Chapter 4 – Sliding Beneath the Surface

February 4, 2013

Sliding - blog

The St.Augustine Trilogy: Book I

Young adult, paranormal/historical

4

Rules

When Mr. Lobo entered the room, his weird-looking eyes instantly locked with mine.

Without shifting that laser-like gaze, he lumbered over to the recliner opposite me on the other side of the coffee table and sat down. Even when he picked up the bottle of water Carla left for him, he kept up that intense stare. Man, I felt like a germ under a powerful microscope—a germ still fighting a headache.

No one spoke, and the silence around us seemed to get heavier somehow, thick like clear syrup or something. I tried not squirming in my chair, but it was hard. I mean all that silence got really uncomfortable, you know? Instead of looking at Carla’s friend directly, I stared at the Tiffany floor lamp next to his chair. It’s glass bowl pointing downward showed little green leaves against an light orange background. What can I say, looking at the thing kept my mind busy.

And another thing. It wasn’t freezing in the house, but it sure wasn’t warm—no heating going on that I could tell. Carla had her coat on and I wore a heavy long-sleeved shirt, but old Lobo sat there in that same sleeveless shirt he wore in his workshop. The guy seemed not to notice the room’s coldness at all.

The snapping sound when he opened his bottled water broke the spell, but only when the man chugged a couple of deep swallows did he look away. What a relief not to have those eyes slicing through me for even a short time. In seconds though, he was staring at me again, hard as ever. Still no one spoke. At that point, I figured if nobody else was going to say something, I would—anything, to get things moving. Yeah, I wanted the guy’s help but sitting there facing him in complete silence, especially with Carla watching, wasn’t working for me. “Ah, Mr. Lobo,” I did my best to smile, “Carla thinks that maybe you can—”

“Save it” His deep voice filled the room. “First rule, don’t call me Mr. The name’s Lobo, nothing more.”

“Uh, OK.” I tried to look and sound as relaxed as possible. Actually, I was starting to get irritated.

“Rule number two, Mr. Golden,” he lectured, like I thought he might. “If you want my help, you do things my way. Got that?”

When he said, Mr. Golden, with the emphasis on the word “mister,” I could feel the tension building in the pit of my stomach—the edge of anger. The man didn’t want me to call him mister, but he was saying it to me just to be sarcastic. I knew, because something like that had happened to me before. You see, I had this woman teacher once who used to do the same kind of thing, saying “Mister” all the time to the guys and “Miss” to the girls. On the surface, it sounded respectful, but the way she said those words made people want to smack her. So, there was Lobo doing the same thing, acting the dictator and all. I felt like I was back in school, but instead of saying anything to the old guy, I stole a quick glance at Carla.

She shook her head ever so slightly, warning me to keep my cool. Then she winked and gave me a nice little encouraging smile. That melted at least a little of the resentment I felt.

Before I looked back at Lobo, I took a long, deliberate swallow of Coke instead of responding to him right away. OK, I tried not to show that remaining resentment, anger, or whatever you want to call it, but I also wanted him to know he couldn’t intimidate me.

“Yeah, I got it,” I nodded. You old fart! At least I wasn’t going to let him control my thoughts, right?

Lobo took a sip of water and then studied the air all around me like he did when I first saw him. What he was doing, I had no idea.

“Jeff Golden!” He spit my name out as if he was getting rid of a bad taste in his mouth. “Rule number three!” he barked like a drill sergeant. “If you want help from me, stop feeling sorry for yourself so much and worrying things to death. Instead, pay attention. If you paid more attention to your life, you wouldn’t end up angry all the time and thinking the whole world is against you.”

Right after he said all that, I started feeling cold, like I wanted to put my jacket on or something. I tried to be angry about how aggressive and mean-spirited he sounded, but I think I was too surprised by my body’s reaction to what he apparently knew about me. It was really weird, you know? I mean, other people in my past had told me the same thing, but they knew me pretty well and old Lobo didn’t. On top of all that, the man had said what he did in front of Carla. Before I could sort out my thoughts and feelings any further, Lobo jumped on me again.

“Listen up, young man. If you had been paying attention the right way back in Orlando, you wouldn’t have made yourself so miserable. ‘Poor me,’ you said deep inside your mind over and over again. ‘My teachers are unfair,’ you told yourself. ‘Lots of kids don’t like me because I’m pretty smart and I have a near photographic memory,’ you wailed inwardly. Then down deep, you whimpered, ‘Woe is me. I spent most of my life around adults and don’t really know how to relate to most teenagers.’ You griped that your mom didn’t really care about you. You continually moaned and groaned about not having the nice life style you used to have before your parents went bankrupt. Worst of all, you convinced yourself you were the cause of your father’s suicide. None of that has changed, has it?”

I couldn’t reply. No words came to mind. My stomach twisted and did flip-flops. My head pounded even more than before. I tried to think of ways Lobo could have gotten all of that information about me. Even Carla didn’t know those things, especially about my dad’s suicide. All I could do was stare at the man with what I’m sure must have been the most idiotic blank look in the world.

“Lobo, come on,” Carla pleaded, “you’re going way too far.”

“The answer is obvious.” Lobo ignored Carla and continued to stare at me. “You’re still sitting on that same little pity potty you’ve been on for a long time now. It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it, huh? Instead of working on your problems, you fight them in silly ways. You even gave your teachers grief because they pushed you to do better and you thought you were being picked on.”

“Lobo! Stop it! What’s the matter with you?” Carla sprang to her feet, and as she did, Spock also jumped up, letting loose a huge bark. I had never heard Carla shout at anybody before and it really startled me.

“Remember rule number two?” Lobo growled, looking first at me and then at Carla. “It goes for both of you. Do things my way or leave. Your choice.”

“Fine!” Carla yelled back at him. “Jeff, I’m so sorry. I had no idea this would happen. Come on, let’s go.” She had embarrassment and hurt written all over her face.

I tried to collect my swirling, confused thoughts. Too much had happened too quickly. At that point, part of me wanted to tell Lobo where he could stick his damned rules and then run out of there with Carla as fast as possible. I was embarrassed, scared and angry, but I had agreed to do things his way if I wanted help with my dream. Sleeplessness and the dread of that nightmare coming back even one more time finally overcame my reactions to the man’s terrible, controlling ways.

“Uh, well … that’s OK, really,” I whispered. Yeah, part of me wanted to shove Lobo’s water bottle down his throat, but a bigger, more exhausted and fearful part of me sensed the guy might really be able to help. With a look of absolute surprise, Carla slowly sat back down, looking at me as if I had lost my mind. I have to admit that I even startled myself.

“Well, well, well,” Lobo said in his rumbling voice. “You have some potential for self control after all.”

“Just get on with it.” I tried sounding tough, as if I could care less. Besides, I didn’t need his empty compliment. Yeah, some of the anger seeped out even though I tried not to give in to it.

“Oh, I’ll get on with it all right.” Lobo’s eyes blazed even more brightly than before.

Crap. Not the thing to say. “Sorry,” I replied, trying not to get things even more stirred up. “That sort of slipped out.” I knew how to play the ‘keep-the-adult-happy’ game until I got what I wanted.

“Uh huh,” Lobo replied in a less intense voice but with an even deeper frown than usual. “Happened all the time back in Orlando, didn’t it? Exactly as you conducted yourself with me seconds ago, you gave a smart mouth to your teachers and other adults to try and keep them off your back. If that didn’t work, you played word games and manipulated as many of them as you could until you got to do things your way.

“With your friends, you covered up your intelligence, used the worst language you could think of, drank beer and got into trouble to show how cool you are. Oh, you ended up with friends all right but what kind were they, huh? I’ll tell you what kind—the dropouts, the deadheads, and the juvenile detention crowd, that’s who. Have I got it right so far?”

I didn’t say a word. Instead, I shrugged and looked down at the white carved ball on the coffee table. Anything was better than looking into those flashing eyes. What he had said was too impossibly close to the truth to deny, but I had no intention of agreeing with him.

Lobo shook his head, downed the rest of his water and then stabbed a big, old finger at me. “As far as your parents are concerned, you try to wipe them out of your mind most of the time, don’t you? It’s easier that way isn’t it? If you don’t think, you don’t have to feel. Well, I’ll tell you one thing, that fight between you and your father had nothing to do with his death. He planned on killing himself long before you argued with him.”

Man, I’m telling you, I felt like I was drowning in all of Lobo’s words. The guy somehow knew my history and had gotten deep inside my head where nobody else was supposed to be. As scary as all that felt, what he said about my dad’s death … well … it choked me up a little. Talk about embarrassing. I hadn’t been teary-eyed since my dad died a couple of years before. As much as I hated what gambling did to him, his death hit me like a runaway car.

There was absolutely no way Lobo could have found out about that problem between my dad and me, and nobody in this world could have known what Dad was planning. As logical as that seemed, when Lobo said what he did, this strange wave of relief swept through me. I really did blame myself for my dad’s death, but I never told anybody.

“I’m going for more water.” Lobo abruptly got up from his chair and left the room, his voice less harsh than it had been. His absence reminded me of how it feels when a sudden severe thunderstorm finally goes away.

###

Trilogy Graphic - blogFor a brief description of The St. Augustine Trilogy, click here.

For Sliding Beneath the Surface on Amazon.com, click here

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© 2011 by Doug Dillon. All rights reserved.

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