That summer ran long like an endless freight train of steel and heat barreling through the piney woods. Days seeped together and the sameness of it all started getting to me. I would sit out on the front porch in the evenings with Mama and Cade. Cade was my nephew and he and I were having a cold war of sorts. I was on to him, and ready to rat him out to Mama. He and I would glare at each other across a tall glass of lemonade, then when Mama came out, we would just listen to the cicadas hum and the slow, easy noise of trees in the wind. Our life was as small town simple as you could get. I certainly never expected to run into anything or anybody that had ever been plastered on a tabloid cover.
I was just harping on Cade about his seeming resistance to join the ranks of the employed. He was a slick one, a lot like my brother Bobby, his daddy, who was pretty much worthless as a field of Boll Weevil cotton. Even Mama was fed up with Bobby. We didn’t even know where he was at the moment. So Cade would sit there wearing one of those shirts with the little pony stamped on it looking a lot like his daddy. Yeah, he cleaned up nice, talked a good game, but he was 22 years-old and seemed like he was flat allergic to work.
“Cade, did you finish cleaning the shed?” Mama asked.
“I will. I’m going to take care of some business right now. I’ll be back in an hour.”
He smiled back at Mama. He looked like a Calvin Klein model, but you can’t always trust pretty.
“One hour, then. Ok,” she said.
Cade stepped off the porch. The fragrance of purple petunias filled the air. Somewhere the smell of barbecue chicken drifted over a fence.
“Is Cade ever gonna find a job?” I asked.
“Oh, he’s been busy filling out applications.”
“I see Don has been busy over there mowing his yard,” Mama said. I nodded.
“Why’d you say he wears all that git up for?”
“Because he has allergies.”
“He’s running that picture of his around again.”
“The one autographed by Lady Bird Johnson?” I asked.
“Yeah, he had to show it to the new neighbors that just moved in. Had to tell them all about his past successes,” she laughed.
“That’s not the original, it’s a copy he made. He keeps the real one in his safety deposit box,” I remarked.
“Well, of course,” said Mama.
“As bad as I hate to, I have to get up and go to the office. We may be breaking a story. You know, the Grayson County Advocate, we are on top of things. I think Cade should go to the Waffle House and fill out an application,” I said.
It had just been a normal evening, talking to Mama, attempting to make Cade feel guilty. I never expected anything out of the ordinary, but sometimes when you aren’t looking for things, that’s when they happen. When I got to the newspaper office, I pulled around back. There was a small guy wearing a cap and standing next to the dumpster. At first glance, I thought it was Marley, the maintenance guy. As I came closer, I realized it was a small, strange looking fellow with a face like a ….. a bat.
“Are you…..are you lost?”
He looked at me. He was wearing a Dallas Cowboy’s cap trying to cover his little bald head and pointed ears.
“I’m waiting to meet someone.”
“Are you…are you…..Bat Boy?” I asked.
“That’s the name given to me by those wacko publicity hounds. Real name is Thurston.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to sound like I met bat people all the time. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m a reporter here at the paper. Just here to check on a pending story.”
“Oh I know, you’re a writer, also,” he said.
“Really, how do you know that?”
“I got your story. That’s me, Thurston Hanges, Cavern Review Literary Journal.”
“You are….the editor?”
“Yes, I thought I would deliver your story, Azalea Rain right back to you. With comments, of course.”
He was waving a paper in front of me with so many ink marks on it that I thought maybe my old college lit professor had gotten a hold of it.
“So, you came here because you liked it?”
“No, I thought it was lame. You’ve really got to learn a thing or two about plot. Everyday life is dull, write something that people can sink their teeth into.”
“Oh,” I said noting his rows of sharp, little teeth…..