THE COLD INSIDE
by AL BRUNO III
December 5, 1994
Tristam sat on his bed and flipped idly through his stack of Playboy magazines. Why did Mom have to tell Dad? Why didn’t he at least give me a chance to explain?
His father had begun the conversation with his standard, “Son we need to talk.”
But there had been no talking, there never was in situations like this. Just the man’s litany of stock answers for any occasion.
If you were being picked on? Ignore it and act like a grown-up. I don’t have time for this nonsense. Can't you see how busy I am?
If you were heartbroken or lonely? So what? Life is hard. Do you expect me to listen to you cry and beat your chest because some girl broke your heart? Can't you see how busy I am?
And if you felt something Cold Inside eating away at your very thoughts? What are you talking about? I don’t have time for your crazy melodramatics! Can't you see how busy I am?
Not that he’d ever told his Dad about the Cold Inside but Tristam was sure that was what the man would say. Tristam remembered back when he'd been with Monique he'd tried to talk to his Dad about being in love. His dad had snorted at him, told him that he was a baby and soon enough he would see his shiny new toy for what it was. That he'd be lucky if he and this little girlfriend of his lasted a year much less a lifetime. Tristam had hated his father for saying that then and he hated him twice as much now for being right.
But Monique’s been dumped now. Another trophy on Evan's shelf.
The thought made Tristam gleeful and sad. He wanted to call her now; half to offer comfort half to gloat but he didn't have the nerve. He paused flipping through the pages, the March centerfold had always reminded him of Monique.
Would it ever be that good with anyone else?
Could it ever be that good again?
How could it when kissing her, just kissing her, had been enough to make him dizzy?
His journal and pen were nearby, Tristam pulled out the pen and after a moment's consideration started doodling on the centerfold, giving Miss March a large birthmark on her right cheek.
Maybe I just need to move on. Maybe I just need to see there are other opportunities ahead.
Could there really be a chance with Drew? A year ago he'd been one of the ones making fun of her. Hadn't he shouted at her on November first that Halloween was over? Could she really have forgiven him something like that? Could she really like him?
It sure felt that way. When she looked in my eyes there was this something… Like Monique but different.
Wasn't she always trying to sit next to him during the games? Wasn't she always casually touching him on the shoulder and arm?
Or maybe I'm just so damn horny that I'm going crazy.
There hadn't been much chance to talk to her since the snowball fight, to try and feel her out. If anything she'd seemed distant today, kind of sad and distracted.
Maybe she feels like I do and maybe she's freaked out about it. I wish I had her number.
A voice whispered over his shoulder, “You know most boys your age jack off to those magazines.”
“Jesus!” Tristam shouted, his arms flailing at the gray wisp looming over him.
“Still need to work on honing those senses I see. Well, we have time,” the apparition said, “assuming your Mom doesn’t have you locked up anytime soon.”
“She told you?” Tristam sloughed off his body, the act was instinctive now. The secret was to let his spirit pass through the center of his forehead. “Oh God. She didn’t…”
“She's telling everyone kid. That woman can't shut her mouth up about you and your little rock fight.”
Tristam watched his body slump backwards onto the bed, that part still creeped him out. “Just great, as if I don't get enough weird looks at her work.”
The two gray shapes circled each other like fish, communicating with a faculty that fell somewhere between dreaming and telepathy. Tristam felt Phil's mocking laughter ripple through him, “What happened? Did your Dad knock her up just to keep her quiet?”
Phil's astral body approached Tristam's physical form, he ran a translucent hand over Tristam's face.
Tristam shuddered, “What are you doing?”
“I see you remembered the runestone.”
“How can you see it? It's in my pocket.”
“I can see it.”
“You said I should keep it around for protection.”
“Damn straight. Now that you see the supernatural world, it sees you. Enough yammering, lets get going,” Phil banked to the right and dove through a wall.
“Hey.” Tristam followed, “Where are you…”
The wall melted away around him, he found himself in his sister's room. The sight Tristam found there made him freeze in midair.
Ronnie was in Pam's room, in Pam's bed. The blankets and sheets were pushed to the floor, Ronnie's pants were around his ankles. Pam was beneath him, her nightgown bunched up and pulled down.
It took Tristam a sickening moment to turn away, “What… what is she doing?”
“Well I admit it's been a while but it looks like fucking,” Phil drifted this way and that, savoring every angle, “your sister is a grade A piece of ass. I'd have pushed my grandma down the cellar stairs for a piece of ass like that. For all you know maybe I did.”
“Can we go?”
“What's the rush? You're not squeamish about this are you?”
“She's my sister.”
“Yeah and she's sexy as all Hell and she's right under your nose. You mean to tell me you've never sneaked a peek?”
“No!” Tristam launched himself through the ceiling. He felt like throwing up but thankfully his body was far below him.
Eventually Phil found his way to Tristam, “All right, enough fun. You need to keep in mind what you just saw. Next time your mother tries to lean on you, make sure you mention that your little sister is riding tall in the saddle with her boyfriend after hours. That should get the subject changed real quick.”
“If I do that Pam will murder me in my sleep.”
They skimmed above the clouds, pausing to watch a jetliner make its approach to the Albany Airport. They followed in its wake, tracing the path of its decent “When I'm done with you you'll be able to see trouble coming from a mile off.”
Tristam had to struggle to keep up, “Are you doing to her what you did to that actress, you know, are you going into her husband- I mean Ronnie when they are…”
“Do you care?”
“She's my sister.”
“And she hates you- what was it she said Friday? 'If I get one more incident until graduation I won't stop anything- fuck I'll think of stuff to have done to you.' Real sweet.”
Tristam froze in mid air, Phil and the jet continued on their way, “How much of my life are you spying on?”
With a shrug Phil doubled back, “Fuck kid don’t get all wound up. Your life isn't that interesting.”
“Look, I'm just… This is getting a little weird.
“Getting weird? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”