Hello, and welcome back! The short story A Maze of Cubicles is available in e-bookstores (except for Sony), and the short story collection Tales from the Threshold will be released as an ebook this month (November 2013). The print edition is looking like it will be delayed for release until December due to a snafu that my publisher is trying to get fixed as quickly as possible.
Make sure to come back next week or to sign up for blog posts, because for one week only the short story A Maze of Cubicles will be available in its entirety here for loyal readers like you to read… then after a week, half the story gets deleted.
We’re approaching the end of Part One of Soul Cages (PG-13). Just a few more chapters, and then it’s on to Part Two.
Second edition copyright © 2014 by Lynn Kilmore
Copyright © 2011 by L. M. May
Published by Osuna Publishing
This story is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogue, and locales are either drawn from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, and locales is entirely coincidental.
Part One. Dreams in the Desert
I spent the morning helping Henry unpack his boxes and hanging up his white boards (one used for his daily schedule, the other for his monthly calendar). But the overstimulation of the last few days had taken its toll on him. Henry began to repetitively flick his legs, arms, and face after lunch.
“Hey,” I said, “do you need a deep pressure session?”
Henry ran for the white couch and got the seat cushions pulled off before I caught up with him. He flopped onto the carpet and lay on his stomach.
I piled the cushions on his back and legs. He preferred that I start with his back, so I placed both hands on the cushion, which rose and fell with Henry’s breathing, and pushed down as hard as I could.
Henry gave a happy sigh.
Then the blasted doorbell rang. I let Mom answer the door since I had no keys to unlock it. I was relieved to hear only John’s voice in answer to Mom’s greeting as I kept up the pressure on Henry’s back.
John’s toolbox rattled as he said, “I’ll start with the main bathroom faucets you told me about. Then I’ll look over the irrigation system.” He caught sight of Henry and me in the living room, and paused, bemused.
“Marian is helping Henry to calm down,” Mom said.
John put down his toolbox and came into the living room. He had fresh grass stains on his jeans and T-shirt. “Can I help?”
I leaned forward to whisper in Henry’s ear, “Is it okay if John pushes the leg cushion?”
“Yeah,” Henry said.
“Go ahead and push down on the cushion on his legs,” I told John. “Henry will say ‘more’ or ‘less’ if he needs you to push harder or relax.”
On his first attempt, John pressed gingerly on the cushion, and Henry said “More.”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “You can’t hurt him with that cushion.”
John studied how much weight I was putting on mine, and adjusted his arms accordingly.
Henry gave a pleased grunt.
“Now you’ve got it,” I said.
“How long do you apply pressure?” John asked.
“You don’t have to keep doing this,” Mom interjected. “Marian’s got it under control.”
“No, it’s all right,” John said to Mom. “Like I said, I want to understand Asperger’s better.”
Mom fiddled with her keys. I could tell Mom was embarrassed about John seeing Henry like this.
I said, “I usually do this for ten to fifteen minutes per cushion. Feel free to get up whenever you’ve had enough.”
But John stayed the entire time, asking questions. I ended up giving a rather detailed lecture about the nervous system difficulties of kids with autism. At some point Mom wandered off to unpack boxes in the kitchen.
Once done, Henry followed John to the main bathroom to watch him work on the faucets and clogged sinks.
I went back to work on Henry’s boxes. But I could hear bangs and clangs from the main bathroom, and the muffled rise and fall of Henry’s voice asking questions.
Then I overheard Mom go into the main bedroom and scold Henry for bothering John. Which shut Henry up. But the clatter of tools and hammering went on. I was impressed that Henry didn’t come running into his bedroom with his hands over his ears. The lure of a toolbox had proved to be strong enough to overcome Henry’s noise sensitivity.
I’d gotten to unpacking Henry’s CDs of animal recordings— whales, frogs, and wolves were his favorites—when the racket stopped.
Henry said in the hall, “Here’s my dead bug collection.” He dragged John by the hand into his bedroom.
John caught sight of Sydney’s closet, and paled.
“Henry, let me get the collection for you.” I rushed for the shoebox on top of his short bookcase. “You can take it out to the backyard where the light is better.” I put the box in Henry’s free hand, and he whirled around and tried to drag John out of the room.
But John resisted, his gaze fixated on the closet. The raw pain on his face made me look away.
Henry tugged harder at John’s hand.
John snapped out of his thoughts. “It’s okay. There’s enough light for you to show me the collection here.”
I watched him struggle to listen to Henry as my brother pointed out the various dead insects and spiders he’d gathered.
When it became clear Henry was stuck in a monologue, I said to him, “Henry, how about you take your box outside and add those dead spiders we found near the apple tree?”
Henry raced out of the room. I made to follow, but John reached out toward me and said, “Stay, please.”
We both stared at the closet.
“There’s something I need to do,” John said. “If you would warn me if you hear your mother.”
I moved over to the bedroom door and listened. “Mom’s in the kitchen,” I whispered.
John walked over to the closet door slowly, as if he moved underwater, and gently grasped it to pull it all the way open. He took a sharp breath when the scent of roses hit him, and then flicked on the closet light.
The grimy interior was just as depressing as I remembered it. John stepped inside, kneeled, made the sign of the cross, and bowed his head.
He began to pray, too softly for me to hear.
My ears strained to place Mom’s movements. A faint sound of ripping cardboard; Mom tearing open a box.
John finished his prayer, made the sign of the cross upon the floor, and then stood up and proceeded to say the Lord’s Prayer while making the sign of the cross on the walls, closet door, and into the air.
Then he came out, flicking off the light. He said, sorrow in his voice, “I’ve done what I can.”
I was unable to hide my confusion.
He touched the cross around his neck. “Some say the souls of suicides are lost or damned.”
I thought of Sydney and shivered. “What does your father believe?”
“He believes they’re damned.”
“I’m pinning my hopes on grace.”
“You were praying for her soul, weren’t you? Praying she finds her way if she’s lost.”
Henry’s room felt too dark and damp. I needed sunlight. “Let’s take a break and join Henry in the backyard.”
I headed for the kitchen, John following. Mom was busy putting fine china in high cabinets where Henry couldn’t reach.
Mom caught sight of John. “How’s the faucets?”
“Fixed,” John said. “I’m going to look at the back irrigation system.”
I hurried into the backyard.
“I’ll bring out lemonade in a few minutes,” Mom called after us.
Henry sat in the house’s shadow watching anthills. The bright sunlight was welcome after Syd—no, Henry’s—room, but the gusts of dirt-filled wind were annoying.
John moved past me, and kneeled next to a plastic cover in the ground. “Stay back. May be black widows.” He flipped the cover up and over, and studied the interior. “All clear.”
Henry and I peered over John’s shoulder into the moist graveled pit in which the line valves for the irrigation system were laid.
Henry said, “Found two dead wolf spiders, and one dead daddy longlegs to put in my collection. I want any dead black widows.”
“No,” John and I said in unison.
Henry groaned “Jinkies” in protest, and went back to watching anthills.
Mom came out, handed around plastic cups of lemonade, took a look at the valves, and then retreated back into the house complaining of the dust and heat.
John said in an undertone, “I’m going to check the irrigation sprinklers before I flip this system on. Come with me.”
His tone hinted that I wouldn’t like what he had to tell me. Something about Matthew or his parents, no doubt. “Okay.”
He went around the side of the house to the apple tree—out of earshot of Mom if the kitchen window was open. He studied the ground, and nudged a broken irrigation head near the tree. “Cracked,” he said to himself. “The ‘official’ reason I’ve been sent over here is that your parents need help getting this place fixed up.”
I tugged a leaf off the tree and crumpled it in my fist. “What’s the other reason?”
“Your mom told my parents about you demanding to go to a different church, and about the screaming match in the street between you and Matt.” John looked impressed. “That must have been some fight, because Matt swears he never wants to speak to you again. My mom’s given up on you two going out. I was supposed to help.”
“Yeah, I got to watch you stomp your brother’s toes and kick his heel.”
“Glad it’s over.” He shook his head. “My new commission is to change your mind about Youth Group and First Beginnings. But I think you should go where you want.”
“What happens if you fail in changing my mind?”
“That’s not your problem.”
“My feelings aren’t your responsibility!”
“They’ve now made it so. I’ll cope.” He pulled out a screwdriver to poke around the cracked irrigation head.
John acted like it was no big deal, but I sensed he was under intense pressure to get me in line. Anger simmered in me but I couldn’t think of an immediate solution. If I confronted Pastor Andervender, he’d figure out John was talking about things he was supposed to keep quiet.
There’s time, I told myself. I don’t have to have an answer now. Dad’s commitment to First Beginnings is weakening, and soon Mom’s will as well. I just need to be patient.
************** End of Part One. 21. *****************
If you are reading this after November 25, 2013, you should be able to click here to go to the main information page of Soul Cages to find Part One. 22.
Links can change over time, so click here to go to the main page for Soul Cages if any links don’t work.
Have a great week! L.M.