Authors: Jack Worr
Summer is over, and school is almost begun. Mason is moving into the dorms, to the chagrin of his mother and huge grin of his father. His sister seems indifferent.
She tosses his bag at him. “Here.”
He grunts and catches it. He can feel the ache beginning in his stomach. “Thanks.” He almost drops it on the dirt of the in-progress parking lot, but manages to keep ahold of it.
She smiles, that little demon smile, and says, sweetly, “You’re welcome big brother. But I’m still taking your room.”
“You still okay with that?”
“Dad,” his sister whines.
Mason grins. “It’s fine. I won’t be back.”
“It breaks my heart to hear you say that,” his mom says.
He shifts the bag on his shoulder and gives her a hug. “You know what I mean. Come on, I’ll see you at Christmas.”
“Honey,” his dad says to his mom.
“We only get a few days off,” Mason says. “And we already have plans.”
“With who? The one with long hair?”
“Jeez Mom. Yes, Travis.”
“Anything but the long-haired one,” his dad says, waving his hands, and they all laugh. Except his sister. She feels this kind of discrimination is wholly inappropriate.
“We’re going to miss the show,” his sister complains.
His dad looks at his watch. “She’s right.”
“We can always see the next showing.”
“Mom,” his sister says, drawing out the word.
“It’s okay,” Mason says, and goes to his sister.
“What are you doing,” she says, raising her hands.
He picks her up in a bear hug, then kisses her on the mouth.
“Ugh you’re so gross! Put me down.” She leans her head back as far as she can as she beats on his shoulders.
Mason does. “I don’t know if you’re ready for a PG-13 movie.”
“Thirteen is just a suggestion,” she says wiping her mouth.
“Seven does seem a little young,” their dad says.
“Oh this is ridiculous.” She spits, then kicks the dirt. “I’m waiting in the car.”
“You really should go,” Mason says after his sister slams the car door.
“Oh,” his mom says, and hugs him.
“It’s okay Mom, you’ll see me soon.”
“We have different definitions of soon,” she says, releasing him. “Four months is an eternity without my baby boy.”
His dad laughs. “Now you know how your sister felt.”
They load up in the car, and Mason stands there, hand in the air.
They disappear out of sight, and he feels sad despite his excitement at being on his own for good.
But he makes his way into the dorm, and the two girls shooting Nerf guns at a guy with a squirt gun lighten his mood some.
By the time he reaches his new room, the melancholy is almost gone. He knocks, and it dissipates completely when Travis opens the door. “Dude!” He hugs him manily. “I hope you brought beer.”
“Enough for all of us,” a girl’s voice says, and Mason’s spirits rise even higher.
Then he looks in and sees the voice belongs to a little kid. Freshman, maybe. Of high school.
“The dweeb’s my sister,” Travis says, pointing.
She waves at Mason. “Taylor.”
Her brother ignores this. “And that,” he says, pointing at the other girl in the room, “is her crazy friend that she’s not supposed to be hanging out with.”
“No,” Taylor says, “that’s Alice.
”—she points at her friend—“is Emily.”
“Whatever,” Travis says.
Mason waves at them both. “Hey.”
“Hi,” Taylor says.
The friend, Emily, just stares at him, and all he can think is, O
h great, a freshman has a crush on me. Maybe she just thinks I look scary or something.
He pushes past them uncomfortably and sets his bags on the obviously unoccupied bed and sits down.
The girl keeps staring at him. She puts the lie to both of his assumptions by saying, “I know you.”
Mason looks at her. “Really? Have you seen my mov—”
“I asked you to buy me cigarettes.”
“Ew, you smoke?” Taylor says.
Emily ignores this, staring at him. “Remember?”
He does. The cigarette detail brings the memory back, and for some reason he thinks of condoms. “You look different.”
“Yeah,” Travis says suspiciously, “how old are you? Even if you’re not… whoever—”
“Alice,” Taylor says.
Travis waves his hand. “She should have friends her own age.”
She does look older than Travis’s sister, Mason thinks.
“Just turned fifteen.”
Despite this seeming about right to Mason, he says, “You don’t look it.”
“No, I mean you look like you’re twelve.”
“I would be upset if I didn’t know that I in fact look like a college junior. Ms Adams says so. She says I look like a college junior instead of a high school one and that I shouldn’t be running around with makeup like a little harlot. I love her, but sometimes I think she’s too old fashioned.”
“I don’t think she was entirely serious,” Taylor puts in.
“No, probably not. But not entirely joking.”
look twenty,” Travis says, then studies Mason’s bags. “So no beer then.”
Mason laughs. “I know a place.”
“The chick from the roof.”
The roof. He and Travis met at orientation, and hit it off, and spent that night drinking beers on a roof of some shop. But they weren’t alone up there. The one who got them the beers was with them. She was a senior, and both Mason and Travis tried to make out with her, their attempts growing bolder as their beer supply shrunk. They both eventually got to make out with her, but to Mason’s disappointment, and he was sure Travis’s as well, neither got any tongue. Which just seemed juvenile for a college senior.
Mason laughs. “Bro, I told you, we never met up afterwards. She probably graduated by now.”
“Sure. Where’s this place.”
“The Deli Mart.”
Mason just smiles. He stands from the bed, dumps his backpack out on it, then slings the empty bag over his shoulder. “Okay kids,” he says, “the grownups are going to go play. Keep an eye on things.”
“Ha ha. You are so funny Mr Mason.”
“Why do boys like to be called by their last names?”
“Mason is my first name.” He frowns. “How do you know my name?”
“What’s your last?”
“What? Grey. What’s yours?”
“Doyle. What’s your middle name?”
“Jeez you’re nosy.”
“If I’m a little nosy would you call me…” she trails off, apparently stumped.
The three of them laugh.
“Fuck you shit-licker.”
“That’s a long one,” Travis comments.
“Penelópē,” her ‘friend’ puts in.
“But her sister calls her Penny. Like the coin.”
“I fucking hate you so much right now.”
“Beer?” Travis asks, looking at Mason.
Mason nods. “Beer.” He turns to Emily.
“Bye Penny,” the boys say in unison and everyone laughs again.
What Emily found most odd about the naked man, was that he did not scream as he fell into her pool.
His fall wasn’t graceful, but luckily for him he didn’t seem to be going very fast, judging by the splash he made.
None of this really was on Emily’s mind however, as she stared expressionlessly, stunned by the shock of some illusion that made it seem as if the man had fallen from nowhere. She swayed, unmoving in the same spot she had been, tea still in her hand, still poised to sit down and do some tumblr-ing pool-side.
Several seconds passed with her in this frozen state. The man did not resurface. She retained enough wits to gently set her iPad and drink down on the table instead of just letting them fall to the ground before she dove in to hopefully rescue, possibly retrieve the body of, the man. She came up and almost drowned before she realized what was atop her head was not a squid, but mere fabric. She tossed it and swam to the side, man in tow.
Her next shock came when she got the man out of the pool and realized it was Mason. When she noted that she was seeing Mason naked, it was dispassionately, as a doctor might, because there were only so many times you could be surprised in under a minute.
She got in one chest compression, avoiding the fresh line of stitches which she only peripherally wondered about, before Mason sat up, slamming his head into hers.
“Assfuck!” she said holding her forehead. “What are you doing?” She rubbed the sore spot. “Are you okay?”
Mason looked around the backyard, then down at himself. “What am I wearing?”
“The emperor’s new clothes. It’s a trend.” She grabbed the towel she’d been planning to lie on, gave it to him, then helped him up.
When he’d gotten it wrapped around himself, she said, “At least you still have your shoes.” Then she pointed at the fabric still floating in the pool. “And that, I think.”
“I’m at your house.”
“You’re not selling Old Spice.”
“What?” Mason asked bewilderedly. He looked sideways at her. His eyes didn’t seem quite in consensus on which spot to focus on, as if they’d had a disagreement and decided to go their own separate ways for now.
“I was worried about you. You didn’t respond to my texts. What happened to you? You look like crap. Donate some organs since yesterday? You should sit.”
Mason sat on a lounger with a seat of white rubber straps. “It’s cold.”
He didn’t want to tell her he’d been in an accident. Didn’t want to because of how similar it was. The truck, coming from nowhere.
The truck, he thought. Had it been the same type?
Emily sat next to him and rubbed her hand up and down his back.
“Has it only been a day?” he asked.
“Since—” he squeezed his eyes shut, opened them again, looked around. “When was I here?”
“Yesterday. Why? Are you okay? Want me to call an ambulance? Did you hit your head?”
“Not recently, Mom.”
“I’m not the one acting weird, going around naked.” She stared at him.
After a moment he looked at her. “Yeah?”
She gestured to where he’d fallen into the pool, the tree nearby. “What were you doing? I know your weren’t trying to spy on me or break in. Did you see a cat and fall again?”
Mason had a memory of a Labor Day party, climbing the tree to “rescue” someone’s damn cat, and them both falling into the pool. That cat was willing to do anything to stay above water, and the many tiny scars on Mason’s scalp and neck only served testament to that.
“I need to get my car.”
She eyed his attire. “Like that?”
“Clothes first, then car.” He frowned. “Have anything I can wear?”
“I have some shorts that would look cute on you.”
The clothes turned out to be crappy, but they were clothes, and her dad’s, and thus men’s, clothes, and that was all Mason required from them. Even his shoes, after twenty minutes in the dryer, were good as new. Or near as.
His car would be harder. He’d have to find out where it was, which wouldn’t be easy if the cops were after him. Which they seemed to be, though that didn’t make any sense, since he was the one who’d been hit, not the other way round.
You jumped out a window to get away from them. Not the actions of an innocent man
After calling around from Emily’s cell, which he was hesitant to do but saw no other choice, he discovered his car was at a nearby mechanic’s, and that he was probably not wanted by the police—or he was and they simply hadn’t let on because they had tracked him and were on their way even now. Nothing he could do either way.
Upon calling the mechanic, he was told that yes, his car had been fixed, and yes, it was ready for pickup, it had been ready for two days, and that no, storage was not free, and yes, a day was considered to be twelve hours, and yes, he would have to pay all the fees.
After verbally thanking and mentally cursing the mechanic, Mason hung up and looked at Emily. “I think I’m gonna need your help.”
Her mouth formed a wicked smile. “Does this mean I’m going to get to drive?”
Emily Penelópē Doyle had a car. A car her parents would not allow her to drive unaccompanied, for multivariate reasons. Not the least of which—though it was toward the bottom of the list—being that she only had her learner’s permit. (Why she had waited until almost twenty to get a license was the subject of much debate among scholars; some posited that it was due to her rebellious nature, other, more Freudian scholars, said it was due to her child-like desire to be taken care of. Among non-experts, the consensus, reached unanimously and without debate—indeed without discussion—was that she was lazy and refused to study for the traffic laws and signs test and so repeatedly failed it.)
But now, she was not unaccompanied. She was in fact accompanied by a screaming man—but a screaming man who had a
This, she felt, justified taking the car out on this fine day. And, as far as she knew, she was legally in the right.
“There’s a speed limit!” Mason shouted. Most of this sound was sucked out through the open roof of the convertible.
“What?” Emily looked at him.
“No! Watch road, not me!”
She leaned sideways toward him. “What?”
Mason’s face slammed into the phone mount before his seatbelt had the opportunity to strangle him, which it belatedly did now.
Horns blared as several cars swerved around the car that had suddenly come to an abrupt, screeching halt in the middle of the currently docile but by no means vacant highway.
Emily slammed the car into gear, and Mason was thrown back against his seat before he’d caught his breath.
Tires spun and Emily flipped off one of the cars as she repassed it.
An unfortunate bug, unable to escape the slipstream of the sleek convertible, was somehow sucked into the cabin, and sent to its splattery demise against Mason’s right cheek.