He was standing at the edge of Fulsom Park, a semi-public woodlands situated on a bluff above the city, which lay in a valley and lined the banks of the meandering Wetford river. In the distance he could make out the lights of Sea Dragons stadium, a brand new structure which was rumored to be mysteriously haunted. It marked the northern end of the city. Closer to him, the half dozen or so tallish buildings which boasted downtown. Even closer, the old abandoned waterfront, relic of the city's early trading days.
Dave turned his attention to that neighborhood. He felt drawn toward it and began to walk down the hillside, keeping off the main park road, cutting through the rocky ridge instead, remembering vaguely the stories about wolves and their secret caves thereabouts. He felt nothing. No fear. No fatigue. No cold. He just kept walking and soon he was entering the city through the narrow alleys and side streets that surrounded the old harbor. He saw no one and was pretty sure that no one saw him either.
Along the edge of the river he came across a narrow road and turned into it. At the end he stopped before an old bungalow and considered it. It was dark inside, but as it was still before dawn, that was no surprise. He studied its peeling white paint and the concrete steps that led to the front door. As if by magnet he felt himself pulled into the lawn and up those stairs, and then he heard his hand on the door, pounding on it steadily in a slow persistent rhythm. After a few minutes, the door swung open, and a grumpy old man stood before him, rubbing his eyes.
The man looked very familiar, with his buzz cut, his long brown face, that pencil mustache, the ubiquitous Hawaiian shirt. He felt he had come to this house and knocked on its door for a good reason, though he didn't know more than that. He tried to make a smile in greeting but his face was frozen, its features wouldn't move. For the first time, he felt a little troubled. He was unable to do what he wanted to do.
The man yawned and scratched his head a bit, then said,
"Davey. What are you doing here?"
He found he couldn't speak. He had no breath to push the sounds through his mouth. It was puzzling. He had some words in his mind but they wouldn't come out.
"And so damn early too", the man said. "Well, come on in if you're coming", and he turned away and Dave saw the man's slippers carry him into the house. He followed. The man's path led into the kitchen, where he began to fumble around with a coffee maker, while gesturing for Dave to sit down. He did.
"Nothing to say?" the man asked. "Or maybe you're in one of your moods?" he chuckled to himself. When he turned to look to see the effect of these words on his visitor, he saw Dave's head suddenly lurch to the left, and then, with great effort, slowly pull back to the right. It was the best he could do. The man didn't seem to notice his difficulty, but turned back towards his preparations. For the next few minutes, Dave sat there motionless while the old man made the coffee.
It wasn't until he'd poured the cups and came to sit down that the man seemed to really be aware of Dave. What he noticed was the smell.
"Phew!" he blurted out and, gagging, backed away, spilling some of the hot liquid on his arm and cursing about that.
"You stink, man!" he continued. "I mean, really. Ever take a bath or anything? Where've you been?"
Again, there was no answer from his guest, who tried to shrug or make any expression with his face to indicate some kind of communication. The fact was, he didn't know that he smelled bad. He wasn't smelling anything, even the drink in front of him.
"Got to clean you up", the man said. "Your old Uncle Ray can't deal with that stench, not this early at least". He tried to laugh it off, then he sat himself down at the far end of the table, and looked more intently at his nephew.
YOU ARE READING
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