“You dropped your spearmint gum,” the mysterious boy says sounding exactly like Mario from Super Mario Bros.
Veronica’s eyes fluttered, “Oh, uh, thanks?”
“You’re welcome, bye.” His soul-piercing eyes move away as well as his high-pitched and unusually eccentric voice.
Suddenly Veronica’s Uber arrived, blinding the appearance of the mysterious boy. The driver rolls down the passenger seat window as he says, “What are you looking at, ghosts?”
Veronica points at the direction that the mysterious man was walking, “Did you not…see that man?”
“What man? All I see is a confused young woman, hurry up and get in. I don’t like flies and mosquitoes swarming in here like I’m holding a buffet of rotten garbage and blood packets.”
There was a lot on Veronica’s mind, and there was more to that man’s gaze than she initially thought. She asked the driver, “I have a question.”
“I hope it’s not a broad one kid. I may be full of wisdom but I ain’t full of answers.”
“Um, have you ever seen a boy wearing a biker jacket with a silver wolf medal on his belt?”
“You’re not talking about Kell, right? The one with the soul of the devil and the voice of an angel?”
“You do know him?”
“Only heard stories about the boy, he seems to always linger around specific parts of town at night. He is quite the enigma I’ll tell you that for free.”
“Does he usually hang out around here?”
“Usually I see him hanging around at the abandoned ‘Mouthin’ Donuts.’ Emerging from the building’s shadow, where the workers used to have their smoke breaks.”
“You make it sound like he’s homeless.”
“A man like that makes his home wherever he sees fit.” The driver then transitions to asking Veronica, “Why are you so fascinated with him?”
“I just think he’s…interesting.” The driver dropped off Veronica in front of her house. The white wooden picket fence and the pink flamingo are still so vibrant even at night. There was something to the appearance of Veronica’s home that felt cozy despite the outdated aesthetic. This was all due to the tremendous house makeover by her mom and pop, Wendy and Chris Idelson. She walks inside and opens the door to see her mom doing crossword puzzles in the kitchen.
Veronica closes the door and utters with mild exhaustion, “I’m home.”
Wendy raises her glasses as she puts her pencil near the newspaper and says, “You’re back this early?”
“Mom, I never stay out late.”
“Oh I know, just teasin’ ya. Hey you want to finish this crossword for me?”
Chris comes out with a finished dinner plate from the living room and says, “If you don’t help her, she’s going to torture me until I give her the answer.”
Veronica jokingly rolls her eyes at her dad as she then says, “Which makes her turn to me when you don’t have the answer anyway.”
Chris gives his daughter a kiss on the forehead as he says, “Exactly.”
Veronica’s mom raises her right hand and asks, “Can I get an answer?”
Veronica points at the newspaper, “The word is ‘unknowable’, it’s the only 9-letter word that makes sense to fill in there.”
“Well, would you look at that. You’re right!”
“I was right almost 7 hours ago when you asked me the same thing. Plus that newspaper was from last Thursday.”
“I nailed this week’s crosswords, they were too simple for me.”
Phil puts his hands on his hips and asks, “Well if that’s the case then why did this one stump you?”
“I was sidetracked by doing house chores. By the way honey, the desk lamp in the family room needs its lightbulb changed and the bathroom sink is clogged.”
“Those sound like easy fixes to me, I’ll have a look at them first thing tomorrow.” Phil yawns as he leaves the kitchen, but beforehand says to Veronica with a big smile, “Have a good night, Veronica.” Then gracefully side hugs Wendy, “You too, don’t go too hard.”
“Good night, honey.” Wendy turns to Veronica as Phil leaves the kitchen, and says in a cheeky manner, “You know these crosswords ain’t going to fill themselves in.”
“Whatever ‘crossword master.'”
Veronica’s mom laughs as she then asks, “So how was the hangout at the diner?”
“It was fun, Henry paid for all of our meals.”
“Oh that Henry is such a sweetheart, when are you going to ask him out?”
“I…you know there’s papers I need to finish and the homework is piling up.”
“Being a liar and giving excuses are not your best skills Veronica.”
“Look I just haven’t put much thought into it.”
“Alright you excuse-maker, off to bed then!”
“Night mom!” Veronica felt uneasy while trying to sleep later on, thinking about the mysterious boy and his wolf medal. The darkness swarmed through her mind in an embracing way, increasing her curiosity. During the middle of the night she clutched her pillow tight as she dreamt of meeting him again.
The next morning was quite cheery despite this dark mystery that loomed over Veronica’s head. Wendy was cooking breakfast, making a scrumptious stack of pancakes for Chris.
Veronica slumped her way into the kitchen table as the pans were sizzling. This caught Wendy’s attention as she asks while dusting off the cooking apron she was wearing, “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“Just had a rough night sleeping.”
“Well, why is that?”
“Bad dream, also had questions that wouldn’t stop lingering in my head. It was so annoying.”
“Whenever I had questions I always immediately pursued the answers to them. It’s why your father bought me this modern oven instead of a regular stove oven.”
“Why were you thinking about getting a stove oven? Where would you even put it?”
“No clue, but I liked the idea of it — see! Now you have an answer! All you have to do is reach out there, find it, and take it!”
The words of wisdom by her mother made sense to Veronica, but in ways she didn’t expect. Classes went by smoothly throughout the rest of the day, although Veronica was nodding off at points. She couldn’t stop tapping her pen, distracting some of the students. The patience of Veronica was wearing thin, although she burned time through all her classes by focusing on asking questions.
Some of which she already knew the answers to, ironic given the one question she needed answered was outside the campus. Once her last class was dismissed she darted through the door and out into the front campus lawn. Coincidentally, Henry was nonchalantly reading a brochure on a class for Hindu literature. His eyes glanced at the sound of feet kicking against grass and saw Veronica running toward the bus stop. Confused amassed in Henry’s eyes, but he disregarded the weird behavior and says, “Classic beach ball, always chasing those clouds.”
The trip between the university and the abandoned ‘Mouthin’ Donuts’ shop was mentally draining. However in less than 8 minutes she arrived at her destination, with the bus driver asking, “Are you sure this is where you want to stop at? This place is pretty sketchy.”
Veronica waves off the warning, “It’s fine, my friend’s meet up across the street anyway.”
“At the massage parlor? Really”
Veronica scratched the back of her head as she nervously says, “A good back means good…vibes?” The bus driver rolled his eyes as he closed the door and drove away from the abandoned donut establishment. This building had been vacant for years and the marks of time had shown. The top of the building had this giant donut prop with 6 round teeth and large oval shaped eyes. Brown paint was fading as the windows with stickers of sprinkled donuts were moderately peeled off.
Past the dirty windows was an empty cafe with no chairs and a marble counter that hadn’t been touched in ages. There was nothing left of the mediocre Mouthin’ Donuts building, except a secret that hid behind its shadow. Veronica analyzed the worn-out shop to figure out where the mysterious man’s hideout could be. She peeked around the building side, looked through the windows, and briefly examined the parking lot for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Perhaps the desperation of seeking the man’s hideout had driven her mad, and what happened next didn’t help her sanity.
She tilted her eyes to the left side of the building and noticed a bum leaning against the wall, in the shadows. This man blended in perfectly with the environment as he remained motionless. Veronica had to make sure this was a real person so she approached carefully. He had a scruffy beard with a yellow beanie, a ragged blue coat, and fingerless gloves. She saw his chest moving and realized that this bum was definitely real. She asks the bum, “Excuse me, but is there a hideout back…here?”
His eyes open, revealing the bluest iris in his left eye she had ever seen. As the bum awakens he says, “Lady, why are you sticking your nose in this place?”
She couldn’t muster a solid reason except say, “This is going to sound weird, but I-I need to see someone.”
“Do you now?” Upon further inspection by Veronica it appeared that the bum’s left eye was fake.
Her hands clasp together as she says, “Please, I need to see him.”
The bum scratched his gray fuzzy chin, “Alright, but I’m warning you…any funny business and I will cast you out of the den.”
“I’m sorry, did you just say the den?”
“You heard me, now move forward so I don’t lose sight of you.” The two marched across the roughened parking lot. Eventually walking toward what appeared to be a pair of trees with thick leafy branches.
Veronica slowly turns to the bum and asks, “You seem quick to trust me.”
The bum spits on the ground and replies with, “Part of me doesn’t, could be that there’s something special about you.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The one you seek is my protector. He has always been swarmed by those who have had the sharpest of edges, you seem as sharp as a butter knife so maybe…”
“What, also are you saying I’m dumb?”
“Forget it, just keep moving.” The leaf piles were as big as a shed and hid the secret entrance well enough from their perspective. Veronica immediately stops in front of the leaf pile and becomes mildly nauseous. “Well, aren’t you going to enter?” The bum asks with his arms crossed.
“Move through these leaves? Ew, why would I do that? There could be rats or diseases inside those piles of leaves!”
“Eh, coward.” The bum proceeds to bulldoze through the leaves by elbowing his way in. Veronica throws her hands up and follows by repeating what the bum did. In short time they arrived, the hideout of the mysterious man. A dusty patched up tent raised by stacks of worn out motorcycle tires.
Outside the tent were long wooden torches being kept lit by the sun rays emitting off dismantled rear-view mirrors. Raising its head through a hole in the tent was an old bronze wolf statue, a silent guardian. Veronica was intimidated by the sight of the wolf head and dismantled motorcycle parts, until the bum gave her a slight nudge. She then took her first brave step to the front flannels of the tent and carefully moved inside. Bravely pushing through, Veronica witnessed the mysterious man sitting on a throne made of bicycle parts and chains.
The sense of isolation that drenched over the man was potent. A lonesome king reigning over a kingdom meant strictly for himself. Veronica’s shoes crinkled in the dirt, causing the man to pierce his eyes at her. With the voice of a plumber who had just gotten hit by a Koopa shell, he utters, “Bernard, why did you bring her to den?”
Bernard was busy removing the leaves off his beanie as he says, “She asked to meet you, so I brought her.”
“What if she was one of them?”
“She’s not a ‘fox’ Kell, accept the fact that I brought you company.”
“I don’t need company…I am Kell.” Says the man who sounded like he had smashed ten coin-blocks.
Bernard pleas to Veronica with subtle desperation in his voice, “Please talk some sense into this broken man, any shred of social interaction will do him some good.”
Bernard departs from the tent, leaving a nervous Veronica and a perturbed Kell. Standing up from his throne, Kell asks, “Why do I recognize you?”
“Uh, you gave me my gum back.”
“Oh, that’s right — spearmint. I hate spearmint.”
“Why is it that every time you talk you always seem so dour?”
Kell randomly kicks a small statue of a wolf next to him, tipping over and breaking. The pitch of his voice gets higher the angrier he gets, “Because I’m cursed, forever pushed away by a higher society. All I have, my honor and my code, will be gone.”
“Those are some heavy thoughts, but I doubt there are people out there who are looking to strip everything away from you. You just need to, well, talk with them.”
“I just met you, but I can tell you didn’t suffer as hard as I did throughout my life.”
“What if you didn’t have to think like this?” Kell turned to look at her with disbelief and growing trust. “Maybe I can do something to…”
Kell exclaims with his off-putting accent, “To what?”
“To help you feel like your existence means something.” The conversation halted as the two looked at each other with differing expressions. Veronica was still nervous yet hopeful as she maintained her composure to the best of her abilities. Kell’s poise was cracking underneath due to her stark empathy and support.
Brushing his hair strands back, Kell states, “Fine.”
Victoria sighs as she asks, “So, where do we start?”
Kell gives a blank look at Veronica, “We start by converting the football team to our cause.”
“The cause of the wolf.”
End of Part II
For part III, click here!