Scene Four

“Well, I have to admit, I didn't expect that kind of response,” Melody said, once they were safely within the confines of their home. “What exactly did you do to her when you were a kid. Set fire to her underwear drawer?”

Bernie shook his head. “Honestly nothing,” he said. “I think she was away at college at the time Chuck and I were friends.”

“What was with the jars, Bernie?” Lonnie asked, sitting down.

Bernie began to stammer. He sat down as well, though mainly because it appeared his legs would no longer hold him upright. “I-I,” he began. “I don't remember. I get flashes, and I know it was something horrible. Something horrible we might have done. I don’t remember the specifics.” He was silent for a long while, staring off into space. “I don't think I want to know, Lon,” he said, finally.

Melody began to recall many incidents when the sound of clanking jars gave her father a start, or seemed to make his face wince as though in pain. They were now so close to a conclusion. So close to the answer to that puzzle. She had to get back into that house and see what was in those jars.

“Does anyone have a fake mustache I can borrow?” she asked no one in particular.

“I know what you're thinking, young lady,” Lonnie said. “That Sylvia might be out of her mind, bonkers, but I think she would see through the flimsy disguise of a twelve-year-old girl wearing a bushy 'stach. What kind of mother would I be if I let you try a stunt like that?”

Melody sighed. “A lousy one,” she said. “But I’m not judging.” She then snapped her fingers, or rather rubbed them together and said "snap" out loud. Without elucidating the brilliant plan that had just entered her brain, she suddenly leapt for the front door.

“Hey,” Lonnie said. “Where are you going?”

“Out to...,” Melody instinctively raised her hands in the air and make finger quotes, “Play.”

“We still have a fun day of garage sales to go to,” Lonnie said, making the same finger quotes around the word “fun”. She then held up the newspapers with the circled boxes, and waved it in the air. “Unless your father's not up to it, that is.”

“OH,” Bernie said, quickly. “I'm up to it.”

Melody groaned. Going to garage sales was fine as long as you didn't overdo it. Don't make a day of it. Get a handful of crap or two and get out! Was her motto. Her father, unless he was depressed or hungry, would do it until the sun went down and everyone was crabby or half crazed. “At least let me get changed into my paint clothes,” she said. She usually wanted to burn her outfit at the end of rooting through people's leftovers and hand-me-downs.

“No time,” Bernie said, jumping to his feet. It was as though he had forgotten the incident at the last sale and seemed like a new man. He opened the cupboard just below the television set and retrieved a pint-sized tin filled with change. “I almost forgot my pin money.”

“Fine!” Melody said. “I'll just cut a hole in a tarp and use it as a poncho.”

“Now you're thinking,” Bernie said, walking through the front door. He held the screen door for the women in his life, and locked up behind them once through. Melody wasn't sure if this was some gentlemanly act, or if merely done to make sure she and her mother weren't able to sneak back inside.

Melody jumped down the steps and wandered slowly to the sidewalk as her parents loaded themselves into the car. Something caught her eye across the street. It wasn't the weather station, which had done its fair share of spooky business as of late, but rather a couple of the neighborhood boys wearing camouflage gear. The older of the two gave her a nod and a short salute. She nodded back. She then raised her hand and surreptitiously gave him a series of hand signals.

This was a code of the boy's devising. What she told him was this: “Meet me at one o'clock. I have a mission for you.”

“Melody,” her father called to her from the now open car window, and across her mother who was sitting in the driver's seat. “You can talk to your boyfriend when we get home.”

Melody's eyes grew huge, and her face turned instantly red. In a deep, loud throaty whisper she returned. “He is NOT my boyfriend.” Under her breath she added, “You idiot!”

Without turning her head, she checked peripherally where the boys had been standing, and thankfully they had instantly departed after receiving the communique.

Lonnie told her husband. “You've riled her up but good now. Look! Her fists are all balled up.”

Melody began to grind her teeth as she approached the car. Why did they both have to torment me, she thought. There was absolutely no reason for it. If it wouldn't just get them to make more comments about boys, she would have told them to go off by themselves.

She climbed into the backseat of the green, slightly-beat up Volkswagen bug, and slammed the door hard enough to dislodge her father's sunglasses from the visor. They fell into his lap.

“Too far?” he said.

Melody scowled. “Please drop me off at the nearest adoption agency.”

Bernie turned to his wife. “At least she didn’t say orphanage.”

“The day is young,” came a raspy voice from the backseat.

“Okay,” Lonnie said to Bernie, changing the subject. “Get that paper out, Bernie, and give me the first address on the list.”

Bernie did as he was told and gave her the location. It was miles away.

Lonnie grabbed the paper away from him. “Did you number these in order?”

Bernie seemed confused by the question. “In order of what?”

Lonnie scanned through all the circled items. “Bernie, these are all spread out in a zigzag pattern. The goal here is not to spend all of our time driving around.”

Bernie took a defensive posture, or at least as much as he could do in such a cramped car seat. “I put them in order of coolest items listed...let me finish...”

Melody didn't jump into this conversation. It was not because she didn't have an opinion on the matter, but rather because of what she was watching through her side window. She smacked on the back of her mother's seat, frantically. “Go,” she said. “Go now! Erm...Punch it!”

Lonnie stopped talking. “Huh?”

“Mom,” Melody stammered. “Sylvia. On your nine!”

Lonnie shook her head. “On my...what?”

Bernie, staring intently at something, tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to her left.

Currently in the middle of the Jackson's front yard, and approaching their car with wild-eyed determination, was Sylvia Conroy. In her arms was the mildewed old cardboard box she had presented to Bernie earlier.

Bernie tapped his wife's shoulder again, hurriedly. “You heard your daughter,” he said. “PUNCH IT!”

Lonnie sighed and rolled down her window. It was an action at which both her husband and daughter reacted with serious looks of indignation and frustration – to say the least. “Don't be silly,” she said. “Hello, Sylvia,” she began. “I'm sorry if our presence, well Bernie's anyway...”

Sylvia stopped then, and set the box down on the lawn. She rose to face them, and without expression said the following. “I don't want this abomination in my home. This is HIS.” She pointed at Bernie, who was at the moment cowering in his seat attempting to become invisible. “May you weather the damnation my brother tried so hard to avoid.” With that, she turned and walked away.

“Dad,” Melody said very seriously. “What kind of canning did you do when you were a kid.”

Bernie shook his head. “I'm guessing it wasn't dill pickles.” He gave them a half smile, and then turned face-forward. “We're not going garage-saling are we?”

“No, Bernie,” Lonnie informed him. “No, we are not.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode Four

Melody Jackson

vs. The Creeping Terror

by BMB Johnson

Scene Four

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