Ouija boards, cemeteries, and out-of-town guests.
|They’d seen the pink Mary Kay mobile haul¬≠ing ass down the road, which meant Mrs. Parker was in town vis¬≠it¬≠ing her sis¬≠ter Bibi, which meant that Cheehawk would be show¬≠ing 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 sim¬≠ply weren’t privy to. He knew, for exam¬≠ple, what a car¬≠jack¬≠ing was, how girls got preg¬≠nant, and how to trick a gas sta¬≠tion atten¬≠dant into sell¬≠ing cig¬≠a¬≠rettes to a minor. Whenever Cheehawk came to visit, Love & War got a lit¬≠tle bit more interesting.
Of course, Cheehawk knew this about him¬≠self. Which made him kind of a pain in the ass.
He was also two or three years older than Marco and Alejandro, which, when cou¬≠pled with his Big City bravado and acu¬≠men, made him a force to be reck¬≠oned with.
“Is that him, com¬≠ing up the street?” Marco pointed toward the oncom¬≠ing apparition.
Alejandro folded his arms across his chest and nod¬≠ded. “Yup. That’s him. He’s got some¬≠thing with him.”
The boys watched with grow¬≠ing antic¬≠i¬≠pa¬≠tion 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 greet¬≠ing, and the boys returned the wave. Huffing a lit¬≠tle, Cheehawk offered the twins a smile, and then spit on the ground, just miss¬≠ing his feet.
“Hey, you got any¬≠thing 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 foot¬≠ball at your new school.” Alejandro couldn’t keep the sneer out of his voice. He played soc¬≠cer, and thought it was impor¬≠tant for boys to be active in sports. His father had said so. His real father.
“I was gonna,” Cheehawk said, wip¬≠ing the sweat from his fore¬≠head. “But those bas¬≠tards wanted us to pay $200 for uni¬≠forms. 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 foot¬≠ball any¬≠way,” Cheehawk said, his tone uncon¬≠vinc¬≠ing. “Glad you’re here, Alex; I thought you might be with your pop today.” The relief in his voice was evi¬≠dent, and Marco real¬≠ized with a sick feel¬≠ing that Cheehawk was wor¬≠ried he’d have to play with just him.
“He’s out of town,” Alejandro mut¬≠tered. “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 for¬≠got¬≠ten his thirst, Cheehawk drew the boys into a tight hud¬≠dle and lifted the game from under¬≠neath his arm. The bat¬≠tered cover read, “OUIJA: Mystifying Oracle. William Fuld Talking Board Set.” It depicted two sets of hands rest¬≠ing on a strange object.
“What’s oo-ee ha?” Marco asked, the word feel¬≠ing strange and mys¬≠te¬≠ri¬≠ous in his mouth.
“WEE JEE,” Cheehawk cor¬≠rected, his eyes sparkling. “I found it in Aunt Bibi’s attic. It’s a board that lets you talk to the spir¬≠its of dead people.”
“That’s stu¬≠pid,” Alejandro said, rolling his eyes. “You can’t talk to dead peo¬≠ple, because they’re dead.”
“Do you know how to do it?” Marco asked, ignor¬≠ing his brother. He was still star¬≠ing at the float¬≠ing hands on the cover, bewitched.
“Of course,” Cheehawk snapped, puff¬≠ing out his chest. “It works best if you have a real per¬≠fect con¬≠di¬≠tions. And our con¬≠di¬≠tions couldn’t be more per¬≠fect.” He’d got¬≠ten that gleam in his eye, the gleam the Flores twins knew all too well: it meant Adventure.
“What con¬≠di¬≠tions?” Alejandro asked.
Taking a quick sur¬≠vey of their sur¬≠round¬≠ings to ensure their pri¬≠vacy, Cheehawk low¬≠ered his voice. “Do you know what today is?”
“Friday,” Marco said.
Cheehawk sucked his teeth. “No, stu¬≠pid, I mean, what day it is. Why it’s spe¬≠cial.” When nei¬≠ther of the boys said any¬≠thing, Cheehawk licked his lips and whis¬≠pered, “It’s Minerva Auckland’s birthday.”
The news didn’t get the reac¬≠tion 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 any¬≠thing about your own town? Minerva Auckland is the famous witch who used to live here. You know that ter¬≠ri¬≠ble magi¬≠cian 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 meet¬≠ing. He couldn’t guess what card Maggie was hold¬≠ing, even though he guessed three times, and then he just went on to another trick to try to cover it up, but every¬≠body knew he screwed up. He’s the worst. And – ”
“ANYWAY,” Cheehawk inter¬≠rupted. “She’s his great great great great grand¬≠mother.” He looked pleased as punch as he made the announce¬≠ment. If he was uncer¬≠tain 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 prob¬≠a¬≠bly has some¬≠thing to do with sex. Or pol¬≠i¬≠tics. 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 peo¬≠ple 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 atten¬≠tion, Cheehawk’s expres¬≠sion melted into a ver¬≠i¬≠ta¬≠ble cat-ate-the-canary grin. He straight¬≠ened 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 ceme¬≠tery and call up that dead witch. Maybe we can hear the story of her mur¬≠der from her own mouth!”
Marco wasn’t so sure about that and was about to say so when he caught his brother’s expres¬≠sion. Alejandro was hooked; in fact, he was nearly drool¬≠ing with excite¬≠ment. He clapped Marco on the shoul¬≠der and squeezed, his eyes dark and nar¬≠row. “You’re not gonna chicken out, right, Marco?”
Sighing, Marco looked down at the ground. “No,” he said softly.
“He’s good,” Alejandro announced, turn¬≠ing his atten¬≠tion back to the older boy, who was prac¬≠ti¬≠cally hop¬≠ping from foot to foot. “We going now? It’s about to get dark. We’re not really sup¬≠posed to leave the street after dark.”
With no fur¬≠ther ado, Cheehawk hooted, punched the air with his fist, and took off run¬≠ning down the street toward the ceme¬≠tery. “Last one there’s a rot¬≠ten 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