by Ed Singer
A fictional drama depicting a family by the name of DeHefty. Lots and lots of characters.
The rocking chair creeks softly as a warm glow emanates from the dying embers of the fireplace. We hear the clinking of two aluminum sewing needles as Siaarn knits another keepsake from threads of green, purple, and blue.
"So, Elizabeth... tell me about how things are going. I haven't seen my grandkids in ages... how are they doing?" Siaarn's voice is lain with both frailty and warmth.
"Mom, I've told you I go by 'Howl' these days. Anyway, everything's been alright, and the kids are doing great." Howl sits on a velvet-cushioned chair on the opposite side of the fireplace. "So what's dad been up to these days?"
"Ah yes," Siaarn begins, "your father is off to... how did he put it? 'Commandeer in a war on the Eastern front'... something about vaccines and a virus going around, called it 'Operation: Abandoned Project' or something silly like that. He's always off doing those kinds of things, but he always comes back fine, so I don't complain."
"Well, that's always good to hear. Anyway, I've gotta go now."
Howl gets in her '01 Ford flatbed pickup and begins to drive home. On the way back, the skies darken and a downpour starts. Layers upon layers of rain barrage her windshield and makes the roads slick. The storm, however, is short-lived, and the black clouds clear before Howl pulls into her driveway. The house of Howl DeHefty and Takura Kudoichi is a spacious, one-story building sitting at fifty-two Zitu Aitch Ave.
As she enters the front door, she is greeted by Emrah, who has recently arrived home from school. "Hello momma!" he says in a cheerful voice. "Where were you?"
"I was visiting your grandmother," Howl replies.
"Ooooh really did you tell her I said hi??"
"Of course I did," Howl says, ruffling Emrah's hair, "by the way, where are your brothers?"
"Ummmm umm X is playing music at a bar or something and I dunno where Kru is."
"A bar this early in the evening?" Howl muses to herself.
A few minutes later, a blodshot-eyed Kru enters, followed closely by a matted-haired Mika. Both are carrying themselves heavily and look rather tired.
"Welcome home, you two!" Howl gleefully adresses them.
"Hi, Mrs. DeHefty." Mika says wearily.
"Hey mom... we're just... getting home and.. stuff..." Kru says in a similar tone, looking down at his shoes, "do you have... um, anytihng to... eat?"
Howl begins to sense something is amiss, and, cocking her eyebrow, replies semi-sarcastically with, "Sure, I just pulled lots and lots of pizza rolls out of the oven."
Kru's head perks up upon hearing this. "Wow... really...? No way!" This prompts Mika to elbow him sharply in the gut. "Shut up, Kru!"
"No," Howl says sharply, "now tell me where you two have been, and what you've been doing."
"Don't talk to me like that!" Kru declares boldly, raising his index finger in the air, as if to make a point of some sort. "What we've been doing is none of your concern, and you shouldn't have to... to... woah... why is my pointer finger so long...? My hands are so... vivid... it's like art..."
"Alright, that's enough of that," Howl interrupts, as Emrah enters the room.
"Hi Kru and hi Mika! Momma why is Kru acting funny?" His espression shifts to a somewhat worried one, with heavy orange shadows from the tinted windows cast upon his face.
At this point, Mika grabs Howl by the hand to get her attention and looks her square in the eye, her face filled with seriousness, sincerity, and anxiety. "Listen, Mrs. DeHefty... Kru and I have... something really important we need to tell you." Light of the waning moon intensifies as the evening's twilight fades into night.
Howl, being her perceptive self, realizes the inherent severity of the situation. "Alright, let's go into the study and sit down for this. Emrah, go play in the living room, alright?"
Emrah immediately forgets the tension of the matter at hand as the concern painted over his face melts into excitement and he scampers away to the other room to begin playing with his Buzz Lightyear doll.
Cut to the study; the room is dark, the only light comes from the moon outside shining through the translucent yellow shades that mask the windows. Kru and Mika are sitting on an old leather couch. This couch was built by a now long-dead Vietnamese craftsman named Fan Qui Cong and his apprentice in the early fifties, acquired by Jenzilo and passed down as a family heirloom. Howl leans to the side in her high-back desk chair, mentally preparing herself for the worst and promising not to overreact.
A stiff, brief wind blows outside, rustling the leaves of the cherry tree in the front lawn. There is a long silence before Howl finally adresses the situation. "So tell me what's going on."
"Well ma... the thing is..." Kru is quickly cut off by a nudging from Mika, who proceeds to take over.
"We have some important news," she says in a tone far more sobering and far more sober than Kru's, a rigid one that tends to instill a heavy sense of seriousness whenever taken. "I'm... I'm late."
After a moment of absolute tension, Howl closes her eyes, nods slightly, and takes in a long, deep breath. "Wow... okay. Well, first thing's first. Are you completely sure?"
"I'm totally sure. It's been almost nine weeks since my last period."
"Yeah... nine weeks," Kru echoes, his head slightly wavering from side to side.
"Well, what do you plan to do?"
"Me and Kru talked it over yesterday and we... we're going to take a pregnancy test, just to make sure."
"Alright," Howl replies, rubbing her temples before standing up from her seat, "but know this." The increasing genuine sternness in her voice swiftly and smoothly overshadows the gentile sympathy, effectively fasing it out as she looks down at the two of them. "You two need to get your shit together. I will not-- I repeat, WILL NOT tolerate another incident like this." Each word is harshly and clearly spoken, Kru and Mika begin sinking into their seats a little bit while looking up at her. "I don't know what you two have been doing this evening but if you enter this household like you did tonight, I swear by God I will not be as sincere and accepting as I am now. Understood?"
Kru manages to squeeze out a weak and timid "Y-yes, ma'am.."
What seems like an infinitely extended instant later, the sound of a small car pulling into the driveway is heard, accompanied by the blinding light of highbeams shining through the windows.
"And that must be your father arriving home. I think we'd better break the news to him."
Just as Kru and Mika rise from the leather couch and Howl passes through the threshold of the room, a loud *clunk* is heard as the door slams open. We see Takura Kudoichi, fumbling to remove his keys from the doorknob, with a flask in his left hand and a forty in his right. He is wearing an undone leather jacket, muddy boots, and a pair of goggles around his neck with the left lens shattered. Once he is successful in his task of recovering his keys, he looks notices Howl standing on the hallway, hands on her hips in disapproval. "Heh-hey! Lizzie honey! I'm back from... *hic* ...back from work! How was your day, babe?"
Howl is, to say the least, not amused. "And exactly where have YOU been? Don't tell me you drove home like that?"
"No, I... wait... yeah, I think I did..." he pauses for a second, putting his right hand on his chin which subsequently spills malt liquor on the floor, unbeknownst to him. "But that's not *hic* ... not important... I'm home!"
"Do you have any idea what time it is? And you smell awful."
"Where are my children so I can give them a goodnight kiss? Where are Kru... and... and Emmer, and that kid we picked up at Rodriguez, and Arisia... and..."
"Stop it. Just stop it right now. What kind of example do you think you're setting for the children? Kru is already at that age, you know..."
At this time, Kru and Mika have decided to quietly ease into the scene to observe the fiasco at hand. They had been keeping out of it for the most part but the temptation to see what was truly going on was too great, and they had to witness first hand the drama that was unfolding.
"Nonsense, Howl... he's not quite there yet, he's still got *hic*... still got a ways to go.... By the way is he still dating that rancid whore?"
Just then, he notices the two kids standing behind Howl, and leans to the side to see them better before donning a wide smile upon recognition of the two. "Why if it isn't my wonderful son Kru! And Meeko! You've grown taller since I last saw you! Have I ever told you how wonderful of a girl you are?"
END OF CHAPTER ONE