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       I pressed the pillow down harder over my face, knowing that if I kept it there long enough the ringing would stop. All sound would go away, and I’d finally be left in blissful, silent peace.

The sound stopped sooner than I thought it would, so I took a risk and removed the pillow to investigate. As soon as I did the infernal ringing was replaced with even louder knocking. And yelling.

“Open up, Kel! I know you’re home-you don’t have a life outside of me!”

It was Loretta: I’d thought it might be. She was right-outside of her my life was pretty dull. I opened the door. Loretta was standing proudly beside a large package addressed to my dad. She beamed at me.

“I signed for it. What is it?”

“Who knows,” I grumbled. “Probably something that will improve our lives through innovation, or some crap like that. Help me get it inside.”

“Nice doorbell by the way,” she said, picking up one end of the box.

“Hah. Right. My birthday present.” My father had been quite proud of that one. The doorbell played “Shave and a Haircut”-who knows why my father thought that would be a good present for his son’s sixteenth birthday. It was truly an homage to my father’s recent insanity.

“I signed it ‘Loretta Shannon’,” Loretta trilled as I slashed at the box with a box cutter. “Just like if we were married! Isn’t that a pretty name?”

I winced. Loretta loved to joke about us getting married, but the thought of losing me to anyone really scared my father. He once overheard Loretta talking about “our wedding”. I heard him gasp and the door slam. That night he came home late, his arms weighed down with shopping bags and packages. When I looked through them the next morning I couldn’t find a single object I understood the purpose of-some of them looked almost obscene. I did my best to keep Loretta quiet on the subject after that.

“It’s beautiful,” I sighed. “Problem is, so is ‘Kelley Shannon’ and it’s not as though I ever wanted a pretty name.” It had taken weeks to get my teachers and friends used to the idea of calling me Kel. My father still insisted on Kelley though, and I never argued with him about it. It was my mother’s maiden name and one of the few memories he had of her.

I pulled the box open and pawed through the foam packing peanuts trying to find whatever gadget my father had ordered this time. Loretta watched me from the couch, occasionally leaning forward to pluck a peanut off my hair. I finally found the thing swathed in bubble wrap and pulled it out of the box to unwrap it. It turned out to be a large clock shaped like Elvis’ head. The brightly colored instructional booklet that came with it proclaimed it to be the “King Klok Radio” and boasted that it could be “Programmed to Play Your Favorite Elvis Hits at the Top of the Hour!”

“Weird,” Loretta murmured, reading over my shoulder.

I nodded. Over the years the gadgets that my father bought became weirder and more obscure the closer it drew to the anniversary of my mother’s death. She had made a hobby out of collecting small trinkets from the places she’d visited.  After she died my father continued that hobby (to honor her, he said) by purchasing odd gizmos and machines. Usually they were what he called “life improving” and were at least useful in their bizarreness: a blender that was also a toaster; a lawnmower that watered the grass; and the doorbell, which was supposed to brighten my day with the coming of each new visitor. Normally when the calendar threatened to betray him with the reminder of my mother’s death, things like the Elvis clock started to appear in the mail. But that was several months off now. Something else must have been bothering him.

I put the clock on the coffee table and solemnly started to replace the peanuts in their box. Loretta had become accustomed to my father’s habits and could see the signs as well as I could. She put her hand on my shoulder.

“Something’s wrong, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I mumbled. “I’d better talk to him.”

Loretta nodded. “I’d better go then,” she said, leaning over to kiss me on the cheek. She stood up and I listened to her footsteps cross the hardwood floor. The door creaked open, followed by the slam of the screen that couldn’t be bothered to close quietly. I sat there staring at the sickly white packing peanuts, wishing I could become one. Packing peanuts didn’t have problems like this. They seldom had problems at all, save perhaps the fear that they might get broken into tiny bits and strewn about the room by a child who has discovered the joys of packing material, and even then they could take comfort in the fact that the bubble wrap was in for a worse fate. My reverie was finally broken by a grinding roar coming from the front yard. I glanced out the window: my father was home from work and had picked up yet another new toy. Two in one day? This called for an explanation.

I got up and opened the door. I was forced to cup my hands over my ears against the waves of sound issuing from my father’s latest gadget: a hand-held leaf blower. Orange and yellow leaves twirled and spun in the man-made hurricane. I’d thought the point was to organize the leaves in some way, but the figure of autumnal carnage in our front yard apparently had different ideas.

“Dad!” I strained to be heard over the roaring machine. “Dad I need to talk to you!”

My father instantly mistook my hoarse yelling and frantic gestures for praise, but at least this meant he had to turn off the leaf blower. It purred to silence as the torrent of leaves subsided.

“Great piece of machinery, ain’t it son?” he yelled, still wearing his protective earmuffs. “Only fifty-nine ninety-five over at Jenkins’! And she’s real powerful!” He revved the great piece of machinery’s engine, proving to those parts of suburban Alberton that might have been in a coma just how powerful “she” was.

“That’s real nice, Dad,” I lied, “but do we really need a leaf blower? What about that power rake you bought last month? You said it would solve all our yard debris problems for good.”

“So will this!” he said, removing his earmuffs. “But this also takes care of all sidewalk and driveway debris as well! I tell ya, Kelley, it’s the solution to all our problems…” his voice trailed off.

I sighed. It would have been nice if that were really true; if he had actually come home with some miracle invention that would bring my mom back, or at least allow my dad to let go of her. Every thing he brought home was guaranteed to solve some sort of problem-the clock now sitting on the coffee table probably proclaimed an ability to solve all your rock ‘n roll timekeeping needs. But he never managed to find the one thing that would solve our only real problem.

I walked over to him and took the leaf blower out of his hands, setting it down on the porch. He smiled sadly at me. “Halloween is coming up,” he said. “I thought I’d get the yard cleared off so we could have a nice display this year.” I nodded. Halloween had been my mother’s favorite holiday. Every year she’d set up an array of intricately carved jack-o-lanterns and styrafoam tombstones in our front yard. She loved dressing up, and took a lot of pride in the costumes she made for my dad and me. Her costume never changed; she was always Mother Nature. One year she’d gotten my dad into the act by making him Father Time. When I’d told her I wanted to be Spiderman for Halloween that year I’d worried she’d be upset that it didn’t fit the theme, but she’d just smiled and said it was perfect: Mother Nature, Father Time and Pop Culture. “We’ll be the perfect family!” she’d said.  
My father stared at the chilly gray sky. “I was cleaning out the attic this morning and I came across a box of her costumes,” he said. After she died my mother’s family had
stripped the house of almost everything she’d owned-it was amazing the costumes were still there. They were possibly the only things we had left that had been truly hers.
My father suddenly turned and looked hard at me, as though he were studying my every move. “I saw Loretta on my way home. She said she’d just come from our house.”
I stifled a groan. Along with his fear of me marrying Loretta and leaving him alone forever, my father had developed strange ideas about what Loretta and I did when we were alone together.

“She signed for a package. An Elvis clock-radio thing.”

“Your Christmas present! That was supposed to be a surprise!” His voice turned stern, “Really, Loretta ought to learn not to open other people’s mail.”

“I opened it!” I snapped. “I wanted to make sure you were ok. You’ve gotta learn, Dad, Loretta isn’t some evil creature trying to steal me away.”

“But you were talking about marriage!” He flung his arms in the air. “I mean, what am I supposed to think? You’ve only just turned sixteen, Kelley. You’re really far too young to be thinking about getting married!”

“We’re not!” I was yelling now. “It’s all just a joke! Loretta doesn’t want to get married-she can’t even commit to owning a pet goldfish!” (She’d gone through three of them before deciding they were just too much trouble to take care of.) “She just jokes about it because she knows it bothers me.”

“It bothers you?” His expression softened.

“Well yeah. I don’t want to get married. Not for a while anyway. I always thought it was really neat the way Mom traveled around so much. I want to try that before I settle down. Maybe get a car and just drive, see where I end up. But you’ve gotta understand, Dad, no matter where I go, and whether or not I do get married, it doesn’t mean I’ve left you. I’m still your son, no matter what. Not even Loretta: Demon of Temptation can take that fact away.”

He smiled. We took the leaf blower and stashed it in the shed-it stayed there for a month before we finally took it out again and sold it at a garage sale, along with most of the other gadgets. I gave the King Klok to Loretta for Christmas, figuring the surprise had already been spoiled for me. She laughed when she opened it. She hung it on her wall, and it was still hanging there two years later when I kissed her goodbye before leaving for a yearlong, cross-country road trip in a junky old Chevy Cavalier my dad bought for me. It didn’t do anything special-in fact it often didn’t do a lot of the things a regular car is supposed to do. Like start. But it was perfect for the trip I had in mind. My father didn’t say much when I left. But he did make me promise to send him a souvenir from every place I stopped.
My short story. I'm pretty proud of this. No dragons or anything. Just a little bit of insanity.

The ending still bothers me, but it's the best it's been so far. *shrugs*

And so ends Linnie's string of writing.

I hope you all haven't been scarred for life.

p.s. It's a foam packing peanut, in case you were wondering.
Add a Comment:
Blueturtle420 Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2008
Wow.....just wow. I could actually see the whole story unfold in my mind. Great work!!
cozmictwinkie Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2008
Cool! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on it. :3
Winstons101 Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2007
I'm fairly new to the Deviant site, and I've just written a few bits of fiction down. I aspire to writing stories like this, loved the humour.

Nice job
cozmictwinkie Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2007
Thank you! ^^
spiritofcat Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2003  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow! I dunno if I'm just a sucker for stories or what, but I like this story, I could really get a good sense of the characters, and get picked up and swept along with the story. Great work!
midgy Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2003
Fabulous! Don't stop submitting the writing--you're great at it!!
(I like the mention of the Chevy Cavalier ;) )
cozmictwinkie Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2003
lol me too...I was thinkin, ok I need the name of some crappy old car. Ah hah! The cavalier! XD
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