Morning: the summer sun filled Jamie's eyes and the grassy world around him, washing away swift vanishing memories of the bizarre night. The colorful sparks of fireworks now seemed scarcely credible, though they'd happened only several hours ago, and their smell lingered over the subdivision. The sun was overwhelming.
Jamie cursed for a minute, practicing the language with no one to hear. "This is fucked-up shit, you fucking assholes. I hate you all."
He'd spent the night behind the house. His brother in the next room had been talking loudly in his sleep, arguing with himself. Jamie had removed himself to the outdoors-- not that it'd helped. Lights had gone on and off in the house. Twice Chad went running through the woods. Jamie's own brother was a psycho.
Several minutes ago when Jamie woke with the sun, his brother's sportscar raced off from the garage; Chad in a hurry to conform to the world. Chad was as driven as their salesman father, as hyper-impatient as their mother before she left. A family of hustling vagabonds-- they may as well be living in a trailer park. They didn't belong in this overpriced neighborhood. It's why Jamie hated the undecorated house with its low-budget furniture. (At least they'd finally gotten some, and no longer had to sit in the living room on lawn chairs, which would've embarrassed Jamie in front of his friends, if he had some.) A family of pretenders.
Beer cans and empty whiskey bottles covered the house-- occasionally Jamie would hike with the cans a couple miles to the nearest party store and collect the deposit.
Jamie went back into the vacant house to wash up. An expensive shack of impermanence with thin cheap plasterboard walls and a huge garage. He watched idiotic TV for a bit then returned outside to see what was doing on the block.
If the General Custer Mr. Zellhoffer spoke about were around today Jamie would join his outfit. That's the way he felt. He wanted to get out of here. To go west! But there was no west anymore; no wilderness; only other mad boring asshole people like his brother and father scattered across the land.
Jamie walked to Zellhoffer's garage to check if he was around, but the garage was locked up. Jamie studied their house. He'd seen glimpses of its interior before. The walls were painted a warm green color and the furniture was huge and plush. Everything reeked of standing-- an illusion, Jamie realized, in this shitty isolated neighborhood. The Zellhoffers were the snobs of the block. The mother was a total snob, if anyone ever saw her. Mr. Zellhoffer kept his women hid away, which only made them more mysterious and alluring.
"Hey you," a voice called.
A girl's voice. Jamie looked toward the windows of the house to see if any were open-- a small one near the garage.
"Go away," the voice said.
Jamie stood as silently as an Indian. Emily Zellhoffer peered outside the front door then stepped out.
"Go away," she said. "You're trespassing."
"Where's your dad?"
"I'm going to call the police." She stared at him to see if her threat would work. He didn't budge. She was dressed in green culottes and a black t-shirt. He thought she was a goof.
"I think he went to the airport to pick up my sister. I don't know. She's supposed to get back today and my father is gone and so is my mother. They went someplace!"
When Jamie didn't say anything she looked around and sighed. "Well, come in and wait while I have breakfast."
It was like entering an inner sanctum. The house was cool and dark, like a museum. Large green plants exploded on all sides. Jamie sat on one of the plush sofas. Emily disappeared for a couple minutes then came back with a glass of orange juice for him.
"Who's that?" Jamie asked, pointing at a large painting of a beautiful young woman.
"My sister. Evelyn," Emily told him. "This was painted when she graduated high school last year."
Jamie nodded as they looked at the elegant painting for a couple minutes, for lack of anything else to do. Very civilized. In the painting, with her long flowing hair, Evelyn Zellhoffer resembled a swarthy Viking. He'd always considered her a phony, like Chad. Jamie studied the lines of the brushstrokes. Evelyn Zellhoffer was hot. Emily was merely a brat.
"Hey!" the brat said to awaken the unreadable young man from his reverie. "I'm going swimming." (The Zellhoffer's had an above-ground pool in back, surrounded by redwood walls so no one could see.) "My morning swim. You can join me."
The water was a bright chlorine blue. The sun was everyplace. In a pink swimsuit that revealed nothing because there was nothing to reveal, Emily plunged into the water, causing an enormous splash. "Tsunami!" she screamed.
Jamie took off his shirt quickly, with some embarrassment because he was skinny, then carefully dropped into the still-cold water in his cut-off jeans. "It's cold!" he said.
"You're such a wimp, Jamie," she mocked. He splashed her in response. She splashed him back and laughed.
"You know," he told her to distract her, "in back of these houses, past the little patch of woods, there's a stream about a half-mile away. Past the stream on a rise is a wooden old chapel a hundred years old. I want to go there sometime." They both rose and tried to peer over the redwood fence which surrounded them like a fort. Behind them the sun brightened as if it moved closer to earth; as if it would crash upon them.
They played a game while treading water to see who could grab the other's ankle, which took much bobbing up and down underwater. Both agile, it was an even contest. They rested at the side of the pool, breathing heavily. Emily's wet, swept-back hair was blacker than normal but her skin was creamy, soft, babyish. Jamie moved closer to her. Emily's eyes widened and stared suddenly behind him as if something were there. If this was a ruse he didn't fall for it, kissing her immediately.
A strong irresistible force grabbed his hair from behind and pulled him away, a hand taking Jamie by the neck and yanking him entirely out of the swimming pool, dropping him hard on the grass, while Emily laughed. Jamie blinked up at the piercing sun which silhouetted Emily's sister Evelyn Zellhoffer glaring down at him with anger and dismay.
(Oops! Suddenly planet Zytron has come into view, becoming larger in my craft's windshield with each passing minute. A green and purple sphere. It's gigantic. My pulse begins to suddenly race. Lights in the craft are flashing, signals beeping. I prepare for entry. . . .)