It's July 1969, Quaker Valley, PA ("Like Gettysburg, except nothing happened here").... ...and there's a treehouse that needs to be built... and Steve Kelly's dad has the lumber... except... there are distractions to be cleared. This is chapter seven of my new novel YOU DON'T THINK SHE IS. Enjoy! --m
It was early in the morning but the Kellys' garage was already almost too hot to breathe in. We had tools‑‑ I'd stuffed Dad's hammer and saw and a pocketful of nails into a grocery bag in the saddle basket of my bike (a toolbox Just Like The Pros Used)‑‑ so all we needed was lumber. We took about five two-by-fours each, which we carried on our bikes the four blocks to our fort, balancing the ungainly armloads as we pedaled, teetering, like highwire cyclists. The 2x4s worked fine as framing or (cut and nailed into the tree trunk) as ladder rungs, but before we even nailed in two rungs, we both could see what we needed next: a floor. So that afternoon we were back in Steve's stuffy garage, digging in the Congressional Scrap Pile. “You think this'll work?” Steve asked as he pulled out a jagged floppy sheet of woodgrained wall paneling. I shook my head No. “Too thin,” I said. “Yeah... I guess,” Steve said, and he pushed the piece back into the stack. I could see edges of sheetrock and paneling, but nothing that looked like plywood‑‑ “What you guys doin'?” I looked toward the girl's voice, at the doorway into the house. It was Christy. She smiled at me through the screen. “Hi, Brian,” she said. “Hey, Christy.” (Flutter.) Christy looked at Steve as I looked away. “What are you guys doin'?” she repeated. “Lookin' for somethin',” Steve said, trying his best to get her to shut the door. It didn't work. Christy pushed the screendoor open. “Well, doyyyeeee," she said, "but what?” There she was, same outfit as before, but this time barefoot, her toenails painted Granny Smith green, with little white and yellow daisies on the big toenails. Steve tsked his Go Back Inside And Find Your Skipper And Ken tsk. “Something for our fort, all right? God...” “Well, you don't have to be ignorant, you little brat,” Christy snapped back, and that was the first time I realized: Christy was Steve's big sister. I'd heard my Mom call them "Irish Twins," and I just figured, you know, that meant they were actual twins. Christy pushed in between Steve and me. “Maybe I can help...” Steve was now flipping through the scrap pile more frantically than before. “Maybe I can help,” he repeated in a mocking nasal whine, and that was the first time I also realized: Steve kind of bugged me. Meanwhile, Christy was so close to me that our sweaty arms were brushing against each other, and I looked down at her feet, at her painted toenails, and, God, I don't know what possessed me, but... “I like your toes.” Steve looked at me like I'd said I WORSHIP LUCIFER!! but his sister just looked down, the light blush returning to her cheeks. “Thanks, Brian,” she whispered. “Kath did it for me.” Flutter again. I could still feel Steve's shocked energy beaming in pulses toward me, so I quickly pulled back from Christy and sputtered “We need plywood for a floor.” “Well...” Christy brushed back her straight, shoulder-length auburn hair and turned to look up and behind me. “...since someone finally asked...” and she pointed to the rafters, where, laid out like patchwork on the crossbeams, there were as many sheets of plywood as we could want, in practically any size we might need. All we needed was a ladder, which Steve grabbed from the wall, and in less than 15 minutes we'd pulled down a 2x3 foot rectangle and a 4x4 foot square. Christy stood, watching us, like maybe she wanted to ride along, but then Kathy (her redheaded big sister; two years older) pushed the screendoor open and stuck her head out. She looked like a cross between a slightly older Christy and a slightly younger Katie. “Reh-behhhh-caaahhhh...” she sang in a half-mocking, half-joking voice, and Christy looked down, annoyed but smiling. “You wanna go to the poooool?” Christy's eyes darted my way for just a flash, then back over to her sister. “You wanna go now?” Kathy raised her eyebrows. “Well... soon,” she said, and she glanced at me, smiling, before looking back at Christy. “How come?” Christy bit her lip, silent for a heartbeat. “Just a sec,” she said, and she opened the door and stepped into the house so she and Kathy could work out a plan. Steve looked like a mouse who'd seen the cat coming. His panicked eyes met mine. “We better go now,” he said.
From the novel YOU DON'T THINK SHE IS by Max Harrick Shenk Softcover; 368 pages; $15.95 USA: EUR 14,72
ISBN-13: 978-1500110970 Available now in print edition from better and lesser bookstores everywhere (online or brick-and-mortar)