FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE GOTHIC (November 2010) ISSUE!
The oak and elm trees were starting to turn colors. Summer is fun, but it gets way too hot in Kansas City round about August. I like seeing fall come so I can skate without getting all slimy and sweaty.
I had to walk Ranger home from school every day, which meant no hanging out with friends until later, after Mom got home. That’s how Gileon and I became friends. After walking our little sibs home, we were all that was left.
I sent Ranger inside when I got home that afternoon, and I went around to the back of the house. There was no trellis under Gileon’s window or anywhere else on the house. I’d just made up my crack at Fr. Shealey, but really; what the hell? The house was built of limestone quarried out of the Missouri hills. A strong man might be able to work his way up the sheer rock wall, but not an old geezer like Fr. Shealey.
I went inside and dumped my backpack at the bottom of the stairs so Frau Steffensmeier would holler at me later. You gotta keep things interesting for these old people or else they’ll get Alzheimer’s, right? I went upstairs to Gileon’s room.
I heard Gileon’s sisters Evonne and Janelle playing behind the closed door of their room, under my mom’s bedroom in the same spot by the stairs. The girls were hiding from Ranger, who loved terrorizing them. Whichever Hess parent walked the girls home today, I bet they swore up a shitstorm about doing it.
I heard Mrs. Hess’s television loud behind the closed door of her bedroom. Gileon’s door was right across the hall. I opened it and went inside.
From under the bedsheets in the darkened room, Gileon moaned. “Close the door!”
I did, and said, “Did Fr. Shag-me fly up here last night or what?”
Gileon, totally hidden in his bed, said nothing. A board was nailed over the broken window, so I turned on the overhead light.
Gileon, in the same hurt and angry voice as before: “Turn it off!”
“Okay, okay.” I turned out the light and sat down on the bed next to Gileon. “How you feel?”
“Like shit,” Gileon said. “Leave me alone.”
I found Gileon’s shoulders under all those blankets, and I rubbed his back. “Bet I can find a way to make you feel better, huh?”
“Not today, Tucker. Leave me alone.”
“Ya wanna do PlayStation?”
“No, Tucker; go away.”
I laughed softly. “You really are sick, huh?” I reached up and yanked down the covers from Gileon’s face. “Oh my god…”
Gileon looked up at me, or at least I think it was Gileon. His face was grey and thinner than usual, and the edges of his eyes…well, you think they’d be red because he looked like he’d been crying, but they were bluish-grey instead, like Fr. Shealey’s hands. Gileon’s skin was hot and dry, but his long blond hair lay pasted in dark, damp strands on his skin like he’d been sweating all day.
“Shit, Gileon,” I said. “Let me get…look, I know you can’t…I mean, I know your folks can’t pay for a — ”
“There’s no doctor can help me,” Gileon said. He hid his face in the pillow.
“Seriously, Gileon. Maybe I can get my mom to — ”
“Shut the hell up, Tucker!”
Goddamn it, I felt like I was about to cry. He never talked like that to me, and we’d never had a real fight. I stroked Gileon’s damp hair for a moment and said, “Can I get you anything?” It’s what my mom would have said.
Gileon shook his head. “Just let me sleep.”
I leaned over and gave Gileon a kiss on his cheek, and stood up. I stopped at the door. “I’ll check in later,” I said.
“Yeah, whatever,” Gileon said. Then he raised his eyes and looked at me. He was crying; I knew it.
“You and your mom and Ranger,” Gileon said. “Lock your bedroom doors tonight, ’kay?”