The group of small children playing baseball in the
street scattered to make way for the silver, custom-striped van with the
canoe and camping gear strapped to its roof. The teenagers inside grinned at the children
who waited until the very las moment, asserting themselves with challenge
in their eyes, before grudgingly getting out of the street. They could remember
being much the same themselves not very long ago, regarding the street
in front of their homes as turf rather than as a thoroughfare for cars.
"It's the white house on the left, " said Chris a
shapely nineteen-year-old with reddish-brown hair, large eyes, and an energetic,
slightly nervous manner. She pointed as they passed the house and pulled over
to the curb on the opposite side of the street.
Andy and Debbie were both the same age as Chris.
Andy was slim, with dark hair, brown eyes, an athletic build, and clean-cut,
handsome looks. Debbie was slightly shorter than her boyfriend, with full, naturally
wavy chestnut hair that fell down to her shoulders and a wide, sultry mouth.
She had the kind of figure that would even attract attention in a sweat suit.
They both stepped down out of the van and came around the back to join
Chris as they crossed the street.
"Hey, Shelly," Chris called over her shoulder.
"Come on out and meet your date!"
"Bring her to me!" a muffled voice called from the
rear of the van.
Chris glanced back dubiously at Andy and Debbie,
walking with their arms around each other. Andy merely shrugged.
Debbie sighed and looked at him with a wry grimace. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea,"
she said. She like Vera and she regretted allowing Andy to talk her
into setting up this blind date.
Andy grinned and kissed Debbie. Behind them,
the rear door of the van opened and a chubby figure in faded jeans
and a navy windbreaker came out, wearing a white mask and brandishing a huge knife.
Chris glanced at Andy and Debbie and shook her head.
"Sex, sex, sex," she said. "You guys are getting boring, you know
"So what would a weekend in the country be without
a little sex?" said Andy, grinning.
"Cool it, Andy," Debbie said quickly, nudging him
in the side and giving Chris and anxious glance.
Andy looked contrite. Debbie had told him what
happened to Chris last summer, telling him to be careful of what he said
around her, and he had already blown it. "I didn't mean it that way--" he said, apologetically. Chris interrupted him, not wanting to pursue it.
"I know you didn't," she said, reasssuring him.
The one thing she didn't need, especially this weekend , was to have her
friends walking on eggshells around her because of what happened to her. "Look, guys," she
said, "I want you to have a good time this weekend. What happened to me at the lake
happened a long time ago. I'm fine. Really. Forget about me."
Debbie looked concerned. She didn't fail to
notice the way Chris had stiffened suddenly or the strained note in her
voice as she tried to sound casual, as if it didn't matter. "I'm supposed to forget that we've been friends for--"
Andy yelled with surprise as the masked figure crept
up behind him and plunged the knife into his back. The rubber blade bent as it struck his
shoulder and Andy spun around angrily, grabbing the toy knife away and giving his "assailant" a hard shove.
"Damn it, Shelly!" he snapped. "Why do you
always have to be such an asshole?"
"I beg your pardon," Shelly said stiffly from behind
the mask, his tone arch and stagy, like a second-rate thespian's. "I'm not as asshole. I'm an
actor." He broke the word up into two distinct syllables, so that it came out "ack-tor."
"Same thing," Andy said with disgust, angry with
him for acting like a fool. Debbie and Chris walked away, shaking their heads. "Look, Shelly," Andy said, his tone softening, speaking to Shelly as if he were an
awkward little brother, "you're my roommate and I like you . . . most of the time. But
you gotta quit doing these things! Now, I set up this date for you, didn't I?"
Shelly remained silent, like a sullen child who was
being scolded for misbehaving.
"Didn't I?" Andy persisted, leaning closer to him.
"Yeah. . . ." Shelly said, morosely.
"So don't embarrass me," said Andy. "Just relax,
Shelly pushed the mask back up on his head.
"Would you be yourself if you looked like this?" he said miserably.
There was actually nothing wrong with the way he
looked, except that he was very overweight, which gave his body and his
features a round and pudgy softness. His light brown hair was very curly, and while
he wasn't ugly, by any means, his poor self-image gave him sort of hangdog
expression that telegraphed his own unhappiness with the way he looked to others.
And when Shelly was unhappy, Shelly ate, and the more he ate, the heavier
he got, the more his unhappiness increased. It was a vicious cycle.
Frustration led him to seek gratification in food, which only made the
problem worse and led to more frustration and size double-extra-large.
Disappointed with reality, Shelly found escape in
fantasy. Movies were his drug. He saw several each week, often
going to two or three in a row on weekends. At first, it had been enough merely to sit inside a darkened theater and watch another reality unfolding on the screen, but
as he got older, he became more and more involved with his fantasy world that he preferred
so much to his own.
He became a walking encyclopedia of movie trivia.
He read up on the art of filmmaking and learned about camera techniques,
special effects, and makeup. He became an expert on who was doing what in films, always
staying at the end of every movie to see the credits and remember who had
done the editing, the special effects, the stunt work, the music, and the
costuming. He began to experiment with theatrical makeup and latex
molding and soon everyone he knew became exposed to the many faces of Shelly Greenblatt.
The drama club at school was not enough to give vent to his creative
impulses; the whole world became his stage. The only problem was, he often did not know when to stop.
He and Andy had been roommates since they had
started college, and although Andy knew Shelly well enough to understand him and make
allowances for his behavior, it was often extremely frustrating trying to make excuses for the way he acted. He often wished Shelly wouldn't try so hard. He had hoped that taking Shelly with them on this weekend would help him to unwind a bit and drop the goofball act. He had
even asked Debbie and Chris to fix Shelly up. Yet now it looked as if the whole
thing might have been a bad idea. The pressure was apparently making Shelly very
nervous, he acted like a nerd. Andy hoped the weekend wouldn't turn into a disaster.
They walked up the front steps onto the porch of
the white house and Chris rang the bell. Shelly hung back slightly,
looking like an inmante about to walk his last mile on death row. The door was opened by a middle-aged Hispanic woman who spoke to them with a slight accent.
"Yes?" she said, eyeing them cooly.
"Hi, Mrs. Sanchez," Chris said, with a smile.
"I'm Chris. We've come to pick up Vera."
"She's not going," Mrs. Sanchez snapped, and
slammed the door in their faces.
They exchanged startled glances. They had absolutely
no idea what had caused such a reaction. From inside the house, they heard Vera and her
mother shouting at each other in rapid Spanish.
"What're they saying?" said Chris, glancing uncertainly
Debbie shrugged helplessly. "I don't know,"
she said. "I flunked Spanish."
They were about to leave when the door opened once
again and a striking, raven-haired twenty-year-old in a form-fitting blouse and tight shorts came out onto the porch, carrying a knapsack over her shoulder. Shelly's
Vera smiled awkwardly, slightly embarrassed at the
scene she knew they must have overheard. "Hi, everybody," she said. "What're
you looking at? Let's go."
"Is everything all right?" said Chris.
Vera shrugged. "You know, just your basic, old-fashioned mother problems. So, which one's my date?"
Shelly stepped out from behind Andy. "Hi," he said sheepishly, practically shuffling his feet.
"You're Shelly?" Vera said, unable to hide her disappointment.
He sighed apologetically. "Sorry."
That's what I get for agreeing to go out on a blind
date, thought Vera. Her mother had been outraged at the idea: not only was Vera going out on a
date with a boy she'd never even seen before, she was going away for the weekend! Vera's mother was very traditional and she thought that the whole thing was scandalous. She had forbidden her to go, which of course had been a sure way to guarantee that Vera went, no matter what. Now it was too late. If she backed out now, her mother would never let her hear
the end of it. Like it or not, she was stuck with this guy for the whole weekend. The
expression on her face clearly mirrored her thoughts.
Andy rolled his eyes. Debbie had been right. This wasn't such a great idead. Why had he insisited on bringing Shelly along? The weekend was going to be death.
"Hey!" Debbie shouted, pointing. " The
van's on fire!"
Smoke was billowing out of the windows in the van.
They ran across the street and threw open the door, but instead of a fire,
they were confronted with the sight of Chuck and Chili, sitting cross-legged on the floor
in the back of the van with imbeclic grins on their faces, puffing away on plasic
bongs that were so huge they looked like oboes. The sickly-sweet smell of marijuana smoke permeated the van's interior. In order to dissipate some of the smoke, Chris and Andy rolled the windows down all the way as they drove off. All they needed was to get pulled over for speeding or running a stop sign and have a cope take a whiff inside that van. It would
be all over.
Shelly watched disapprovingly as Chuck and Chili
organized their stash. Chuch was a round-faced nineteen-year-old with a full black beard and a
headband holding down his bushy hair. He wore well-faded jeans and tinted aviator glasses. With his sixties look, Chuck might have stepped right out of a time warp. His girlfriend, Chili, was a darkly attractive, slim eighteen-year-old with curly black hair and a facial expression that made her look as if she was always pouting. Chili was actually her real name.
She had a twin sister named Pepper. The girls were born in a commune in Santa Fe and
their parents were a little loaded at the time.
"Is that all you're going to do this weekend?" said
Shelly disapprovingly, watching them sort their plastic sandwich bags filled with grass. "Smoke dope?"
"Why not?" said Chuch wryly. "There's no law against
He seemed to find his comment extremely funny.
But then, dopers were liable to laugh at anything, thought Shelly. He shook his head.
"There's better things to do with your life," he
"Like what?" said Chuck.
"I can't think of anything," said Chili.
Shelly decided to forget about it. It wasn't
his business to tell other people how to live their lives, but he wished
that people that insisted on their right to ruin their health would respect other people's right as well. He wasn't crazy about having to site there and breathe in their smoke.
It was as bad as actually smoking.
"Hey, Chrissie," Andy said, "how much farther to
"We could've been there already if some people didn't
have to go to the bathroom every five minutes," Chris said wearily, glancing
pointedly at Debbie.
"That's what happens when you're pregnant," Debbie
said defensively. She had only known about it for a month or so and
she hadn't started to show yet. She also hadn't told her parents. They didn't even
know that she and Andy were sleeping with each other, much less planning
to get married. They figured she was still going out on casual dates.
Chili offered a joint to Vera, who was sitting between
Chuck and Shelly in the rear of the van. "Sure, why not?" said Vera, taking it.
Shelly couldn't take his eyes off her. Those
shorts were so tight, they looked as if she had been poured into them and
she was sitting with her legs spread. . . and her blouse was unbuttoned enough that if she leaned back, he could see. . .
When Vera turned and caught him staring down her
blouse, Shelly quickly looked away. Now she probably really thinks I'm a jerk, he thought,
angry with himself. He could never seem to do anything right. Hell, he thought, can you blame a guy for staring when a girl's dressed like that? How can you not stare at anybody who's so incredibly gorgeous? And she was supposed to be his date, too! A blind date, but still, he'd never had a date with anyone who looked like her. And he probably never would
again, he thought miserably.
"Hey, let's share the wealth with those less fortunate
up front, huh?" said Andy.
Vera passed the join and sat back down beside Shelly.
Her gaze fell on the small black case where he kept his props and makeup. She looked up at
him with curiosity. "What've you got in there?" she said.
"My whole world," he said mysteriously.
"In that little thing?" said Vera, amused.
"Stick around," said Shelly. "You'll see."
Vera shrugged and turned to look out the back window.
She saw flashing red lights in the distance. They were coming up fast, and a second later
she heard the sirens.
"It's the cops!" she said.
"What ?" said Debbie.
Chris glanced into her sideview mirror. "Oh,no
!" she cried.
"Oh, my God !" said Chili.
"What're you gonna do?" moaned Shelly, anxiously
looking out the back window as the two police cars came up fast.
"Destroy the evidence!" said Vera, grabbing for the
Chuck snatched her. "No way , man !"
"Let go, Chuck," Chili said. "Come on !"
It took a moment for it to sink in. Then he
suddenly realized what would happen if they were pulled over with all that dope in their possession.
"We gotta get rid of it!" he cried, panicking
as the sirens rapidly approached.
Andy grabbed a bag. "Eat it!" he said, stuffing
some into his mouth.
They started stuffing the loose joints and the grass
into their mouths, swallowing as quickly as they could. When Chuck realized that they were never going to get it all down in time, he tossed a bag to Vera, who started
stuffing the grass into her mouth and swallowing as fast as she could.
"The cops are going to get us!" Shelly wailed. "We're
going to jail!"
Andy held a bag out to Chris.
She shook her head. "I'm driving."
He turned to Debbie and held the bag out to her.
"No way!" she said emphatically. "We're pregnant,
The police cars were almost on top of them.
Chris kept glancing nervously into the sideview mirror.
"Faster, faster!" Chili said, chewing furiously and
swallowing as quickly as she could. "You better step on it!"
Chris sped up, but the police cruisers kept on gaining.
Their cheeks were all stuffed to capacity.
"Faster! East faster!" Shelly cried.
"Come on, help us!" Vera said, hanging him
a fistful of grass. "Come on!"
"Uh. . . . I guess I'm just not hungry," Shelly said,
grimacing with distatst and pulling back from her.
"You're always hungry, Shelly!" Andy said,
his mouth full. "Come on, eat!"
"Come on, hurry up!" said Vera.
"I'm allergic to pot!" Shelly shouted, furious that
he was going to get busted because of them.
"They're too close!" said Chris. "I gotta pull
They all started cramming dope into their mouths
as the van pulled over onto the shoulder and stopped.
The two police cruisers shot right them without even
For a second, they all stared out through the windshield
with disbelief, and then they sighed with relief. A few seconds later, it occurred to them that they had eaten almost all of their stash.
"Oh, man!" moaned Chuck.
"Oh shit!" said Chili, trying to scrape together
the grass they'd dropped onto the floor of the van.
Chris wondered where the police cars could possibly
have been going that they had ignored her like that. She had been driving well over the speed
limit, trying to buy the others some time to get rid of the dope. A few miles down the road, she had her answer.
To the left, there was a turnoff sloping downhill
to a small roadside grocery store at the foot of the highway embankment. The police cruisers pulled in with screeching tires, and the officers jumped out of their cars
and hurried over to the store.
"Okay, you guys, show's over," one of them said,
beckoning the small group of people away from the store entrance.
"Let's move it back over here, all right?"
There was ambulance parked in front of the entrance
to the market. Chris slowed down as the road followed the curve of the embankment so that
they could look down as they passed and see what was going on. As they drove past the market, the ambulance attendants came out, carrying two stretchers with shee-covered bodies strapped to them. Chris couldn't take her eyes off the sight. She swerved sharply and snapped out
of it, quickly returning her attention to the road.
"Hey kiddo," said Debbie gently, seeing the expression
on her fact, "don't let your imagination run away with you."
Chris swallowed hard, trying to calm down.
Her nerves were already more than a bit on edge just at the though of coming
back to Crystal Lake again. And now this. . .
"Chris, stop the van!" cried Debbie.
"What?" she said, startled, snapping out of her reverie. "What is it?"
Chris slammed on the brakes.
She was not a moment too soon. The van screeched
to a stop inches away from an old man lying in the center of the road.
"What are you doin'?" Andy said. "You
almost ran over him!"
"I. . .I must have been daydreaming," said
Chris, shocked at what she almost did. "I didn't even see him!"
They piled out of the van and approached the motionless
figure. He was lying on his back in the middle of the road, his head pillowed on a duffle
bag. It was a hell of a place to take a nap. He was in his late sixties or seventies, and had stringy gray hair and a long beard. He was as skinny as a rake, his old baggy clothes were badly in need of a washing and his face was covered by a beat-up straw hat. He didn't move a muscle.
"Hey, man, he looks just like my grandfather!" said
Chuck, bending over him.
They stood around the old man, looking down at him
with concern. As their shadows fell across him, his eyes fluttered open.
“Why,” he said, looking at Debbie and Vera and speaking
in a wheezy voice, “I must be in heaven!”
Chuck grinned. “What’re you doin’ down there, old guy?”
“You all right?” Chris asked him in a worried tone.
“Get him up,” said Andy.
“Don’t touch him!” Shelly cautioned, keeping well back from the
old man. “You don’t know where he’s been!”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” the old man said as they helped him to his feet. “You are, indeed, all of you, kind and generous young
people. Look upon what His Grace has brought me!”
He reached into his pocket and withdrew a curious-looking, slimy, whitish object. His hand trembled as he held it out, directly under
Shelly winced, looking down at the disgusting looking object and
wrinkling his nose. “What is that ?” he said.
“I found this today,” the old man said, gravely. “There
were other pieces of the body. . . . “
“That’s an eyeball! ”Shelly cried, gasping and recoiing
from the object.
“The wanted me to have this,” the old man said, showing them the
eyeball and glaring at them wildly. “He wanted me to warn you!”
The rushed back toward the van and piled in as the old man staggered after them, brandishing the eyball, his voice rising in pitch like an evagelical
“Look up this omen!” he cried as Chris quickly started up the
van and shifted into gear, pulling around him in a wide circle. “And go back from whence ye came!”
Chris floored it and the van shot down the road, leaving the old
man in its dust.
“I have warned thee!” the old man shouted after them, waving the
eyball at the rapidly receding van. “I have warned thee!”
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