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THE MiSERY OF AGE
© WRiTER oN THe MoON
It stopped raining at 6:54 am. As happens every once in a great while, the sun dominated the sky and there wasn't a single cloud. The morning light caught them sleeping with the window open and the smell of the rain that had fallen filled the room, better said, the liar, mixing itself with the odor of their feet. Mr. Shepherd's cat meowed and climbed the almond tree. Three hot air balloons rode on the wind towards Bath.
They began to move around in their beds, awaking.
"I had the weirdest dream I've ever had in my life." commented Javier, stretching his legs and fluffing up the sheet.
"Really? What did you dream about? asked Alan, still half asleep and covering his head with his pillow.
"I've been sewing my belly all night because my bowels were coming out. I'd stick them back in and they just kept popping back out, like they didn't fit. What worried me most was that they were getting dirty. My guts were full of sand."
"And besides, I didn't know how to sew. And your parents were scolding me and I felt all frustrated, as though I was letting them down and then, geez, and then your grandmother María Dolores cut them up and ate them for breakfast." He kept fluffing the sheet as he told Alan about his dream.
Suddenly, all of the things that had happened last night down in the cellar, came rushing into his head and he stopped.
"Of course, that's why I dreamed what I dreamed! Dude! We're still alive! Your parents haven't murdered us, not yet anyways. Not yet. If your aunt doesn't tell us."
"Grosssss! Did you just cut a fart?" asked Alan, covering his nose.
"Yep, that's why I've been fluffing the sheets in your direction."Javier said bursting into laughter. "Is it bad? Don't you just love the smell of my stinky farts?"
"You're a pig! That must be the stinkiest, worst smelling fart that anyone has ever cut in all of England. Not even fat Mrs. Miller could outdo you."
After having a pillow fight they went down in their pajamas to have breakfast, silently. It was late but, being they were on summer vacation Alan's parents let them sleep in but never later than ten thirty. It was Monday. The kitchen smelled of freshly perked coffee. Outside Sara and Marisa were washing who knows what, noted Javier, looking out the window on tip-toes. Jack had left to go see Adam Barkaat, the carpenter, whose talent for mending and fixing things were well known among a wide range of the inhabitants of the neighborhood.
The two women waved at them through the window, between three orchids.
"Good morning boys!" they both exclaimed, almost in perfect unison.
"Good morning!" they responded in the same way without much enthusiasm.
"Shit, don't you think they're really good at hiding the fact that they are murderers?" asked Javier.
"Cut it out. I told you my family isn't the gang of assassins you think they are and would like to convince me into believing." said Alan.
"Ok. Whatever. It's just that last night should have been proof enough to anybody. What else do you need?"
Marisa came in and gave them each a kiss with her fleshy lips. "These kisses are from your mom too, she couldn't come in just now because her hands are full of soap."
She moved on, going down the twenty one steps to the basement and returning immediately after. She passed by them and made a comical gesture, trying to let them know they were accomplices and knew what she had just gone down to get. She carried in her hand a little piece of filthy cloth, ragged and yellow with black in the middle. It looked like a rag someone had used to clean the tires of their car.
They both remembered Mr. Harris. Javier was petrified and Alan was very serious.
"I'm going outside with your mother to wash this. It's filthy. And I believe you both know what this is, right? Come on guys, if you need anything, anything at all, you know where we are."
"Thank you Aunt Marisa."
The color drained from Javier's face.
"Hey man, did you see that?" he asked.
"Of course I did."
"It's like they know we know and they are laughing at us. Like we are going to be the next ones. Damn it all. Sorry, sorry, here I go again.But this is all so macaber. I don't want to turn into a rag like that guy down in the basement. Your family is very twisted."
"And you are very boring, what a bunch of bull shit. Are you listening to what you are saying? You get nervous and start ranting all kinds of stupidities that I don't even think you believe." Alan countered.
"Anyone have any balls around here?" Javier asked.
"To go down and see the cadaver of that guy in the cellar and end this argument once and for all." Javier said, challenging Alan and immediately realizing his mistake. The last thing he wanted to do was venture into a den of dead bodies . He saw a hint of fear in Alan's eyes, but it suddenly changed, turning into a challenge.
"I think that's a good idea." said Alan.
"Ok then, so do I. So...you go down and I'll stay up here on guard."
"Smart ass. You really are a coward you know. Just accept the fact that you're a chicken." said Alan.
"But somebody has to stand watch at the door! Just think what would happen if they caught both of us down there. How would we escape? There would be no way out!" replied Javier.
"How about the back door that goes out to the yard?" reasoned Alan.
"And what if your dad is waiting for us there with an axe?"
Without hesitating. Alan headed directly for the basement door. He paused, took a deep breath and opened it. As he hit the first step he began to imagine what Mr. Harris's body must look like, after being unstitched. If there even was a body. He imagined a scene from Frankenstein, then a cadaver that looked like a blow up doll that had been punctured and lost half of its air.
"Wait!" said Javier quickly. "Take your cell with you. That way I can warn you if anything happens up here."
"Good idea Javi, sometimes you actually think. Thanks."
He took the cell phone and determinedly went down the stairs. One. Two. Three steps. With every step he took the panic rose in crescendo. Suddenly his phone vibrated. He unlocked the screen with his thumbprint and read the text message that Javier had just sent him.
He ignored it. He was on the bottom step.
He stopped and examined the zone. The same old fifty three square meters where he had played with his Lego so many times. The same loom, the one he thought his father used as a hobby for mending things, was covered up with a white sheet. Everything was exactly where it should be with one exception. The loom that had been in his bedroom was standing in the middle of the floor. He hadn't had a chance to ask why the heck they had taken it from his room so quietly, without asking his permission.
His cell vibrated again but Alan decided not to look at it.
The door opened with a bang and someone was coming down the stairs in a hurry, visibly nervous.
It was Sara.
"Yeah, I'm down here Mom."
"What's Javi doing standing up there by the door with a face as white as a sheet? He looks terrified. Really, you two! You're not taking drugs, are you?"
"No Mom, no way!"
"I just don't get it! What are you doing down here all by yourself? Were you smoking? Confess!" said Sara, despairingly.
"I was...looking for the...the...racquets, the tennis racquets! We want to play tennis, besides, do you smell any smoke?
You say the weirdest things sometimes."
His cell vibrated again and this time he looked at it. That way he could avoid eye contact with his mother so she couldn't see he was lying.
He had two messages, the first a warning:
The second made no sense at all:
Did she kill you?