Shed Shed Shed
by Rachel Ann Girty
I was named William, after my mother. Her name wasn’t William, but it was the last word she spoke. I’m giving you this information so you have all the variables, the x the y the z. I can’t really tell you if it’s relevant or not. But since I’m not Nancy Drew, and since I’m slowly losing all of my mental faculties, I’m going to need someone else to solve this one.
Let me start at the beginning. Thursday evening, I leaned against the brick wall of an abandoned flower shop. A thin silhouette emerged from the opening to the alleyway, and I took my hands out of my pockets. “Are you the kid who texted?” the man asked. I nodded. He took a few steps closer.
I pulled a wad of cash out of my backpack and handed it to him. He started to count. “It’s all there,” I said. He kept counting. Twenty, forty, sixty. I tried to keep my eyes down. One-forty, one-sixty, one-eighty. He shifted his weight. I rocked on my heels. Two-sixty, two-eighty, three hundred. He put the cash in his pocket.
“This is your first time buying,” he said. It wasn’t a question, but I nodded anyway. “So what’s your story?” he asked.
What was my story? My father had called me a faggot and had given me ten minutes to get the hell out. He had looked at me like I was a murderer, had told me that I was sick. But even as he stood there, watching me pack my backpack and leave, I couldn’t bring myself to hate him back. Because I was thinking of Nathan.
What was my story? “I’m in love,” I said.
“Well, this’ll do the trick.” A Ziploc bag of gleaming white powder. The crystals tumbled gently as the man passed the bag over, his fingertips smearing a rainbow of oil onto the outside. I held the bag in my palm, and the fading pink sunlight bounced off the smooth plastic, shimmering into the lost angles of the crystals. I opened it. Dipped a finger in. Then I sniffed it—felt a tiny bit lighter—and when I looked up, the man was gone. I put the bag in my backpack and walked west.
My father had found the box under my bed—the one with all the pictures of Nathan Weiss playing basketball and the articles about Nathan Weiss in the school paper and the letters to Nathan Weiss I had never sent. And he had freaked out. When I got home from school, he was waiting for me, on my bed, the box in his lap. He stood up and let the box crash to the floor, spilling all the pictures and clippings and pages. He yelled, but I couldn’t hear him at all. Because there was one particular picture of Nathan, sitting on the bench at basketball practice, looking diagonally down at the floor. And I couldn’t hear a word my father was saying.
Where was Nathan now? Did they have basketball practice on Thursdays? He had looked pretty artificial making out with Amy West at that party last week. But the look he had given me across the room in biology, that was real real real.
I shoved a toothbrush, a razor, a stick of deodorant, and a few changes of clothes into my bag. My father watched me the whole time. He followed me to the front hallway, talking at me all the way. I didn’t look back at him when I shut the door.
A few yards down the driveway, I turned around and stared at the house I was leaving. Three stories, gleaming, dead. A conservative old banker and his son. As I walked away, I stripped myself of all my titles. National merit. Perfect SAT. Mathematics genius. Trust fund baby. All the other shit. Gone.
I left the alley and walked along Lacy until it reached Oak Knoll Drive. It wasn’t just the looks in biology. It was at that party too, when he pulled Amy off him and met me in the corner. We had talked for twenty-seven minutes. And the Friday before that, he had winked at me in the hallway.
And when he glanced down at my notebook last Tuesday in biology and saw his name written fifty-eight times, he smiled.
At the end of Oak Knoll, I turned onto Saw Tooth Drive. I had never been to this part of town—this was the part where suburban Wisconsin turned into rural Wisconsin as abruptly as land turns into nothingness at the edge of a cliff. But I knew exactly where I was. I had seen it on my phone countless times.
As I walked I couldn’t stop thinking about the way my father had looked at me. He had always known things about me that I didn’t know about myself—I could tell, the way he stared at me sometimes. He was calculating.
When I got to the house I walked over to the west side. I knew it was the first-floor window near the back and there was a ledge up to the flower bed right underneath. I straightened my shirt and peered in. There he was, lying on his bed in a heap of textbooks, headphones in his ears, circling the ankle that hung coyly off the side of the bed. His computer rested precariously on his stomach, and I imagined the intense heat of it, the sweat that must have been collecting between the hard black plastic and his tee shirt. I rapped on the window. He looked confused for a minute, then a warm excitement ran through and softened his features. He smiled, and he didn’t move his gaze from me as he unfettered himself from the tangle of books and cords and walked over to slide the window open. “William!” He was glimmering. He must have just come back from practice.
“Hey there,” I replied. I couldn’t come up with anything else.
“What are you doing here, man?”
“I came to see you.”
“Do you want to talk?” he asked, looking confused. For a minute I lost my nerve.
“No, not really,” I said. Nathan grinned. I laughed a little.
He climbed carefully out of the window and met me on the grass, right next to his mother’s hyacinths. I didn’t say anything else, I just kissed him, and he kissed me back. Soon we were rolling in the little bed of hyacinths, crushing them, letting their juice gush all over my mouth, run between his legs.
When goosebumps started to form on his skin, he whispered, “I have to get back inside. I’ll see you tomorrow in school.” And he grabbed his clothes, tossed them through the window, and followed them into his room. I waited a few minutes and then walked around to the back, suddenly remembering that I had nowhere to go. Luckily, there was a tool shed right in the corner, next to the fence, and it wasn’t locked.
The first thing that happened inside the shed was my phone buzzed and it was my father asking where I was. As if he hadn’t kicked me out of the house. As if he loved me and wanted me back. The second thing was I thought I felt a spider on my arm, and I longed to be home in my warm bed. The third was I realized how awful home actually was. The fourth was I thought of Nathan, red and breathless, gripping a hyacinth stalk and choking out my name. The fifth was sleep.
In my dream my mother stood at a whiteboard, did an equation with a dry-erase marker. I solved the equation and it came out to this: love too hard = you die you die you die.
In the morning I took another sniff of the powder. Then I crept out of the shed and went into town, making sure to stay out until I was sure Nathan would be home.
In the evening I knocked on Nathan’s window again. He opened it immediately. “Hey. Why weren’t you in school?”
I beamed at him. “Didn’t really feel like it.”
“I thought you had perfect attendance. And you know we had a biology test, right? Don’t ruin your four point oh, man. Not for me.”
“I just didn’t feel like going,” I said again.
“Me neither, but my parents would lose their shit if I skipped.” He smiled a little. I did too. Then he leaned out the window and kissed me. “I don’t have a lot of time. I have a game at five,” he said. I nodded. “Do you think you can climb up though the window?” By the time I was in his room, his pants were already down.
That night, as I lay in the shed, I couldn’t erase the image of my father, sitting on the bed, looking up at me in disgust. But I hadn’t waited for him to speak. I had just grabbed my backpack and run out into the night.
Maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. But it doesn’t matter how it happened. What matters is Nathan Weiss lives in a little house on the edge of town with a little shed in the little backyard, a shed with boxes and floorboards and shovels.
The guy never told me exactly what’s in the Ziploc bag. I’ll tell you what it is though. It’s stardust. Crushed up after the star’s been given a lethal injection. It’s ground up diamonds. It’s cardiac tissue put through a blender and bleached a perfect blonde. It’s all the little petals of snow-white hyacinths, and when you breathe it in you feel like you’re fucking the starting forward, the boy you’ve dreamed about since freshman year, the Nathan, the window-climber.
On Saturday, I made the mistake of bringing my backpack into Nathan’s room. I was licking the last traces of cum off my teeth, and he was softly rubbing my shoulder with his left hand. I didn’t notice that his right hand was worming into the backpack on the side of the bed until it was too late.
“What’s this?” he asked, holding the almost-empty Ziploc in the air. “Is this coke, Willy?”
“No,” I said. But I could tell he didn’t believe me. He opened the baggie and dipped two fingers inside. I wrenched the bag from his hands. “That’s not for you. You can’t have that.”
“All right, man,” he said, brushing his hands together. The little white flecks floated down onto his sheets. I grabbed my backpack, climbed out of the window, and crossed around to the backyard.
That night it was hard to fall asleep. I considered checking my unread texts, but I knew that all seventeen of them were from my dad. I crawled into the corner of the shed and used a flattened cardboard box for a blanket. I was used to all the insect and animal sounds, and the sound of the wind and the little droplets of rain on the roof. There was something almost pleasant about the containment, about the cramped darkness of the shed.
I reached into my backpack and felt around for the coke. I dug my fingers in and dragged up the last bits of powder. The look in Nathan’s eyes as he had held the bag—he had never looked at me as hungrily as that. I ripped open the sides of the bag and licked the plastic. Then I took the sticky, crumpled plastic and shoved it back into my backpack.
I lay back and tried again to fall asleep. He had looked so hungry, so bold. Eventually my eyes were used to the dark. I began to count the wooden slats of the wall. And the nails in the floorboards. And the boxes in the corner. At the twenty-eighth box, there was a rustle outside. It was not like the animal sounds or the wind sounds. The bolt lifted on the shed door. Footstep footstep footstep, right toward me.
“William. Are you in here?” His voice was shrill.
“Yes,” I whispered, walking toward Nathan. “How did you know?”
“I watched you going in. How long have you been sleeping in here?”
“You couldn’t have seen me—I crossed over to the north side, and your window faces west.”
“How long have you been sleeping here?” His eyes were wide. He had left the door ajar, and there was a shaft of light across his face. His eyes were wide.
“Were you on the roof again? I guess you could’ve seen me from the roof. But how did you get up there so fast? You were in your bedroom when I left.”
“How long, William?”
I walked all the way up to him, grabbed him at the waist, kissed him. He pulled away. “I want you to get out of here. Now.”
“You’re crazy, do you realize that?”
I inched toward him again. He pushed me down. He turned and grabbed something heavy, maybe a shovel. As he was walking toward me, I thought of my father sitting on my bed, the box lying open on his lap. But Nathan dropped the shovel. “Get up. And get out of here,” he said. “Go home.” So I stood up and I left. I stumbled to the street and followed the glow of the streetlights in whatever direction I was facing. I began to run. When you’re high the stars overhead run right along with you. When you’re not the stars stay put. They stare down at you as you tear across the pavement. They don’t even blink.
Here’s a confession: I don’t know how to love. My father does. He cried every night for eleven years after my mother died. And I didn’t shed a tear at all. Nathan knows how to love too. He’s not fooling anyone with that Amy West, but that’s not what I’m talking about. He loves the stars. I’ve seen him sometimes at night. He sneaks out of the house, but he doesn’t go anywhere. He gets up on the roof of his house somehow and just looks up at the stars, loving them, and if I were a star, I’d love him back. But I’ve never loved anyone for an instant. Not my mother. Not my father. Not Nathan—he can’t even tell the difference between stardust and cocaine.
My father never told me how it happened. When I was a kid I would lie in bed and brainstorm all the ways I could have killed her. I was in too much of a hurry inside her womb. I ate everything she tried to digest. My head was huge and it crushed her pelvis to death on the way out. I was lonely and I took her soul right out of her body before she could scream.
I found myself right in front of my own front door, heavy and shining and mute. I hadn’t planned on coming home. I guess I just didn’t have anywhere else to run. Because you can have adventures and fuck around and whatever, but you always have to put your clothes back on and go home. A killer always leaves evidence, as a way of catching himself. A genius can’t force himself to forget how math works—not for too long.
I knocked on the door. No answer. Knock knock knock no answer. No answer. And then, “William. You can come in, but eventually we’re going to have to talk about this.”
A discoverer of love always undiscovers it. Covers it up again. I trudged up to my room. I fell asleep.
I dreamed I was Nancy Drew. Here was the mystery: I had been slowly inhaling a large quantity of arsenic-laced cocaine, I had run away from home for no apparent reason, and Nathan thought I was crazy. Actually, come to think of it, it wasn’t a mystery at all.
Now that I’ve woken up, and I’ve had a chance to collect myself, I think I’ll text Nathan. The first text is, “hey what you doin?” The thirteenth is, “im really sorry i slept in your shed that was super shitty of me.” The fifty-eighth is, “please please text me back i just want to make sure youre ok.” And maybe the reason Nathan’s not answering is that Nathan is dead. Maybe I reached for that shovel and lifted it in the air and felt its weight and its incomprehensible coldness and swung it with terrifying swiftness. Maybe when I heard the sound it made as it flew threw the air I imagined the sound a basketball makes as it swishes through the hoop, the perfect swoosh I always heard from the back row during all the times I wasted five dollars to watch him play. But that’s all bullshit, because I never killed Nathan. And I never killed my mother, either. But a murderer always needs a victim.
I hide my phone under my pillow when I hear the clunk of my father’s shoes in the hallway. And everything is a mess. A pile of shit. A pool of coked-up cum. Or cummed-up coke. It’s pretty much the same no matter which comes first.
I scrounge around for a pen and a piece of paper. Because there’s something I still have to work out. And everything is white, white, white but none of it is paper.
“William. What the hell are you doing?” My father has been standing over me for a minute or so.
“Nothing. Nothing. No things.”
I just remembered I’m not Nancy Drew. Where’s Nathan now? Do they have basketball practice on Thursdays? But it’s not Thursday. It’s Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Monday…what the fuck is four days after Thursday?
Sunday. It’s Sunday.
My father cocks his head to one side. “Are you all right?”
“Who told you that?” He takes the crumpled Ziploc from my hand and puts it in his pocket.
“You did this to me,” I finally say, struggling to keep my eyes open. I feel around for the Ziploc. It isn’t there. And the world is getting whiter.
It’s in my father’s hand. His face is different from what it was four days ago, before the hyacinths and the window and the stickiness. Has it been four days? “You did this to yourself, William.” He stares at the crystals in the bag, shifts it around and watches the little sparkles tumble around. “I just don’t know where you got this.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Saying eight words in one breath makes me dizzy. Next time I’ll try four.
He shakes his head. “I guess you are crazy.”
(It wasn’t just a kiss. In the shed I mean. This is what happened: I grabbed him by the neck and I kissed him. That was first. Then I took his shirt off. And he took off mine. And I lowered myself—I got down on my knees—and I unbuttoned his jeans and pulled down his boxers and I sucked and sucked and sucked until he was moaning. And I pulled back and whispered, “I love you.” And then he freaked out. He called me crazy and told me to leave.)
Crazy crazy crazy. “I guess I am.”
My father steps quietly over the threshold into the hallway, looking diagonally back, leaving the door ajar. And the world is even whiter.
Issue #5 CONTENTS
Keeping it Necroreal
David Van Gough
The Quick and the Dead
The Potters' Field
Shed Shed Shed
Rachel Ann Girty
The Shivering Girls
The Monarch of the Sill Shenoa Carroll-Bradd
The Puzzle Box
Pink Afternoon, Reconstruction
Reflections of a Pissed Off Killown
Rachel Ann Girty is a singer and writer from Southfield, Michigan. She has performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Northwestern University Opera Theatre, and the Castleton Festival. She works as poetry editor for Helicon magazine. Her work has appeared in Sixfold magazine, Perfume River Poetry Review, and Imagine This! An Artprize Anthology.