someone inside had switched off the porch light and I was just standing there in the dark. I felt stupid. What should I do? I just stood there for awhile and finally decided to ring the doorbell. Edward opened the door. “Josh! When you didn’t come in with Ellen, I thought you’d changed your mind about staying. Why are you standing out there?”
“I’m not sure. It all happened pretty fast, and then here I was alone out here.”
Edward just laughed. “Well, come on in, you dork, and let’s grab some sodas and head on out to the tent.”
Later, out in the tent, Edward was telling me the details of his last date with Linda Miller. “I swear, Dude! I was about to explode! I wasn’t sure if I’d even make it home without stopping in some bushes to take care of business!”
“Take care of business?”
“Yeah, you know.” and he made that up and down motion all boys understand.
“Oh, right,” I said as I felt myself starting to blush.
“What about your date tonight? Is that why you stayed outside when Ellen came in? Did you have to hide in the bushes to take care of a problem?” He started to laugh but then stopped and looked as shocked as I felt at his question. I think he’d just realized that it was his sister he was talking about. “Dammit! Forget I said that, Josh. I don’t want to know anything!”
I was beginning to enjoy his discomfort, and saw my chance to get back at him for a few things. “I don’t mind telling you.” I said and began telling him about the movie.
“NO! Stop!” he said. “I don’t want to know!”
I was really beginning to enjoy this. When I got to the part about the warm, fuzzy feeling I’d gotten, he stuck his fingers in his ears. “I’m not listening,” he said, and when I didn’t stop talking he started humming ‘When The Saints Go Marching In.’ I talked a little louder and he started singing. I knew he couldn’t hear me, so I wasn’t really saying anything. I was just moving my lips and throwing in a few hand gestures occasionally. By now, he was singing pretty loudly.
I was rolling around laughing, when the tent flap was jerked open. It was Edward’s dad. I stopped laughing and Edward stopped singing. Mr. Munster looked at his son, sitting there with his fingers in his ears and his mouth open. “What the Hell are you doing?” he demanded.
“Uhhh... I was singing.” Edward told him.
“So I could hear. So did the neighbors and half the town, I bet. If any more saints go marching into Heaven tonight, you’ll be one of them, because your ass will be as dead as they are!”
“Okay, Dad, we’ll be more quiet.”
Mr. Munster went back into the house, but Edward was just laying there. I thought maybe I’d gone too far. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was just teasing.... Ellen and I kissed good night and that’s all that happened. I swear!”
“I already knew that, dork.”
“How’d you know?”
“By the way you’re looking at me. I know both my sisters, Josh, and if anyone tried anything they didn’t like, they’d rip their nuts off, pop their eyeballs out and switch places with them. If you’d tried anything with Ellen, you’d have to be looking at me with your pants unzipped because your nuts would be in your eye sockets and your eyeballs in your nut sack!”
“Just a friendly warning, Josh.” Edward laughed.
“What’s wrong, then?”
“I was just thinking. Do you think the guys that date my sisters talk about them the way I was talking about Linda?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged.
“I’m not going to stop talking about girls...that wouldn’t be natural; but I am going to stop talking about specific girls. Well, except maybe with my best friend,” he said, smiling at me.
“Me too,” I answered “Except with my best friend, Eddie Munster.”
“Don’t start, Josh.” We both said in unison.
Thanksgiving was quickly approaching and Edward and I were looking forward to it. Mr. Munster was a member of the board of some foundation and they were having a meeting in the state capital. The meeting would take place on Saturday, so he’d be going up on Friday, attend the meeting on Saturday, and return home on Sunday. He’d asked Edward and I if we’d like to go with him, and we’d jumped at the chance to go away for the weekend.
Mom and Dad weren’t too keen on the idea, so Mr. Munster came over to talk to them for me. He pointed out all the advantages the capital had. Museums, libraries, theaters and fine restaurants. It would be a chance for us to see another side of our culture. Mom pointed out that I had spent my whole life in the city before we moved here. That was a pretty strong argument and would be hard to refute. I had a trump card, though. “But I never had a chance to see much because we spent so much time at home,” I said with the saddest face I could muster. Mom and Dad finally gave in...reluctantly, but they gave in. Guilt is a powerful weapon. It doesn’t matter if it’s the parents using it against their kids or the kids using it against their parents. It almost always works.
We left for the capital, Friday morning, and got there a little after noon. Mr. Munster had booked a suite with a bedroom, and a sofa in the other room that made out into a bed. Neither Edward nor I had ever seen anything like that, except on television, and called the sofa bed. After one night on that thing, we agreed if we ever got to come again, we’d fight for the real bed!
Edward and I were starving. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast before we left home. His dad suggested we go eat while he was signing in for his meeting and he’d meet us in the lobby, afterwards. He had no meetings until later that evening, and we’d use the spare time to do a little sightseeing.
The hotel was a really nice one and it had a coffee shop and a restaurant. A coffee shop sells coffee and a restaurant sells food, right? Wrong! Edward and I each had a burger, fries, and a soda. We charged the food to our room and, when they brought us the ticket to sign, we nearly had a heart attack! Our bill was over twenty dollars! “Dad’s going to kill us!” Edward said, as we left to wait in the lobby.
Neither of us had ever been to a place like this. “Maybe we should skip dinner to make up for it,” I said.
“Are you nuts? We’re sixteen years old. We eat...that’s what we do. If I don’t eat every few hours, I’ll waste away to nothing!” I could only nod in agreement. “Damn!” he said.
“We have to stop talking about it. Talking about it is just making me hungry again.”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Me too.” We looked at each other and both laughed nervously as we found a couple of chairs to wait for his dad.
We only had to wait a few minutes before Mr. Munster showed up. There was a young guy with him. He introduced the man to me as Bill Taylor, Dr. Bill Taylor. This guy didn’t look old enough to be a doctor! He looked like he was in his mid-twenties at the most. “What did you say your name is?” he asked me as he shook my hand.
“Joshua, sir, Joshua Monroe.”
“Yes, sir. I was named after my dad.”
The doctor looked thoughtful for a few seconds. “I used to know a man named Joshua Monroe. We lost track of each other about fifteen years or so ago.”
“I doubt it was my dad. He’s a lot older than you.”
“Well, thanks for the compliment, but looks can sometimes be deceiving, Josh,” the doctor laughed. “Anyway, it was nice meeting you, Josh,” he said, and turned to leave. “Oh.” He said, turning back to Mr. Munster. “I nearly forgot. There’s something we need to discuss before tonight’s meeting.”
“I was taking the boys to do a little sightseeing right now. We can put it off if you need to talk to me right now.”
“No, no...there’ll be time before the meeting tonight. It can wait. You guys go exploring, and I’ll see you this evening.”
We spent the afternoon walking around the downtown area. Mr. Munster pointed out a couple of museums we boys could check out the next day, while he was in meetings. Of more interest to us was a downtown mall with a huge game room.
As we passed the food court in the mall, Mr. Munster asked us if we were hungry. We both quickly said no. He looked at us suspiciously, “Since when do the two of you pass up a chance to eat?”
Busted! We tried telling him that we’d eaten a large lunch, but he wasn’t buying that. Before we knew it, we were blurting out the whole story. He appeared bemused, as we were telling him what happened and apologizing. “Why didn’t you two just go to the coffee shop, then?” He asked after we told him we didn’t realize the burgers cost that much.
“We don’t drink coffee and wanted food,” Edward answered.
Mr. Munster couldn’t hold back his laughter any longer. “Coffee shops sell more than coffee,” he explained. “They sell food too. Sandwiches and things like that. We have to get you boys out into the world more!”
We were relieved that he wasn’t angry with us, but weren’t crazy about him laughing at us. It wasn’t our fault that we were dumb! This was something that we should have been taught by our parents! It was their fault...not ours!
“So, are you two hungry or not?” he asked.
“Starved!” we answered together.
He handed us some money and told us to go eat. We took the money and hit the food court with a vengeance. He was still laughing at us, but being laughed at is easier to take on a full stomach.
We got back to the hotel around seven and Edward’s dad left to meet Dr. Taylor, before their group meeting. Before leaving, he got the room service menu out of a drawer and told us to order what we wanted for dinner.
We ordered dinner, watched television for a while, and decided to go to bed because it’d been a long day. It took awhile, but we finally figured out how to turn that sofa into a bed.
We flipped a coin, for first shower, and felt and smelled much better when we got into bed. “Which museum do you want to go to first?” I asked Edward.
“Dude! We have one day in the city...do you want to waste that whole day in a museum? We have to set our priorities.”
“But, we’re supposed to go to the museums.”
“And we will...if we have time after we check out the more important stuff. Like that huge game room, for instance, or that park we walked by with all the babes sunbathing. I bet I could spend the whole day in that park, just soaking up local color.”
“Yeah, I noticed that park. We could probably learn a lot about the capital by talking to some of the locals.” I said with a smirk.
“Now you have the idea, Josh.”
“You have a devious mind.”
“I know. I have two sisters, so I learned young.” he said with pride. “Don’t worry, though, Josh. You’re picking it up pretty fast.”
“Yeah.” I said as I turned over to dream about a hot, sunny day spent in the park.
I have no idea what time it was when Mr. Munster woke us up to tell us he was leaving the next morning. I only know it was way too early to be awake on a Sunday morning. He wanted us to meet him in our room at six that evening.
“Have fun today, guys, and try to stay out of trouble.” he said as he left.
We went back to sleep. It was after eleven before we were up, dressed, and on our way to the mall.
The game room wasn’t open yet, so we decided to head over to the park. We wandered around the park for about an hour. “I just love the South,” I told Edward.
“Just look around. Up North, where I lived for so long, they’re fighting snow and ice. Down here, girls are laying in the park wearing practically nothing and it’s after Thanksgiving.”
“Yeah. Great isn’t it?”
I could practically hear the hormones coursing through my veins. “Maybe too great. I don’t know how much more looking and not touching I can take!”
“Yeah, I know what you mean, Dude,” Edward laughed. “What do you think? The mall or the museum to take our minds off things?”
“We have to go by the museum to get to the mall, so we might as well stop there first, just so we can say we went to the museum.”
“Good plan. Lies are more believable if there’s an element of truth to them,” Edward laughed.
We never made it to the game room at the mall. As soon as you enter the museum, there’s a large bone mounted on a table. We checked it out, and it was a thigh bone of a huge dinosaur. The sign said we could touch it and we did. It was an awesome feeling to be touching something that was alive one hundred sixty million years ago.
We wandered from exhibit to exhibit, totally enthralled. Museums are like time machines: not only can you see into the past, but time in the present seems to stand still. We lost all track of time, and it seemed like only minutes before we had to leave to meet Edward’s dad at the hotel. We decided, on our next trip to the capital, we were going to see the museum first.
Mr. Munster asked us about our day when we got back to the hotel. We told the truth...that we spent an hour at the park and then the rest of the day at the museum. He asked if we’d seen anything interesting and we both said yes, enthusiastically.
“At the park or the museum?” he asked knowingly.
“Both,” Edward laughed.
We talked about the museum and some of what we saw there, but I began to feel tense and nervous. It seemed like Mr. Munster was trying to get information about my family. Before I realized what was happening, he knew both of my parents’ names, when I was born, and where we’d lived since my birth. This was exactly what my parents had always warned me about and to never discuss with anyone. I felt like I’d betrayed them and endangered the three of us.
I wasn’t lying when I excused myself because I didn’t feel good. My stomach was twisted in knots. All I wanted to do was go home, tell them what I’d done, and pack some clothes so we could run again. I’d finally found friends and a place to belong, but had ruined everything with my big mouth.
Awhile later, Edward knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you okay, Josh?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m feeling a little better.”
“Good, because I have to piss like a race horse and need the bathroom!”
He rushed past me as I walked out of the bathroom. He looked relieved when he came back into the room and plopped down on the other end of the sofa from me. “Do you feel like doing something this evening?” he asked.
“I told Dad we might go to catch a movie if you felt better,” he said.
A movie didn’t sound bad. I wouldn’t have to talk much and give away too many more secrets. “Sure.” I answered.
We stopped at the hotel coffee shop to eat before we went to the theater. I wasn’t really hungry and just sort of stared at my sandwich. “You’re not going to eat?” Edward asked.
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
“Stomach still a little queasy?”
“Yeah.” It wasn’t my stomach that had killed my appetite. It was my big mouth and the guilt I felt. A queasy stomach was easier to explain, though.
“There’s no sense in wasting the food,” he said. “Can I have it?”
I pushed the plate over to him. “Help yourself.”
The movie was good, but not good enough to improve my mood. I kept stealing glances at Edward. I had a best friend and I was about to lose him after only a few months. Maybe Mom and Dad were right and it was better to avoid people. The thought of losing my friends and girlfriend was devastating. Shakespeare was wrong. It’s not better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Loving and losing hurts in ways most could never imagine. I think it would be better to never have known the love than to go through this pain I was feeling inside.
I was still quiet when we were walking back to the hotel after the movie. “What’s wrong, Josh?” Edward asked. “I think it’s something besides a belly ache. Did I do something to piss you off?”
He placed his hand on my shoulder and stopped me from walking. I started to shrug his hand off, but turned to face him instead, when he spoke again. “You’re my best friend, Josh, and I’m yours. If you need to talk about something, I’ll be there to listen. If you don’t want to talk about it, I’ll still be there to be quiet with you.”
Now I really felt bad. I couldn’t tell him the truth, but he deserved to know something. I didn’t want him to think his best friend just abandoned him when he discovered we were gone. I had to, at least, let him know we were going. “We’ll be leaving as soon as we get home tomorrow,” I said.
“Mom, Dad, and I.”
“Where are you going and when will you be back?”
“I don’t know and never.”
“I can’t tell you that. I just wanted you to know.”
He started to turn to start walking again, but put his hand back on my shoulder and just nodded. “Thanks, Josh...for telling me. We’re all going to miss you, but we’ll never forget you.”
“Thanks, Edward, I’ll never forget you guys either,” I replied, fighting back the tears.
We walked in silence until we were a couple blocks from the hotel. “Dammit! Now I have to piss again. Every time I get emotional, I have to piss!”
Okay, feeling down or not, I couldn’t let that line go without a comment. “I bet your wife will be sorry after the wedding and it’s time to consummate the marriage, then. Maybe I better send her a pair of water wings as a wedding present?”
“Not funny, Josh!” he said, ducking into an alley. “Be right back,” he said over his shoulder.
After about a minute I heard someone shouting, “What the Hell are you doing?” It sounded like Edward, but I thought I must be wrong and someone had just caught him pissing behind their dumpster. I heard what sounded like angry voices, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.
Suddenly, there was a loud pop and I heard Edward’s voice. “Ohhhh!” That was definitely him, and it sounded like he was in pain. I knew what that popping noise was...someone had shot Edward! I hurried into the alley to help him, but suddenly all my Dad’s training with me took effect. I could feel the change coming over me in response to my self-defensive mode. I slowed down and tried blending in with the shadows. Soon, my vision was sharpened and I could see in the dark as if it were bright daylight.
As I crept forward, I could hear my Dad’s voice in my mind. “Stay alert, Josh, concentrate on the danger. Don’t let the rage make you make mistakes.”
I could see three guys. Edward was laying on the concrete, moaning. He was alive. The three guys were going through his pockets. Where was the gun? Which of the three had it?
There was a light over a door in the alley. I stepped into the light so the three could see me clearly. “Leave my friend alone.” I said calmly. They looked up in surprise, and after getting a good look at me, the surprise turned to fear. They stood up and started backing away. For every step backwards they took, I stepped forward, maintaining the same distance between us.
I pumped more blood to my eyes, making them glow even brighter. Finally, one of them panicked and was reaching behind himself. That had to be the one with the gun...my first target. I had closed the space between us before his hand made it to where he had the gun slipped into his waistband. A quick, hard kick to the stomach doubled him over, and it was my hand that pulled the gun out of its hiding place. I swung back around, and quickly disabled the other two with punches to the gut. I walked back over and began kicking the one who’d shot my best friend. After just a couple kicks, I heard my Dad’s voice in my head again, “Control the rage, Josh, don’t let it control you.”
I stood back from the three thugs, “Stand up!” I ordered them. They slowly got to their feet. “Take off your clothes!” They moved a little faster and all three were soon standing in their boxers. “All your clothes!” I hissed, baring my fangs.
At this point, they all started begging me not to kill them, and were soon as naked as a newborn baby and crying like one too. “You are all mine now,” I hissed. “You’re lucky I’m not hungry right now...the three of you would make a good appetizer. I have you mentally marked for later, though. I can come back for you anytime I want, and there’s no one or anything that can stop me. Your blood is mine, and when I’m ready for it, I’ll come get it. Now get out of here and remember, I know who you are and where you are, at all times. If any of you so much as jay walk, I’ll be back for what’s mine!”
The three stood looking at me like they were afraid to move. “GO!” I hissed, baring my fangs again, and they took off like the devil was chasing them.
I heard Edward moving around behind me, so I quickly composed myself and turned to face him. He was sitting up and I rushed over to him. “Don’t move around, Edward! You’ve been shot! I’ll get an ambulance.”
“No!” he said. “I’m fine. The bullet barely grazed me...I just hit my head when I was trying to jump away from the gun. See?” he said, standing up. “I’m fine. We need to get back to the hotel, though. I’ll let Dad check me out and see what he says.” His dad. He was right, he had to tell his dad. Things had just gone from bad to worse.
He noticed my quick mood swing and looked at me sadly. “Is what just happened the reason you’ll have to move?”
Of course, he was groggy, but he’d seen what happened. “What did you see?”
“I saw it all, Josh.”
“Please don’t tell anyone until we get away tomorrow.”
He put both hands on my shoulders. “It’ll be okay, Josh.” I couldn’t see how it’d be okay and couldn’t look him in the eye. “Look at me, Josh.” he said sharply. “It’ll be okay. Look at me, Josh,” he repeated softly. “Just look at me.”
I looked up at him and saw two red, glowing eyes and a huge grin with two fangs. “After Dad hears what happened and talks to your parents tomorrow, I don’t think you’ll be moving.”
We started walking back to the hotel, when Edward suddenly broke into laughter. “Take off your clothes? Mentally marked? Your blood is mine now and I’ll come get it whenever I want? Classic, Dude!” he managed to get out between the bouts of laughter.
“I didn’t want to hurt them, but they needed to be punished for what they tried to do to my best friend.”
“I bet you just turned those street thugs into model citizens, Josh!”
I joined in with his laughter, but sobered as we walked up to the hotel room door. “Do you really think things will be okay, Edward?”
“I’m sure of it, Josh. You’re home now. You never have to be alone or move again. You’re home now.”