Curtain Cape by David Bobis

I’d never wanted to be like one of those skinny kids who are dramatic about everything but I couldn’t help it. Victor was there in his old cape and he was pointing at the girls and saying that they were beautiful, now please come with us into our car outside so we can show you a good time. I stood up from our table and put my arm around his shoulders and smiled at the girls and apologised for my stupid friend. I told them that sometimes his good looks get to him and he becomes overconfident. They giggled as I pulled him away. “Alright, Victor, you’ve embarrassed us. We’re leaving,” I said.

He looked back at the girls and gave them the finger before elbowing me. “You haven’t even eaten all your food yet,” he said again and again. He stepped onto our table, yelling at me about never having fun. Everyone was looking at us. Everyone was looking at him. “Those girls adored me. You have to have more fun. Don’t you want to have more fun?”

I ignored him. I exited the restaurant, and, as predicted, he swore at me but followed me nonetheless. His cape lightly ran along the gravel as we headed to the car. I knew Victor’s eyes were wobbling slightly because mine were wobbling slightly. Sometimes I’d find that I couldn’t walk straight, sometimes I’d find that I understood everything about the world. Most of the time there would be a loud, booming ocean wave, blanketing all other noises in the world.

I started the car and we headed for the road. Victor played with his sunglasses and made some comment about them that I chose not to respond to. He had his shiny paper crown on again and he adjusted it to his left as he thought about something carefully. He took my sunglasses off and swapped them with his own. “Hmm,” he said, “hmm.” He looked through my sunglasses, thinking about something. “No, no, this won’t work.” He took my sunglasses off and swapped them around again. “Both our sunnies are crap. We’re buying new sunnies.”

“We’re not buying new sunnies,” I said.

“Yes we are, you bastard!” he yelled. “Yes we are!”

I punched his arm, causing us to swerve off the road a little bit. “I would but you’ll make a scene. You always make a scene. We can’t go anywhere without you stuffing everything up.”

He was silent for a while. His arms were strangling his chest and I knew he was thinking hard. Eventually: “So what? So what if I make a scene? Aren’t people allowed to make a scene? You used to always want to make a scene with me.”

“You’re an idiot, Victor. We’re already in trouble. Our aim is not to get in trouble.” I sighed. “I can’t believe you sometimes.” I glanced at him. He looked disappointed. “Look, driving is fun too.”

“You’re ugly,” he said, and left it at that.

The good thing about our road was that it was constant. It was boring, but I believed in it. It flowed and flowed like those pictures of waves my mother drew for us when we were kids. First, the road would take us through suburbs. Then the road would take us through some sunny highway that bore nothing but car dealership after car dealership. Then the background would become factories and storehouses, then a city, then trees, then a beach, then a small town, then a loud gap of nothing, of background and bland and colourful and fresh grass and dead grass and a shack and then more nothing, and then more nothing, and then a suburb would come around and the whole process would repeat. The scenery was a changing loop but the road was simple, it was old it was new it was there it would never end. I adored it more than anything. We’d been driving for one month.

“Park the car,” Victor said, around ten in the morning.

“No,” I said.

“Just park the car.”

“Or else what?”

“Or else the foxes will come out.”

“I’m bored of the foxes,” I said. “I’m sick of the foxes.”

That was when Victor pulled our gun out. He scrolled the window down and started firing away at everything. There was a bang, then more bangs, there was shattering, buildings screamed people screamed I screamed.

I didn’t want him to win the argument so I didn’t try and stop him. I kept driving at a steady pace and hoped that some sort of guilt would ram its way into him soon enough. When that never happened, I thought that the bullets would run out. But I’d forgotten about the Big Bag he had besides his feet. He fired and fired away for the next twenty minutes.

The hardest part came at a red light after we killed an elephant. I pulled the handbrake up and reached for our plastic bag of food.

“Let’s get out of here!” I screamed.

“No,” Victor said, pointing the gun at me and laughing. “Let’s stay here.” He pulled the trigger several times but nothing came out. He laughed at my reaction; I punched his arm and he swore at me. “You have to stop hitting me. You promised you’d stop hitting me. I could’ve shot you if I wanted to, you know.”

I tried to look through his sunglasses but they were glaring red. “Let’s go. You screwed up. Again. You’d do anything to win an argument, won’t you?” I punched him again. “You’d even shoot me!”

He rubbed his arm for a while, muttering. He then cradled our gun in both his hands and stared at it silently. He scowled. “You said you didn’t want to park.”

I glanced outside our car. People were approaching us. “Well you promised you’d behave.”

“I did behave,” he said. “And you can’t keep telling me to behave when you’re such a hypocrite.”

“Fine, stay.” I opened my door and stepped out of the car and, as predicted, he also opened his door and followed me.

I’d like to say that we’d never run as fast as we did that day, that we’d never been more petrified, but as I ran with Victor and as I ran with our plastic bag of food in my hand I quickly realised that we ended up running for our lives pretty much every time we stepped out of the car. Thank you, Victor. Thank you for the nothing.

As soon as I said, “There are people chasing us,” Victor instantly started firing away. People were screaming and crying and yelling.

“Over there!” Victor panted from behind me. “Run left, to the left!”

I ran right. I found that when running for your dear life, the best places to run through first were shopping centres and then poor neighbourhoods. Everyone in poor neighbourhoods seemed to want to help us hide somewhere. Everyone in poor neighbourhoods looked like we did.

By the time things had settled down and we were well and truly away from the world of unsettled people it had become evening, and even though for some strange reason the moon hadn’t come out yet there was still enough light for us to see each other. Victor leant on my shoulder. “I hate life I hate myself I hate everyone I hate it, I hate waking up I hate it, I hate life, I hate it I’m sorry I hate it.” I held his arm. He cried. I cried too.

We still hadn’t slept when morning came by. We stood up and walked for about three hours until we found a house with a swimming pool in the backyard. We took our clothes off and jumped in.

I liked to keep my eyes closed under the water but I knew Victor liked to keep his open.

“What the hell do you see in the water, anyway? There’s nothing to see.”

“You’ve never tried it. You can’t keep lecturing me when you’ve never tried it. Try it!”

After we were well and truly clean, we stepped out of the swimming pool and put all our clothes back on. We were still wet.

“Alright, let’s go and find us a new car.”

“No,” Victor said, distracted by something. “Let’s stay.” He walked towards the back sliding door of the house, his footsteps making wet little thuds. He peered inside. I followed him and also peered through the glass.

We both went silent. There was a large plasma screen TV inside, there were surround-sound speakers, there was an incredibly comfortable looking sofa set, there were photo frames, there were paintings. We were stunned. It reminded us of home. Victor walked off and came back with a pole and started kicking the door and hitting it with the pole. I tried to hold him back but he elbowed my chin well, causing me to quickly stumble backwards and fall over. The door smashed with a loud, catastrophic wail.

I winced, stood up and followed Victor inside.

When we were children, we used to break into homes and turn things around. We’d turn sofas around, we’d swap picture frame photos around, we’d empty out milk cartons, we’d unplug a few electrical appliances. We thought it’d be fun to confuse people. This time, however, Victor didn’t look like someone who merely wanted to enjoy a casual break in. I knew that underneath those red fire sunglasses of his was an anger of some sort, an anger that was growing and soon the foxes would join us all over again. He kicked tables over and threw photo frames across the wall. He used the pole to stab holes into the sofa he broke furniture he toppled the fridge over; his fists and his feet and his rage shattered the entire world. Amidst all of that hatred came a small, girlish whimper that suddenly made us both stop what we were doing and look towards the same direction. There was a little girl there, wearing a little pink sweater and little pink pyjama pants.

She was crying.

“Get back up there!” Victor screamed to her.

I glanced between the both of them. “Let’s go, Victor. Her parents will come her parents will come.” I tried to grab him but he pushed me away.

“Get back up there!” Victor screamed, taking two steps closer to her and raising his pole. The little girl wouldn’t move, couldn’t move. She was crying screaming shaking.

I glanced outside the broken sliding door behind us and imagined poison. “I’m leaving, Victor,” I said loudly.

“You’re not leaving.” He threw the pole towards the girl’s direction and it hit something. The little girl screamed louder but still couldn’t move. Victor took two more steps forward.

“I’m leaving, Victor you can have your fun but I’m leaving, the parents are coming and I’m leaving.” I casually walked outside the house, but contrary to my predictions, Victor did not follow me. I knew it was a gamble, but I didn’t turn around or yell for him. I kept walking, I walked past the backyard, I hopped over the fence and walked along the street. There was a lot of silence, there was a lot of walking, walking, walking. Soon enough I heard his footsteps behind me.

The weather relaxed and uncluttered itself. “You always leave early, you bastard. She wouldn’t have called the cops we could’ve stayed there.”

It was another sunset by the time we found the sports field.

“I miss the road,” I told Victor, tired. “I miss the endless. We better find a car soon.”

We lay down on the centre of the field. The grass felt like a sponge. I knew there were little insects and ants crawling over me but I let them do whatever they wanted to do. I could hear Victor breathing loudly and muttering loudly. I adjusted my sunglasses. Lights turned on in houses far away, an airplane called for attention, this whole country turned pastel and watercolour, clouds died and clouds were born. I heard small, hasty footsteps but waited for a while before looking up to see what was rushing towards us. I knew it – the foxes were back. They were big foxes with big heads. They were old foxes, too, old foxes with thick fur and wild, endearing eyes. They all looked happy to see us there, tired but not yet bewildered. Victor stood up and embraced one. The fox was twice as big as he was. It smiled, leant in towards Victor and licked him, making him laugh.

I lit a fire, a big fire in the centre of the field. We ran around it, yelling flying laughing; Victor and I rode a fox each. When we were tired we sat around, exchanging stories about what we called our lives.

“Do you know any good jokes, come on tell me some more jokes,” one of the foxes, the one with the short attention span, kept on saying.

I watched the large animals, smiling. I’ve always admired the way a fox could sit on its stomach and bend its legs. The orange light of the fire flickered over their delicate fur. The foxes almost had human faces but we never told them that. The only words I enjoyed telling them was that I truly loved them all.

Unable to keep my eyes open anymore, I lay down. I fell asleep with an awful ball of something inside of me. I was worried, but who wasn’t? I was afraid, I was sad, but who wasn’t? I was angry, but who wasn’t? I didn’t know if I wanted to be young again, I didn’t know if Victor and I should’ve been wearing our crowns. I didn’t want to wake up I didn’t want to sleep I didn’t want to collide I didn’t want to find the never.

As usual, when we had woken up and the sun was out and about and glaring, all the foxes had gone except for one. It was dead. Instead of lying on its stomach it was lying on its side, its mouth slightly open. They’d always leave a dead one behind. I’d always hoped it’d start breathing again, so in the daytime we could look at it properly and ride it and show it off to our mother.

Victor rubbed his eyes, stood up, stood next to it and looked at it. He just looked at it and said nothing. He looked tall from my view, tall and thin. His cape looked too short for him and the bullying glare of the sunlight overshone his wrinkled paper crown. He cried the first time he saw a dead fox. I had to hold his hand for an entire day.

We found our person in a parking lot. He was this guy about twice our age and he looked like someone who had just gotten a haircut. Victor pointed at him with our gun; I took his keys from his pocket and hopped into the car. I quickly threw our plastic bag of food onto the back seat and started the engine. I looked at Victor through the windscreen and said nothing. Victor stood there, howling, raising the gun, smiling, happy, accomplished. He was by himself now; the man had run away. I imagined running the car into Victor, into a wall and crushing his legs and feeling guilty after watching his face slam into the bonnet, after watching his nose break after watching his bloody eyes look back at me with confusion with horror, with blame. I scrolled my window down and looked out and slapped the door. “Come on, Victor, let’s go. We’re already in trouble.”

As predicted, Victor stopped his howling, looked at me, opened the passenger door and hopped inside. He swore at me. “You’re never fun.” We drove out of the parking lot. We headed back to the road.

David hails from Australia and hopes to one day make millions of dollars from his writing. ‘Curtain Cape’ is the 2009 third place winner of the John Marsden Young Writer’s Award and can also be downloaded from Apple’s iBook store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. You can find more of his work at www.davidbobis.com. If you’re bored, you can also email him here.

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One thought on “Curtain Cape by David Bobis

  1. Pingback: Curtain Cape by David Bobis | Solarcide: a writers hideout.

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