Monday, June 17, 2013

The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Twenty-seven part three

The Cold Inside
Chapter Twenty-seven
part three

Monday January 9, 1995

The black 1992 Corvette Coupe cruised through the side streets of Albany. Fred Trager took his time getting back home. Sure it was a school night but his parents didn’t care, just so long as he was making them proud. Besides there was just something about driving around at two in the morning in a sports car that smelled vaguely of pussy that made him feel grown up.

Fred was coming home from a ten o'clock showing of Pulp Fiction. It was Fred’s new favorite movie, he had seen it four times already but his girlfriend Yvonne hadn’t even heard of it so they had made a date-

-Fred paused at an intersection and shook his head in confusion. This wasn't the way home at all. He must have been driving on autopilot because all of a sudden he was heading towards school. He made a U-turn and started back.

The movie had been a success in all kinds of ways. Yvonne really was having a good time until the needle in the heart scene. That part really freaked her out to the point where she just about climbed into Fred's lap.

Once she was in his lap it didn't matter at all what was playing on the big screen. All that did matter was that the theater was mostly empty and very dark. Yvonne really knew what she was doing and for a moment Fred caught himself wondering if she had been taught any of these tricks by Evan. The thought made him feel a little skeevy but Evan had moved on to another girl, a Junior named Brie, so why should anyone worry? Then thinking of Evan made Fred remember the night of his party and how he had lost his virginity in front of a crowd of his classmates to Evan's 'guest of honor'. That thought made him feel really skeevy.

But wasn’t doing crazy stuff what being a teenager was all about? His father always said-

-The Corvette was rocketing along Interstate 87 at almost 90 miles an hour. Rap music was blaring from the stereo. Fred was so stunned he almost lost control of the car. This wasn't the way home, this wasn't even close.

And he hated rap music. Hated it! Fred turned the radio off.

“What the fuck am I doing?” He slowed down and tried to get his bearings. The exit signs told him he was heading for Saratoga, which meant he was miles from home.

The dashboard instruments told him it was 3:30 A.M. and he had half a tank of gas left. He should be exhausted by now but he felt fine. Was he driving in his sleep? If he was, he was doing a great job of it. He turned off at the next exit and then got back on the interstate heading in the opposite direction.

Maybe I should call in sick today. Fred thought. He was probably partying too hard with Evan and the gang. His Dad always said that he could cut up as long as he didn't fuck up.

Those were words to live by but it looked like things were getting fucked up right now. Maybe it was just-

-Now it was classical music assaulting his ears and now he was totally lost. His car was bumping along on a worn single lane dirt road in the middle of the woods someplace. Fred slammed on the brakes and tried to catch his breath. With one fumbling hand he tried to switch off the radio but only managed to crank it all the way up.

He fussed with it until he finally managed to switch the thing off. Then he closed his eyes and took a few moments to calm down.

This is crazy. This is fucking crazy.

When the shudder was gone from his breathing he looked around and tried to get his bearings again. To his left was nothing but more woods but on his right there was a body of water, a river or a lake or something. According to the dash he had a quarter of a tank left.

And it's almost 4:30!

He lifted his foot off the brake and let the car creep forward. Fred wondered if he was on private property or in a park. Either way he could get in trouble with the law or worse. Evan had told him once how some of his resources grew their pot in the State Parks. They guarded it with fishing hooks hung at eye level in the trees and rusty old bear traps. Any hiker stupid or lucky enough to get past all that was in a world of trouble, the kind of trouble that made the horrors of Maynard, Zed and the Gimp from Pulp Fiction seem pedestrian.

That line of thought left him feeling all the more creeped out. Fred drove a little faster. Too many horror films started out with some idiot blundering into the wrong place at the wrong time.

Twenty minutes later he found himself turning onto Route 7. The signs told him where he was; the Tomhannock reservoir.

“Holy shit.” He was on his way to Vermont. Fred headed for home again, all the while watching his fuel gauge. I do not need to run out of gas here. He thought.

Fifteen minutes later he pulled into a gas station and filled up using the last of his $100 a week allowance.

The sun was coming up but he'd be home soon.

Please God. Let me get home. Fred thought as he tooled along the familiar roads. It was the closest thing to a sincere prayer he'd made in years. Once he got home he was going to tell his parents he didn't feel well and he was going to sleep the entire day. Maybe that would get his head straightened out. Then maybe Yvvone could-

-“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

He was in the parking lot of Mohawk Mall in Schenectady. Miles from home again. It was freezing cold which meant the engine had been off for a while. The windows were fogged up with his breath. It was still dark but he could feel morning coming on fast.

It was all Fred could do to not run screaming out of the car. He made himself turn the key in the ignition.

Or at least he would have if the keys had been in the ignition.

“Oh no.”

Ten minutes of frantic searching later he found the keys deep under the passenger seat. He got the car going again and cranked up the heat and the defrosters. He headed home driving as fast as he dared, he ran yellow lights and rolled through stop signs. Tickets be damned.

And soon enough there it was, the familiar turnoff from Delaware Avenue to Grove Street. He hit the blinker and turned, his house was at the end of the road. Even in the dark, lit only by streetlights his house was a reassuring sight. This night had been-

-Fred found himself back on the turnoff from Delaware Avenue to Grove Street. The dashboard clock told him it was almost 6 A.M.. He gunned the engine and sped home, not caring if he woke up half the neighborhood. Was this what it felt like to be going crazy? Was this-

-He started to weep when he found himself back at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Grove Street. This couldn’t be happening, it was like a bad dream. His every muscle tensed up as he made his way back home again, his jaw was clenched so tightly that it ached. With each familiar mailbox that passed he became more and more certain it was going to happen again.

When he pulled into the driveway of his house he sat there for a few moments, not even daring to breathe. Slowly, carefully, Fred got out of his car, his knees and back aching. The sun was coming up and he was exhausted. He was definitely going to play sick tomorrow, there was no way he was going to spend the day trying to learn after this. His Mom wouldn't care but his Dad wouldn't be too pleased with the idea of him missing classes.

His family was still sleeping, so he crept into the house, closing the door with practiced stealth. He slipped out of his shoes and tip-toed to his bedroom. The family dog snapped awake and started growling.

“Calm down.” Fred whispered, “Bowzer its just me.”

The sound of his voice didn’t calm Bowzer down, the German Shepard was snarling, his ears bent back.


What was wrong with the stupid dog? It was like he was terrified but what would he have to be-

-Fred whimpered at the glare of sunlight in his eyes. He was back out on the road, back in his car. It was a little after 7AM. He was waiting at a red light on Western Avenue, heading towards school.

“No.” Fred choked, “No.”

The light changed from red to green. He put the car into Park and tried to get out and run. He couldn’t-

-Car horns were blaring. The engine was roaring. His hands were off the wheel. The stone archway that held the bronze gates of the Blessed Heart School was speeding towards him.

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