The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Twenty-nine part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday January 11, 1995
Kenny Wurman stood in Grandma Wurman’s room trying to remember why he was there. His family had lived with grandmother for as long as he could remember. It was her house after all, he and his family just lived there rent-free. Sure his Dad could have afforded a bigger place but this was the way Grandma Wurman wanted it. It wasn't mooching according to Kenny's Dad, it was a family staying together. Kenny's Mom said it was because her husband was under the thumb of a controlling she-devil.
Not that any of that mattered anymore, Grandma Wurman had been dead since August. Her room had been the biggest one in the house and out of respect and relief the family had kept it as it had always been. Maybe in the spring they would go through Grandma Wurman's room and try to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, but not yet. Somehow, it was still her room.
And Kenny had no idea what he was doing there. He hadn't been in her room since before she died, when she'd called him in and told him that he had always been her favorite. Then she had given him money, seventy-five dollars and it hadn't even been his birthday or anything.
When she died a few days later Kenny had felt a little guilty about spending the money on videogames but she had told him to have a good time with it hadn't she?
But that still didn't explain what he was doing in her room. His Dad would have a conniption if he found anyone in there. Kenny walked back downstairs to the kitchen. Thankfully his parents were away, visiting his older sister in California. Kenny had two brothers and one sister, he was the youngest, the baby. The unwanted baby according to his eldest brother Carl; Carl said the only reason there was a fourth Wurman child was because Grandma Wurman had pushed for it.
Kenny opened the refrigerator door and took a swig of milk from the container, then ate an uncooked hot dog. That took care of dinner, now he had to decide what to do with the rest of the night. Bobby and Evan were supposed to go down to the hospital and check on Fred but he hadn't wanted to go. He wasn't much for hospitals and besides-
-With a start Kenny found himself back in his Grandma's room again.
“The fuck?” He shook his head.
Every door in Grandma Wurman's room was open, the closet, the dresser, the bureau, and the jewelry box -everything.
Who did this? He wondered with a shiver. He had the house to himself, didn't he? There weren't even any pets, Grandma Wurman always said animals didn't belong in a house.
As carefully as he could Kenny closed each of the drawers and then backed out of the room. He closed the door and stood there a moment listening, trying to make sure he was alone. He was certain he was, but just in case he got his baseball bat and went room by room through the house.
The house was empty, really empty when you got right down to it. His brothers' and sister's rooms had long ago been converted to storage and workspace. His eldest brother, the one that joined the marines and never wrote or called, his place was now a sewing room. His sister had quit college in the first semester to get married and move to LA, Kenny's Dad used her room to store his hunting stuff. His other brother's room, the brother everyone was terrified had turned gay, was where his parents kept the home office. They had a computer and everything, a top of the line IBM with Windows 3.1 and a color monitor. His Dad had some cool airplane simulator programs but Kenny didn't have much patience for them, he just liked crashing airplanes into stuff.
His search turned up nothing, Kenny was alone. He laughed a little at himself for getting spooked. Maybe he should just go out and do something tonight. Maybe he could give Linda Kaspary a call and see how she was doing. Last he heard she was all freaked out because one of the toilets backed up and soaked her clothes with piss and crap. She had to go home early in a pair of sweats the gym teachers lent her. Brie said Linda was so upset by the whole thing she had been crying the whole time she waited for her parents to pick her up. Brie said she was traumatized.
Maybe she's be traumatized enough to let me get to second base with her again. Kenny smiled at that thought. Linda had been pretty traumatized that night they'd made out a year ago; traumatized by a fight with her Dad and a little too much Southern Comfort. She had great boobies, just like the ones in Playboy.
She hadn’t been much of a kisser though; she'd been trying to carry on a conversation with him the whole time. She wouldn’t touch him either, she wouldn’t even put her arms around him but that was the way most of the girls were around here. It turned out the best action he'd ever gotten was from that freak Smudge. He had to give Evan credit, she might be a nerd with a fucked up face but she had a killer body-
-The powerful odor of mothballs almost set him choking. He was back in his Grandma's room again, all the lights were on and he was standing in front of her closet.
Kenny yelped and scurried back into the hall. What was he doing? What was going on? He closed the door to Grandma Wurman's room and put a chair under the doorknob.
I'll switch out the lights and close everything up in the morning. He promised himself.
There was another smell in the hallway. Not sickly sweet like mothballs but stinking and chemical. It was familiar, but he couldn't for the life of him place it. He searched the house again, going from room to room but all he found was in that the medicine cabinet was ajar.
When he closed the cabinet he realized where the odor was coming from. Surprise left him gaping.
The odor was coming from him- from his fingernails. They had been freshly painted bright red. The polish was still tacky, it left splotches on his finger tips when he wiped at it.
Kenny went crazy. Turning on the bathroom sink as hot as it would go; he tried to wash the polish away, some of it came off but not all.
Who did this? Who did this?
But who could have done this? He was alone in the house and he didn't even know where his Mom kept her nail polish.
Nail polish remover! Kenny thought. He turned off the faucet, ran to his parent's room and began searching for a bottle of nail polish remover. His mom had a big, mirrored, fancy looking vanity she kept all of her beauty stuff in.
Sure enough there were bottles of nail polish on one side of it, there were lots of different colors including the offending shade Kenny was wearing now, but no sign of nail polish remover. He began to go through the drawers one by one, searching for what he needed. In one drawer there was mascara, in another lipsticks, in another gloves and scarves. It was everything he expected to find except for nail polish remover. But what does a bottle of nail polish remover look like? I don't think I know.
Bottom drawer on the left he found a vibrator. For a moment he stared at it dumbfounded, his voice a whimper, “Mom?”
There was a noise just to his right, it sounded like muffled laughter. He dropped the molded plastic and checked the entire room, he looked everywhere from the walk in closet to underneath his parents bed. He checked the vanity one last time hoping to find some kind of-
-Staring at his reflection in the vanity mirror Kenny grunted with surprise. At first he thought he'd been punched in the face, then he realized he was wearing lipstick.
“I'm going crazy!” He wiped at the lipstick with the back of his hand, smearing red across his face and the back of his arm. “I'm going crazy!”
The phone rang and for some reason that mundane sound set him weeping.
He ran to the kitchen, his red-tinted nails blundered for the cordless phone, almost dropped it and then put it to his ear. “Mommy? I mean Mom…”
“What's wrong honey?” as always his mother gauged him from the sound of his voice, from the first syllable.
Tears of terror became tears of relief, “Something is wrong. It sounds stupid-”
“-little bastard!” The sound of his father's voice sent Kenny reeling, “How dare you talk to your mother like that! You think you're funny tough guy?”
“What?” Kenny was back in his Grandmother's room, he dropped to his knees. He could hear his mother wailing in the background, “What did I say?”
“You know damn well what you said young man! Don't play innocent now.”
“Oh you’re not gonna weasel out of this.” His father's voice was shaking with anger, “You're not too big that I can't knock you down and make you stay down.”
“Is Mom OK? Is-”
-It was over an hour later when Kenny came back to himself again; the phone was dead and the handset would later be found floating in a sink full of dishwater. The veil from the pillbox hat obscured his vision a little but not enough so that Kenny couldn’t see that he was standing in front of one of the house’s full-length mirrors. The odor of mothballs was cloying. The seams of one of Grandma Wurman’s Sunday best dresses cut into his muscular frame. Kenny stared woozily from the floral print dress to his bare, bony legs and back again. The sensible low-heel shoes left his feet aching and unsteady.
Kenny started screaming and he didn't stop for hours.