Summer Gone Missing
By Jay Armstrong
Justin the monster shuffled along the dirt trail past the deserted beach and the park. He had been called that name many times over the course of his seventeen years. By his first grade teacher, Ms. Marsh.
By baby sitters, his parents, the police, even Father Kearney.
His bloodshot eyes scanned the empty playground as he limped along. His ankle felt sore where he had twisted it the night before, running away from Cynthia Johnson’s bathroom window. He didn’t feel like walking on such a cold day, but he had the uncontrollable urge to visit the woods again.
He would rather be home jacking off, thinking pleasurable twisted
thoughts, instead of going there. Though mostly he didn’t know or even
care why he did the things he did.
He pulled his dirty coat snug around his powerful chest. He put his
nose inside and breathed. He smelled fear and anger and violence,
mixed with his own sweat.
The picnic tables and fire pits in the park hunkered down on the dead
grass, settling in for a long winter. The pretty little song birds
were all gone. Now honking geese rafted up out on the lake, moving
south day by day.
The trees—sycamore, elm, and oak—sprawled naked against the
gray sky, their bones showing, all the leaves stripped by the winds of
Justin lived in a rusty old camper in the driveway of his parent’s
house at the edge of town. The camper was full of porno magazines,
drugs and alcohol, and crumpled tissue paper crusty with dried semen.
A small mirror hung above the filthy sink, splattered with puss, where
he watched himself pop the pimples on his face.
He was forbidden to enter his parent’s house if they weren’t home, or
ever be alone with his sister.
He cut across the park and headed for the woods. It was private there,
and he had a special place he liked to go. The frozen grass, still
green, crunched under his oily leather boots. He passed an old wooden
gazebo, painted white. A paper poster of a missing blond girl, maybe
eight or nine years old, had been nailed to one of the upright
timbers. “Where is Summer?” was printed in big bold letters. The paper
looked hopeless somehow, the ink faded by the passage of time. Justin
paid no attention to it.
He felt cold. He thought about the seasons. Simple thoughts really.
Birth and life. Death and decay. Things were born, they died and
decomposed. It interested him. The process.
Near an opening in the chain link fence that lead into the woods, he
saw a partially deflated plastic beach ball, red and yellow and white,
lying in a pile of dead leaves. It had been blown there by the wind.
The ball looked sad and lost and forgotten. He picked it up. It was
trash after all. He opened the valve and squeezed someone’s breath out
of it with his strong calloused hands.
The air rushed out of the ball, and he thought he heard the faint
sound of laughing children mixed with it. He opened his hand and
dropped it on the ground.
Justin stood still, and silently looked around. He breathed in the
sharp cold air. He could feel his heart beating. He turned and entered
the silent woods, as the first virgin flakes of snow began to fall,
covering his tracks.