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"Oh, God, there it is," Janie squealed.
I nearly jammed on the brakes, my eyes searching wildly up and down the road for an accident, or maybe a pedestrian who had blundered into traffic along busy Route 1.
"What? Whatsamatter?" I barked.
"There, " she pointed insistently. "The Castle on the Hill... the old Arkham Asylum. It's just as he described it."
"Huh? You mean the nuthouse? That's just the old Danvers State Hospital."
Janie's eyes were riveted to the group of buildings on the hill to our left. Their architecture could only be described as grotesque gothic, horrifyingly ugly. They had been placed on the National Register, no doubt as the ugliest buildings ever constructed in the United States.
I pulled into the parking lot of the ice cream shop at the foot of the hill that carried the now closed state mental hospital on its back. Janie stepped out of the car, looking up in wonder at the complex. People coming and going from their cars looked at her as if she belonged up there.
Janie was one of five college friends of my sister, Moira. The summer of her senior year Moira brought them all home for a visit. I suppose even then I sensed that Janie was the odd one out of the group. But she paid lots of attention to me, a 17-year-old kid who hadn't made much of an impression on girls of his own age. For a 20-year-old 'older woman' to take me under her wing was pretty heady stuff. We were great pals that week.
I remember Janie as having wild reddish-blonde hair and a constant smile. Wide bony hips that I desperately wanted to touch, and she let me, as if it were accidental, just before she left. Later, Moira tittered that Janie and I were on the same level. It wasn't a compliment to me, so it had to be a knock to Janie.
Moira kept in touch with all her friends from school as they began careers, or married and raised families. But, when it came to Janie, keeping in touch was pretty much a one-way street. Moira didn't call; it was always Janie. I remember dropping by Moira's house once when the phone rang. Moira answered, then took maybe five long seconds to acknowledge Janie's greeting.
I never understood the coolness. I still had fond memories of Janie. But, I had my own life and acquaintances to pursue. Time passed, thirteen years since I had met Janie. But the picture of that scrawny girl with all that hair and the 100-watt smile stayed in my mind.
Earlier in the week, Moira had called me just as I got home from work.
"Hi, little brother," she said in a tone that indicated another shoe was about to drop.
"Hey, Sis, what's up?"
"I'm calling to give you a heads-up."
"I'm sorry, Shea. Janie called me last night."
"Well, I let it slip that you work in Boston now for the Attorney General's office and..."
"Let it slip?" I laughed.
"Oh, shut up and listen. Anyway, her latest thing is she's joined a group that is devoted to some screwy writer I never heard of, and she keeps talking about some mad Arab, and a place in Massachusetts called Arkham and..."
"Lovecraft," I said.
"Huh? Yeah, that's the guy. What is he, some kind of Stephen King or something?"
"Not hardly. He's dead. He was way before Stephen King. Arkham is a fictional town based on Salem."
"Where the witches were? Jeeze, I might've known it. She's really gone off the deep end."
"So, what's the problem?"
"She's flying to Boston on Thursday, and she wants you to show her Arkham, or Salem or whatever. You know, she does this all the time. Just shows up on people's doorsteps without any consideration whether they have any plans or a life, or anything..."
"Hold on, Moira. I don't mind showing Jane around, don't worry..."
"You don't get it, Shea. She's exactly the same as when you met her, you know, when you were a teenager."
"Yeah, so? I liked Janie, I..."
"Shea, listen to what I'm saying: she's exactly the same."
I suppose I could have taken the clue, but all I could remember was that crazy, fun girl who took a shine to me all those years ago.
"Shea? Are you still there?"
"Uh, yeah. Listen, Moira, it's okay. I'll give her a quick tour and ship her back to Chicago."
"Okay. I just didn't want you to think I set her loose on you. You can only take Jane in small doses."
Thursday, I picked Janie up at the airport. At first I didn't recognize her, but when I did I hoped my disappointment wouldn't show. Janie had filled out. No more bony hips. They were still wide, but they had acquired quite a bit of padding. Janie also seemed to be working on a spare chin. She wore a flowery shift, and her glorious reddish blond hair was cut short and had turned a coppery brown. Or maybe the color was manufactured. One thing that hadn't changed was her smile. It lit up the entire terminal.
"Ohhhh, my god, Sheeeeeeyaaay," she keened as she ran into my arms and nearly bowled me over. "Look at you. You're so handsome. Not that you weren't a handsome kid, but... oh, wow! What a hunk!"
I could feel my cheeks flush and my ears burn as anyone within earshot - and that was just about anyone - stopped whatever they were doing and focused their attention on Janie and me. I tried to steer her out of there as quickly as I could. We snagged her baggage and headed for the garage. All the while Janie maintained a constant prattle.
As we pulled out onto the airport road Janie continued to yammer. "Jeesh, look at this traffic. This is worse than Chicago. Oh, cripes, have you ever got stuck in traffic and had to pee? That happened to me in Chicago once. I had to run out of the car and into a restaurant, and when I got back there were cops there, and they gave me an awful ration of shit about it, but I said, hey, you know, when a girl's gotta go, and I had just had the car cleaned, and what did they think I was gonna do, aim it out the window or something... like yeah, maybe, if I had the right equipment. But this traffic is awful, how do you stand it, I mean..."
"Where are you staying?"
"Oh. No place yet."
"You don't have a hotel?"
"Nah, I'll get one later."
"Jane, this is peak summer tourist season. Rooms are hard to come by..."
"I'm not worried, I'll find a flop. Right now I want to take you for an ice cream."
The thought barged into my head that Janie didn't need an ice cream, but I bit my tongue.
"Here," she said, referring to a notebook she seemed to produce out of thin air. "Putnam's. We have to go to Putnam's at Routes 1 and 62."
"I know where it is."
Now, in the parking lot of Putnam's, Janie took my arm and steered me into the ice cream shop and toward the topping smorgasbord.
"Shea, let's order the Bunker Hill."
"What? Christ, Janie. That has seventeen scoops."
"Right. If you eat it all they give you a certificate and put your name on a plaque or something."
"Jane, you need about 20 people to help you eat that. I'm ordering a frappe."
"What's a frappe?"
"It's what the rest of the country calls a milkshake, except in New England you order a milkshake you get shaken milk with some flavoring."
"Sure you won't go halves on a Bunker Hill?" she winked.
"Okay. I'll have a hot fudge sundae."
Janie pillaged the smorgasbord, piling not only fudge sauce, but butterscotch, marshmallow, whipped cream, strawberries, pineapples and broken bits of Oreo cookies, all of which dribbled thickly over the sides of her bowl.
We found a table and Janie began to dig in to her sundae, which gurgled with each penetration of her spoon.
"So, Janie," I said, casting furtive glances at other patrons who sat transfixed as she attacked her sundae. "How did you become such a devotee of H.P. Lovecraft?"
She swiped a napkin across her chin to catch a trickle of hot fudge. "Cheddar turned me on to him. See, I joined a literature discussion group where I met Cheddar, and he had his own group. See, he was looking for new members. So, I checked it out, and wow! Shea, this guy was incredible, and he found this ancient occult text, the Necronomicon, that was compiled by an Arab wizard in Damascus like hundreds of years ago and..."
"Jane, that book isn't real. It's fiction. Lovecraft made it up."
"Uh-uh. Cheddar says that's what his publishers put out, because they wanted to get their hands on it so they could rule the world and..."
"Cheddar? What's his first name?"
"That is his first name."
"Don't tell me, his last name is Cheese."
Janie looked at me blankly. "No, his last name is Romano."
"Anyway, we meet twice a week and discuss one of Lovecraft's stories and try to find the path."
"The path to what?"
"The truth, silly."
I took a long draw on my straw. "Jane, Lovecraft's stories were all about evil, old boogedy monsters and crazy people who try to bring them back."
"Boogedy," Jane grinned. "I haven't heard that in a while."
"Janie, are you sure this guy... Cheddar... is just leading a discussion group. Sounds more like some cheesy cult."
Janie's mouth was full of ice cream, but her eyes told me not to go there again.
When we had finished, Janie insisted we head into Salem, while I was concerned about getting her a room for the night. Back in the car Janie was becoming more excited.
"Have you ever been to Salem?" she asked.
"Yeah, quite a few times. See, there was a governor who thought crazy people were being denied their rights by being kept locked up in nuthouses. So the governor let them all go and closed the state hospital. Later, the locals in Salem were complaining that the downtown was filling up with nuts. Frankly, I couldn't see how they noticed, since they had so many screwballs running around anyway. But the AG sent me up here to check it out."
"So, what happened?"
"Turns out they were right. Some poor souls who used to reside in your 'Arkham Asylum' ended up walking the streets of downtown Salem because they had no other place to go."
"Yup. But I had to say this much for the town, they could tell a genuine nut from a crackpot. They say the town's cursed. Maybe it is. One old timer said he thinks there's a billboard somewhere pointing to Salem that advertises 'Free Proctology', because the town keeps attracting assholes." I chuckled, "It's a freaking mecca all right."
"Right, Mecca," Jane enthused. "There are some things I just have to see."
"Janie, it's getting late. We really should get you a room first."
"Aw, Shea, plenty of time for that. Show me Salem first... okay?"
There is no such concept as driving in a straight line to Salem, or in Salem. We crawled through local traffic and made it downtown just as the sky began to turn a pinkish twilight. I parked the car and escorted Jane to a half dozen sites on her list, all of which were used as a setting in a Lovecraft story or correspondence. Janie did indeed behave like a Muslim on a Hajj.
Our stops at the Corwen House, Derby House and Common verged on the devotional, and Janie would recite a passage from a Lovecraft tale that referenced the site.
It was beyond twilight now and a half moon had risen over the town. The tourist crowds had thinned and the streets were pretty much empty.
"Jane," I insisted, "we can come back tomorrow. We really have to get you settled."
"Just one more place, Shea. Please. It's the most important."
"What's so important about it?"
"You'll see," she winked.
Dutifully I guided Jane to the Old Burying Point, the oldest cemetery in Salem. Jane stood at the gate and proclaimed, "Yes, this is where it will happen."
She was beginning to scare me. She put her hand on the gate and became irritated when she noticed the padlock.
"Oh, shit! We have to get in, Shea."
"Tomorrow, Jane, we can come back tomorrow. It's going to be a nice day and..."
"No, we have to do this under the moon."
"Do what? Janie..."
"Shhhh. We can climb this fence."
"Wait a second," I said, and took her by the arm. I led her around to the side of the graveyard and into the simple courtyard of the Witchcraft Hysteria Memorial. I helped her over a low stone wall and we were in the cemetery. It isn't like the place is hard to get into.
Jane was like a pilgrim at a shrine. She floated, more than walked, to the center of the cemetery, pausing only to acknowledge the grave of Judge Hathorne of the witch trial court with a "Cool."
At last she motioned toward a brick and mortar tabletop structure above a tomb. I followed her.
"This is perfect," she said. "Who is this guy?"
"Bradstreet. He was one of the Bay Colony's first governors," I explained. "Perfect for what?"
Janie just grinned, she pulled her shift over her head and tossed it on the tabletop. I stood with my mouth wide open catching mosquitoes as she unsnapped her bra and let it fall to the ground, then lifted herself onto the tabletop tomb.
I had barely recovered enough wind to ask what she thought she was doing, when she held up her arms and began to chant some nonsense that sounded like a sick baby gargling.
Finally, I managed, "Jane, what the fuck are you doing?"
"I'm calling the spirits of the old ones," she said and began to chant again as I frantically looked about expecting a police cruiser to pull up.
Jane ceased her chanting and looked at me. "We have to unite, Shea. We have to merge our bodies."
"Oh, for crying out loud, Shea. We gotta fuck, or it ain't going to work."
"Fuck? Work? What?"
She closed her eyes and called, "I summon the spirits of the old ones..."
A phlegmy gurgle from the shadows replied, "Hey, wazza fuck? Keep it down, will ya? Arrrrghhh!"
Jane shrieked and hopped off the tabletop tomb. "What's that?"
"Not the spirits of the old ones, that's for sure," I said. "More like an old one full of spirits."
"It's just some old bum sleeping it off over there."
"Oh, goddamn. That scared the hell out of me."
"Jane, what the hell are you doing?"
She looked at me like a teenage girl who had just smashed up her dad's car.
"Oh, damn," she said. "This isn't working out at all. I can't do it. I screwed up."
"Screwed what up?"
"Ohhh, you're going to hate me. No one will ever talk to me again. It's just..."
"I was trying to work a spell," she said, her eyes downcast. "I was going to make you want to make love to me."
I didn't know what to say. Jane lifted her eyes that were filling with tears. "I was going to get back at Moira."
"Moira? I don't understand."
"Shea, I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking. I wanted to screw you so I could tell Moira. I don't know, I just thought if I screwed her little brother I could rub it in her face... I'm awful..." She began to sob loudly. I thought the bum would protest, but he must have passed out, wherever he was."
"Shea, nobody wants me around. Nobody wants to hear from me. I call Moira, or Lisa, or Kathy, Michelle, Kim... it's always the same thing. They treat me like a telemarketer. They're supposed to be my friends, but I know they've been freezing me out since we left school. I've never been invited to anyone's wedding."
"Janie, people change. Their lives change. Sometimes friendships fade. You just make new friends."
"Don't you think I've been trying? How the heck do you think I got mixed up with Cheddar?"
Jane wiped her cheeks with the back of her arm. "I keep joining groups. I've taken cooking classes, dancing classes, writing classes. It's the same thing. It's like I smell or something. At first, everything is okay. Then people start to avoid me. They sigh and roll their eyes when I come into the room. What's up with that?"
Janie's shoulders heaved with her sobs.
"Jane, maybe you just try too hard," I said, and touched her shoulder. She flinched and looked around and then at herself.
"Oh, God. Look at me. I mean... don't look at me. What was I thinking?" She covered her breasts with one arm and searched for her clothing. "Damn, where did I put my dress?
I was about to tell her she was sitting on it, and then it occurred to me that this was vintage Janie. She was a nut. A complete screwball. It was what charmed me when I was 17. Moira's words came crashing back to me, 'she's exactly the same'.
I couldn't help grinning. Moira was right; most people couldn't take Janie except in small doses... most people.
I touched her shoulder again, and again she flinched and tried to cover her breasts with both her arms. Her skin under the moonlight was creamy luminescence. I leaned over and kissed her shoulder where I had touched her. Her eyes widened and a soft "Ohhhh" escaped her lips. Then I kissed her open mouth. Our tongues almost touched when she turned her face and pushed me away.
"No, Shea. Don't do this. Don't do this because you feel sorry for me, okay? No sympathy fucks, I..."
"Aw, Janie... shut up."
I kissed her again and pushed her gently onto her back and swung her legs onto the top of Governor Bradstreet's tomb. I pushed my trousers off and pulled my shirt over my head. It was crazy, what I was doing. It was like being a teenager again. No thoughts at all about consequences.
I kneeled between Janie's thighs and leaned toward her belly. I rimmed her belly button with my tongue and kissed and nibbled my way toward the soft, feathery hairs at her delta. Janie responded with soft moans and quick breaths. The closer I got to her pussy the richer was her scent mixed with a flowery perfumed soap. And when I arrived at her glistening lips I deep-kissed her. Janie closed her thighs around my head as I continued to devour her, drawing my lips over her clit, and slurping her lips and inner walls with my tongue.
Janie's hands roamed though my hair, then grabbed my ears and pulled me up on top of her. Janie grinned, closed her eyes and nodded. I could feel my cock head pushing against her cunt, and with an easy pelvic thrust I was inside her. I held my arms rigid, holding myself above her so I could watch her face. Her head thrashed from side to side, biting and licking her lips as we found our rhythm. My cock was being drawn inside her as her muscles clenched me. I felt I was being pulled inside as far as I could go, and still the suction wouldn't ease. Her hands now roamed over my hips, up my back and over my chest. Suddenly she clasped my head and pulled me close to her face. A short, sharp gasp burst from her lips and she shuddered. Her eyes opened and they looked right into mine. It was all I could take, my cream poured into her and her grin widened.
I leaned forward on top of her and her pillowy breast. Her arms closed around me and we remained that way for a while before we both sensed another presence. Janie's eyes snapped open and held mine with a tinge of fear. We both turned our heads to see... a bum.
He stood there swishing a mouthful of Old Early Grave in a small bottle. We said nothing. Finally he swigged the rest of his booze and tossed the bottle over his shoulder.
"Wazza fuck? You some kinda ghosts?"
Janie and I nodded.
He wiped his sleeve across his nose, staggered back and nodded his head. "I didn't know ghosts could fuck." He turned and staggered back into the shadows. We heard a thud as his body hit the ground.
I eased myself off the tomb and helped Janie sit up. The indentation on her back reflected Governor Bradstreet's epitaph. We dressed and hightailed it out of the graveyard and made our way back to the car.
Janie nestled her head on my shoulder and was quiet for most of the drive back to Boston. We still hadn't found her a room, but I had decided she'd spend the rest of the weekend at my apartment.
As we traversed the bridge over the Mystic she sat up as the city's night skyline shone ahead of us.
"Shea, what's the matter with me?" she sighed. "Why do I drive people away?"
"There's nothing the matter with you. You're just Jane. You're who you are. You just happen to be a nut."
"It's true. I fell in love with you because you were a nut. I didn't care at the time. I just thought you were wonderful."
She took my hand in hers. "Janie," I said. "I grew up. I forgot what it was like to be a kid and just enjoy a good time, and not give a shit what anyone else thinks. You never lost that. Moira, and the others, they just grew up and grew away."
"I miss my friends, though."
"Hey, I'm your friend. You wanna play with me this weekend?"
"Shea, I'm robbing the cradle," she laughed.
"I'm 30, for crying out loud."
"So, make like the older woman. Seduce me, use me up, burn me down and break my heart."
"All except the last part."
"Oh, and what about Cheddar and that Lovecraft cult?"
"Aw, they're just a bunch of weirdoes I hooked up with." She burst into a laugh.
"Cheddar Cheese... I just got it." She began to giggle with abandon, tears rolling down her cheeks.
I was laughing too. I wondered what kind of trouble we would get into this weekend. I wondered what Moira would think, and I started to laugh even harder.
© 2002 R.E. Buckley. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.
Hot, sexy, sensual to the core - A Bit of the Apple by Robert Buckley is available from Venus Book Club
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