Ouija boards, cemeteries, and out-of-town guests.
|They’d seen the pink Mary Kay mobile hauling ass down the road, which meant Mrs. Parker was in town visiting her sister Bibi, which meant that Cheehawk would be showing up at the Flores house any minute.
Cheehawk Parker, World Renowned Maker of Adventure and Mischief, was from Odessa, Texas, which meant he knew a thing or two about the world that the kids of Love & War simply weren’t privy to. He knew, for example, what a carjacking was, how girls got pregnant, and how to trick a gas station attendant into selling cigarettes to a minor. Whenever Cheehawk came to visit, Love & War got a little bit more interesting.
Of course, Cheehawk knew this about himself. Which made him kind of a pain in the ass.
He was also two or three years older than Marco and Alejandro, which, when coupled with his Big City bravado and acumen, made him a force to be reckoned with.
“Is that him, coming up the street?” Marco pointed toward the oncoming apparition.
Alejandro folded his arms across his chest and nodded. “Yup. That’s him. He’s got something with him.”
The boys watched with growing anticipation as Cheehawk marched up the street. As he drew nearer, the twins saw it was a board game he had tucked under his arm. When he was close enough, he raised his free arm in greeting, and the boys returned the wave. Huffing a little, Cheehawk offered the twins a smile, and then spit on the ground, just missing his feet.
“Hey, you got anything to drink? It’s a long walk from Aunt Bibi’s.”
Alejandro made a face. “It’s not that long; you’re just fat. I thought you were gonna play football at your new school.” Alejandro couldn’t keep the sneer out of his voice. He played soccer, and thought it was important for boys to be active in sports. His father had said so. His real father.
“I was gonna,” Cheehawk said, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “But those bastards wanted us to pay $200 for uniforms. Ma said she wasn’t gonna pay that kind of money for nothin’ less it was gold plated. I didn’t really want to play football anyway,” Cheehawk said, his tone unconvincing. “Glad you’re here, Alex; I thought you might be with your pop today.” The relief in his voice was evident, and Marco realized with a sick feeling that Cheehawk was worried he’d have to play with just him.
“He’s out of town,” Alejandro muttered. “Marco, go get Cheehawk some Kool Aid, wouldja?”
But Marco didn’t budge. “What you got?” He pointed to the game under Cheehawk’s arm.
Having forgotten his thirst, Cheehawk drew the boys into a tight huddle and lifted the game from underneath his arm. The battered cover read, “OUIJA: Mystifying Oracle. William Fuld Talking Board Set.” It depicted two sets of hands resting on a strange object.
“What’s oo-ee ha?” Marco asked, the word feeling strange and mysterious in his mouth.
“WEE JEE,” Cheehawk corrected, his eyes sparkling. “I found it in Aunt Bibi’s attic. It’s a board that lets you talk to the spirits of dead people.”
“That’s stupid,” Alejandro said, rolling his eyes. “You can’t talk to dead people, because they’re dead.”
“Do you know how to do it?” Marco asked, ignoring his brother. He was still staring at the floating hands on the cover, bewitched.
“Of course,” Cheehawk snapped, puffing out his chest. “It works best if you have a real perfect conditions. And our conditions couldn’t be more perfect.” He’d gotten that gleam in his eye, the gleam the Flores twins knew all too well: it meant Adventure.
“What conditions?” Alejandro asked.
Taking a quick survey of their surroundings to ensure their privacy, Cheehawk lowered his voice. “Do you know what today is?”
“Friday,” Marco said.
Cheehawk sucked his teeth. “No, stupid, I mean, what day it is. Why it’s special.” When neither of the boys said anything, Cheehawk licked his lips and whispered, “It’s Minerva Auckland’s birthday.”
The news didn’t get the reaction Cheehawk hoped for. “Who’s Minerva Auckland?”
Cheehawk’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head. “Who’s Minerva Auckland? Sheez, don’t you guys know anything about your own town? Minerva Auckland is the famous witch who used to live here. You know that terrible magician who lives on the other side of town, Simon St. Laine?”
Marco snorted. “Sure, we know Simon St. Laine. He did a show at our school last year at the PTA meeting. He couldn’t guess what card Maggie was holding, even though he guessed three times, and then he just went on to another trick to try to cover it up, but everybody knew he screwed up. He’s the worst. And – ”
“ANYWAY,” Cheehawk interrupted. “She’s his great great great great grandmother.” He looked pleased as punch as he made the announcement. If he was uncertain about how many greats he should have used, it didn’t show on his face.
“Well, what’s she famous for?” Alejandro asked.
At this, Cheehawk dithered a bit, but his bravado didn’t fade. “Well, Aunt Bibi wouldn’t tell me the whole story, so it probably has something to do with sex. Or politics. Or both.” Marco and Alejandro made gross-out faces. “But she did say that she was such an awful witch and did so many bad things, that some of the local people got together and burned her house to the ground with her still in it.”
Marco exclaimed, “That stinks!” at the same time Alejandro cooed, “Cooool!” Now that he had both boys’ rapt attention, Cheehawk’s expression melted into a veritable cat-ate-the-canary grin. He straightened up and slid the ouija board back under his arm. “Yeah,” he said, a fire in his eyes. “So we’re gonna take the ouija board to the cemetery and call up that dead witch. Maybe we can hear the story of her murder from her own mouth!”
Marco wasn’t so sure about that and was about to say so when he caught his brother’s expression. Alejandro was hooked; in fact, he was nearly drooling with excitement. He clapped Marco on the shoulder and squeezed, his eyes dark and narrow. “You’re not gonna chicken out, right, Marco?”
Sighing, Marco looked down at the ground. “No,” he said softly.
“He’s good,” Alejandro announced, turning his attention back to the older boy, who was practically hopping from foot to foot. “We going now? It’s about to get dark. We’re not really supposed to leave the street after dark.”
With no further ado, Cheehawk hooted, punched the air with his fist, and took off running down the street toward the cemetery. “Last one there’s a rotten egg!” he shouted over his shoulder.
The twins darted after him into the dark.
See all the stories from Tales from Love & War, Texas at http://www.loveandwartx.com