Johnny Marlin

Thump. Thump. Thump.

The loud banging startled Anna from a deep slumber. She rolls over and squints at the clock, wondering who is banging on her door at three A.M.? Dragging herself out of bed with a groan, she sneaks a quick glance into her daughter Karen’s room, just to make sure she hasn’t snuck out again. Carefully creeping down the stairs, making sure not to step on the loose, creaky boards, she risks a glance out the peephole. Ever the nervous type, three A.M. wake up calls make her suspicious, and scared. What the hell is going on? The porch is empty.

Breathe. Think. Looking to her left she spots an umbrella and grabs it, preparing to open the door. Slowly at first, she pulls open the heavy door a few inches, revealing nothing. A little wider and she spots a long and narrow box propped against the side of the porch. Quickly flinging open the screen door she grabs the box and retreats inside, slamming everything shut with a loud bang. She cringes slightly, waiting to hear if the noise woke Karen, and then heads to the table with the box.

She sets the package on the table and grabs her glasses. There, on the top, is a large sticker that reads “you’re up next” with what appears to be the outline of a treehouse. Her heart stops and she can’t breathe. Is this, no, definitely not.It can’t be. Only one way to find out. Carefully, she opens the lid and gasps. Inside is a rifle, a near replica of the Marlin Model 60 she used in her teenage days. Her first love, Johnny, had given it to her for target practice. Well, before he became known to target more than inanimate objects. Crap. Did he find me? No, this has to be a prank. Maybe it’s from Karen’s friends. She shoves the box aside and decides she’ll deal with it in the morning, if she can ever get back to sleep.

Five o’clock comes rather quickly, and given that sleep seems to have evaded her, she gets up. Going to her closet, she digs out that old box of childhood mementos she kept, curious if that rifle really is as similar as she thought while half asleep. Inside are photos and trinkets from her younger days, mostly happy childhood memories, but a few from her more troublesome years also. She had been fooling herself to think that her and Johnny could come to an understanding and live in harmony, but that hadn’t stopped her from holding on to the memories of his love. She picked up the tiny heart he had carved out of birch. Their initials sat in the center, marking their everlasting love. Ha. The only love to last out of that was Karen. I just pray he never finds out about her. Another shuffle reveals no photos of her or the rifle, which is just as well. Taking it as a sign that it was just teenagers playing a prank, she quickly gets dressed and heads downstairs.

Grabbing the keys to her car she heads out to pick-up some coffee for her and Karen. The air is crisp with Fall and she has to hug her sweater around her a little tighter. She stops a moment, inhaling deeply, taking in the sites of Oak Street and the community she’s built around herself and Karen. Life might not have gone the way she’d always hoped, but in some ways it was even better. Moving around to the driver’s door she hears the rustling of leaves behind her and startles. She quickly dives behind the beat-up Ford and tries to sneak a glance toward the noise. Nothing. Feeling a bit foolish now, she stands up and quickly moves toward the door, ready to jump in and lock the doors. Just as she opens the door a quick and powerful force snaps her back and knocks her to the ground. Her head snaps against the pavement causing her to see stars. She squints and struggles to figure out what just happened, catching a brief glimpse of the strong jaw and dimpled chin she once knew so well.

Well, this puts a wrinkle in my day.

Darkness sets in.


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