By now you probably think I’m a bad person. I didn’t mean to endanger anyone, not at first. Jenny and Mr. Daniels were on purpose, obviously. Nick’s grandma was before all that, and please don’t tell him. It was an accident.
She got caught up in the Domino effect; at least that’s what I call it. I didn’t mean to hurt her. I didn’t even see clearly who she was. I know for certain, I can’t ever tell him it was my fault. It was only for a week.
After my last post some people assumed I was psychic…but it’s not really like that. It’s more like, sometimes I see possible scenarios before they play out. It doesn’t always happen, just when I decide to do something that I normally wouldn’t have. It’s a voice–a voice that tells me things and shows me a result if I decide to listen. Up until last year, I had spent my entire life ignoring it.
At this point, I’m unsure what the voice is or even what it stands to gain from telling me to help it.
Sometimes the things that the voice tells me to do reveal a complicated map: I do a thing and a dozen other things happen because of it–or–it may be a simple cause and effect: one thing directly causes another thing in result. Most of the time, it’s complicated. A web of unrelated events that happen because of me.
Whatever the case, what I see happen, happens. Always. It might take hours, or other times, it might take days.
Sometimes all you have to do is drop something in just the right spot and decide not to pick it up.
Last year was my junior year. Up until that point, my time in high school was dreadful. It was dreadful for a lot of reasons, but mostly it was dreadful because of Drake Tate.
He was a big kid; had been for years. Good looking and charismatic–he knew it too. Isn’t that always the worst kind?
He had been bullying me a long time. We were friends once. That now seems like a different lifetime on another planet. Years ago, when 7th grade started we both returned to the new year of school changed. He came back from that summer over six feet tall; widely built and fit…even sporting a few chest hairs. I came back just a little bit gayer than I’d been the year before. More obvious about it too. I came back a 13-year-old-pariah and Drake had been holding the torch and pitchfork at the lead of my mob of tormentors ever since.
For four years I’d put up with his bullying–that is, until the day I got him expelled. He can’t even blame me for it because it was the Domino Effect really. Not me.
That was the first time I can remember listening to it on purpose, the voice, though I may have done before that without realizing I did.
“Out of the way queer!”
It was the end of the school day and I was packing my books up from my locker when strong hands pressed firmly against my back and sent me toppling to the floor. The books in my arms went flying and the momentum had thrown the pencil from behind my ear. I watched as everything spilled away from me, determined not to react to Drake and the grin he directed down as he passed.
I picked up my books and was following the pencil as it rolled across the tile, being kicked to and fro by passing feet. I was just about to grab it when the voice told me: “leave it,” and showed me what would happen if I did.
So I did.
It played out like frames of a comic.
If I left it, the night janitor would call his wife as she tucked their son into bed. He did this every night. The call, with the phone cradled against his shoulder, would distract him and his sweeping would become clumsy. He’d miss the pencil while he mopped the halls. The next morning, the vice principal would step on it and it would roll. He’d trip, falling backward right into Drake as he unloaded his backpack into his locker. The backpack would fall open and two joints would fall out. They’d search Drake’s car out in the student lot and find an ounce of weed in the spare tire well. Drake would be expelled and not allowed to come back; sent to the alternative school in the next county for his senior year.
It was a simple cause and effect and would remove him as a nuisance from my life for the rest of school.
So I listened and let it happen.
Leave the pencil; bye-bye bully.
Sometimes it’s that simple.
Sometimes the images I get from the voice are less clear. A few weeks later, before the school year ended, I made a different kind of choice without fully understanding the consequences of it.
I was supposed to be working on a paper but was scrolling through Facebook on my laptop instead. I didn’t care about the post, but the voice told me to click the “like” button and the events would play out: ending with a boyfriend. It didn’t show me quite who he was or any of the steps between, really.
I’ve figured out since that it shares less information if it thinks it can get me to listen with less information.
I’d never had a boyfriend.
Don’t kid yourself. You would have clicked too.
Nick and I started talking in the waiting room at the hospital.
“Hey Mike. Oh wow, does that hurt?” He asked me.
This was it. I just knew it.
My heart was fluttering and it wasn’t because of the rag filled with the blood that I’d been patiently losing. Nick was a big deal at school and here he was, choosing to talk to me.
“It isn’t so bad.” I lied, “why are you here?”
Tears welled in his eyes as he told me: “I think my grandma might die.”
That’s when the voice decided to show me the rest of the events.
A boyfriend was supposed to be something good…but not like this. I wasn’t supposed to cause this. I shouldn’t have listened to the voice that time. lt wasn’t the last time I should have ignored it either.
Ron McClure was our mailman. He’s a bigger guy, about 40 pounds overweight, and being confined to the small space of his delivery truck for most of the day he is prone to snacking. His favorite snacks are bite sized. That day, on his regular stop at the Quick-n-Go, he filled up his 64 ounce mega-cup with Mountain Dew and snacks for his ride. The snacks he chose were M&Ms, a jar of peanuts, a bag of Doritos and a Slim Jim. After, he’d stopped at a drive through for a breakfast sandwich and began his rounds.
By the time Mr. McClure got to Nick’s block, it was mid-afternoon. The middle school gets out earlier than the high school and two girls, Beverly and Megan were out in the yard practicing their catches for their team’s big softball game that weekend. Beverly Wilson was the team’s shortstop and the position demanded that she be able to field the ball no matter how it came to her, so Megan did not tell her whether the pitch would be center mass, a grounder, or a pop fly. She needed to be on her toes.
Something like a hawk screeching down from the clouds would be very distracting indeed.
Megan threw the ball fast and hard but Beverly did not see it. She was too busy watching her mother’s flowerbed in horror as the hawk produced a writhing, screaming, rabbit from the red blossoms and lifted it high into the air. It had been hiding there; eating something on the ground near the begonias.
It dropped the rabbit in the center of the road just in front of Ron McClure’s small truck. But that is not the reason that he crashed.
When the rabbit splattered onto the asphalt in front of him Ron McClure was already choking. The softball that Megan threw, that Beverly did not catch, had come in through the open window just as he was taking a bite of the Slim Jim he had purchased earlier that morning. It hit him Square in the chest. Center mass. He had already opened and picked at most of his snacks. As he began to choke he slammed on the brakes and the vehicle fishtailed and then toppled over on its side, sending the M&M’s, the jar of peanuts, and Doritos everywhere in the vehicle like edible parade confetti.
He was dead by the time anyone came to help him.
Sean Bass was just about finished with his route on the other side of town when Olivia Sharp, the postmaster, called him to ask him to finish Ron’s route for him. After all, neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor sudden choking death, nor gloom of night would stay the couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
The mail would still need to be delivered.
Sean collected the mail from the ruined truck before it was uprighted and towed away. He was trying to not resent the responsibility or feel disgusted by the disorganized state of the vehicle; a man had died after all. Still, the mess was appalling. It was hard to tell if the burger wrappers, peanuts and M&M’s had covered everything because the vehicle had slammed into the rotting, termite infested tree, or if it had been like that before the accident.
He finished off the last round of deliveries in a flurry, opening and slamming mailbox clusters closed. As he angrily shoved an Amazon delivery into the parcel box, the box ripped slightly but the item inside wasn’t damaged. He did cause further damage to the oversized package as he fought to close the back panel of the parcel box, but most of the mail did arrive undamaged, if late.
As he drove away, the door swung back open and the timer on Patricia Baker’s sprinkler system kicked on, ruining the package further.
Erma Price watched the mail truck pull away, baffled at the curiously late delivery. She saw it from her kitchen window as she lifted the casserole from the oven. The whole family was over for dinner. She asked her grandson, Nick to run out and get the mail for her.
Jane Brown was fuming mad when she finally got the Amazon notification on her phone that her box of Mason jars had been delivered. She was unaware that a man had died. 9pm was a ridiculous time for something that she had been checking the mail for that entire day. She stormed outside and yanked the soggy cardboard out of the parcel box so quickly that one of the jars smashed at her feet on the sidewalk and a second one went flying to crash a bit further up the path.
She would be leaving a bad review, for sure.
I was out riding my bike in the dark. I was supposed to be home already and I was well on my way. My house was just a few streets over. My bicycle tire popped suddenly over the broken glass sending me flying over the handlebars. I landed on the other jar and cutting myself deep enough for stitches.
Around that same time, Erma Price went into anaphylactic shock, which was an unexpected turn of events. In their panic to get her to the car and then the hospital, the family forgot about the epipen in her medicine cabinet. The curious thing was that there was nothing in the house that might have caused the reaction. It was all forbidden; not even peanut butter in a sealed jar was allowed. Her allergy was one so severe that having the dust particles in the same room would be enough to trigger her reaction.
Unbeknownst to the Price family, her mail had been covered in peanut dust during the crash.
By the time that Nick and I began talking that night, Erma was still unresponsive but she had been stabilized. They might have prevented the coma with the epinephrine in the medicine cabinet had they not been so panicked to forget it was there. I had only needed three stitches so I was asked to patiently wait my turn while they tried to revive her.
After all of the pieces fit together, the voice inside me showed me everything that had happened. Everything it had done because I listened to it.
The night before all of this took place, the HOA president, Sarah Wilson had been coming home with the groceries. As she walked the paper bag up her driveway from the car, she thought she heard a child crying somewhere, but she may have imagined it.
This was all before what happened last week and across the street from her, Everett Daniels was still alive. She hated that man; had gone around with flyers letting the entire neighborhood know he was a convicted sex offender the day he moved in across the street. She was just reaching her door when she noticed an arrhythmic flashing from his window. A blinding white light behind his curtains, like a camera.
She slunk back into the shadows when he came outside, sweating and shirtless, and lit a cigarette.
I was scrolling through Facebook at that time, like I mentioned, and the voice told me to “like” a post from the HOA’s Facebook Page. It read: “Tennis Courts On Dyer Rd To Be Closed Next Tuesday Until Friday For Resurfacing.” I didn’t give a shit about tennis or the state of the courts, but I’d clicked “like” anyway.
Sarah Wilson’s phone chimed loudly in the dark notifying her about the “like” on her post. She jumped suddenly, sending the bag of produce spilling to the ground.
Everett looked up and waved to her in the dark with his cigarette hand, a wary smile on his lips.
In the dark, in her haste to pick everything up and get inside, she’d left a few carrots in the begonias.