As relief from reading Journal of a Plague Year, Station Eleven, and The Plague, the board of EPIC Group Writers penned a serial novel for your entertainment. Since each author could only see the immediately preceding chapter, there are numerous plot twists and wild goose chases. Fortunately the “instigator,” Diane Naab, was able to pull the whole novella together after it veered wildly off course from the original story. Enjoy!
Jason stopped in his tracks. “What’s the way? What do I have to do to cure my Mom?”
Uncle Bill looked at Aunt Ruby “Should I tell?”
Ruby shook her head. “Too risky. I don’t want to see the little bugger die. Don’t care much for his mum anyway.”
Jason couldn’t hear her exact words but saw her negative thoughts first bouncing around her brain before they came out of her mouth. He must have “special powers” like Uncle Bill said. But uncle didn’t know the extent. Nor did he. Time to try them out a little at a time.
Just then Rusty padded into the kitchen, his toe nails clicking on the worn linoleum floor. When he saw that no one was paying attention, he grabbed Bill’s half-eaten pork chop right off his plate and ran out the open back door to enjoy his meal under the porch swing.
“Damn dog!” Bill turned away from Ruby and Jason to follow the dog. Jason could feel that his uncle would try to recover the pork chop just to punish the dog. Jason, followed by Ruby, rushed to the porch to watch the contest and who would win.
“Owwwww.” Bill was looking at his right hand which had neat dents from canine teeth. But the dog couldn’t eat the chop and bite Bill at the same time, so he made the mistake of dropping the chop. Bill made a dive with his left hand to retrieve the meat. Rusty, knowing he’d lost this round, slunk off past the clothes hanger, which was whirling in the desert wind, turning the snapping sheets a sand-colored tint.
Jason thought how scratchy they’d be when he climbed in bed tonight. He put his special powers to work: the twin sheet for his bed turned white; those for the double bed absorbed the extra grit.
Bill triumphantly carried the slobbered-over chop to the garbage can under the sink. At least he had some power over the dog. But why did Jason inherit special powers from his father and probably his grandfather, the old coot, and he was left out? Maybe Ruby could help him muddle his way toward and answer.
Jason went off to work on his model airplanes while Bill flopped in his worn Barcalounger. He flipped the switch for a massage. Ruby gave him the side-eye. He knew it was because of Rusty. She loved the dog. Probably more than she loved him if he thought about it honestly. He got up for a beer, popped the can open, and found the remote.
The program was some religious thing where a woman with loads of blond hair, blue eyeliner, and a ton of jewelry was raising her arms in hallelujah for all the donations that were pouring in from the toll-free number crawling across the screen. Maybe he should donate and then be rewarded with a fleet of fancy cars and a jet. But right now, what he really needed was a way to talk to Ruby.
“Ruby, Rubeee. Comm’ere darlin.”
Ruby came to perch on an arm of the still-vibrating chair. “Turn that damn thing off will you. I can’t think.”
“Well, that makes two of us. Sorry about Rusty. I know you love him, but he ain’t got a right to snatch food. Anyway, we’ve got other fish to fry.”
That reminded Ruby she needed to get out the frozen catfish for tomorrow’s dinner. “So you want to tell Jason about what his real special powers are? Not the dumb stuff he pulled over the laundry when he thought I wasn’t looking. I dunno know about telling him more. Anyway, you know all about it, seen it in action and I’m only an onlooker. Shame about Jason’s dad. What do you really know?”
“Only that he tried to cure Emily but instead she got worse and he didn’t make it.”
“Maybe that’s just a coincidence. Maybe it’s contagious like some of the viruses going around.”
“Don’t think so. At least the doc said it was just one of those things that happen. Usually to good people.” He glanced at the TV which was still on. “Maybe if we donated some money?”
“Remember, we don’t have any money and especially not for that blonde you’re eyeing. She’s not your type.” Ruby picked up the remote and hit the OFF button. The blonde disappeared as if Jason had willed her vanishing.
Bill sighed. He was sorry to see her go but to be honest, Ruby was more his type just like she said. Plump and good on cold nights but bad in the hot summers. Maybe someday they could get a king bed for seasonal use. Maybe Jason could use his special powers. On the other hand, maybe there was a limited amount, like the frog pond in the back forty that went dry late spring and if Jason used it all up there for sure wouldn’t be any way to save his mother. But like he told the kid, it didn’t work with blood relatives. Or was that just an old wives tale, like something Ruby dreamed up.
Maybe he and Jason could find some way to test the theory, go up to Alaska to try.
“Jason. Hey, come on into the living room. I have an idea.” Bill turned on the massage function on his lounger again. It helped him think.
Jason didn’t appear. Bill repeated his call, adding, “I mean NOW!” There was no response.
Bill heaved himself out of the recliner. Ruby followed him into Jason’s bedroom. A newly-completed model airplane, a Spitfire, dangled on a piece of fishing line tied to a hook in the ceiling but there was no sign of Jason.
They went out into the yard to see if he was playing with the dog. There was Rusty worrying the remains of the pork chop he’d managed to reclaim. No sign of Jason.