It Gets Weird
by Sherry Cassells
I make people up, one after the other. I like them flawed in character, circumstance, appearance – sometimes all three – so loving them is a cinch.
One or two try to get by unscathed but I am diligent and I inflict these rascals with oh, let’s say, a last-minute stutter, a sudden limp, an ill-fitting glass eye, a penchant for chaos.
Sometimes, though, someone tumbles onto the page perfect and it gets weird. I mean I gotta get tough with some of them, you know? I have nothing to say to beauty and promise and pomp – so I suggest mortality with a numb-for-now lump, or deal out ice-cold catastrophic grief (my current fave) – and they’re mine forever.
But I’ve never actually murdered anyone before.
There have been carefully scripted accidents, there were my Kevorkian years, and I ignored someone to death once but that’s a whole fucking other story and I only got like six hundred words here so let’s just say he ignored me all my life, too, and from here on let’s make every word count.
Ray lived at the bottom of the street, a sudden left at the dead end, in a house you could see right through to the lake there were so many windows.
He was a high school auto mechanics teacher, single like me but without the divorce. There were always cars in his driveway and a handful of tinkering, handsome students, something smoking on the barbecue, a cooler of cold drinks and beer if you were old enough or a parent was present.
I took my son down there can’t remember why but we knocked on Ray’s door and he invited us into his backyard and offered us a beer which I declined but my son accepted because I don’t think a grown-up had ever offered him one before and he didn’t know how to say no or maybe he just wanted a fucking beer I don’t know.
Ray’s yard was just grass, and ended in a fence like an aluminum net above the cliff with the lake bubbling way down below. He handed my son a cold black can of beer, looked at him straight-on and said What’s your plan? and right away I felt like a shit father. Too busy making sure he was eating and breathing and guitars and video games and trying to avoid driving lessons after that first one to ask those kinds of questions.
Anyway he stuttered something back and I felt Ray looking at me even though I was watching the sky float over the net and the next Saturday the kid tells me he’s going down to Ray’s and won’t be home for dinner and he was gone before I got any questions out or thought of offering a driving lesson.
He came in late. I muted Dexter and got up from the couch to say something but he ducked down the stairs and into his room and then I heard the swirl of his unplugged guitar. But I didn’t go down. He had a way of turning toward the door when I peeked in that made me feel like shit and I didn’t want to go to bed like that but I went to bed like something else instead.
My own father, who I used a handful of words on above, had a way of making me invisible and when I go invisible now it’s like he’s doing it even though that’s impossible due to his death, also mentioned above.
My son started going to Ray’s all the time. Once in a while I’d stroll down there and he’d be working on a car or having a burger with the rest of them in the backyard and Ray would be happy to see me and I’d hang for a bit with the guys, you know, then I’d just sort of wander on home without anybody noticing.
Death lets me peek at its notes when I’m invisible.
So... What was my plan?
The opposite of ignoring to death.
All I had to do was ask Ray about the fence – is that a little gap? – and gravity did the rest.