by Rick McQuiston
The commanding officer swung
his arm over his head, directing the soldiers to advance over the ridge. Ray was scared, but also anxious. Anxious to warm
up his AK-47 and finally put some notches on it.
“Let’s go , go,
go! Move it! Move it!” the Lieutenant screamed at the men with the eyes of a starved lion.
Ray lunged forward ahead of
the other men . He felt confident as his gun flashed again and again , dropping enemy soldiers like ducks in a pond. He tossed
a grenade, then another, the brilliant yellow outbursts sending his opponents either flying through the air in pieces or scrambling
“Good work, soldier,”
the Lieutenant beamed at Ray. “We got them bastards running with their tails between their legs”. Several other
members of his platoon patted him on the back as he was thinking about military honors and promotions. After all, he’d
almost single-handedly dispatched over 50 enemies and knocked down 2 defense posts. He’d be a hero, a brave soldier
who … shit! The beer can rolled off his lap, but not before expelling the remainder of its contents onto Ray’s
crotch area. But it was a good thing, though, otherwise he might have slept too long. Kelly would have been able to sneak
right past him. She’d done that before. She knew that TV was like warm milk to him, putting him out like a light. Denise
was never able to wait up for Kelly. She was always fast asleep by ten. It sure was easier when Kelly was a little girl. She’d
been wrapping Ray around her finger for seventeen years, but lately she seemed to be unwinding him, and this scared Ray more than ever.
* * *
Kelly was nervous. Bobbi had
told the cute guy that she was interested and now he was sauntering over towards her.
“Hi, I’m Matt,
Matt Wellings. What’s your name?” His ice-blue eyes both excited and frightened her.
she mumbled, looking down at her feet.
“Would you like to go
for a walk?”
Kelly didn’t know what
to say. She was aware of the time and knew her dad might not have fallen asleep this time, but she threw caution to the wind
and accepted his invitation.
* * *
The Alamo blazed across the
screen. Ray loved that movie. John Wayne was a perfect catalyst for Richard Widmark and Laurence Harvey. It was nearing the
part where Santa Ana ordered the final siege. Hundreds of multi-colored soldiers marched forward in perfect unison. Canon
shots blasted out from the Alamo and men were felled in indiscriminate carnage.
Ray felt himself becoming
engrossed more and more in the historical epic as Kelly drifted further and further from his mind.
* * *
“Are you from around
here?” the muscular teen asked, his sandy, blond hair occasionally slipping forward, obscuring his left eye.
Kelly shyly answered yes and
felt embarrassed that she had batted her eyes at him; but his smile melted her heart and filled her with desire. She made
a mental note to get his phone number or to give him hers. “I’m here with a couple of my friends. They’re
good friends.” She screamed at herself in her mind. They’re good friends! What a stupid thing to say!
“I’m sure they
are” replied Matt with a smile.
Feeling relieved that he had
brushed off the odd remark, she quickly continued the conversation. She asked what type of music he liked, how long he had
lived in the area and where he went to school. All the usual questions young people employ to get to know the other person.
But he hesitated with each
question. Several seconds elapsed before he answered them, and even then his replies seemed . . . forced. For the first time,
Kelly started to feel uneasy about the situation. She sensed him holding back. But why? He seemed to have it all together.
Why did he have to lie? Did he have something to hide like abusive parents, a drug problem or even a criminal record? Kelly
attempted to fasten these scenarios, among others, on him, but to no avail. He simply didn’t fit into any of the categories.
Not that she was a psychiatrist, but she did pride herself on judging character. But Matt was a puzzle.
* * *
Damn! He’d forgotten
to get bread. So much for turkey on rye. Ever since Denise had passed away he had found himself struggling with the daily
duties of life, like laundry,
balancing the checkbook and buying bread. If only Kelly had a cell phone, he lamented. He could have her pick up some on her
* * *
Time had passed quickly. Kelly
shuddered when she looked at her watch. She would have to solve this puzzle some other day. A sigh escaped from her mouth.
“I have to go …”
It hurt to say the words. “My dad will be waiting up for me.”
Slowly she turned, half expecting
Matt to protest. But he said nothing. He merely stared at her. Kelly sensed this and swung her head back towards him. Her
hair flew wildly, momentarily covering her eyes. Matt was smiling now. His ice-blue eyes called to her, begging her to stay.
Their hypnotic effect on her was strong and she felt herself having to use all her willpower to break the connection.
“I’ll leave my
number with my friend, Bobbi,” she mumbled. “She’s the girl whom you talked with earlier.”
Again Kelly turned and started
to walk away. The night had grown chilly by now and Kelly was wishing she’d have brought a coat. She had only taken
2 steps when she felt her wrist squeezed almost to the point of breaking. Looking down she saw Matt’s hand, his manicured,
strong hand, clamped tightly on her arm.
* * *
Ray’s stomach was disagreeing
with the alternative meal he was forced to choose. Leftover spaghetti was a bit heavy for a late evening bite, but it had
to do. John Wayne and Richard Widmark had been dispatched at the Alamo almost an hour earlier and Ray felt the boredom start to creep in, matched only
by his growing concern about the time.
Where’s Kelly at? She
knew what time to be home. Why not call if she knew she would be late? Question after question danced in his head, each vying
for recognition. Should he call the police? No. Too early for that. Should he call her friend’s parents? He didn’t
know their last name, but he could thumb through Kelly’s phone book. No, better not. He didn’t want to jeopardize
the trust he had labored so hard for between him and Kelly.
So what should he do? His
left arm swung up toward his face. Christ! One a.m.! He had to do something. He started pacing back and forth down the hallway.
He couldn’t let anything happen to her. He had promised Denise. The last words that she had heard. Those last words
that seemed to comfort her enough to finally let go, to let the cancer finally claim her and to begin her journey to Heaven.
He fumbled in the coat closet
for his shoes and snatched his wallet to shove in his back pocket. Keys. Where the hell are my … headlights! There were
headlights in the driveway. Ray felt ten years younger as the worry he had been harboring melted away. He opened the front
door and waved at the car. The passenger door swung open and Kelly stepped out. She didn’t seem at all annoyed about
her father waiting up for her. Ray noticed her friend in the driver’s seat talking to her, but she seemed oblivious
to her. She smiled a blank smile at her friend and lazily waved goodbye. Ray watched his little girl casually walk up the
driveway. She fumbled with her purse and dropped it as cosmetics, keys and a pink mirror spilled out at her feet. Was she
drunk? No, she seemed perfectly normal, anybody could drop their purse.
After she scooped up her things
and straightened her skirt, she walked up the porch towards Ray.
“Hi, Dad. You weren’t
waiting up for me, were you?” Her expression betrayed the fact that she knew he was.
“Why, of course not
honey,” he stammered. “Just finished watching a movie.” Thin ice. He was on thin ice. He couldn’t
show he didn’t trust her.
“Sorry I’m a little
late. Bobbi had some car trouble.” She brushed past him quickly, dropping her purse on the loveseat. “Met a guy
tonight. Name is Matt. His father is an airline pilot. He transferred from …..”. On and on she continued from
the bathroom. Ray listened intently as any father would when his daughter was talking about someone she’d met.
“He’s really sweet,
Dad. Bought me a rose.”
Ray added occasional quips
in response to her, but felt himself losing interest.
he interrupted. “We’ll talk more in the morning.” He hated to cut her off, but it was one thirty in the
“Sure, Dad.” The
voice from the other side of the bathroom door seemed different somehow. Ray paused for a moment, then decided to ask her
a question so he could hear her voice again.
He thought quickly –
“Kelly, didn’t you bring a jacket tonight like I asked you to? It’s gotten pretty cold…”. He
froze when he remembered the detail. A small detail that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. She was sweating when she came
home! Sweating! Despite the fact that it couldn’t have been more than fifty degrees outside.
The bathroom doorknob moved
slightly and Ray heard the sound of the lock mechanism release. He watched uneasily as the doorknob turned slowly.
now laced his voice.
The door swung open quickly
and the thing inside engulfed Ray where he stood. The thing that had been Kelly. The thing that had been Matt. The thing with