Tuesday, September 14, 2010

here be monsters

Thomas looked down into the well, deep down, feeling his eyes stretch like a couple of threadbare rubberbands behind his glasses as he did. Nothing, just a few tufts of lost grass growing more and more sparse as they mistakenly pushed out between the tired old bricks, a blistered tree root elbowing into the shaft and back again, then darkness, deep, hungry, endless. It couldn't be that much, he thought, he was fifteen for god's sake, who believed in bottomless pit stories? Babies, that's who. Still, down there was a football, two frisbees, Eddie Falcon's Plasticman and who knew how many tennis ballls, lost and swallowed by something deep and unmanageable, too inconvenient for anyone from the neighborhood to pursue.

 "Do it," Mark said, trying to sound casual. He'd been in a wheelchair since that ice storm in February, so obviously he wasn't a candidate, but there were only so many more summer days left at this point. How many more times could they go to the drugstore for a new ball, and with three days left until allowance day? Besides, even if they were lazy and took the bus it would still be an hour there-and-back, and it was already three. "It can't be down there that far," he added hopefully.

"You do it," Thomas shot back with a little laugh, trying to mask the fear. "You wouldn't go down there anyway, who knows how far it is? Let's just head back inside, or maybe hit up the arcade. That Hill's around the corner has a sit-down machine, we can use those." His eyes stayed on the bottom of the well. There wasn't anything down there, he thought, he was just being silly. Maybe a snake or something, but who wants to deal with that? It's just a stupid baseball.

But still, a thought kept gnawing at him. How much stuff must be down there? How many baseballs? He was going to be driving next year, he was too old to be afraid of the dark, wasn't he? He could get a flashlight and be down there in minutes, the way those bricks stuck out. Or maybe they could just lower a ladder down to the bottom, that really big one his dad kept hanging on the wall that telescoped to the roof that one summer they reshingled the roof. That sucked, but the ladder was easy.

"Gimme your pen," Thomas said. Mark always had a pen in his pocket, usually one of those cheapo bic jobbies or one of those cummerbund-clad government pens his stepdad seemed to get by the pound from his job in the city.

Mark made a face. "I don't have one," he said, digging in his pocket and feeling the four-color click pen in his pocket, each of the inviting little levers at the top sliding agreeably halfway down their little slots. This wasn't some pen that needed to get sacrificed to this stupid well. Red, black, blue, even green, this pen had it all, and deserved better.

Thomas shot him a look and dug into his pocket, finding just lint and his keys, neither of which were going to work. He crouched down and picked at the lip of the well until he could loosen the dirt, standing and stomping his heel into the edge until a few clumps of Michigan clay tumbled down the well's side. This idea had come up a bunch of times before, but each time the boys lost track of the debris' path, only hearing it skitter of the edge of the bricks and no doubt to some soft-landing at the bottom. Of course there was a bottom.

"I'll be right back," Thomas said.


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