Outside looking In

Eli glanced over at the picture frame for the last time, before heading out to the student's parking area.  He was completely alone, and his truck was the only remaining vehicle left in the lot.  He held up it's keys, and pressed the button that disarms the theft system.  The headlamps flashed, twice.  The playing field was empty, except for the maintenance worker riding the tractor. who was, busy trimming the grass.  The smell of freshly cut grass filled the air.  Eli took a moment to re-live some of his best moments on that field.  A flash of light distracted him, bringing him back from his memories. He surveyed the landscape, and tried to locate the source.  On the sidelines, stood a fiqure of a person, wearing a school football jersey. "Where did you come from?" Eli wondered. "You weren't there a minute ago?" Eli dismissed it, then looked away.  A flash of light twinkled once more. Eli glanced up and looked through the truck's cab, across the field.  Who ever it was that had been standing on the sidelines, was gone.  Eli soon realized the light was reflecting off of the tractor's metallic fenders. Eli jumped into his truck and turned the engine on. He reached over into the glove box, shuffled through it, and closed it. He glanced up at the passenger window and saw Melvin  standing outside of the window, looking down at him. He was wearing his team jersey. The one he was wearing in the picture. Only now, the numbers were different. In bold, red letter was the number, "Zero"   and on the back of his jersey, instead of reading, "Ross" it read, "Coward."  Eli jumped back into the driver's seat, his back pressed against the door, as he stared back at this ghastly site, in disbelief.  "You did this to me!" Melvin yelled through the glass.  The hole where the bullet entered, began bleeding out.  "You did it to yourself!" Eli shouted back at him. "You pulled the trigger!...You made that choice!..Not Me, Man!" Melvin slammed his opened hands into the glass. " You dammed me!..You and that devil of yours!" Melvin screamed back to  him. "What devil?...What devil?" Eli screamed back. "Are you alright, Son?" the maintanence worker tapped on the passenger window. "Eli James? Right?...You alright in there?" he asked again.

Eli was confused and starred back at the man, with a blank look on his face.  "I said, Are you alright in there, Son?" he repeated. "Yeah?...Yeah?...I'm alright!" Eli put the truck's transmission into drive and sped off, checking his rear mirror as exited the lot.  "What's going on?...Dam it!....Your falling to pieces, Eli!...Get a handle on things!" he shouted.  He continued down the mountain road at a high-rate of speed, trying to put as many miles between him and school. "Slow down, Man!..Way down!" he said to himself, as he gentle eased up on the gas petal, and pulled off of the main road, and onto a dirt clearing, that trucker's used to turn-around.  He squeezed his eyes tightly, and saw Melvin's image reappear from a past memory. It startled him. "No!...No!..No!..I had nothing to do with his death!....I killed those bastards!..Not You!...Where ever you are?....I did that for us!...I did what you could never do!...and because you couldn't handle it....you threw away everything, we'd ever talked about!...Do you hear me you Bastard?...You threw it all away!...Do you have any idea, How much risk was involved on my part?...Do you?....What if I got caught?.....What I did! I did for you!...You stupid little boy!...and Now!...Now, You blame me because you've been banished from Heaven for committing suicide!...Me!...Your blaming Me! Eli screamed so loudly, inside of the truck's cab, he'd injured his vocal chords, causing them to become, 'horse. Eli soon realized that he was doing battle with his own, "demons." Melvin's apparition was appearing before him, as a result of his decision to carry out his wicked plans, in front of him. Not, everyone is  a natural-born killer. It can't be easy to watch what he had, and walk away, unchanged by it. There it was again, "Guilt!" Like an uninvited dinner guest that shows up at the most inopportune time.  Like that maintenance man showing up. He has a tendency to be loose with information about what he observes on the grounds.  What if he starts talking about what he'd seen Eli doing in his truck?

"What ya going do?... Kill him too!" Eli heard that same voice he had that morning he killed the Wanes.  "What?..What?.." Eli jumped around the cab, waiting for "Melvin's Demon" to finally surface.

"Screw this!" he reached over, cranked up the radio to drown out his own thoughts, then headed towards home.

Eli's father was outside of the property line, fixing a broken post on the mailbox. Eli pulled up slowly next to him, and let down the window. "Oh, Hey Eli!..Can you give me hand here?" he asked. "Sure, Dad!" he said, as his voice pitched high, then disappeared. "What happened to your voice?" Eli shrugged his shoulders up, and shook his head, as he played it off. "Here, Hold that box still, while I bolt it down." he directed. Eli held onto the metal container, as his father twisted and turned the wrench.  "Some moron drove by here on a dirtbike and slammed into it!" he said, as he struggled with the angle of the bolt. "Dirtbike?....Nobody uses those trails anymore!..Not since, Well, you know...they died." Eli tried to question his father about the person on the dirtbike, but was unable to speak. "Yeah, I know that!...It just came out of nowhere.  If you can believe that!...One minute, I'm standing on the porch, listening to nothing. Then out of somewhere? This dirtbike starts buzzing up from the trails. I could hear this idiot laughing his head off, as he got closer. Then the bastard slid into the mailbox, purposely!....Don't tell your mother about this?...She'll think I started drinking again.!"  Eli shook his head in agreement with his father's request. Eli eyes closely looked around the farm,as he stood there with his father, wondering what was going to happen next. "Go on inside, Eli.  We're done here." his father said. "Want a ride back?" Eli said, in a whisper.  He laughed, and shook his head, "No, Go on'...I'll be fine." 

Baron came out of the barn when he heard Eli's truck pull in, and sat down waiting for him to call to him. Eli let out a faint whistle. Baron came out of the doorway, in his usual manner. He tapped danced around the young man, waiting for him to throw his chew toy around, or engage him in a friendly game of tug-of-war with his rope. Eli did neither.  He walked quietly towards the house with Baron by his side.  He kicked off the dirt that had gotten trapped in between the pattern of his boots, then sat down on the metal bench in the mudroom.  "Eli!... Is that you?.. Honey?...Don't let that dirty dog in the house today. I just washed that floor. Can you give him a bath sometime this weekend?" Eli's mother had always been a superb housekeeper. She kept the house in great shape, despite the aging floors and foundation.  She had a way of folding his laundry, just right and placed them into his laundry basket outside of his door.  That's as far as she took them. The rest was up to me, she said. "Eli?...Honey!..Did you hear me?" her voice became louder as she entered the kitchen. Eli raised his hand in greeting and whispered back. "Yes!...I did...Give Baron a bath."  "How did you lose your voice, Eli?..Are your allergies acting up?" she asked. Eli nodded. "Oh, Come here, My darling son." she reached out her arms and embraced him a loving hug. Eli hugged her back. She pulled away from him and made a joke. "Say Ahh!" she placed the pill, she'd gotten out of the medicine cabinet and placed it onto his tongue, and handed him a glass of tap water. Eli took the pill, even though, he knew that his allergies were not the cause of his loss of speech. 

He reached over and removed the lid from the Dutch oven pot that was simmering on the stove.  An aromatic flavor of Hunter's stew, was released into the air, in the form of hot steam. Eli looked over towards his mother. "Is it ready?" he whispered. "Sure is!" she said, in her usual bubbily manner. "Go sit down. I'll fix you a bowl." she added. "Did you happen to see your father, when you drove in?"  she asks, while she reached into the over-head cabinets for the cermanic bowls.  Eli shook his head. "Yes. He's getting the mail out of the box." "The mail?...Now? she questioned Eli's response.  "He better not be smoking cigarettes again!..He always goes out to the road on foot when he tries to sneak a ciggy!..Did you see him smoking, Eli?..she stared at her son for any indication, that he'd been asked not to reveal what he'd seen his father doing. "No Way!..He wasn't smoking?..I didn't even know he did that?" Eli seemed surprised to hear this about his dad.  The back door swung open and dad stepped through it's frame and into the mud room. "Smells good in there, Mother!...Got some for me?"  he joked. Baron had pushed his way past his father's long-legs and tried to curl up onto his rug in front of the fireplace. "Oh, No, not today Baron." Mother cried out.  She grabbed the poor creature by his collar and led him out the back door. "Why'd you let him, Harold? she scolded her husband. "What?...he pushed passed me? Ease up on me woman!" he joked. Eli's mother placed a gentle kiss on his father's cheek. She did this not out of guilt for having scolded him, but to smell his clothes for any trace of cigarette smoke.

"Not in front of the boy, June bug!" Eli's father smiled back at her. "Take off those dirty over-alls before you come into my kitchen." she ordered. "Yes, Ma'am" Dad replied. "Hey, Eli?...What's this I hear about you goin' to New York City with that rich boy, Porter?" he blurted out loud. "New York City?..Oh, No your not!" Eli's mother interupted.  Eli took a long drink of his tap water before answering. "How did you know about that?" Eli queried. "Well, there's a message on the machine from,...Now, What was his name?...Oh, ..  Mr. Jonathan Round, Esq....Hey, Mother..reach over there and play that message for Eli. 

"Greetings Mr and Mrs. James, My name is Jonathan Round, Esq. I'd like to invite Young Eli to our home in New York City, with your permission, Of course, to celebrate the exciting news from Notre Dame College. You and your wife are welcome to join us, if you'd like. Please do not concern yourself with any costs to cover your expenses, My wife, Lorainne and I have taken care of all of the lodging arrangements and entertainment expenses. We look forward to meeting you both and honoring our son's good fortune. Please contact my secretary, Terry at the following number to RSVP. END MESSAGE.  "Now, you know me and your mother won't be goin' and neither will you." his father said sternly. "Eli, I have to agree with your dad. I know that you can take care of yourself and your becoming a man...Now, I'm not saying that this invitation is wrong..but we've never even met Porter's parents. Now, that was a very generous offer, but I'm afraid it's inapproapriate for you to accept." she said. "Your ma's right." Eli's father said, as he pushed his bread around the bowl.  "I didn't accept the offer this afternoon, when Porter asked me. I told him I needed to check with you both first, and see if Dad needed any help with the farm this weekend." Eli said. "Good Man, Eli. I'm proud of you!..Mother, You did a fine job raising our son. Now, While I have my mug raised, pour me some of that coffee, you just made!"  he poked fun at her.  They had a good marriage. Although, before dad stopped drinking, they almost didn't make it.  Marriage was for life, and the only way a country gal like mom would every think about breaking such a sarced vow, is if her husband became very abusive towards her and her children. Which, he did. I was too young to remember any of it, but it happened.  Dad's brother, told me before he passed. I don't know why at the time. He just sat me down and began telling me about the time my mother walked all the way to Hendersonville pulling me behind her, in a red wagon.  I always had such great memories about that wagon, but after he told me the story about my mother pulling me nearly 50 miles inside of it, along with some groceries and a few outfits to wear, again and again. I never looked at that wagon or my father, the same way. He'd lost all of his earnings in a game of dice, came home broke and drunk and when she left, he shot at me and her. She picked up one of those rocks, on the side of the road, put into her wrist rocket and knocked dad out cold. He never raised a hand to her again or picked up another bottle of whiskey again. That's why he kept the Buick out back, He was afraid of her. They got past all of those rough patches, and worked it out. Dad loves Mom something awful, and she adores him.  Now, their like two high school sweethearts, everyday!

"May I be excused from the table, folks?...I'd like to shower." Eli politely asked, as he always had. "Sure...Sure..go on now."  Eli could hear them talking about how proud they are of him to each other and what proud parents they were to have a son like Eli. He stopped on the stairs as they continued to talk. Mother began crying and Dad reached out his strong arms for his wife to embrace him. A lump formed in Eli's throat, as he fought back his own tears. Tears of sadness. He had them all fooled. Inside, he was as cold as steel with the heart as black as night. He hated himself at that moment. He wanted to tear away from his own skin. It was back. That feeling, again. "Guilt" manifesting itself in as many ways as possible, just so Eli would stop dilluting himself about who he really was. He wasn't some rising young athlete. He was a killer disquised as person.


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