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*Warning: This story contains violence and some graphic scenes. If you do not like to read things of that nature, please refain from reading this story. Please don't mail the Shrub with complaints. You were warned.*


The Thin Line- Part 3


by Jessica Brandt

If you missed Part 1 and/or 2 and would like to read it, please email Jessica for a copy.

Drake started putting his beer away in the fridge. He opened the door and sighed when he saw how empty it was. Should buy some food. What does this chick eat? Two slices of cheese, a half of a cantaloupe, a bottle of ketchup, a jar of pickles, six beers. Six? Six is what I had left last night...

"Shit."

Drake scrambled to his room. Colleen was still curled up on his bed.

"Baby, did you drink today?" She didn't respond. He went over to her and rolled her on to her back. She was wheezing. Her sunken stomach rose slowly and her chin was covered in glossy drool. He shook her. "Baby, wake up, huh?" Her eyelids slowly opened. She gasped for a breath. "What's wrong? You doing better?"

"I..."

Drake didn't know what to do. He shook her gently. "Water? Hey, you want some water?" He jumped up and got her a glass. When he came back to her, he pulled her to a siting position and rested her head on his shoulder. He poured some water into her. Slowly, she began to cough a little and she wiped her chin. When she raised her arm, he saw it.

HELP ME

It was written on - no, carved into- her right arm. Drake's eyes widened. He knew what that meant. He saw other scars from similar scratches on both of her arms. This chick was sadistic.

Suicidal.

Suicidal.

"Baby, what's with that? Is that making you sick?" he pointed to the scratches as if they were leeches stuck to her arm.

"Drake..." she cleared her throat, "I'll tell you in a bit. Just stay here with me for a little while. I need to get more rest, okay? Let me rest some more. I'm starting to feel better."

"Wait, clean up first okay?" He took her pants and bra off and laid her under the covers in nothing but her underwear. Drake went out to the kitchen and got a damp towel, and some beers for himself. When he returned, he wiped Colleen's forehead. Then, he tried to wipe some of the caked blood from her arm.

As she drifted back off to sleep, Drake let her lean on him. He put his arm around her, and with his other hand, began drinking the beer he had brought in with him. As his mind drifted, he opened the drawer in his nightstand, and pulled out a crumpled clipping from a newspaper. It was a black and white photograph which had yellowed over the years.

It was his mother's picture, the one that had accompanied her obituary in the newspaper, all those years ago. It was the only picture Drake had of her. He looked at it for a while, longingly, as if he were finding some meaning in her face. His brow furrowed, he looked his mother straight in the eye. Her bright smile, her golden hair- they turned into pixels and then just a blur of black and white dots. His stomach began to ache, and his teeth clenched with a feeling somewhere between anger and fear. He closed his eyes, holding back tears that would never come.

Drake returned the picture to the drawer, and leaned back, taking another sip of his beer. He sat there in the dark for over two hours, Colleen resting on his chest, television still playing in the living room.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The boy lifted his nose to the air, taking in the mixed scent of sweet elephant ears, ketchup, and hot blacktop baking in the sun. Now eight, the Fosters had taken him to an amusement park. Every second there arose a scream from one of the roller coasters as the cars let loose down the steep hills. Calliope music played throughout the park, as if there were a carousel at every turn, but there was really only one. And everywhere the boy looked, he thought he saw his mother.

He saw a woman, with shoulder-length, blonde hair, wearing a pair of jean shorts and a white shirt escorting a boy towards the restroom. He snaked from the Fosters to follow her, only to find out she was someone else's mommy, not his. He saw his mother splashing in the Wave Pool, staying in the shallow end to catch her babies as they drifted by. She laughed with her children as she grabbed them from the undertow and held them safe in her arms.

When he went in the Wave Pool, he half-expected to find his mother waiting for him when he came out all dripping wet. She would wrap him in a sun-warmed beach towel and hand him the sandwich she'd made for him. "My little fish!" she would exclaim, and rub his hair dry.

When the older kids went on the roller coaster, the boy wanted to stay below with his mother, and wait for them on the park bench. The two would eat cotton candy and laugh at the people as they went by, baked red like lobsters from the sun. Later on, while the older kids were in the arcade, they would take a trip on the monorail, and his mother would hold him tight as they rode high above the lake.

Every time the boy thought of his mother, it would make him ache. His stomach would turn in knots, and his teeth would clench with a feeling somewhere between anger and fear. He would never cry, however. He had stopped crying long ago, before his mother even left. He cried when he was six and his father beat him so bad, telling him "Only babies cry" that he never shed a tear again. At least, not when anyone could see. Instead, he went with the older Fosters, riding the roller coaster, no longer with fear, because his mind was somewhere else.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

By the time Colleen woke up, Drake had had five beers, on top of the two he had before he sat on the bed. She leaned over him and took the half-full glass of water from the nightstand, and finished it up.

Colleen looked up at him, staring blankly at the wall. "I've got some problems, Drake..."

"I'd say!"

"I'm serious."

"So am I. What is with this scratching shit? Do you like that sort of thing?"

Colleen sighed. She could tell Drake was "feeling mellow" by now. "No, I don't like it. But see..."

"It doesn't make me feel sorry for you, baby. If that's what you want, I'm sorry. I ain't gonna give you any extra attention. You're just here to clean my shit up and get yourself back together."

"Drake, I have cancer." He stopped babbling. "I have cancer, and I ran away to get away from having to go through chemo and all that horrible shit. It's horrible, it really is. I just want to die. I was feeling so sick today, I didn't want to live anymore, again, and I went to cut my wrists, and I ended up just doing that. I don't know why I can't do it. I should have taken your rifle..."

"NO!" This was all too deep for Drake right at this moment. "No, that rifle is not for fucking shooting yourself. It's for fucking shooting deer..."

"Drake, I want to die...Do you like to see me suffer like this?"

"Listen baby, I don't care what the fuck you do, but don't go killing yourself. That shit is for me.." Shut up!

"What? You want to kill yourself too?"

"No, I want to kill YOU."

"What?"

"Baby, I kid you not." It's all over now.

"You'd do that for me?"

For you? "No baby, TO you."

"But I WANT to die."

"Not this way."

"Any way."

"You don't know that. You don't know what you're asking for. You don't know who the fuck I am. You don't know anything." Drake chugged some more of his sixth beer.

"I'm confused...are you trying to cheer me up?"

"My name is Richard Owen and I'm from Montana. My name, Drake Foster...I fucking made that up when I moved here."

Colleen gasped. "Oh my God, are you going to rape and kill me?"

"No. You don't get it. I'm not some crazy molester fuck. I just want to stab you..."

"So you will kill me?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"Listen, I am too fucking wasted to get into this now. I am going to the couch...you sleep here. Don't leave."

"Oh, I won't. This is exciting."

Exciting? Drake crept his way through the dark room and somehow made it to the couch. Fucking...insane...chick...in my bed...fuck...

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

"Come on, Richie. It's just past these trees." The boy's friend had found a dead fox in the woods behind his house. He wanted to show the boy. He didn't want to go.

"I'm gonna be late, Mike. I mean, Mrs. Foster says to be home at five. She's not lying. And it's getting dark."

"Are you chicken?"

"No, it's not that...I mean, I want to see it. Maybe some other time I will come, by myself."

"You don't know where it is."

"I can find it."

"Well, it's in my woods, and this is my house, so it's my fox. So I won't let you see it unless I'm here." He couldn't argue with that, they were ten, and those were the laws. The boy gulped hard, and squeezed the little pocketknife he kept in his jeans pocket. His eyes began to squint, like he was walking into the sun.

Mike led him around a clump of trees, and there it was. A gray fox, lying on its side as though it were sleeping. Tiny flies buzzed around the eyes of the dead animal, and maggots slinked around in its open mouth. Mike's eyes widened.

"See it? I told ya, it's a fox." He found a stick and began poking the body. "I found it yesterday, but I wonder how long it's been here." The boy didn't hear him. His eyes were wide as well, fixed upon the splendid dead animal. His palms were sweaty and he fumbled with the knife in his pocket. His arms and legs twitched.

"Mike..." he said softly, "You ever think of stabbing something?"

"With a knife?" Mike jabbed at the body again, this time using the stick like a sword, swooshing around its ears and making circles in the air just above its belly.

"Yeah. Sticking a knife in something." The boy pulled his pocketknife from his jeans, and unfolded the blade. It twinkled in the setting sun and instantly caught Mike's eyes.

"Where'd you get that?"

"It's my brother's Scout knife. Do you know what it's like to stab something?"

"No, I never..." The boy dropped to his knees. He took a deep breath. Mike stared down at him, eyes wider than before, chin hanging down on his chest.

The knife rose in the air. The boy's hand shook. Mike took a step back. Down came the knife, ripping into the fox with a soft "thud."

Mike shrieked. He had never seen anything like this before. The knife came out again, both the boy's hand and the blade dripping with blood already.

Down it went again. Mike shrieked louder.

A screen door slammed shut. The knife went in and out, faster and faster.

Dry leaves crunched under Mike's mom's feet as she hurried towards her boy's shrieks. Fur and fleshy blood sparkled on the boy's clothes.

"Richard! What are you doing?!" She ran to Mike and pulled him away from the scene. She covered his eyes. With her other hand, she yanked the boy from his knees, thus violently ripping the knife from the carcass one more time.

"You animal!" She exclaimed.

The boy was frozen. He stood there, breathing heavy, able to do nothing but stare at the fox. Suddenly, he turned and ran.

"Don't you ever come back here, Richard!" Mike's mom yelled after him.

"Animal!" The word rang through the forest. He tried to run from it. He looked at himself, covered in blood and dirt and fur. Animal. The boy ran to he and Mike's fishing pond, and jumped in. The water was cold and muddy. His feet got sucked into the mud. The boy splashed around, scrubbing his face and hands, grunting and yelping. Animal. Just wishing the grime would come off. He was scared but not ashamed. He didn't want to get into trouble at home. But he didn't want to stop.

Continued next month in The Shrubbery

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