Home > All the Rage(8)

All the Rage(8)
T.M. Frazier

Crouching down, I crawled through the tall brittle brush into an empty field where I was completely concealed, yet still had a perfect view of the three-story building down below. I sat with my legs crossed and finished twisting the last of the wires together when my phone vibrated for the millionth and one time. I set down my light blue LEE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOOL athletic tote I always carried and fished around inside of it for that particular phone until my hand landed on it and I was staring down at a picture of two smiling faces on the screen. I took a deep breath, affixed the required fake smile on my face as if they could see me, and hit the green ACCEPT button. “Hey, Moe! Hey, Va!” I said with practiced cheeriness.

Suddenly, the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake shaking out a warning caught my attention.

“My beautiful girl,” my mom cooed like I was still a baby. “How come you haven’t answered my calls, Mijn Zoeteken?” she asked, using her Flemish nickname for me. I unsheathed my knife from the back pocket of my cut-offs and immediately spotted the bent brush where my new friend was hiding.

“It’s been crazy over here, Mom. I told you, the cafe is open later now so between me and Becs, we don’t get much of a break between the lunch and dinner rushes,” I said. I stood and rounded the snake. Without skipping a beat I lunged forward, plunging my knife into its head, tacking him into the dirt. I withdrew my knife and wiped the blade clean with a disinfectant wipe. I sanitized my hands, all the way to my elbows, with the little bottle of sanitizer I kept hooked to the zipper on my bag before sitting back down to prep the rest of the device.

There was a brief pause from conversation while my parents fired up their ancient electric can opener that sounded like an explosion all its own. They were probably opening a can of soup. My parents were big soup people. Canned or homemade, soup was always on their menu, which I chalked up to being a European thing.

My parents both came from a small town in Belgium, moving to the US for my dad’s job when my mom was pregnant with me. The way they described the place they grew up made it sound like there were only about thirteen people their age in the town. It might not have been an arranged marriage, but I could only assume that based on the population alone, their options were a bit limited at best.

“We’re very happy that you’ve found a friend there,” my dad said, sounding as if he was shouting from the other side of the kitchen, which he probably was. I’ve taught them how to use the speakerphone a million times, but it’s one of those things where I could show them every day and they still wouldn’t grasp the concept. The iPad I sent them last year is probably collecting dust on the shelf next to my mother’s Delfware Pottery collection. Or maybe shouting across the room just made way more sense to them. “Becs sounds like a great girl.”

Becs did sound like a great girl. Too bad she didn’t exist.

When I left town, I didn’t want my leaving to cause any more pain for them than I already had. So I did the unthinkable. I kept in touch. I told them that as long as they didn’t try to find me and drag me home that I would always be in their lives. Smoke thought the idea was ridiculous, but it’s not like we’d ever been a normal family to begin with.

“We know you are busy,” my mother said, clanking dishes around. “Your father and I just wanted to tell you how proud of you we are. After you left us we thought, I mean, your father and I were so worried. And now look at you, trying so hard to be…” My mom paused, but I knew what it was she was trying not to say. NORMAL.

I was just glad they ate up every morsel of false normality I fed them. Whatever our relationship, whatever lies were involved, it had to be that way. Most importantly, it was working. My mother continued, “Even though we miss you, and even though you left so suddenly, we are just so happy that you’re doing so well.”

I sighed and pulled out my binoculars. Peering through the lenses, I adjusted the focus and then the night vision. I zoomed in on the back door and watched as the last of the night shift workers left the building. Per the client’s orders, the place had to be empty before I was to proceed. I counted as the men and women in coveralls walked to their cars. One, two, three, four. Four, that was all of them. I set the binoculars down and checked the time on my watch. I held the phone between my shoulder and jaw as I pushed the wires into a little metal triangle, pinching the top together.

“Thanks, guys. It’s hard sometimes. And I know you weren’t too keen on me being so far away and all alone, but I know it’s good for me. I feel like I’m better here,” I said, repeating a different version of the same mindless lies I told them every day with as much emotion as I could muster. “Exploring a new city, a new country, it was the right decision for me. I love it here.” The last part wasn’t so much a lie although here was a thousand different places, depending on the job. On that particular day I was less than a hundred miles from Lily Heights, where my parents were probably pulling up their TV trays along side the couch so they could eat their soup while watching Jeopardy.

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