According to my site stats, it looks like more people are following the novel than reading my astrology articles. I’m not too sure how to feel about that!!
Anyway, here’s the next installment. Links to the other parts are at the end.
And I’m still taking bookings for astrology consultations!
“Well we could watch how he interacts with others kids,” suggested Lucy. “He might be interested in someone already and just needs a little kick start.”
“You mean maybe I use my physical force points knock the books out of some girl’s hands as he’s walking past and he stops to help her pick them up?” Ivan suggested
“Yes!” said Alfie. “That’s it! Ivan, you’re one clever guy.”
Ivan blew on his nails and polished them on his lapel. “Well, they do call me the Love Doctor.”
However, things did not go exactly as they had planned. Once Marvin polished off his breakfast and picked up his books from the table, they followed him on the assumption he would go straight to school. They hadn’t considered the possibility that Marvin would not even get to school. As soon as he had reached the top of his street, he turned in the opposite direction of school and used his mobile phone to send a message. When he reached a house, the door opened without Marvin even having to knock. He entered and Ivan, Alfie and Lucy were left outside.
“Anyone see a portal?” asked Alfie.
They walked around the house, looking carefully. Lucy had seen one in one of the house on the other side of the street but none on the house Marvin had entered.
“It looks like we’ll have to try later,” said Lucy with disappointment in her voice.
And so they trudged back to Elliot’s house where Caroline was just getting up.
Caroline was wearing a skirt that was hardly a skirt and so much makeup that Alfie wondered how on earth she could actually see. Beside him, Lucy tutted and shook her head.
“Do you remember how carefree she used to be?” Lucy asked Alfie. “How she used to be so happy to see you?”
It pained Alfie to remember.
Ivan wandered off to the living room, presumably to give Alfie and Lucy time to think.
“Uh, Alfie?” Ivan called. “I think you had better come quickly!”
They rushed down the hallway to see what Ivan had seen. The television was on the channel with the red and green dots. There was one that was flickering in red.
“Who?” Lucy asked.
“If I’m not mistaken,” Ivan said gravely, “It’s Caroline.”
“Just a second,” Lucy said and she was off.
“What on earth?”
“I don’t get it myself. Maybe she’s about to get hit by a bus or something.”
Alfie began to pace. He was not sure he could stop a bus. In fact, he was pretty sure there couldn’t be anything they could do.
From far off, they heard Lucy’s voice. “I got it,” she called. She sounded frightened but not surprised. Lucy came back down the stairs, her face looking grim.
“What is it, dear?” If Alfie could feel his heart, he knew it would be hammering away inside his chest.
“She’s taken tablets,” Lucy said. “I don’t know what kind because I couldn’t see the label. But we need to think of a way to raise the alarm.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.
“Follow her,” Ivan recommended. “We’ll think of something.”
Caroline kept her head down as she walked. There were lots of children her age around as she approached school. It broke Alfie’s heart that not one person said hello to her or joined her. If he had a stomach, he would have felt sick.
The school bell rang a few minutes after Caroline had entered.
Alfie had no idea what he could do. The thought of Caroline joining them in the after world was such a depressing possibility that he just couldn’t think straight.
“Hello!” called Maurice, waving his trunk. “Something told us you might be in need of our assistance!”
“Elliot!” said Lucy. “Alfie, do you remember?”
For a moment, Alfie was completely lost and worse, he expected Lucy was lost too. Was it all too much for her? And then, he got it.
When Elliot was a young boy, he had a stuffed elephant called, inexplicably, Ricardo. Elliot talked to Ricardo as if he were a real person, brought him to the table as a real person and generally never let him out of his sight. He had gone into meltdown when Lucy had suggested Ricardo might enjoy a short spin in the washing machine. In time, Ricardo was pretty much regarded as a member of the family. They had even taken to addressing Ricardo as if he were a very small, very gray and very stuffed living person.
“Ricardo!” Alfie exclaimed.
Maurice tilted his head as if perplexed.
“Ricardo? Ricardo?” said the emperor penguin.
“Sounds a bit fowl to me,” said the flamingo, once again high fiving the puffin.
“You just quack me up!” screeched the puffin.
Alfie and the others ignored them.
“Maurice,” asked Alfie, “Buy any chance, do you have any physical force points left?”
Reluctantly, Alfie and Lucy left the birds to look after Caroline and brought Ivan and Maurice back to Elliot’s house. Elliot was just getting up and did not look too pleased about the whole process of waking. He looked as if he could have used a few more hours in bed. Briefly, Alfie wondered where his wife was.
“OK,” said Lucy. “The packaging for the pills was left in Caroline’s room where Elliot isn’t likely to notice. So what we need you to do, Maurice, is do your trumpeting thing from her room so Elliot comes to her room, sees the packaging, puts two and two together and calls for help. Got it?”
Maurice nodded his great head. His chest seemed more puffed out with the weight of the responsibility.
Alfie watched his son carefully. He again felt a heavy regret he did not know Elliot the man any more than he understood Elliot, the child. Elliot simply looked like an older, bigger version of the kid that had treated his old man with disdain before moving out of his life completely.
Elliot picked up his phone, pressed a few keys and listened.
“Valerie?” he said. “Oh darling, how good it is to hear your voice.” Elliot relaxed visibly and sat back down on his bed.
From somewhere, deep in the house, there was a low rumbling. Alfie had never heard a sound like it but reckoned he had better things to worry about.
“I can’t!” said Maurice.
“Oh just do it!” answered Lucy.
“I can’t wait to see you again,” Elliot was saying. “I just want you to be in my arms—“
Maurice trumpeted so loudly, Elliot was practically blasted from his bed. Jumping to his feet, he dropped the phone in a complete panic and for several seconds looked as if he were doing an extremely poor rendition of the tail end of a haka dance. In the meantime, Alfie could not recall ever being exposed to such a loud, intense or sustained blast ever in his life. It was like a single power chord, on acid, but magnified.
“JESUS H. CHRIIIIIIIIIST!!” Elliot screamed. He ran to Caroline’s room with Alfie not too far behind. As abruptly as the trumpeting started, it stopped. Maurice was completely spent and had managed to evacuate an impressive amount of ghostly elephant faeces with the effort. He wobbled as if about to faint but still managed to look suitably embarrassed over the mess he had made.
Elliot looked about the room wildly, running straight through the large mound of elephant dung. He checked the stereo, the wardrobe and the windows before his eyes settled on the empty pack of medicine not quite obscured by the blankets on Caroline’s bed and mercifully not covered with any of Maurice’s volitions. Gingerly, Elliot picked up the packet and turned it over in his hands. Alfie could now see the packet was Vicodin.
“Sweet Jesus,” Elliot muttered under his breath when he understood the implications of what had been in the package. As Alfie and Lucy had hoped, he immediately called Caroline’s school and told them they should call an ambulance. The conversation was brief and delivered in such a hushed yet urgent tone, Alfie had difficulty hearing it.
Elliot put the phone back down and shakily grabbed a jacket. He was out the door really before Alfie or the others were ready to follow him.
Caroline was conscious and lucid when led to the ambulance but Alfie recognised that there was also a resignation in her eyes, like an acceptance that things were never going to change and life was going to go on as it always had. He knew that she had only learned how to do things better and more thoroughly the next time—if she didn’t get help, the next time she would be successful. The thought both angered and depressed him. Again he wondered what had happened to turn her from a carefree child into such a troubled teenager.
Alfie looked up at the school and noticed nearly every window was filled with adolescent faces peering down at him. He could also hear the pleading of the teachers to sit down and complete their work. Some of the faces were jeering and he heard several cries of “Emo!” and “Goth freak!”. Caroline’s face did not show that she heard. She lethargically followed instructions and sat next to her father in resignation as the back doors of the ambulance closed.
Lucy caught Alfie’s eyes. “Emo is short for emotional. They’re making fun of her,” she said sadly.
“We did the best we could! The best we could!” shouted the emperor penguin. The flamingo and puffin looked at Alfie with such pity that he would have gladly plucked them.
Brandon was only recently plucked from a watery death but he was completely unsure if wanted life to go as it was going. Recently, he had felt as if life were escaping from him. It used to be so simple: he would get up, got to work and come home to a wife who loved him. Now the only thing he was certain of was that his wife had run off with someone else while he had been at work, blissfully unaware their joint bank account was slowly being drained away so Janie could start a new life with some other sucker.
He sat down on his super king sized bed and wondered if he had made a mistake in getting such a monstrously large bed. Perhaps the distance in the night had created a distance during the day.
Wandering forlornly into the kitchen, he began to re-think what had nearly been the end of him. He wasn’t a great swimmer for sure but in all the years he had been swimming in the river, he had never been in trouble before. But then again, it would appear his life was entering a phase of “never before”. He’d never been on the receiving end of a bad break up—although he knew he had broken some hearts in the past. Maybe it all came down to karma he thought glumly.
It had been very lucky that Clarice had seen him struggling and even luckier he hadn’t dragged her under as well. She had known exactly what to do. The thought of her being so close to him should have made him excited but he felt that all the passion had been completely drained from his now empty heart.
“That’s never happened before either,” he muttered to himself.
He had been so confident this morning when he had spoken to Clarice. Dinner with the grateful wife and his rescuer. It all could have been so pleasant. But what happens? He comes home to note that reads.
Can’t take it.
Sorry about the money.