Time Of Our Death
By Paul D Aronson
Brian and Kelly had spent the night at her house, being as normal as any living teenager could have been. According to her, they had raided both the refrigerator and liquor cabinet while her parents slept. Their experiment with food and drink had been fun, and to their surprise quite appetizing. It was something I myself hadn’t attempted as yet. I figured with being dead, why bother with eating. We didn’t exist off of human food now. And while that might be the case, Brian and Kelly made the most of it.
“It sucks though, because we couldn’t get drunk. I put away three bottles and it didn’t do nothing.” Brian shook his head. “But spin the bottle is pretty fun with just two people.”
Kelly blushed, and smacked him in his arm. She looked at us. “Mom and dad are bowling partners with the Housemans. We hitched a ride out to see how many showed up for the funeral. I’m surprised they are even having school today. I mean, he was on the football team, for god’s sake.”
“It’s all cool, “ Brian replied. He looked at us. “Things go on, right? No matter what, the big old world keeps turning.”
“Yes, I suppose so,“ I agreed. “So, you going in?”
“Nah, I’ll just go to the grave side. You know they found somebody else, didn’t you?”
“I heard. Just don’t know who it was.”
“It was a senior named Jacobs. I didn’t know him. They said on the news he would have graduated this year. Honor roll, college bound frat boy in the making. I guess not anymore.”
“This sucks,” Kelly said. “We’re just like him, except nobody knows it yet. Our funeral could come at any time.” She looked at us, and it appeared she wanted to cry. “I don’t want to go to any of you guys funeral.”
I’m not sure if she meant it as a heart felt thing, or if she just dreaded seeing someone she had spent time with being put in the ground. Either way, I took it kindly. “If I had my way no one would ever find us,” I said. I looked at Lori and frowned. “But I don’t think its going to work out that way.”
“Why is that, hoss?” Brian asked.
“We saw on the news they plan on bringing us up within twenty four hours.”
“You mean, we only have a day left?” Kelly asked.
“Looks like it could turn out that way.”
“Well, shit bricks, we better skip the graveside and party it up right then.”
I looked at Brian. Maybe he had the right attitude all along. We had known for awhile that we were dead. Though I hadn’t told them about what we found on the bus yet, did it really matter anyway? We were existing on borrowed time. Would solving what happened to us fix anything? Maybe it was best to just spend what time we had left living life, so to speak, to the fullest.
“That’s probably a good idea,“ I agreed.
“So hell, where’s the party?”
One look at Brian and I knew he was itching to have fun again. “Wherever we want it to be,” I said.
“Hell yeah! The mall cops are going to regret ever kicking me out!” He looked at Kelly. “Hey babe. Let’s go to Spencer’s Head Shop and see what we look like under the black light…naked.”
She laughed and punched him in the arm again. If he’d been alive, his shoulder would have been all bruised up by now. She looked at us, probably figuring if there was anyone interested in a drug paraphernalia store, it would be us. “Ya’ll coming?”
“I’m not a Spenser’s gal,” Lori said. She looked at me. “But I would like an Orange Julius.”
I looked at the door of the funeral home. I had two choices. One was to wallow in the misery of what had happened and what was yet to happen still. Or, I could say to hell with it, and ride off into the day with my most favorite sidekick ever. I looked back at Lori and realized that there had never really been a choice to make. “Okay, Let’s go.”
Northview Shopping Center was relatively new. Built a year earlier, it was where every kid wanted to go. Unfortunately, it was built on the outskirts of town near the interstate, making it difficult for kids to get to, unless they had their drivers permit already or could talk their parents into bringing them. I had been only twice, and Lori said she had only been once. Brian and Kelly practically lived there, however. And they would, considering their social circle. Northview is where all the up scale shoppers went for high quality designer clothes and gifts that screamed its exorbitant price tags at you. Everyone else went to K-Mart.
Because it was Friday, the mall was fairly busy. While kids were in school, parents shopped. One thing I noticed while standing in front of Orange Julius waiting for Lori was that here were collected all the parents and families not affected by grief. These were the untouched. No one here today had a child that had been on the bus with us. This was a true example of how life goes on. Completely oblivious to the misery and tragedy of others. All except for the woman in the flower shop.
While Lori had been dunking her head under the soda fountain, and letting her favorite orange drink pour into her mouth straight from the tap, I had been drawn to the woman with haunted eyes working at the shop across from us. It was a floral shop whose specialty seemed to be elaborate arrangements and flower themed gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. The storefront window seemed to scream that sheer happiness was to be found inside. That’s why the sad woman stood out so much. She truly looked like she didn’t belong there. Or anywhere.
She was also familiar to me. I had seen her somewhere. She hadn’t been dressed in a floral print apron then. Nor had her brown hair been pinned back away from her face either. It had flown freely in the October breeze, walking across the theater parking lot to get in the exterminating van.
Kelly came up along side of me, Orange Julius still on her chin. “What are you looking at?”
“She was with the guy in the exterminating van. She walked right by us.”
“Yeah, she was upset about Penny’s abortion,” she remembered. “I didn’t like that part of the movie either. Well, except when Patrick Swayze jumped the railing to kick that dude’s ass.”
“She’s connected to what happened to us. Somehow she’s a part of it, I know it.”
She put her hand on my arm. “Chris, maybe we should just let this go. What are we really going to accomplish by finding out who sabotaged the bus? Maybe we’re not meant to know. Ignorance is bliss, they say.”
I looked at her. I knew what she was saying. I knew I should just forget it, but something was drawing me on. Something that said the woman knew the truth about the accident. “Yeah, but don’t you see, Lori? Its all connected. Come on, you dreamed of the bugs. Now here’s the flowers. All the pieces of your dream are staring us in the face.”
She seemed to consider this. “So what are you proposing we do now? Find the killer? Bring him to justice?”
“That’s a noble idea, but its not going to help us. If anything, it could end up righting the wrong that keeps us here as ghosts.”
I hung my head. I didn’t want our ghostly state to end, but I also didn’t want a killer out there running free either. I had never been the heroic type. Sure, like any other teenage guy, I’d dreamed of rescuing the princess and saving the world, but I always knew that was out of reach, until now.
She seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. “Look Chris, I know you want to do the right thing, and I’m in this with you whatever you want to do. But you don’t have to save me. I’m not some princess. I’m quite unremarkable. And forgive me for saying so, but before the accident, so were you. Let’s just go on being unremarkable. Together.”
“Is this what you want? To ignore it? What if this is why we are here? To fix things?”
“Maybe we’re just meant to fix ourselves, “ she replied. “Maybe we’re not here to be Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps its simpler than that.”
“You’re afraid, aren’t you?”
“Yes I am. I’m terrified actually. This may be our very last day. I don’t want to spend it like Riggs and Murtaugh.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the analogy. After all, in the Lethal Weapon movie, Riggs had been suicidal, and Murtaugh had been over the hill. “Okay then, “ I replied. “Tell me what you want to do.”
“I’m going to be really pissed if you don’t take me to the Halloween dance.”
I smiled. “I thought you weren’t that interested in it.”
She shrugged. “Im not, but what the hell? Might as well go out dancing, right?”
“Sure. But you need that wipe that orange drink off your chin first.”
We caught up with Brian and Kelly, not at the head shop, but at National Record Mart. They were browsing through the albums and doing their best to freak out other shoppers. One guy was looking at a Huey Lewis and The News record cover, when Brian smacked it right out of his hand. A pair of girls were gushing over Duran Duran trying to convince themselves they were Simon Le Bon’s ideal type. Kelly blew in their hair, making the girls shake their heads trying to rid themselves of the pesky fly attracted to their hairspray. And not far away, Donald was taking all the plastic off of the Lionel Richie albums, so they couldn’t be sold.
I was so glad to see Donald there and having fun again. When I approached him, he looked up at me with a jovial grin and said, “Lionel is so yesterday, man. I mean, come on. Dancing On The Ceiling. What kind of drugs is he on anyway?”
“It’s good to see you, Donald,” I said, with a smile.
“Hell yeah, its good to see me too,” he agreed. We both laughed at his jab and it almost felt like old times. “By the way, I think that girl over there likes me.”
“Which girl?” I asked, turning around to look.
“The cute blonde. She wants me to shake her love.”
I shook my head. It was great to see him in a better mood. “Yeah, but that’s only in your dreams,” I replied, seeing the big hanging poster of Debbie Gibson he was referring to.
“So, besides lusting after the unattainable, what you been doing?”
“Just needed some time to breathe, man. Think things over. You know how it is.”
“Yes, I suppose I do.”
He looked over at Lori, who was now browsing through albums too. Whoever thought of specialty shops where they sell nothing but music was genius. You could distract a whole crowd of teenagers and keep them occupied for hours. “So, how’s things with Lori?”
“What do you mean?”
He gave me an exasperated look. “You know.”
I shook my head. “It’s not like that, Don.”
“Sure it’s not. You want her to be Robert Smith’s girlfriend forever?” He pointed to The Cure banner that was hanging directly over her head. Across its face, Mr Smith’s hair was standing straight up, and he was wearing bright red lipstick that looked like it had been put on by a monkey. “That dude is a freak.”
“I don’t think I can compete with that,” I replied.
“What the hell is going on?!”
The screaming voice that interrupted our conversation was standing not far from us. The store manager was looking at a cardboard stand up of the Christian metal band, Stryper. Decked out in yellow and black spandex with matching guitars, with the album title, “To Hell With The Devil” across the top, I didn’t see what was so wrong. After all, weren’t there supposed to be hand drawn pentagrams painted on their cheeks with eyeliner?
I looked at Lori, who bit her lip and smirked guilty, still browsing through records.