The girl next door jack ketchum pdf

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A teenage girl is held captive and brutally tortured by neighborhood children. Based on a true story, this shocking novel reveals the depravity of which we are all. The Girl Next Door is a crime novel by American writer Jack Ketchum in It is about two . Print/export. Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version. Books Download The Girl Next Door [PDF] by Jack Ketchum Online for Free " Click Visit button" to access full FREE ebook.

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We all bore the scars somewhere. She turned in the doorway and smiled and waved to me, as water cascaded down the eaves. Personally I'd pretty much quit the comics since the Comic Code came in in '54 and you couldn't get Web of Mystery anymore. There isn't anybody else. I guess he enjoyed the feel of it though I couldn't see how he'd like the greasy waxed part up front.

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In reality, the email address details are quite similar. It was important to me that I not make an ass of myself over this. It was important to me that I not make an ass of myself in Meg's eyes period. I wondered about Susan too. In nearly two weeks I'd never seen her. That ran contrary to everything I knew. How could you live next door to someone and never see her?

I thought about her legs and Donny saying her scars were really bad to look at. Maybe she was afraid to go out. I could relate to that. I'd been spending a lot of time indoors myself these days, avoiding her sister. It couldn't last though.

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It was the first week of June by then, time for the Kiwanis Karnival. To miss the Karnival was like missing summer. Directly across from us not half a block away was an old six-room schoolhouse called Central School where we all used to go as little kids, grades one through five. They held the Karnival there on the playground every year. Ever since we were old enough to be allowed to cross the street we'd go over and watch them set up. For that one week, being that close, we were the luckiest kids in town.

Only the concessions were run by the Kiwanis-the food stands, the game booths, the wheels of fortune. The rides were all handled by a professional touring company and run by carnies. To us the carnies were exotic as hell. Roughlooking men and women who worked with Camels stuck between their teeth, squinting against the smoke curling into their eyes, sporting tattoos and calluses and scars and smelling of grease and old sweat.

They cursed, they drank Schlitz as they worked. Like us, they were not opposed to spitting lungers in the dirt. We loved the Karnival and we loved the carnies. You had to. In a single summer afternoon they would take our playground and transform it from a pair of baseball diamonds, a blacktop, and a soccer field into a brand-new city of canvas and whirling steel.

They did it so fast you could hardly believe your eyes. It was magic, and the magicians all had gold-tooth smiles and "I love Velma" etched into their biceps. It was still pretty early and when I walked over they were still unpacking the trucks. This was when you couldn't talk to them.

They were too busy. Later while they were setting up or testing the machinery you could hand them tools, maybe even get a sip of beer out of them. The local kids were their bread and butter after all. They wanted you to come back that night with friends and family and they were usually friendly. But now you just had to watch and keep out of the way. Cheryl and Denise were already there, leaning on the backstop fence behind home plate and staring through the links. I stood with them. Things seemed tense to me.

You could see why. It was only morning but the sky looked dark and threatening. Once, a few years ago, it had rained every night of the Karnival except Thursday. Everybody took a beating when that happened. The grips and carnies worked grimly now, in silence. Cheryl and Denise lived up the street across from one another.

They didn't have much in common. Cheryl was a tall skinny brunette who would probably be pretty a few years later but now she was all arms and. She had two brothers-Kenny and Malcolm. Malcolm was just a little kid who sometimes played with Woofer. Kenny was almost my age but a year behind me in school.

All three kids were very quiet and well-behaved. Their parents, the Robertsons, took no shit but I doubt that by nature they were disposed to give any. Denise was Eddie's sister. Another type entirely. Denise was edgy, nervous, almost as reckless as her brother, with a. As though all the world were a bad joke and she was the only one around who knew the punchline.

And there was the mockery, just pronouncing my name. I didn't like it but I ignored it. That was the way to handle Denise. If she got no rise she got no payoff and it made her more normal eventually. Denise said, "I think that's the Tilt-a-Whirl there. Last year that's where they put the Octopus. See those platforms? She was right. When the cars came out it was the Tilta-Whirl. Like her father and her brother Eddie, Denise was good at mechanical things, good with tools.

It was very exaggerated. I smiled. That's where they had it last year and the year before. Want to see? We skirted the Tilt-a-Whirl and some kiddie boat rides they were unloading on the macadam, walked along the cyclone fence that separated the playground from the brook, cut through a row of tents going up for the ring-toss and bottle-throw and whatever, and came out onto the field.

The grips had just opened the doors to the truck. The painted grinning clown head on the doors was split down the middle. They started pulling out the girders. She had good white teeth and a lovely, delicate mouth. But something always went wrong with Denise's smile. There was always something manic in it. Like she really wasn't having much fun at all despite what she wanted you to think. It also disappeared too fast.

It was unnerving. I waited. I thought maybe she expected me to answer. I didn't. Instead, I looked away toward the truck. The Game, I thought. I didn't like to think about The Game. But as long as Denise and some of the others were around I supposed I'd have to. It started early last summer. A bunch of us- me, Donny, Willie, Woofer, Eddie, Tony and Lou Morino, and finally, later, Denise-used to meet back by the apple orchard to play what we called Commando.

We played it so often that soon it was just "The Game. Maybe Eddie or the Morinos. It just seemed to happen to us one day and from then on it was just there. In The Game one guy was "it". He was the Commando. His "safe" territory was the orchard. The rest of us were a platoon of soldiers bivouacked a few yards away up on a hill near the brook where, as smaller kids, we'd once played King of the Mountain. We were an odd bunch of soldiers in that we had no weapons.

We'd lost them, I guess, during some battle. Instead it was the Commando who had the weapons-apples from the orchard, as many as he could carry. In theory he also had the advantage of surprise.

Once he was ready he'd sneak from the orchard through the brush and raid our camp. With luck he could bop at least one of us with an apple before being seen. The apples were bombs.


If you got hit with an apple you were dead, you were out of the game. So the object was to hit as many guys as you could before getting caught. You got caught because, for one thing, everybody else was sitting on a fairly good-sized hill watching and waiting for you, and unless the grass was very high and you were very lucky, you had to get seen. So much for the element of surprise.

Second, it was seven against one, and you had just the single "safe" base back at the orchard yards away. So here you were firing wildly over your shoulder running like crazy back to your base with a bunch of kids like a pack of u dogs at your heels, and maybe you'd get one or two or three of them but eventually they'd get you.

And as I say, that was the point. Because the captured Commando got tied to a tree in the grove, arms tied behind his back, legs hitched together. He was gagged. He was blindfolded. And the survivors could do anything they wanted to him while the others-even the "dead" guys-looked on. Sometimes we all went easy and sometimes not.

The raid took maybe half an hour. The capture could take all day. At the very least, it was scary. Eddie, of course, got away with murder. Half the time you were afraid to capture him. He could turn on you, break the rules, and The Game would become a bloody, violent free for-all. Or if you did catch him there was always the problem of how to let him go. If you'd done anything to him he didn't like it was like setting free a swarm of bees.

Not at first. At first it was the same as always. I Everybody took turns and you got yours and I got mine except there was this girl there. But then we started pretending we had to be nice to her.

Instead of taking turns we'd let her be whatever she wanted to be. Because she was new to The Game, because she was a girl. And she started pretending to have this obsession with getting all of us before we got her.

Like it was a challenge to her. Every day was finally going to be the day she won at Commando. We knew it was impossible. She was a lousy shot for one.

Denise never won at Commando. She was twelve years old. She had curly brown-red hair and her skin was lightly freckled all over. She had the small beginnings of breasts, and thick pale prominent nipples. I thought of all that now and fixed my eyes on the truck, on the workers and the girders. But Denise wouldn't leave it alone. She knew damn well why we didn't play but she was right too in a way-what had stopped The Game was nothing more than that the weather had gotten too cold.

That and the guilt of course. She shrugged. And maybe you guys are chicken. I've got an idea, though.

Why don't you ask your brother if he's chicken. The sky was growing darker. The men certainly thought so. Along with the girders they were hauling out canvas tarps, spreading them out in the grass just in case.

They were working fast, trying to get the big wheel assembled before the downpour. I recognized one of them from last summer, a wiry blond southerner named Billy Bob or Jimmy Bob something who had handed Eddie a cigarette he asked for.

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That alone made him memorable. Now he was hammering pieces of the wheel together with a large ball-peen hammer, laughing at something the fat man said beside him. The laugh was high and sharp, almost feminine. You could hear the ping of the hammer and the trucks' gears groaning behind us, you could hear generators running and the grinding of machinery-and then a sudden staccato pop, rain falling hard into the field's dry hard-packed dirt. Cheryl and Denise were already running for the trees.

I My house was closer than theirs. I didn't really mind the rain. But it was a good excuse to get out of there for a while. Away from Denise. I just couldn't believe she wanted to talk about The Game.

You could see the rain wouldn't last. It was coming down too fast, too heavily. Maybe by the time it was over some of the other kids would be hanging around.

I could lose her. I ran past them huddled beneath the trees "Going home! Denise's hair was plastered down over her cheeks and forehead. She was smiling again. Her shirt was soaked clear through. That long bony wet arm dangling. I pretended I didn't hear. The rain was pretty loud over there in the leaves. I figured Cheryl would get over it. I kept running. Denise and Eddie, I thought. What a pair.

If anybody is ever gonna get me into trouble it'll be them. One or the other or both of them. It's got to be. Ruth was on the landing taking in the mail from her mailbox as I ran past her house.

She turned in the doorway and smiled and waved to me, as water cascaded down the eaves. I never learned what bad feeling had come between Ruth and my mother but something had when I was eight or nine.

Before that, long before Meg and Susan came along I used to sleep over nights with Donny and Willie and Woofer in the double set of bunk beds they had in their room. Willie had a habit of leaping into bed at night so he'd destroyed a few bunks over the years.

Willie was always flinging himself on something. When he was two or three, Ruth said, he'd destroyed his crib completely. The kitchen chairs were all unhinged from his sprawling. But the bunks they had in the bedroom now were tough. They'd survived.

Since whatever happened between Ruth and my mother I was allowed to stay there only infrequently. But I remember those earlier nights when we were kids. We'd cut up laughing in the dark for an hour or two whispering, giggling, spitting over the sides at whoever was on the bottom bunks and then Ruth would come in and yell and we'd go to sleep.

The nights I liked best were Karnival nights. From the open bedroom window facing the playground we could hear calliope music, screams, the whir and grind of machinery.

The sky was orange-red as though a forest fire were raging, punctuated by brighter reds and blues as the Octopus whirled just out of sight behind the trees. We knew what was out there-we had just come back from there after all, our hands still sticky from cotton candy. But somehow it was mysterious to lie listening, long past our bedtime, silent for once, envying adults and teenagers, imagining the terrors and thrills of the big rides we were too young to go on that were getting all those screams.

Until the sounds and lights slowly faded away, replaced by the laughter of strangers as they made their way back to cars all up and down our block. I swore that when I got older enough I'd be the last one to leave. And now I was standing alone at the refreshment booth eating my third hot dog of the evening and wondering what the hell to do with myself.

I'd ridden all the rides I cared to. I'd lost money at every game and wheel of fortune the place had to offer and all I had was one tiny ceramic poodle for my mother shoved in my pocket to show for it. I'd had my candy apple, my Sno-Cone and my slice of pizza. It was fun, but now there was just me. It was ten o'clock. And two hours yet to go. But Donny and Willie Jr. It was odd because Ruth was usually very big on Karnival. I thought of going across the street to see what was what but that would mean admitting I was bored and I wasn't ready to do that yet.

I decided I'd wait a while. Ten minutes later Meg arrived. I was trying my luck on number seven red and considering a second candy apple when I saw her walk slowly through the crowd, alone, wearing jeans and a bright green blouse-and suddenly I didn't feel so shy anymore.

That I didn't feel shy amazed me. Maybe by then I was ready for anything. I waited until I lost on the red again and went over. And then it was as though I was interrupting something.

She was staring up at the Ferris wheel, fascinated, brushing back a lock of long red hair with her fingers. I saw something glint on her hand as it dropped to her side. It was a pretty fast wheel. Up top the girls were squealing. She looked at me and smiled and said, "Hi, David. You could tell she'd never been on one before. Just the way she stared. What kind of life was that? I wondered. It's faster than most are.

She looked at me again, all excited. Faster than the one at Playland, anyway. Faster than Bertram's Island. Privately I agreed with her. There was a smooth easy a glide to the wheel I'd always liked, a simplicity of purpose and design that the scary rides lacked.

I couldn't have stated it then but I'd always thought the wheel was graceful, romantic. I "Want to try? What was I. The girl was older than me. Maybe as much as three years older.


I was crazy, j I tried to backtrack. Maybe I'd confuse her. If you're scared to. I don't mind. I felt the knife-point lift away from my throat. She took my hand and led me over. Somehow I bought us tickets and we stepped into a car and sat down. All I remember is the feel of her hand, warm and dry in the cool night air, the fingers slim and strong. That and my bright-red cheeks reminding me I was twelve years old on the wheel with something very much like a full grown woman.

I And then the old problem came up of what to say, while they loaded the rest of the cars and we rose to the top. I solved it by saying nothing. That seemed fine with her. She didn't seem uncomfortable at all.

Just relaxed and content to be up here looking down at the people and the whole Karnival spread around her strung with lights and up over the trees to our houses, rocking the car gently back and forth, smiling, humming a tune I didn't know. Then the wheel began turning and she laughed and I thought it was the happiest, nicest sound I'd ever heard and felt proud of myself for asking her, for making her happy and making her laugh the way she did. As I say the wheel was fast and up at the top almost completely silent, all the noise of the Karnival held down below as though enveloped there, and you plunged down into it and then back out of it again, the noise receding quickly, and at the top you were almost weightless in the cool breeze so that you wanted to hold on to the crossbar for a moment for fear of.

I looked down to her hands on the bar and that was when I saw the ring. In the moonlight it looked thin and pale. It sparkled. I made a show of enjoying the view but mostly it was her smile and the excitement in her eyes I was enjoying, the way the wind pressed and fluttered the blouse across her breasts. Then our ride was at its peak and the wheel turned faster, the airy sweeping glide at its most graceful and elegant and thrilling as I looked at her, her lovely open face rushing first through a frame of stars and then past the dark schoolhouse and then the pale brown tents of the Kiwanis, her hair blowing back and then forward over her flushed cheeks as we rose again, and I suddenly felt those first two or three years that she had lived and I hadn't like a terrible weighted irony, like a curse, and thought for a moment, it isn't fair.

I give her this but that's all and it's just not fair. The feeling passed. By the time the ride was over and we waited near the top all that was left was the pleasure at how happy she looked. And how alive. Sometimes you forget and it's as though they're on vacation or something and you think, gee, I wish they'd call. You miss them.

You forget they're really gone. You forget the past six months even happened. Isn't that weird? Isn't that crazy?

Then you catch yourself.. And they're always still alive in my dreams. We're happy. She smiled and shook her head. We were on the downside now, moving, only five or six cars ahead of us. I saw the next group waiting to get on. I looked down over the bar and noticed Meg's ring again.

She saw me looking. I'm not going to lose it. I'd never lose it. The wheel moved down again. Only two more cars to go. Time moved dreamlike for me, but even at that it moved too quickly. I hated to see it end. Not like home. Not the way it was. Ruth's kind of But I think she means well. Though the comment about Ruth confused me. I remembered the reserve in her voice, the coldness that first day by the brook.

We'd reached the bottom now. One of the carnies lifted the crossbar and held the car steady with his foot. I hardly noticed him. We stepped out.

She said it almost in a whisper, like maybe she expected somebody to hear and then report to someone else-and as though we were confidants, equals, coconspirators. In his day Willie Chandler Sr. Handy and a little paranoid. It was a room within a room, eight by ten feet wide and six feet high, modeled strictly according to government specifications.

You went down the stairs from their kitchen, walked past the paint cans stacked beneath the stairs and the sink and then the washer and dryer, turned a corner and walked through a heavy metal bolted door-originally the door to a meat locker-and you were inside a concrete enclosure at least ten degrees colder than the rest of the place, musty-smelling and dark.

There were no electrical outlets and no light fixture. Willie had nailed girders to the kitchen floor beams and supported them with thick wooden posts. He had sandbagged the only window on the outside of the house and covered the inside with heavy half-inch wire-mesh screening. He had provided the requisite fire extinguisher, battery operated radio, ax, crowbar, battery lantern, first-aid kit and bottles of water.

Cartons of canned food lay stacked on a small heavy handmade hardwood table along with a Sterno stove, a travel alarm clock and an air pump for blowing up the mattresses rolled in the corner. All this built and purchased on a milkman's salary. He even had a pick and shovel there, for digging out after the blast. The one thing Willie omitted and that the government recommended was a chemical toilet.

They were expensive. And he'd left before getting around to that. Now the place was sort of ratty-looking-food supplies raided for Ruth's cooking, the extinguisher fallen off its wall mount, batteries dead in the radio and lantern, and the items themselves filthy from three solid years of grim neglect.

The shelter reminded Ruth of Willie. She was not going to clean it. We played there sometimes, but not often. The place was scary. It was as though he'd built a cell there-not a shelter to keep something out but a dark black hole to keep something in.

And in a way its central location informed the whole cellar. You'd be down there drinking a Coke talking with Ruth while she did her laundry and you'd look over your shoulder and see this evil-looking bunker sort of thing, this squat concrete. As though the wall itself were old and sick and. I tell you, what's missing from that goddamn Karnival's a good old-fashioned hootchiekoo! It was Tuesday night, the second night of Karnival and Ruth was watching Cheyenne Bodie get deputized for the umpteenth time and the town's chickenshit mayor pinning the deputy's badge to his fringed cowhide shirt.

Cheyenne looked proud and determined. Ruth held a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other and sat low and tired-looking in the big overstuffed chair by the fireplace, her long legs stretched out on the hassock, barefoot. Woofer glanced up at her from the floor. Dancin' girls, Ralphie. That and the freak show.

When I was your age we had both. I saw a man with three arms once. I did. I saw a man with three arms-one of 'em just a little bitty thing coming out of here. He ran his hand over his blond flattop. He was always doing that.

I guess he enjoyed the feel of it though I couldn't see how he'd like the greasy waxed part up front. You know stillborns?

Ketchum door the next girl pdf jack

In formaldehyde. Little shrunken things-goats, cats. All kinds of stuff. That's going back a long time. I don't remember. I do remember a man must have weighed five, six hundred pounds, though.

Took three other fellas to haul him up. Fattest damn thing I ever saw. We laughed, picturing the three guys having to help him up.

We all knew Ruth was careful of her weight. She sighed. You could see her face go calm and dreamy-looking then the way it did sometimes when she was looking back-way back. Not to Willie but all the way back to her childhood. I always liked watching her then. I think we all did. The lines and angles seemed to soften and for somebody's mother, she was almost beautiful.

It was a big thing for him tonight, being able to go out to the Karnival this late. He was eager to get going. Finish your sodas. Let me finish my beer. The only other person I knew who smoked a cigarette as hard as Ruth did was Eddie's dad.

She tilted the beer can and drank. He leaned forward next to me on the couch, his shoulders turned inward, rounded. As Willie got older and taller his slouch got more pronounced. Ruth said that if he kept on growing and slouching at this rate he was going to be a hunchback. A six footer "Yeah," said Woofer.

I don't get it. Doncha know anything? Half naked too, some of them. Maybe a ruby in the belly button or something. With little dark red circles painted here, and here. Then she looked at us. Woofer laughed. Willie and Donny were watching her intently. Eddie remained fixed on Cheyenne Bodie. She laughed. Not those boys. Hell, they'd like to.

They'd love to! But they've all got wives. Damn hypocrites. Ruth was always going on about the Kiwanis or the Rotary or something. She walked into the kitchen and dropped her empty beer can in the garbage pail.

The Girl Next Door

Down the hall the door to her room opened and Meg stepped out, looking a little wary at first, I thought-I guessed it was Ruth's shouting. Then her eyes settled on me and she smiled, a So that was how they were working it, I thought. Meg and Susan were in Ruth's old room. It was logical because that was the smaller of the two. I wondered what my parents would say to that.

You take care of your sister and keep yourself out of the icebox. Don't want you getting fat on us. Their door was to the left opposite the bathroom, the boys' room straight on. I could hear soft radio music coming from behind the door. When you're twelve, little kids are little kids and that's about it. You're not even supposed to notice them, really. They're like bugs or birds or squirrels or somebody's roving house cat-part of the landscape but so what.

Unless of course it's somebody. I'd have noticed Susan though. I knew that the girl on the bed looking up at me from her copy of Screen Stories was nine years old-Meg had told me that-but she looked a whole lot younger. I was glad she had the covers up so I couldn't see the casts on her hips and legs. She seemed frail enough as it was without my having to think about all those broken bones.

I was aware of her wrists, though, and the long thin fingers holding the. Except for the bright green eyes it was almost like meeting Meg's opposite. Where Meg was all health and strength and vitality, this one was a shadow. Her skin so pale under the reading lamp it looked translucent. Donny'd said she still took pills every day for fever, antibiotics, and that she wasn't healing right, that walking was still pretty painful, a I thought of the Hans Christian Andersen story about the little mermaid whose legs had hurt her too.

In the book I had the illustration even. The same long silky blond hair and soft delicate features, the same look of sad long-time vulnerability. Like someone cast ashore. She looked at me a moment more and smiled back at me and then went back to the magazine. I didn't know what to say. Two nights after Karnival a bunch of us slept out together. The older guys on the block- Lou Morino, Glen Knoll, and Harry Gray-had been in the habit for years now of camping out on warm summer nights at the old water tower in the woods behind the Little League diamond with a couple of six-packs between them and cigarettes stolen from Murphy's store.

We were all still too young for that, with the water tower all the way over on the other side of town. But that hadn't stopped us from envying them aloud and frequently until finally our parents said it would be okay if we camped out too as long as it was under supervision-meaning, in somebody's backyard. So that was what we did.

I had a tent and Tony Morino had his brother Lou's when he wasn't using it so it was always my backyard or his. Personally, I preferred my own. Tony's was all right-but what you wanted to do was to get back as far away from the house as possible in order to have the illusion of really being out there on your own and Tony's yard wasn't really suited to that. It tapered down over a hill with just some scrub and a field behind it. The scrub and field were boring and you were resting all night on an incline.

Whereas my yard ran straight back into thick deep woods, spooky and dark at night with the shadows of elm, birch and maple trees and wild with sounds of crickets and frogs from the brook. It was flat and a lot more comfortable.

At least that night we didn't. Billie just vomited into a pan on the stove! Woofer was being punished for playing with his plastic soldiers in the wire-mesh incinerator in the yard again-otherwise he might have whined long enough and loud enough to make us take him too.

But Woofer had this habit. He'd hang his knights and soldiers from the mesh of the incinerator and watch their arms and legs burn slowly along with the trash, imagining God knows what, the plastic fire dripping, the soldiers curling, the black smoke pluming up. The toys were expensive and they made a mess all over her incinerator. There wasn't any beer but we had canteens and Thermoses full of Kool-Aid so that was all right.

Eddie had half a pack of his father's Kool unfiltereds and we'd close the J tent flaps and pass one around now and then. Then we'd open the flaps again just in case my mom came out to check on us-though she never did.

Donny rolled over beside me and you could hear a Tasty-Cake wrapper crush beneath his bulk. He's just a little kid, sitting at his desk and this nice old lady schoolteacher looks at him and notices he looks real sad and says, what's wrong? And he says, waaa!

I didn't get no breakfast! You poor little guy, says the teacher. Well, don't worry, no big deal, she says, it's almost lunchtime. You'll get. So now let's return to our geography lessons. Where's the Italian border? That's how come I didn't get no fucking breakfast! Willie was on the other side of me over against the tent. I could smell his hair wax and, occasionally and unpleasantly, his bad teeth.

Like I fucked Debra Paget. It was dangerous to contradict him but Donny was lying between them and Donny outweighed him by fifteen pounds.

So I hock it off him outa his drawer, read the jokes, check the broads, and put it back again. He never knows. No sweat. Eddie looked at him. Tony lived across the street from him and we all knew that Tony knew that Eddie's dad beat. I mean, Marilyn Monroe was in there.

It's the greatest magazine ever. Better than Mad? He took a drag on the cigarette and smiled. The smile was all knowing. He passed the smoke to Eddie, who took a final drag and stubbed it out on the grass, then flipped the butt into the woods.

There was one of those silences where nobody had anything to say, we were all off alone there somewhere. For a minute I saw.

But all of us were thinking of Mrs. Morino now. She was a thick-wasted, short-legged Sicilian woman with a lot more mustache than Tony had but her breasts were pretty big. It was at once difficult and interesting and slightly repulsive to try to picture her that way. It just hung there for a moment. But I doubt that any of us were thinking about Mrs. Morino anymore. You could see the wheels turning. But Willie acted as though Donny hadn't understood.

Trying to score points on him. And suddenly he was crawling out of the tent, and then he was standing there. Peering in, grinning. I There was a light on in the Chandlers' bathroom window and one in the kitchen and one in Meg and Susan's bedroom. By now we knew what he had in mind. I wasn't sure I liked it but I wasn't sure I didn't, either. Obviously, it was exciting. We weren't supposed to leave the tent.

If we got caught that would be the end of sleeping out and plenty of other stuff as well. On the other hand, if we didn't get caught it was better than camping at the water tower. It was better than beer. Once you got into the mood of the thing, it was actually kind of hard to restrain yourself from giggling. He was right.

Off to the left of the yard, about fifteen feet from the house was a tall white birch bent badly by winter storms. It drooped halfway down to the scruffy grass over what was nearly the middle of the lawn. I felt a little pissed at him for that. We were supposed to be best friends.

But then I figured what the hell, Willie was his brother. He sprinted across the lawn and Willie followed. The tree forked out into two strong branches. They could lie there side by side. They had a good straight view into the bedroom and a. Willie kept changing position though, trying to get comfortable. It was easy to see how out of shape he was. He was awkward just handling his own weight.

Whereas, for all his bulk, Donny looked like he was born in trees. We watched them watching.

We watched the house, the kitchen window, looking for Ruth, hoping not to see her. I was trying to make out Donny's and Willie's faces, wondering if anything was going on inside.

It was hard to see but I didn't think so. They just lay there like a pair of large dark tumorous growths. I hadn't been aware of the frogs or crickets but now I was, a percussive drone in the silence. All you could hear was them and Eddie pulling hard on the cigarette and exhaling and the occasional creak of the birch tree. There were fireflies in the yard blinking on and off, drifting, "Time," said Kenny.

Eddie dropped the Kool and crushed it and then he and Tony ran over to the tree. A moment later they were up and Willie and Donny were down, back with us. It was surprising how angry he sounded. As though it were Meg's fault for not showing. As though she'd cheated him. But then Willie always was an asshole. I looked at Donny. The light wasn't good back there but it seemed to me he had that same intent, studied look as when he'd been looking at. Ruth talking about the hootchiekoo girls and what they wore and didn't wear.

It was as though he were trying to figure something out and was a little depressed because he couldn't get the answer.