There hadn’t been a lot going on, or maybe there was so much on Chuck just didn’t know what to do. Napping seemed like his best bet. Napping was always a good choice. It was a calm, quiet time. Minus the occasional night terror and sleepwalking. Even so it was only something that happened when shit was crazy, and shit might have been messy lately, but not crazy. Most of his friends has ridden their bikes to the main drag in town to get some ice cream or play at the arcade. He could have gone, but he felt like he couldn’t. There was just too many other things for him not to be doing instead.
Chuck had said goodbye to his friends a handful of minutes ago and was now looking at his twin bed with a faded bluish-purple bed set with yellow stars dusted across the top of it. Both the bed and the sheet set he had outgrown long ago. He didn’t mind the sheets and he usually slept curled up. He told his mama he would much rather have some new school clothes than the bedding. So there he was seventeen years old, sleeping in the same sheets he’d had most of his life. Chuck took off his jeans and hung them on the back of his wooden desk chair.
Sitting down on the edge of his bed he opened the drawer of the his nightstand. He had two books to choose from. One was a school book, the other had been sent to him by his pen pal. He hadn’t been sure about it when she first told him about it and then sent it over. It seemed to be a book for girls. But she swore line after line that it was just a really good book. Not for girls, or for boys, just for anyone who had feelings and more for anyone who had trouble dealing with them. Chuck picked it up and held it under his nose. It smelled like a regular book, but with something else. He imagined it was what his pen pal smelled like. It wasn’t sweet, but it smelled good. Almost as good as when his mama baked her special desserts for his pop. There was something almost nutty about the smell. Whatever it was blended in so well with the book smell he couldn’t be certain, but it thought it could be cinnamon. Maybe nutmeg. He’d have to ask his mama what type of things she used in her baking to know for sure. Chuck liked to think it was because his pen pal also baked. His pop always said there was nothing better in this world than a woman who could bake. Not that Chuck felt any particular way about his pen pal. He just liked to think that he could, if they ever had the chance to meet. Chuck put the book back in the drawer, replacing it with the one for school. He had wanted to nap, and he wasn’t sure this other book would lead him there. He knew for sure that eventually, “As I Lay Dying” would put him down for a nice chunk of time.
Chuck hadn’t been asleep that long before a loud ruckus woke him up. Looking around his room, Chuck didn’t see anything despite the knocking sound he was hearing. The door to his room was wide opened and there was no one in the hallway. At least no one he could see. Chuck sat up and looked over his shoulder. In the window three of his friends, Beau, Connor, and Travis, were all standing over each other trying to look in. Chuck stood up and pulled back the blinds. His friends looked a mess. Nodding his head, Chuck pointed toward the front of the house. Chuck turned back toward his bed, quickly straightened out the sheets, grabbed his jeans from the chair and headed down the hall. He had just finished tugging his shirt down over his freshly buttoned jeans, when he opened the front door. Immediately Beau, Connor, and Travis started jabbering on about something in town.
Waving his arms, Chuck told them all to slow down. Travis, the natural leader of the group, told Chuck he better come outside so they could talk. Chuck took his shoes off the rack and dug his feet into them. Travis began explaining that they had been going to town as normal. They were riling each other up by doing all sorts of stuff to make the grit from the road fly at each other. At one point it seemed like they their own dust cloud surrounding them. Chuck noticed a smile spread across the guys’ faces as Travis told him about the dust cloud. Travis continued with his story once everyone had their bicycles picked up off the ground and were headed away from Chuck’s house. They had just come around the corner of County Road still playing around when they heard a gunshot go off. According to the captain they had been told to cut the shit several times and weren’t listening. Travis, being the captain’s son, was about to get mouthy before he noticed what was behind his father. Chuck watched as Beau’s face grew pale, Connor’s mouth drew back as if he was holding something in, and as Travis’ eyes stayed glued to the top of his shoes. They weren’t sure of the particulars, but there was a lot of blood and a crowd forming around. Chuck stopped suddenly for a second. Not enough to call it a full stop, but more of a foot stutter. Blood in the center of town?
Chuck was glad he hadn’t gone into town now more than ever. He would have to include this piece of town news once he had more information to his pen pal. She loved things like this. Not necessarily them happening, but the gory details as she referred to them as. Chuck continued to listened as Travis brought his story back to his own window where he saw them peaking in trying to get him up faster. They figured with all the excitement in town, perhaps they should just go back to Travis’ house. His mother would definitely be in the kitchen making all of the captain’s favorites. It wasn’t often something bad happened in Pequak, but on the rare occasion something did happen, the captain’s wife would make him his favorite dinners and desserts on the first day. She’d send Travis or his brother over to the station to drop off dinner for the captain and the sheriff. The sheriff, who was really only sheriff in name, stayed on board when his wife passed and semi-retirement got boring. It was the captain who ran the show, but the sheriff in his years had become a mascot of sorts. A piece of living history, Travis’ father always said.
The boys rode their bikes over to Travis’. Hoping to get a serving or two for their delivery services. They cut through the dirt roads, making clouds puff up along the way. The stark trauma of the morning fading away with the wind. Along with it were Chuck’s worries from earlier that afternoon, thoughts of his pen pal, and for – at least a little while longer – now, Chuck could just enjoy a ride down the dirt road of Pequak with his buds.