By Jesse Edwardson
The boys ate a quick early dinner, Spaghetti-Os, then they went to the mall. The arcade was crowded, so much so that they had to wait in a line to play Dragon's Lair even though it has been out since last summer. They took turns playing the Star Wars arcade game. The vector graphics of this game reminded Eddie of the tank game Battlezone. Max thought it was pretty awesome. There was a new game with a big line that they didn't bother trying to play, it was called Paperboy. Max thought it's name sounded too much like a job. Eddie laughed at that.
Before they knew it, they were fresh out of quarters. With twenty minutes or so before Max's mom would show up to bring them home, the boys left the arcade and wandered around the mall.
“So, what should we bring with us tonight?” Max asked Eddie.
“I don't know, a camera maybe,” Eddie said.
“Are we gonna try to get inside of it? I mean if it really shows up that is,” Max said.
“Do you want to?” Eddie asked.
“Not really, I'm just wondering what you're planning to do.”
“Well, let's just see if it even shows up tonight. Take a picture of it and that should be good enough,” Eddie said.
“Ok. Who knows what would happen if we went inside that house. If it disappeared with us inside? That would be weird as hell,” Maxed said with a chill running up his spine.
“Yeah, that would be messed up,” Eddie answered. He had a far off look in his eye.
“Eddie, you don't think that house has anything to do with your brother being gone do you?”
“No. At least I hope not,” Eddie answered.
“Ok, well my mom should almost be here now. Let's go out to the front entrance.”
The boys stepped out into the early spring day just as Max's mom pulled up to the doors in her yellow Ford Maverick. The air still held some of winter's chill but carried the promising scent of the approaching summer. The two boys took a deep breath of the fresh and chilly air at the same time. They each relished the quality of the air, as if they were grown men with families and responsibilities. The boys they are were rapidly becoming the men they would become and these adult notions were becoming more and more frequent. They glanced at each other across the roof of the car before they got in. They saw the man within each other for the first time in their lives. It was only a moment, forgotten almost immediately. They dropped into their seats, shut the doors and Max's mom drove them away toward home.
The boys had about an hour before sunset. They decided to kill the time by playing Max's ColecoVision in the family room.
“So, is there film in your camera?” Eddie asked Max as he directed Mario the plumber up the ladders toward top of the building to save his girlfriend from Donkey Kong on the TV.
“Yeah, there's a few pictures left on it,” Max said.
“We should take a before and an after shot of the place,” Eddie said without taking his eyes off of the TV.
“Yeah, sounds like a plan. Can I have a turn already? You're taking forever,” Max said.
“I'm sorry that I'm awesome at Donkey Kong,” Eddie said grinning a little.
Later, when they were equipped with a Kodak Instamatic camera with nine exposures left and two flashlights, Max called to his mom from the back door. “Mom, Eddie and me are gonna go walking around for a while. Ok?”
“That's fine, just don't be out too late. The sun's going down,” she answered from the living room.
“Ok, we'll be back shortly after dark,” he called back.
“Alright,” she replied.
“See, no problem. We'll go, get our pictures, and be back in plenty of time to see Carson's monologue and after that I'll show you how a real man plays Donkey Kong,” Max whispered to Eddie.
“Yeah, right,” Eddie said
The boys stepped out into the back yard and cut across the neighbors yard to get to Yale Drive. From there it was only four blocks to Delavan Street.
They walked down the street, ignoring the sidewalk, with their hands shoved deep into their pants pockets. Traffic was virtually non-existent. The sun was still up, but just barely. The day had only fifteen minutes remaining and then night would return like a vampire to drain it's life away.
“Man, it's cold out,” Eddie said through chattering teeth.
“Yeah, it is,” Max answered. He didn't really think it was so cold. He knew that Eddie was just getting nervous. He wanted to allow his friend an excuse for his chattering teeth.
The walk to where Delavan comes to a T-intersection with Yale was quick and, other than Eddie's comment on how cold it was, quiet. Max knew that Eddie was doing something important to him so he didn't goof around with him or pick on him. He just walked with his friend.
They reached the end of Yale Drive at 7:35 p.m. The boys turned and walked north along Delavan Street for half a block. As they walked the could see the vacant lot approaching them across the street and to their left.
The lot grabbed all of their attention. It stared back at them, like a lioness crouched in the tall grass tracking prey. It had known they would come.
They stopped when they reached a spot directly across the street from the empty lot. On either side of the lot stood empty derelict houses. They were long since abandoned and cast the appearance of rotting teeth standing as sentinels for the missing tooth that had once filled the gap between them.
The empty lot stood overgrown and weedy. Through it's emptiness, and across the barren land beyond, the sun was visible as a sliver just above the horizon. The sky above was filled with a scattering of wispy clouds that during the day promised of warm summer days ahead. Now, they looked like black polluted puffs of smoke floating through a blackish purple sky. Closer to the ground, the sky turned blood red and faded to a pinkish color. Nearest to the sun it had a deep golden hue. The view was breathtaking and horrible all at once.
Eddie and Max stared across the street into the empty lot and the sunset beyond. Their faces were bathed in fading golden light. Their eyes fixed and unblinking, Eddie swallowed hard in his throat making a loud clicking sound. Max jumped a little. Eddie's nervousness had begun to spread.
“Man, are all of these houses empty,” Max asked, finally looking around at the houses on both sides of the street.
“Probably,” Eddie answered without taking his eyes away from the lot. “The sun's almost gone, we should take a couple of pictures.”
“Oh, yeah. Here ya go,” Max handed Eddie the little camera.
Eddie looked toward his friend and took the camera from him. He slid the lens cover sideways and raised it to his eyes. Through the viewfinder, Eddie could see the empty lot with just the smallest bit of sun peaking out over the horizon behind it. He snapped the shutter button, capturing an image of the weedy lot and the sunset. He dropped the camera from his eyes to wind the film to the next exposure. It was then that the last rays of sunlight dropped below the horizon.