Sean Beaudoin

Enough excellent writing to fill a large tube sock

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Excerpt

CHAPTER NONE: SOPHIE BLUE

The Town Pool, The Snack Bar, The Deep End, The Birthday Girl

The place was packed. I was in a lounge chair, Herb lay sprawled on the crusty cement, and Lake was wheeled between us, adjusting her tire pressure with little pfft, pfft sounds. In the parking lot, minivans pulled up in rows, disgorging knock-knees and beach towels and sloshy coolers. The lifeguard repeatedly blew his whistle. Candy wrappers fluttered like moths. The water shimmered and the sun beamed and a breeze softly blew.

It was a perfect day.

Except something bad was coming.

I could smell it in the chlorine. I could see it in the piles of abandoned flip-flops and skids of egg salad. It was in every yell and every shove and every stubbed toe. It was right there, on the tip of my tongue, just beneath the surface.

Which makes a ton of sense.

I popped my second can of Diet Crank, (triple the caffeine, four times the aspartame) which tended to give me a definite style: Early Impressionist Panic Attack. My pad was filled with shaky portraits and possible tattoos: Godzilla playing bass, Caligula drinking a latte, Conan the librarian.

"What’re you drawing?" Lake asked. 

I was sketching her father in big swirly lines. He had a mound of hair in the center of his chest and lines of lesser fluff running from his neck to his toes. It was doubly obvious because he wore a pinstripe Speedo.   

"Herb’s chest-fro and banana sling."

Lake laughed. "Maybe someone should take a gander at their own ensemble?"

I was wearing a black bikini. Black Wayfarers. Black cowboy hat. Black boots, unlaced, no socks, and a black sweatband on my left wrist. My look was sort of Dead Southern Rocker, mixed with a studied nonchalance. A studied maybe Aaron Agar will show up-chalance.

"Aaron Agar is not coming," Lake said, lighting a cigarette. I waved at the smoke with a sketch of an unhappy lung. The lifeguard blew his whistle, Hey you! Put that out!

"So, Herb?"

Herb raised his head, peering at me above the rim of his aviator shades. His nose was covered in zinc, glasses carving a line in the white goop.

"Yes, ma’am?"

"You’re a few days early, but I love my present."

Herb had baked me a big round birthday cookie and shoved a drippy candle into the center. It sat on a napkin next to my leather jacket.

"You pretty much only turn eighteen once." he said. He’d just lost his job. We came to the pool because it was free. "Was I going to spare any expense?"

I gave him a big thumbs-up . He gave me the double thumbs-up back, Bryce Ballar ran past us, yelled "Test Tube!" and belly-flopped into the shallow end, splashing annoyed moms and uncovered snacks. The lifeguard blew his whistle. Bryce Ballar gave the lifeguard the finger.

"Do you hear that?" I asked.

Lake sighed. "Don’t listen to anything Bryce…"

"No," I said. "That."

There was a faint whispery clanging, like the buzz coming from someone’s headphones. Gotothelabgotothelabgotothelab.

I stood up on the deck chair to hear better.

"What are you doing?’ Lake asked.

"No standing on the deck chair!" the lifeguard yelled.

I could see my brother on the other side of the pool, near the dumpster.He was reading a comic book, cross-legged on a yellow towel that looked suspiciously like a washcloth.

Gotothelabgotothelagotothelab.

"Um, Sophie?" Lake said.

I got on my tiptoes and waved, but O.S. ignored me, glasses two inches from the page. Behind him, an ice cream truck was coming down the hill. It had bullhorns mounted on the roof. Bells clanged and clown music jangled.

"That’s weird," I said, my elbow suddenly numb.

"Yeah, it is," Lake said. "Sit down."

The truck’s windows were tinted black, Snap O’ Matic painted across the hood. It didn’t slow as it entered the parking lot, front wheels jumping the curb and, dragging shrubbery. Gears ground, causing a series of backfires . The truck slammed though a big sign that said Thank You Fade Labs, Pool Construction Complete! Ice cream flew everywhere. Popsicles left melty trails of red. Kirsty Wells picked at her toes. Kirsty Rogers smoothed her towel. Floaty toys popped and burst. I looked at Lake, who didn’t move. I looked at Herb, who yawned and rolled onto his belly.. The truck veered left, aiming straight for the dumpster.

I jumped off the chair and ran across the wet tiles, slap, slap, slap.

Thirty feet.

I knocked over benches, scrambling between tables.

Ten feet.

I slid sideways, wind-milling for balance, and stood in front of my brother.

Impact.

The frozen metal grill connected with my chest, vertical imprints seared into me like bar code.

I am so Goth, I’m roadkill.

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“I ran down the hall. And stopped in front of the counselor’s office. There was nothing there. Not even a door, just bricks. I could swear there used to be a door.”

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