Here’s a peek at the the first two chapters of the novel.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MATURE AND EXPLICIT CONTENT
The Ending – Werewolves?
Dilly runs. The deafening beat of her panting isn’t enough to drown out the monstrous growls and trampling that rumble behind her. Though she can’t see well enough to dodge the naked branches slicing into her, the full moon’s rays help her find the path. This way, the young woman tells herself, and takes a left. Now right! Her body veers. She slams her beaten shoulder against the thick trunk of a sugar maple. Ah, fuck! The pain electrifies her cells. Like sticking a finger in a thousand volt socket. She falls to one knee. Don’t you fucking stop! Move! Move! Move! She forces herself up and implores her feet to barrel forward.
There it is! The fallen stump that looks more like a giant claw! She makes a mad dash for it, hurtles over the trunk, lands on all fours, and snaps her head back. She gasps, “Yes!” eyes on the nest-like bundle cradled between the two lower branches of the tall yellow birch before her.
She can hear whatever is out there tearing through the brush.
She leans against the tree’s peeling, gray bark and kicks at the dead leaves on the ground. Come on! she screams in her head. And at last feels the line dig into her ankle. She yanks it back hard. Click.
A thunderous roar!
She throws herself to the ground and in the next instant, a burlap sack swooshes over her.
A canine screech rips through the forest.
Dilly jolts, feels the ground, and snatches a heavy rock. She thrashes her head from side to side and strains to hear the danger, but hears only the sack’s long suspended rope creaking as it swings. She gets to her knees. A branch snaps, she spins to pitch the rock— Nothing’s there. “Breathe, girl, breathe,” she reminds herself. And inhales deeply. The prominent scent of balsam firs transports her to the weekend she spent with Brian in a cozy bed and breakfast last May. Her eyes well. Brian … She scans the beech, spruce, and birch tree outlines, caressing her ring—its diamond lost to the forest. We should have never … ahh … She brushes off tears. Be strong, she compels herself. She staggers to a stand and lumbers off.
A harrowing growl booms—her feet are in the air, her face smashes to the ground.
“No! Nooooo!” she screams, as she’s dragged across the underbrush.
Pebbles, leaves, and branches cut into her. Her fingernails claw a trail into the earth as she tries to grip at something—anything—that will anchor her long enough to turn over and hurl the rock she still has gripped in her hand. A trio of saplings gashes her chin and she grabs onto them, jerking to a stop.
She fears she’ll be rent in two as she’s tugged savagely. But she doesn’t let go. I’ve got to … She tries to twist—turn my … fucking arm … over …
Light shines through from approaching high beams. Distant, but just enough of a distraction. Yes!
She whips the rock.
A painful yowl!
“Fuck you!” she bellows as she scrambles to her feet and darts for the auspicious lights. She pushes her way through a thicket of juniper shrubs, waving and hollering—”Hey! Hey!”—and scarcely manages to catch herself. Shafts of light from the oncoming vehicle reveal there is nowhere to go but down. Down a ridiculously steep hill, she discovers.
The charging footsteps close in.
Shit! She glances over her shoulder—Fuck!—and drops to the ground. She gropes the ridge, clasps a sturdy root, and slides over the edge. Splinters stab into her hands. “Ahhhh!” she squeals—Shut up!—and hangs on. She cocks her head east to west. I need … something … else … to grab on … to.
The thicket rattles and cracks.
She winces. No! The rocks beneath her feet crumble. Oh my God, oh my God. Don’t you fucking let go. Her feet dangle. The roots dig deeper into her palms. “Ahhhh!” She presses her mouth into the dirt and feels the earth above vibrate. A pebble bounces off her head.
Beastly snorts and growls turn into sniffing and heavy panting.
She holds her breath. Go away, go away, go away!
The noises above her suddenly fade; all she hears is an eerie, unsettling breeze.
Oh my God! She listens hard. They’re gone. Breathe, she reminds herself again. She inhales and looks down. The slope is too extreme. She needs another path. She waits a long moment—God help me!—takes another mouthful of air, then musters the strength to pull herself up. Please don’t be there. Please don’t be there. Please—Fiery breath steams her forehead, and a snarl swells into a ferocious roar.
Dilly glimpses the blur of black, indigo, royal blue below. And lets go.
Drew steers the eighteen-wheeler down the unlit, rural highway with his knee. Goddamn, he complains, passing an exit on the steep road, I’d give my left nut for one of Old Man Sam’s brownies right now.
He loves small towns—their diners respect truckers—and, besides—he wipes his mouth and tugs at his salt-and-pepper goatee—the Eats All Nite has the most delicious brownies he’s ever sunk his crooked teeth into. Wish I’d made better time, he thinks. He slips his fingers into his jean jacket’s breast pocket and pulls out a cigarette. Lights it—in spite of the thousands of gallons of fuel he’s hauling. His other hand fidgets with the radio.
“Fifteen arrests were made at Club Rave On Wednesday night—” He switches the station. “—the two average-sized youths overpowered the burly bouncers—”
Bouncers, yeah, right. Little girlies. “Ha! Ha!” He flips the station.
“Police are still searching—” he jabs the button again and catches a favorite song’s final verse. “That’s right, baby, sing it to me. Let me be your Bobby McGee.”
He hums along.
“That was Janis with ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. We’ll be back with the news right after this.”
“News …” He takes a long drag of his cigarette. “Who gives a shit?” He puffs out a series of rings, one into the other, and reaches for the radio.
What the—? He slams on the brakes. “Holy shit!” His stubby fingers squeeze the steering wheel as the truck screeches to a stop.
“Oh my God!” He jumps out of the cab—motor still running—spits out his cigarette, and runs to the shoulder of the road. Oh, fuck, I killed— The headlights expose a mangled heap of torn, blood-soaked leather. I … I couldn’t possibly have … There’s no way I … The truck barely touched—He leans over—her.
Dilly springs up.
Drew jumps back. “Goddamnit! Goddamnit!”
Her bloodshot eyes widen.
“Are you crazy?” he shouts. “What the hell were you doing in the middle—”
Her bruised mouth stretches grotesquely and she belts out an agonized scream. She points at something behind him.
He whirls. Beyond the ditch, the trees and shrubs are being pushed apart. Like curtains after an encore, he thinks. A fucking bear! he imagines. “Oh, fuck! Fuck me!” He grabs Dilly and leads her to the passenger door. It’s locked! “Shit!” He pulls her to his door. “Come on! Come on! Move!” He swings the door open and lifts her by the waist. “Get in! Get in!” A pink thong rises above her black leather pants. Damn! Of all things, he thinks.
He jumps in and she scrambles onto the passenger seat.
The radio warns, “If seen, police insist you do not approach. Repeat, do not approach. Call your local authorities immediately.” Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” begins to blare.
Drew locks his door and throws the truck into gear. “Let’s get the hell outta here!” He scans his mirrors and windows. Where is it? Was it a bear? He switches off the radio and turns to her.
She’s trembling and whimpering. She tugs at her deep brown hair, woven with twigs and dead leaves. Hazel eyes shift wildly, streaming mud-lined tears. Full lips dribble blood onto her hot-pink bra—Wow, she must be one sexy babe under all that. He shakes off the thought. “You all right?” he asks.
Thank God, she thinks, eyeballing the trucker. Rugged. Beefy. He turns up the cab’s heater, and hot air wafts down her open jacket. Shit. Her bra is showing, she realizes, and she zips the jacket up to her neck before curling into a ball.
Drew reaches for his cell phone on the dash. “Look,” he says softly, “I’m going to call—” A scraping sound—loud and discomforting, like a nail etching glass—grinds into his left ear. His back teeth rattle. “Jesus!” He leans into his smeared window. “What the—”
Dilly strains to see. Mud—blood! Oh, fuck!
A shrill growl blares!
He jerks back.
She screams and jumps out of her seat. “It’s on my side, too!” She points to her smeared window and grabs on to his arm. Doors rattle, as though being yanked by strong, unseen hands. The scraping escalates. Ear-pounding metal hammers, threatening to deafen.
“Oh, yeah?” he yells, laying into the pedal. “Let’s see if they can hang on to this.” He swerves down the black highway.
Dilly squints. She sees something ahead. “Look,” she points at a sign. “Next exit. Hope, 27 miles. We’ll never make it!” she cries.
Drew is aware of her clutching fingers through his thick jacket. “Hang on, sweetie. This fucker’s getting off.”
“You’re going to get us killed!” she yells.
“Not us, baby!” He veers close to the sign and the cab momentarily buckles as the side fender smashes into it. “Yes!” he yells, and takes a deep breath. He turns to deal with what’s on his left. “I can’t see through that shit.” He switches on the exterior LED lights, transforming the truck into a runaway carnival ride. Then feels under his seat for his crowbar. He turns to her. “What the hell was—?” She’s still shivering, he notes. “You okay, honey?” he asks. She just sits there, gnawing her thumbnail. “Look, I’m going to have to roll down my window a bit,” he says.
“No, no, please, please don’t!” She recoils.
“It’s okay.” He holds up the crowbar. “Just a quick check. You go up there, behind me.” He indicates with his chin. “In the sleeper.”
He places his knee under the steering wheel, raises the crowbar in his right, and with his shaky left hand, clutches the handle. Inch by inch he lowers the window. “Nothing but cornfields,” he says, “They’re gone.” The truck slows as it chugs up a steep hill. Drew casts a glance at the top bunk; the woman’s huddled under the sleeping bag. He’s surprised by her agility. Fuck, did she get up there fast. Must be in shock, he thinks. Man, is she gonna feel all her shit later. He grabs his phone.
The operator answers. “911, what’s your emergency?”
“Yes, hello. I’ve got a woman here who’s been seriously injured, she’s been scratched, bitten and—”
“Sir, where are you calling from?”
“I’m in my truck on the Thirteen South about twenty-seven miles from Hope—”
BAM! BAM! The top of the cab rattles.
“Oh shit!” Drew cries.
Dilly jumps from the bunk and—legs tangled in the sleeping bag—smashes into his right arm. His phone drops to his feet.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
She screams again, and claws to get as near the trucker as possible.
“Sir? Sir?” the voice of the 911 operator echoes from the receiver.
“Lady, please!” Drew pushes the hysterical woman off him. “I can’t steer!” He reaches for his cell phone. The truck hits a bump and lifts him off his seat. His foot comes down hard, crushing the phone. “Fuck!”
Pounding, scraping and growling swaddle the cab.
“Oh, please, God, I don’t want to die.” Dilly crouches between the two seats, and weeps.
“Don’t worry, lady,” he assures her, as the truck crests the hill and starts gathering speed, “I got ‘em exactly where I want. Sit down! Fasten your seat belt!”
Dilly kicks off the sleeping bag, clambers back into her seat, and fumbles with the safety belt in between sobs.
“Shhh.” Drew hisses. “Listen.”
Dilly glances from window to window. “I don’t hear anything,” she says over the dull hum of the truck.
“Exactly. They’re gone,” he murmurs, lifting his cap and wiping the sweat from his brow.
“I-I-I don’t think so,” she stutters, and begins to chew on her nail again.
“Yeah … I’m going too fast.” He points at the speedometer. “They must’ve fallen—”
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK on the passenger door. He turns to the young woman.
She sits, frozen. He watches her eyes bulge. She swallows as if her throat were tightening. She points. “Look out!”
CRASH! The windshield shatters.
“SON OF A BITCH!” Drew floors it. “HOLD ON!” he hollers, trying to see through the fragmented glass. The truck races down the hill. He grips the handbrake lever, sees the speedometer at 90 mph. Wait, wait, wait … Needle hits 100. Now! He pulls the lever then pushes it back in again. The truck screeches and jerks violently.
“We’re going to die!” The seat belt cuts into Dilly’s collarbone.
“Uh-uh.” He grabs the crowbar and smashes the windshield out. Ice-cold wind storms the cab. He fights to keep the rig between the yellow lines. Easy, girl, easy. “Just gotta … straighten her … out …. Goddaaaaamn!” he rejoices as he takes control of the vehicle. He leans out the front and swings the crowbar overhead to probe for danger. Nothing’s there. He turns to her. “Roll down your window.”
She digs her fingers into her seat, quivering wildly.
“Roll it down!” he shouts over the fury. “Don’t worry, I got you covered.”
She shakes her head and curls into a ball again.
“You don’t roll that window down,” Drew tells her, “I’m gonna have to stop and go on out there.”
She leans away from the window and rolls it open with her fingertips.
“Thank you,” he says.
In the cracked wide-angle mirror: two dark figures diminish into the night.
“What the hell are they?” he asks.
She offers a vacuous stare.
Eyes back on the road, the full moon catches his attention. He gazes at it, and gulps a mouthful of bitter air. Naaaah! he tells himself, and turns his focus back at his shuddering passenger. You’re lucky I didn’t stop for that brownie, sweetie, he thinks. He spots the sleeping bag between the seats and lifts it to her. She reaches for it. Their hands meet.
He takes hers into his. “Drew’s the name. Drew Daniels”.
She presses his yellow-stained fingers to her lips. “Thank you.”
He cups her cheek gently, then glimpses the rearview. “Oh, no!” He unclamps the fire extinguisher latched onto the left side of his seat.
On the shoulder of the road, Drew battles the flames searing his rear tires. “Get out of the truck!” He hollers. “Lady! Get out of the—” Wind gushes. The extinguisher powder burns his eyes and shoots into his lungs. He chokes and coughs, yet squeezes the canister for all it’s worth. A sudden flash of red, white and blue bounces off the mountainside. He rubs his eyes. “It’s about time!” he croaks over his rumbling engine. Emergency, state trooper, and reporter vehicles approach from both ends of the highway.
A paramedic races over with an extinguisher, while another tugs Drew away.
“Had to pull … emergency brake … must have overheated,” he wheezes.
The EMT tries to strap an oxygen mask over Drew’s face.
“I’m … okay,” he pants, throat raw. “I’m … okay. Get the … lady—” he doubles over “—in … the—” The paramedic fastens the oxygen mask. Drew pulls it off. “I said, I’m okay!” He chokes on his words. “The lady … get the lady … she’s in the cab!” He pushes the young medic toward the truck.
State Trooper Floyd Anderson hurries over. “Sir, you need to remain calm.” He secures Drew’s mask.
Drew takes in a lungful of pure oxygen then pulls off the mask. “Calm … I am calm. What the hell … is wrong with you guys?” He takes a deep breath and wheezes. “Some fucking animals … tried to kill us—” he coughs “—and all you want to do … is put this fucking thing on me!” He flings the mask to the ground.
Anderson smoothly picks it up and presses it against Drew’s face again. “What kind of animals, sir?” he says in a soothing tone, sliding the mask’s elastic fastener behind Drew’s head.
“I don’t know—” Drew takes a step back and snaps the mask down under his chin. “The kind that hang on and bang on … your fucking truck,” he rasps, then breaks into a coughing fit. He cups the mask over his mouth, gulping for air. He looks up at Anderson with tear-streaked eyes. “The kind that can do that,” he barely manages to utter, and points an elbow at his semi: door pushed in like a tin can—handle broken off—window—bloody—muddy—scraped as if knives chiseled it, he thinks—antenna snapped off—LED lights crushed—dents all over. “Oh, fuck!” Drew cries. “Look what they did to my truck!”
“Jesus Christ!” Anderson gasps. “Which way did they go?”
“I don’t know. I lost them about … ten miles back that way.” He points down the road.
Anderson runs to his vehicle.
“Not too far from a smashed up road sign … A couple of miles south of it.” Drew hisses and inhales another lungful of pure air.
Anderson peels off. Drew turns his attention to the sound of another siren. A trooper vehicle comes speeding down the road and zooms past, following close behind Anderson.
Drew breathes in the clean oxygen and catches sight of the paramedic walking toward him.
“There’s no one in your truck, sir,” the EMT calls out.
Drew tears off the mask. “What? What the hell are you talking about?” He darts over to the eighteen-wheeler. Looks in, out, scans the trees, circles the truck. “Where the fuck did she go?” he shouts.
State Troopers and reporters converge toward him. Like a goddamn pack of wolves, he thinks.
At the Eats All Nite, a vintage television set hangs over Old Man Sam’s open kitchen. The TV’s sound is overwhelmed by the hydraulic din that emanates from Gary’s reefer trailer parked outside. Gary, a regular, sits in one of the twelve once-white booths, ready to dig into a colossal brownie dessert. A couple of artsy college kids, Kurt and Annie, sit behind him cupping tepid coffee mugs.
Kurt frowns at the giant logo on Gary’s noisy trailer. “Pirate Pete’s Fish and Seafood,” he mutters under his breath.
“What?” Annie says, and looks out the bay window too. “Fish?” She sniffs the air over her shoulder. “No kidding.”
Old Man Sam makes his way back behind the counter and smiles up at the Blue Ribbons that line the otherwise faded walls—prizes awarded to the brownie recipe.
Gary wags his fork at the television. “Turn it up! Turn it up!” he demands.
Old Man Sam startles and reaches to turn up the volume. “Hey, isn’t that your trucker buddy, Drew?”
“Shhhhh,” Gary jumps out of his seat.
A special bulletin has interrupted the late night news; a female reporter interviews Drew standing next to his beaten semi.
“Mr. Daniels, what happened out there?” she asks.
Drew shrugs and raises his palms.
“What happened to your passenger?”
“They must have taken her,” Drew responds, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Who? Who has taken her?”
“I ah … I don’t …”
“Mr. Daniels, what is out there?”
“I don’t know. But whatever it is, you come across it … you’d better run for your life.”
The bells on the diner door ring. The diner vibrates with the hum of the reefer.
Everyone turns to the sound.
Trooper Anderson hurries out of his car. Fellow man-in-blue, Trooper Chris Valenza, pulls up behind him and hastens out of his vehicle.
“There.” Anderson points his light at the shoulder of the road. “More blood.”
Valenza runs over but stops abruptly, whips around, and flashes his light into the trees across the road.
“What is it?” asks Anderson.
Trooper Anderson also zigzags his light across the road. Both examine the darkness and see nothing but the flashing red, white and blues bouncing off the mountainside.
“I don’t see anything.” Anderson turns and continues to follow the blood trail.
Valenza keeps his light on the trees.
Anderson whistles between his teeth. “I’ve got something here.”
Valenza takes a step toward him. Again he stops, and snaps his head back. “There’s something out there.”
“Shhhhh!” Anderson commands. “Look! More blood.” His light finds broken, bloody and squashed corn stems. Both officers raise their flashlights: trampled stalks form a path that seems to lead to the neon sign up ahead, EATS ALL NITE – 24 HRS.
“Old Man Sam’s!” Anderson sprints toward his vehicle. “Go, go, go!” he hollers. “I’ll radio it in.” He jumps into his car and peels off.
Valenza is about to open his door when he distinctly hears branches snap.
The parking lot at the Eats All Nite diner is teeming. Two deputies and four troopers take cover behind their vehicles, guns pointed at every angle of the eatery. Four emergency technicians stand by, clutching equipment bags. Behind the blockade, a handful of reporters hurry to set up their lights, mikes, and cameras.
Trooper Anderson peers through binoculars, past the burgundy Mazda parked by the entrance. Although the front and sides of the modular diner are almost entirely lined with windows, they are covered either by drawn shades or by gobs of thick blood. “I can’t see a damn thing,” he tells the Sheriff, standing next to him, and also peering through binoculars.
“I’m calling inside,” the Sheriff stammers. He punches in the diner’s number and points at the blaring fifty-three foot reefer trailer attached to a gold Freightliner that’s parked alongside the diner. “Turn that blasted thing off!” he orders a rookie deputy.
A black SWAT van pulls into the lot. A team of four—fully armed—and their Commander scatter and circle the establishment.
The SWAT Commander marches up to the Sheriff. “What do we got, Hank?”
“So far, nothing,” the Sheriff replies, holding up his phone, “they won’t pick up.”
Trooper Anderson’s phone rings. “Anderson,” he answers.
The Commander pats Hank on the arm and bustles over to his two sharpshooters, who each position and load their sniper rifles on the hood of the Sheriff’s car. “What do we got?” he asks them.
They peer into the diner through night vision riflescopes. “It’s a goddamned mess, Commander,” belts the veteran sharpshooter. “One’s barely moving, two others are motionless but appear to be alive, one’s scattered all over the fucking place, or maybe it’s two, and two—”
Trooper Anderson dashes over, hollering, “You need to hear this!” He hands the SWAT Commander his phone. “It’s Trooper Valenza.”
“Go ahead,” the Commander says into the receiver. He listens. His forehead wrinkles, and he nods. “Copy that.” He hands Anderson back his phone and takes out a pair of night vision binoculars from his utility pack. “I’ll get an eye inside the diner now,” he says. The others freeze. The leader focuses, then— “Shit!” He digs back into the pack and takes out a box of ammunition. “Here,” he orders the marksmen, handing them each silver tipped bullets.
“Commander?” they both say with the same questioning look on their faces.
Huddled under a table, Kurt and Annie are trembling. Blood oozes down the curtains, windows, and ribbon-lined walls. Like thick fudge on fresh brownies, Kurt thinks. Old Man Sam lays in a pool of it. Body parts—arms, legs, head—occupy tables, chairs, and stools. The gun, Kurt almost says out loud, if I can only—
Annie snivels suddenly.
He turns and looks into his girlfriend’s tearing eyes. Her lips begin to quiver.
“They’re g-g-going t-t-to kill us, t-too,” she whimpers. “You-you-you-you’ve got to … d-d-do something—”
Deep guttural snarls resonate.
Kurt starts. Oh, shit! They heard her.
Annie grabs at her chest. She opens her mouth as if to speak but begins to gasp uncontrollably.
She’s hyperventilating! “Annie!” Kurt cries, shaking her. “Annie!” He steals a glance at the gun on the floor. And dives for it.
“Now! Take them out now!” The SWAT Commander yells.
Two silver tipped bullets shatter the blood-imbrued windows.
The Beginning – Everything Is Hunky-Doris
Doris Mitchell walks. It’s a beautiful autumn morning, yet, as usual, she dreads every step that takes her closer to the two story, brick building: Hooper High School. She pulls open the door—its weight, a thousand pounds of barred steel. My prison, she thinks. She catches a glimpse of herself in the door’s glass rectangle, brushes her shoulder length brown hair out of her jacket collar, and tucks her violet-streaked bangs behind her ear. Everything is hunky-Doris—her daddy used to say that. She rolls her turtleneck up over her studded choker. Squeezes her barbed bracelets; stabbing into her palm. Feels good, she moans, pulling her sleeves over them. And steps inside. The bright fluorescents bounce off the loud green walls, penetrating her senses. Spiraling to her pelvis. Like a garden rake grating the soul. She passes a row of open lockers, papers spilling out. Smells like pain, she thinks. Like pain, hormones, and rotting luncheon meat. She looks down the narrow hallway. Oh, Daddy, why did you leave me here?
The only child of a career army soldier, she’s been shuffled from place to place—wherever in God’s green earth the Army sent him. And although many of her peers share her experience, she feels very much the outsider. Why don’t they like me? she wonders, methodically stuffing her cell phone’s earbuds into her ears. Maybe because I can’t stand their hip hop crap and poopin’ pop. Give me C.C.R., Warren Zevon—her daddy’s music—or even fucking Duran Duran. She snatches her phone from the belt of her crinoline skirt—well … maybe one song, she confesses—and cranks up the volume. Shakira’s “She Wolf”—The only pop that’s hop. She moves to the music and lets it groove her down the hall.
“Geek!” A girl pokes her.
“Freak!” A boy tries to jab her with a pen.
A crumpled piece of paper smacks her in the face.
“Dora the whora.” A group of five teens chants.
Doris lowers her eyes and slows her pace. But it wasn’t my fault! He forced me! She digs her sharp wristbands into her thighs. Owww! Grrrrr … I wish they would die. Her feet count the yellow diamonds set against the glistening gray tiles. “Awooooo,” Shakira howls. The note courses through Doris’s body and she howls along in her head. Werewolves. God, she loves them. And maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s her fascination with werewolves they don’t like—images of the hairy beasts are plastered inside her locker, and she’s drawn one on the toe of her purple Converse high tops, and yet another beams off a patch she’s sewn to her backpack. Whatever, she thinks. I’m a senior. This is the last year I’ll have to worry about being in this hellhole. She dances unwittingly. The music blares so loudly, Cindy Chen and Rosa Ortiz’s insults go unheard even though they follow almost on Doris’s heels. A gust of hot air tickles her nape. She peeps behind: Cindy and Rosa’s faces seem like five-foot high grotesquely smiling clown heads. Feeling like they’ve caught her stepping out of the shower, Doris hastens to her locker.
Doris fumbles with her lock but keeps one eye on Rosa and Cindy, who meet up with their boyfriends across the corridor. Look at them all, laughing at me? They need to look at themselves … all trendy chic … you might look great on the outside, but inside? Putrid. Disgusting.
George Garcia rubs his buzz cut, growls, and flexes his bulky body in the ‘Most Muscular’ pose, ready to grapple with Scott McCalla, the ‘Hooper Hunk’—blessed with the most astonishing green eyes I’ve ever seen. Emerald.
“Grrr, I’m gonna tapa your ass, bitch!” Scott says.
“The only thing you can do is besa mi culo, puto,” George shoots back, pointing at his butt.
Rosa swings her curvy hips: “A fight! A fight! A Latino and a white!” she cheers, and blows George a kiss.
Cindy roots for her boyfriend, Scott. “Get him, baby!” she snarls.
Scott charges at George.
George dodges left. “Too slow, ho.” He dances around.
“Oh, yeah?” Scott says.
“Yeah,” George taunts. “Come on! You think you can take The Latin Pit Bull? Grrr! Check this out, cabrón.” George tries a double leg takedown.
But Scott is too fast; he scoops George up and pins him against his locker. “Champion!” Scott shouts, raising his arms, dropping George to his knees.
“Nice move, bro,” George says, getting to his feet.
They high-five each other, just missing Ronald’s head.
Ronald Collins, a.k.a. Obama—because of his uncanny resemblance to the President—has his girl, Heather Williams, up against her locker and is moving in for a kiss.
The blonde beauty lifts a finger to his lips. “Not in front of the children, please!” She squirms away.
Cockteaser, Doris thinks. Ronald chases after Heather like a puppy—President? Yeah, right! He can’t even get laid. She turns and catches Scott’s reptilian leer. She gasps and darts her eyes away, finding: My friend.
Jeffrey Dalton, Doris’s one friend, does not have the comfort of music. He shuffles down the hall, head bowed, wire-rimmed glasses clinging to the tip of his nose, tattered green hoodie hanging loosely.
Stud Quarterback Jonathan (J.J.) Johnson walks behind Jeffrey, ramming a football up his butt.
“You think it fits?” Jonathan asks Lance Willis, who walks alongside him.
“Sideways!” the Hooper Hawks’ humongous Tight End replies. “You know.”
Why don’t they leave him alone? Doris wonders. Oh, no! Here comes the shit disturber. She groans.
Billy Bob (Swifty) Jenkins zooms down the hall on roller shoes, cutting over, under and through knapsacks, books, and people. “J.J.! Lance!” he shouts.
Jonathan and Lance spin around, “Swifty!” They high-five him as he rolls between them, bumping Jeffrey, knocking him down.
“Asshole,” Doris mutters under her breath, and tries to shield herself with her locker door, her back to the crowd.
“Going long!” Billy Bob yells, raising his hands to catch the football.
Jonathan pulls back the ball and zeros in on Billy Bob’s bouncing ginger locks as he zigzags around the crowd. Jonathan scopes for his pass.
Billy Bob dashes over to Doris and lifts her skirt.
Doris whips around, catching Scott mouth, “Fuck!”—he likes what he just saw. His girlfriend, Cindy, punches his arm.
Doris holds down her skirt, her face gone from ashen to scarlet. “Don’t do that!”
“Wasn’t me, was the wind.” Billy Bob grins, makes a three-sixty, jumps, and catches the football. “Touchdown!”
Doris crouches to pick up her books and phone. She looks at Jeffrey for comfort. He drops his eyes and collects what spilled out of his knapsack: sketchbook, textbooks, pencils, and blue thermal lunch bag.
Rosa and Heather singsong, “Doris wears a thong! Doris wears a thong!” They close in on her.
She’s cornered. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t let them—
“Check her out, Heather, she’s gone tomate rojo,” Rosa says.
“You don’t have to get blush. We all got one on,” Heather reaches and snaps Rosa’s tanga, “See.”
“But you, you are so spanky, mami chula. Let’s check out that culo again.” Rosa tries to lift Doris’s skirt but Doris holds it down tight.
“Don’t be shy, baby.” Heather brushes Doris’s bangs to the side of her face and glides a finger over her dark eyebrows. Black-penciled eyes. “You got it, flaunt it. Why, you got that Sasha Grey thing going.”
“Sasha who?” Rosa asks.
“Sasha Grey, you know ‘the model’ from Entourage,” Heather gestures oral sex. “Yeah, baby,” Heather keeps going, “Why, you could pose for Playboy.”
“No, Penthouse,” Rosa says.
“No, Swank,” Heather says.
“Try Skank,” Cindy snaps, eyeballing Scott.
“I know, I know,” Ronald teases, “with that pale tail she can pose for Fangoria’s zombie booty of the month.”
“I thought you liked them white, Obama,” says George.
“Yeah, white but tight and outta fucking sight.” Heather juts her butt out and slaps it hard, “Spanky, baby,” she purrs.
Ronald tries to grab Heather but bumps into the next teen to walk down the hall: Dawn Evans. “Speaking of zombies, hey, Dawn,” he makes and moans like a zombie, “Dawn of the Dead.”
Doris watches the girl closely. She hides behind dark clothes, too much dark make-up, and seems to possess a fragile melancholy. An enigma, this one, Doris thinks. A teacher once remarked in class that Dawn had the countenance of a toy poodle—unruly black hair falling over huge dark eyes—that’s been kicked one too many times. I guess that’s why The Putrids are not so hard on her, Doris muses. They must feel sorry for her. She watches Dawn smile up at Ronald. Probably can’t hear him over the music blaring into her ears, Doris guesses. She hears her own name again.
“Doris has one on. Do you have one on?” Heather asks Dawn.
Dawn stares blankly.
Heather gently pulls off one of Dawn’s earphones. “A thong, baby,” she says, snapping her own.
Dawn covers her face with both hands, and scurries off.
Scott snakes through the crowd and moves in. Oh fuck, Doris steps back and smashes into a locker. She’s caught in his green eyes. Hypnotic, she thinks. He puts a hand up on the metal, leans in, reaches under her turtleneck and seizes her collar. “Woof-woof,” he says, pulling her ear to his lips. “I want that ass,” he whispers. “You sexy bitch.” Scott shoots her a wink and swaggers off.
Though she’d never admit it, she feels strangely flattered. The six foot two, blond, strapping jock is, after all, breathtaking.
Cindy jumps in and slaps Doris hard across the face. What the hell! Doris is stunned.
Jeffrey runs toward Doris. “Hey, leave her alone!” he yells. Cindy pushes past him and goes after Scott.
Jonathan grabs Jeffrey by his hoodie, pins him against the lockers and drives a hard punch to his stomach. George hurdles over and kicks, just missing Jeffrey’s head. Scott pushes away a livid Cindy, dives in, and fakes karate chops to Jeffrey’s face, gut and neck before smacking him in the head.
“Is that your girlfriend, freak?” Jonathan demands, his face just inches above Jeffrey’s. “Repeat, is that your girlfriend?”
Jeffrey shakes his head.
“Then mind your own fucking business, geek.” Jonathan yanks Jeffrey’s thick black sideburns.
“Oww!” Jeffrey cries out, cupping the side of his face.
“Is there a problem here?” a commanding voice echoes.
Tall, dark, and—as he likes to think—chiseled like G.I. Joe, Sergeant Tim O’Sullivan steps out of his classroom. What is it now? he thinks. The imposing teacher—an Iraq War vet—has devised a newly introduced specialized program meant to inspire future recruits. Forever in army fatigues, the forty-four year old leans into his cane—a prop required since a bullet lodged in his right leg—and peers at the students.
“Sir, yes, sir,” Jonathan answers, “Geek-freak here was showing aggression, sir.”
“Watch your mouth, Johnson,” O’Sullivan snaps. “Is that true, Dalton?” he asks Jeffrey.
Jeffrey raises his eyes to the teacher.
The teacher waits for something, anything. Even a “fuck you” would do. But Jeffrey’s expression is vacant. As usual, the vet thinks.
The bell rings.
“Sir, Doris mooned us, sir,” Billy Bob yells over the clamor.
“Get your ass in class,” O’Sullivan commands, then grabs the football from Billy Bob. “All of you,” he shoves the ball into Jonathan’s gut.
The snickering gang breaks up and heads for the classroom.
The teacher stands at the door, waiting for the rest. “Come on, move it.”
Scott saunters over to Cindy and puts an arm around the petite blonde. She claws it away. He grabs into her platinum bob, glares into her seething, narrow eyes and blurts, “I told you! I told her, like you said, that she’s a skank, with a skanky ass. That’s all, Kitty.” Cindy’s eyes soften and she buries her head into the crook of his arm. Scott shoots his teacher a wink in passing as they enter the classroom.
O’Sullivan studies Jeffrey and Doris, still at their lockers, and scratches his graying temples. What am I going to do with you two? He is about to speak but decides to give them a moment. He shifts his weight from the cane and limps back into the classroom.
Jeffrey presses his forehead into his locker’s top shelf. He rubs the side of his face. Oww. He whines. Shut up, wimp, he tells himself. They are right. You are a geek-freak. Coward. You have no balls. He examines the mini movie posters wallpapered to his locker door and stops on The Wolfman. If only I could be you, I’d—
“You know, you could have said you were my boyfriend,” Doris says wryly.
Jeffrey feels his heart in his throat. I wish, he thinks, marveled by her dark purple lips. “But I’m not,” he says, averting his eyes, fixing them instead on the crowd of werewolf posters, drawings and magazine cutouts taped inside her adjacent locker—a comfort they both share.
“It might have saved you the humiliation.” She pulls out a textbook and a sketchpad.
“I doubt it.” Books in hand, he hooks the combination lock and spins it closed.
“I hate them.” She flings her knapsack into her locker. “All of them. I wish I could— ugghh!” She slams her locker door. Hard.