By O. Lucio d’Arc
THE NEXT DAY dear-old Dad is torched, Carole is given an urn of ashes – so small – and she goes to Dad’s house looking for his will.
The place is clean. As in cleaned out.
Rhowna left a note on the table by the door.
“Here’s the safety deposit box key.”
Nothing else. Nothing about the furnishings being moved to whereabouts unknown.
Carole doesn’t care. The only thing from that junky house she ever wanted was this little silver pony she had won on the boardwalk in Atlantic City when she was 8, and she took that West with her when she left. It’s safe as any equine can be, on her bedside table back in San Francisco. She hopes.
Rustlers are everywhere.
The key is for a box at the Merchants Bank downtown, which – for good or bad – has been turned into a bourbon bar.
But they still have a branch office in next-door Allentown – thank you again, Billy Joel – so Carole heads there with Scott Free in an Uber.
She shows a tall guy at the bank the key, fishing it out of the back pocket of her jeans. Yes, the box is there, the guy tells them after checking a computer file, his eyes bulging with practiced stupidity.
The bank bumbler unsmilingly takes her and Scott Free down to the safety deposit room, where he takes the box out of the wall with his key, sets it down on a table and leaves.
She opens it with her key. Inside are three investment bonds for the New Jersey Zinc Co., an operation that had drilled and mined and riddled the hills outside Bethlehem, but had struck out and blown away decades ago.
There is also a ragged journal, in her dad’s cramped, illiterate handwriting. Carole flips through it, then puts it – and the bonds – in her shoulder bag, and they get up and leave.
BACK AT THE DOLDRUMS, Diz and Scott Free and Carole sit down to an over-stuffed bong in the living room, ready to kick back and relax, and make plans to return to the coast, when there is a cat-like scream from upstairs.
They don’t recognize who it is. Diz says it sounds like Cher, who she has heard sing on occasion. The karaoke bar crowd calls Cher behind her back Ophelia Payne.
But she doesn’t know that.
Everybody that is home rushes to the top of the stairs. Cher is slumped on the floor, sobbing, in the doorway of Thom Fole’s room. They are all crowded in the doorway, craning to look in.
All Thom Fole’s Zeppelin and Star Wars and Lady Gaga posters are crumpled on the floor.
Written on the wall in a red scrawl is:
“When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”
Underneath it is written, “L’insegnante.”
What the fuck.
“What’s the last word mean?” someone asks.
“The Teacher,” says Bugs. “I took a year of Italian in college. Twice.”
Magnum wanders in last, looks around, closes his eyes and says:
“Theophobia is when
the stillness in the forest
answers your moon
with a moan of its own.”
And he walks back down the hall to his room under the stairs.
Oreste P. D’Arconte, who writes fiction under the name O. Lucio d’Arc, is a retired newspaper publisher and a weekly newspaper columnist. His short stories have appeared in the Murder Inc. trilogy of anthologies and he has had his poetry published in several literary magazines. A resident of Attleboro, Mass., he also wrote a hardback history of the Attleboro YMCA in 2017.