Scene 4

Melody felt her mother’s forehead. “You know,” she said. “You do feel a little warm.”

“Well, I was just in front of a roaring fire,” Lonnie said.

“Right,” Melody said. “I forgot about that.”

“I know you and your father think I’m completely crazy.”

“Because you saw a house burning down that hadn’t done that thing except for sixty years ago? Not at all.”

“Well,” Lonnie said, folding up her arms. “I know you probably think I just imagined it, but let me tell you that my eyes aren’t so easily deceived.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, mother,” Melody said. “It’s not like there hasn’t been a lot of creepy going down, lately. I mean, who’s to say that you didn’t peer into the past through some wormhole and see a building on fire. Stranger things have happened around this neighborhood.”

“Yeah,” Bernie said, coming in the front door. “Maybe it’s Melody and I who are the crazy ones.” At a determined pace, he rushed past them and disappeared behind the swinging kitchen doors.

“Where is he going now,” Melody mused.

“Knowing your father, probably off to find something to fill his gob.”

Bernie returned from the kitchen with his hand buried in a bag of potato chips.

“Feeling better,” Lonnie asked him.

“Huh?” he said, his mouth full of crispy snacks.

“Dad,” Melody said, scowling. “Stop eating for once, and tell us about your meeting with Mr. Rogers.”

“Oh, that,” he said. He rolled up the end of the bag tightly and secured it with a clothespin. “I'm a little concerned,” he said. “Rogers wasn't exactly in a talkative mood. Which, believe me, is usually preferable. And I know he's mourning, but there definitely seemed like an even darker cloud hanging over his head that he’s trying to hide than the one representing his wife.”

“I don’t know if we can blame the chips on that horrible sentence you just uttered,” Melody told him.

The Jackson's sat down in front of the television set. Bernie even threatened to turn it on, rolling the remote control around in his hands.

“You know he gave me his metal detector.”

Melody's eyes crossed. “You mean his XR-40, slim-line Metal-Boy Pro?”

“That's the one.” He looked over to his wife. “Or at least he tried to.”

Lonnie's eyes softened. “That's good restraint, Bernie,” she said. “Once that darkness clears up, he's going to wonder why he gave that away.”

“That's just the thing,” Bernie continued. “Isn't giving away your things one of the signs. You know one of the big signs.” He leaned close to Lonnie and said one last word in a whisper as if in an attempt to keep it from Melody. “Suicide.”

“I know what you said and also what it means, Dad,” Melody said. “And just so you know, I’m not going to kill myself just because you say a word out loud.”

Lonnie placed her hand softly on her husband's knee. “We should keep an eye on him for a while. Mr. Roger's doesn't seem like the type to do himself in, but he's probably very depressed.”

“Depressed,” Bernie nodded in agreement. “Though, an even better word might be obsessed. As in, I think the only thing he has done in the last couple of days was sit by his CB radio setup. He had about six meals worth of plates piled up on his workbench and on the floor.”

“He's probably just trying to keep himself busy,” Lonnie said. “You know how men are with their hobbies.”

Melody snorted.

Lonnie eyed her daughter incredulously, as if she wasn't sure what to say to her. “You have some speech all ready to go, don't you?”

“Hmmm?” She raised an eyebrow at her, innocently.

“Some rant about men or hobbies or men and their hobbies. Maybe something about how that statement made me seem like I was born in the twenties or how I'm starting to sound more and more like my Mother every day. Well, go on then. Far be it from me to hold you back.”

“I really wish I knew what you were babbling about,” she said. “But it sounds like you have some problems to work out on your own.” She turned to her father. “Please continue with your intriguing story.”

Bernie regrouped and said finally, “He just kept going on about messages. Messages and Dark Matter.”

Melody's ears perked up at this. “Dark Matter? What does that have to do with anything? He's getting messages from Dark Matter?” What Melody knew about Dark Matter, honestly, she could write on her big toe in twelve-point Helvetica. However, this was probably as much or more than her father. “Does he think that Dark Matter is a person?”

Bernie seemed agitated by the question. “No,” he said, sheepishly. “Well, maybe in a way.”

After some prompting, Bernie finished his thought, which at first he seemed rather loathe to do. “I guess Dondra and he had a pact. If one of them should die before the other, the ghost partner was supposed to send back information about the other side to the living one.”

“Sooo,” Lonnie tried to urge her husband on. “He thinks he's talking to Dondra who has become Dark Matter through his CB radio?”

Bernie laughed softly to himself, but didn't show any outward humor. “No,” he said. “Well, actually he thinks he's getting messages from Dondra, but he doesn't think she's Dark Matter. Rather he says that Dondra's telling him....” He was silent for a long while. “You know how Dark Matter is really elusive and scientists say it's literally everywhere?”

Melody and Lonnie both nodded, although this seemed more like an urging for him to get on with his story rather than an agreement.

“He says that Dondra says...” Bernie stared off into space for a while longer.

“Bernie?” Lonnie tapped him on his forehead with her finger.

Bernie shook his head and looked at his wife, and seemed, at least for the briefest of moments, not to recognize her. “She said that Dark Matter is God!”

Melody and Lonnie turned to stare at each other for a few moments, each with a raised eyebrow.

The girl’s first instinct was that this theory was utter hogwash, but she held her tongue because she felt that there was a certain elegance to it. That is, specifically, from a theological point of view and not necessarily a practical one. Melody didn’t believe in a supreme being which ruled over all and created the Universe – at least she didn’t think she did. It had occurred to her that she had never really given it much thought, as it was a concept that she initially brushed away as idiotic. Her parents never really discussed religious beliefs, and she assumed them to be the sort of parents who just wanted her to make up her own mind on the matter.

Looking now at her mother, however, she was getting a different picture of this assumed view. Lonnie was glaring at her husband and pulling on her lower lip in the way she did when she was about to yell about something.

“Dark matter is god?” she said. From her tone, she was inferring the reference to the deity assignment was clearly in lower case.

Bernie began to stammer. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s what he said. And here’s the thing. I think this was the topic of my nightmare this morning.”

Melody jumped in. “When you were eating pillow, and murmuring about being barefoot?”

“Yeah,” Bernie confirmed. “’Dark Matter’, the thing in my dream had said. I’m not sure if it was saying that was it’s name, or just musing about the topic. If that was it’s name, then it definitely wasn’t God. It was something else.” Bernie then became distant and grimacy. “Something that lives in the well.”

Lonnie sighed. “Your well to hell dream.”

“Yes, my ‘well to hell’ dream. Doesn’t it not seem like an unlikely coincidence?”

Lonnie nodded in agreement. “Accent on the unlikely. You’re probably just remembering that term after the fact, Bernie. I don’t remember you being able to recall anything specific about that dream when you were awake.”

Bernie shrugged. “You’re not being very supportive for someone who wants people to believe she just saw an old building on fire that didn’t really happen.”

Lonnie only glared at him. “Did he say anything about the orange fireball?”

Bernie shrugged again, this time until his shoulders popped. “I mentioned that you thought you had seen something. Not that you didn’t see something– that’s just the way I phrased it to hopefully put his mind at ease.”


“Well. Rogers doesn’t really talk about anything Rogers doesn’t want to talk about. And this subject fit snuggly into that mold. He did seem to consider it for a moment, and even opened his mouth once or twice as though he were about to say something. But in the end, he thought better of it. Anyway,” he said, deciding to keep on with his own thread. “After the brief Dark Matter talk, he took me to the basement. He kept going on and on about this record that Dondra wanted me to have. Although, as he talked about it more, I realized it was actually Melody that was supposed to inherit the thing. I guess I was only mentioned because she wasn’t sure if Melody would know what a record is.”

“As if such a thing could escape my notice,” Melody said, with an impetuous smile. “So, where is it?”

“Where is what?”

Melody looked at her father sceptically. She then shrugged her shoulders at him almost violently. “Your hands are empty.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, I guess there was a box of old vinyl in the basement, records that is, and they were gone. He called his son, and found that the lad had sold them fairly recently. So that’s that.”

“This is just getting infuriating,” Melody said, slapping her hand dramatically over her face. “So, what was it? Where did he sell it?”

Bernie shrugged. “Apparently, it was a copy of Stravinsky's, The Rite of Spring. I told him I have a copy of it myself, somewhere. So no big loss I guess.”

“You have a copy yourself?”

“Yes, of course I do. It’s one of my favorites.”

Melody shook her head slightly. “Really?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I don’t know,” she confessed. “I just seems like a complicated piece.”

Bernie shrugged. “I like the frantic parts. It's very soothing.”

Melody rolled her eyes. “Anyway, you told this to Mr. Rogers.”

“Yeah,” Bernie said. “I told him it was good for getting me out of a funk.”

Melody sighed again. “That’s not exactly what I mean, and please tell me that you didn't allude to his mourning the loss of his lifelong partner as a funk.”

“No,” Bernie said, defensively. “Of course not. I don't remember now my exact words, but they were I'm sure eloquent and beautiful.”

“Like you do, Bernie,” Lonnie said, patting his knee again. At a whisper she repeated, “Like ya do.”


Melody stood up. “WHERE DID HIS SON SELL THEM? This could be a large missing piece of the puzzle here. And I don’t care if you have your own copy somewhere in this house. It might be a specific version, or a certain release. ANYTHING could be important.”

Bernie shook his head. “Piece to what puzzle? There’s a puzzle now?”

“There’s always a puzzle,” Lonnie said.

“It didn’t occur to you that there might be an actual reason she wanted me to have this record?” Melody yelled and stomped her foot, seemingly more to calm herself than to express inelegantly her aggravation “Can you get his son's phone number?”

“Hold on,” Bernie said. “The man was practically inconsolable. I was lucky to get even that much information out of him.”

“Maybe we should just step back and examine why we want to solve this puzzle...if there in fact is one,” Lonnie said, “and if finding the answer is for ourselves or to help poor Mr. Rogers.”

Melody's eyes narrowed into slits. Why was her mother suddenly acting like the voice of reason? Was it guilt? Misplaced altruism? Melody knew for a fact that her mother loved a good mystery as much as she did.

And then it hit her. Perhaps her mother was worried that Mrs. Roger's might somehow be still hanging around, listening in on their conversation like a ghostly secret agent. She did seem worried when her father mentioned that dark matter/god tie-in.

“Which is ridiculous,” Melody intentionally said out loud, assuming at this point that her thoughts had previously been made vocal, because this was something that had been happening to her more and more lately, “because she obviously wants us to solve her riddle. It was practically her dying wish.”

Lonnie stared at her daughter blankly. “I think you left out an important part of that conversation,” she told her.

“Oh, um?” Melody felt a little embarrassed, even though in a way she was relieved that she managed to keep at least some of her private thoughts somewhat private. “So, I neglected to mention the part about the spectral secret agent?”

Lonnie and Bernie shook their collective heads, raised their collective eyebrows.

“Although,” Bernie said. “I have to say that I am more than a little intrigued now.”

“Never mind,” the girl said with sudden surprised anger. It was as if she had just picked up a hot potato and then dropped it on her bare foot. “If you don't want to get the son's phone number, at least we should start calling all of the record stores in town. It's not like there's a lot of them these days.”

“And ask them what?” Bernie said. “Did someone come in and try to sell a bunch of old lady records recently?”

“You're the one with the subtle charm and sophistication,” Melody told him. “Use that to your advantage.” She turned to Lonnie. “Mom! Job for you.”

“Sweety. Yes, sweety!” Lonnie said, saluting.

“Go into the spider-infested basement and find the record player, and make sure the needle is free of lint.”

“By your command, General Darling Girl,” Lonnie said and threw her hand, which had been hovering around her forehead, down to her side. She then ran off as instructed.

“And what are you going to do,” Bernie asked his daughter, smugly.

“I,” she said, dramatically, “am going to go and take a nap. Dealing with you people takes a lot out of me.

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Message from Space

by BMB Johnson

Scene 4

Please support our efforts

Support the author -- buy him a coffee to keep him awake and writing

Read Bark, the first of the Bill Swagger stories, free on our site.

Tales of Fastlegreive

Our new ongoing series of stories in the Fastlegrieve realm.

Read the "Tales of Fastlegrieve" for free on our site.