Gregory E. Lucas
Eddie Sax finds it astounding that
the crime he witnessed on a long-ago winter evening fell so neatly into his plan for revenge
against his parents. Whenever he passes
the music shop where everything happened when he was nine years old, he imagines the experience
as a wicked tale in a book.
Once upon a snowy day he shivered
in the driveway, next to his mother. She scraped ice off the Bentley’s windshield
and pointed to the front passenger door.
it. Get in,” she said.
Making her repeat herself fit the plan— anything to annoy her.
“Like it or not, you’re going
to this music lesson.”
Instead of opening the front door,
like she’d wanted, he opened the back door of the sedan, slid the guitar in its black
case across the tan seat, and sat down next to it.
“Where’s your coat?” she said. “Can’t
you see it’s snowing?”
Rather freeze, he thought, than put
on a coat like she wants me to.
you don’t hear her, he told himself.
He wouldn’t budge. She huffed and
started the car. She backed the Bentley down the long driveway and she drove onto the street
of their upscale neighborhood. It was a Tuesday evening, a week before Christmas. If only
there were no such days as Tuesdays. Tuesday evenings meant music lessons. The bright lights,
the tinsel, the Santas in the malls, the decorated wreaths on doors and all those jingles—what
good were they if his mother demanded that he to go into the city of Wilmington, Delaware
for his lessons? And all that forced practice—hours every day. Scales—the most
boring music foisted onto him.
They passed the park where kids
sled down a big hill. No fun for him tonight. He must take his lesson and become a prodigy.
His mother leaned toward the
windshield. The wiper blades swatted the snow, hopelessly.
“It’s a blizzard, almost,” she
can’t see. Go home.”
car swerved on a slick patch as she left the neighborhood and turned onto the main road.
As they neared the city, traffic thickened. Minutes passed without traffic moving. Horns
“We can’t be late,” she said.
“You heard me.”
He messed-up his hair.
“And stop doing that to your hair.”
He rubbed his head again and shook
it to annoy her further. An ambulance with a siren and flashing lights fought its way through
the traffic and passed their car.
tapped the wheel and fidgeted with her hands for ten minutes. The line of cars advanced,
but only at a walker’s speed. After every few feet the cars in front of them stopped
for a moment, and then started forward again. Two smashed cars clogged one side of the
road. Police cars and ambulances with flashing lights surrounded the area. Flares burned
close to a policeman who blew his whistle and directed traffic.
“My God,” she said.
“Why does everyone stop and look?”
She didn’t answer and observed
the rescue workers hoisting a man on a stretcher into an ambulance.
Eddie leaned across the seat,
toward his mother. “Do people like to see other people get hurt?”
“How could you ask such a thing?”
everyone stops and checks out the gore.”
A shrill whistle caught her
attention. The policeman motioned for her to proceed. She drove up, even with the accident,
policeman wants you to go.”
scrutinized the accident scene once more before forging ahead.
His mother dropped him off at the
front of the music shop, an old three story brownstone building.
“Going shopping. Pick you up in an
hour,” she said.
let his guitar case bang on three slippery steps. As he reached for the brass doorknob,
the door swung open. He collided with a man in a dark coat and ski mask. Eddie fell and
brushed the snow off the seat of his pants. Without paying attention to the man’s
extended hand, he got up, entered the shop, and walked up the staircase at the end of
stepped inside the dark bathroom on the second floor. Only faint light came from the big
window next to the urinals. Eddie searched along the wall for the light switch. He only
tapped it. I’ll hide in the dark, he thought. If the teacher searches for me here,
I’ll duck into a stall.
Ten minutes he’d kept Mr. Jashen
waiting. He unzipped his fly at the urinal and glanced out the window while he urinated.
A pretty young woman hurried down the sidewalk—her waist-length red hair streaming
behind her. She leaned into the howling wind. He zipped up, stepped away from the urinal,
and pressed his face against the rattling glass.
After she passed the street lamp,
he noticed a huge shadow. She ran, but the shadow overtook her—Santa Clause’s
shadow. His belly, white beard, and red suit resembled every other Santa.
But Santa wouldn’t grab anyone by
the neck, would he? The man covered her mouth. The woman cringed. The man forced her off
the sidewalk, into the backyard below the music shop’s bathroom window.
The music store’s wall and deserted
brick warehouses surrounded the yard. Only
a weak yellowish light from a street lamp shone into a small section of the gloom. No one
could view the yard from the sidewalk or street. Only from the vantage point of the music
shop’s bathroom window could anyone see the yard.
The man grabbed her, slammed her
into the snow. From side to side she rolled. Her hair fanned out. No cap. No coat. She
wore only an old blue sweater and faded blue jeans with patches across her skinny rear.
No boots either, just untied sneakers. She wore one glove. It flew off and landed in a
drift as the man threw her to the ground. She slid on her back, away from the man in the
shadows of the buildings that enclosed them.
Santa tore off his beard and hat, straddled
her, and yanked her hair. He forced her up again. Slap. Her fair skin, alluring, like the
faces of princesses in the fantasy stories Eddie watched on TV, flashed red.
“Sorry,” she said, her voice
“Who is he?” the man said, his voice more
distinct than hers.
“Nobody. Just a guy who sells tickets at the movie theater,
punched her face and blood oozed from her nose. Her legs collapsed, but she didn’t
fall because Santa twisted her hair.
Get help, Eddie thought. Santa
threw her and unbuttoned his coat. The pillow that’d fattened him slipped out. He
flung the coat and the pillow and kicked the woman’s ribs.
Go now, Eddie said to himself, but despite
the urgency of his inner voice, he remained at the window. Like everyone at the car wreck,
horror absorbed his attention.
he thought he heard her say. He couldn’t hear her, but he’d watched her swollen
lips form the word.
Santa was young, with dark curly
hair and a shaved face. He took off his wide
door—open it. Get someone, Eddie told himself. The brass buckle glistened. Why’s
the man waving it around like that? Eddie asked himself. And look: he’s backing away
from her, and he’s scratching his face. It looks like he’s . . . he’s
The man wiped the snot from his
nose with his flannel sleeve. He swirled the belt buckle an inch above the woman’s
bloody face. She slid on her back, saying that she was sorry. Instead of putting her hands
up to protect herself, she made the sign of the cross over her heart.
The buckle struck her cheek.
Enough. Eddie dashed toward the door and opened it. Tapping on the window froze him. He
closed the door and ran back. The wind rattled the pane with greater vehemence. The woman—her
eyes, narrow slits among bruises and blood, fixed on Eddie—pleaded for help.
He wondered when she’d noticed
him. Only I can help her, he thought. Cold blasted through the window’s edges. Goose
bumps covered his arms underneath the sleeves of his sweat jersey. The man below fixed
his cold black eyes on Eddie, dug into his gaunt cheeks, and wiped snot from his nose again.
A black cat knocked off a trashcan lid in a dark corner. The woman shrieked and the cat
scampered across the yard. A slap. A kick. She lay still in the snow. Dead? And why did
the man start crying?
“You get him high before you—”
Eddie pictured what might’ve happened
before she’d run down the sidewalk; he pictured her dashing from one of the nearby
row-homes, fleeing from the man— no time to tie her shoes, put on a coat and a cap,
or to look for both of her gloves.
slid further from the man who paced and pulled his hair. The man clawed his cheeks; blood
Again the sign of the cross—her
last gesture before she slid closer to the wall Eddie stood by. She lay almost
directly below him, her body out of view except for her long legs. Her feet must’ve felt so cold, especially the one without a sneaker.
There it was—the missing sneaker appeared, half -buried in snow, near her missing
glove, far out of her reach.
Santa picked up his suit top and
pillow and thrashed the air with them. He
breathed hard and fast. More of her disappeared into the shadows directly below the bathroom
window, all but her ankles and feet. Santa left parts of his suit behind and zigzagged,
like a tired-out boxer or a drunkard, away from the yard, down the sidewalk. Eddie headed
down the hall, toward his teacher’s room.
“Where’ve you been?” his teacher
answering him, Eddie sat on the armless wooden chair in front of the music stand.
“Fifty minutes late,” Mr.
Jashen said. “Why?” Mr. Jashen pointed toward the street-side wall. “I
glimpsed your mother’s car. She dropped you off on time.”
Eddie removed his guitar from its
case and put his sheet music on the stand.
was in the bathroom.”
for fifty minutes.”
plucked a few strings. Mr. Jashen interrupted.
“The check. Full payment.”
The check was in the front right
pocket of Eddie’s pants, but he fumbled in his left pants pocket and checked the
two back pockets.
Jashen cleared his throat and his big ears reddened. He paced.
“Oh, here,” Eddie said.
Mr. Jashen snatched the check from
seven minutes left. Play the first few measures.”
The worse the better, Eddie
thought, and three measures into the piece that he’d practiced so much that he could
play it flawlessly, he hit three consecutive wrong notes.
Mr. Jashen winced.
Mistakes like that, Eddie knew, would
provoke Mr. Jashen beyond his tolerance; he’d spring from his chair and pace by the
window and mutter in breathy tones. Eddie deliberately held the next note two beats too
long and struck a wrong chord.
Mr. Jashen almost toppled off his chair.
He circled Eddie.
know how to play this piece.”
lingered before Mr. Jashen said, “The bathroom? No, I don’t believe you. What’s
the true story?”
if I tell him, Eddie thought, he might make me talk to a policeman. And what will the policeman
do to me when I tell him how long I watched? What will everyone say if they know I let
the woman get hit and kicked? None of them will understand, he told himself.
don’t want to take guitar lessons anymore.”
“Where were you?”
“I hate playing guitar. I want
to play at the park with my friends.”
Mr. Jashen glanced at his watch.
“Your mother’ll be here any
minute. She’ll help me get to the bottom of this.”
“I hid in the bathroom because
I don’t want to take guitar lessons.”
“Put your instrument away. We’re
out of time.”
don’t you believe me?”
Jashen buttoned the sleeves of his dark blue shirt and paced in front of the window.
“Your mother’s here.”
I’ll never, ever, tell them what
happened, he promised himself. The grown-ups, they’re always forcing me to do things
I don’t want, but they can’t make me tell what happened in the yard if I don’t
want to, he thought.
Jashen gestured with his finger for Eddie to follow him out of the room. Eddie stayed put.
He could hear Mr. Jashen calling him
from the top of the staircase.
pictured the woman, lying unconscious, pelted by the harsh weather. Was it right, he wondered, to keep this secret, to punish them by not
giving them the explanation they demanded when she might suffer more—even die if
he remained silent?
Eddie approached Mr. Jashen at the
top of the stairs. Bells jingled on the front door; his mother entered the music shop.
“We’re going to get the full
story from you yet,” Mr. Jashen said to Eddie.
Eddie followed the guitar teacher
down the staircase.
power of secrecy—on the bottom step Eddie relished his advantageous position.
“Almost the entire lesson, for
all but the last ten minutes, he hid in the bathroom. That’s what he claims,”
Mr. Jashen said to Mrs. Sax.
“Is this true?” Mrs. Sax said to her son.
“Oh it’s true all right,”
Mr. Jashen said before Eddie attempted to answer.
Eddie wandered toward the front
get punished for this.”
suspect there’s more to this story than what he’s told,” Mr. Jashen said.
Eddie remained silent.
“He doesn’t want to take
guitar lessons, Mrs. Sax. Other kids want his slot in my schedule.”
won’t tolerate his behavior.”
stamped her foot.
how she’s dressed, Eddie thought. Gold and silver always—either a gold dress
with silver jewelry, or silver clothes and gold jewelry. And that hair, piled high on top
of her head, as if that could fool people into believing that she’s not puny. And
Mr. Jashen—dressed head to toe in dark blue, always the same color, like a cop in
Mr. Jashen raised his hand, a signal
for her to stop talking. But she wouldn’t shut-up, Eddie knew.
Eddie pulled her sleeve.
“Can we leave?”
She ignored him. Like always, Eddie
said to himself. What I want never matters.
argued with his teacher again, insisting that she’d change Eddie’s attitude
and that Eddie must continue with the lessons.
“To the car.”
Going at last, he thought. He dashed
to the door and opened it. The snow—how could the sky dump so much at once? But
even more wonderful than the snow was his teacher’s declaration.
lessons are discontinued. That’s final.”
No more lessons. Is it possible?
Eddie: “I told you—go to the car.”
Then to Mr. Jashen, “We’ve got to leave before this storm worsens, but we will
come back next week.”
now, Eddie told himself. Keep the beating a secret or
help the woman. He pictured the woman out back—her bare hands, her patched jeans,
and her foot without a shoe—imagined the snow that was obliterating the city, burying
solitary wanderer staggered on the sidewalk, her princess hair mangled,
streaming across her bludgeoned face. She folded her bleeding arms tight into her shivering
body, limped into clouds of swirling snow, and disappeared. A gust chilled the doorway
while flurries swarmed around the streetlight.
years later it’s still a secret—the crime he witnessed
on his night of silent revenge.
ONE EVER ASKED WINSLOW THIS
(Inspired by Winslow Homer’s
painting Boy Fishing.)
by Gregory E. Lucas
we to bear in mind the agony,
the tragic fate of the netted rainbow
in a desperate struggle to survive,
its dark fanned caudal fin in bursts
the rim so low above the stream
and tilted just
enough to spark illusions
springing free from the entangling mesh
trails through the cold subtle current
through this Adirondack wilderness?
we consider at all the fish’s plight
and brown and blue ripples spread out
toward a gently sloping fall?
While a sky shines the brightest
gold and tints
likewise, the farthest granite
While the nearby forest—blurred,
black, and green—
beguiles us with its depth and mysteries?
we to set all unpleasant thoughts aside,
full sweet joy of this teenage boy
covered by a floppy straw hat,
seated at the canoe’s stern, the
bow tipped high
to catch the sun’s warm glow on
the gunwale’s ribs—
as he casts his line in a broad
the rod almost aligned with one suspender
across his long-sleeved flannel shirt
the same as a perfect summer sky?
when he tucks his chin behind a shoulder,
the shadows lingering on his face,
we to marvel that pain and boyhood thrills,
as they do here with rare ease,
evoke such charm in
this remarkable scene?
THE ADIRONDACK GUIDE
(Inspired by a Winslow Homer’s painting The Adirondack Guide.)
by Gregory E. Lucas
in dreams as much as in his boat,
forgetful of his task to lead
along the Ausable’s beguiling
through secret depths of wilderness
as any hermit’s home might
a far-off call clashes with his
But too late the Adirondack guide
no longer are his followers in
and in wavelets, dappled with
from barren trees,
his extended oars refract
in the silver
stream that mirrors autumn’s charms
with shimmering pools of yellow, red, and
gathered by a birch submerged
scum nearby, while his eyes flash
WHY BACK TO GLOUCESTER,
on Winslow Homer’s painting Breezing Up.)
by Gregory E.
back to Gloucester, boys? The breeze kicks up.
is an afternoon that mustn’t end.
Our sail puffs full as we gain more speed
splash across the port’s side freshens up
our catch—a dozen bass flapping in
This is an afternoon that mustn’t
Never mind those dense gray clouds. The
rest are fair
against soft blue, disproving threats of
The sunlight brightens, warms your shoulders,
the mast’s and tackle’s shadows, spreads
trail of pretty glitter on our wake.
breezing up boys, breezing up some more.
grip the starboard gunwale tight.
This is an afternoon
that mustn’t end.
Gloucester can wait awhile for
you and me.
It’s breezing up, breezing up yet
And a day like this might never come again.
Lucas writes poetry and fiction. His fiction has appeared in previous issues of Yellow
Mama, Pif, Blueline, The Horror Zine, Dark Dossier, The New Press, and other magazines.
His poems have been in The Lyric, Scarlet Leaf, Blueline, Literary Juice, Peeking Cat
Poetry Magazine, and other magazines.