Chapter Two of The Eye-Dancers

Hopefully you enjoyed reading Chapter One of The Eye-Dancers.  Here now is Chapter Two . . .

Copyright 2012 by Michael S. Fedison

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When Joe Marma got out of bed and switched on his cell phone a half hour later, he had four text messages waiting for him—one from a kid on the other side of town asking if he wanted to join in on a street hockey game later that afternoon, and three from Mitchell Brant.  The three from Mitchell had all come within the past few minutes, each one sounding more urgent than the last.

The latest message—Joe, where r u??  Come over, I need 2 talk.  You’ll never believe what happened 2 me last nite.  Aren’t u awake yet?  Come on!!—irritated him.  What was Mitchell’s problem?  What was so important?  He was tired.  He hadn’t slept well—not at all—and he wasn’t in the mood to be prodded.

“I won’t believe what happened to you last night,” he said.  “You got it backwards, bud.”

He pocketed the phone.  He’d text Mitchell back in a minute.  Right now, he needed to splash some cold water onto his face and get some food in him.

Still only half-awake, he nearly collided with the bathroom door.  Great.  And he really needed to go, too.  He had chugged down three cans of soda late last night.

He knocked.

“Yeah?”  It was Bob, his older brother.  He was probably camped on the toilet, browsing through the sports pages.

Joe groaned.  Bob would dawdle for as long as he liked, especially with their parents away for the weekend, visiting friends out of state.  Bob was the oldest, and with Mom and Dad gone, he made it clear he was the one in charge.

“Hey, can you get outta there already?  I have to go.”  Through the door, he heard the rustling of the newspaper.

“Just go in the backyard, you dweeb,” his brother said.  “That’s what you usually do.”

From his pocket, he heard his cell chirp.  Another text.  He took it out, checked the message.  Mitchell again.  Joe!  COME ON!  Where r u?????

“Man.  Some people.”

But before he wrote back, he just had to pee.  And he knew the bathroom wasn’t going to work out.  Bob would see to that.

“Lilac bush, here I come.”

Outside, the morning air was humid, sticky.  It made him think of last night, how muggy it was, how much he had wanted to run but couldn’t.  But it did no good to ponder last night.  Or the night before.  Or the night before that . . .

Glancing around, making sure no neighbors were nearby, he approached the lilac bush and relieved himself.

As soon as he finished, his cell beeped again.

“Geez.  If that’s Mitchell . . .”  It was.  “This better be good, bud.  This better be pretty freakin’ good.  Like, you-just-won-a-million-dollars-and-are-gonna-give-me-half good.”

He keyed in his response, telling Mitchell he’d be over in a half hour, and to stop hounding him, then sent the message to his persistent friend.

That made him chuckle.  Mitchell Brant.  His friend.  Who would have ever guessed, even a couple of years ago.  He’d always thought Mitchell was just a dork—well, he still thought that.  But after he got to know him better, he realized the dork was kind of fun to hang around with.  He could be very annoying sometimes, but how many guys did he know who said they had once climbed to the peak of Mt. Rainier and then got offended when you dared to question the truth of their claim?

When he went back inside, he poured himself a glass of milk and prepared his favorite breakfast—two fluffernutter sandwiches, light on the peanut butter, heavy on the fluff.  Bob was still lingering in the bathroom, and the kitchen was quiet.  But he didn’t mind.  It was a nice break.  His brother could be such a blowhard.

And Mitchell Brant.  What was he?  Other than a dork.  A liar.  An encyclopedia of all things related to The Fantastic Four.  A good guy.

“He’s a pest,” Joe said, taking a bite from one of his sandwiches.  Yes, he was.  But on that chilly April day, just over a year ago, he had been a pest in serious trouble.

Joe remembered it well.  He’d been wandering around behind the school, prior to the start of morning classes, when, suddenly, he heard the sounds of a scuffle—taunting, snickering, the thud of flesh striking flesh.

He raced to the spot of the struggle and saw Mitchell Brant on the receiving end of a solid punch.  Mitchell was being held in place by some kid Joe didn’t know, his arms pinned behind his back.  The other kid, who Joe recognized but couldn’t place the name, was hammering away, belting Mitchell with blow after blow.

Joe had never said more than two words to Mitchell Brant, but he hated an unfair fight.  He told the kids to quit it.  They didn’t.  So he made them quit.  He laid into them with everything he had, and when he was through, both of them were on the ground, writhing in pain.  One of them would sport a king-sized shiner for a week.

Afterwards, Mitchell thanked Joe for his help.

“Forget it,” Joe had said.  He’d have done it for anyone.  Well, almost anyone.  There were a few guys he would have paid to watch get the snot beat out of them.  But still, it was no big deal.

“Yes it was,” Mitchell Brant said.  “I owe you one.”

And from that experience, an unlikely alliance was born, slowly, haltingly, at first, but picking up momentum as time went on.  They got along.  They even shared a few interests.  Sports.  Action movies.  The Lake Ontario beach when they had a chance to get up there.  And, to a lesser extent, comic books.  Mitchell was much more into them than Joe was, but Joe did enjoy a good issue of Spider-Man every now and then.  He couldn’t believe Mitchell thought The Fantastic Four were better than Spidey.  Or that their movies were more action-packed.  No freaking way.

Now, sitting at the kitchen table, the silence of the house surrounding him like a soundproof glove, he smiled at the memory of how he’d met Mitchell.  He’d pulverized the two jerks who had ganged up on him.  He hadn’t been in a good scrape in a while.  There was nothing quite like a fistfight, nothing that could compare to the sensation of a well-thrown punch delivered to the jaw.  He missed it.  Fewer guys would challenge him these days, his reputation being what it was.

“Yeah, I beat up a sixteen-year-old,” he said, and laughed through a mouthful of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.  He wasn’t sure how that rumor got hatched, but, truth was, he figured he’d have a fair shot against most sixteen-year-olds.  He was stocky, but not fat—solid, built like a fireplug, his dad told him—and very strong for his age.  It was just unfortunate that he was so short—four-five-and-a-half, maybe four-six on his tiptoes.  A couple of months ago, he had asked a girl he liked if she wanted to go to a movie.  She looked down at him, tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t, and said, “You’re cute, Joe.  So short and cute.”  Then she walked away, giggling the whole while.  He wished he’d sprout up a few inches over the summer, before seventh grade started.  Why did his mom and dad have to be so vertically challenged themselves?  They had passed their genes on to him.  But not to Bob.  He was over six feet tall, the lucky creep.  Joe wondered if perhaps the nurses had mixed up the babies at the hospital after Bob was born.  Maybe some tall couple out there had spent the last decade and a half wondering why their son had turned out to be such a shrimp.

From the bathroom, he heard the toilet flush.  “Great.  Thanks, bro.  Just what I needed while I’m trying to eat.”

The telephone rang.  He got up to answer it.  “Hello?”

It was some moonstruck girl, asking for Bob.

“Well . . .” He wanted to word this just right, for maximum effect.  “He’s taking a dump right now, on the toilet.  Probably smells like a sewer in there.  You don’t know what it’s like, goin’ in there after Bob—”

Suddenly, the phone was yanked from his hand.  Bob stood there like a giant, Joe’s head reached up only to the middle of his chest.

“When I hang up, you die,” he said; then, into the phone, his voice now tinged with saccharine, “Hi.  It’s Bob.”

Joe went back to his breakfast, hoping to finish it and get out of there before Bob hung up.  Not because he was scared of his brother—though he admitted, Bob was one sixteen-year-old he probably wouldn’t be able to take in a fight—but because he didn’t need it.  He didn’t need the hassle, the threats.  None of it.  Not after last night.  He wasn’t up to listening to whatever story Mitchell was about to tell him, let alone dealing with the abuse only his older brother could dish out.

He wolfed down the remainder of his food and emptied the glass of milk.  By the time he had brushed his teeth, looked at his reflection to see if he was sprouting any zits (he wasn’t), and changed into a fresh pair of shorts, he thought he was going to make it.

But just as he strode across the kitchen toward the door and freedom, he heard Bob’s voice: “Hey, short-stuff!  I’m not through with you.”

He hung up the phone.

Great.  Perfect timing.

“You try talking to one of my girls like that again, and I’ll rearrange your anatomy into something even funnier, you got it?”  He poked Joe in the chest with an index finger.

“What’d I do?” Joe asked.  “I told her the truth.  You think the bathroom smells like roses when you get out.  It doesn’t, bud.  It stinks.  So I figured your girlfriend should know, that’s all.  What a joke, anyway.  Your girlfriend.  Does she know how you are?  Whaddaya got now, like twenty of ‘em?”

Bob smiled.  “Well, twenty is probably on the conservative side.  It’s probably more like thirty-five, maybe forty.  But who’s counting, right?”

“Yeah, right.  Who’s counting.”

Bob puffed out his chest and tilted his chin just so, showing off the dimple that drove the girls wild.  “Thing is, if I wanted to up the number to fifty . . .”  He snapped his fingers.

“Yeah, you’re just a living doll, bud,” Joe said.  “But I gotta go.”

“Hey, you catch my drift, though, right?  No more talking crap to my girls.”

“Sure.  Talking crap.  That’s what I was doin’  Talking crap about your crap.”  He smiled, gave a mock salute.  “Yes, sir, General Marma!”

“Get lost, short-man.”

And he did.  He was tempted to argue some more, but better to play it safe.  The longer he hung around, the more likely he’d be to say something stupid and really set Bob off.  So often, he simply blurted things out without thinking, threw a punch without considering the consequences.

It wasn’t easy being Bob Marma’s kid brother.  Movie-star looks, celebrated jock, straight-A student, desired by seemingly every girl in school.  Bob had it all.  Worse, it seemed to come easy for him.  Joe rarely saw Bob study, yet he brought home perfect grades with regularity.  And here Joe tried his best, studied hard, and was lucky to maintain his C average.

It wasn’t fair, and so often he felt a river of anger flowing just beneath the surface.  No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he always came in second place.  If he heard one more teacher say, “Joe Marma?  Bob Marma’s brother?” on the first day of classes during roll call, he thought he’d tell that teacher to go stuff it where the sun didn’t shine.  It was hard at Christmas, too, and on Bob’s birthday.  What were you supposed to get the brother who had everything?

“Hey, Dusty,” Joe said, patting their golden retriever on the head.  Dusty had spent the night in the garage.  He’d been infested with fleas for a week, and Mom and Dad didn’t want him back in the house yet.  Joe felt bad about that.  Dusty was the one he could always talk to, the one who would always listen.

He walked out of the garage, into the sunshine.  It was eighty degrees already, and the humidity would make him sweat even if he kept a slow pace.  He loathed mugginess.  Days like this made him wish he lived in Seattle, Vancouver, or Alaska—somewhere nice and cool, far from Bedford, New York, in late June.

Mitchell’s house was a half mile away.  By the time he got there, Joe was indeed sweating.  Across the street from Mitchell’s, he saw two little girls playing in a sprinkler.  He wished he could join them.  But Mitchell was already outside, pacing the driveway.

“Hey,” Joe said.  “Think you texted me enough this morning?”

Mitchell blushed.  “Sorry.  But I gotta tell you something.”

“Yeah, sure.  Hey, can we get outta the sun, though?  Too hot.”

They went around back, and sat down, across from each other, at the Brants’ red wooden picnic table, which rested beneath a towering maple tree.  The leaves rustled softly in the faint, hot breeze.

“So what’s up?” Joe said.

Mitchell looked nervous, which was a surprise.  Usually, he would just start right in on one of his bizarre stories, boldly and confidently.  Why was he hesitating now?

“Hello?  Earth to Mitchell!  You still here, bud?”

Mitchell blushed again, took a deep breath.  And then he told Joe about some strange girl in his dreams, and how she had tried to pull him, through her eyes, into the land of the dead, or wherever it was she had come from.  He told him about falling, scraping his knee, and how, when he woke up, that scrape had somehow remained.  He told him that he was scared.  This girl had come to him three consecutive nights.  It was like she was haunting him.

Then he stopped.  He was sweating now, too.

Behind them, out of sight, Joe heard a boy’s voice yelling for somebody named Jimmy to shut up, take that back!  An unseen dog barked as if in response, and for a moment, Joe wondered if Jimmy actually would take whatever he had said back.  His head throbbed.  The heat was getting to him.  Reality felt too elusive, too fragmentary, as if it were crumbling away into jigsaw pieces that could not be put back together.  His struggles trying to escape his brother’s long shadow suddenly seemed trivial.

“Joe . . . Joe . . .  Joe . . .”

It was Mitchell’s voice, pulling him back to the moment at hand, to the daylight, the mugginess, the rustling leaves.

“Joe, you okay?”

He hit his forehead several times, trying to knock some sense in to himself.  “Yeah.  You know, I’m not so sure.”

“You believe me, don’t you?”  How many times had Mitchell asked him that same question?  How many times would he make something up, but then, with such sincerity ask, “But you believe me, right?”  Sometimes Joe would humor him.  Sometimes he would tell him to get a life, to quit lying all the time.  He was sure he would have told him that now, too.  Except for one thing . . .

He looked at Mitchell.  The unseen dog barked again.  Across the street, he thought he could hear the laughter of the two little girls running through the sprinkler.  The breeze wafted against his skin, drying his sweat, making him itch.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I believe you.”

“You do?” Mitchell said.

He nodded, and again he had the feeling that reality was splitting apart, atom by atom.

“You do,” Mitchell said.  This time, it sounded more like a statement, a recognition.  He seemed disappointed.  Perhaps he had expected, and welcomed, a period of disbelief.

“And you don’t wanna know why, bud,” Joe said.  “Trust me, you don’t wanna know.”

“Yes I do.  Tell me.”

Joe looked at him.  “You’re not the only one who’s been dreaming about that little rugrat.”

“But . . .”

“I’ve been havin’ the same dream!”  He brought his fist down against the tabletop.  “Three nights in a row . . . I had the same dream you did, Mitchell!”

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Please click here to move on to Chapter Three!

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. renxkyoko
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 00:08:26

    @__@

    Oh, wow ! Now for Part 3…..

    Reply

  2. The Other Side of Ugly
    Nov 15, 2012 @ 05:46:49

    Oh the suspense! Going to chpter 3 (excellent writing BtW).

    Reply

  3. Gregory Faccone
    Feb 25, 2013 @ 17:54:04

    Two sympathetic characters with a startling coincidence between them. I wonder what the connection is.

    Reply

  4. Janice Spina
    Mar 24, 2013 @ 13:12:49

    Great story. Now I have to read Chapter 3. You are a talented writer and know how to add a hook sentence at the end of each chapter. That is the secret to keeping your reader engaged and interested enough to turn the page.

    I am a writer too. I have written several children’s books and four novels but nothing published yet. Still editing one novel. Hoping to publish soon though.
    Keep writing. You definitely have talent.

    Janice

    Reply

  5. seeker
    Mar 25, 2013 @ 23:14:24

    Uncanny and I hate it when a sibling is living in the shadows of older siblings. Pretty hard to find your own autonomy. P.S. Don’t bother responding to my comments as I go along, Mike.

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Welcome to a new friend: Michael S. Fedison–Eye-Dancers | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!
  7. Inion N. Mathair
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 04:34:37

    Let us applaud you Michael!! Very few times will a secondary character carry the same weight as the MC. But Joe Marma is a breath of fresh air. And well done in making your characters all boy! So many times we hear that a new book hits the market that is “boy friendly” and we read it and laugh. They’ll talk about designer shoes and silly girl things that you’d never hear real boys talking about. Making the characters boys who act like girls.
    In these two chapters you’ve managed to capture the essence of real boys. In dialect, character, even their interests. My daughter particularly loves their love of comics as she is a huge comic lover and collector, with about two hundred and eighty books she’s collected over the past twenty-seven years. So for her this was a real treat! Also, the idea that Joe is short, yet can hold his own in fights making him larger than life, we absolutelly love this!!! And we love the story of how he and Mitchell we’re thrust into friendship over him protecting Mitchell from two boys. Well done once again, Michael and we look forward to reading chapter 3.

    Reply

  8. laughtermedicineforthesoul
    Aug 03, 2015 @ 18:40:22

    I just read the second chapter, great story. I think it’s time I start writing my book as well. lol

    Reply

  9. The Eye-Dancers
    Aug 03, 2015 @ 19:35:12

    🙂

    Reply

  10. Dragthepen
    Aug 07, 2016 @ 19:29:19

    I am reading slowly chapter by chapter. Thank you for the snap shot into your book. This book takes me back to my childhood the small towns of Georgia. These character are living in modern times, cell phones. Back in my day, as children we created ways to communicate. Your character talks about his dream. I flashed back to my childhood when we used our imaginations to create what was real for us. I shall continue to read.

    Reply

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