DESERTION Preview

On Tuesday, March 22, you can read the full story at www.smashwords.com. Smashwords is an e-publishing site that gives ebook options for every format. Laptop, computer, nook, kindle, iphone, ipad, you name it! If you don’t have an account, you can get one for free!

And if Tuesday isn’t soon enough, you can also check out my first release, Dreamland Crocotta too!


Desertion

The window was shattered. One pane was still intact, clinging to the left edge of the frame. Pink striped curtains floated like ghosts in the breeze. Threads dangled like limp, frail legs. Insect carcasses. Exoskeletal shells.

A boy threw another stone at the windows.

“Don’t call me Schwartzy, Max.”

“Schwartz then.”

“Don’t call me Schwartz either. Schwartz is a stupid name. No one is called Schwartz anymore.”

“No name then?”

“A bandit name. Something criminal. Shadow?”

“Shadow is a dog’s name.”

“So what then?”

“One-eyed Jack?”

Schwartz lifted his fresh eye patch, his Christmas present, his new namesake, and studied the side of the broken, abandoned home. His vision twisted and went spotty, making sense of the recent blind spots. The patch gave him a headache and the world swam funny. When he first put the patch on, he’d expected a nice line between the black from one eye against the vision from his right. But instead the two blended together. Sometimes shadowed. Sometimes sharp. Oftentimes just bleary. But headaches were part of being a bandit. They practically came with the job. The shit wasn’t easy, Max always said.

“Shit’s not easy,” Schwartz said.

“Damn right.” Max flung a rock and it glanced off the siding and the sound echoed but they didn’t flinch. No one would hear it. And so what if they did?

“I like it. One-eyed Jack.” He repeated his brother’s words back again, tasting them in his mouth the way he tasted the berries they found in the Twigs earlier in the day. The Twigs were what they called the broken forest behind their neighborhood. Their weedy backyard fence opened a drainage ditch away from the Twigs, and the Twigs opened to a forgotten neighborhood. Most of the houses had been torn down. Only a few were left. A flood had washed out the families a few years back when the river grew too high.

The neighborhood was their secret spot.

They could do anything here. They could play army, lie about in the browning grasses and search the tree line for the enemy, black shadows from tree branch to tree branch and then with a sound like, “Pchew, pchew” the black shadows dropped, dead, before a quick reload and a renewed vigilance. Or if not army, explorers, coming across some decrepit city, forgotten, empty, strange languages scrawled across trees— they’d been studying American settlements in school and talked briefly of the lost colony at Roanoke. Sometimes they just sat and threw stones and talked about home. Disappearing was on their minds.

Schwartz was nine years old and tall; tall enough that he matched his brother in height, who was a good two years older and in the fifth grade. And because he was in the fifth grade he carried an air about him that he was privileged to things, that he was about to make that transition to a greater plane, a higher level of consciousness perhaps, to be on par with greater thinkers and greater children. So Schwartz fought hard to keep his brother’s attention. He fought hard to be cool and hip. He fought hard to be good at things the way Max was, so that he could challenge his brother and keep him entertained and away from straying. So that he could keep his brother smiling when he got that faraway look in his eyes and studied the horizon for more than just Charlie or the Nazi’s or whoever the were killing that day. Sometimes when Max started staring and thinking, Schwartz would bring him back into the game, design a crisis scenario that would distract them for a good while, all afternoon perhaps, if the crisis was severe enough. Sometimes he’d pick his brother’s brain over some mystery story he’d heard, to get him puzzling over something curious, to get him to come back into the moment more so than before, to get him to realize how maybe Southern Texas wasn’t so bad, that it could have been better than even Virginia. That they didn’t need snow or Dad on Christmas. Today when he saw Max’s far away look, he just asked.

“What’s on your mind, Max?”

The older boy looked at his brother and shook his head. “Nothing, man. Just heavy stuff. Adult stuff.”

“I can handle adult stuff.”

Max nodded. “Old beyond your years, Schwartz.”

“One-Eye.”

“Old beyond your years, One-Eye.”

“Lay it on me.”

Max considered his brother, looked him up and down as if trying to remember his age, trying to place his curiosity, weighing him for some task. His look made Schwartz uncomfortable.

“I don’t think Santa’s real.”

Schwartz stopped short. Santa? He wasn’t expecting this one.

“Course he is.”

Max shrugged.

“Why not?”

“Just been bothering me. Starting to seem, Idunno, silly to believe in stuff like that.”

“It’s not silly. He’s real.”

Max didn’t say anything else. He looked like he wanted to. The problem still hadn’t been worked out in his mind. But Schwartz was balking and he was a good older brother.

“What’s not to believe?”

“Just seems weird to me, you know? Doesn’t make total sense.”

“What’s not to make sense? He flies around the world. Gives presents.”

“How does he fly? How does he get down chimneys? We don’t have a chimney anymore.”

“Magic.”

“Magic makes sense to you?”

“Yeah.”

“Lies make more sense than magic. I’ve never seen magic.”

“Just because–”

But his thought was cut off when Max said, in a voice suddenly hard, a Captain’s voice, a voice that Schwartz knew well from playing Army, “Schwartz. Drop.”

He hit the ground with his hands around an invisible weapon, pointing toward the house. “It’s one-Eye. And hey, you’re saying Mom and Dad,” he hesitated for just a moment after saying ‘Dad.’ “They’ve just been lying to us? About Santa, the Easter– ”

“One-Eye. Shut up.”

“You shut up!”

“Schwartz. Seriously. Enemy. Your two-o’clock.”

Schwartz closed his mouth and spun in the dirt, bringing himself close to a tuft of grass, peering through the black tree branches and scrub. “Markus and Jonesy?”

“Negative. An unknown.”

Schwartz felt a thrill run through his body. An unknown. In their secret place. A couple weeks ago the Littleton twins had found their way into the secret spot and Schwartz and Max had to go to war. Schwartz had beaten Max to the house before breakfast was over and was waiting when he’d seen them, wandering, bored, hair in bowl cuts and glasses dangling at their noses’ ends. Nerds. No business with the military work being done that week by the other two brothers. They drove them away with stones and curses, veritable demons from the depths of the shadowy neighborhood. The twins hadn’t been back since.

That had been exciting. Two brothers against a seen enemy, finally, standing ground with a purpose. Holding on to what was theirs. It would be the case again today. They’d protect their space.

Schwartz scanned the Twigs, searching for motion. First the brush, then the negative space between each tree branch, then the branches themselves. He couldn’t see the anyone, but said, “Sighted” anyway. This might well only be an unseen enemy, like the others, and wanted his brother to approve.

“It’s an adult, One-Eye.”

“Confirmed,” Schwartz said.

“Stay down. He might just be passing through.”

“What’s he doing out here, Max?”

“Quiet, One-Eye. Keep him in your sights.”

Schwartz imagined the man moving through the trees, boldly, curious, but completely ignorant as to the kind of territory he was wandering into. This was a warzone, a place of invisible soldiers and magic and surprise. Grown ups messed that up. He’d best be taken out.

“Huh,” Max grunted. “He’s walking funny.”

Of course, Schwartz imagined. He walked stiffly, like there was a stick jammed down the back of his pants, the way their teachers at school sometimes walked and the know-it-all dweebs who tried to be like them.

The sun was setting in the late December afternoon, leaving a pale red glow across the sky in the west, silhouetting the Twigs. Shortly, Max made a movement with his hand to indicate that he’d lost visual contact.

“What’s he doing out here, Max?” Schwartz repeated.

“Trespassing.”

On Tuesday, March 22, you can read the full story at www.smashwords.com. Smashwords is an e-publishing site that gives ebook options for every format. Laptop, computer, nook, kindle, iphone, ipad, you name it! If you don’t have an account, you can get one for free!

And if Tuesday isn’t soon enough, you can also check out my first release, Dreamland Crocotta too!

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One thought on “DESERTION Preview

  1. Jackie Paulson 1966 says:

    I really love your blog. I have a newer one at http://getreadingnow.wordpress.com
    I love paranormal stuff…hey you are in college? what is your major?
    You have my attention: Jackie 🙂

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