Kenny [fiction]

Changes, Part 2

Lenny Stevens has a new name and personality.

Kenneth “Kenny” Jeffrey Douglas, 15

Kenny

He, as Lenny Stevens, is the second person I created. He buddied with Dave Evans (now, Dave Conrad) in high school until I wrote him as an adult for a short story called “Dragon Slayer.” He went through some name changes before I settled for Leo Nash, a tall and lanky schoolteacher at Ridgewood High. I changed his name back to Lenny Stevens when I rewrote the story for The Green Crystal Stories, an episodic book about Vree Erickson. Now, I have changed his name to Kenny Douglas for no other reason than I grew tired of his name.

*

Looking For Gold (A short story featuring Kenny)

On a July Saturday, Dave Conrad rode his green 10-speed Schwinn Super Sport bicycle ahead of Kenny Douglas’s blue one as he led the way to a place where he believed they could find gold. They both wore white T-shirts, blue jeans and tennis shoes, and Dave wore his blue high school baseball cap. Kenny caught glimpses of the white letters FE letters on the cap every time Dave turned to see if Kenny was still behind him.

They headed north on Ridge Road, uphill and down, and then uphill and steep for almost a half-mile. The one o’clock sun was hot on Kenny’s back and shoulders while he pumped his bicycle’s pedals to keep up. Near the top, Dave crossed the road, dismounted his bike, and carried it over a large ditch and into a hayfield. Kenny followed along a path that looked like a deer trail, walking his bike behind Dave until they came to some woods. They left their bikes there after Dave removed coiled rope from his bike, and went the rest of the way on foot, into the cool shade and a swampy outcropping to the edge of a rocky cliff. Twenty feet below, water trickled from the hillside, fell and splattered on rock, and fell again to Myers Creek far below.

“If there’s gold,” Dave said, “this’ll be a good place to look.”

Kenny helped Dave with the rope, tying his end to a young hornbeam tree that Dave had called an ironwood. Dave harnessed his end to his legs and shoulders. Then, when both boys were certain the knots were good, Kenny helped lower him to where water trickled from the side of Myers Ridge. Dave dug around at the wet ground, pulled up rocks, examined them closely, and tossed them away. After ten minutes, the process became boring to watch, so Kenny returned to the hornbeam tree to make sure his knot held strong.

Past the tree where the ground turned swampy and muddy, a red squirrel inspected the inedible raw leaves of a small patch of skunk cabbage, likely looking for the plants’ hard, pea-sized seeds to carry back to its nest. That’s when Dave called Kenny back.

He hoisted a grinning Dave who proudly displayed a three-inch chunk of bright yellow rock. It was cold and heavy when Kenny held it.

“Do you think it’s real?” he asked.

“My dad’s tester at home will tell us for sure,” Dave said before he blew into his bright red hands. His eyes were wide as he looked at the gold, then down at the cliff and back at the gold. “Should’ve brought gloves,” he said before taking the rock away from Kenny.

“What are you gonna do with it?” Kenny asked.

“Melt it and maybe make a bracelet for my mom. I’ve been reading up on how to make jewelry.”

Dave pocketed the rock, then took off the rope harness and helped Kenny into it. Kenny kept his feet against the cliff wall while Dave lowered him to the trickling streams of falling water. The water’s icy bite kept Kenny from digging long. Within minutes, he held his cold, red hands to his mouth.

“Pull me up,” he called out. Then, “Wait.”

He reached into the farthest stream on his right and extracted a long, conical piece of green crystal rock from the soft erosion. It was as long as his forearm and shaped like an icicle. He held it by the thick end and brushed away sediment from its smooth, glassy surface, rubbing his hand over the polished object and enjoying the warmth where it tapered to a point. He waved it like an orchestra conductor’s baton at the air next to him.

“Whatever it is, it’s manmade,” he said when Dave pulled him up.

“How do you think it got down there?” Dave asked, taking it by the narrow end and swinging it like a baseball bat.

“It must be old to have passed through the ground.”

“Tomorrow,” Dave said, looking determined, “I’m going down there and look for more gold.”

Kenny frowned. “Wouldn’t it be better to look in Myers Creek? The gold’s high density will have caused most of it to sink to lower ground.”

“The creek is pretty deep. We’d need a way to stay at the bottom and dig. We could rent some tanks at Myers Lake, but I’m really low on cash right now.”

“Maybe we could inspect some of the sinkholes around here.”

Dave’s eyes widened again, but not in a good way. “Are you crazy? Some of those holes are infested with rattlesnakes.”

“I’m not saying we go inside. I’m saying that the ground around the hole may reveal more gold. After all,” Kenny puffed his chest while he displayed his retained knowledge from science class, “virtually all the gold discovered so far is considered to have been deposited by meteorites which contained it. And since gold was found inside Myers Ridge, don’t you think there’d be more of it showing where the ground has broken away?”

“Well, I’m staying away from sinkholes. You never know when the ground’s gonna collapse.”

Kenny agreed.

Dave gave back the long stone, then undid his end of the rope and began wrapping it around his left elbow and shoulder. Kenny untied the other end from the hornbeam tree.

Later, back on their bikes and on the road, they rode toward Dave’s house, picking up speed past a couple of dairy farms, some cow and horse pastures, and an abandoned barn in a field of teasels, wild grasses and ragweed. A vehicle had indented the grasses there. Dave stopped.

“My Spidey sense is tingling,” he said when Kenny pulled up alongside him. Kenny chuckled at the comic book reference, and then stopped short when the long stone he held vibrated.

He dropped the stone and rubbed his hands together.

“That was so weird,” he said. But Dave’s attention was still on the barn.

There, a blue sedan at the barn backed up and turned around.

“Hit the deck,” Dave said. “Don’t let these guys see us.”

The boys jumped off their bikes, threw them into the field, and then dived for cover among daisy fleabane and a large clump of purple and yellow New England Astor. Kenny pressed close to the ground and hoped the handlebar of his bike would go unnoticed by whoever was inside that car.

The driver stopped the car for nearly a minute when it reached Ridge Road. Dave and Kenny were ten yards away and a horsefly had found the back of Kenny’s sweaty neck. He clenched his jaw as it bit into his skin and sucked his blood. He waited no more than thirty seconds after the car pulled away to slap at the fly and rub at the welt it left there.

“Where are you going?” he asked when Dave scrambled up and headed toward the barn.

“This doesn’t feel right,” Dave said. “Come on. And hurry.”

Kenny returned to the road and fetched the long stone. It looked lighter in color and no longer vibrated. He caught up to Dave at the boarded up double doors of the barn.

“No one does this unless they have something to hide,” Dave said.

They pulled the boards away and entered a musty smelling barn that changed quickly to cool dampness and became darker the farther in they went. They passed an old manure cart covered with burlap. The stone seemed to pull at Kenny’s hand toward the cart. A thought came to him that he should look inside it. Then, as though he had read Kenny’s mind, Dave returned to it and pulled away the empty burlap sacks.

A young girl was inside, bound, gagged, and very frightened. When she was out of the cart and her restraints and convinced that Dave and Kenny weren’t going to harm her, she let Dave carry her to his bike where she rode on the handlebars to his house.

She was 7-year-old Laurie Burnett, last seen at a soccer game at the city park, kidnapped from Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Burnett. Her parents had received a ransom note earlier that week asking for $250,000 in exchange for the girl’s safe return.

Three days later, the police caught the criminals after Laurie identified them as associates at her father’s medical office.

Dave and Kenny became town heroes and received a thousand dollars each from Dr. Burnett. Dave melted his gold and made his mom a pendant shaped in the initial of her first name. And Kenny put the long stone on top of his tall bedroom dresser with his collection of other stones and old coins, forgetting about it until the day lightning almost killed Dave’s uncle and cousin.

*–*–*

Shangri-La

Beyond the valley sunsets,
through a nestled paradise for dreamers,
beside a crystal lagoon where the deep and green go,
my laughter embraces the wonders here.

My heart beats warm where waters flow
from a sparkling waterfall;
I bathe away the devil
and drown him in the quick;
I slumber on stardust seldom ever seen
and fly on the backs of angels.

My slumber grows warm
like lovers on soft sand;
I sing my heart’s desire
a melody in the shining of the forever full flower moon.

Only dreamers ever travel here,
and the ones who want to dream forever
never want to leave;
so close your eyes and join me now
in a Shangri-la.

Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]

In this last chapter, it’s now June 29, 2013 and Lenny Stevens is on his parent’s front porch, trying to become a better artist by painting Sara Taylor’s portrait; she reminds him of Vree Erickson, though she is seven years younger. Lenny pines to have Vree back; the hope that she could return by magic glimmers in his eyes and he believes it could happen if he paints an accurate portrait of Vree. But to do so, he needs to practice … a lot. Discouraged by his lack of skill and troubled that Sara is attracted to him, he stops painting for the day and, upon her encouragement, tells her about the magic green crystal that Vree had found in the sinkhole of her backyard, how she became frightened of it, and that she threw it back before vanishing mysteriously. Sara kisses him before leaving for the day. Lost in memories and troubled thoughts, he sits on the porch with a shard of Vree’s broken mirror (a piece he took from her bedroom when Mrs. Erickson allowed him inside one time) and watches twilight turn to night, long after his mother calls him in to eat; he falls asleep and dreams about Vree.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 3 of 3: June 29, 2013

It was almost four o’clock that Saturday summer afternoon when Lenny Stevens picked a housefly from a mound of oil paint on his canvas. The north end of his parent’s front porch was now part of his makeshift artist’s studio. Heat blistered the air despite the shade and an electric fan blowing a cool breeze from one of three card tables. A young girl in a yellow summer dress reclined on a lounge chair covered in multicolored satin pillows. Her hair was the color of fine gold, her cheeks ruby-red, her smiling eyes like sapphire pools. She glowed of extraordinary purity like a summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies.

Well, maybe not the latter, but Lenny liked the poetic way it sounded and how much saying “A summer sunset in a garden of carnations and lilies” reminded him of Vree Erickson.

His newfound model, Sara Taylor, was nine—“Nine-and-a-half,” she’d told him—almost seven years younger than Vree and him. But she owned a beauty similar to Vree’s that he desired to capture on canvas—the way he should have done the first day he had met Vree. Yet the very thing he desired to paint distracted him, filled his heart with a want to have Vree back, to see her lounging on the chair instead of Sara.

The daughter of the woman who owned the bookstore downtown raised a delicate eyebrow and curled up a smile at the corner of her mouth.

“My parents say I can invite you to dinner tonight,” she said. “I hope you like Chicken à la caléndonienne.”

Her voice was the light tinkling of wind chimes in a gentle breeze; the very voice that had sung to him five weeks ago about his amateurish paintings of Vree being absolutely beautiful and emotional and heartfelt.

“With practice you’ll get better,” she had told him. “You can practice painting me, if you’d like.”

Now, anxiety passed over his face.

“Who am I kidding? Vree was the artist. No matter how well I try to paint her image, it won’t bring her back.”

Still, the hope that Vree could return by magic glimmered in his eyes. She had been his true love, the only girl in Ridgewood who had ever been able to reach inside and steal his heart. Being with Vree had made everything in his life seem perfect.

He sucked in a deep breath to help settle his anxiety.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne,” Sara repeated.

“Chicken à la caléndonienne?” Lenny said with a voice like a steel breeze from winter’s coldest hour. “What’s that?”

“Chicken baked in butter, parsley and lemon juice. It’s good.”

It sounded good but Lenny dared not admit it. He said, “Hmmm,” instead and adjusted his paint-splattered smock. Then he took a long flat paintbrush and spread white oil paint across his palette. The milky hue merged into a puddle of yellow, crimson and blue paint until he was certain he had the right color. He approached the large easel with its canvas positioned at eye level, dashed a shaky stroke of color across the fabric, and studied again the face of the young girl he was painting.

He saw it then, it was a look in her eyes: puppy love. He put down the brush, tossed his palette and other brushes on a card table and told Sara the session was over.

“Patience, she reminded him as she rose from the love seat.

“Yes, patience and practice, patience and practice,” he huffed, and then backed down as soon as he saw her amorous face peer at him.

“You’re a really cute guy, Lenny Stevens, and you have talent to be a great artist someday.” She smiled.

“I’m too old for you,” Lenny said.

Sara’s smile remained. “When you’re twenty-five and I’m nineteen, our age difference won’t seem like a big deal.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Tell me,” she said, releasing the smile and letting a frown crease her brow. “I want to know what happened to her.” She sat on a metal stool next to the card table cluttered with paint tubes and brushes, picked up an art book and rested it on her lap.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 19 [fiction]”

Green Crystal, chapter 18 [fiction]

When Vree Erickson magically passes through her mirror to her friend Dave Evans’s bedroom, she knows the entity is still alive inside her and wants Dave dead. There, she stands up to Angelina, the entity from the crystal powerful enough to destroy her and everyone she holds dear in life.

Cracks In Time

We choreograph the crystal’s dance of light and color to mirror the dance of Creation.

Chapter 2 of 3: December 31, 2012

Dave Evans surrendered the gaze of his deep blue eyes to one of wildness mixed with flight. The air around him had become thin and dry, as though an unseen storm had sucked the very oxygen from the sunny sky over Myers Ridge.

“Bottom of the seventh. We need some runs,” Parker Evans said before he called out three names of the players scheduled to bat. His ragtag team sat on lawn chairs along third base. The hot chocolate in the red and white Igloo water dispenser on the middle chair had gone cold during the fifth inning. The snow in the backyard had turned to slush and the game was winding down. So was their day of fun.

“Cheer up,” he said to Dave before he took his spot as coach near third base.

Dave’s gaze wandered again to the barn and the small girl standing there. The afternoon sun seemed to spark Krissy Tyree’s long, soft brown hair. A halo of green surrounded her, but it did not diminish the brightness of white funeral dress she wore. Dave practically hugged himself from a chill gripping his back. He thought about telling someone about the ghost, but quashed the idea when she glared at him.

On the field, the dead girl’s dad, Huritt Tyree, laced a hit over the second baseman’s head. The forty-something man could have had a double in his younger years. He stopped at first base and clapped, cheering for Becky Jones to bring him home and tie the game. Dave tore his gaze from Krissy and watched his neighbor from Russell Road lace a hot single past third base. The slush kept the yellow softball from going far and several players slipped and fell while running to it. Huritt took advantage of their mishaps and advanced to third, landing on his backside when the plywood base slipped from under him. Laughter erupted from everyone but Dave. He felt Krissy’s icy stare on him and remembered the day he had killed her.

Continue reading “Green Crystal, chapter 18 [fiction]”